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Hot computers are slow and dangerous: here’s how to fix yours



Have you ever thought that your laptop was going to burn your thighs? Or that the fan turns so hard it looks like a wind tunnel? Operating at elevated temperatures can permanently damage the computer. Here's how to detect if your PC is too hot and let it relax.

Thanks to the second law of thermodynamics, electricity in the computer generates heat. Unfortunately, that heat can damage the same components that produce it. That's why most computers keep temperatures low with heat sinks, fans and air intakes. But if something blocks the ventilation, a fan breaks or the cooling is not activated properly, the machine will start to suffer signs of overheating.

Sometimes, the overworked computer slows down, because modern processors and graphics chips "heat up" if the heat gets too high. If they try to run at lower speeds, they generate less heat and avoid more serious problems.

When techniques such as throttling down and fan rotation at full power do not help, the computer turns off before the central processing unit (CPU) reaches dangerous temperatures. However, in some cases, particularly in older or poorly manufactured machines, heat can still damage some parts of the motherboard before it automatically switches off.

"We've seen it many times," says Joe Silverman, owner of the New York Computer Help technology repair company. "Sometimes the motherboard gets hot to the point where the components can melt or break, which could cause total shutdown of the computer."

If you suspect your computer has overheated, maybe it's turning off randomly, or it's often too hot to handle it (literally), how to diagnose and fix it.

How to control the temperature of your computer

Heat is not the only cause of slowdowns and shutdowns. Your computer may not work for other reasons, such as a software problem. Fortunately, it's easy enough to tell if the heat is the real culprit.

"If you turn on the computer and turn off by itself a few minutes later, without opening any programs, this could be a problem," says Silverman. You may also notice an excess of heat when you do something intense, like playing video games. If you're still not sure if your PC has overheated, an app can control you. (Note: these programs all use temperature units of degrees Celsius.)

For Windows, Speccy is the most user-friendly option, since it's super easy to read. Just install it and start it. After that, it will take a moment to check the temperatures of the CPU, motherboard and GPU, indicating particularly hot components in red.

Mac users can download Mac Control Fan to see system temperatures. However, I would avoid using this app to really control your fans unless you really know what you're doing. Download the program to check the temperatures, but leave the fan settings to "Auto".

Once you've chosen an app, download it and leave it open in the background. When a slowdown, shutdown, or other problem occurs, check the temperatures, especially the CPU and GPU values, to see if they are too high.

"Generally, anywhere up to 70 ° C [158°F] that's fine, but if it gets warmer, you may start having problems, "says Silverman." The CPU and GPU usually start to choke between 90 ° C and 105 ° C (194 ° F to 221 ° F), depending on If you see temperatures that fall to negative levels or rise above 110 ° C (230 ° F), those numbers are wrong, this means that your heat sensor is probably broken or the program does not support it.

If the temperature seems to increase at the same time problems occur, then it is probably safe to blame the heat for your problem.

What to do if the machine overheats

Once you have established that your computer is, in fact, overheated, you must understand it because. Here are some of the most common culprits and how to solve them.

  • Make sure the fan is running. "If at the beginning it did not overheat, and now it's heating up," says Silverman, "put your hand near the fan grille and feel the vibration, to see if the fan is working." If your fan is broken, then it will not dissipate that heat. You will need to contact a professional who can replace it.
  • Turn off the dust. "Bunnies of dust, debris and food fragments can find their way through the conduits and magnify the situation," says Silverman. He recommends grabbing a can of compressed air and using it to clean the fan grill. "Try tilting the nozzle so the air comes out of the laptop." Cleaning the gunk will allow the fan to spin freely.
  • Check your surroundings. If something is blocking the flow of air around your laptop, this could cause your problem. "Do not put it on the bed, this is the worst thing you can do," says Silverman. "The blankets only suffocate the airways, put it on a flat desk or on a flat book so that the air can flow." Some conch cases also retain the airflow, so if you have a case on the bottom of the laptop, try to remove it. The other rooms are also important: if the weather is warmer than 95 ° F, do not use the computer outside of the air conditioning.
  • Stick to an original battery and the AC adapter.. "If you replace the battery with a second-hand battery from Ebay or Amazon, you will have problems," says Silverman. "They are not packaged the same way as the originals, so the heat tends to heat up on the contacts, do not skimp on the drums, bad things will happen."
  • Update your software. This is rare, but sometimes software and firmware problems can cause overheating. In fact, this only happened with Apple's latest MacBooks: they were subjected to thermal throttling under seemingly normal conditions until a recent software update solved the problem.

If none of these suggestions seems to describe your situation, or the solutions described do not help, you have two options: Open your computer or call the professionals. We recommend this last solution. A repair shop can perform a more thorough cleaning with specialized tools and an expert may be able to diagnose other more specific hardware problems.


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