Some common reasons why laptops overheat and freeze include:
- Dust buildup in vents blocking airflow
- Running resource intensive programs like games or video editing software
- Laptop placed on surfaces like beds or sofas that block vents
- Internal fan failure
- Malware or viruses hogging system resources
- Outdated or buggy drivers
Overheating can lead to freezing, crashes, and hardware damage. Regular laptop maintenance like cleaning vents, updating software, and monitoring resource usage can help. More severe overheating may require repairing fans, applying new thermal paste, or updating internal hardware.
What causes laptop overheating?
There are several potential causes of laptop overheating and freezing:
Blocked air vents
One of the most common reasons for laptops overheating is air vents becoming blocked with dust, pet hair, and other particles. Most laptops rely on internal cooling fans and vents to pull in cool air and expel hot air. If these become covered in debris, airflow is restricted and heat builds up inside the computer. The internal components cannot be adequately cooled.
Keeping vents clear of obstructions is key to maintaining proper laptop cooling. Use compressed air to routinely clean out vents located on the bottom, sides, rear, and underneath the keyboard if accessible. Avoid vacuuming vents as this can push particles further inside.
Running intensive programs
Laptops are designed for lightweight tasks like web browsing, office work, and streaming. When running more resource intensive programs for extended periods, such as gaming, video editing, 3D modeling, programming, the laptop has to work much harder.
The CPU and GPU usage spikes significantly during intensive workloads. This generates substantial additional heat that the laptop may struggle to dissipate. Thin and light laptops are particularly prone to getting hot when stressed in this manner due to less surface area for heat to dissipate through the chassis.
Try to avoid sustained demanding workloads on laptops not designed for such tasks. For gaming or creative applications, use a laptop with a more powerful CPU and GPU that can handle the heat output.
Blocked air vents
Using laptops on soft surfaces like beds, sofas, carpets, and even laps can lead to overheating since it restricts airflow around vents. The surface pressing against the bottom of the laptop plugs up vents needed to intake cool air. This is a very common cause of overheating laptops.
For proper cooling, always place your laptop on a hard, flat surface like a desk or table. A laptop cooling pad can further help by elevating the device to increase ventilation underneath. Avoid using laptops directly on fabric surfaces that obstruct vents.
Faulty cooling fans
Most laptops rely on internal cooling fans to keep temperatures in check. If these fans fail due to mechanical problems or accumulated debris, overheating can result. Fans may make buzzing, grinding or rattling noises as bearings start failing.
Carefully clean laptop fan intakes and exhausts to remove any obstructions. However, fans themselves can fail over time. Replacing faulty laptop fans requires opening up the case and some disassembly. If you are not comfortable doing this, take it to a repair shop. Keep the vents clean and elevate the laptop when in use to improve passive cooling.
Malware and viruses
Viruses, malware, adware, and other malicious programs can sneak onto computers and cause havoc in the background. One common side effect is unusually high CPU, memory, and resource usage. This spikes demand, generates extra heat, and slows down the system.
Run antivirus scans regularly and keep your operating system and security software up to date. Avoid dubious downloads and always check file signatures before opening anything. Scan with multiple antivirus programs to detect and remove any malware. A wipe and clean OS reinstall may be necessary in severe cases.
Outdated or faulty drivers
Laptop components like the CPU, GPU, Wi-Fi, and others rely on properly coded drivers to function efficiently. Outdated, corrupted or incorrect drivers can lead to abnormal resource usage and heating. Keeping your drivers updated is key to avoiding problems.
Manually check for driver updates occasionally rather than waiting for automatic ones. Also reinstall drivers after major OS updates which can destabilize them. Faulty Wi-Fi, graphics, chipset or USB drivers are common culprits. Roll back questionable drivers if system problems arise.
Hardware and design flaws
Some laptop models unfortunately have inherent design flaws that lead to chronic overheating in most units. Common issues include:
- Undersized heatsinks and pipes that can’t dissipate heat fast enough
- Slow-spinning fans optimized for reduced noise over cooling
- Poor quality thermal paste application between the CPU and heatsink
- Small chassis and cramped layout restricting airflow
Such hardware flaws cannot be fully resolved with laptop cooling pads, new thermal paste, undervolting/underclocking, and software tweaks. Using an external cooling fan helps, but the only permanent solution is upgrading to a properly designed laptop model.
General wear and tear
As laptops age and deteriorate with use, overheating becomes more likely. Prolonged heating cycles stress components. Thermal paste dries out and becomes less effective. Fans accumulate dust and debris. Parts expand, contract, and warp imperceptibly causing small gaps in the chassis.
