Fix MacBook Air Streaming Video and Overheating Problems

56 Comments

I’ve been having a lot of trouble streaming video on my MacBook Air recently. No matter which site I’m on, YouTube, Hulu, or Netflix, within a few minutes the video becomes choppy and unwatchable. Fed up with my computer’s inability to complete a task it should be able to handle no problem, I brought her into the Apple (s aapl) store on 14th street in NYC to get repaired…which did not happen.

After I described my problem, and offered up screenshots of the activity monitor showing one of my cores shut down with just Firefox or Safari open, the “genius” looked a my computer for a total of about five minutes before informing me that MacBook Airs were built to be ultraportable and therefore cannot do everything a regular MacBook can, like watch YouTube videos. I was steaming…

After leaving the Apple store, I went home and did some research, where I uncovered the magic pill for the MacBook Air overheating problem, Coolbook. Coolbook is a $10 program that lets you change the frequency and voltage of your processor to reduce heat and fan noise, and increase battery life. Before I found Coolbook I was honestly going to sell my MacBook Air and get a new laptop, but now that I have Coolbook installed and tweaked, my computer is running perfectly.

A Few Notes About Coolbook

  • There is a free version, but it doesn’t let you do anything. Don’t waste your time with it; purchase the full version immediately.
  • The directions are a little confusing, so I’ve outlined some pointers below.
  • There is a whole forum thread about Coolbook here.
  • Although I used it on a MacBook Air to fix my video issues, it should improve the performance of any Mac laptop.
  • I had an email conversation with the developer, so a lot of the information listed is “straight from the horse’s mouth.” Thanks for helping, Magnus!

After you download and purchase Coolbook, go ahead and register it. Once it’s registered you can start to configure it.

Setting a Voltage With Frequency

When you’re configuring frequencies, it’s important to uncheck the “Throttle Active” checkbox.

  1. Select the frequency from the drop-down box
  2. Select the voltage from the drop-down box
  3. Click the set button.

“The lower voltage you can use, the more power you will save. Finding the limits of your CPU requires some experimentation. If you try to step down the voltage one notch at the time, you will eventually reach the limit of your CPU, and you will have a kernel panic (showing the picture of the power button).”

We need to do this process with each frequency for both adapter and battery mode, making sure we save our work each time we find the correct voltage for a frequency.

Throttling Level & Temp Limit

Throttling level controls how easy CoolBook will step up in frequency. A higher value will make the frequency step up quicker, and at a lower CPU load. High is recommended when using temp limit. When the temp limit is reached, CoolBook will step down to a lower frequency in the list. This is done to reduce heat. This feature is not needed for all computer models, but it is recommended on computers that reaches too high temperatures during load.

Throttling Active & Coolbook Active

Finally, it’s time to turn on throttling and Coolbook. Check both boxes and let your system reboot when prompted. When your system is rebooted, it will be running Coolbook in the background. You do not need to launch the application.

Screenshots of My Configuration

Each processor is different, but this is how my system is configured.

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56 Comments

dc

Gazoobee everyone i’ve ever encountered who owns an air cites this and i see this on mine with both snow leopard and windows 7 on the metal i.e. not in a fusion or similar vm guest

Joe

@Gazoobee:
I think it’s always helpful for someone who disagrees – for example about the potential dangers of messing with the processor settings – but I don’t know why you attacked Jenny for sharing a potential fix. Granted I only know about 20 other people with McBAs, but I don’t know one of them who has not had this problem.
Mine, and several others’ could not make it through three hours of taking notes, propped on a book so the air vents could be sure to be unobstructed, without overheating. My standard response to people who asked how I liked it was singing its praises then saying, but it does get hot fast. I find this story and advice very helpful, and even if mine didn’t overheat, I wouldn’t condemn Jenny for trying to help those whose computers do, and certainly not so rudely.

Josh

I bought one of the early mac airs. I have had over heating issues watching videos, using skype video, or just browsing the internet. I kept the laptop on flat surfaces but this did not help. When I moved to a cooler room the problem was reduced but still present.

I can monitor the heat up and subsequent core shutdown with the activity monitor. I checked three other mac airs in apple stores in early 2008. When viewing video on you tube they all showed heat up and core shut down after a while. In late 2009 I checked newer airs in the apple store and I could not get them to overheat.

I recently bought coolbook and used the settings I found here. After a few weeks of use I have had no core shutdowns or overheating. I can now watch videos in full screen mode for hours with no overheating. I am still running leopard.

