Ask the Doctor: Overheating CPUs, Caseless Computing, and More!



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Also in regards to the CPU out of gas?

What about RAM? Does that "run slower" as it gets older? I have cleaned my laptop inside, the fan still spins at the proper speed, but despite multiple clean installs it still runs slow as dirt.



With regards to the "CPU out of gas" question...

A common problem with laptops is that they tend to run notoriously hot since there isn't much space inside of them for air circulation. One CPU cooling solution used by some laptops is to run a heat pipe from the CPU to a spot near the edge of the case where a small fan moves air across the heatsink at the end of the heat pipe.

Over time, dust/crud can accumulate on that heatsink - preventing the heatsink from doing its job. So even if the fan has not failed (as was earlier suggested as being a potential culprit), your CPU cooler could still be the root cause of your problem. The other end of the heat pipe (that part that attaches to your CPU) could also be at fault. The thermal grease (or thermal pad) between the heat pipe and your CPU may need to be reapplied/replaced. The more you use this system, the more often you should replace the thermal grease (I replace mine every two to three years).

If you're not sure how to service your laptop, look on-line for your laptop's service manual. Parts for laptops as old as yours can often be had for a song if you look around on ebay. I'm speaking from personal experience (on both the heating issue and getting the service manual/parts) since I still occasionally use my old Dell Inspiron 8200 P4 laptop (circa 2002) for older games.



The two systems I have, my main one I run with an open case. CPU fan is all there is, minus the TX650's fan that runs only under a heavy load... and of course the GPU.

The doc mentions two things here, focused air flow, and liquid spills come to mind for me. One, focused air flow has it's good side, it does push air thru the system over hot components. The bad, it pushes dust, smoke.. debris over the same components! I don't smoke, but dust and debris cost time and money to clean up on a regular basis. I have yet to tear it down to clean or turn it off to clean since I built it six months ago. All I do is a quick burst of air, and voila.. done. Just follow his advice, and keep it in an area you won't spill anything near it. All your components are vulnerable this way.

My other system is completely encased, as it sits in the living room for internet/media access as part of the entertainment system. That system I clean out completely, once a month... a royal PITA.


Bullwinkle J Moose

Big Chain Tech Support: Hi, my name is Derek and what seems to be the problem today?

Customer: My computer is overheating and running really slow!

Tech: Is it smoking or non-smoking?

Customer: There is no smoke coming out of it if that's what you mean???

Tech: Well, I'm sure we can fix it



Did I read that right? a Pentium III 750? For internet browsing?? He must only surf Craigslist.



I would like to mention that, when running a computer setup with no case or an open case that care should be taken when using this setup. Most motherboards do not have an issue running without a case. However, there are some motherboards that have passive cooling for their chipsets, where they are already boardering on needing active cooling solutions. Taking away that normal air flow that happens inside a case can be detrimental over the long run.

If running a computer without a case, use something like a laser thermometer or even just touch certain components to see if they are getting hot (make sure you have a static ground strap if you go touching components on the motherboard). Using a stress testing tool, or even playing a high end game that pushes the capabilities of the computer are good ways to push your setup and see what kind of temps you will get. Too many times have I seen motherboards fail and, when replacing them with a identical brand new one, it becomes apparent what killed them when there is a tiny heatsink on a chipset chip that you can't touch for more than a second.



Sometimes I wonder if the people who write in the the doc would be better off with a PCWorld subscription. The majority of the questions covered are so basic that a poweruser probably shouldn't need to ask them, or could google the answer in 2 seconds.

My favorite is when it seems the same question gets asked EVERY month, usually something about SSDs that's covered in the 500 SSD articles they seem to post every month.

I'd really like to see some tougher problems covered. ANd also Bullwinkle to be banned would be nice.



It would be rare for a power user to need to write in a question to the Doc. And seeing the easy questions answered correctly and responsibly is always a good thing. And don't ban Bullwinkle. Every forum needs its crazy person and he's ours, LOL.


Bullwinkle J Moose

True story Bro

I have 2 identical 60 watt pico power supplies on 35 watt core i3's

One power supply is perfectly fine, including the power brick

If I swap power bricks, the 2nd brick is hot and the computer reboots at the worst possible times

If I use the good brick with the 2nd pico adapter, the cpu runs hot, slows down and reboots

If I use the bad brick with the bad adapter, I can just barely boot up before the problems multiply

If I swap both bad brick and pico power supply for the good ones, everything works like new (Perfectly fine)

The affects described by overheating and slow computer CAN be duplicated by a bad power supply depending on how much, and what type of damage the supply actually has sustained

and it's not the first time I've seen this either



Not necessarily, no one knows everything, but when the question is something so basic as should I defrag my SSD almost every month, it's not adding a lot of value.


Bullwinkle J Moose

Coffee break is OVER Doc!
The Freak Squad need you back NOW!

and don't you dare tell them their power supply is bad or we'll never be able to sell them a new motherboard and cpu for 3 grand + Labor

Those machines are supposed to overheat and slow down!

That is how we make our commission after all, by selling them our Joe's Brand Power supply when they come in with nothing more than a fragmented disk

HEY, there's another customer at the desk now with a high quality power supply....

Open up another bag of dust bunnies and fill er up... on the house!



Bullwinkle, you're babbling again. Wipe the foam off your mouth and takes your meds please.