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My laptop is hot to the touch, should I be worried?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / November 15, 2013 9:56 AM PST
Question:

My laptop is hot to the touch, should I be worried?


I do hope you can assist me and put my mind at rest. I have MacBook running OS X 10.8.5, 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo, 3GB of RAM. After about 15 mins of use, my laptop gets hot around the area where the the power source plugs in. I recently took it to a technician who says he cleaned the area of dust and all was fine. Mmmmm! Well it still runs hot after being turned on for a while. Should I be concerned? Is this normal for MacBooks or other laptop brands? If this is not the norm, what can be done about it? Because the last thing I want is a fire literally in my hands.

Thanks for any assistance you can provide.

--Submitted by: Virginia R. of Canada
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That is a concern!
by fujitsulover / November 15, 2013 11:29 AM PST

A MacBook Pro is generally NOT hot to the touch unless you are running it at full speed which is a possibility. That depends on the programs you have installed. The easiest fix is to restore the computer to factory with the installation disc that it came with. It should run normal again.

Note: This post was edited by its original author to edit out offensive subject line. on 11/22/2013 at 12:20 PM PT

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Overheating
by bobbloke / November 22, 2013 12:04 PM PST
In reply to: That is a concern!

This could be a number of things but useually it is dust in the heat sink inlet and fan. I repair a number of these a week the dust forms to a felt like substance and blocks off the air but normally when this happens the laptop will shut down. So no one here can really answer your question because it has to be examined by a repairer to really know what the fault is.

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Laptop getting hot
by GrandIsle / November 15, 2013 11:37 AM PST

Are you using a cooling unit under your laptop? I highly recommend using a fan-operated cooler with any laptop. I have a Toshiba with dual-core AMD and 17" screen and run it for hours, open multiple programs, play videos, etc., with no heat problems so far. I have used it for extended periods like a desktop, even one whole summer while away from home. Nearly all of the time I am using AC power and the cord does not even feel warm (just checked it after about 10 - 11 hours of use). Are you still under warranty?

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hot to the touch
by ravenlooks / November 15, 2013 12:28 PM PST

I am sure this is normal for all laptops at the power source connection. Ih
have had numerous laptops and they are always hot to the touch at the power connection spot (the little black box at the connection site) has always gotten hot for me. I once fell asleep with my laptop plugged in and the cord on my bed. I woke up with a GIANT blister from the box, sorta like falling asleep with a heating pad. I felt pretty stupid...LOL.

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Possible battery issue if the heat is near the battery.
by Aseriesguy / November 15, 2013 1:33 PM PST

Possible battery issue if the heat is near the battery. If the machine is a few years old it could be some cells failing. Try running with the battery removed and AC power connected. Laptop batteries have a habit of failing suddenly, sometimes in interesting ways. A good place to find a replacement battery is on Amazon. I bought a used one there pretty cheap and it has been running for two years.

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a worn out battery can get very hot during charge...
by pfischer97035 / November 16, 2013 7:14 AM PST

Most laptop batteries are only good for about two years, under regular use. If your machine doesn't get a lot of use (like a few older laptops I keep around the house, mostly to RDP into my home server) the batter can last longer.

How long does your Mac last on battery after a full charge? Especially compared to when it was new. If your Mac used to run for two hours (or more) on battery power when it was new, but now only runs for 15-30 minutes on batter (or less) then your battery is worn out or near the end of its life. If it's been there a long time (your machine runs just a short time under battery power) then charging your battery is probably what's causing the extreme heat.

<div>If this is the case, you are running the risk of a battery failure and/or a fire caused by charging the worn out battery!
</div>

Try running the machine on battery power alone, if you're machine is still hot to the touch, even under battery power, there is probably something else wrong. If the machine does not run a very long time under battery power (<30 minutes), your battery is worn out. If the heat only happens when on AC power you are probably overcharging a worn out battery (or your charging circuit has failed -- less likely).

Best test is what @Aserisguy suggested, remove the battery and try using it on AC power that way. Unfortunately, removing the battery in most Mac laptops is not the easiest thing to do.

