Blog Post

Macbook Pros Are Hot

As many of you have seen, heard, or used a Macbook Pro, you know that they run kind of hot. This is partially because of the insane processor speed, and the small size of the casing; even though there are some other mysteries of the heat. But another fact that some of you may or may not know is that Apple purposely underclocks the Macbook Pro so it doesn’t over heat as much, but it still gets so warm it can become uncomfortable to sit on a lap. Well over at the Something Aweful forums, a user has pointed out that one of the reasons the Macbook Pro gets so hot is because of a misapplication of thermal grease. Now you can read the full article with pictures, or the instructions to disassemble your Macbook Pro yourself; but it does appear to have taken the temperature from about 55 degrees down to 39 degrees. This may void your warranty, so take extreme caution in attempting to do this, you do not want to destroy a $2500 computer.

61 Responses to “Macbook Pros Are Hot”

    • Tommy

      Mine too! I wa running at 195f all day! I downloaded smcFanControl which seems to be helping. I noticed another post about killing runaway processes and found a Safari Flash plug-in process that was hogging the cpu. Had to try a couple of times to kill it but it went away. Temp is dropping now but still this machine is way too hot! how crazy is that?

  1. Hi there all heat stressed individuals.

    This may not solve everyones issues with heat but it sure did the trick for me. After months of seeing my battery usage plummet in an hour and a half and the temperature of my MBPro circa early 2008, I finally found the solution.

    Sure these things run insane processor speeds and yes metal does conduct heat nicely to your thighs, but if the fan is going into overdrive and the eggs in your ovaries have just been poached, then check the CPU processor speed. It has likely been hijacked by a program this is “stuck”. Yes, technical term I know.

    Anyhow, here is the link. Nice and easy to follow and as I said; I am now back to 4+ hours of battery life and my loins are now waiting to be roasted in other ways.

  2. I didnt bother reading every reply here, if I had tried it would hve taken more time than I care to commit to. But, it seems everyone is talking about CPU temp here, as if its the only part of the laptop whose temp increases. There are other things like the GPU, RAM, HDD and so on that all increase in temp as their use increases.

    Perhaps, just perhaps, these other things are contributing to the high case temperatures.

    Crazy thought.

    I hate that I cant sit on my lounge and use my MBP because of the heat, but aside from all that, its without a doubt the best OS/computer combination I have ever used – and I used to virtually hate the things.

    The heat sucks, be nice if they addressed this as a priority!

  3. Today I downloaded smcFanControl 2.1 and it has worked wonders for this issue. If you don’t mind the noise of running your fans a 6000 rpm this fixes the problem. Now I can run my MBP in my lap even while playing high end games.

  4. Per Johansson

    I bought a MBP a couple of days ago and I love it.
    The heat is a major drawback and could actually be a reason to return it.

    Tried the smcFanControl and it actually works! From 160 degrees F to 130 within 10 minutes.
    Fan is not too noisy at 4000rpm but a bit loud at 6000rpm.
    Still a bit warmer than my IBM ThinkPad but at least I do not have burn my lap.

  5. Anthony K.

    I just got my first MBP and lovED it, then I discovered the “hot” issue. AHHH!! Are you kidding me?! I paid $2500 for this? Great laptop but extremely frustrating that I can’t even put it on my lap. I work in a very hot environment in Asia and this just doesn’t help. I went away from Toshiba because of this problem…and now I’m dealing with it again with what I thought would be “THE COMPUTER” for life. Hmmm…so disappointing. Is there any help with this problem? It’s brandnew…so should I refund my purchase?

  6. Ahh. Mine was new in mid-December.

    I wonder if a software fix is even possible with the earlier MBPs, or if it’s strictly a hardware issue.

    At any rate, this article reminded me of the iStat pro widget, for which I am grateful! (woot)

    Best of luck to all of those who venture into fixing the heat themselves.

  7. The heat issues are for the 1st gen MBP, which I have. I have mine set on a smooth flat surface, and it will become very hot, and the part above the keyboard can actually burn you when touched. Forget about setting it on your lap, the bottom will burn your legs.

    The newer MBP have the heat issue resolved, a friend of mine has one and the difference is amazing. The thing barely gets hot.

  8. I don’t understand the heat issues peple are having. I had a top-tier PBG4 15″, and now have a top-tier MBP 15″, and I haven’t noticed much difference in the heat.

    I’ve NEVER had issues with the typing surface becoming uncomfortable. The bottom only becomes hot when I have the laptop sitting on a surface that insulates the heat (basically any sort of fabric), instead of a smooth, flat surface.

    There are either some anomalies in MBP manufacturing quality out there, or people are being unreasonable with their expectations.

