How can I tell if my MacBook is overheating?

Overheating is a common issue for MacBook users. An overheated MacBook can lead to performance problems, system crashes, and hardware damage if left unchecked. Thankfully, there are some clear signs that indicate when your MacBook is running too hot. Being able to recognize these signs of overheating and take action to cool down your MacBook is important for maintaining the health and performance of your machine.

How hot is too hot for a MacBook?

Apple does not provide an official maximum operating temperature for MacBooks, but general consensus is that your MacBook should stay below 95°F – 105°F (35°C – 40°C) under normal workloads. Some areas like the bottom case may reach slightly higher temperatures up to 113°F (45°C).

If your MacBook starts exceeding 105°F across large areas of the case or components for extended periods of time, that’s a sign it’s overheating. Prolonged exposure to excess heat can start impacting your hardware and performance.

Signs your MacBook is overheating

Here are some of the most common signs that your MacBook is overheating:

It feels very hot to the touch

If the body of your MacBook feels uncomfortably warm in your lap or to the touch, overheating could be the cause. Make sure to check areas like the bottom case, above the keyboard, near the hinge, and by the exhaust vents. Any area that feels too hot is usually a red flag.

As a rule of thumb, if a surface is too hot to comfortably touch for more than 5-10 seconds, it’s reached concerning temperatures above 105°F.

The fans are constantly running at high speed

MacBook’s rely on built-in cooling fans to regulate temperature. When a MacBook begins overheating, the fans will kick into overdrive to try and compensate. Listen for fans that are running at a constantly high RPM and don’t slow down.

You can visually check your fan speeds using an app like Macs Fan Control. Fans running at 2000-6000 RPM nonstop indicate overheating.

Performance starts slowing down

Excessive heat puts strain on your processor and RAM, causing slowdowns and lag even in basic tasks. Over time, thermal throttling can kick in and severely reduce your CPU speed to try and protect the hardware.

If your MacBook feels sluggish or struggles with activities that were previously snappy like web browsing, overheating could be the reason why.

The computer randomly shuts down or crashes

If your MacBook abruptly powers off, crashes, or displays kernel panics or gray screens, overheating components are often the root cause. Thermal shutdowns are a last resort safety mechanism when temperatures get critically high.

Frequent random shutdowns and crashes point to hardware being placed under too much thermal load.

Some apps unexpectedly quit or fail to launch

Heat-sensitive apps may start unexpectedly quitting or failing to launch if your MacBook is overheated. This can especially impact demanding, graphics-intensive programs.

Check if it’s only happening with certain apps, as that indicates they’re closing to prevent damaging already hot components.

You get warning messages about temperature

If your MacBook is critically overheated, you may get firmware warnings like:

  • “MacBook Pro has shutdown because it got too hot.”
  • “Temperature Warning: Shut Down Your Computer.”
  • “Your computer was shut down because it overheated.”

These types of warnings when rebooting your MacBook confirm it powered off to protect itself from excess heat buildup.

What’s causing the overheating?

If you suspect your MacBook is overheating, the next step is trying to identify what’s causing the problem. Here are some of the most common culprits:

Processor-intensive tasks

Activities like gaming, HD video editing, 3D rendering, programming, and using creative apps give your processor and graphics card a workout, generating more heat. Make sure your workspace has good airflow when running intensive programs.

Too many apps and browser tabs open

Having many apps and dozens of browser tabs running at once makes your MacBook work overtime, heats up the components, and drains the battery faster. Try closing inactive apps and tabs to lighten the load.

High screen brightness

Your display can be a big power draw and source of heat at max brightness. Dim the screen to around 75% brightness or enable Auto Brightness to help cool down your MacBook.

Insufficient cooling/airflow

Using your MacBook on a pillow, carpet, or other soft surface can restrict airflow through the vents leading to heat buildup. Only use flat, hard surfaces.

Also ensure the vents aren’t covered by stickers or debris. Use a can of compressed air to clear any blocked vents.

Dust accumulation

Letting dust buildup inside your MacBook interferes with effective cooling and heat dissipation. Clean out the internal components with compressed air every 6-12 months minimum.

Thermal paste needs replacing

The thermal paste between your CPU/GPU and heatsink dries out over time. Replacing old paste with fresh paste improves heat transfer and cooling performance.