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Maybe. Suggest you get a utility program and monitor it.
by ntech2 / November 15, 2013 3:11 PM PST

It's normal for a laptop to get hot when it's on AC and running at full power. I would suggest downloading a program to monitor your laptop temperatures. I use Speedfan and OCCT for a load on my Dell laptop and at full power it can get up to 140 deg. F. But that's really putting a 100 % load on the processor and holding it for 5 to 10 minutes for a worst case scenario. Under a light load it runs at 100 to 120 deg. And the fan will go from zero to 2600 rpm depending on the cpu temp.

I would suggest finding Mac versions of my software and seeing what happens. Also check for running software and try to get the background program load down as much as possible. And make sure the air vents aren't blocked. And the fan is working properly. A blast of compressed air once in a while helps blow out the dust bunnies. A fan cooler under the laptop could help too.

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Lap tops do generate Heat.
by willisjohn / November 15, 2013 5:33 PM PST

I would suggest getting a cooler pad for your laptop. Heat kills computers run on smoke and if the smoke comes out it is dead. Been using a I5 laptop and it gets warm enough to make your lap uncomfortable. Using a cooler plugged into a USB port and it never gets hot. running for 3 years.

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Battery may be aging or you run a lot of graphics?
by Zouch / November 15, 2013 6:11 PM PST

Hi Virginia,
I'm guessing you are asking the question because your MacBook is getting hotter now than when it was newer? That can happen due to a build up of dust internally but you've had it cleaned out by a technician, so you can probably rule that out.

As batteries age, they need more frequent charging, in the extreme, continuously! This is normal and a general recommendation is to replace a battery when its efficiency falls below about 60%. Batteries generate heat as they charge, so that may be what you are seeing. There are utilities that you can download from the web to monitor battery condition but I don't know if there are any for OS X. Apple may have one built in already - I don't know, I don't use a Mac.

Mac's are often used for their generally excellent graphics performance and that can be a source of heat too. I can run my Lenovo Thinkpad flat out CPU wise and while the base will get a little warm around the fan outlet, it is nothing compared to running a heavy graphics or video program - Youtube can make it too hot to touch near the exhaust but then a Thinkpad uses the same heatsink assembly for the CPU and GPU.

More mechanically, the Core 2 Duo processors were relatively power hungry, compared to today's Cor i's and so you could find the base getting a bit "cozy" because that power ends up as heat. The temperature of the fan exhaust should give a clue.

Another possibility is that the power connector plug has become a little worn with use and that can result in an increased electrical resistance, which again, will end up as heat. Give the connector plug a gentle shake, it should feel firm; if it feels loose, it may be getting a bit warm. A technician should be able to fit a new one to the end of the cable unless you are adept at soldering.

The earlier posters suggestions are good too, try running without the battery, just mains power. If that cools the system down, then it might be time to get the battery checked - a worn or poorly connected Li-Ion battery can fail pretty spectacularly - ask Boeing! Fan assisted cooling pads can help too, if a little inconveniently. If you decide to go this way, get one designed for the MacBook, so the fans are optimally placed.

Good luck!

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Graphics do make my Mac get hot!
by wmamed / November 23, 2013 12:22 AM PST

I like the portion of this response related to running graphics. I can do email and spreadsheets all day, and my MacBook Pro will be warm, but when my wife gets into a high graphics use game... It gets hot! You can even hear the fans kick into high gear. Once she walks away, within minutes the fans slow, and the machine is only warm to the touch again. ( I have a newer battery, so I know it is not related to that.) Good luck. Keep cool!

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testing for battery cause of hot laptop
by happelman / August 26, 2014 7:18 AM PDT

So... if I take the battery out and run the laptop on AC power, and it still gets hot, that means that the battery is not at fault, correct?

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My HP Laptop was running hot too.
by LarryJMiller / November 15, 2013 9:01 PM PST

I installed Speedfan from www.almico.com and it works great!

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Helpful software will check for a problem - 2 items
by ddreifus / November 15, 2013 10:37 PM PST

Hi Virginia,

I use a MacBook Pro running OS 10.6.8, 2.53 GHZ Intel Core 2 Duo, 8 GB RAM. If you have a 2.4 GHz MacBook it may be a bit older than my mid 2009. I have NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics chip - somewhat dated today, but advanced for its time. It is possible your older computer is struggling to keep up with the demands of your newer operating system.

I use a free utility program called "temperature monitor" by Marcel Bresink. There is a display in the menu bar that shows CPU temperature so you can watch to see if it changes. Usually there is only a problem if one program gets stuck and runs up CPU cycles.

