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Breathing Room

As computers have become more powerful they have simultaneously been generating more heat. Portable computers are particularly susceptible to overheating, so make sure yours has room to breathe.

All computers generate heat that must be dissipated to avoid damaging components. Desktop computers are large enough that they can include large fans and heatsinks, and some customized systems even contain water-based cooling systems. In contrast, portable computers are limited in the amount of space they can devote to cooling; add to that the fact that batteries generate heat when charging and discharging, and you’ve got a very delicate balance when it comes to managing heat.

Here are some guidelines for ensuring that you don’t hasten your computer’s demise by inhibiting its ability to cool itself.

  • Don’t use portable computers on squishy surfaces, such as beds, couches, or even your lap. (Look around and you’ll notice that computer makers no longer refer to their computers as “laptops,” but instead use the term “notebook.”)
  • Don’t block the air vents on your computer with, for instance, sticky notes.
  • Turn your computer OFF before putting it in a bag; even a sleeping computer generates heat and can easily overheat in the padded compartment of a carrying bag. 
  • Do not place other components, such as printers, directly next to your computer. Leave enough room to ensure that the heat from one is not affecting the temperature of the other.
  • Do not allow your computer to sit in a closed, hot car. If it does get hot from where it’s sitting, let it cool down before using.
  • If your workspace is unavoidably hot (unfiltered sunlight or heat from a radiator, for instance), consider purchasing a cooling device for your computer. Many retailers offer stands that incorporate fans and air vents.
  • If you follow all of the advice above and still find your portable computer running hot to the touch (all computers will feel warm, we’re talking about HOT), it may be time for a professional to look at it. If it’s a Hampshire-owned computer contact the Help Desk at x5418; students can bring their computers to the Student Diagnostic Center, x6602.

Contact Us

Information Technology
Harold F. Johnson Library Center
Hampshire College
893 West Street
Amherst, MA 01002
Fax 413.559.5419

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