Dave

Just FYI to the person who said this happens to a minority: Here’s one more MBA owner frustrated at this.
I have one of the first MBAs, and was suffering from one core shutting down frequently, just doing office work. Apple came out with a s/w upgrade that kept both cores going. This improved things – a bit.
Now, I only get the CPU to spike when watching any kind of online multimedia such as a video on YouTube. It’s really embarrassing when showing off my cool (superior!) Apple machine to Windows users, to see it bog down like this.
Thanks to this post and other similar ones, I will try Coolbook. Hope it works.

Noah

I have a macbook air that I cant even watch a youtube video on it with out it freezing up on me, buyers beware do not buy a macbook air just google macbook air heating problems and that should do it, there is no real fix for this heating porblem, I just wasted $1800 on a nice looking useless laptop, I forgot its called a notebook.

Rafael

hello guys,, I was searching on the net some info because I have the same issue I bought a MacAir and when Im watching videos, working on macOffice, it gets extremely HOT and the fan never stop.. its a beautifull computer but I just don’t know how to fix it ;(

Dan Mosqueda

My MacBook Air runs pretty hot. I bought CoolBook, but really didn’t tweak it much for fear of messing it up. When I installed Snow Leopard, CoolBook quit working altogether.

m3sqx

Why restrict this discussion to the Air, my MacBook Pro purchased 10/2007 is driving me nuts. The overheating started after a recent graphic card replacement and I suppose a software update. I have ran all diagnostics and resetting but the problem persists. Could it be that the overheating is down to the OSX and or the replaced graphic card?

I have up to Aug 2009 to send the MacBook on warranty (for the graphic card service) to Apple. I wish that I do not have to send my computer away for any length of time.

nb

@uten44 – I’ve had both the 2008 model and a 2009 model and it happens with both. I love my Air for work, writing, code, photoshop etc. it’s perfect – but, and big BUT, I’ve resigned to that fact that if I’m going to watch long videos, it has to be on a different machine.

unten44

Are these problems occurring on the Late 2008 (Nvidia GPU) or Mid 2009 MacBook Airs?

dinouip

Jenny, being meaning to tell you how helpful your guide was to solving all my MBA problems. Coolbook is ace! Can’t believe this fix was left to a 3rd party to come up with. Thanks again.

gorongo

I love my MBA for portability and the apps it will run. However, the overheating problem is real and Apple employees acknowledge that the MacbookAir is a the child you keep in the basement…and are now steering people away from them. Ha!
If I run more than two apps, the machine’s fan gets over 6200rpm! I plan on trying Coolbook. Thanks for this post, I thought I had a hopeless case, but you give me a ray of hope.

Nick

I’ve spent several months with Apple Support on this. I have worked with Level 3 Apple support specialists, senior Mac support personnel at the Apple Store and Mac geniuses who discussed this topic off the record when not working at an Apple.

This is a known issue with Apple, but I have perceived great sensitivity on the part of Apple employees when discussing the problem. Third Party applications to modify frequency, voltage or other settings may reduce stress on the system but, if misconfigured may place undue stress on the unit to keep it cool and reduce the lifespan of the computer.

While Apple appears reluctant to discuss this publicly, while the MacBook Air is undoubtedly a revolutionary design, it is the lowest performing computer in Apple’s current lineup with the exception of the iPhone. Apple is currently developing low voltage, small format netbooks designed to run cooler with fewer performance issues.

Safari is a competitive, full-featured browser but draws significantly on the MacBook Air’s resources and limited RAM to deliver streaming media for extended periods of time. Using a less memory-intensive browser such as Camino (http://caminobrowser.org/)or a site-specific browser such as Prism (https://wiki.mozilla.org/WebRunner) will enable users to stream content longer before experiencing performance reduction. Media intensive operations should be performed with little or no concurrently active processes. Elimination of non-essential login items will also help.

Operating the MacBook Air in an proactively ventilated environment (i.e. with the rear of the computer raised to provide at least 1.25″ between the vents and the operating surface or another positive airflow solution) will also help the unit to perform to specification for longer periods of time.

Downloading media and utilizing VLC Media Player (http://www.videolan.org/vlc/) may also help.

I hope this was useful.

sam

By the way I bought the last 1.8Ghz with NVIDIA 9400M. I’ve tried some gamesof my little brother and it’s just crap. The fan is going crazy, and graphics are just awfull ! So what’s the use of seting a 256Mo graphic card on a laptop and you can’t play evan warcraft on it ! I was using an imac for a year , but since I got hoocked to macbook air, I’ve started to hate Apple !

sam

It has a Midget CPU or a Dwarf CPU, anyways I’m getting back to Windows as soon as Windows 7 will be ready. Apple sucks more and more. Even the Iphone is shit ! Steeve Jobs needs to retire !

sam

Ain’t get any better with Cool Book . The air is a piece of shit. Just buy I phone or Blackberry if you need internet outdoors.

sam

No difference whether I use CoolBook or not. The Air is just a piece of shit !