I also use a program called "App Tamer" by St. Clair Software. I don't use it for stopping background programs but open the activity monitor to see exactly what is using processor cycles and it gives a real time display so you can see instantly if one process has a problem and quit that process. You can also do this with Activity Monitor which is included with your Mac.

The battery is near the palm rest, so heat near the power cord should be something else. On mine if you turn it over you find there is a row of tiny vents under the hinge below the display that exhausts hot air from the fans. Apple always worked to minimize fan noise, so the fans should only come on occasionally when needed. There are fan control software programs to supposedly improve cooling, but the system software has such sophisticated monitors of temperature I hesitate to alter the base system.

Your laptop should not be hot. To me that indicates a problem somewhere. I would check the Activity Monitor for RAM usage and monitor all running processes to see if something is amiss there. About once a month with the laptop off, I spray compressed air under the display hinge to remove accumulated dust, even though my laptop is usually on a clean glass surface.

Actually the fans should be near the area you are describing. When the computer gets hot, the fans should turn on. Double check the processor temperature with Temperature Monitor. I find if the temperature for CPU A rises above roughly 60 deg. C, it gets my attention and I begin searching for the cause. After about 40 mins. time this morning, it reads 43 deg. C.

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helpful software
by bl14 / November 22, 2013 12:58 PM PST

Speccy from Piriform is a good free program.

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I have some info to add
by Thundercloud47 / November 15, 2013 10:39 PM PST

I had a Macbook Pro I bought in 2010. Like yours it ran hot and as it got older it got hotter. Eventually the harddrive went out. I replaced it with a better one and it ran cooler after that but it was still too hot in my opinion. A month ago the hard drive went wonky again. Eventually it no longer powered up.

I love Mac Laptops but I was not going to buy another one. Too much money for a laptop that did not last long enough. I found a sale on them I could not resist and guess what, I bought a new one. A mac addiction is hard to break.

The main selling point to me was that the newest ones run cooler. I have found that to be true but i am still taking precautions anyway. I don't leave it plugged in all the time. I have ordered a cooling pad. I keep it stored in a protective case even though that has nothing to do with cooling.

It's my opinion that the heating caused the early death of my Macbook pro.

While I was researching new laptops I learned that many other people were experiencing the same problem especially if they owned the 15 inch and the now discontinued 17 inch. Nobody seemed to know the exact cause but many thought it had to do with the NIVIDA ? video card.

All I know for certain is that my new mac runs cooler. I wish you good luck in finding the cause of your problem

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Be worried
by guitarface / November 15, 2013 11:39 PM PST

I had a Sony Vaio laptop that had a BIOS update sent out that was supposed to correct a problem with the machines occasionally catching fire. Instead, that was when mine started overheating, eventually frying enough components that I had to trash the machine, just out of warranty. So apparently yes, laptops can catch fire. If the area you are talking about is near the processor, I would think you might also look into redoing the thermal paste that attaches it to the heat sink.

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Yes !!!! Be concerned...
by tinman102012 / November 16, 2013 6:47 AM PST

I have done a lot of work on laptops and they are an avid part of my work. That being said, I would have to say, yes be concerned. A few years ago Acer had an issue with the transformer (black brick) on their laptops. but since then they are usually isolated pretty well and don't get hot just maybe a little warm. Now if you are talking about the power jack, no, it should not get hot to the touch either. It is quite possible your battery could be failing and not accepting a charge or your power supply could be going bad. I have seen both of these happen. First see if you can borrow another power supply and try it. Then if it still gets warm remove the battery and plug it in and try it without the battery for awhile. Something else I would highly recommend is, find a really good computer shop and have the cooling radiator for the processor cleaned out. The reason I say a really good computer shop is because this usually involves anything from just removing the keyboard to removing the whole bottom from the top. The cooling radiator traps lint and dust and blocks air from the fan from going through the radiator that cools the processor. It then makes the whole inside warm or hot and creates serious problems. I hope this helps.

