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Can blowing out a laptop case fan and cpu heat sink improve performance?

Posted on 2009-12-21
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Last Modified: 2013-12-10
I have a Sony Vaio PCG-FRV26 laptop and it has been running slow for the last few years.

Was thinking of buying a new laptop because it was so slow.

Recently it shut down a few times due to overheating so I blew out a big cloud of dust with a can of air.

Now it is running like new.

The fan is quiter and at a lower speed, the laptop is cooler and the performance has come back to like new.

Not sure how this is possible or if something else happened.
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Question by:Dragon0x40
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David L. Hansen earned 1000 total points
ID: 26101238
This is absolutely possible.  When your core CPU is hot...like very hot.....it won't work nearly as efficient.  You will have instructions that fail and have to be retried and retried until it is successful.  Over clocking CPUs is a common practice (running a CPU faster than what it is rated for).  People who do this have to keep a close eye on the CPU temperature.  Anyway, I'm not suprised that your laptop is running better...it makes perfect sence.
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Author Comment

by:Dragon0x40
ID: 26101312
thanks sl8rz,

My cpu usage percentage in task manager is like 0 to 10 percent but before it was always at least 50 percent.

I never thought to blow out the dust before but you can bet I will be keeping it cleaned out now.

I guess I am lucky no permanent damage to my CPU occured.
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by:David L. Hansen
David L. Hansen earned 1000 total points
ID: 26101332
Yeah, I would expect that your cpu was choking on a lot of instructions.
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by:PCBONEZ
PCBONEZ earned 1000 total points
ID: 26101494
YES
Modern CPU's slow down their own clock speed to prevent overheating.
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by:asidu
ID: 26101500
No doubt that spray of air helped.
I would open up the chassis and give a good vacuum to the fan and the fins.
Dust some how slowly will accumulate around the fins of the laptop.
Noise from PC will raise if there is dust  around the fan.

Since your PC is running fine there is nothing to worry.
The problem of shut down was mainly due to over heating of the CPU.

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Author Comment

by:Dragon0x40
ID: 26101534
thanks pcbonez and asidu,

I am a little hesitant to open the case when it is running so good right now. Seems the risk of breaking something would outweigh the benefit? If you have a link that shows how many screws and the process I could make a better decision on that.
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by:PCBONEZ
ID: 26101902
Scary the first time but not so hard once you've figured it all out.

This might help.
http://www.insidemylaptop.com/taking-apart-cleaning-sony-vaio-laptop/

Things like that weren't around when I learned how.
.
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by:PCBONEZ
ID: 26101914
Make sure you make a screw-map of each 'layer' going in.
Mark the screw locations -> and sizes <- on the map as you go.
Length can matter A LOT in a laptop.
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by:andoss
ID: 26101976
Dragon,

You can get compressed air in cans that does the job of cleaning out laptops/pcs very well for you.
Then you'd just need to take the keyboard off and spray any dust out the openings.

Can purchase in any PC/hardware store.
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by:asidu
ID: 26102266
Opening up laptop is not that difficult.
Taking photographs as you open up and marking the screws is a good idea.
If you dont keep track of the screws you will surely forget.

However, if you dont have the confidence just leave it.
Your laptop is working fine at the moment and the problem resolved.
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by:PCBONEZ
ID: 26102344
Blowing -IN- to a laptop is a very bad idea unless it's opened up already.
There are too many tight spots and sharp angles in them and that will push stuff into places it won't come out, possibly blocking air paths.
If you are going to blow -IN- then have it opened up so there is a way for the crud to escape.
.
Best to use a vacuum if you aren't going to open it.
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Author Comment

by:Dragon0x40
ID: 26102864
thanks andoss,

I took the keyboard off and looked at the fans and they were pretty clean but I used some qtips and cleaned them a little better.
I will not do that again there are little springs under the bezel between the keyboard and the screen that go flying when you pry that up.
I also dropped a screw inside but it is either fell out or is lodged in firmly because it does not rattle when I shake my laptop.
Think that spraying air from the vents on the bottom of the laptop so the dust goes out the back is the best method of getting the dust out.
Could not find a good manual on taking apart so I am not sure about the cleanliness of the CPU heat sink.
I had a moment of panic when I put the laptop back together and starting typing numbers instead of letters until I realized number lock was turned on. My heartbeat has returned the normal now.
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Author Comment

by:Dragon0x40
ID: 26102924
The design of the laptop is to suck in air underneath the laptop and blow it out the back.