Jared

yea, you travel 16 days a month around the world with a heavy mac/pc then judge. I LOVE my MBA.

Jeremy

Thanks sooooo much for this guide, it sorted out the exact same issue I was having with my Macbook Air! I was beginning to think that the issue was Macbook Air’s just not being good enough to show video, as it happened with all video, whether it was streaming or just playing a DVD! This guide and coolbook worked perfectly and solved the problem, and the CPU stays low even when playing video now which is just great :)

Ignore some of those comments asking why you even posted this, if you have had something work for you and you tell the World about it, even if it helps only one other person ever, you have still added value.

Soli

Never had any problem with my (Rev A) MBA, but with other Macs, the free smcFanControl (GPL, donations* are welcome) has always been enought for me to solve all overheating problems.

Soli

*: to the author, not to me… unless you insist ;)

masseyis

Slightly essential bit of info missing here? Is this a Rev A or Rev B MBA? The Rev A is known for shutting down its cores and wheezing when it gets a bit warm. I’ve found my Rev B to be mostly hunky dory.

dboy

Good article – this app is very useful for those ‘in the know’ to get the best performance from their Mac investment. RMClock is the free alternative for Windows users (or boot camped Macs) I’d wish Coolbook authors would put a fully functioning time-limited version out so we could better determine it’s benefits before purchasing?

mark

Sounds like the genius works for Microsoft. OR a tech person in India that is 3 pages ahead of you in a book Microsoft does not sell

jason

I wouldn’t go India bashing that fast – I’ve got quite a few friends from India who are extremely intelligible.

Chris

The reason I use a Mac is exactly so I don’t have to deal with crap like this.

Gazoobee

@ Jenny:

Sorry, I wasn’t trying to be too critical, I know this is a big issue for those that have it, just that the number of people that have this is so small I was wondering if yet another big article on it was worthwhile. I’ve read sooo much about this but never actually seen it or know of anyone that has been affected by it as I said.

I do like the fact that your explanation of using the shareware product is detailed and thorough because I still disagree that you “cannot harm your computer” with it. It’s possible.

ThePrutser

Yeah, I know it has been a year….

anyhow, Gazoobee, still seems to be reluctant to admit that this is a huge issue. A small number of people??? Why is the internet full of posts about this problem? I guess you he works for Apple or something.

Anyway I am having the same problem with my MBA. Only watching streaming video heats up my MBA like crazy, and the video becomes like a slide show. This should not be a problem for a nifty and very costly laptop.

I have done some overclocking on PC’s, so I think I’ll give this a try too. At first I thought I was reading an advertorial… but it seems pretty legit. 10$ wouldn’t hurt that much

Alpaca

Well since THEPRUTSEE replied after a year, I might as well too (since I stumbled upon this after searching for “Macbook overheats”. I agree that a lot people watch streaming video (Youtube, Netflix, ITunes TV/movies) for more than 15 minutes at the time and @GAZOOBEE is being pretty dismissive and snobby in his reply… very similar to Apple’s “you’re holding the phone wrong” response.

Now I want to make it clear that I the Macbook Air is a great device for what it was designed for and I think overall the iPhone 4 is a nice phone (I don’t actually own one – I actually have a Sprint Evo 4G which has it’s own issues, but I can appreciate good design). They have issues and some people can live with the issues, and some people cannot. I just think that GAZOBEE is condescending in his dismissal for what appears to me to be a valid issue to some people.

staticred

It’s likely this has nothing to do with the Macbook Air – I have the same problem with streaming video on both my MBPro and MB. It’s a known issue with streaming flash video on OS X, and is documented around the web, notably here:

http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?messageID=8920577

The fix I’ve seen is to go into your Flash properties and disable hardware acceleration.

Najati

Thanks Staticred.. it worked for me. the videos and games are not choppy anymore but it did not solve the heating problem.

Jenny Kortina

@Gazoobee The first part of the story is about me going to the Apple store to get help, but they admitted it’s a known problem with the machines, and that they would not repair or replace it. Overheating is a known and documented issue with the Airs. Also, this software cannot harm your computer, in fact it makes it run cooler and last longer…

Roger Bourland

i had the same problem with my macbook pro and finally solved it by unplugging th power cord on my airport and then plugging it back in after a minute or so. it was driving me crazy. no problem since!

