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Nowadays many chips, especially CPUs for portable devices can decrease the clock speed or even suspend for short periods of time to save power. This is great.

Now when a chip reduces power consumption it dissipates far less heat and cools down. Typically a device executes commands in bursts. You start a heavy app and the device's CPU runs on full load for say 15 seconds and warms up, then you might use the application without triggering its CPU-intensive functions for a long period of time, then the CPU load decreases greatly and power saving mechanisms supsend or downclock the CPU and it cools down. Then you trigger some CPU-intensive function, the CPU runs on full load for 10 seconds and warms up, then cools down.

Does frequently warming up and cooling down a chip in the manner described above have negative effect on the chip lifetime?

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It possibly would, however the effect would be negligible relatively to the usable life of a laptop, technology wise.

Besides, running hot consistently would probably be almost as bad (if not more).

I'd be more worried about electromigration in your CPU (technically around, I guess...) when it's running on full juice than it cooling down and heating up.

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I have never personally seen data on a processor's expected lifetime. As long as the part is kept within the datasheet specifications (no overclocking), I would expect at least 5-10 years out of a part. It is more likely that something on the motherboard would go out before the processor.

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IIRC, I remember seeing CPU's generally rated at 10-30 years. –  Dan McGrath Mar 4 '10 at 19:17
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