How to cool down your laptop — best working methods

Are you looking for ways to cool down your laptop? We listed ten different ways to drop your notebook thermals, most of which are beginner-friendly.

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Since we’re still bounded by laws of physics, laptops sacrifice performance and thermals in exchange for portability and slim form factor. And sometimes, thermals can go overboard, and your notebook can get too toasty for comfort. Overheating can lead to all kinds of issues; reduced performance, shorter battery life, and permanent damage to the battery and other components. Etc.

If you’re looking for ways on how to cool down your laptop and prevent it from overheating in the future, you’ve come to the right place. Below you’ll find ten ways to cool down your portable computer, most of which can be done from the comfort of your chair, without the need for any tool or knowledge about PC hardware. We’re listing the methods, from the least invasive ones that don’t require any hardware knowledge to serious stuff that will void your warranty and potentially permanently damage your laptop. 

If you have overheating issues with your notebook and are sure the CPU is the sole culprit, read our guide on how to reduce CPU temperature in your laptop. We also have a guide on how to determine what laptop you have. Finally, if you want to know how long your current notebook should last, we have a guide that explains just how long your average laptop should last and when to replace it.

1. Decrease ambient temperature

The lower the ambient temperature, the lower the working temperature of your laptop. If you deal with thermal throttling or the surface of the notebook gets too hot for comfort, decreasing the ambient temperature will drop laptop thermals.

For instance, lowering the ambient temperature by one degree Celsius will reduce your laptop thermals by the same amount. It might sound inefficient, but if you’re living in a hot climate and manage to turn down the ambient temperature from 30 degrees Celsius to 22-23 degrees Celsius, that means your laptop will also work seven to eight degrees cooler, which can be a lot under certain circumstances.

At the end of the day, you probably won’t solve all heat-related issues. Still, you should make the machine easier to use, regain some performance, and lower internal temperatures enough to solve most overheating-related problems.

2. Only use the laptop on a flat & firm surface

Another way to make your laptop run cooler is to use it only on flat and firm surfaces that maximize the amount of airflow cooling fans receive. Using your notebook on a blanket or any other soft and squishy surface (beds, couches, etc.) made to conserve warmth will lead even the machines with top-of-the-line cooling systems to overheat.

So, if you want the machine to generate the least amount of heat while using it and you don’t have AC or access to a laptop cooling pad, using it on a flat desk is the best choice. And yes, we also include desk pads in the group of materials that can increase your laptop thermals. So no, you shouldn’t use your laptop while atop a desk pad.

Prop the laptop up with a box or something

For even better results, use a box or a book and prop the machine to stand angled above the surface. Since all laptops intake air at the bottom, you will maximize the airflow at the bottom, leading to decreased thermals.

Some high-end laptops feature a display lid that automatically props the back-end of the chassis as you open the screen for the same purposes. And if laptop manufacturers use this method, you should too. 

3. Check whether the cooling fans work as supposed

The next step in getting your laptop cool is making sure the cooling fans in your laptop work as supposed. For starters, try cleaning the cooling vents with a can of compressed air. For the best results, go outside and make sure to clean every air exhaust present on the chassis. The second step is turning the laptop on its back and cleaning the air intakes located on the bottom side of the machine. 

Aside from cleaning air exhausts and intakes, also make sure you don’t have any stickers or other stuff that can congest airflow and increase your laptop thermals.

After you’ve done this, download a monitoring app such as HWiNFO along with a stress test application such as Cinebench. If you have a laptop with an integrated GPU Cinebench alone should be enough. For owners of gaming and other laptops that feature discrete graphics, download Cinebench along with a GPU-stress testing app. We recommend either Superposition or Heaven.

Once you download the apps, install them, and then open HWiNFO. Locate the information regarding cooling fans RPM and then either start Cinebench (iGPU) or both Cinebench and the GPU stress test. Cooling fans found in notebooks are smaller than their desktop counterparts and run at much higher RPM when under load.

