Last month, a customer contacted me regarding their laptop overheating. It was an HP Pavilion dv9700 with an AMD processor. When I finally saw the laptop, I couldn't believe my eyes. The plastic was nearly melted off the bottom panels. Could a laptop really overheat this much?
While most laptops will never melt like the one pictured above, it seems almost all laptops overheat eventually. This could be due to a number of things, such as the dissipation of thermal compound, shoddy heat syncs, fans that go bad, degraded airflow conditions, and other anomalies. Proof of this phenomenon can be found by browsing any electronic retail store as they all sell "laptop cooling pads". If this wasn't a wide spread problem, these coolers wouldn't exist.
Is this problem fixable? In most cases, I believe it should be. However, where do you start? Should you take the entire laptop apart to replace the fans and thermal compound? Or could the problem be isolated to just a faulty power supply? While there are many unknown variables, they can all be eliminated and resolved if the technician is patient and knowledgeable.
This is good news for experts, who can fix this problem on their own, but bad for consumers. The cost of labor to pay someone to spend hours attempting to fix your laptop would well exceed just purchasing a new computer. Additionally, what if it isn't really fixed and starts overheating again? The whole situation would become a nightmare.
With a little research, you can prevent purchasing laptops prone to overheating. First, research the processors that can be installed in your laptop. All laptop manufacturers offer multiple processor options. Without sacrificing too much power, try to purchase the processor that runs coolest. Furthermore, you can search the web to see what others are saying about a particular laptop model using the make, model and keyword "overheating".
Obviously, there is nothing realistic that can be done to save the above laptop. But, this laptop could still turn on and function without feeling very hot. The evidence did not support overheating. After talking with the owner, it turns out this laptop was left on a bed, inches from a radiator heater, for an extended period of time. This laptop had overheated from the outside.