Hardware defects

In rarer cases, underlying hardware problems like a failing fan, faulty power supply, or manufacturing defect could contribute to abnormal overheating issues.

How to lower your MacBook’s temperature

If you’ve confirmed your MacBook is running hot, there are steps you can take to lower its temperature back to normal ranges:

1. Move to a cool location

Relocating your MacBook to a cooler room in your home can provide quick relief by letting passive airflow cool it down faster.

2. Point a fan at your MacBook

Positioning a standalone or desk fan to blow directly over your MacBook improves airflow and convection cooling. Just don’t completely cover the vents.

3. Adjust your MacBook’s angle

Tilting your MacBook’s screen forward allows for better ventilation through the keyboard. Avoid using your laptop completely flat.

4. Close any unused apps

Force quitting unused apps stops unnecessary background processes from overworking your components.

5. Disconnect peripherals and accessories

Unplugging devices like external hard drives, printers, and USB hubs connected to your MacBook reduces power draw.

6. Dim your screen

Turn down your display brightness to around 50-75% to significantly decrease heat generation.

7. Disable keyboard backlighting

Disabling keyboard backlight saves energy and cuts down on heat from the components behind the keyboard.

8. Quit your web browser

Browsers like Chrome tend to overwork your processor. Temporarily quitting your browser lets your system cool down.

9. Change power settings

Switch to the Battery Saver power plan to limit energy usage until temperatures decrease.

10. Turn on Do Not Disturb

Enabling Do Not Disturb prevents notifications from waking up your system when idle, reducing power cycles.

11. Restart your Mac

Restarting your MacBook clears memory leaks and resets any stuck processes contributing to high temperatures.

12. Reset SMC

Resetting your MacBook’s System Management Controller restores proper thermal management.

13. Reapply thermal paste

Replacing dried-out thermal paste between CPU/GPU and heatsink improves heat dissipation and cooling.

14. Clean out your vents

Use compressed air to remove any dust buildup blocking intake and exhaust vents.

15. Take it to Apple

For chronic overheating or if you can’t pinpoint the cause, contact Apple support to troubleshoot potential hardware issues.

How to monitor your MacBook’s temperature

To keep an eye on your MacBook’s temperature and look for any spikes, you can use free apps like:

1. iStat Menus

iStat Menus displays real-time CPU, GPU, and hard drive temps right in your menu bar. You can view detailed temperature histories and set high temperature warnings.

2. TG Pro

TG Pro provides extensive temperature monitoring for all of your Mac’s internal sensors. You can log temperatures over time and set alerts when thresholds are exceeded.

3. Macs Fan Control

Macs Fan Control lets you monitor fan speeds and CPU/GPU temperatures. You can manually control fan speeds as needed to cool down your Mac.

Using one of these apps provides hard data on your MacBook’s operating temperatures and fan behavior so you can spot heat issues.

How to keep your MacBook cool in general

Implementing proper usage habits and maintenance helps prevent overheating problems in the first place:

  • Don’t block the vents while the computer is running
  • Only use hard, flat surfaces. Avoid using on soft surfaces that restrict airflow.
  • Keep your MacBook updated with the latest macOS version
  • Regularly clean out vents and internal fans of dust buildup
  • Use your MacBook in air-conditioned rooms when possible
  • Avoid prolonged direct sunlight on your MacBook
  • Check CPU and GPU load – reduce multitasking if you see spikes
  • Adjust screen brightness based on lighting conditions
  • When idle, close the lid to enter sleep mode
  • Replace the thermal paste every 3-5 years

Following sensible usage and maintenance best practices keeps your MacBook running at proper operating temperatures for long-term reliability.


An overheating MacBook can cause performance issues, system crashes, and hardware damage if ignored. Look out for signs like excessive case heat, constantly high fan speeds, unexpected shutdowns or app crashes, and warning messages.

Tackling processor-intensive tasks, poor ventilation, too many apps running, and dust buildup are common causes. There are many steps you can take to lower temperature like improving airflow, closing apps, and restarting. Monitor your temps with apps like iStat Menus and TG Pro.

Prevent overheating in the first place by following good usage and maintenance practices. Addressing overheating promptly preserves your MacBook’s health and performance.