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I have an Intel Core Duo laptop with 1GB RAM running Ubuntu Linux.

I'd like to make it a node in a cluster and use it to crunch numbers non-stop (100% CPU work).

Someone mentioned to me that in contrast to desktops, laptops are not meant for 100% CPU use 24/7 as they can get fried. Is this true?

In case it helps, I am only using the computing power of the laptop; the screen lid is constantly shut.

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migrated from serverfault.com Jul 21 '11 at 3:18

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2 Answers 2

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Yes, it's true. PCs, Servers, Laptops and Workstations are all designed to meet their expected usage, and the components are selected for them based on tolerances/quality which suits their usage.

In the case of a laptop, it's designed for power efficiency, which implies it's performance is likely to be compromised to conserve power. Home laptops are designed for a few hours use a day, and the assumption is that the lid will always be open (because consumer laptops generally do not interface with docking stations) and business-grade laptops are designed for usage around 10 hours a day, and allow for usage while the lid is closed.

Laptop hard drives are particularly prone to early failures, although whether this is due to being moved while in use, or overheating/overuse is debatable.

Long story short, I wouldn't be surprised if the laptop fails quite quickly if you leave it at 100% load with the lid closed.

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Chris, the lid being closed is the issue? What if the lid is open? –  user74781 Jul 21 '11 at 3:04
    
No, the CPU cooling system is likely to be the limiting factor. –  womble Jul 21 '11 at 3:08
    
womble, thank you. Will it help if I have AC + a big fan in the room? Will it still fail in your opinion? also, when it fails -- will it be a complete failure (meaning, the laptop will no longer work)? or, will it just be temporarily too hot -- and will need a couple of hours of rest before resuming to work? –  user74781 Jul 21 '11 at 3:12
    
As a Gentoo user that has compiled whole OS systems on laptops I can vouch for this. :-) I've had laptops shut themselves down due to overheating. Many just can't get the heat out fast enough if they are operated at 100% CPU over time. –  Keith Jul 21 '11 at 3:26
    
Depends on the amount of damage and where it is. If it is in a certain place it will trip a heat switch and shutdown to cool. If that doesn't happen then you could fry different parts of the laptop. Once again, laptops are not made for constant loads. Server processors are much more expensive in part because of the reliability. They are designed to last much longer and endure more stress. Whether the lid is open or not won't matter much, I just prevents a tiny amount of airflow. –  a sandwhich Jul 21 '11 at 3:28

I've used many laptops over the years. There's only been one that didn't have problems with overheating in heavy, or sometimes even light to moderate, usage situations. In my experience, the vast majority of laptops have insufficient cooling capabilities to function as a cluster node.

That said, I frequently use that one laptop at 100% load for extended periods of time and have been doing so for around three years now, and it hasn't had any problems the others experienced (RAM failure, battery failure, fan failure, and sometimes just unexpected shutdowns without any obvious hardware failure).

You suggested A/C and a big fan as a possible solution. If your laptop stabilizes at 120 degrees in a 70 degree room, it'll stabilize at roughly 110 degrees in a 60 degree room (or 120-x degrees in a 70-x degree room). It would take a pretty cold room for that to work though. The big fan doesn't help much as it likely won't move a noticeable amount of additional air through the laptop. Proximity and direction will affect the accuracy of that statement.

An additional fan blowing air directly into the intake(s) or sucking air directly from the outlet(s) of your laptop will definitely help though. If you move twice as much air through your laptop, the difference between the temperature at which your laptop stabilizes and room temperature will be roughly half what it would be without the additional fans. (In the previous example of a 120 degree laptop in a 70 degree room, the temperature difference is 50 degrees. Blowing twice as much air through the laptop, the difference will be 25 degrees, bringing the laptop's temperature down to 95 degrees. Three times as much air would yield a third the temperature difference, and so on.)

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