If you see RPMs in the thousands when the machine is under load, fans are most likely fine. If you’re seeing RPMs anywhere below, say, 500-600 RPM, or notice that fans aren’t spinning at all, something’s wrong.

Now’s time to check whether your fans are set in passive mode. On Windows 10, the procedure is as follows:

  • Open the Control Panel app by typing the search term in the Windows search box
  • Once in Control Panel, click on the “hardware and sound” tab
  • Once you open the “hardware and sound” menu, look for the “power options” sub-menu
  • Click the “power options” button and then clock on the “change plan settings” option
  • Once there, click on the “advanced settings” tab
  • After you open advanced settings, look for the “processor power management” menu
  • The CPU power management menu should have a plus (+) sign right next to it
  • Click the + sign and pick the “system cooling policy” option
  • Next, click on the “active” option and then click on the “apply” button

Now your fans should be able to ramp up as high as needed to cool down your laptop. If you performed the procedure shown above and your cooling fans are still not moving, it’s time to take your laptop to service.

4. Get a laptop cooling pad

If you’re ready to spend some cash on third-party solutions, getting a laptop cooling pad is usually the best and easiest way to cool down your portable machine. Cooling pads have extra fans that increase the airflow at the bottom of the device, that, in most cases, noticeably lowers thermals.

Not only that, but a cooling pad also props your laptop up, above the surface, additionally increasing airflow. It doesn’t only helps the machine run cooler but also allows it to run with decreased thermals for a longer time.

With the right cooling pad, you can lower the thermals of both CPU and GPU by up to ten degrees Celsius. That’s a lot, especially for a convertible PC that already runs much hotter on average than most desktops. You should look for pads that have fans with higher CFM (cubic feet per minute) values. The higher the CFM value is, the more air that fan can push towards your laptop’s cooling setup.

5. Tweak your laptop power settings

The next step on the journey of getting a cooler notebook is tweaking your laptop power settings. For starters, every laptop should come with its manufacturer’s command center-type of app that, among other settings, includes different power plans.

Silent or quiet power plans usually see fans running at lower RPM while the CPU and GPU are running at lower power. In general, these low-power silent power plans come with the best thermals. On the flip side, they also impose performance drops.

For the best results regarding thermals and performance, pick a power plan in the middle. Something between the aforementioned low power or quiet plan and the highest power plan (called turbo, extreme, maximum power, or something like that).

These middle-of-the-road power options usually come with almost maximum performance, while they also include high RPM air fans mode. They don’t make fans too loud while offering pretty good cooling performance. This usually results in having solid thermals while not experiencing noticeable performance penalties.

Manufacturer apps usually also allow users to tweak CPU & GPU TDP. TDP setting is usually the highest amount of power a component can use. Lowering this setting, both for the CPU & GPU will give you lower thermals but will also slash performance. You can experiment with TDP settings until you find a combination that works best for your needs.

Windows power settings

Another way to tweak power options, but only for your CPU, is via Windows power options. On Windows 10 & Windows 11, the procedure goes like this:

  • First, locate the battery icon – the icon should be found in the taskbar
  • Right-click the battery icon, and in the next window, look and click on the “power options” button
  • Next, find and click the “change plan settings” button
  • Next, select the “change advanced power settings” option
  • Once you open it, look for the “processor power management” setting
  • Open it, and you should find your maximum processor power state is set to 100
  • Lower the setting in one percent steps
  • After each step, run a CPU stress test (Cinebench) and lower the setting further if thermals are still too high
  • Repeat the process until you find the percentage that offers the best combination of performance and temperature

6. Try undervolting the CPU & GPU

If nothing has worked, you can try undervolting your CPU and GPU, if you have dedicated graphics in your portable machine. Undervolting can dramatically cool down your laptop, but the procedure itself is a bit complicated.

Luckily, we have an undervolting guide that explains the procedure in detail. However, many laptops don’t support CPU undervolting directly in BIOS. Owners of newer Intel laptops have an app called Intel XTU (Extreme Tuning Utility) they can use.

