Unlike desktop PCs, cooling setups on laptops are restricted by inherent design restraints due to the limited space. This leads to higher average temperatures when compared to (most) desktops. And on many models, CPU thermals can reach or even surpass 90 degrees Celsius. Inadequate thermal setups could lead to thermal throttling. This happens when the system reduces CPU and GPU clocks to keep the components under their upper thermal throttling threshold (usually set at about 90-95 degrees Celsius when it comes to CPUs).
You can lower the CPU thermals with various methods on most convertibles, keeping the CPU cooler under load. Some models, usually high-end ones equipped with beastly CPUs, won’t see improvements in CPU thermals. On the flip side, the CPU could reach higher clocks before thermal throttling kicks in. In other words, you won’t be able to get lower CPU thermals on some models, but you can get better performance.
CPU thermal throttling is normal to see on some devices. The reason is that high-end mobile CPUs can seriously sweat even the best cooling setups on laptops when at max TDP. You should worry only if the CPU temperatures go north of 95 degrees Celsius and have significant performance drops. For example, lag during light loads, watching YouTube videos, or using undemanding apps such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs. Now, let’s see what you can do to reduce CPU temperature on your notebook, or at least get higher clocks before thermal throttling kicks in.
Tweak power options on your notebook
Let’s start with the simplest (and least invasive) things you can do to lower the CPU thermals. The first thing you should do is check which power option is used on your device by default. Most mobile PCs come with a couple of power plans (such as silent, performance, or maximum performance). Setting the max performance option usually results in the highest thermals.
If you don’t need every single MHz out of your CPU, you could try setting the middle option (performance or whatever’s it called on your laptop) and see whether the CPU temperature will drop. Using a less demanding power plan will set a lower CPU TDP, resulting in lower thermals and lower clocks.
If you’re OK with having less performance, you can stay at this step. If you want lower thermals while using the most performant power plan, or if you don’t see any improvement in CPU thermals, try some of the things listed below. And remember that, on devices equipped with dedicated graphics cards, changing the power plan could also result in a lower GPU clock.
Basic things to do that can decrease CPU thermals
First of all, make sure to use your convertible on a flat and firm surface. That means no desk pads, not placing the device on a bed or a couch, or covering it in blankets or such. This way, you’ll increase the airflow and most likely improve CPU thermals. Or at least get higher clocks before thermal throttling kicks in.
Next, make sure that the exhausts aren’t covered in dust, or maybe stickers or something else. You’d be surprised how big of an adverse effect clogged exhausts can have on CPU and GPU thermals. And the reality is, they will get clogged with dust after a while, even if you live in a cabin in the middle of a mountain because dust is everywhere. To clean the cooling vents, use a can of compressed air.
First of all, take the device outside, or at least somewhere where you’re fine with having dust all over the place. Next, use the compressed air by spraying it in short bursts all over the exhausts. Once you’ve done the procedure, turn the laptop back on. Then, check the CPU thermals by downloading and running a monitoring software combined with a CPU benchmark. Our recommendation is HWiNFO in combination with any version of Cinebench.
Finally, if you don’t hear any fan noise while using your notebook and you’re sure the device has active fans, make sure that the cooling fans are working as intended. First of all, you should download a monitoring app, such as HWiNFO, and then monitor CPU fan speed when under load. Launch HWiNFO, then run a CPU benchmark (Cinebench, for instance) and look at the CPU fan speed. If the monitoring software shows zero or a low number (less than 500, for example, which is a low RPM for the tiny fans found in convertibles), maybe something’s up with your cooling fans. In that case, either try getting an answer online or visit the nearest laptop repair shop.
But, before visiting the service, check to see if the fans on your device are on passive mode. On Windows 10, type “Control Panel” in the search box, then click on the “Hardware and Sound.” Once you’re inside the H&S menu, look for the “Power Options,” click on it, and then select the “Change Plan Settings” option in the new window. Next, click on the “Change Advanced Power Settings,” and after the “Power Options” box opens, click on the “Advanced Settings” tab.
Now, look for the “Processor Power Management” option and once you find it, click on the “+” symbol next to it. After you click on the “+” symbol, you should see a couple of additional options. Click on the “System Cooling Policy,” Once the drop-down menu appears, click on the “Active” option. After you select the “Active” option, click “Apply” and then confirm the change by clicking on the “OK” button. Now, your system fans should run faster. Test the change by rerunning Cinebench while monitoring fan RPM and CPU thermals.
If you still have issues, you could create a custom fan curve with a fan control app. Our recommendation is FanControl. After you download the app, make sure to watch the YouTube tutorial playlist for the app. Once you learn how to use the program, tie the fan speed to the CPU temperature. To test if the fans are working as they should, set them to 100 percent as soon as the CPU surpasses a relatively low temperature (70 degrees Celsius or lower, for instance). If all works as supposed to, you can create a custom fan curve. A curve that ramps up the CPU fan even during light loads and sees whether you’ll get lower CPU thermals.
Buy a cooling pad
Another simple way to lower CPU thermals on your mobile PC is to get a cooling pad. Depending on the model, you can get noticeably lower thermals or at least higher CPU clocks before the CPU thermal throttles. When it comes to cooling pads, pick a model that has an active cooling fan. An active fan should lower thermals for a couple of extra degrees compared to a passive cooling pad. Also, it would help if you got a model that supports multiple heights to find the one most comfortable for your needs.
