how to cool my macbook pro?

I have an early 2011 macbook pro.  It seems that the fans are always running and that the bottom is hotter then it should be.

Does anyone have any good recommendations what I can do to cool it down?
1. Should I drill small holes in the bottom to allow fresh air (but that allows dust to come in as well, which is not good)
2. Should I just get a cooling pad with fans (even though I read online that doesn't really help)
3. What's your idea, or best method to keep it cool, or cooler?
DanNetwork EngineerAsked:
Who is Participating?

[Product update] Infrastructure Analysis Tool is now available with Business Accounts.Learn More

I wear a lot of hats...

"The solutions and answers provided on Experts Exchange have been extremely helpful to me over the last few years. I wear a lot of hats - Developer, Database Administrator, Help Desk, etc., so I know a lot of things but not a lot about one thing. Experts Exchange gives me answers from people who do know a lot about one thing, in a easy to use platform." -Todd S.

Try to find out why it is running hot first. Open Activity Monitor, order the processes by CPU% and see if you have any runaway processes.

Experts Exchange Solution brought to you by

Your issues matter to us.

Facing a tech roadblock? Get the help and guidance you need from experienced professionals who care. Ask your question anytime, anywhere, with no hassle.

Start your 7-day free trial
Etienne ErasmusCommented:
For thermal management and fans running at high speed reset SMC.
Choose the appropriate method to reset SMC.
DanNetwork EngineerAuthor Commented:
How would resetting the SMC help?  Plus, the fans don't kick in usually after about 10 minutes or more of usage, so they are not on all the time.
The 7 Worst Nightmares of a Sysadmin

Fear not! To defend your business’ IT systems we’re going to shine a light on the seven most sinister terrors that haunt sysadmins. That way you can be sure there’s nothing in your stack waiting to go bump in the night.

Etienne ErasmusCommented:
please read the link. SMC is the last option
The KB referred to by Etienne specifically states that resetting the SMC may cure the problem you are having. It is worth a try and you have nothing to lose. I would do it and see if that solves the problem.

If not, try my suggestion of leaving Activity Monitor open and see if you have a process that runs amok when the fans start up. You may have an application with a memory leak.
Clean out all dust. It will have accumulated in that time, and the dust hinders the air flowing, so the fans will have to work harder.
Etienne ErasmusCommented:
DIY on how to clear dust from your macbook pro.
rather book it in at a mac genius or respected tech repair store if you not comfortable doing it yourself
Before you do anything that intrusive, try the SMC reset first, then the activity monitor suggestion I made, and only if those two fail try the dust removal.
DanNetwork EngineerAuthor Commented:
actually, it only took me like 3 minutes to take the cover off, and clean the dust.
I'll start the activity monitor and check that route next.

By the way, how often should the fan come on?
Depends on what you are doing. If you are running a lot of Flash, or doing heavy duty photo or video editing, they may come on often. If you are doing word processing or web surfing, they should almost never come on.
Etienne ErasmusCommented:
my mac air comes on when im working on the couch (material) or on the bed. it blocks the ventilation ports just behind the screen.
when doing some vid editing it would also come on.
what is the ambient temperature where the mac is located...

perhaps installing a temperature monitoring tool like

would help
So don't block the ventilation ports. Get a lap desk:
Macs do need to reset the SMC and the PRAM frequently to clear random errors.  It's one of the very first things I do when people have trouble and their system isn't behaving.  It needs resetting far more frequently than Windows PCs.

The fans come on whenever a laptop is running something intensive, so you should always check Activity Monitor to see what's sucking up CPU cycles.  Install Adblock and/or flashblock in all your browsers and much of the browser activity will diminish.  Adblock is now really the first line of defense against malware.

I have a 15" 2012 Macbook that runs much hotter than the 15" 2013 Macbook when it's running several apps and heat has never been a problem.  The newer CPUs just run much cooler.

If the Mac is running too hot for your taste, just prop up the back a bit and it will be sufficiently cool.  They can run at hotter temperatures than you think, but that may be too hot for your lap.  I've defrosted a bagel and warmed up other food on the Macbook with the lid closed.  If you have an external monitor or Apple display, close the lid, or turn the backlight all the way down until it's off, and it will run much cooler.

Don't drill holes.  You'll change the airflow and you won't be cooling the correct components.  Thoroughly clean out the dust instead.  When I show people, many are surprised at how much dust their systems have after just one year.  The 2011 Macbooks should still have standard phillips screws for the case.

You should open up laptops, or any computers, and clean out the dust at least once each year.  If your home or office is much dustier, you should do it twice a year.  If you eat over your work space, you should be cleaning out the keyboard tray more frequently.  It's amazing how much stale, rotten, disgusting food bits many people have in their keyboards.  I use disinfecting wipes at least once a month on my own keyboards.  I once worked in a place where there would be a layer of 'lint' in 6 months that was as thick as those found in a laundry dryer after thick cotton towels were dried.  They needed frequent cleaning.  If you work in a place that has a lot of people traffic, much of that dust is their dead skin and hair.  Wear masks and gloves for that or you may get sick.  Someone did get sick after he ignored our advice to wear gloves and masks.  In comparison, fanless systems have very little dust in them.

