Mac Fixes

MacBook Overheating

MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models overheat for all sorts of reasons. Surprisingly, age isn’t the main one. Even relatively new 2020 MacBooks can start heating up whenever we juggle between resource-hungry apps, use our laptops on our laps, or go wild with dozens of tabs open in Google Chrome or Safari.

 

So what do you do if your MacBook is running hot? Read our article below, and discover the best ways to get your Apple machine to cool down. A lot of the advice here will apply to other Mac models, too, like iMac and Mac mini desktop systems, so check it out even if you don’t have a MacBook.

 

Before we start

 

Too many apps running at the same time will eventually make your MacBook too heated. Some of the processes tend to launch automatically, so try the easiest way to free up RAM in no time:

  1. Download MacKeeper and install the app.
  2. Go to the Memory Cleaner in the sidebar.
  3. Click Open > Clean Memory.

It’s really that simple. With extra memory to play with, your MacBook won’t be under so much stress, and it’ll be less likely to overheat.

What happens when your MacBook overheats?

When your MacBook is getting hot, you’ll notice it pretty quickly. The laptop’s fans will start to spin faster, becoming louder as they do so. The outer casing of the MacBook might also feel noticeably warmer when you’re using the keyboard. A certain level of warmth is normal, but if your MacBook overheats so fast it becomes a problem, you might notice some warning signs:

  • The fans start making excessive noise and don’t slow down after a few minutes.
  • The external casing of the MacBook becomes uncomfortable to touch for more than a couple of seconds.
  • Your Mac’s performance becomes laggy and slow.
  • Your MacBook suddenly turns itself off for no reason.
  • You see graphical glitches on your MacBook screen.
  • The heat may affect your hard drive, preventing your Mac from starting.

How to check Mac temperature

macOS doesn’t offer an easy way to check your Mac’s temperature. You can use Terminal to check the CPU (processor) temperature of Intel Macs, but there are other heat sensors inside a MacBook. Moreover, that command won’t work with Apple Silicon (M1 and M2) Macs. Thankfully, there are lots of free third-party apps that let you check your Mac’s temperature. Here are a few popular choices:

  • Macs Fan Control: Offers a lot of temperature feedback and the ability to manually control fans (be very careful with this).
  • Fanny: Lets you quickly see temperatures from an app in your menu bar.
  • Hot: Shows you lots of different temperature measurements for various internal sensors.
Macs Fan Control lets you not only see what temperatures are inside your Mac, but it lets you control your fans manually too.
Macs Fan Control
The Fanny app offers some basic temperature information for your CPU and GPU. That's great if you're only interested in those components.
Fanny in action
Hot gives you lots of temperature measurements, beyond just your basic CPU and GPU temperatures. It's worth checking out if you want that information.
Hot has many measurements

Why does your MacBook get so hot?

As electricity flows through the various components and circuits within your MacBook, it generates heat. All electric devices do this to varying levels. In most computers, the CPU makes a lot of heat, as does the GPU, which is why they usually have their own heat sinks and fans. A certain amount of MacBook heat is normal, but excessive heat can be caused by many different factors, including:

1. Too much CPU load

The more work your MacBook’s processor has to do, the warmer it’ll get. Complicated tasks like graphics processing, converting videos, and high-definition image editing will likely cause your CPU to get warmer. If it overheats, it’ll initiate a shutdown to protect itself from permanent damage.

2. Too many browser tabs

If you have lots of active web browser tabs or windows open, your Mac will need to process all of them. This puts strain on your CPU and RAM, both of which can start warming up after a while, and you’ll soon hear the sound of your fans speeding up.

3. Malicious software

Malware can cause overheating deliberately or as an unintended consequence of whatever it’s supposed to do. Some malware threats, for example, will use your computer to mine cryptocurrency, which uses a lot of processing power, leading to an overheated MacBook.

4. Crashed, frozen, or malfunctioning apps

Malfunctioning apps may crash or freeze up, getting stuck in a loop. If that happens, it can quickly lead to overheating, as the CPU or memory constantly repeats a task, over and over again.

5. Out-of-date apps and macOS

In some cases, overheating can be caused by out-of-date apps or macOS. Apple and other software companies will regularly patch their apps to get rid of bugs, so we advise you to download and install the updates when they’re available.

6. Clogged or blocked vents

MacBooks, like most computers, have fans that expel heat. As they do, they draw in cool air from somewhere else. Unfortunately, they draw in dust at the same time, which settles on your computer's components like a blanket, leading to rapid overheating.

7. Fan problems

Your MacBook’s fans prevent it from overheating. If they're not spinning fast enough, not spinning at all, or not coming on at the right times, they won’t be able to cool down your MacBook properly.

