Laptop Cooling – A Worst Case Scenario

Fri, Dec 29, 2006

Tech Tips

After experiencing frequent cpu slow downs on my Dell Inspiron 9100 Laptop, I went frantically searching for fixes. The fix: the fan exhaust vents were severely clogged. Included are some pictures to show just how extreme a case it was. I half-jokingly wonder if this would have caused my laptop battery to explode.

The Inspiron 9100 is a “desktop replacement”, or in other words it’s heavy and the battery is useless. I have had it for about two years (moving it between office and home) and it has held up well. Recently the computer had been slowing down excessively, to the point where I couldn’t use it. Ram was good and I wasn’t doing anything new.

A search on google explained that this slow down is by design. Since laptops run hotter, the cpu will slow down under extreme heat. I had seen this behavior before but why was it happening so frequently now?

During my google search I had read short blurb about spraying the exhaust fans with compressed air. I took a quick look at the two exhaust fans on my laptop and they didn’t look that bad. I moved on in search of more troubleshooting tips and a few days later I was still having issues. That was until, on a whim, I took the exhaust fan covers off. Eureka, there is my problem:

Fan 1 – Cover On
Fan 1 - Cover On
Intake doesn’t look that bad.

Fan 1 – Before
Fan 1 - Before

Fan 1 – After
Fan 1 - After
Much better.

Fan 2 – Cover On
Fan 2 - Cover On
Intake doesn’t look that bad on this one either. I’m afraid to look.

Fan 2 – Before
Fan 2 - Before
Even Worse!

Fan 2 – After
Fan 2 - After
Nice and shiny.

I mentioned spraying the exhaust fans with air. While that would probably work, I would recommend removing the fans (if you can), wiping and spraying out (as I did in this case).

So to conclude, the improvement is noticeable. Not only have my frequent slow downs stopped but I can compare the difference in CPU temperature using a free tool (I8kfan) that monitors cpu temperature on Dell laptops. This tool also allows you to manually control the fans if you like. I had installed this tool before I had cleaned the vents and there is a 10-15 degree difference in temperature!

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6 Responses to “Laptop Cooling – A Worst Case Scenario”

  1. Chris Says:

    “I half-jokingly wonder if this would of caused my laptop battery to explode.”

    Should be “would have caused”. Sorry, pet peeve, had to respond.

  2. Christie Says:

    Thanks for the tip! My Dell has been running really hot. Though replacement time is around the corner, avoiding an interim explosion would be a good thing. LOL…

  3. scott Says:

    Going on 4-5 years on my 9100. I’ve had multiple components replaced by dell over the years.

    Warranty expired last august.

    The laptop has been running exceedingly hot. I’ve done the fans multiple times in the past. I took a vacuum cleaner to it with very little reduction in heat.

    I’ve been running i8kfan for years. Idle it runs 56C under load it spikes to over 70-72C.

    Last week I pulled the laptop apart. Replaced the cpu thermal paste with artic5 put it all back together.

    No change. Same temps.

    I bought a laptop cooling fan a Zalaman nc1000. Sigh the cooling vents on it were placed to low. Even when I moved it over the cooling vents. There was no reduction in temperature.

    Sigh i’m running out of ideas. Not sure if a cooling fan is going to help this beast.

    I might of missed some dust in the bottom fan but i blew everything out with compressed air.

    The next step is a customzied heat sink?

    I’m at a major loss on this one.

    • jim.richmond Says:

      My laptop idles at about 58-60 and spikes at about 76 (especially on video sites like youtube). I think you’ve upgraded all you can.

  4. Air Vents Says:

    We really liked your writing, keep it up!