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What makes a laptop overheat?

I have an Asus n61jq laptop that runs very hot even when idle. The processor is an i7 720QM while the graphics card is an Mobility Radeon 5730.

Does most of the heat come from the CPU or the graphics card (or both)? When idle, I noticed that the CPU ran at ~85 Celsius, and I couldn't find temperature information on the graphics card.

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marked as duplicate by Breakthrough, random Aug 2 '11 at 16:21

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

Pretty sure its both, with a little more from the CPU as a rule, as it is doing more work/overall more powerful in most cases. – soandos Aug 1 '11 at 14:04
85°C at idle? That can't be good... – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Aug 1 '11 at 14:04
Try this for temperature info... – Joe Internet Aug 1 '11 at 20:04
85 CELSIUS? You sure you don't mean 85 fahrenheit? If your wording is correct, you should use your laptop as little as possible until you fix the problem... Lest you wish for a smoldering hole in the ground. – Razor Storm Aug 1 '11 at 20:48
I just turned on my laptop 10 minutes ago and right now it's at 62C. It is quite ridiculous and it might just be the temperature sensor being off. – tskuzzy Aug 1 '11 at 23:48

In a desktop system with a high-performance graphics card, I would say both (although still more from the processor), but for your laptop, no doubt it is the processor.

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Thanks! So do you think it's not worth playing around with the graphics card settings (at least not until I get my CPU under control)? – tskuzzy Aug 1 '11 at 14:12
You could have something wrong with your system, possibly the heatsink/fan, but based on your processor, that system must be very new. I doubt that playing with your graphics settings is going to change much compared to the heat a new, high-end processor, throws. I would call ASUS and ask them what temperature range can be expected from the model. I have had a couple of really high-end laptops in the past, that threw massive amounts of heat (like a P4 3.8 GHz in an Alienware). If it turns out that that is normal, you might want to get laptop cooling pad. Read this for more info: – KCotreau Aug 1 '11 at 14:37
That is true, but so are briefs style of underwear. :) – KCotreau Aug 1 '11 at 14:51
@tskuzzy - Those are the reasons manufacturers started calling them 'notebooks' instead of 'laptops', as calling them laptops could get them sued when someone burns their lap, or their sperm count shrivels. :) – Ƭᴇcʜιᴇ007 Aug 1 '11 at 14:52

Since every laptop is different instead of guessing, it's better to install a tool that will display the temperature of your GPU and CPU, e.g. Real Temp. This will let you know exactly where and how much heat your laptop is generating.

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Check the spec sheets for the parts under Max TDP to get an idea of how power hungry they are:

Now, these figures say "MAX" for a reason, they mean maximum power consumption under 100% load, but that is a substantial amount for a laptop.

I suggest measuring power draw from your laptop using a kill-a-watt or similar device to get an idea of the actual idle power draw. Idle power will be less than max TDP (obviously) but it depends on the GPU or CPU as to how efficient it can be when doing very little.

So the specific answer to your question is, the CPU at maximum load would be generating more heat for sure. But at idle? Really hard to say until you measure, since different CPUs and GPUs have different idle power draws.

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One other frequent source of heat is the battery. While it usually doesn't generate as much as the CPU or graphics card, it does contribute to the overall heat under the keyboard.

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generally only when plugged in and actively charging; normally it contributes very little heat at all. – Jeff Atwood Aug 1 '11 at 23:31
Heh, you must not have had my last laptop then. That battery got pretty hot when running. Eventually they recalled them. :) – BBlake Aug 2 '11 at 13:03

You should check the fan intake and output to see if there is lint and/or dust collected blocking the air. Also, make sure the system is set on a flat hard surface. Your lap may be convenient to use the laptop on, but leaving it there or on any soft surface blocks the air intake and can cause overheating.

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It's not normal. In my opinion if the computer is new, you should call the manufacturer's customer services - this kind of heat is highly abnormal.

For the second part, heat comes from both the CPU and GPU.

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