laptop overheating issue general question

I have a general question. When a laptop overheats and shuts down randomly, do you find that many times this can be solved by blowing compressed air through the vents and all ports from the outside of the laptop?

I want to know if you have experience fixing laptops that overheat and shut down, and if you were able to solve this problem without having to take apart the laptop but just blow compressed air through the vents?
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This can assist to a degree. The issue with laptops is the way the air is ventilated - a simple blowing through the vents won't always get the job done.

However, as long as it is done correctly, it can be of some help.

Also, the make and model of the laptop is to be taken into consideration. For example, a lot of HP laptops that had the AMD chipset over the last few years are notorious for overheating, and this has more to do with the processor and a poor design than dust on the heat sink that can be blown away with air.

For some laptops than run hot, a cooler stand is a good idea. You can get them with a USB powered fan for around $25.
Mine shuts down about once per week.  But, it's a newer laptop, and I know that it's dust.  Specifically dust from the bedding and hay in the guinea pig cage.

I run Photoshop, Illustrator, some PDF editing software and occasionally video streaming in browser.  At the same time, I almost always have number-crunching software consuming the rest of the CPU and GPU cycles, up to 100% capacity.

So, when the dust gets sucked in on my desk at home, it shuts down.  I let it cool for a minute, then boot up.  Blast of air shows cloud of dust flying out...then it runs fine for a few more days until the dust gets sucked in again.

I also have a few older laptops where there is a definite motherboard issue, most likely loss of the thermal bond between the heatsink and CPU or GPU.  Not easily fixable as a DIY job.  I've written those off completely.  Blowing compressed air does not work, even after a full disassembly.

There are instructions on staged heating to attempt a solder re-flow.  But if you don't do it right, you melt the whole works up, and possible set your house on fire.  I think it needs to get up over 500F.  I have the heat gun and IR thermometer...but haven't made enough non-flammable space in the garage yet to try it.
Yes blowing compressed air could help solve the heating problem if the air flow is hampered with some dust.
However not all problems can be resolved by compressed air application.

Heating problem could also be occur due to dried up of thermal paste, a fault fan which is not spinning fast enough or
blockage of air passage with a thick layer of dust. These problem needs intervention into the laptop.

Ideally laptops are designed for proper heat dissipation as long as the cooling system of the machine works correctly. There is no need for an extra fan. However as suggested by jonahzona an extra fan cooling the base could help to dissipate heat generated.

You could also raise the laptop base by putting some spacers so that there is air circulation below the base to dissipate the heat.
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Dr. KlahnPrincipal Software EngineerCommented:
In my experience, there are three likely problems when a laptop consistently overheats.

1.  The cooling fins on the CPU heatsink are not clean, or the cooling air ports are clogged or obstructed.
2.  The CPU cooling fan needs to be replaced.  Tiny fans with "inexpensive" rifle bearings don't last long in laptops.
3.  On newer laptops, the CPU variable clock speed feature is not enabled in the BIOS, or the Windows variable clock speed feature is disabled.

On occasion I have run into a system with BOINC or other such high-demand background application installed, and had to tell the owner "Look, this is just not suitable for a laptop."
Brian GeeCommented:
My experience is that canned air to a very dust plugged laptop fan can help immensely. To be cognizant of though is continued use of this laptop and proper ventilation is key. No using it on a blanket where the fans will essentially covered causing a great overheating situation. But overall, if you live in an environment with a lot of dust, pet hair, what have you, then you'll find that a routine canned air 'dusting' will be more than necessary.

Every situation is different, but on the whole, removing dust from the laptop fans yields noticeable results (where the fan whirring is much more quiet and less aggressive, less frequent).
now2010Author Commented:
Thank you all. Your answers are helped me out.
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