Laptop components can generate a lot of heat even during a normal workload but many users might worry if the laptop keyboard is hot to the touch or seems hotter than usual.
If your laptop keyboard gets hot during normal use then there is likely a problem with the fan cooling system. Ensure the fan exhaust and intake areas are not blocked and that the fans are free of excess dust and blowing out warm air. Using a cooling pad or laptop stand can help alleviate the problem.
While this answer might seem simple, I understand that many people might feel intimidated when dealing with their laptop computer problems so let’s get into the details and show you how to fix it!
Why does my laptop get hot?
Every electronic device will produce some heat as a byproduct of electricity itself. This is especially true with laptop components because they are operating in an extremely confined space, often with limited airflow.
A laptop gets hot because the processor, RAM, and other components are generating more heat than the cooling system can remove. This failure is often caused by a broken fan, excess dust in the fan area, or a blocked fan exhaust or intake.
How hot do those components get?
Well, every processor will have slightly different temperature thresholds but you can assume that a laptop’s processor (CPU) will sit at around 100 oF (40 oC) when idle and reach up to around 140 oF (60 oC) when under full load such as when playing a game or doing video editing.
Importantly, a processor will only be able to maintain these temperatures if the cooling system is working normally and they can quickly spiral out of control if it fails.
Fortunately, it is rare for a fan to fail completely and fixing an overheated laptop normally requires only a good cleaning and paying attention to how and where the laptop is used.
By the way, if you would rather watch a video on this topic, I’ve created a video for it on my YouTube channel that I’m embedding below.
Why does my laptop keyboard get hot?
This is a pretty common issue related to an overheating laptop.
Because heat rises, you are more likely to feel excess heat from your laptop through the keyboard. If your laptop keyboard is getting hot to the touch then you have a heat issue that needs to be addressed quickly.
With that being said, you might also feel the heat strongly on the bottom of the laptop because there is an even surface to make contact with, especially if it is on your lap.
What happens if a laptop gets too hot?
In most cases, a laptop will automatically shut down if certain components reach a high enough temperature as a failsafe to prevent damage to the system.
However, not all laptops have this failsafe built-in and, even if the system never gets hot enough to shut down, long-term heat issues can shorten the lifespan of the laptop.
Laptop components are designed to operate at a certain temperature for maximum performance and a laptop that runs a little hot from time to time likely won’t cause any trouble.
If a laptop is allowed to get too hot for extended periods of time, however, the heat can cause permanent damage to the internal components. Long-term overheating can lead to a complete failure of the CPU, RAM, GPU, hard drive, or other components that could require a costly repair or complete replacement.
And remember, if something like a hard drive fails you could end up losing a lot of important files, pictures, and other documents!
Laptop overheating symptoms
Other than excessive heat, a laptop will also show many other telltale symptoms when it’s having issues with overheating.
Here are the most common issues, according to Lifewire:
- The laptop’s fan sounds louder than usual or is running constantly.
- The laptop shuts down on its own, the screen freezes, or you see a Blue Screen of Death (The error might not indicate an overheating issue)
- Artifacts appear on the screen (indicates a problem with the GPU overheating)
- The laptop seems slow when performing basic tasks such as opening folders, browser tabs, or loading programs.
- The laptop is also hot on the bottom, especially near the battery, CPU, or GPU.
However, it’s important to understand that many of these symptoms could also be caused by another problem. It’s when these issues are paired up with the excess heat that a user can be more certain that they are related to overheating.
If your laptop appears to be overheating, its always best to shut it down immediately while you are diagnosing the problem.
Can a laptop explode from overheating?
This question might seem like an overreaction, and it usually is, but stories about laptops or other electronic devices exploding aren’t unheard of these days.
Before we get into this question too deeply I should point out that it is very, very unlikely that a laptop would simply explode. More likely is that an overheated battery could ignite and cause a potentially deadly fire.
How does this happen?
A laptop battery could catch on fire through a process called thermal runaway in which the cobalt oxide found inside a typical lithium-ion battery is exposed to more heat than it can handle and then ruptures or ignites.
What this means in the real world depends on the situation at hand. If the battery ignites while it is in the user’s lap then there is a risk for personal injury. If the ignition happens while the user is away from the laptop or not at home then there is potential fire risk.
