22

I'm having problems with my fan which went from being annoyingly loud to sometimes completely stopping and failing to dissipate the heat form my laptop.

I'm in the process of replacing it, however, I was wondering if I could continue using my laptop normally.

I've been monitoring the CPU temperatures, and when there is some load on the CPU, it goes up to 98 celsius degrees.

Considering I have my system (Windows, which can sometimes have its antimalware service or other processes put randomly a lot of load on the CPU) and a VM running alongside, I know that my CPU may be under a lot of charge for long period of times.

My question is, if I continue using my laptop as is, waiting for the replacement fan, what's the worst that I can expect: only spontaneous emergency shutdowns over a certain temperature (which could be annoying but not that much of a big deal, and has not happened yet), or actually overheating and breaking one of my components?

  • 2
    I would say avoid using your laptop until your fan is fixed. That is, if you're not prepared to buy a whole new laptop. I had a similar issue with my laptop until one day it stopped booting at all. I bought a new one. For me it was an easy decision as my laptop already served for ~5 years. – HamZa Dec 18 '18 at 12:11
  • 10
    Years ago I was swapping parts in a desktop machine, and I forgot to attach the cpu heatsink before I turned it on. It was pretty much instantly fried. Not quite the same situation as here, I just thought I'd share my pain. – Jerrad Dec 18 '18 at 14:07
  • 2
    Do you have a valid current backup of data on the device, elsewhere ? – Criggie Dec 19 '18 at 2:35
  • 7
    Please don't use the laptop on a plane if I'm on the same plane. – jcaron Dec 19 '18 at 17:28
  • 2
    98°C (roughly 205°F) is nearly hot enough to boil water! I wouldn't recommend using it as a lap top. I wouldn't put it on anything else that I was concerned about either! – FreeMan Dec 19 '18 at 20:46
37

Will it work? Sure. Is it "safe"? Maybe

Modern CPUs, especially mobile ones, feature thermal throttling in order to protect them from extreme temperatures. What this means is that if a fan fails while the system is in operation then the CPU will limit itself in order to prevent damage caused by overheating. Your system performance can be severely hampered by this throttling.

While this can ensure that a system is likely to be protected from a failure you shouldn't count on it as a permanent saviour. Electronic components don't like being at their maximum limits for extended periods. Extreme hot/cold cycles can cause mechanical stress and lead to components breaking prematurely.

The fan heatsink may be connected to the CPU, but by keeping the CPU cool it also allows other components (such as power converters and interface chips) to shed heat easier.

I would only use such a system lightly and with caution. It will not be working at peak performance and will be at risk of further damage due to high temperatures around sensitive components.

  • 2
    Would you consider the 3 weeks that I would be using my laptop before I can replace the fan as too long of a period to put my system under such stress? Considering I would be careful about my usage and monitoring temperatures – PoutchiPatch Dec 18 '18 at 8:28
  • 5
    I personally would prefer less time, but I've known systems that have blocked cooling vents (similar effect) that have worked longer. I'd be very wary but so long as you keep an eye on things you may well be okay. It is hard to give a definitive answer. – Mokubai Dec 18 '18 at 8:36
  • 2
    Thank you for this insight. I will accept your answer as I feel it explains correctly what are the risks – PoutchiPatch Dec 18 '18 at 8:43
  • 2
    To add to this answer, if it goes above the thermal cutout temperature, even with underclocking - that's it - the power is cut and you can't use your PC until its cooled. My advice would be to open the case and clear and blockage (laptops are notorious for buildup of "fluf") and if that doesn't allow the fan to spin again (dead and not just blocked) then use an external fan – Baldrickk Dec 18 '18 at 10:57
  • 4
    This is a good answer. I want to add that whether it's reasonable for you to continue using the machine depends a lot of value judgments, e.g. how bad would it be for you if the laptop died, vs how bad it would be to go without using it. How much remaining usable life does it have--which depends in part on how often you can financially afford to upgrade... and so on... I think continuing to use it will probably shorten the lifespan of some of the components and there is a small but non-negligible risk of hardware failure before the new fan arrives. My $0.02 – adfaklsdjf Dec 18 '18 at 17:53
18

No, this is not safe. Stop using your computer right now.