If possible, undervolt your CPU
Undervolting desktop CPUs is a relatively simple procedure that can lower thermals by a large margin. You can even squeeze in a bit of extra performance. But the thing is, both Intel and AMD don’t offer undervolting support for their newer mobile CPUs (10th gen Intel CPUs and Ryzen mobile CPUs in general). You’re out of luck if you have a 10th gen Intel mobile CPU or a newer AMD Ryzen mobile processor.
But, if you own a convertible packing a 9th gen or older Intel CPU, you can use a couple of tools to undervolt your CPU and get much lower thermals. The first tool is Intel’s XTU (Extreme Tuning Utility), but our vote goes to ThrottleStop. This is a much more powerful tool that supports CPU undervolting and extra features that can further lower CPU thermals. Here’s a detailed guide on how to use ThrottleStop, courtesy of Douglas Black.
Owners of laptops equipped with AMD Ryzen Mobile CPUs also have a potential silver lining. While you cannot undervolt Ryzen Mobile CPUs, there’s a way to tweak their power levels and TDP with a tool called Ryzen Controller. Now, we don’t have access to a Ryzen-equipped device, but we’ve found this guide on how to use the Ryzen Controller, courtesy of the Hamster Harris YouTube channel. It’s pretty informative and contains all there’s to know about the tool.
Open the rear lid and clean insides
Now, we’ve reached a method that’s a bit invasive. You should be aware that opening the cover could void the warranty on specific models. In most cases, manufacturers don’t consider opening the lid as a warranty-voiding action. Some even include the lid opening guide in their documentation. But, to be sure, check online for confirmation before even thinking about opening the lid. Also, you don’t have to use an antistatic mat, but if you want to be sure, you can get one.
Now, depending on your specific model, you should have one or more cooling fans coupled with one or more heatsinks. The vital thing to know is that you should clean both even if you don’t think there’s a lot of dust built inside the fans/heatsinks. Even a tiny amount of dust can increase your CPU thermals.
Once you open the lid, you should see the fan(s) and the heatsink(s). Now, you don’t have to remove the fan, but it is an option. We recommend not removing it and just spraying the compressed air in short, controlled bursts until you notice that there isn’t any more dust coming out of it. Next, aim the can at the heatsink and make sure that the air direction is from the inside to the outside of the notebook.
This way, you’ll make sure that any dust coming out of the heatsink won’t settle down on the motherboard or other components. If the heatsink connects to a cooling fan, try blowing the air to the fan, but in a way that targets both the side of the fan and the heatsink. This way, you should be able to blow most of the accrued dust out of the heatsink. If you want a detailed video guide, check out this handy guide, courtesy of Gaming Nexus. You can also search YouTube for cleaning guides made for your device.
Apply a new layer of thermal paste
The following method is even more invasive, and it includes removing the cooling fans and the entire cooling setup. We don’t recommend doing this on notebooks a year or two old since the default thermal paste layer should provide adequate cooling performance during the warranty period. But if you have an older laptop and the methods mentioned earlier didn’t lower CPU thermals, it’s time to get some thermal paste.
Now, there are many quality thermal compounds on the market, but if you don’t want to spend too much cash, we can wholeheartedly recommend the Arctic MX-4. This is an affordable thermal paste that can match even the most expensive thermal compounds. You can visit the Gamers Nexus guide above on improving thermals on an old device since it contains detailed info on how to replace the thermal paste on the CPU. You can also search YouTube for thermal paste replacement guides made for your model. Just remember that you shouldn’t do this if your laptop is still under warranty.
Replace thermal paste with liquid metal
Thermal compounds based on liquid metal have by far the best cooling potential. Liquid metal has a massively higher thermal conductivity compared to regular greases. Applying liquid metal can have impressive results and lower your CPU thermals by a massive degree. But, liquid metal-based thermal compounds are very tricky to use. Further, they can damage your components since they are electrically conductive, are liquid, and can leak. Finally, liquid metal will damage aluminum heatsinks. So, make sure yours isn’t made of aluminum.
Oh, and one more thing. Liquid metal compounds are pretty expensive compared to regular thermal compounds. We don’t recommend doing this, and you should perform this procedure at your own risk. But, if you want the best results in lowering your mobile CPU thermals, this is the most effective way to get those results. LTT YouTube channel did an extensive guide on how to apply liquid metal to a mobile CPU. You should watch it if you plan to go full-on liquid metal.
Using cutting tools to drill holes in bottom cover and create more airflow
For the last method, we’re going to DIY extremes. Again, this procedure can ruin your notebook and make it unusable but if you want to do it, do it. It’s your device, after all. Note that this procedure won’t improve your CPU thermals if your rear lid already has suitable air vents placed on the cooling fans. Finally, you might not get drastically lower thermals if your model always pushes the CPU until it throttles, but you can get better performance.
We found a couple of helpful guides on how to do this. First of all, here’s a written guide accompanied by many photos for each step of the way. Next, we have an interesting video from Hardware Unboxed. They used a Dremel tool to cut long and narrow openings on the back lid, in line with other air vents found on the device they’ve used.
Next, you can watch this video, courtesy of Wolfgang’s Channel. They used a regular drill to cut holes, which didn’t ruin the overall aesthetics too much. Finally, here’s a detailed guide made by Bill Owen. This is a guide for a desktop case, but the basics are more or less the same.
This was our last method that could result in lower CPU thermals. Do note that by cutting holes in the lid, you’ll not only potentially make a mess and ruin the cover, you will also lower the laptop’s resale value. Again, we’re advising everyone to try out other methods listed in this guide before deciding to drill holes or use liquid metal instead of a regular thermal compound.