  9. Anyone know if Apple recognizes the heat issue or not yet and will fix it? I got too excited and suckered into spending way too much money for a refurbished 1st gen MBP….the thing gets so hot it can actually burn ….and has. I also can’t actually put it on my lap either. Just once I want to be able to sit back and relax and use my MBP without having to sit at a table and not sweat because of the heat.

  10. Michael S.

    I’ve got a MBP 2.2ghz dual core. Using iStat widget to measure temps. Mine idles at around.. 120 or 130 F. As soon as I start using it for simple browsing, it goes up to 155 or so. If I’m doing advanced stuff (processing videos, whatever) I’ve actually spiked it to 195 before.

    All my problems were solved by installing smcfancontrol. I just keep an eye on the temps, and whenever it gets too warm, I just bump the fans up to 6000 rpm. Within 5 minutes, it’s cooled down to the 120-130 range and I shut the fans back off until it spikes again.

    Hot case isn’t that big of a deal to me, I’ve never had a temp-related processor crash and I figure it’s just the price I pay for having a fast computer. Seems like a small price to me.

    Far more irritating is the fact that it rarely if ever is willing to wake up after sleep. When I open the lid, the sleep light goes off but it never wakes up. Power button, nothing. Space bar, nothing. Mouse clicks, nothing. Close the lid, and the light comes ON and stays steady instead of breathing. Open it, light goes out. Close it, light comes back on solid. Have to hold the power button for 5 seconds to kill it and reboot. All system updates performed. Wish Apple would fix this instead of worrying about the temps.

  11. not so happy about heat

    I don’t know who is correct over the thermal compound application issue. I have experience building computers for myself and friends and always found that using “just enough” thermal compound was better than “more than enough.”

    I have 2 MBP. One is a “MBP 2,2” with the Radeon x1600M and the other is a “MBP 3,1” (Santa Rosa) with the Nvidia 8600M GT… Using a widget called iStat I see that the “2,2” laptop runs, on average, 15C cooler at the GPU and 5C at the CPU. (The difference between the processor speeds is only .84MHZ) The temperatures labeled “memory” and “enclosure” read the same temperatures for both machines.

    I found this post to be most interesting because I most certainly do not enjoy the higher temperatures of the new Santa Rosa notebooks. They run so hot that I cannot touch the metal between the first row of function keys and the screen without feeling burnt. I did open up the “3,1”, clear the gunk, and conservatively reapply arctic silver 5. I took my time and it wasn’t really a big deal. Anyone with computer building or repair experience shouldn’t be afraid to open up the MBP, they are a lot of fun to take apart and if you are careful they are not easy to break.

    Anyway, who cares about that…

    What happened after the reapplication is disappointing for me, but interesting under the context of this continuing thread…

    All temperatures remained the same at the CPU, GPU, and Memory while the temperature reading at the two Heatsink locations increased by 2 degrees Celsius. The only drop in temperature was observed at the Enclosure (case) reading which dropped by 1 degree C.

    So, I guess that the reapplication of the thermal compound did nothing at all. Everything is just as hot to touch as it ever was.

    I thought it would be interesting to see how the different views of Peter and Kevin explain my results.

    *I worked on a clean glass table and wore nitrile gloves. I used isopropyl alcohol and Qtips to remove the thermal compound.

    The most disturbing part of the whole procedure is that I observed that in my “3,1” MBP, the heatsink for the GPU was actually cracked!

    It wasn’t broken apart, but there is a long gouge down the middle of it so that if you were to take a fingernail and run it past the heatsink you’d feel the irregular surface.

    Also, the GPU chip itself is larger than the GPU heatsink, and the heatpipes are entirely black, no copper except for at the 3 heatsinks. I have plenty of pictures and just don’t know what to do about this computer. It can safely say that it is TOO HOT!
    I’d be much happier if apple had figured out a way to increase performance without increasing the idle temp of the GPU by 20C!
    Yes, the new 8600M runs at 65C on average while the older x1600M runs at 45C, at least that is what I observe in my two computers.

    One other thing I should mention is that the ambient temperature where I currently am is between 26 and 30C (The Caribbean.) I haven’t opened anything other than the dashboard, safari, and iTunes on the “3,1” MBP because at idle it is hotter than the “2,1” MBP has ever been.

    Since both computers live in the tropics I can’t find any reason to not blame Apple for this terrible temperature problem. Their previous generation MBP runs just fine here (at a cool 45C, lol) and while I appreciate the idea of a more powerful GPU, I’m almost positive the new temperature problems are entirely the fault of the new GPU (or the crappy GPU heatsink), since the CPU temps are rarely more than 5C away from each other and all the other temps are almost the same (Obviously the heatsink readings are higher since the GPU is 20C hotter in one computer vs. the other, but all the other temps are very close using iStat Pro widget.)
    The new MBP is truly too hot to be of any use to me here.