8. Increased ambient temperature

Computers like to be cool. If the air around your MacBook is hot, it’ll struggle to keep itself cool, which can cause it to get overheated. Besides, extreme ambient heat can even cause permanent damage.

9. Overheating battery or charging issues

A lot of electricity flows through your MacBook and its battery as it’s charging. A malfunctioning battery or other charging issues can make your MacBook overheat so fast, meaning it’s not able to operate normally.

How to stop your Mac from overheating

Now we’ve established the main causes for a MacBook running hot, what should do if it happens to you? Here are our top tips to get an overheated MacBook to cool down:

1. Quit resource-intensive apps

Apps that use a lot of resources cause more heat. You can identify and close them (and any apps you’re not using) with Activity Monitor:

  1. Open Activity Monitor in Applications > Utilities, and select the CPU section.
  2. Click % CPU to sort by CPU usage.
  3. If you see anything using a lot of CPU, double-click it, and click Quit.
Open your macOS Activity Monitor, then click 'CPU' to see information about your Mac's processor and which apps are demanding its resources.
Step 1. Choose the CPU section
Next, sort your CPU usage to see which apps are the most demanding. Those are the ones that make your processor heat up the most.
Step 2. Sort by CPU usage
If you see any processes that using an excessive amount of CPU cycles, double-click them, then click the 'Quit' button to force them to shut down.
Step 3. Quit apps

Read our other guide on how to open Activity Monitor on Mac to learn more about this handy tool.

2. Close unused applications

Even when you close down an app’s windows, the app continues to run in the background, which can cause your Mac to work harder, leading to overheating. You need to quit out of them to stop them running. Follow these steps to make sure unused apps are properly closed:

  1. Running apps will be visible in Dock, with a black dot underneath them.
  2. Right-click the Dock icon of the app you want to quit. Select w. The icon will disappear unless it’s set to stay in the Dock.
Any apps that are running on your Mac will appear in the Dock, with a black dot below their icons. If you're not using these apps, you can quit out of them.
Step 1. Check for unused apps
One of several ways to quit apps on a Mac is to right-click their icons in the Dock, then select 'Quit'. You can also switch to the app and press Cmd+Q.
Step 2. Quit out of unused apps

3. Manage your login items and launch agents

Login items and launch agents start as soon as macOS does. If they’re what’s causing your MacBook to overheat, you can prevent them from being opened when you turn on your Mac. Here’s how:

  1. In your Mac’s System Settings, go to General > Login Items.
  2. Select an item from the Open at Login list, and click the minus button to remove it.
Go to System Settings, then click General in the sidebar. Find and open the Login Items section, where you can control what starts at boot time.
Step 1. Open Login Items
In the 'Open at Login' list, select an item that you want to remove. Then simply click the minus button, and that item will disappear. It will no longer start with macOS.
Step 2. Remove Login Items

Note from our experts: 

 

When it comes to login items, you can get a lot more control with MacKeeper’s Login Items tool. It removes all kinds of launch agents that don’t show up in System Settings.

4. Close unused browser tabs

If you think excessive browser tabs are the reason for your MacBook getting hot, close some or all of them. If you’re using Chrome, you can also turn on the Memory saver feature, which frees up RAM from inactive tabs:

  1. Select Chrome > Settings from the Chrome menu bar.
  2. Select Performance in the sidebar, then click the switch next to Memory saver.
If you're using Chrome, go to the menu bar and select Chrome > Settings. This will open up Chrome's 'Settings' menu, where you can turn on the memory saver.
Step 1. Go to Chrome > Settings
Next, select 'Performance' in the Chrome setting sidebar. In the 'Memory' section, next to 'Memory saver', click the switch to toggle the memory saver on.
Step 2. Turn on the memory saver

5. Delete unnecessary files

Letting your Mac fill up with junk files is a bad idea. Eventually, it can start to affect system performance, and if your MacBook has to work harder to process all the extra data, it can increase heat levels too. You’ll find a lot of unneeded data in your Mac’s caches, which you can manually delete like this:

  1. Press Cmd + Space to bring up Spotlight. Type ~/Library/Caches, then select the Caches folder.
  2. Look through the Caches folders and delete folders to clear the cache for particular apps. For example, com.apple.Safari is a cache folder for Safari.
Press Cmd + Space to open Spotlight. From there, you can get to the Caches folder by typing '~/Libary/Caches' and selecting 'Caches' from the list.
Step 1. Get to the Caches folder using Spotlight
Go through the various folders in the Caches folder and delete anything you don't want. Remember to empty your Trash afterward.
Step 2. Delete unneeded caches

Hint from our team: 

 

Clearing files manually is time-consuming and confusing. Save time and effort with MacKeeper. Its Safe Cleanup feature gets rid of all kinds of junk files in seconds.  

