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It's now summer around here, with temperatures ranging from 20C to 30C in the summer. Occasionally, I have a situation where I can carry my laptop indoors, or just leave it in the car for a few hours.

My question is: will it cause any sort of damage if I leave it in the car for several hours? I usually bring it indoors just in-case, but I thought I'd ask. Note that the laptop is always off at this time.

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Not a dupe of superuser.com/questions/159303/…, that talks about sunlight only -- I'm asking about hot areas that are not in sunlight. –  ashes999 May 26 '12 at 17:05
    
Related (operating temperatures): Maximum temperature laptop internals can handle? Cooling options?. Your notebook manufacturer/documentation probably has operating and storage temperature guidelines for your specific make/model, have you checked those? –  techie007 May 26 '12 at 17:49
    
Opposing: Will cold weather break my laptop? –  techie007 May 26 '12 at 17:50
    
Nope, haven't checked the manufacturer's guide. Storage temprature guidelines would be precisely what I want to know. I'll check. –  ashes999 May 26 '12 at 20:50
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3 Answers

I've seen systems fail under the weather, but for different reasons. A laptop's most critical (and warmest) components can easily reach 60 °C above the environment temperature. They're designed to withstand this torture, because notebooks don't usually leave a lot of room for efficient cooling, nor can they afford to be as power consuming as other systems. When the room temperature goes up, so do the temperatures of the processors.

Today, overheating seldom damages the system, because all modern laptops have a number of precautions. The temperature is monitored and the cooling fans react accordingly. If they can't transport enough heat, the CPU is clocked down to reduce heat dissipation. If the temperature gets dangerously high, the computer shuts down altogether. Different models have different shutdown and maximum temperatures, but they're typically between 90 °C and 105 °C.

A laptop left in a car being powered down wouldn't reach those temperatures if it sat on the engine, let alone on the back seat. You absolutely needn't worry about the electronics breaking down, but if the notebook is left in the sun, it may get hot enough to compromise the structural integrity of the case, which is a fancy way of saying the plastic will get sticky and smell funny. If it does, don't sit on it until it has cooled down. Other than that, you're in the clear.

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Actually my small Netbook, after being in the sun inside a car for half a day, started not closing completely anymore since the display was sorta bent backwards from the heat :D EDIT: It was Texan heat... 40°C or higher in the car –  sinni800 May 26 '12 at 22:50
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Actually it sort of is a dupe. You may as well take it indoors if you can, but if for some reason you must leave it in the car, at least put it under the seat—maybe in the trunk, but under the seat is better since the trunk can get hot, and under the seat is closer to the cooler ground. That way it will not only be cooler in the dark, but you will avoid tempting any passersby who happen to glance through the window. (This is what we always do with anything of value or sensitive to heat like cameras, DVDs, etc.)

That said, yes, if it gets hot enough it can get damaged, though if it is off, it should be okay in most cases (at least in a car, so long as you keep it in the dark); just give it a chance to cool off before starting it up and playing a 3D game or encoding a video.

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I use it for development, actually. What kind of damage are we talking about? –  ashes999 May 26 '12 at 17:19
    
Typical heat-related damage, though like I said, if it’s off and kept in the shade, it—should—not get hot enough in a car (even during a hot Ontario summer) to mess it up (at least not as much as running it hot would). As JRobert indicated, storage temps are usually fairly wide; wide enough that if your car were to get hot enough to damage the laptop, you would definitely notice. –  Synetech May 26 '12 at 20:26
    
You don't need to cool the machine down before putting it to work. Temperatures go down exponentially when turned off, but due to lack of ventilation and small temperature gradients, this process quickly becomes very slow. You wouldn't start out with temperatures that are that much lower anyway, especially if your laptop is on but idle. Under heavy load, temperatures climb almost exponentially, very fast at first, because the cooling hasn't kicked in. I always monitor my temps; cooling by idling for 8 hours is undone by less than ten seconds of heavy work. –  Marcks Thomas May 26 '12 at 21:16
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You didn't say what kind it is, but for comparison, here are Apple's thermal specs for the late 2011 13 inch Macbook Pro. I would guess they're fairly typical:

Operating temperature: 50° to 95° F (10° to 35° C)

Storage temperature: -13° to 113° F (-24° to 45° C)

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Wow, that's quite a range. To avoid making this question too specific, I didn't mention. It's a Gateway PC. –  ashes999 May 26 '12 at 20:50
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