Can Laptop Keyboards Overheat If Used For Too Long?

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Laptops start encountering issues when operating in temperatures exceeding 140F (60C). Above this temperature laptop keyboards are at risk of malfunctioning, resulting in keys first misfiring before ceasing working altogether.

Typically laptop keyboards failures are more common in older machines that have been neglected or have cooling systems which have become ineffective.

The good news is there’s a lot we can do to prevent this from happening in the first place. Below are some tips for how to identify the overheating with solutions on how to avoid this troublesome problem.   

Some solutions we’ll offer involve temporarily shutting down some unnecessary computer operations, finding a laptop cooling pad that’s a perfect fit for your laptop, replacing an ageing battery and keeping the air vents and fans in your laptop working smoothly.  

Why do laptop keyboards overheat?

Over the years, technology including laptops has been trending towards ever smaller devices. Shrinking at an incredible rate whilst at the same time cramming in more powerful processors, higher performance graphics cards and more memory.

All that equipment squeezed into an ultra-thin flat case leaves very little room for heat to dissipate. 

Another reason laptop keyboards overheat is that the cooling fans within the laptop have steadily become clogged with dust over the years and have either broken down and stopped spinning to full capacity. We’ll discuss fixing fans below.

Another possibility is an old battery that is no longer functioning at full capacity and thus generates a lot of heat as a by-product.

Whatever the reason, when excess heat has nowhere to go it can impact upon laptop keyboards by causing the keys, springs or contact layers to warp.

How do you know when a laptop is overheating?

Other than the most obvious test of feeling for heat with the tips of your fingers, or the palms of your hands, one of the first indicators of an overheating laptop could be programs beginning to stall.

Another is when the in-built fan is persistently running and running loudly!

There are several apps you can download that allows you to keep track of the internal temperature of your laptop, potentially helping you understand a threshold temperature above which you might be experiencing problems.

One free program for Windows that is regularly maintained is ‘Core Temp’ (at time of writing last updated on 21st April 2021). For Macs, TG Pro is the Premium temperature monitor, fan control and heat diagnostics tool, a because of this it demands a small fee.

How to stop a laptop keyboard from overheating

  1. Ensure your laptop isn’t resting on a soft, padded surface which can more easily block the vents underneath the laptop. Examples would be placing the laptop on your lap, on a bed, or on a folder blanket on a desk.
  2. Ensure the air vents on the laptop aren’t blocked, make sure nothing is laid against the vents, for example if the laptop is up against an edge of a shelf, or against another device such as a computer or printer. You may think that the ultra-thin laptops of today don’t have air vents, but actually they do—the vents may be located at the back, along the hinge.
  3. If you carry your laptop in a padded briefcase, like a leather or cloth one, turn it off rather than let it sleep at low power. The trapped space inside the briefcase might be enough to keep the laptop overheated.
  4. Buy a cooling pad for your laptop. Some of them incorporate their own fans and ventilation. Not only that, but some of the cooling pads can be propped above the desk, allowing for even more air circulation underneath your laptop. Some can be inclined from the desk at a very slight angle. Others have raised relief onto the top surface to further push your laptop away from a flat platform. Finally, another innovative design for laptop resting pads (not always a cooling pad) are those pads with raised perimeters that lift your laptop off the desk. 
  5. You can also manage your power options on your laptop to avoid overcharging the battery when the laptop is not in use, as many people leave the laptop charged 24 hours a day.
  6. Many laptop users don’t consider how many cycles their battery has completed since first use. At this time of writing, about 1,000 cycles of battery life (about two to four years of normal laptop use) should allow battery life to be maintained. This guide from YouTube channel Lewis Geek’s world shows how to check a battery cycle count on Windows and Mac. If your research shows that your battery needs to be replaced soon, doing so can significantly reduce the overheating in your laptop. 
  7. One way is to download an app to control fan speed (both Windows-based and Macbooks have apps). You’d think the fans are autonomous, but there are apps to control them directly. 
  8. Another idea is to check all the programs running on your computer by checking out the “task manager” screen which is common on Windows-based computers (the Macbook has a similar application). If there are too many unused programs running, you can close some of them.
  9. Clean the fans by using a compressed air can, which looks like an aerosol can. Do this only if you’re comfortable unscrewing your laptop apart, just removing the case so you can find the fans. Then you can blast some compressed air through the fans, taking great care not to direct the compressed air through the other parts of the laptop.
 

Summing up

The CPU and GPU inside a laptop can heat up significantly, and in doing so without adequate cooling mechanism can cause the laptop keyboard to overheat and become error prone. 

We’ve seen so far that, really, to solve this problem  is not that different from taking good care of your laptop (i.e. cleaning the fans, purging unnecessary computer routines, checking your battery’s remaining life, and buying some cool gadgets to support your machine).

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