6. Update your Mac

You should always keep your Mac up to date. If there are problems with macOS that cause overheating, Apple will release patches or new drivers that fix them. Here’s how to update macOS:

  1. Open System Settings, and go to General > Software Update.
  2. If you see an update available, click Update Now.
You'll be able to see if you have any macOS updates in your System Settings. Go to the General > Software area to check for updates.
Step 1. Open Software Update
If there are any updates available, you'll be able to see them in the Software Updates section. Click the 'Update Now' button and follow the prompts.
Step 2. Apply any updates

7. Manage battery settings

Changing your battery charging settings may help with overheating issues your Mac is having. There are a couple of things you can try:

  1. In System Settings, select Battery from the sidebar. Click Options.
  2. Turn off Optimized Battery Charging and Manage battery longevity. If they’re already on, try turning them off.
In your System Settings, you can change how your Mac controls charging, which can have an effect on the heat you battery generates.
Step 1. Open Battery settings
Click the 'Options' button, the look through the settings. Try turning the options on or off to see if they have an effect on your Mac's overheating situation.
Step 2. Change battery settings

8. Manage graphics settings (GPU)

Some MacBook Pro computers have two graphics cards: a more powerful card and a less powerful one. The more powerful GPU generates more heat, but you can use automatic graphics switching to manage it:

  1. Go to System Settings.
  2. Select Battery.
  3. From the Battery section, enable Automatic graphics switching.
With some MacBook models, you'll find options to turn on automatic graphics switching. The lower-powered GPU will generate less heat.
Enable automatic graphics switching

9. Reset the SMC

The SMC (System Management Controller) is responsible for controlling your MacBook’s many physical parts, including the cooling fans. On an Intel Mac, you can manually reset the SMC, which can solve your MacBook Air or Pro heating up. Here's how:

  1. Shut down your Mac.
  2. Press and hold the Shift + Option + Control + Power buttons for 10 seconds.
  3. Turn on your Mac again.
On Intel Macs, you can manually reset the SMC by pressing this keyboard combination. This may help with overheating and fan issues.
Press these keys to reset the SMC

10. Avoid direct sunlight

While you might enjoy sunbathing, your MacBook won’t appreciate it. Leaving your computer in direct sunlight can cause a lot of damage, which you may not be able to fix. If your Mac has been sitting in the sun and is now running slowly or randomly freezing up, try moving into a shady area, let it cool down, and then try it again.

 

Note from our expert’s observation: Your Mac can even get warm when it’s turned off or sleeping, so always be aware.

11. Clean up your Mac physically

Try to prevent dust, crumbs, and other substances from getting on and inside your Mac. A few ways to keep your Mac:

  • Avoid eating near your Mac when it’s open.
  • Try to use your Mac only in relatively dust-free environments.
  • If you think there’s dust inside your Mac, use a can of compressed air to try and gently blow it out.

12. Check for hardware problems

If you suspect your Mac has malfunctioning hardware, try running a diagnostic. This will scan your Mac and tell you if anything isn’t working properly. Here’s how to run a diagnostic on an Apple Silicon Mac:

  1. Turn off your Mac, then press and hold power until you see the startup options. Press and hold Cmd + D.
  2. Wait for the results and see if there are any issues.
If you run a diagnostic on your Mac, you'll be able to see if there are any hardware issues. You get into this from the macOS startup.
Step 1. Run a diagnostic
After running a diagnostic, macOS will tell you if it detects any issues, including hardware problems. These may be the cause of your overheating.
Step 2. Review the results

How to prevent MacBook from heating up

Prevention is always better than cure. Rather than trying to cool your MacBook down when it’s overheated, stop it from ever getting hot in the first place:

1. Don't block the vents

No matter how tempting, it’s a bad idea to use a MacBook in bed or to put it on your lap or stomach. When you do this, you cover the air vents and stop the fans from cooling down the processor. Use your MacBook on a hard, flat surface, giving it plenty of ventilation. A desk or a table will do far better than your lap.

The vents on your Mac are vital. Make sure you don't block them while you're using it, because that will lead to rapid overheating.
Don't block your Mac's vents

2. Make sure your fans are working properly

If your fans aren’t working properly, your MacBook can easily overheat. As soon as you turn on your Mac or bring it out of sleep mode, you should be able to hear the fans spinning (get closer to your Mac if you need to). Are fans not turning on? Then it’s possible your fans are broken, or macOS isn’t activating them when it should.

