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I have an oldish laptop which is shutting down due to an apparent thermal overload. I want to determine if the overload is real or somehow imagined.

Usually the shutdown occurs just as I logon to Win XP and before I can open any temperature monitoring software. However, the fans suddenly go to maximum speed, and a few short seconds later, the unit powers itself off.

However... if I boot into the BIOS, or the DOS-based recovery system that is loaded on the laptop (an ASUS A6U with an AMD Turion 64 MT-30 1.6GHz in case it matters) then it seems able to run for ages without any thermal issues.

I have two theories: (1) There is some kind of software issue that (for example) loads or runs something that might mess with the temperature monitoring system (recalibrating it, for example) and fooling it into shutting down; or (2) Windows XP uses far more power-hungry code compared to DOS or the BIOS program, and genuinely causes extra heat to be generated, which leads to a genuine thermal issue.

Are there other explanations? Which is the best explanation?

P.S. I have already re-pasted the CPU 3-4 times now, and have observed a slight discoloration on one corner of the CPU. However, I can't say whether this slightest bit relevant.

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Does the laptop feel hot? Have you tried booting into a live Linux CD to see if the problem is windows-specific? – terdon Jul 5 '13 at 23:45
No - it doesn't feel the slightest bit hot nor blow any air that feels like it is more than 2 degrees hotter than ambient. – omatai Jul 5 '13 at 23:53

May not be a heat related issue. The system runs okay so obviously the thermal paste/heatsink bonding appears good. More likely you have some sort of driver that starts up when XP starts to load its stack that is bad or corrupt. Try and start in Safe Mode - press the F8 and start in Safe Mode which loads only a minimal set of drivers and doesn't really autostart/autorun much. If you are okay, try and do a restore from previous good boot. Another way to test is to get someone to get you a copy of the Ubuntu disk or any linux bootable ISO. If you can boot and run, then hardware as a problem is unlikely - more a corrupt OS issue.

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Not the issue in my case - there is a means of restoring the original Windows XP installation to the first partition on the hard drive. I did that, and now it only makes it about two-thirds of the way through the Windows XP load sequence. When the original software doesn't work, hardware is extremely strongly implicated. – omatai Jul 11 '13 at 9:39

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