Again, these situations are very rare but they do happen.
If you suspect that your laptop is having issues with overheating, especially if the battery feels abnormally hot, it is best to address the issue immediately, potentially replacing the battery itself.
What if the laptop is hot when gaming?
As I mentioned earlier, heat is simply a byproduct of the electrical components used inside the laptop.
While some components, such as the speakers or trackpad, will use a consistently low amount of electricity to function there are other components that will use more or less power depending on the load demand.
It is common for laptop keyboards to get hot when gaming because the CPU (processor) and GPU (graphics processor) are operating at a heavy load for long periods of time. This higher load increases the amount of power drawn into the component which then increases the heat.
In most cases, even the most intensive games shouldn’t cause a laptop to heat up so much that it is uncomfortable to handle. However, it is possible for a CPU to reach temperatures of around 160 oF (71 oC) and a GPU to reach temperatures of around 185 oF (85 oC) before shutting itself off so it is possible too experience extreme heat.
If your laptop is getting extremely hot during gaming sessions then check out some of the tips below to keep it cooler while you play!
What if the laptop gets hot when charging?
When a laptop charges, it is pulling electricity into the battery and the process can create extra heat.
In most cases, a laptop will get hot when charging because of an underlying issue with the cooling system or a faulty battery. First, ensure that the cooling fans are free of excess dust and the intake and exhaust vents aren’t obstructed. If the battery is charging erratically, refuses to charge, or won’t hold it a charge then it might be time to replace the battery.
While it might be tempting to think that a hot battery indicates that it is failing, it is always best to address any other overheating issues first!
8 Ways to cool down a hot laptop
Now that we’ve covered some of the reasons why a laptop keyboard would be getting too hot, let’s take a look at the best ways to fix the problem and keep it cooler in the future.
If you have an overheating laptop, follow this list in order as I’ve structured it to provide free or cheap solutions to the most common laptop problems that you should try first before you go spending money on more expensive methods.
Control your room’s ambient temperature
The first step to addressing temperature issues with any computer is to take a look at the ambient temperatures inside the room you are using it in when the issues arise.
It should come as no surprise that a hotter room will lead to a hotter operating temperature for your laptop. Conversely, a cooler room will help to dissipate heat because the fans will be drawing in cooler air to pass over the hot components.
Ideally, you should keep the temperature of your room somewhere below 80 °F (27 °C) to help your computer out as much as possible!
Ensure that your cooling fan is working properly
Once the room temperatures are in check you should make sure that the fan on your laptop is running properly.
In most cases, you should be able to hear when your laptop turns off and on although some models may have a relatively quiet fan.
When you hear the fan turn on, put your hand outside of the exhaust vent to see if you feel air moving out. You should feel a steady stream of warm air escaping the vent. If you do not feel air coming out of the unit when the fan is on then you most likely have dust inside the fan or the fan has become damaged.
To clean your laptop fan:
- Be sure the laptop has been turned off and take the battery out if it is removable.
- Use a can of spray duster to spray into your fan’s INTAKE area.
- Spray intermittently until you no longer see clumps of dust coming out of the exhaust.
- Next, spray the air duster into the exhaust area to remove any dust clinging to that area.
- Turn the laptop back on and check to see if you feel more airflow coming out of the fan exhaust
If you see little or no dust coming out while spraying then you might be forced to open up the laptop casing to remove the dust. I’ll include a video of how to do that below but be warned that it is possible to easily cause damage to your laptop if you are not technically capable.
Note that in most cases you won’t have to open up the laptop to see a noticeable improvement!
If it has been many years without cleaning, however, you might not have a choice.
Make sure that your fan vents aren’t blocked
In the previous step you were asked to identify where the intake and exhaust fans were located on your particular laptop.
Now that they have been cleaned out we want to make sure that you aren’t blocking them while you use the laptop!
Most laptop air intakes are located on the bottom and the air is then exhausted out of the bottom or out of the side. Placing the laptop down on a sheet, pillow, or another non-flat surface can allow these vents to become blocked, making them ineffective.
Because laptops are meant to be portable, it is super common for people to use them in all kinds of places – lying on the bed, sitting on the couch, or in the lap itself! Unfortunately, it is incredibly easy for the fabric to get sucked up against the vents and obstruct the airflow.
