Avast Academy Performance Performance Tips Why Is Your Computer Overheating and How to Cool It Down

Why Is Your Computer Overheating and How to Cool It Down

If your fans are spinning wildly, but your machine’s still hot, computer overheating may soon be the least of your worries. Along with significantly reduced performance, you risk damaging internal components and permanently losing data. Keep reading to learn how to stop your PC overheating. Then, keep your computer cool and running smoothly with specialized cleanup software.

Written by Oliver Buxton
Published on March 4, 2022

How do you know your computer is overheating?

Signs of an overheating computer include a device that’s hot to the touch, a fan running in overdrive, and loud whirring noises coming from your machine. You may also experience slowdowns or shutdowns as your computer tries to end tasks to cool down and prevent internal damage.

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    If sluggish performance or crashes coincide with high intensity usage such as gaming or multimedia editing, it’s likely because of overheating. But because these symptoms could be caused by other issues, it’s a good idea to verify that overheating is the reason by checking the temperature inside your PC.

    Look out for temperatures over 70 degrees Celsius. If you see increased temperatures at the same time as you experience problems, then overheating is probably the cause. Now the question is: Why is my computer overheating, and what can I do about it?

    How to stop your computer from overheating

    When your PC is overheating, act quickly to prevent data loss or permanent hardware damage. Overworked fans will drain your laptop battery in no time. And maintaining stable core temps is vital for the long-term performance of your battery and other internal components.

    There could be many factors causing your computer to overheat, so try the following steps to cool down your computer and avoid further shutdowns or performance issues:

    Check that the fans are working

    Internal PC components generate a lot of heat, especially when you use your computer for extended periods of time. This isn’t a problem if the fans inside your machine are working properly to keep temperatures under control.

    But if your computer fan is loud consistently, here are several easy ways to check if your fan is working properly:

    • When turning on your PC you should hear the fans whirring into motion

    • Place your hand near the computer’s fan grille and feel for vibration

    • Confirm the fans are running by using a flashlight to look for movement through the fan grille

    If your fans won’t stop buzzing, it may be time to replace or upgrade your hardware with heat sinks to soak up excess heat, or even use an external PC cooler to help regulate temperatures.

    Improve airflow for desktop PCs

    Even if the fans are working perfectly, your computer can still overheat without a steady supply of cool, fresh air circulating. To help ensure the vents stay unobstructed, place your PC on a flat, hard surface, and make sure it’s free from obstacles on all sides.

    Don’t try to improve ventilation by removing side panels or other parts of your computer’s casing, as this will alter the internal pressure, making it even harder for the fans to maintain sufficient airflow. It will also allow dust, fluff, and other junk to build up inside your machine, which will only make things worse.

    With repeated use dust can quickly build up on the computer's fans.

    Improve airflow for your laptop

    Because a laptop’s internal components are positioned so tightly together, maintaining airflow is crucial. Since the vents are usually on the bottom, placing your laptop directly on a blanket or sofa will impede airflow. Place your laptop on a flat, hard surface like a table or even a book.

    Some laptop protective cases may also block the air vents, so if you’re using one, try removing it. Another trick for keeping your laptop cool is to avoid using it in a hot environment or placing it in direct sunlight. If you don’t have access to a well shaded or air-conditioned room, get a laptop cooling pad that blows cool air upwards, keeping your machine well ventilated.

    Avoid using programs that use a lot of CPU power

    The harder you push your computer’s CPU, the more heat it generates. So when it’s overloaded for long periods, temperatures can skyrocket, and you may end up with 100% disk usage by creating virtual memory on your hard drive to cope with the increased load.

    To reduce the stress on your CPU, open Task Manager by pressing Ctrl + Shift + Esc and review the applications listed in the CPU column. If any are using a high share of CPU, right-click on them and select End task to shut them down.

    Using Windows Task Manager to find and shut down CPU intensive processes and manage PC overheating.

    Overclocking your CPU can be a great way to squeeze out every last drop of performance, but this also generates extra heat that your machine may not be able to handle. To reduce CPU temperature, clock back to default speed, or even consider underclocking your system slightly. The same goes for overclocking your GPU, RAM, or any other components.

    Close unnecessary browser tabs and programs

    Multitasking with several apps open can cause your CPU to sizzle. Minimizing active processes and shutting down unused programs completely will help keep temperatures under control. Uninstall unnecessary apps and remove potentially unwanted programs to free up disk space and prevent background processes from overheating your system.

    Likewise, keeping lots of tabs open on your web browser can be a major drain on your PC’s resources. Close any tabs not in active use, and bookmark tabs you may need again. Some browsers, such as Avast Secure Browser, come with built-in tools that help you identify tabs that consume lots of power and memory so you can shut them down.

    Avast Secure Browser can help keep your computer cool and avoid overheating.

