Gripe: Laptop Heat


The other day, a friend of mine was showing me something on his laptop.  He handed his Lenovo ThinkPad over to me. I prepared my hand for the expected heat and was pleasantly surprised by a physically cool laptop. This brings me to my gripe. Why can’t Apple laptops run cooler? There must be a way to not sacrifice style but still have a cool laptop.

My main computer is an Intel Core Duo MacBook Pro, and it runs so extremely hot that I use a Targus CoolPad almost every time I use my computer as a laptop. I know Apple does not call the MacBook or MacBook Pro “laptops;” Apple calls them “Notebooks.” But where do people actually use such computers?

Another quick fix to get your MacBook to cool down in a hurry is smcFanControl. smcFanControl is a piece of free software (donations are welcomed) that allows you to set the minimum speed for each fan individually. The end result is a cooler MacBook or MacBook Pro.

While using software or a physical barrier is a nice solution, the real problem is over at Apple for not creating notebook computers for people the way people actually use the products. Design is important, but not as important as usability.



if you are at home, and plugged in…
try taking out the battery… things will get much cooler!


I’ve got a MacBook Core Duo (first generation) and I’ve made myself a slim wooden bord (6mm thick, with rounded edges with surface finish) for when I have to use it on my lap. I remember reading that Apple (and generally every notebook maker) recommends using the computer only on a plain surface since the thin space of air underneath is part of the heat management. When you block that, it will heat up disproportionately.

The wood cost me about 3 EUR ($5) and half 15 min of grinding and finishing. Now, both me and my MacBook are happy and “safe”. :-)


My first thought is that I would rather not have it run cooler if it meant that it would have loud fans running. Working with audio, I prefer to have it as quiet as possible and I allow it to run cooler just by putting it on a stand (like the Griffin Elevator that was in a recent post). Okay, I admit I like it to run a bit warm in winter, but you’re right. It would be nice to have a “cool” computer but if you have a Mac… You’re already using one of the “coolest” computers on the market.


I have the MBP C2D 15inch and the only heat I feel is coming from the hard drive, and thats it. I love the styling, only thing I dont like is the keyboard surface, its too smooth I had an MBP before this one and the keyboard had a sandpaper type finish which to me was more comfortable. Other than that keep up the great job APPLE.


I find that my 17″ MBP C2D to be quite bearable, not nearly as hot as my previous 1.33ghz iBook.


You’re absolutely right. So why do you think it’s better to have no practical choice in your fan settings then to have it set in such a way that you can safely adjust it upwards instead of downwards?

And what about different settings for different situations? When I am watching a movie off my hard drive, I don’t necessarily want it on my lap but I do want it as quiet as possible. Apple’s settings let me have that without risk, because they are the default (thus, tested by Apple).

Then later if I want to have it on my lap I can up the fans from the default without fear. This is a superior user experience, not an apology.

Apple Looker

As a life-long PC user considering making the switch to Mac, I am consistently surprised by the Apple apologists that consistently come to Apple’s defense.

The only way we’ll see better Apple laptops is to hold Apple responsible for the real design problems. Not saying Apple makes bad computers. Quite the opposite. But there’s always room for improvement, but only if Apple understands its consumers want better laptops.


I have to play 3D games or recompile Ruby or something on my Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro to be able to feel it through my jeans at all. The first-gen Intel Mac notebooks were hot, the latest models are not. They do hold their value though – upgrade?


This is definitely an area that needs improvement. I’m a big fan of the laptop, but the heat can be ridiculous. First priority should be fixing the ipod and MBP battery issues though!


I just bought a black 2GHz core2duo and also find it to run warm but I can have it sitting on my laptop all evening without issue. I’m also a lucky one.


Another fix is to upgrade to the Core 2 Duo MBPs, they corrected the venting on it and it doesn’t tend to get to unbearable temps like the Core Duos do.


My week 21 2.16 Core Duo 17″ was quite hot when I got it. Now I use FanControl – the one in the Preference Pane – and keep the fans at 3000 rpm minimum. Now I can use it for hours on my bare knees without any discomfort.

Yes, it should have come from the factory this way, but once I installed FanControl it is a non-issue.


Remember that the thinkpad isn’t 1″ thick and the apple has a fairly buff graphics card.

Alex Morse

I’ve not got a pro, just a macbook (black, core 2 duo)

I’ve never had any complaints as far as heat. It does warm up noticeably when really crunching (playing WoW, working in illustrator or photoshop,) but otherwise is cool to the touch and almost completely silent.

Am I just a lucky one?


It’s better for Apple to set their notebooks to default to the minimum noise level than the minimum heat level, because a 3rd party utility to turn up the fans somewhat and accept a noisier system carries no risk. But a 3rd party utility on a PC notebook to turn DOWN the fans would carry a whole lot of risk, because you don’t know what is the minimum fan activity your system is engineered to withstand. In fact, I doubt such a utility even exists for the PC, because it would expose the manufacturer to lawsuits to make the APIs available for it, and it would expose the utility developer to the same lawsuits.

The practical results is that on the Mac you get a choice between Apple’s minimal fan activity or your own higher setting. On the PC your only safe choice is the manufacturer’s setting.


I think design = usability
But there are diferent “values” that a designer has to maintain
I have a macbook and it gets really hot sometimes, but it’s the most quiet notebook I’ve ever used. The noise (or its absence) is important to me more than the heat.
Otherwise I use SMCfanControl


My MacBook Pro was one of the earlier 1.83GHz Core Duo models, and when I first got it, it was a scorcher. I rarely used it on my lap, and when I used it in bed, I always put a pillow in between me and the machine, causing it to heat up even further from the insulation.

About 6 months ago, I finally had the time to send it in for some long awaited repairs. My Superdrive had some issues, a fan was noisy, and I had the annoying MacBook Pro “whine”. Once Apple did their magic, I had the machine back, and it was much quieter due to new, quieter fans, and it was a lot cooler, presumably from the replacement logic board. It was at least 20°F cooler to the touch at normal loads. I’m quite happy now, because my MBP is finally lap usable.

It’s still warm, and can get hot at times, but no warmer than my previous Aluminum PB G4s were.

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