How to Prevent your MacBook from Overheating

Being very compact and quiet MacBooks tend suffer from overheating problems more than their Windows PC counterparts.  However it is often difficult to differentiate between a MacBook that is simply running hot, which they are designed to do, and one that is genuinely overheating - And if a MacBook is genuinely overheating the cause could be a number of things, most of which are easy to fix, but unfortunately are often left untreated.  To find out how to diagnose and solve your MacBook's overheating problems, not only ensuring your MacBook a long life, but protecting your body from potentially harmful heat radiation, read the rest of this article.  Here you will find everything you need to know about MacBooks and heat.  

On the diagram to the left are places on your MacBook where heat is normal & expected.  If your MacBook gets warm in these areas there is generally no need to worry - However if they are so hot that they cause discomfort when touched, you may have a problem and are advised to read the rest of this article.

If your are confident that your MacBook is overheating you can download an application that allows you to see your Mac's internal temperatures - all modern Macs have several internal temperature gauges, however the ability to see those temperature readings is not build into the OS.  To do this download SMC Fan Control below.

Download SMC Fan Control directly from MacInfo 100% free by clicking below.

SMC Fan Control is an application that allows you to monitor the temperature of your Mac and adjust the fan speeds accordingly. Once you have downloaded SMC Fan Control on the right, read on for instructions regarding how to use the application.

Once you have installed SMC Fan Control you will be able to see your MacBook's temperature readings - SMC Fan Control displays your Mac's CPU temp in the menu bar.  Depending on the processor, MacBooks automatically shut down when the processor reaches 105C (220F) to avoid serious heat damage from occurring.  However while this prevents heat damage short term, if a MacBook is regularly running at an excess of 85-90C (185-195F) the long term life of vital components like the processor, the graphics card and even the battery can be stunted - If you plan on keeping your MacBook for a more long term period (4-6 years) rather than a shorter term period (1-3 years) keep reading to find out how to keep your Mac cool.

SMC fan control can do more than just display your Mac's internal temperatures - It can actually control the fan speed of your MacBook.  This can be rather helpful when you're performing intensive tasks on the computer, as MacBooks don't tend to crank up the fans until the CPU gets up to 90-100C (195-215F) - And even then, only barely enough to keep it below 100C (215F).  Not cool enough to stop the laptop from becoming permanently damaged or to keep yourself completely safe.  

To adjust the speed of your Mac's fans click on the SMC Fan Control temperature reading on the menu bar and choose the preferences option from the drop-down menu.  From there simply move the slider to the desired fan speed (there may be more than one slider if your Mac has more than one fan) and click the save button.  Note that the minimum fan speed that SMC Fan Control allows you to select is the normal, default fan setting - Sliding the slider higher will simply set a higher minimum fan speed. 

Spinning your MacBook's fans up is desirable when the computer becomes very hot, as speeding up the fans will escalate the rate at which the hot air leaves the computer.  Be sure to leave the vents well clear of any obstructions when doing this, as if the vents are obstructed the hot air will hang around the computer, and no good will be done.

The only vents on your MacBook (with the exception of the Retina MacBook Pro) are located in the hinge.  Air both enters and exits your MacBook through the vents on the hinge, so it is very important not to cover them up.  Using your MacBook on the floor, on a cushion, pillow, in bed or even on your lap can obstruct the vents, causing overheating - Not to mention clog your MacBook with lint & dust.   

To maximise airflow you should use your MacBook on hard surfaces, such as books, tables or laptop cooling pads (for more information about the latter see the laptop cooling pad section of this page below).   

 

Watching YouTube videos - It's something that almost everyone does on their computers these days, and is unfortunately the cause of the bulk of overheating problems MacBooks face.  While processing videos is a fairly intensive task for any computer, playing low a quality (480P) YouTube video on a Mac is actually more processor intensive than playing a higher quality (720P) MP4 video using QuickTime.  Whats'more, Windows based computers don't experience anywhere near the stress from playing YouTube videos as Macs do.

Turns out Flash is the culprit.  Adobe Flash has never run well on Macintosh computers, with improvement over the years minimal at best - And you'll be surprised by the amount of Flash content there is on the internet:  Many online videos, almost all online games and many interactive features found on websites are displayed in Flash.

It seems that the ideal solution would be to simply stop using flash - And it is.  However most people want & need the content that is displayed using flash.  Fortunately, some of the most popular flash content can be displayed in other formats that are friendlier towards Macs, with only a little effort on the user's part.  YouTube's HTML5 Beta, for example (click here to opt in).

HTML5 is a modern, versatile version of HTML that can largely replace flash when it comes to online videos.  You and your MacBook can take advantage of HTML5 as long as you are using the latest version of either Safari or Google Chrome to browse the web.  Unlike Flash, HTML5 runs productively and efficiently on Macintosh computers, using significantly less system resources and therefore keeping your MacBook cooler and extending its battery life.  

Flash content is not just present in online videos & games, but also online advertisements.  Many of the moving, interactive banner ads you see on the internet are powered by Flash - And, just like Flash video, Flash advertisements will use up significant system resources and therefore cause your Mac to heat up.  To combat this various Flash-Blocking browser plugins have been created, and if you want to keep your MacBook running as cool as possible it is recommended that you install one - Flash-Blocking plugins are freely available for SafariChrome & Firefox.   Note that Flash-Blocking plugins do not straight up block you from being able to view flash content, but allow you to choose what flash content you want to load by displaying a white box where the flash content was and allowing you to simply click it once to load it up.   

