How to Stop Laptop From Overheating While Gaming

Portable, slim, and packed with FPS-bestowing power, gaming laptops let you battle it out in your favorite virtual realms. And you can do it without being constrained to your desk. You can take your gaming setup anywhere and everywhere without feeling like you’re lugging around a power brick.

But unfortunately, the laptop’s slim and compact design is a double-edged sword. It makes the device prone to overheating, especially when you’re putting the GPU and CPU under heavy load.

Stuttering, thermal throttling, hardware damage – overheating can cause a whole host of problems. These problems will no doubt ruin your gameplay experience and affect the longevity of your laptop. A hot-to-the-touch chassis can even leave you with some serious thermal burns.

To prevent your laptop from overheating while gaming, remove dust, close unneeded background tasks, update drivers, and lower your in-game settings. Always set your laptop on hard surfaces with good ventilation. If you’ve set up overclocking on your laptop, revert to default.

With these tips and the advice below, you will be able to locate the cause of the issue and resolve it. A series of solutions will be explained in detail to prevent your laptop from overheating. Whether you’re speedrunning for world records, playing a demanding game like Eldin Ring, or you’re just casually gaming, this guide will help you keep your laptop cool!

Why Does My Laptop Overheat While Gaming?

Gaming for long hours causes the laptop’s processors and graphic cards to work in overdrive. This, in turn, generates a whole lot of heat! If the laptop lacks sufficient cooling, the laptop can’t properly combat the excess heat. This is true whether due to a poorly-designed internal cooling system or external factors. External factors could be anything from clogged-up fans to placing the laptop on soft surfaces.

For many, the first signs of a laptop overheating while gaming includes thermal throttling. Not only that, but overheating could also reduce FPS, cause stuttering, and make an uncomfortably hot chassis. You can monitor the temperature of your laptop’s internal components with dedicated programs like Core Temp and HWMonitor

It’s worth noting that the optimal operating temperature is around 30°C to 60°C. But no worries! While gaming, it’s normal (and safe) for temperatures to reach into the ’80s.

In the '80s
The ’80s, baby!

However, an internal temperature above 90°C is dangerous. Furthermore, these high temperatures can cause serious damage to your laptop’s hardware. So, let’s prevent that from happening.

How to Stop a Laptop From Overheating While Gaming: Common Fixes

The methods covered below have been proven to combat overheating.

Clear Away Dust

Dust is by far the most common culprit behind overheating issues. Over time, dust builds up and clogs a laptop’s air intake vents and internal fans, ultimately causing hot air to become trapped inside. You can clear out dust easily using compressed air, though make sure to check your laptop’s warranty first. Some warranties become void if you open up the chassis without the manufacturer’s assistance.

Close Unnecessary Background Tasks and Programs

Always close unnecessary tasks and programs before starting a gaming session. The more resource-hungry programs and tasks you have open, the greater load your laptop is put under, meaning more heat is generated. Even if you haven’t personally opened any other programs or tasks, many run automatically in the background.

You can find out which programs are hogging up your resources in the Windows “Task Manager:”

  • Open up the Task Manager by pressing Ctrl + Shift + Esc
  • Go to the “Processes” tab and click on the CPU column to organize programs by CPU usage
  • End any unnecessary programs or tasks that have high CPU usage
  • Do the same with the “Memory” tab to identify (and shut down) unnecessary ram-hungry applications

screenshot of windows task manager

Update Drivers

Out-of-date drivers are another leading cause of a laptop overheating while gaming. Updates fix corrupted files, help protect you from malware, and ensure your laptop is working smoothly. Often, updates include vital bug fixes and ways to enhance performance.

Here’s how to check if your laptop’s drivers need updating:

  • Click on the Windows Taskbar Start button and open up the settings
  • Go to “Update & Security,” then “Windows Update”
  • Click the “Check for updates” option
  • Now, select “view optional updates” if applicable and go to the “driver updates” section

screenshot of windows update

Change In-Game Settings

We all love playing games in their best-looking settings possible. Unfortunately, you’ll need to put your laptop’s needs first. Especially if it can’t cope with the heavy load generated by games. Otherwise, you’ll literally be “burning” it into the ground.

Pretty much every modern game allows you to adjust its settings for increased performance. Change in-game graphics to the lowest option and switch off any extra effects. If possible, turn off “screen shake” and “anti-aliasing.” Make sure the frame rate cap and resolution match your monitor as well.