Maybe, just maybe, the CPU will protect itself from immediate death by thermal throttling or emergency shutdown.

However, the fan in a laptop does not only cool the CPU, it also cools other components in the system. Anything in your system may break including irreparable damages to main board, memory, or your disk and thus permanent loss of data. Even a emergency thermal shutdown can easily corrupt your data or file system.

If you value your hardware or data, you should not use the system until it is properly cooled again.

  • 3
    This is the problem. Many components have thermal throttling that will allow them to protect themselves. But with those smart components all at the highest temperature they're allowed to tolerate, other "dumb" components will likely be above the maximums they can tolerate. – David Schwartz Dec 18 '18 at 19:09
  • 1
    Let's just say that a hot day and not enough ventilation are what did in my last laptop.. It came back up, it was never the same. Eventually it died – George M Dec 18 '18 at 19:26
  • This is just totally wrong. Baseless ignorant fear-mongering. – Nye Dec 19 '18 at 21:39
  • 1
    @Nye feel free to present your empirical evidence to the contrary. Until then I may point out that supporting continued use based on anecdotal "It worked for me" evidence is not a good course of action. – Zulan Dec 19 '18 at 22:12
8

You're taking a risk, but I don't think it's as clear cut as other people are saying.

I have a 12yo Core 1 Duo laptop that I've been torturing with distributed computing just to see how long it'll last (from a perf/watt standpoint it's well past when it should've been retired). This basically consists of running at 100% load 24/7/365.

During that time I've killed its fan several times. And generally only discovered that I had done so after it began spontaneously shutting down due to overheating and after it happened several times I took a closer look and discovered the fan wasn't running (and IIRC the CPU was running well below normal speed). Since it wasn't shutting down immediately after the restarts prior to my discovering the bad fan's it has been running at max CPU temperature for a number of cumulative days/weeks.

You might not have as much luck as I have; and would be taking a risk but you've got a solid chance of coming out of it with nothing more than a few unexpected crashes.

If you want to do this, I'd recommend running a CPU temperature monitor to make sure your temps aren't hitting limits; and if you can't afford to replace the system if your luck does fail you probably should take the advice of the other answers and not tempt fate.

If you do this, I'd also suggest seeing if you can find a faster delivering source for the fan. In my experience, the cheapest Ebay/Amazon fan sellers have always been several week shipping direct from China vendors; but for a few extra dollars I could always find a seller in the US/UK that could get something to me in a fraction of the time.

3

No, at least not in the way that you describe.

You can in principle, and temporarily continue using your laptop "reasonably safe" because the overwhelming majority of things one does at a computer leaves it at 3-5% or less CPU usage. Which, luckily, means that the CPU isn't getting all that hot and the cooler fan is barely needed.
So, if you are aware that you need to replace the fan (and you will do it eventually, soon-ish) but you still need to write a few letters, or take notes for uni, or whatever, and you just don't have another computer... you will most probably be fine. The risk that bad things will happen is quite low.

However, running malware scans and virtual machines are not things that play in the "3-5% CPU" ballpark. Running such heavy tasks with a failing/failed cooler fan is outright insane. In the best case, you will greatly reduce the lifetime of your processor. In the worst case it will fail catastrophically.

0

As others have said, I would avoid using it to prevent long-term damage.

However, there are also external coolers that clip onto the side of your laptop that can be used to pull air through your laptop vents in case of an under-performing internal cooling system. I have one on my laptop, and it works well to keep the cpu from shutting down from overheating. (note that my cooling issue is due to poor heat transfer from the CPU to its heat sink, but I haven't gotten around to tearing it apart and putting new thermal grease on the joint).

0

If you set the cooling policy to passive you should be able to use it but it will not be able to run at full performance and may be too hot to touch

0

If the computer is on but the system fan is not spinning, you should visit your computer's BIOS settings to make sure the fan is set to turn. If that fails, you may have a defective fan. The last sign of problems is the sound or the sound codes. These will alert you to various faults at the board level, including memory and video failures. You should consult the service manual of your computer to match the sound codes with the error message.

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.