Have a look at the upper right hand corner of your screen - Does the magnifying glass icon (spotlight) have a small dot pulsating in it?  If so, spotlight is indexing, which will probably cause your MacBook to get up to around 80C (176F).  Spotlight indexing basically organizes the content of your hard drive so it is easier to find via the spotlight feature - However the task is quite intensive, so you will probably find that your MacBook will heat up.   Indexing will happen once in a while, especially after lots of new data is added to the hard disk.  It should last for no longer than a few hours, although it depends on how much data is on your hard disk.
If your MacBook is getting excessively hot as a result of spotlight indexing the best course of action may be to set the computer down on a table/desk, plug it in and leave it turned on for several hours to finish the indexing.  And note that there currently no ways to stop spotlight from indexing.

Is it safe to use a Keyboard Protector on your Mac?

Many people believe that using a keyboard protector on your MacBook is dangerous because it stops air from escaping the computer, causing overheating and component damage. But is this really true? Is it in-fact dangerous to use a keyboard protector with your Mac? Should you buy one or not? Click here to find out!


Is your MacBook connected up to an external display?  If so you can expect it to be a bit warmer, as running a large external display is quite intensive for a laptop's GPU (graphics processing unit).  It is therefore important that the MacBook is kept cool, by elevating it off the desk (to promote airflow) with a hard object such as a book.  However for more permanent solutions a stand (like the one seen on the photo to the right) would be more ideal, as it would look more appealing and be more effective.  Below are a couple of stands from Amazon that MacInfo recommends if you want to improve the airflow in and around your MacBook: 

Note: When buying be sure to select the link (USA, UK or Canada) that corresponds with your country -- as you cannot buy a cooling pad from the Amazon USA site if you live in the UK, and vice versa.  If you live in neither the USA, the UK or Canada you cannot make a purchase, unfortunately. 

Griffin Tech - Laptop Elevator Stand

Designed to work with any laptop (including MacBook's) this stand raises the computer 5 inches off the ground to promote excellent airflow.

iLap - A stand designed for the lap - $50

The iLap stand is a laptop stand specially designed for 15" MacBook Pro's and can be used on the lap as well as the desk.

If none of these solutions appear to be working very well, your MacBook might be backed up with lint & dust. Skip this section if the computer's less than about a year old, as there shouldn't have been time for anything to build up inside it - but if your machine has been around for a few years and you use it on surfaces that contain lots of lint (such as carpet, cushions, blankets and your lap) it might be worthwhile opening your MacBook up and cleaning it out. Note that you can only do this if you own a Classic MacBook Pro, as the Retina MacBook Pro and MacBook Air cannot be easily opened up. If you *do* own a Classic MacBook Pro and you wish to clean it out, follow this video tutorial.

Intensive tasks, such as gaming, video editing and consuming Flash Content will always generate intense heat in your MacBook.  One can go so far by following the advice above, but if you need to preform intensive tasks and there is no way around it the CPU and GPU will get taxed, which will cause heat - The reason desktop computers don't have as many overheating problems as laptops is because they disperse the heat better by being larger, having better cooling systems and having more ventilation.  And believe-it-or-not, you can equip your MacBook with a better cooling system!

Laptop cooling pads are devices that one places either in-between their laptop and their lap or their laptop and a desk.  Modern laptop cooling pads use advanced airflow-controlling techniques and extra fans to effectively cool down laptops.  They protect you from the heat of your computer while cooling it down to ensure it a long life.  Laptop cooling pads can be very cost effective, starting at literally a few dollars, with the more high end models still very affordable at about 30 USD.  Below are a range of cooling pads that MacInfo recommends because of their high efficiency and user satisfaction rates when used with MacBooks:

Note: When buying be sure to select the link (USA, UK or Canada) that corresponds with your country -- as you cannot buy a cooling pad from the Amazon USA site if you live in the UK, and vice versa.  If you live in neither the USA, the UK or Canada you cannot make a purchase, unfortunately.

Desk Laptop Cooling Pad

This laptop cooling pad is very affordable at only $5.99 - It contains three fans than glow neon-blue when spinning, giving off a nice ambiance while effectively cooling your MacBook.  This cooling pad is usually $19.99 - So grab it now for only $5.99!

Targus Lap Chill Mat

Most cooling pads are designed for use on the desk - However this one is specially designed to be used on the lap so you don't have to keep your MacBook tied to a desk to keep it cool.  No external power is required either, making is a very portable solution for $33.00 USD.

Belkin F5L001 Cooling Pad

This cooling pad is quite affordable at only $25, and includes something that separates it from other cooling pads: Instead of sucking the hot air away from a laptop, it blows cool air at it. This concept hasn't been used before, but is apparently more efficient.

Cooling Pad for 17" MacBooks  

Own a 17" MacBook Pro?  Then this cooling pad is for you!  Unlike most laptop cooling pads, which are only big enough for 13" and 15" laptops, this one is easily big enough for 17" MacBook Pro's - Features four fans and is no more expensive than a regular laptop cooling pad.  So click the link above to buy it now from Amazon!
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