    What ever happened Mark?

    Did you ever get a cool Santa Rosa MBP?

  12. The Apple Genius (who did know his stuff – I was impressed) said that Hewlett Packard drivers in particular are problematic, and can sometime just hang in the background. Good news is, you can just kill them in the Activity Monitor.

    Thanks for this info. i got my mac book pro today and turn on 5 minutes and it was so hot and scaring me. damn……

  13. Steve Jones

    OK, so I was freaking out. Brand new battery in the MacBook Pro, and it was showing less than 2 hours battery life. Added to which, using SMC Fan Control (great little app) I could see the fans were running at 6000rpm and the computer was at 165 degrees Fahrenheit. HOT. That’s with no apps open or anything.

    Thence to the Apple Store. Opening “Activity Monitor” revealed that a freak process was running in the background using 100% of my CPU power – a printjob application. The Apple Genius (who did know his stuff – I was impressed) said that Hewlett Packard drivers in particular are problematic, and can sometime just hang in the background. Good news is, you can just kill them in the Activity Monitor.

    Following the killed process, the computer temperature has dropped to an average of 117, and the fans are just ticking over at 2900 rpm.

    Worth a look if you are having a “constant overheat” problem.

  14. I’ve got the solution for your too hot MacBook Pro: It’s a product called iLap sold at the Apple Store. It’s really fantastic, especially the wrist pad. The best money on an overpriced accessory I’ve ever spent! Also, you’ll notice that computer manufactures will never refer to their laptops as laptops anymore, and I’ve heard that is specifically because they run so hot these days.

  15. i recently had my mbp serviced at Apple to repair the whine and they replaced the logic board. now my mbp gets really hot and recently the magnetic power cord melted. i brought the whole system in to Apple and they said it was probably a bad power cord. Do you think the heat of the system could have melted the power adapter somehow? My mbp never used to feel this hot before. Now it will burn to the touch and it makes me nervous to leave it plugged in when i’m not home. any thoughts would be helpful.

  16. third party app – smcFanControl works superbly. The obvious trade off is noise. The two fans inside the MBP have a range of 0 – 6000rpm. Apple has set them to 1000rpm with no option to change. My MBP was at 62degrees C with both fans at 1000rpm. When changed to two fans at 6000rpm it dropped to 30degrees within minutes but was very loud. A good sped vs noise seems to be around 2500-3000rpm.

    Tested and sworn for. smcFanControl is freeware.

  17. I wouldn’t suggest taking it apart to clean up the grease issue, way too risky for an expensive piece of kit! My suggestion is download the smcFanControl. It controls the speeds of your fans, I’ve set mine to 3500rpm and its keeping the temperature at around 44C degrees, its usually in high 70s so a massive improvement!

    As for closing the lid, your MBP can sleep with the lid open. The energy saver utility is pretty good, I let my disks sleep overnight if I’m not downloading anything but they turn off automatically if there is no activity. Personally I like having the MBP to wake me up in the morning with some music playing, can’t do that with the lid closed :)

  18. Hi thanks for the comments. I just bought a MBP and I am having pain in my wrists for the heat. I am living in Mexico right now, should I take the machine to the Apple to fix? is there a real solution about this?

  19. Kevin L.

    Also my MBP only gets hot when it runs off its charger setup. When not plugged in, it stays cool. Has anyone else seen these results?

    Yes. My friend recently bought a MBP; it gets hot enough *when charging* that I almost recoil when I touch it – but not quite. Otherwise it seems more or less cool.

    On a side note, his seems to heat up mainly towards the front/left, on the bottom. He says it’s fine though, and has no plans to ‘mod’ the paste.

  20. Stefan King

    I just picked up a USB powered cooling stand for my MBP. Its keeps the case as cool as a cucumber. Now I can actually rest my hands on the case while typing… I haven’t tried it in my lap but it would probably work there too… Best $30 I’ve ever spent…

  21. Michael D

    I have the new Dual 2.16 15 inch MBP. The bottom of my Macbook does not get hot but its more of the Topside where the left speaker is located. When typing I can feel a lot of heat coming out. Did they choose a new place to vent the heat exchange? Also my MBP only gets hot when it runs off its charger setup. When not plugged in, it stays cool. Has anyone else seen these results?

  22. Peter Glaskowsky

    Heidi, your boyfriend would be correct if the machine would be off for just a few minutes– but overnight, it’s definitely better to close the lid and let the machine go to sleep.

