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Solid State Drives and Overheating Laptops

 
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An overheating PC can be a huge problem. Ron from Milwaukee is having trouble with laptops, and thinks that he may have a solution.  He writes “Hi, I have had laptops for sometime now. Three to be exact. My current a HP Pavilion dv7. Like most laptops it has overheating issues. My question is can I replace this drive with a solid state one. They would offer less of a heat problem and no moving parts. Help me out.”

Hi, Ron.  Thanks for the great question. There are a couple of things that I’d like to address here.

First off, solid state drives vs. traditional hard drives.

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The advantages of a solid state drive are that, yes, there are no moving parts to heat up or fail, and it tends to be faster than a traditional drive.  It’s basically a big flash drive built in to your computer.  It’s also lighter and thinner, which means that your laptop can also be lighter and thinner.  The downside is the cost.  A 500 GB solid-state drive will cost you over $100, whereas you can have a hybrid drive (traditional disc drive with a solid-state component built in for faster boot time) with double the storage for about 1/3 the cost.

But, I’ll also tell you that an overheating hard drive is rarely the cause of heat problems with a laptop. If a hard drive overheats, the drive itself tends to fail rather than causing the laptop to overheat.

I will tell you that I am typing this on an HP DV15 that I’ve had for about a year and a half with no heat problems whatsoever.  My previous laptop, also an HP, was with me for more than two years with no heat problems.  As a matter of fact, the only computer that I’ve ever had that had overheating problems was a desktop, and that was because the fan on the heat sink failed.

There are a number of factors that can contribute to heat problems with a laptop.  One is that, as they get smaller and lighter, laptops have less options for dispersing heat from the CPU.  Yes, CPU’s are getting more efficient, which has enabled tablets that are as powerful as laptops were a year ago with essentially no heat sink, but CPU’s still get hot.

However, the two main causes of a laptop overheating, both related to CPU heat, are both related to how people use them.

The first is laptop “cooling” systems.  A laptop’s fans, located on the bottom of the machine, pull heat away from the CPU and the internal workings of the machine and disperse it.  Most fan bases that you get for laptops, though, actually pull air INTO the machine, thereby effectively negating any heat dispersal properties of the fan.  My advice is to buy a lap desk with a hard surface (mine is wooden) which allows the fans to remain clear, thereby allowing them to disperse heat like they were designed to.  Yes, they are larger and less portable, but they will extend the life of your laptop.

The other problem is that people tend to take the term “laptop” literally, and set the machine directly on their lap.  Or on their bed.  Or somewhere else that blocks the fans.  You really want to use your laptop only when it’s set on a hard surface whenever possible to allow the heat to be dispersed properly.

I hope that this helps!

~ Randal Schaffer

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4 Responses to “Solid State Drives and Overheating Laptops”

  1. Jeff Koelpien says:

    Some of the other causes that need to addressed is dust drawn into the fan and builds up on the radiator and impedes airflow. If not blown out regularly it may accumulate into a felt-like pad that becomes too clumped to blow back out. I have also observed that graphic chips are not clamped down in heat sinks like the CPUs and sometimes depend upon the case plate over the top to dissipate heat. If the plate gaps the chip it overheats and cracks the solder. The new lead free solder is more brittle.

  2. Richard Korte says:

    Randal my experience with overheating laptops and eventual failure is not the CPU but the GPU. This is all do to inadequate heat sinking and cooling of the GPU which then will desolder from board and cause system failure. I have found that this has always been related to a laptop with an AMD processor regardless of manufacturing. While you can have this fixed by reflowing the GPU it usually comes back. Laptop cooling or chill pads do help to keep the system cooler but as you said must be used on a hard surface.

  3. George Jackson says:

    A friend of mine had a laptop that was overheating to the point it shut itself off. The battery wouldn’t charge or discharge. When he removed the battery permanently and used only a.c. power(plugged it in),the overheating problem stopped. I suspect the unit was trying to charge and couldn’t, which increased the heat factor tremendously.

  4. lyn says:

    I have had Toshiba’s a number of time and I had one that would get so hot you could not touch it. I tried everything, I thought. It never failed even though it was hot. I cleaned it and bought several fans for it to sit on. Nothing seeded to help. Computer lasted so long I hate to say (6 year)
    The other laptop, same model and brand did not heat at all. And lasted maybe 3 year. Who Knew!

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