Dell Inspiron 5100 overheat issues

I have a Dell Inspiron 5100 laptop, less than a year old.  For the first few months I owned it, everything was normal, but now it frequently overheats unless I take drastic measures to curtail it.  "Drastic" entails propping the back of the notebook up, downloading a software fan control program to keep the fan always on "high", and propping a table fan to point directly at the notebook's vents.  If I slack on any of these three measures, the laptop will eventually overheat, even if I'm not doing anything on it.  With the table fan, the processor will run at about 50 C, according to the fan control program (which could be wrong).  Without, it gets up to around 76 C before it shuts off.

Sometimes when I take it out and about, I will be able to situate it on my lap so that the fan has all the air it could ever want, and then the machine runs at about 66 C according to the fan program.

This is extremely confusing, being as that I would play memory/processor intensive first person shooters when I first got the machine, and I did so without consequence.

I dual boot the machine with Red Hat 9 and WinXP Pro.  The overheat issue occurs just as frequently with both operating systems.

I've heard this is an issue with Dell Notebooks, but then why would I have no trouble with it until months into owning it?
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buckeyes33Connect With a Mentor Commented:
If the computer is still under warrenty I would not mess with it.   I would just send it to DELL and let them deal with it as this can be caused by several things.   It is harder to fix and troubleshoot labtops as desktop systems.  That is just my thoughts before you bust into this thing and not be able to fix it.

Several things that can cause this are:

AC adapter is bad
thermal compound hardened
bad processor
bad motherboard
>>This is extremely confusing, being as that I would play memory/processor intensive first person shooters when I first got the machine, and I did so without consequence.
this makes me think that you may have hardened your thermal paste with the heat.

FYI:  you can buy bases that will go under you laptop that has fans on them to keep your computer cooller.  I don't think that this will help you now, but it would have before and after the problem is fixed.
slacksoftAuthor Commented:
I've been putting off sending it to Dell because I need it for the bulk of my schoolwork and it would be a large inconvenience to do it now, but I suppose that will have to be a priority in a couple of weeks.

Are there any other preventative measures besides the cooling pad?
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>>Are there any other preventative measures besides the cooling pad?
not really.  

Most likely if you do anything to the computer that it would void the warrenty.  
You could try to minimize the number of programs running simultaneously, to put less of a load on the cpu, and hence, less heat.  If running Prime95 causes a cpu to heat up, the opposite is also true.
The "Send it back to Dell" Answer is good as long as you have a warranty.

But if you don't then here is what you do to fix the overheating:

Go here:

Download the service manual for the 5100. Read how to remove the CPU heatsink. It is very easy, just go slow and be patient. Get a new bottle of compressed air. Blow all the dust off of everything that has dust on it. Reassemble the computer. This WILL fix your problem.

I am running a 3.06GHZ CPU in my inspiron 5100 with no problem at all. I just have to keep the airflow paths clean. Good luck and feel free to email me if you need more advice.

My Inspiron 5100 has a Radeon 9000 Video card, a 3.06GHZ CPU, a 120GB Hard Drive a 4X DVD+/-RW drive. I used Arctic Silver Heat sink compound on the CPU and Video card.

Good Luck.

I'm working on a 5100 with what appears to be the same problem.  The fan will run, kick into high, and then a few minutes later the machine turns off abruptly.  I'm not doing anything processor intensive, I think.  The linke posted above by RedHerring is indeed a "red herring," in this case since Dell appears to have removed this page. Do you have another source for instructions to clear the dust?  I intend to just dive in here in a bit if I don't find instructions.  How hard can it be?  Besides, anything to avoid Dell Home tech support (that doesn't apply to their business support, which I think is better).

slacksoftAuthor Commented:
I got it fixed, just called Dell up and since it was under warrantee, they had Airborne Express pick it up from my house and take it to their plant, and it was back within two days, cool as it ever was.  I got a fan to go underneath it and I haven't had those problems since.

Unfortunately, no, I don't have instructions to clear the dust.  I hope you have experience with laptop hardware before you go "diving in" as it were.
Thanks for responding to the post.  Its good to know that Dell will address this issue under warrantee.  After looking at it last week, I didn't see an easy way to get in there to clear out the dust, so I just used some compressed air in the vents and fan area.  LOTS of dust came out, and the fan did not seem to cut in after that.  I gave the laptop back to the user with instructions to blow it out with air periodically, since that seemed to help - at least temporarily.  

It is about time that DELL said they screwed up.   I don't think it is just a small percentage though.  More like 50% or more.  
I am having the same problem.  The gameplay is now so bad that I went to ATI and Intel to ask them what the problem with my drivers were.  They ATI said to go to Intell and make sure my chipset is installed correct for the vid card to be installed correct... Intel told me to go to the motherboard manufacturor and ask them... I dunno, it seems like a stretch.  I haven't tried the air blow thing yet but I'll try that next.  It just seems like the problem is MORE than just the fan.  Also, it doesn't seem like the right video card is installed, and I have made sure I have all the correct drivers.  Does anyone know if the motherboard might be having issues here?  If so, anyone know where I could get the right drivers for it?  I realize that this hasn't been posted on in quite some time, but I'm still hopeful.
I had this problem with my daughter's Dell laptop and it was solved by blowing the dust out. The trick is to make sure to blow the canned air into the back vent. She hasn't had any problems for months now that she regularly blows it out. Now my other daughter's Inspiron 5100 is having the same problem so tomorrow I'll buy some air and give it the same treatment.
shouldn't be , should it , having to blow out the slightest amount of air , and putting on fan base
face the fact , the reality is that this is happening all over ; the HP business laptop forum has a thread with 350+ posts on this very subject
the actual problem is that unless the machine is
perfectly clean , and
the processor is perfectly fixed  with thermal compound

this is going to happen because the faster processors give out too much heat for the slim designs , and although this may work in laboratory conditions , in the real world.............
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