Finally, you can also try ThrottleStop. This is a powerful app that features a ton of options to tweak. Coming with that many options also means the app is a bit complicated to use.

7. Open the bottom lid and clean the cooling system and fans

This procedure shouldn’t be too complicated. Just make sure you know how to open the bottom cover of your portable PC and also how to screw it back together afterward. Once you open the lid, look for cooling fans. After you locate them, use a can of compressed air and blow them until they’re sparkly clean.

Next, use the same can of air and sweep every air exhaust and intake well. Also, clean the fans’ surroundings until they’re entirely dust-free. After you’re done, close the lid and make sure to use every screw. Don’t lose them.

8. Repaste CPU & GPU (not for beginners)

Now we’ve come to the part of the article that contains methods of cooling down your laptop that are not for beginners. Do not perform the following procedures unless you know what you’re doing.

Note that some devices feature flipped motherboards that make swapping memory, SSD, or disassembling the cooling system extremely complicated. If you happen to own a laptop with a flipped motherboard, we recommend skipping this method and taking the device to service instead.

Repasting your CPU and GPU is relatively easy on a desktop PC. For CPUs, all you have to do is unscrew the cooler, clean the IHS, and apply the new layer of thermal paste. GPUs are a bit more complicated, but they are even much simpler to repaste than a cooling system found in your average laptop.

You see, laptop cooling systems are usually shared between the CPU & GPU. Also, these setups are typically made of multiple fans, heat pipes, and heat sinks that are joined together, making them even harder to safely remove.

We’re trying to say you should watch a couple of video guides showing how to remove a cooling system on your laptop model before doing it yourself. Also, this procedure will most likely void your warranty, so don’t do it if your device is still under warranty. For the best results, pick one of the options listed in our guide for the best thermal paste.

9. Drill extra holes in the bottom lid or replace default cooling fans – only for advanced users

This last method (technically two methods) is exceptionally radical and will void your warranty. Do not do this if your device is still under warranty. In fact, don’t do this if you don’t have the required knowledge or tools, or if you don’t want to seriously damage your laptop.

Okay, as you probably know, all laptops featuring active cooling fans take the fresh air from the bottom. And the more holes you have in the bottom of the device, the lower the thermals, right? Well, if you drill enough extra holes, you will actually improve thermals and make the laptop run cooler and, in some cases, with better performance.

Now, we didn’t try drilling holes in a laptop, but there’s a pretty detailed guide showing you the step-by-step procedure with a ton of accompanying images. So, how much can you cool down your portable machine by drilling literal holes in its bottom lid?

Well, your mileage may vary depending on what laptop you have, but users report anything from a couple of degrees Celsius to more than ten, even fifteen degrees! In other words, this actually may make sense. Just don’t forget, this is an extremely bad idea, and do not even think about doing it unless you’re ready to say goodbye to it for good or seriously damage it.

Another crazy way to cool down your laptop is by replacing default fans with off-the-shelf ones with higher CFM. As we already explained, higher CFM (cubic feet per minute) equals higher airflow. And since laptops usually come with thin plastic fans, their CFM isn’t great. However, custom cooling fans for laptops come with higher CFM; some are even made of metal and feature insane CFM values for laptop fans.

Now, if you want to perform this Frankenstein operation, you’ll have to find a guide yourself. We reckon that if you have the knowledge and tools needed for a procedure this complex, you’ll manage to perform a simple Google search and find the guide you need. Good Luck and don’t say we didn’t warn you!

How to cool down your laptop – conclusion

As you can see, most of the methods that can cool down your laptop are really simple to perform. In fact, eight of the ten procedures shown above can be performed by a total hardware noob. Just make sure to watch video guides for removing the bottom lid to deep-clean the fans and air exhausts.

If you have exhausted every method shown above, except the last one which is pretty radical and not recommended to anyone unless they’re ready to seriously damage their laptop, and your laptop’s still too hot for comfort, take it to a service. The issue is probably hardware-related, and you probably cannot do anything more to fix it. Better to spend some cash than to try doing it yourself and break your notebook for good.