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What is Computer Overheating?

What is overheating and what should you do when your PC overheats?

Do you feel your PC becoming strangely hot when you use it for an extended period of time? Is your PC overheating and are you looking for solutions to it? This article will discuss what overheating is, whether your computer could be overheating and what you can do to solve overheating issues.

What does “Overheating” mean?

When a computer is generating more heat than it is designed to handle, it is overheating. An overheating computer may shut down to prevent any damage to its hardware, for example, the processor. Other components that can overheat in a computer are the hard drive, video card, and power supply.

Built-up debris, malfunctioning fans, poor/blocked ventilation, an underperforming hard drive as well as a poor power supply can cause overheating. This article will be focusing on computer overheating, and what you can do to solve it.

Common causes of overheating:

Debris build-up:

What we mean by ‘debris build up’ is things like hair, dust, and dirt building up on the components inside of your PC. PC components have things called heat sinks which incorporate either fans or other mechanisms to reduce the temperature of a computer’s hardware component.

The CPU typically has the largest heat sink, though you can also find heat sinks on the video card, motherboard, and RAM, along with other components. Additionally, fans that are part of the cooling system move cooler air around to make this process more efficient.

The dust that builds up within a computer can subsequently constrict the airflow inside the PC, therefore the fans inside the PC have to work harder to adequately cool the system. This is often indicated by a loud whirring noise and can explain why dirty computers often sound ‘louder’. This excessive heat can also cause fans and heat sinks to stop working properly which can cause component damage.

Malfunctioning Fans:

If your PC’s fan is not operating correctly and can not ventilate air, the result will be an overheating computer. In this case, you might have to take your PC to a repair shop, however, you can check on the fans yourself. Here’s how to check if your computer’s fans are operating well:

The fans make a whirring sound when the computer boots up. It starts at full throttle and gradually slows down as the computer boots up. If you can’t hear this sound, or it is quieter than before, that may be an indicator that your fans are not working as they should.

You could also open up the PC to check on the fans inside of it, but it is not recommended unless you are confident that you will be able to do it correctly. An alternative to this is using a flashlight to see through the ventilation holes in your computer. If you observe no fans moving inside the computer, then it is recommended that you take the PC to a repair shop to prevent the components from being damaged permanently.

Blocked Vents:

Avoid putting your laptop on soft surfaces such as pillows or blankets. These types of surfaces tend to block airflow through the vents and resultantly warm up the PC. Rather place your PC on lat, solid surfaces like tables or a laptop tray to prevent blocking the vents.


How to know if your PC is overheating:

Below are a few signs that may indicate an overheating computer:

  • The PC boots up but shuts down automatically after a short period of time.
  • The system operates slowly
  • (As mentioned before) the fan makes loud whirring noises constantly.
  • Areas at the bottom of the computer are hot (specifically places where components like the RAM are).

What to do when your computer overheats

Shut it down

The first thing you should do when your computer overheats are shut it down. This will prevent components from being damaged. Put the computer in a cool, dry environment and on a flat, solid surface, then wait until it is cool to the touch. After it has cooled down, wait ten minutes before switching it on again.

Clean it up

If you have not cleaned up your PC recently, there’s a chance that dirt is the cause of your PC overheating. Cleaning up your computer may be just what you need to get your PC back in shape. Below are a few steps to cleaning your PC:

  • Turn off your PC and unplug it.
  • Open up the PC and blow at visible dust using compressed air or a leaf blower at slow speed. Aim at computer components, especially the fans.
  • The goal is to get rid of blockage created by dust, so there’s no need to get your PC completely spotless. If you would like to clean more thoroughly, you can use a cotton swab to clean the hard-to-reach spots inside of your computer.

Want a professional cleaning of your PC? Contact us.

Stop overclocking

Overclocking your PC leads to more heat being generated from your CPU and GPU. While overclocking is a good way to get more out of your PC, it means that your GPU and CPU have to work harder than they were designed to. This can result in overheating, which can permanently damage your PC.

Increase the fan speed

Unfortunately, this method does not work for all PCs. Some motherboards do not allow control over fan speed, therefore this solution may not work for you.

There are different software programs you can install, such as the free SpeedFan program, that will alter the speed of your fans depending on your laptop’s temperature.

Decrease the pressure you put on your PC

Monitor the amount of pressure you put on your PC. For example, if you’re continuously using your PC for heavy gaming over long periods of time, your PC will likely start to heat up.

Do not use software or programs that are not compatible with your PC, you’ll just be putting pressure on it.


If overheating has caused permanent damage to your PC, then you may have to replace the damaged components or even invest in a new one.

Get in touch for a professional assessment of your overheating PC or Laptop

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