3. Minimize your multitasking

Your Mac can run lots of different programs and web browser tabs at the same time. But the more things you try to do at once, the more you’ll cause your Mac to warm up. To avoid this issue, try not to open lots of things at the same time and get into a habit of quitting apps and closing tabs when you’re done with them. If you’re watching a film on your laptop, for example, why have all your other apps running in the background?

4. Move large and archived files to cloud storage

Rather than letting files accumulate on your Mac’s storage, offload some of them to the cloud instead. There are loads of cloud storage options, but one of the best is Apple’s iCloud. It’s also particularly convenient because macOS is built to support it. The more files you can get off your MacBook, the less work it’ll have to do—and that translates into less heat.

5. Use only original Mac chargers

Another common problem that causes MacBooks to overheat is counterfeit chargers. Stick to the original charger that came with your MacBook, or if you need a new one, make sure to get it from an authorized Apple Store. You can also check if your charger is certified by Apple here. Whatever charger you’re using, if you ever smell burning from it, unplug it immediately.

6. Protect your MacBook with antivirus

Viruses can hijack your Mac's resources and use them for things like crypto mining, attacking other computers, and performing other operations that could cause your MacBook to overheat. Fixing malware issues manually is next to impossible, but with MacKeeper, you can check a Mac for virus files easily:

  1. In MacKeeper, select Antivirus, and click Start Scan.
  2. Wait for the scan to finish.
  3. If MacKeeper finds any malware, select it, and click Delete.
To start an antivirus scan in MacKeeper, go to the Antivirus section of the app, then click the 'Start Scan' button and wait.
Step 1. Click Start Scan
As MacKeeper Antivirus scans your Mac, it will give you a running update of anything it finds. Wait for the scan to finish, which shouldn't take any more than few minutes.
Step 2. Wait for the scan to finish
When MacKeeper is done scanning your Mac, you'll be able to a full list of any malware that it's found. Review the results, select what to remove, then click 'Delete'.
Step 3. Delete any malware

Need more help with viruses? Check our full guide on how to get rid of malware on Mac.

7. Clean junk files from your Mac regularly

The more you use your Mac, the more junk files will start to build up, including log files, caches, and unnecessary language data. You can clear all of this out in seconds using MacKeeper’s Safe Cleanup feature:

  1. Run MacKeeper, and select Safe Cleanup from the sidebar. Click Start Scan.
  2. When the scan is done, select what to delete, and click Clean Junk Files.
  3. Click Skip Trash or Empty Trash.
To start cleaning up your Mac, select 'Safe Cleanup' from the MacKeeper sidebar, then click the blue 'Start Scan' button.
Step 1. Open Safe Cleanup
MacKeeper will start to search your Mac for junk files and other unneeded data, which it can safely delete from your system.
Step 2. Wait for the scan to finish
When the scan is done, look though what MacKeeper has found. Select what to delete, then click the 'Clean junk files' button.
Step 3. Delete junk files

In summary

We’ve looked at some easy steps you can take to stop your MacBook from overheating. Hopefully, one of them is the solution you’re looking for, but remember, you can also avoid overheating your MacBook by keeping the hard disk clean and removing unnecessary background processes with MacKeeper.

 

You can also give your Mac a breather at any time with MacKeeper’s Memory Cleaner. In a single click, it shuts down unneeded background processes, instantly giving you back some RAM. When your Mac is overheating, that can be exactly what you need to get it to cool down.

FAQ

1. Can a MacBook break from overheating?

Yes, overheating can damage sensitive internal parts of your MacBook. However, many built-in safeguards will slow down or shut off your Mac before it overheats.

2. Can a MacBook overheat in the sun?

Yes, exposing your MacBook to direct sunlight will raise its temperature and cause it to overheat quickly.

3. Is it normal for Macs to get too hot?

Most Macs are likely to warm up or even feel hot to the touch during resource-consuming processes. This is fine, as a little warming up doesn’t cause any harm, and the temperature usually gets back to normal in time.

4. How to stop Mac from overheating when playing games?

Playing games with high-quality 3D graphics puts strain on your CPU and GPU, generating heat. You can reduce this strain by lowering the graphical quality and/or resolution in your game. You can also use external fans to cool down your Mac. Or simply give your Mac regular breaks, so it can cool down between gaming sessions.

5. How to cool down a MacBook?

There are many ways to cool down your Apple laptop. They include closing down resource-intensive apps and unused browser tabs, avoiding direct sunlight, and removing internal dust. You can also buy laptop coolers, which can help by blowing cold air on the bottom of your MacBook.

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