Roger

Gazoobee

This is all useful information if you are one of the tiny minority of people that have trouble with overheating on the MacBook Air, but I don’t see how a story of your personal troubles with this problem is really something of interest to many.

I know dozens of people who have MacBook Airs and have serviced and set up a few of them and I have never found anyone that ever had a problem like you describe. My partner uses one as her main computer all day every day since the day it came out and she never had problems either.

As a tech support person, I would never recommend anyone doing what you are doing to their laptop (using a third party program to futz with the processor). If you really do have this problem and aren’t just inadvertently blocking your air ports or something, I would take the thing back, get your money back and go with a different model.

Kevin

Gazoobee, I am also a Tech Support person for PC’s. Try Running a Mac book Air Streaming video on netflix or Hulu. This information is important and helpful for someone who would like the processor work using both cores without the computer shutting off. If your friends are playing hearts all day, or browsing the web than you shouldn’t have any problems. And as said before Apple does know about the problem. Don’t put down someone for sharing there experience and presume others do not have this issue as well. May be a large group of people who do not use there computers to there cababilities have no problem. This is what makes the article relevant for those of us who do and don’t know what to do. Isn’t that the point of these forums to help???

SillyMe

This comment makes no sense to me – his story is very interesting and provides background on why he is doing what he is doing.

Messing with such settings is not for faint hearted and coolbook is for sane people.

wigwagster

Gazoobee,

Every Macbook Air user I know has this problem.

How much did Apple pay you for your crude post?

Knox7

I sometimes have the same problem- and the “genius” at the apple store also told me that the “MacBook Airs were built to be ultraportable and therefore cannot do everything a regular MacBook can”. I was fine with that- I build PCs and have a quad-core work station overclocked to 4ghz on liquid cooling at 28 degrees C with a EVGA GTX 285 2gb super super clocked version for graphics processing. I do my gaming, video encoding, Phys X rendering on that rig. So I don’t need another powerful computer- I bought my Air for music, word documents, and internet browsing. The Mac Air does run hot and the video does sometimes get a little choppy half way through viewing a video.
As a hardware enthusiast and high end desktop builder, I am encouraging people to use a third party program to “futz” with their processor. Although it can be very dangerous especially with a Macbook Air, if done properly it can save $400 by overclocking the CPU to the $1799 specifications of the Macbook Air.
The only reason why I would say overclocking a macbook is dangerous is because it is extremely non versatile. One cannot install aftermarket cooling to properly dissipate heat output caused by the increased voltage and increased frequency of the CPU. The only thing that makes me comfortable with overclocking a macbook Air is the body is aluminum- it is very heat conductive- and can dissipate heat from the CPU to the case.
SO I am more than happy to try and overclock or underclock my macbook Air to get the best performance out of it.
I do recommend however, that anyone trying to should brush up on how to do it, the dangers of doing it, and the benefits of overclocking.

Linds

Gazoobee- You are a fool. Everyone who has a MBA has issues with it overheating, apparently your partner is the one in the “minority.” For those of us with the earlier model like myself, it’s especially troubling- as my warranty has expired, AND I cannot return the thing (that I purchased for 2K … when the dollar was a lot stronger). Whether or not you are a tech person matters not when you are expressing an opinion with little evidence, my friend. Setting up someones brand new computer would not give you any indication of this problem.

For the rest of you- the “condition” worsens with age- so anyone who can take advantage of a warranty or return their computer- DO SO. I cannot run mine for more than 10 minutes at a time without having to close it, and turn it upside-down to cool off. Well, I must go- as my screen is freezing up now….

Paul Senior

CoolBook did eventually fix my issue. I have an external Cinema display and found that whenever I used it on my MacBook Air (1.8 GHz Gen 1) the kernal_task when to 150%+. This made my set-up unusable.
The solution was CoolBook 2.16.
My original attempts to install failed and for a long time it made no difference. I then de-installed and re-installed v2.16 and this worked.
I am using two frequencies 1200 MHz with 0.9v and 1800 MHz with 0.95v and a low Throttling level.
With this on (and it needs to run all the time – I have it set-up to run on login with hide) the MacBook Air settles at around 55-60 degrees C and the kernal_task never ramps up. I also modied by basic fan speed to 4000rpm (using SMCFanControl). This helped as well.
The install of CoolBook is a disaster, but keep trying. Eventually it works and this makes the MacBook Air useable.

Jared

I’ve had this problem forever, 1Gen MBA SSD, I am trying out this program now, thanks for the write-up

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