Whenever you use your laptop just be sure it’s on a flat surface such as a desk or laptop stand.
Update your computer
If you have already dusted everything and double-checked your vent situation then you will need to move on to checking some potential software issues with your laptop.
It’s easy to hate updating your computer – who has time to wait for that, right? Plus, sometimes the updates CAUSES more problems than it fixes!
Despite all this, sometimes computer updates can fix crucial issues with your operating system of a piece of software that you have installed. In some cases, software could be running amok behind the scenes and forcing your processor or other components to work overtime, increasing heat.
In Windows 10 you will simply need to click the search bar and search for ‘Windows Update’ which will bring you to the utility.
As you can see, you’ll likely have an update ready and it’s usually best to go ahead and get those taken care of quickly – you can also set it up to update overnight when you aren’t using the laptop.
As for third-party apps like office tools and games, you’ll have to check through the software yourself or ensure that they are set to ‘automatically update’ in the settings.
Check task manager for problem applications
Some applications can use up a lot of your laptop’s resource while they run because they are very demanding of processing power – either from your CPU or GPU.
Anytime your laptop is running under heavy load for long periods of time it will generate more heat than normal. This isn’t always a problem but it’s still a good idea to make sure you don’t have any ‘system hogs’ running in the background for long periods of time.
To check your task manager in Windows 10, simply press Alt+Ctrl+Delete at the same time and select task manager from the menu. You’ll see something similar to this:
As you can see, there are quite a few things running. The vast majority of programs aren’t using up much, but there is one that is hogging a lot of the system’s memory (or RAM) – Chrome.
Chrome is pretty notorious for sucking up RAM and if you have a lot of tabs open each one will add to the requirement.
Leaving these open all of the time will force the system to work a little harder anytime it does other things. You should especially look out for anything that is using up a lot of CPU power because that will generally be your largest source of heat!
Scan for viruses and other malware
Back in the day, a computer virus would likely completely destroy your computer’s file system or otherwise cause enough damage to where you would immediately notice that something was wrong.
These days, computer viruses are much more sophisticated and they would much rather hang out inside your system and accomplish some other goal than total destruction.
Malware, in particular, has been trending up over the past ten years and it is estimated that there were as many as 812.67 MILLION infections in 2018 alone -Wow!
These programs can hijack your system and run programs in the background that you might not notice. If these programs are used to mine cryptocurrency or some other processor-intensive task then you could be looking at a huge load on your computer all of the time!
My personal favorite when it comes to viruses and malware is Malwarebytes. It’s been around for many years, there is a free version, and the yearly subscription is very reasonable! Check it out here!
Use a laptop stand
While optional, laptop stands can be a great way for you to ensure that your laptop has enough air circulation around the fan vents to keep it cooled properly.
A laptop stand works by elevating the laptop off of the table or work area and has cut outs designed to maximize airflow underneath the laptop for maximum heat dissipation. Many models also offer useful ergonomic features to make typing for long periods more comfortable.
What kind of laptop stand you get depends heavily on where you want to use it and your budget.
With that said, there are tons of affordable options to choose from. This particular one is less than 20 bucks, folds down small enough to throw in a laptop bag, and has hundred of great reviews!
If you want to spend a little more money for something that will stay in once place there are also options with storage and wireless charging for your phone!
Use a laptop cooling pad
The final item on the list involves purchasing a special cooling pad for your laptop work area.
A laptop cooling pad is similar to a laptop stand but it also includes several powered fans inside the base which will actively blow cool air onto the bottom of your laptop case. In almost every case, a laptop cooling pad will help lower the temperature of your laptop but it will not fix any underlying issues with the laptop’s own cooling system.
Since they aren’t designed to be very portable, a laptop cooling pad is best used at home or the office and left in place when you take your laptop with you.
Fortunately, laptop cooling pads aren’t very expensive and, frankly, don’t cost much more than a basic laptop stand.
This particular model is adjustable, quiet, and highly reviewed. With 5 active fans it should have no issue cooling your laptop significantly!
Whew, that was a long guide!
Hopefully, you have found the information that you need concerning your overheating laptop and likewise found a solution that will help you fix the problem!
Remember to always start with the free or cheapest methods that you can do yourself before you jump to purchasing something in hopes of finding a quick fix.
Have fun with your laptop!