Regular maintenance helps maximize laptop lifespan. Clean accumulated dust and grime, check for warping, and repaste when needed. Consider upgrading older thermal paste with newer high-performance formulations. Verify fans spin freely without obstruction. Some overheating comes naturally with an aging laptop.
How does overheating cause freezing and crashing?
Overheating doesn’t directly damage laptop hardware but can still lead to temporary freezing and system crashes through the following ways:
When components like the CPU and GPU overheat past safe limits, they automatically throttle down their speeds to reduce power draw and cooling needs. Most laptops initiate throttling around 90-100°C. While this protects the hardware, performance takes a severe hit. This sudden lag while using demanding apps makes it seem like the laptop has frozen temporarily.
If temperatures continue rising past throttling, most laptops will initiate an emergency shutdown to fully power off before catastrophic damage occurs. Users may have a brief moment to save their work before the laptop freezes and shuts down. The laptop may take a while to cool off sufficiently before it will turn back on.
OS and hardware instability
Modern processors, memory, storage, and other components are sensitive to overheating and can develop faults when running too hot. As heat increases beyond specifications, laptop components become unstable. This leads to temporary data loss or corruption causing system freezes, crashes, and reboots.
Thermal expansion and contraction
Heat makes the delicate hardware expand ever so slightly. As things cool down, they contract. Repeated heating and cooling cycles stress the solder joints and components. Eventually, critical connections come loose causing laptop freezes and crashes. This thermal cycling impact accumulates over time.
How to fix laptop overheating and freezing
Here are some troubleshooting tips if your laptop is overheating and freezing frequently:
1. Clean the air vents
Use compressed air to thoroughly clean all external vents and fan intakes to remove dust buildup. This allows optimal airflow to cool components. Avoid vacuuming and poking vents which can lodge debris deeper inside. Clean vents every few months.
2. Update BIOS, firmware, drivers
Outdated code can lead to resource conflicts causing overheating. Update to the latest BIOS, chipset drivers, graphics drivers, and other firmware using your manufacturer’s software utilities. Enable BIOS settings related to fan control and cooling.
3. Manage resource usage
Avoid prolonged intensive tasks that spike CPU and GPU usage if your laptop can’t handle the heat. Tweak in-game settings for smoother frame rates. Use workload managers to limit parallel computing jobs. Add more RAM to reduce system load. Close unused apps and browser tabs.
4. Improve laptop cooling
Elevate laptop and increase ventilation underneath to facilitate passive airflow. Use a laptop cooling pad with built-in fans. Place a small external USB fan directed at vents. Repaste CPUs and GPUs if original paste has dried. Replace faulty fans causing heat buildup. Undervolt components if possible.
5. Check for malware and conflicts
Scan for viruses, adware, spyware and other nasty programs causing resource usage spikes. Update and run security software to remove malware. Troubleshoot software and driver conflicts loading down the system. Uninstall unused programs hogging resources unnecessarily.
6. Reflow/reball overheating components
If hardware components themselves are faulty due to manufacturing defects or repeated thermal cycling damage, reflowing/rebelling solder joints may help. This requires specialized equipment and should only be done by experienced repair shops, not recommended as a DIY fix.
7. Upgrade or replace laptop
For older laptops with extensive wear, replacing thermal paste and pads, fixing fans, reflowing boards provide only temporary relief before overheating recurs. Upgrading to a newer laptop with proper cooling may be the only long-term solution.
Best practices to prevent overheating
Here are some good usage habits to lower laptop operating temperatures and prevent frequent overheating in the future:
- Clean air vents and fans monthly using compressed air to remove accumulated dust
- Always place laptop on hard flat surfaces, not on soft surfaces that can block intakes
- Use a laptop cooling pad, especially when running demanding tasks
- Avoid prolonged intensive workloads like gaming or video editing when possible
- Monitor CPU and GPU temperatures using utility software
- Use laptops in air-conditioned rooms whenever possible
- Undervolt components if supported to reduce power and heat
- Reapply high-quality thermal paste every 2 years or as needed
- Update BIOS, firmware, chipset, and graphics drivers regularly
Following best practices minimizes overheating both in the short and long term, preventing crashes, instability, and hardware degradation. Be proactive and don’t wait until your laptop is constantly overheating before taking preventative measures. A little periodic maintenance goes a long way.
How to monitor and check laptop temperatures
To identify overheating issues before they become severe, routinely check laptop temperatures using the following methods:
Built-in health monitors
Most laptops have a hardware monitor application built into the BIOS that tracks temperatures, fan speeds, and voltages. The software can differ across manufacturers but common names include:
- Lenovo Vantage, Lenovo Legion Toolkit
- Dell Mobile Connect, Dell Power Manager
- Asus Armoury Crate, Asus System Control Interface
- Acer Care Center
- MSI Dragon Center
These let you view current component temperatures and log data over time to identify abnormalities. Some include customizable fan control and power settings.