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Lappy too hot to touch
by macs5544 / November 16, 2013 9:14 AM PST

Dissipation is an issue the lap top folks have faced for several years and was one of the reason they changed to the 1.3v battery system and has also been a driver in the dual core approach plus the fact the max limit speed is about 3.5gHz.
I would only be guessing if yours is too hot since you did not give much data on what you have and how your running it.
High temps are a main driver to reduced life of solid state electronics. Junction temps above 125 deg c ( there is thermal resisitance between the case an junction) is not good and case limit will depend on the detail of the units design.
I would; check your lappy specs: operate with some of the cores off, that should not impact performance much unless you run a number of aps. at the same time; you can buy heat dissipation pads which have phase change material in them that can improve the conduction from to the case to IC location; no not thermally isolate the unit by setting on pillow etc.; keep running apps to a min.; do not over clock.

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Hot MacBook
by mcooperstein / November 17, 2013 6:06 AM PST

My 4year of MacBook has always run hot. I have taken it to the so called Apple 'genius' at a retail store. They said it was normal. I disagree. However, I recently upgraded to OSX Mavericks 10.9 and it runs noticeably cooler. Mavericks does a better job utilizing the power savings capability of the Intel processor.

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MacBook running hot
by coffeecup12345 / November 18, 2013 12:54 PM PST
In reply to: Hot MacBook

I have a similar problem and made an appointment with an Apple genius in my area. That person thought it was running within normal range, and also told me that the laptop (my 13" 2008 MacBook running on OS X) has a program inside that will turn it off if it gets too hot. Due to some other issues, the laptop was sent out for further diagnostics. They called me today, 11-18-13 to get more info, and they also stated that the machine will shut itself down before becoming "too" hot. More info on this subject is that the genius ran some checks in the store, and the result showed that my battery is "consumed", meaning it's time for a new one. And, the genius, like the writer above, (mcooperstein), stated that it appears to him that the MacBooks run a little cooler with the new OS called Mavericks. At my request, they installed it for me there and then. I'll see how it all goes when I get my laptop back.

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hot is normal, depends
by lchien / November 19, 2013 2:08 PM PST

Well, the truth is that many laptops use up to 90W of power. Most of that power is dissipated in the CPU itself and laptops usually have a port where a small fan blows the hot air out of the laptop. Still there will be considerable heat in the region of the CPU (which is hard to visually locate without opening the case).

My first point will be this: 90W is nearly as hot as a 100W light bulb--- not the new curly CFLs but the old fashioned kind of incandescent. Imagine that much heat being concentrated in one corner of your laptop and then being blown out - there will be heat on the case near the CPU and a stream of hot air where the smallish fan tries to blow it out.

Now my next point is, when you say hot, how hot is it actually? Obviously this assessment is subjective and varies from person to person. I'll try and quantify hot for you... Warm is a bit warmer than a human body so it feels warm. this would be around 105-110 degrees, warmer than your body temperature. Next hot is where it really begins to feel hot but you don't mind holding onto it. This would be in the range of 115-120 degrees. Next is the point where it is uncomfortable to hold onto continuously, but you can do it. Uncomfortable is 125-130 degrees. Untouchable hot is going to be 135 or greater where you can touch it quickly but have to let go immediately.
You can actually get burns from temperatures as low as 113 but you have to hold it for 5 hours, at 140 it takes just 5 seconds.
So the air exhaust is going to be warm. The case near the CPU is going to be hot to uncomfortable. And this is normal. If its uncomfortable you need to put something between you and the case because after some time it will actually cause burns. Even just hot is borderline. Just make sure it doesn't block the air outlet.
While these temperatures are between inconvenient and possibly burn causing, they are quite far from ignition temperature so fire is not a serious danger unless you block the air outlet,

Here's a source I found for possible burn temperatures. He got it from the Redcross:
It depends on how long you're in contact with the heat source/how long your skin is at that temperature. Here's some paraphrasing of a chart I found (link in sources):
at 113 degrees you get a 3rd degree burn after 5 hours
at 116.6 degrees, after 45 minutes
at 118.4 degrees, after 20 minutes
at 120, after 10 minutes
at 124, after 4.2 minutes
at 131, after 30 seconds
and at 140, after 5 seconds.
All temperatures are in Farenheit.

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Hot stuff
by blurrier / November 19, 2013 9:13 PM PST

My Macbook Pro 17" gets hot at that area too, until the fan kicks on. My old Powerbook G4 got hot like that and I used it for 8 years without a fire. I wouldn't set it on my lap, though.