Scan for Malware 

Malware can discreetly wreak havoc on your laptop’s overall performance and cause it to overheat. Make sure to scan for malware regularly. You can also invest in some antivirus software to keep your laptop protected. For a free option, you can consider Malwarebytes — it’s outstanding for a free software!

You can also sift through high CPU usage applications in your laptop’s Task Manager. Be sure to check if there are any nefarious programs running in the background. CPU usage being abnormally high is another potential sign of malware.

Stop Overclocking

Many gamers overclock their GPU and CPU in an effort to increase performance speeds. However, overclocking can generate an insane amount of heat. And that’s especially true if your laptop lacks an efficient cooling system. If you’ve overclocked your laptop in the past and are experiencing overheating issues, make sure to revert its clock settings back to the original state.

If you know a thing or two about hardware, you can then try undervolting. Undervolting is where you reduce the voltage to your laptop’s components. Doing so will further reduce the amount of heat generated. Although, just like overclocking, undervolting is a tricky process and isn’t without risks. This likely isn’t necessary and is recommended only to those with solid hardware knowledge.

RTX 2080 graphics card against black background

Reapply Thermal Paste 

Thermal paste is designed to improve heat transfer between the CPU and heatsink. In layman’s terms, it’s an essential component that keeps your CPU cool and in working order.

Every laptop has thermal paste already applied, but over time this paste dries out and eventually stops working, causing overheating issues. Thermal paste usually starts to lose its effectiveness after 5 years. However, a lower-quality thermal paste can dry out a lot quicker.

Reapplying the thermal paste is a little tricky and finicky. Especially if you’ve never been “hands-on” with your laptop’s hardware before. With that said, it’s entirely possible to do it at home with the right guidance and equipment. Check out Intel’s step-by-step guide on the process. 

Use a Laptop Cooling Pad 

A laptop cooling pad – a raised, meshed stand with built-in fans – helps keep the CPU and GPU running at low temperatures! It improves the air circulation around your device. While not all laptops benefit from a cooling pad (depending on vent placement), most experience a temperature drop of several degrees.

There are several laptop cooling pads available on the market. Each pad with its own unique qualities. However, the main factors you need to consider are RPM performance, fan size, and fan placement.

  • RPM performance: How fast the fans spin. Generally, the higher the RPM the better cooling performance the fans will have. We recommend an RPM of 1,500 or greater if you’re a heavy gamer.
  • Fan size: Big fans circulate more air than small fans that have an identical RPM.
  • Fan placement: A cooling pad’s fans should ideally match up with your laptop’s air intake vents; the fans can directly push cool air into your laptop this way.

If this is the option that best suits your need, check out our top 5 recommended cooling pads!

Keep Laptop in Ideal Environment

Your laptop needs to be kept in a cool and well-ventilated area. None of the air intake vents should be blocked. Additionally, any cables (see also ‘Best Ethernet Cable For Gaming‘) should be tidy and positioned in a way that they won’t hinder airflow.

There are other ways to make your real-life environment cool. Consider keeping the laptop on a smooth, clean surface – so, not turning your laptop into a “lapdog”. Furthermore, try switching on the air conditioning during hot, summer days. You should also keep your laptop out of direct sunlight.

Your laptop doesn’t need vitamin D.

Examine the Hardware

If all else fails, it’s worth taking a peek inside your laptop. Examine whether there’s any hardware damage or dust lurking about. Check the ram, processor, battery, and fans. A faulty fan would definitely bring about a temperature spike!

Pro tip: make sure to only open up your laptop if the warranty allows it.

You can usually identify malfunctioning fans without even opening a laptop. Just put the fans on full blast and listen out for silence or a rattling noise. Either would be a telltale sign of faulty fans. 

Unfortunately, if the overheating issue still persists, it’s likely that your laptop has a deeper issue. The most likely cases would be either it has a poorly-designed cooling system or is just too old and worn. If it’s too old, it might not be able to tackle the heavy load your gaming is putting it under. In that case, it’s time for an upgrade. You can check out the best gaming laptops of 2022 right here.

If your laptop is relatively new and still under warranty, you should definitely reach out to your manufacturer as it could be a fault!

Beating the Heat Once and for All

An overheating laptop can be extremely frustrating. It could transform your gaming experience into a stuttering, FPS-dropping mess. We hope the methods covered above have helped you beat the heat once and for all! And if you want to level up your gameplay even further, why not invest in a gaming mouse and keyboard combo?

If this article helped keep your gaming laptop cool, feel free to sign up to get more useful gaming tips. See you around!

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