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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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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.

The recommended storage temperature for most batteries is 15°C (59°F); the extreme allowable temperature is –40°C to 50°C (–40°F to 122°F). When it’s a balmy 35 degrees outside, it’s could be a deadly 65 degrees inside. This Would damage the battery overtime. The best would be to put it in the trunk where the sun can't cause overheat.

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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
  • @sinni800, But can you still boot it up and work on it with no problems? – Pacerier Jan 17 '16 at 9:29
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In Perth, Western Australia where I live, summer temperatures often reach 35C, and during most summers we have at least one "heat-wave", and sometimes two. During a "heat-wave" temperatures get above 40C for about 6 to 7 days in a row. I have noticed that my laptop computers, and my friends laptop computers, do NOT fail in these temperatures; they keep on working just fine. I have a few Thinkpad laptops, and an Acer netbook that I keep in my shed outside, where the temperature is often above 45 C in summer. Sometimes I use the laptops in the shed at 45C but I feel like I'm ready to pass out long before the laptop does. I have never had a laptop fail, or stop, due to using it in temperatures of 45 C.

In the north of W.A., on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert, temperatures are above 40 C EVERY DAY from about October 15th onwards, until about the middle of March the next year. Some days get to 49 C in the shade. For people who work outside, in the sun, their computers can get too hot to hold, but they keep working in these sorts of temperatures.

Remember that most laptop components were soldered onto the motherboard using molten solder at more than 200 C, and the temperature of molten solder did not damage the components.

Temperatures at about 75 C might warp the plastic that the computer case is made of, but it will not damage the internals.

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  • So what temperature is needed to "damage the internals"? – Pacerier Jan 17 '16 at 9:29
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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
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    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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  • 45° C is pretty low.... wouldn't last typical sun heat. – Pacerier Jan 17 '16 at 9:30
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This is just my two cents and experience. I got back from a 600 mile motorcycle ride over the course of two days and I had my laptop in a backpack in case I needed to get any work done in those 2 days. Got home, opened up the laptop, worked totally fine, BUT... the color has been totally destroyed. Not as clear or colorful as it was. It's not horribly noticeable, but definitely noticeable. So, hot weather and heat can "break" your laptop

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    I'm not an expert at all, so just curious: could this have been caused by movement (vibrations) rather than heat? – Arjan Jul 17 '17 at 16:27
  • UPDATE: color has returned to its natural state after a few days. @Arjan, I was thinking that might have been a possibility as well. it was secured into a velcro latch, but still would be vibrating. – christopherjamescurtin Jul 21 '17 at 18:09

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