A Slice of Life

commentary on issues in politics, culture, environment and technology

02 Jul 11 How To Fix an Overheating Laptop that Shuts Down Randomly

dusty laptop heatsink

image courtesy of Edmund Tse

My Dell Inspiron 1525 started to overheat and shut down randomly just after the warranty expired.  The machine starts feeling very hot to touch shortly after it starts up.  Applications run slowly or display the ‘not responding’ message, then, with absolutely no warning, the computer suddenly shuts down.  Any unsaved work will of course be lost.  I put up with this for a while; pressing Ctrl + S frequently I could manage to keep working and usually get over an hour of use in before the laptop shut down, but before long, the problem had become worse and I could only get the thing to run for 10-15 minutes.

I took my laptop to the local computer repair shop.  The technician told me that the problem was most likely caused by a faulty hard drive or faulty RAM.  When I came back to collect it, he told me he had installed a new hard drive, new RAM including an extra Gb and had upgraded the OS to Windows 7 (the 1525 came with Vista Home installed).  None of these measures worked.  He said that he had tried everything he could think of and that he couldn’t fix it.  At least he didn’t charge me for the privilege.This of course left me feeling very frustrated.  Dell won’t repair machines not covered by warranty and I was feeling like I had been conned.  Judging by the number of posts around on this problem this is a very common problem.  Thread like this one are filled with various solutions to this problem, most of which don’t get you anywhere.  They are also filled with angry comments and suggestions that users with this problem should take out a class action against Dell.  This is understandable but in actual fact, the problem is quite simple to fix and not the manufacturer’s fault, although they could perhaps provide a little more information on problems like this.

How to fix this problem:

Dell does provide this documentation on ‘Removing the Processor Thermal-Cooling Assembly‘. All you need is a phillips head screwdriver.

  1. Have a look at the diagrams and follow the instructions on removing the back cover
  2. Turn the computer over.
  3. Remove the eight captive screws securing the back cover and remove the module cover.
  4. Gently lift the heat sink (pictured above).  You don’t need to remove any screws to do this
  5. You are likely to find a great deal of dust trapped between the heat sink and the system board.  Remove the dust with a pipe cleaner or something similar.

That’s it.  I found a massive wad of dust under the heat sink.  Since I removed it my laptop feels cool to touch and has not had the shut down problem at all; I can leave it running all night and continue using it the next day.  It surprises me that an experienced and qualified computer technician didn’t try this first, or that Dell didn’t suggest this simple fix and maintain customer good will.

There are of course other issues which may cause problems such as this, but I would suggest that anyone experiencing this problem should try this very simple fix before doing anything else.

image courtesy of Edmund Tse

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Reader's Comments

  1. |

    Thank you so much for this article! I’ve been battling with the same problem for over a year. If only I’d known the solution was so simple!

  2. |

    same here! I encountered this kind of problem after an hour of using my laptop(not dell) it suddenly shuts down. some cons of laptops to heat are:
    -air vents and cooler fans are blocked by dusts.
    -the High performance of your Laptop/ sometimes the high performance of the your laptop the more the heat it produces due to rapid use of the processors..
    -healths issues. infertility..
    many more…
    -my advice is to buy laptop cooler/fans
    -regular cleaning of vents
    -be gentle to it

  3. |

    Thanks for your comment Lucas. Cleaning vents and the heat sink in a laptop is very easy. I think a lot of people are quite comfortable in opening up a desktop to perform maintenance but are reluctant to open up a laptop; I was. It’s actually surprisingly easy and much cheaper than taking it to a repair shop.

  4. |

    The greatest problem for your laptop, except for your coffee mug,http://www.liamalexander.com/blog/wp-includes/images/smilies/icon_razz.gif is overheating. One of the most common problems with computers is laptop overheating.

    It can cause hardware failure and permanent damage. This article will introduce ways in which you can prevent or fix an overheating laptop and thus improve the performance and extend the lifespan of your laptop. I hope this shows how to stop your laptop from overheating.



  5. |

    I was at my wits end with the heat issue on my 1525….total dis-assembly and everything….no dice…

    Ran into this and decided one last attempt and unscrewed the heat sink assembly…lifted….and what do ya know!?!?!?

    Commpletely jammed with dust/lint/crud…..looked like a tiny blanket blocking the entire exit path for heat!! It’s pinned against the shell frame and deceptively appears to not be a point of potential accumulation….WRONG!

    Life saver!

    As info here are my before and after heat/speed specs

    Before removing blanket of crud:
    fan1 – 4900-5400 RPMs (ZINGING)
    HD0 – 120 deg F
    Temp1 – 193-200 deg F
    Core 0 – 192-200 deg F
    CPU – 195-210 deg F
    DIMM – 193-205 deg F
    GPU – 163 deg F

    AFETR removing blanket of crud:
    fan1 – 2950 RPMs (stable)
    HD0 – 104 deg F
    Temp1 – 106 deg F
    Core 0 – 106 deg F
    CPU – 109 deg F
    DIMM – 105 deg F
    GPU – 91 deg F

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