Despite their small size and typically lower processing power than your average desktop, laptops remain as popular as ever, even amongst the most demanding PC users. Though their novelty may wear off after a while, you must treat your laptop with care lest it tanks just when you need it most.
For most people, taking care of a laptop is as simple as wiping the screen every once in a while and storing it in a bag. This is perfectly serviceable, but for those who want to go the extra mile in ensuring that their laptops maintain peak performance over an extended period of time, there is plenty more that you could do.
Naturally, some performance-enhancing solutions work better than others. Case in point: the topic of this article. There has been a lot of debate over the supposed efficacy of cooling fans. Of course, this has left plenty of people confused: what are cooling fans and what can they do for your laptop?
Why Laptop Cooling is an Issue
Of course, none of this would be an issue if it weren’t for the fact that laptops have an inherent disadvantage over normal desktops. Some laptops rival the power and performance of some pretty high-end desktops, and while this is a boon for gamers and programmers, it also comes with a significant trade-off.
A laptop features the same hardware as a PC, but it is confined to a much smaller space. This leads to a much faster build-up of heat, which can cause thermal throttling (reduced performance due to excessive heat). Moreover, the threat of overheating becomes much more prevalent.
Unfortunately, the smaller or slimmer your laptop is, the more susceptible it is to overheat. This is particularly a problem for MacBook users, whose devices feature incredibly thin designs. While this makes for an attractive product, the novelty quickly wears off once you begin experiencing performance issues.
Additionally, the thermal pasting that is built into your laptop will not last forever. If you have had your device for three years or more, the chances are it has already begun to break down.
The flipside to all this is that, because overheating has become such a problem, many newer devices have more elaborate cooling systems that somewhat improve their longevity. Even so, there are still plenty of ways to counteract overheating.
The Efficacy of Laptop Cooling Pads
The terms “laptop cooling pad” and “laptop cooling fan” can typically be used interchangeably, but for the purposes of this discussion, we will refer to them as “pads.”
So, do laptop cooling pads work?
The short answer is: yes, to a degree.
The long answer is laptop cooling pads, though effective when used frequently enough, can only do so much to prevent your machine from overheating.
The main point of concern here is your laptop’s thermal paste. As mentioned, the paste will begin to wear off after three years, and somewhere around the five-year mark, it may disintegrate completely. This prevents the heat generated by your CPU from being properly transferred to your cooler.
Therefore, if you notice that your laptop’s temperature remains high even after giving it a break, the chances are that your thermal paste has broken down and needs to be replaced. At this point, a cooling pad will not do much to improve your device’s performance.
Before committing to a purchase, ensure that your thermal paste has been replaced. Consult a technician if you are unsure of how to do it yourself.
Even then, all machines – even desktops – have an expiry date. If you have had your laptop for seven years or more, it may be best to get your hands on a newer device rather than spend money trying to revive a dying machine.
Types of Cooling Pads
Although their basic function is immutable, there are various cooling pads and fans. Depending on your machine, some may be more effective than others. In general, however, there are three that you should be aware of.
Passive Cooling Pads
Passive laptop cooling pads lack any fans or other moving parts. At their most fundamental level, they have essentially elevated stands that allow for more ventilation for the underside of your laptop.
Naturally, passive cooling pads are particularly useful if your laptop’s intake is on its underside. Unfortunately, not many laptops exhaust from the bottom, and many feature weak fans, if they have any at all.
As such, passive cooling pads are purely a novelty, and you would be better served to examine more extensive options.
Active Cooling Pads
Active cooling pads are usually flat, rectangular devices with two or three fans used to cool your device down. These pads typically perform better than their passive counterparts because most laptops intake from the bottom rather than exhaust. This improves the existing airflow and lets your laptop cool down much faster.
Of course, if you happen to own a laptop that exhausts from the bottom, these active cooling pads can actually work against your machine by forcing the hot air back inside. Therefore it is important to know your machine before you choose one cooling option over the other.
Detachable Cooling Pads
Last but not least, detachable cooling pads (also called vacuum laptop cleaners) can also significantly improve your laptop’s temperature. Unfortunately, the efficacy of these devices is highly dependent on their compatibility with your device. Some may not even fit your laptop if your machine is too thick.
Cooling pads can certainly mitigate some issues related to heating with your laptop, which in turn can somewhat improve performance. Unfortunately, the older your laptop gets, the less effective a cooling pad will be. Some issues are too deeply embedded for a quick fix to work.
Before committing yourself to a purchase, visit a technician to ensure that your laptop’s internal components are all up to snuff. Once you get the all-clear that your laptop is compatible with a cooling fan, you can head out and grab one that suits your needs.