This past month I have seen over 20 laptops, MacBooks, towers and AIOs (All In Ones) that have failed completely due to overheating.
Inside every computer is a processor and a graphics chip. These components generate enormous amounts of heat which must be extracted. This is done by attaching a heat sink, which is usually made of copper (a very good conductor of heat). A thermal paste between the processor/chip and the heat sink ensures maximum conductivity of heat between the components. There is also a fan which blows the extracted heat out of the computer through fins which maximise heat loss.
Unfortunately, the fins are often the first part to become blocked. This causes a build-up of dirt and dust which prevents heat loss. The computer starts running hot, and the thermal paste then melts and no longer acts as a thermal conductor. Usually at this point the processor or chip will fail. If it’s the graphics chip, the screen will no longer work, and if it’s the processor, then the computer will no longer work.
When to act
One of the first indications of this happening to your computer can be unexpected shutdowns after a fairly short period of use. The computer senses it is overheating and shuts down to prevent complete failure. If this happens to you, please don’t keep using it, but have it serviced as soon as possible.
These are not economic items to repair – the cost of repair usually exceeds the value of the computer. To prevent this, when your computer is, say, two years old, you should take it to your local computer repair shop and ask for a ‘clean & paste’. This involves dismantling the computer, cleaning all parts, applying fresh thermal paste (preferably a very high-quality one like Arctic Ice), and cleaning the motherboard with isopropanol, which removes residues and helps prevent any future shorting of parts.
The cost of this is normally £40 – £80, depending upon the complexity of the computer. But it’s a small price to pay to ensure longevity of your machine. The surrounding pictures show a few examples of the heat-damaged computers I have seen this month.