Stef’s Laptop Problem Found – Not Solved

I can work with desktop machines, but laptops scare the hell out of me. The HP website says there might be as many as 72 screws on this and similar models.

A few weeks ago I wrote about Stef’s laptop and its spontaneous shutdowns. You were nice enough to make loads of suggestions. I think I now know the cause.

The problem was difficult to diagnose because it came fresh on the heels of a bad infection. The virus likely had nothing to do with the problem, but it added a little fog to what was going on.

Diagnosis: The CPU fan seems dead. Though there are programs which should read fan speed none of them seem to work for me. I don’t hear it whirring when it should. Isn’t that enough evidence?

In stressful situations when the CPU is under heavy load the core temperature quickly goes to 100&#176 Celsius (212&#176 Fahrenheit). I wasn’t going to let it get any hotter. The computer’s BIOS has thermal shutdown limits which is why it would turn powerless for no apparent reason.

With a few of the back panels off and a small room fan blasting the case I can keep the temperature under 80&#176 Celsius. It really should be well under 50&#176.

Unfortunately, opening the case and unsticking the fan (I’ll bet it’s jammed up with dog and/or cat hair) is beyond me. I can work with desktop machines, but laptops scare the hell out of me. The HP website says there might be as many as 72 screws on this and similar models.

I am weighing my options.

11 thoughts on “Stef’s Laptop Problem Found – Not Solved”

  1. Hi Geoff. My husband was having the same problem and his professor actually told him to use a dry vac to get the dust out from the bottom of the laptop. He did it and we haven’t had a problem since! Funny though, it happened to us right after we had a virus too.

  2. Geoff,

    If you were to bring it to PCW Computer in Orange they could get into it and replace the fan. Its not too difficult. On newer laptops its a matter of getting the keyboard off and probably the palm rest. However some laptops require you to remove the whole keyboard bezel and the LCD panel

  3. The fan itself is easy enough to replace, but as you said, you need to basically strip the machine down almost to the board to get at the fan.
    There is a program out there called Speed Fan. It sits in the system tray and monitors the temperature of your CPU and hard disks. It works very well.
    And yes – the temperature on the system should not be above about 65C. 50C would be a dream, but I think you will find that it will run at about 55-60C.

  4. If you can get a teardown diagram and instructions from the support website it’s not overly terrible as long as you have the right screwdriver. iFixit is a great resource for this and they sell the tools to do the job if you feel brave.

    I used to not be comfortable but at the end of the day it’s a matter of having the correct tools, some patience, and also realizing that you might do a little cosmetic damage in the process.

    Alternatively there are also programs and methods available for some mobile computers to downclock the CPU so it won’t heat up so quickly. Though that is only going to be a stop-gap solution.

  5. Geoff,

    Have you tried an external fan as a temporary fix? Belkin and several other brands make them (you’ll pay around $30 at Staples). They attach via USB cable and blow a steady stream of cool air at the bottom of the chassis.

  6. Hey, you take them apart ONE screw at a time, take pictures as you go, find a tear-down diagram….stick the screws to a bit of double-sided tape on the workbench in avout the area it came out of.

    Just takes time and patience, and a bit of careful digging.

    Or, what the heck, junk it and buy a better one…

    But, yeah, it’s probably full of dog hair and lint in some hard-to-reach area. That’s what usually kills them, if you actually put them on your lap. Ours either live on the table, or sit on a lap board to keep the vents breathing. I’ve never liked ‘toasted lap’ syndrome…and it turns out to be bad for guys…

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