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  23. so does this mean i shouldn’t leave my MBP on over night light i did my emac? my boyfriend says it’s actually worse to keep shutting it off and turning it on.

    what do you all think?

  24. This is the third to last update to my hot “notebook” situation. As I stated before, I live in China and am reluctant to send the unit back for service because of a EXTREEMLY POOR service situation with an iPod. Well I finally have reached the limit with my MacBook Pro heat issues and gave Apple a call. To my surprise, I was immediately assigned a “customer specialist.” This is probably because I speak very little Chinese. If you are not familiar, these people are not your everyday Joe Service Guy. They are more polite, listen to your problems, work to get your issue resolved, and follow up proactively on your case. He has actually called to check up on my current progress and satisfaction. He assured me he would follow the situation on a daily basis to ensure the problem was resolved to my satisfaction.

    I described my displeasure with excessive heat, as well as the annoying high-pitched sound coming from below the F1 key area. The noise is a common problem, which I had already accepted as punishment for being an early adopter. After quietly listing to my issues he service specialist requested my machine serial number. I was put on hold for a couple of minutes. Upon his return, his next comment was “you need to bring your computer to a service center for a logic board replacement.” From what I have read in other posts, the US based Apple folks are a bit more secretive about what the issue may be. There is obviously a known issue related to heat or noise with the early machines.

    The machine arrived at the service center yesterday and the engineer was scheduled to check it out in the afternoon. Hopefully, later today I will hear the status of the machine and potential repairs.

    Two major data points should come from this experience. The first is what happens to the warranty if you take the machine apart yourself. I was extremely careful when removing and reassembling components, including the yellow 3M tape positions. However upon close inspection they should be able to see that I had a slight problem with engagement of the 2 screws located inside of the battery compartment. During the re-assembly process the screwdriver slipped a couple of times leaving minor evidence of my work. They may also notice 90% of the original thermal paste mess is missing.

    The second piece of valuable information will be if the repair fixes the heat issue. I really don’t care about the noise issue but I’ll update everyone on that too. Again, I do not have empirical data to compare before and after results. The machine was too hot to keep on your lap PERIOD! Were talking about pain not about slight discomfort. It is going to be obvious if the problem is fixed. The first time my wife used the laptop she called me at work because she thought it was going to start a fire. It is likely she was overreacting but that should give everyone an idea of how hot my machine gets. She would defiantly not accept this product as long as I had held out.

    I understand the questioning of my earlier post results. These were the facts as I observed them. For everyone’s reference, I do have a clear understanding of heat transfer, and have plenty of experience building computers. No, I do not design heat dissipation systems for computers but I do have a master degree in mechanical engineering. In the past I have completed experiments with processor cooling related to over clocking (sometimes overcooking) of processors. Fortunately recent hardware now meets my speed requirements without having to modify.

    Kevin has done a good job in explaining the technical situation of heat paths and equilibrium of the system. I was afraid to this may turn into a “who knows more technical jargon.” Let’s face it, the heat is going to be generated and needs to escape the case. The options are limited and well described in previous posts.

    Sorry I do not have a laboratory environment for testing… If at home in the US I would be more process and variable specific. In China it was difficult enough just finding a MacBook Pro to purchase.

    I rarely post to this kind of site for the reason of the argument, which is taking place between Larry and Peter. Hopefully the description of my experience proves helpful to those in the same situation.

    Hopefully the next post is related to Apple fixing the machine.


  25. Kevin L.

    My, you are a troll aren’t you?

    Right here on this page, Mark described the problems he’s had since messing with his machine. How much more evidence does anyone need that this rework is a bad idea?
    The rational thing to do is compensate for them by discounting results that are impossible or contrary to reasonable expectations, such as Mark’s claim that his CPU temperature had dropped to below 25 degrees C. That’s impossible, so it didn’t happen. I can’t explain it, but that hardly matters.
    It’s this kind of circle-running that kills your credibility. You simply cannot present Mark’s results as definitive proof of your point, and in the same breath, reject them as the product of ‘rationalization’ and discount them because they are impossible.
    Besides which, when Mark re-measured later, his results were far more reasonable, although still improved.

    And, of course, you simply cannot call a sensor reading the product of rationalization.

    In my opinion, _you_ are the one rationalizing at this point.

  26. Peter Glaskowsky

    Rationalizations aren’t just possible, they’re inevitable in this situation. The rational thing to do is compensate for them by discounting results that are impossible or contrary to reasonable expectations, such as Mark’s claim that his CPU temperature had dropped to below 25 degrees C. That’s impossible, so it didn’t happen. I can’t explain it, but that hardly matters.

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