The problem I see is that the rubber legs/supports are too short.

I think the heat would dissipate much better if they gave a little more room than 1/4 inch between the bottom of the laptop and the surface it is setting on.

I know they make products to set your laptop on to cool it better but I am cheap and don't have much room on my desk. But I am open to ideas?
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by:PCBONEZ
PCBONEZ earned 1000 total points
ID: 26103103
Stick-on rubber feet. - Walmart / Home Depot.
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Expert Comment

by:asidu
ID: 26103107
I reckon there is nothing wrong with the design. The laptop would not have function properly due to poor design.

The heat from the CPU travel via a metallic ( (usually copper) attachment . The end of the metal has several fins which are cooled when they get heated.
The fan will only come into play when the temperature of the metal warrants it to be cooled. If you observe carefully the fan will blow for a while and then stop.

One point to observe is that the outlet path of the hot air should not be blocked by any object.
The inlet should also be clear so that cool could be sucked in easily.

You could put a ruler or some thing to raise the clearance but it will have minimum effect on cooling.
The important thing is for the fan to spin at the right time and passage for airflow are not blocked.

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Expert Comment

by:PCBONEZ
ID: 26103109
You need to find that screw.
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Author Comment

by:Dragon0x40
ID: 26103221
thanks pcbonez,

To find the screw I need a manual to take the laptop apart.

Without a manual I fear that I will cause more damage than possibly leaving the screw in.
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Author Comment

by:Dragon0x40
ID: 26103378
If I would have had a manual then I would not have pried the bezel up.
There are four spring loaded release points above the esc, F5, F11 and Delete keys.
If you press down the keys you can see a slot and if you poke a small flat head into the slot it will release that section of the bezel.
I lost one of the springs and a screw somewhere but I am more afraid of prying and breaking something that will kill my laptop if I don't have good instructions on how to take it apart.
If it was dead and I was trying to make a repair then I would be more likely to attempt it but my laptop is running really well right now.
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by:PCBONEZ
ID: 26103393
Problem is there is nothing to make that screw stay put.
It could move -just a little- and it's instant laptop death.
Bumping the table it's on might be enough.
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Author Comment

by:Dragon0x40
ID: 26103589
Ok I found the missing screw on the floor.
I opened the laptop and screwed it in.
Turned the laptop every which way looking for the missing spring but I believe there is a high probability that it bounced somewhere outside the laptop and is not rolling around inside.
If someone can find step by step instructions on taking this thing apart I might try looking for it inside and also clean the cpu heat sink.
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by:PCBONEZ
ID: 26103765
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Author Comment

by:Dragon0x40
ID: 26104011
I removed 9 screws from the keyboard bracket item 10 on page 7 yet it still seems it needs the plastic case of the laptop to be split open to come out.
The cooling assy item 84 on page 8 looks like it is a sealed assembly so I am not sure even if I had it out that I could gain access to clean the cpu heat sink any better.
Plus the fact that the cpu thermal sheet or heat sink would have to be replaced. Neither which I have.
The cpu might be pulled out of the socket if the cooling assembly is removed but I could unlock the socket and reinstall the cpu and lock.
Really nice information on my laptop thanks.
I understand how the cooling system works much better now.
But why two fans?
Are they for cooling different parts or do they cool the same things but start at different temperatures?
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by:David L. Hansen
ID: 26105283
Take a look at this as well Dragon:
http://www.experts-exchange.com/OS/Microsoft_Operating_Systems/Windows/XP/Q_24995924.html?cid=1573#a26102698

It tells you how you can tune your system to be even more efficient.
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by:PCBONEZ
ID: 26107202
There are usually interlocking tabs around the end as with most plastic assemblies these days.
They should have done a closeup. As they didn't you'll have to experiment to figure out their method.

You can get thermal sheets on ebay.
In a pinch leaving the old pad there and applying a very VERY thin layer of Artic Silver [or similar] works fine.
Not recommended or approved by anyone official, but works fine.
Laptop CPU's usually have more gap chip-to-heatsink than Desktop CPUs which is one reason why they always use pads.
.
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Author Comment

by:Dragon0x40
ID: 26108054
My laptop is working really well now so I am not going to try to clean the cpu heat sink and I think chances are good that the lost spring is not inside.
I am planning to look for some stick on rubber feet to get more clearance between the desk and the bottom of the laptop as I think that will help it run cooler.
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