About Laptops That Overheat & Shut Down

A laptop that runs on a cycle of overheating and shutting down can be a nightmare for most computer users. The alarms that go off are terrifying, and the sudden emergency shutdowns often cause hard drive damage and lost data. In turn, it can be very difficult for amateurs to diagnose the problem immediately, as the heat issues make it hard to troubleshoot. If you have an overheating laptop, try not to panic. There are ways to save your data and determine if the problem can be fixed without sending the unit in for repairs.

Significance

A laptop can develop chronic overheating problems for a variety of reasons. The most common cause is actually the simplest–it can happen due to environmental factors. If the ambient temperature in the room is too high, the result can be overheating. Another example of a direct cause of overheating can be exposing the laptop to direct sunlight throughout the day, putting it on a metal surface or blocking the vents with something like a stack of books or papers. Before attempting to diagnose the source of the problem otherwise, do what you can to reduce the laptop’s exposure to heat.

Prevention/Solution

Shut down your laptop or at least put it into suspension when it’s not in use. This allows the heat built up within its components to dissipate over time. Run the laptop on its battery less, as laptop batteries generate a massive amount of heat. It can also help to turn down the laptop’s power consumption settings. Turn down the monitor brightness and shut down any components like DVD players that are not in use. This should help to bring the temperature down.

Identification

If the overheating problems continue after those environmental solutions have been pursued, the issue might be related to a hardware or software malfunction. It is always easier to troubleshoot software issues. Determine if the heating problems began after installing a new piece of software. If so, try uninstalling that program and seeing if it has any effect. Scan for viruses to make sure that malware is not causing the issue. In turn, it may help to reformat your computer and reinstall your operating system to make sure that a software issue is not causing the problem.

Considerations

If you have already eliminated potential environmental and software causes, the only thing left is hardware. Determine if you have installed any new hardware components recently. If so, replace them with the last working hardware configuration and see if the issues have been solved. Consult your hardware manual for detailed instructions–almost every laptop is different. If that still fails to fix the issue, you have a choice: You can send it in for repairs or undertake more advanced troubleshooting steps. If you have spare components lying around that are confirmed to still function, you can go through step-by-step, replacing each one to determine which has gone bad. Unfortunately, it may be that your motherboard itself is no longer working, but you can troubleshoot that as well.

Prevention/Solution

The best way to deal with overheating problems is to never develop them in the first place. Often such heating problems exacerbate themselves, as the heat damages components, which further causes them to overheat faster, leading to cascading failure. If you detect a mild heat issue, investigate it quickly before it leads to more hardware failures to prevent the damages from becoming too extensive. If you’re concerned about paying too much for conventional technical support or are not comfortable with working with computer hardware, consider hiring an independent consultant to look at the problem.