3rd party system monitors
If your laptop manufacturer doesn’t provide a temperature monitor, use free third-party apps like:
- Core Temp
- Open Hardware Monitor
These give readouts of various sensors like CPU cores, GPU, motherboard, storage drives, memory, and more. The extensive data lets you pinpoint exactly which component is running too hot.
Physical temperature sensors
A simple physical temperature gun lets you manually scan and check exterior laptop surface temps. Point the infrared gun at vents, bottom case, keyboards, etc. Look for hotspots over 45°C which indicate internal overheating. This helps isolate the malfunctioning components.
Resource monitors like Windows Task Manager can also indirectly indicate overheating. Check for thermal throttling symptoms like CPU/GPU speed below base clocks, high sustained utilization, active cooling fan at max speed. These imply components are overheating.
How to fix overheating laptop hardware
For hardware-related overheating not resolved by cleaning vents or updating drivers, consider the following fixes:
Reapply thermal paste
The thermal interface material (TIM) between CPU/GPU dies and heatsinks dries out over 2-3 years. Replacing this with fresh high-performance paste improves heat transfer from chips to heatsinks. Use non-conductive paste like Arctic Silver or Thermal Grizzly for best results.
Replace thermal pads
The thermal pads contacting RAM, SSDs, VRMs and other components also degrade over time. Replacing worn pads restores optimal heat dissipation to these parts. Use pad thickness based on the gap height.
Clean fan blades and motors to restore normal RPMs. Lubricate sleeve bearing fans if noisy. Replace any seized, grinding or defective fans immediately to maintain airflow. Match new fans to the original CFM and static pressure ratings.
Increase chassis ventilation by creating more intake/exhaust ports. Remove any decorative covers blocking vents or fan intakes. Consider chassis modification by drilling honeycomb pattern holes to improve passive airflow.
Use laptop cooling pads with large fans to force more air into vents. Place external USB laptop fans directed at intakes for supplemental airflow. Laptop vacuum coolers seal over vents to remove hot air. Liquid cooling pads with cold plates can also be used.
For old laptops, consider removing the heatsink, sanding off old thermal paste, lapping the CPU/GPU chips, and reapplying paste. Check PCBs for failed solder joins. Reflow chips using a heat gun or oven bake method if needed. Replace dried out thermal pads on all chips and VRMs.
When to get professional laptop repair
If DIY methods don’t resolve overheating and you lack the technical skill for advanced modifications, seek professional laptop repair services for:
- Fan replacements – For difficult buried fan assemblies requiring full disassembly
- Repasting GPUs and BGA chips – Delicate process to avoid damaging boards
- Reflowing laptop motherboards – Requires BGA reflow station and skills
- Resoldering components – To fix broken solder joints due to thermal cycling
- Case modifications – If chassis needs drilling or dremeling to improve airflow
- Liquid metal thermal paste – For skilled application on CPU and GPU chips
While pricey, repair shops have the expertise and equipment to quickly diagnose and safely fix hardware issues causing recurrent overheating and freezing. This avoids further component damage.
When to upgrade or replace an overheating laptop
Upgrading laptop hardware and enhancements provide diminishing returns after a certain point for very old systems. Replacing an obsolete laptop may make better financial sense if:
- It overheats during normal usage despite cleaning, new thermal paste, cooling pads, etc.
- The CPU and/or GPU are soldered directly to the motherboard and not upgradeable.
- There are no suitable replacement fans available for proprietary designs.
- You’ve already upgraded the RAM, storage, wireless cards to max capacity.
- Repair costs exceed 50% of a comparable new laptop’s price.
- It lacks support for newer operating systems, apps, and hardware.
- The chassis cannot be easily modified to improve ventilation.
At around 3-5 years of average use, thermal degradation will inevitably reduce cooling effectiveness and heat dissipation in any laptop. Saving up for a modern laptop with better engineering avoids endless cooling upgrades and repairs down the road.
Overheating laptops are common, but the problem can be minimized by following sensible usage practices. Keep vents and fans clear of debris, avoid overworking the hardware, use cooling aids, control resource usage, and routinely monitor temperatures. For hardware faults causing heat buildup, consider repasting, fan replacements, airflow improvements, and other modifications or professional repairs. If all else fails, upgrade to a newer laptop designed to run cooler. With vigilant maintenance and care, your laptop can avoid overheating and keep working reliably for years.