Most people want the Ron Popeil method of computing "Just set it, and forget, it", but they do also need some periodic physical maintenance and you will have fewer problems.
DanNetwork EngineerAuthor Commented:
Good idea's everyone.

I am not blocking the air vents,  the MacBook sits on a hard surface table, it's not smooth, as it's a bit ruff, but should be ok.

In regards to the screen, I do use an external monitor over 80% of the time, so I was thinking to use the laptop with the screen down, but  noticed it's hotter with the screen down.  When looking at the air vents, it's my impression that more air is allowed to escape with the screen open instead of it being closed, is this true?
So is it better to use the laptop with the screen closed if I am using an external monitor?

I just cleaned out the dust earlier today, took the back cover off, but it wasn't that bad, was fairly clean.

I will install the temperature monitoring tool to see at what temperature it's running at.

Does anyone have any recommendations which one of these would be best, besides looking at the ratings?
Michael DyerSenior Systems Support AnalystCommented:
Have you considered a simple laptop cooler pad?  Here Is a selection:
How hot is too hot for you?  What are you running when it gets too hot?  Are you in an air conditioned room?  I use mine in a non-air conditioned space and I've felt it get quite hot, but it's within normal design.  The CPUs can get quite hot, close to 100˚C (212˚F), but that's still within design specs.  The fans keep the screen and other plastics from melting.  If the fans are working, then it's doing its job correctly.  Just don't block the rear of the Macbooks.

I found my particular MacBook to be cooler with the lid closed.  You could close the lid down just enough to turn off the backlight, but leave a space for air flow.  If you leave the lid open, you should turn the screen brightness to off.  On hotter days I leave the lid ajar, but down enough to turn off the screen, and prop up the rear of the Macbook with an old broken MacBook Air power brick that I took apart to salvage the cable for another power supply that had a broken cable.  That's enough for the quad core i7 to stay operable all day without air conditioning.  I do hear the fans come on full blast when doing something heavy.

On the command line, you can install iStats for free.
sudo gem install iStats  (Note the capital S)

Once installed just run:

As for fans, I just use one that also cools down people, and it covers both the laptop and me.  They produce more airflow than those tiny laptop coolers for around the same price.  It depends on where you are and how much cooling you need.
DanNetwork EngineerAuthor Commented:
since I'm using bootcamp, 80% of the time I boot into windows 10.  I installed a open temperature monitoring software and currently the processor is at around 200 deg when I have about 10 programs open.  At around 190 deg, the fans started kicking in, and now they are on as the CPU temp is around 200 deg.

After closing the apps, the temp went down to 140 to 150 deg and the fans slowly died down as well.
It's just that the back of the laptop is very hot, but maybe that's normal.
Oh, I see.  You left that off in your initial question.  Bootcamp has always run hotter on Macbooks.  The BootCamp drivers don't manage power as well as the native Mac drivers.  It's as if they did it on purpose.  Native OS X does some better throttling of the CPU and GPU while maintaining higher performance than Bootcamp drivers do.  Bootcamp just lets them run full.  You can search for Bootcamp overheat and you'll see topics on the issue.

You should get a newer MacBook with at least Retina screen and a much lower temperature CPU and GPU, otherwise the older Macbook really doesn't make sense a Windows laptop.  The keyboards all wrong for it.  The screen resolution is pretty lousy too.  I know some people love Macs, but I've dealt with corporate laptops and the Business versions have better support.  Don't buy the cheap consumer laptops and you'll have higher reliability and better quality.  You get what you pay for, and home users generally only have cheap consumer junk to compare to a Mac.

With the screen closed, it's normally supposed to run cooler and the air vents out down and back.  Depending on the Model the exhaust is towards the left of center or further left and the intake is around the sides.  You should have seen the fan placement when you opened it up to clean out the dust.  Bootcamp doesn't run cooler.  Leave the lid ajar, lift the rear of the laptop and blow a desk fan across it.
DanNetwork EngineerAuthor Commented:
Good advice, but I already have my main Desktop PC, so my mac is just a laptop I use once in a while, and at my apartment, so I do use it a few hours every day.  I can't afford a new one, so I'm stuck with it, plus, I bought a new battery for it and a new 512GB SSD.
The speed is great.

So basically, since I will be in windows over 80% of the time, just run it with the lid down, left open ajar, and just use a cooling pad with a fan, and that should run cool enough I guess.

So what's an acceptable CPU temperature that will not damage the laptop over time?

Is running the laptop CPU around 170 to 190 ok?
Yes, they're designed to run that hot, although continuous high heating does shorten the life of the CPU compared to running it at lower temperatures, but it should still last plenty long enough for typical usage.  Intel brought the temperature down on the newer CPUs, but that generation of intel cpus ran quite hot.
DanNetwork EngineerAuthor Commented:
Thanks everyone for the good info
It's more than this solution.Get answers and train to solve all your tech problems - anytime, anywhere.Try it for free Edge Out The Competitionfor your dream job with proven skills and certifications.Get started today Stand Outas the employee with proven skills.Start learning today for free Move Your Career Forwardwith certification training in the latest technologies.Start your trial today
Apple Hardware

From novice to tech pro — start learning today.