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Excess Heat is not good
by waytron / November 21, 2013 7:59 PM PST

The four most common causes for the demise of a laptop are:

1. Shock from dropping the computer or even slamming the lid shut
2. Hard drive failure due to age and normal wear

3. Spilling liquid (coffee, water, soda, etc.) on the keyboard

4. Overheating

Even though many laptops will shut themselves down when they get too hot, allowing your laptop to run at elevated temperatures long term is never good for the overall life of the components inside. Even if it never reaches the actual shutoff temperature, it is still best to try to keep your computer as cool as possible.

You never mentioned whether or not this laptop has always been hot to touch or this is a problem that has recently come up or has worsened with time?

If it is a more recent issue, then I would suspect that the battery is failing and not accepting a full charge thus causing the system to work overtime trying to charge it which could result in heat generated at the power connection. Dirt and dust can also be a problem but you mentioned that you had already addressed that possibility. A failing hard drive or one that is working too hard can also cause excessive heat too, but in your case the hard drive is not in that area of the laptop.

If it has always run hot, then I would recommend using a cooling pad under the laptop to remove some of the excess heat. A $29 cooling pad can add a year or more to the life of your laptop. NOTE: I have run across a few cheap cooling pads that cause way too much vibration and can damage the hard drive in your laptop. If you end up with one that seems to vibrate, return it.

I too have noticed that Maverick does seem to run cooler for whatever reason.

Good Luck!

Dana
Wayland Computer

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Hot Laptop
by download_fiend / November 22, 2013 8:55 AM PST

This isn't a problem unless you need the laptop to keep working. As long as the laptop is running, it can help you with meal prep and home heating.

LOL!!

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let the latpots breath.
by pjlewis / November 22, 2013 9:14 AM PST

Hi Virginia
you have to keep the vents open on a laptop or they will get hot. Put a small board under so clothes
will not block the air vents.
Paul

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Hot laptop
by wired128 / November 22, 2013 9:18 AM PST

I have a large HP laptop running an Intel I7. I attend conferences often where the laptop is on a table in a hotel conference room and plugged in at all times. I noticed sometimes that the PC was very hot, much different than usual. What I figured out was that the tablecloth used by the hotel was fuzzy when the PC was hot. What this did was to partially block the cooling vents on the bottom of the PC. A dedicated cooling unit for this certainly would help; I found that a quarter placed under the foot at each corner did the trick. I'd rather not have to carry a cooler on my trips. After that, I recognized the fuzzy tablecloths early on and never had the problem again.

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Your graphics board may be going
by muratamed / November 22, 2013 10:02 AM PST

My wife's Macbook Pro had heating problems. The bottom got hot and she was able to follow the heat buildup in the Macbook dashboard. Took it to an Apple store and the genius ran some diagnostics. Turns out the graphics board was on its way out. However, the replacement cost was $500.

Decided to get her a new 15-inch Macbook Pro for her birthday rather than putting $500 into an old machine. She is delighted with the retina screen, the speed of the new processor, the advanced features of Pages, etc. etc.

Maybe it's time for a Happy Birthday to you too.

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Hot Macbook
by jmcalli / November 22, 2013 10:20 AM PST

I have had the utility smcFanControl installed on my Macbook Pro for five years with no problems. It monitors the temp and fan speeds and allows me to control the fans. A temp higher than about 170 degrees F is cause for concern. Worry if it's over 200 degrees.

Also check the Apple utility, Activity Monitor and note which, if any, processes are tying up the CPU. There could be some runaway processes. You can use Activity Monitor to kill any suspected runaway processes by highlighting them and clicking on the stop command. Then note if the temperature returns to normal.

smcFanControl is free at https://www.macupdate.com/app/mac/23049/smcfancontrol and Activity Monitor is already part of your Mac operating system.

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It is a source for concern
by drrasheed / November 22, 2013 10:21 AM PST

If it is primarily at the area where the power pin is inserted there should be some loose connections somewhere there

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Hot laptop issue
by pauly1651 / November 22, 2013 10:33 AM PST

This sounds to me like a bad power supply. The area where the jack plugs in should NOT get that hot. Normal heat around the bottom where the CPU is located is normal, but anywhere else is a sign of something wrong! Also, consider replacing the battery while you are at it. Yes, a cooling pad can help, but it will not fix the problem!

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