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?