    Clean and dust your computer

    Over time, dirt and dust will accumulate in your computer’s ventilation ducts, clogging up vital components, reducing airflow, and contributing to overheating. If you haven’t dusted it down lately, physically cleaning your PC will help get it running coolly and quietly again.

    To clean your desktop computer’s internals, make sure you’ve got cotton swabs and a can of compressed air handy and follow these steps:

    1. Completely shut down and unplug all your PC’s cords and cables.

    2. Place your computer on a clean, flat, and well lit workspace.

    3. Carefully remove its casing.

    4. Using the can of compressed air, clear away dust and debris from the fans, ducts, and other components.

    5. If blockages remain lodged in tight spaces, use cotton swabs to gently clean them.

    Remember that junk files and bloatware also weigh down your system and contribute to overheating. Give your machine a digital spring clean too with trusted cleaning software that can automatically delete unneeded temporary files and keep your PC optimized for smooth and fast performance.

    Reapply thermal paste

    Thermal paste is a highly conductive material usually used to coat components such as the CPU and GPU. Thermal paste helps to dissipate heat more efficiently and prevent temperatures inside your machine from reaching critical levels.

    But thermal paste is degradable and gradually becomes less effective. Using a thermal paste removal kit to wipe away old compounds before reapplying a fresh coating of paste can help your computer’s cooling system.

    Adjust your computer's internal settings

    If your machine seems overburdened by everyday usage, try recalibrating your PC’s settings to lighten the resource load and reduce overheating. Using power saving mode is a good place to start, but you can also fine-tune other settings such as screen brightness and resolution to find the right balance between performance and efficiency.

    Selecting Power saver mode in Windows to reduce resource intensity and prevent PC overheating.

    Check for viruses and malware

    Viruses and other types of malware can run high-impact processes without your knowledge, which will cause your PC to get hot very quickly. Use a malware detection and removal tool to identify and remove malicious software from your PC.

    Keep your software updated

    Keeping your PC updated with the latest operating system, drivers, and other software has many performance and security benefits, and it can also help prevent overheating. New updates also fix bugs and inefficiencies, allowing your computer to run faster and more efficiently.

    Use a dedicated driver updater tool to unlock peak performance for your PC by automatically scanning and fixing corrupted or outdated software without you having to lift a finger.

    Shut down your computer

    Just like you and me, computers need a break every now and again. The easiest and most reliable way to cool down a PC is to turn it off and let it rest for a while. When you boot it up again, it will benefit from a cold start and will likely run much more smoothly.

    Shutting down a PC via the Power button on the Windows Start menu.

    What causes computer overheating?

    PCs tend to run hotter with age, but even a brand new computer will heat up when memory-intensive tasks overwhelm the processor. Overheating occurs whenever the PC’s internal cooling system can’t effectively ventilate the hot air caused by the electrical components involved in computer processing.

    Heat is an inevitable by-product of all electrical machines, and computers are no exception. Ultra-powerful, modern computers can pump out a lot of heat. That shouldn’t be a problem if the temperature can be effectively regulated by the computer’s heat management system — its fans, heatsinks, and vents.

    Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons why a computer runs hot:

    • Demanding applications

      High-intensity programs can exhaust CPU or GPU capacity, causing the components to overheat.

    • Multiple open browser tabs

      Every open browser tab hoovers up resources that can contribute to overheating.

    • Unresponsive programs

      When apps and tasks crash or freeze, your PC works hard to resolve the error, guzzling energy and memory in the process.

    • Overclocking

      A computer’s cooling systems are designed for its base performance and may not be sufficient for overclocked hardware.

    • Fan failure

      Computer cooling systems rely on fans to regulate heat. If there’s a hardware issue with the fans themselves, it can lead to dangerous overheating.

    • Blocked air vents

      If the air vents are obstructed or blocked, hot air can’t dissipate, heat will accumulate, and the temperature inside your machine will soar.

    • Outdated software

      Buggy, outdated software can have an outsized energy impact, and older operating systems may be poorly optimized for gaming and other high intensity tasks.

    • Direct sunlight

      Using your computer in direct sunlight or any kind of hot environment can cause it to overheat. Your cooling system is designed to handle heat caused by internal components and external, environmental factors can overwhelm it.

    • Viruses or other malware

      If it seems like your computer’s overheating for no reason, there may be a computer virus consuming intensive background processes. Use strong antivirus software to get rid of any infection.

    Keep your PC running cool with Avast Cleanup

    The best way to keep your computer cool is to use a specialized cleanup tool to streamline your system by fixing errors and jettisoning junk. Cleanup software will help you free up more resources to power your PC, letting it run at peak performance without overheating.

    Avast Cleanup optimizes your machine’s energy impact and boosts processing speeds, so you don’t have to trade power for performance. It will clear out deadweight files and programs and hibernate resource-draining apps to ensure your computer stays cool and fast.

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    Performance Tips
    Oliver Buxton