5 Methods to Improve Your Laptop Thermals: From the Easiest to the Most Difficult Approach

Laptops get hot. That’s a fact of life. It’s one of the trade-offs that consumers have to pay for portability’s sake. But, when it gets too hot and thermal throttling features become an unbearable annoyance, the performance drop might just make you want to yank your hair out.
Thermal throttling is what your laptop does when it gets too hot to function under extreme loads. It often occurs during long gaming sessions, video rendering work, and other prolonged graphics and CPU intensive tasks. It’s an important feature as it basically prevents your laptop internals from literally combusting.
But when this feature kicks in prematurely especially during crucial workloads that you’re used to putting it under, it can induce a particularly stressful experience for you. This happens especially often in old laptops with worn-out internals. And if this is the case, then you may want to consider admitting defeat and buying a new portable workhorse. But if you don’t have the resources for a new laptop or if your notebook has a special sentimental value to you, then you may be interested in finding ways on how to eke out some more serviceable years of high-performance from your old one through some DIY tips.
The following steps are proven DIY methods in keeping your old laptop cool and high-performing:

Use it in a Cool Place

No. We don’t mean use it in a hip coffee shop or a swanky co-working space. What we mean is use it in an adequately cooled room.
Sure, you may be doing a good job at the keeping the vents unobstructed, but if you’re using your laptop under the scorching heat of the sun or inside a hot unventilated room, then you’re not doing your laptop any favor. In fact, you’re just making things worse.
Find a place with cool dry air to use your laptop in. Doing so will help the fans to work its magic and cool your system down more efficiently.

Keep the Vents Unobstructed

You may have seen laptop commercials where people use their machines on their beds or on the grass. I’m sorry to inform you that that was a misleading ad. That was, in no way, the right situation to use your valuable notebook as it obstructs the vents essential to cooling.
The vents are often the sole cooling solutions your laptops are equipped with. If they get obstructed, your laptop would have no way to dispel heat generated by its internals. When it gets hot enough, you’re putting your laptop in an extremely dangerous situation where it can potentially catch fire.
Other than keeping it off your bed or the grass, it's also important to clean your vents from time to time as dust build up can also cause heat to get trapped inside your unit. The most efficient way to do it is by opening it up and cleaning the fans which are fairly easy to do.
Furthermore, keeping things adjacent to the vent on the side of your laptop can also prevent air from exiting your system. That hot part on the side of your machine may seem like the best place to keep your coffee warm but, trust us, it’s not.

Use Cooling Peripherals

There are plenty of peripherals that aim to make your laptop run cooler. The most common of which are USB-powered cooling pads that you place underneath the laptop. They actively blow cool air into the underside vents to help the fans. But, according to tests, these products have just around 2°- 4° minimal effects on the thermals. Others are designed to suck hot air out from inside the laptop through the vents on the side of the laptop. These also give a minimal thermal reduction of up to 3° according to tests.
In tandem, however, these two peripherals can lead up to double-digit heat reduction. And considering the low price of both the peripherals, it may just be a decent investment towards getting your old thermal throttling laptop worth using again.

Apply Better Thermal Paste

Perhaps due to age, thermal pastes used on CPUs and GPUs tend to lose their heat dissipation properties over time. Or, maybe the laptop manufacturer just used sub-par thermal pastes to begin with in an effort to cut costs. Whatever the reason, an old laptop may just need a new application of thermal paste on its internals to prevent thermal throttling.
There are various kinds of these pastes and you should choose one depending on your level of confidence as some are riskier than the others. The first and most unthreatening thermal paste comes in the form of a thin film. Just stick it to the GPU and CPU and it's done. The next one is a toothpaste-like substance that you just squirt onto the components. The last, most dangerous but most effective one is liquid metal paste. This can potentially short-circuit your whole system if you get even just a little of it outside of the areas you need to apply it onto.
As you may have already guessed, this method requires some elbow grease and disassembly. So, proceed at your own risk.

Temper Your Expectations

Laptops are made with portability in mind. Even on the most expensive ones, portability is king. Desktops, on the other hand, are built for prolonged high-performance work, therefore, it has a lot of modules for additional cooling systems.
Having said that, it may be wise to temper our expectations when it comes to our laptop’s abilities. Maybe there are jobs that are better left for the desktop?


Perhaps it’s due to their portability, laptops tend to trap more heat inside when functioning at high workloads. So, it's highly important that we do everything in our power to keep them cool. Some of them are fairly easy to do such as keeping them off the bed and on a hard surface. It may even be worth the investment to buy peripherals that's quite easy to install and easy on the pockets just to extend its serviceable lifespan.
But, the fact of the matter is, laptops aren’t built to work on extreme loads for a prolonged period. Unlike desktop PCs where you can install modular cooling systems such as liquid cooling and extra fans, laptops are more difficult to keep cool. So, maybe it is worth lowering our expectations a little bit when it comes to what a laptop can accomplish and just use it for what it was designed to do – portable computing.