Why is my MacBook hot? 8 ways to troubleshoot and cool down an overheating Mac laptop

  • Your MacBook might run hot if the airflow inside the case is blocked or if your CPU is overloaded with resource-intensive tasks. 
  • Make sure the vents are clear, clean the inside of the laptop occasionally, and minimize the number of browser tabs and programs you have open. 
  • Here are eight things you can do to keep your MacBook from overheating. 
  • Visit Business Insider's Tech Reference library for more stories.

Like any laptop, your MacBook is susceptible to overheating. A hot MacBook is not just uncomfortable to work with, but it can reduce your battery's lifespan and possibly even damage other internal components. 

How to prevent your MacBook from getting too hot

There are a few things you can do to control your MacBook's temperature and keep it running cool. 

Don't block the vents

Let's start with the single biggest factor for controlling heat: Don't block the vents. It's really easy to accidentally block the vents if you set the MacBook directly in your lap or work in bed, with the laptop sitting on a soft, form-fitting surface. If you are blocking the vents, you've trapped hot air inside and stopped circulation, which is the MacBook's primary tool for shedding heat. The remedy: Prop the MacBook up on a book, laptop stand, or some other flat surface that provides a clear path for air to pass through the vents. 

Clean your MacBook's internals

If there's a downside to the fact that MacBooks tend to live a very long time, it's that there's plenty of time for yours to get caked with dust, which impedes airflow and makes it run hot. If your MacBook is more than a couple years old, open it up occasionally and clean out the dust. You'll need a simple Phillips-head screwdriver to remove the bottom panel and gently blow out any built-up dust. 

Don't work in direct sunlight

Your MacBook has an ideal range of operating temperatures — Apple recommends a range between 50 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit . If you work in direct sunlight or in a space that's very hot, it can cause your MacBook to overheat. 

Don't open too many browser tabs

This might be surprising — after all, how harmful could it be to have a bunch of tabs open in your web browser? It turns out that no matter which browser you use, opening a lot of tabs is a resource-intensive activity. No matter what kind of MacBook you have, try to limit yourself to fewer than a dozen tabs at any given time. And if your system is starting to run hot, close any nonessential tabs to take the load off the CPU. 

Minimize your multitasking

Similar to managing tabs in your browser, avoid running too many programs at once — especially extremely resource-intensive programs. Many users find Adobe Photoshop and iTunes to be a particularly bad combination, for example. If you're using Photoshop (or another graphically intensive app), perhaps use your phone for music. 

Check the Activity Monitor for misbehaving apps

Some apps put a significant load on the CPU. Whether that happens ordinarily or the app is misbehaving, the fact remains that it can cause your CPU to run hot. To check, go to the Finder, click "Applications," and then click "Utilities." Then start "Activity Monitor." In the Activity Monitor app, click the CPU tab to see which apps are using a high percentage of the CPU's available resources. If you see something monopolizing the CPU and you don't need to use it, close that program. 

Make sure your fans are working properly

It's possible (however unlikely) that your MacBook's fans have failed. You can find out by running a diagnostic built into your Mac. For most MacBooks, here's what to do:

1. Turn off your MacBook and be sure it's plugged into an outlet.

2. Turn on the laptop and immediately press and hold the D key. Release the key when you see the diagnostic screen appear and follow the directions to complete the test. 

3. The test results won't be in plain English, but look for any error codes that begin with "PPF" – these refer to fan issues. You can find a key to all the error codes on Apple's support page.  

4. If you do see a PPF error code, you'll need to get the MacBook serviced. 

Keep your MacBook up to date

Finally, this is good advice for any problems or concerns you have with your MacBook: make sure it is up to date with all software and firmware updates installed. You can make sure you are up to date by opening your MacBook's System Preferences and then clicking "Software Update."

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