Do Gaming Laptops Need Cooling Pads? Facts Explained

Gaming laptops are slowly taking over the PC gaming market, as the portability they allow is too much for most buyers to pass up. However, with the quality of the games available today, these computers are also known to get hot fast. This leaves a lot of consumers wondering if a cooling pad helps.

Gaming laptops don’t need cooling pads as their built-in cooling systems are quite powerful. But since they have more power-consuming CPUs and GPUs, they can quickly overheat in tight spaces. With that in mind, a cooling pad would help to stabilize temperatures and maintain consistent performance. 

This article will explain why laptops overheat so much and whether cooling pads or other methods can help.

Gaming Laptops Need Cooling Pads To Prevent Overheating

Overheating is a common problem and concern among gaming laptop users as they tend to overheat. 

This usually happens when high-performance processors and graphics cards are put under heavier load (mostly while gaming), and there isn’t enough airflow to keep things cool.

Why Gaming Laptops Overheat

Overheating with gaming laptops is usually tied to one of the following issues:

  • You use your laptop on soft, fabric surfaces (such as your bed or on a cushion). Unfortunately, this prevents the laptop fans from properly pushing out hot air and bringing in fresh air, slowly building up heat in the chassis. 
  • You sit with the computer on your lap. Though not as bad as the above, this can also have the same heating effect and restrict airflow. 
  • Ineffective thermal paste. The thermal paste on your laptop can lose its effectiveness after a while, causing performance and overheating issues. 
  • Dust clogging up air intake vents. As your laptop pulls in fresh air to help keep everything cool, more often than not, it’s also pulling in dust. Over the years, this will build up and clog the vents, which prevents adequate airflow.

Quick Fixes for Overheating Laptops

Although these won’t solve the problem entirely, there are a few ways to help keep your laptop cool. They include:

  • Invest in a laptop tray or place the computer on a table.
  • Change the thermal paste every six months, at least once a year, or until you notice a dip in performance.
  • A simple cleaning of your laptop’s interior will fix most issues, including overheating. 

Note: You could clean the laptop yourself, but it is best to let an IT professional do this for you so as not to risk damage to your laptop’s components.

Signs That Your Laptop Is Overheating

Believe it or not, overheating isn’t always easy to detect. It could present as simply as lagging here and there, which many people might attribute to slow internet. With that in mind, it’s essential to know the signs of overheating so you can fix the issue sooner rather than later.

Here are some of the most common signs that your laptop is overheating:

  • The fans are constantly running and making whirring noises.
  • The computer abruptly shuts down.
  • You can feel the heat on the keyboard when typing.
  • The laptop is running very slowly.

If you notice one or more of these, especially the loud fans, it’s best to take the laptop in for service as soon as possible.

Do All Gaming Laptops Have Overheating Problems?

Not all gaming laptops have overheating problems, and that’s especially true of high-end models. However, as they become sleeker, their cooling systems are starting to struggle, particularly with top-quality games. Some heating is normal, but extreme heating and loud fans are a cause for concern.

Unfortunately, gaming laptop companies are often more concerned with how the laptop looks instead of how it operates, so they prefer going for a thin design that leaves little space for ventilation to run through all the high-performing components.

Due to their “nature,” it’s common for all gaming laptops to have a significant increase in temperature, primarily when gaming, so it’s not necessarily that you’re doing anything wrong. 

However, very high temperature and overheating problems aren’t normal and will result in thermal throttling, which leads to reduced gaming performance. Sometimes, overheating can even cause severe damage to the laptop’s hardware.

Not all gaming laptops, especially high-end ones, will have significant overheating issues, especially early in their life cycle. Even if you notice your new gaming laptop is getting very hot when gaming, it’s entirely normal, and you’ll usually have nothing to worry about, but it’s always best to make sure.

How Cooling Pads Can Help Overheating Problems

Cooling pads are like a dock where you can place your laptop. They raise the computer off the surface, allowing for better airflow. They also help blow cool air into your laptop’s fans, preventing them from getting too hot. 

They can be very effective, especially in the summer, and can noticeably lower the temperatures of your gaming laptop.

How effective they are can depend on a few factors, such as:

  • The quality of the cooling pad.
  • The amount of heat your laptop is emitting.
  • Its compatibility with your gaming laptop.

Keep in mind that cooling pads will only help optimize the environment your laptop is in, and they’re not a good long-term solution for consistent overheating problems. 

For example, one of the most common reasons laptops overheat is because people put them on their lap or bed, where they cannot get sufficient ventilation.

By putting the laptop on a cooling pad, you’ll provide it with a cool, flat surface, and you can still have it on your lap if you prefer. You can also expect the cooling pad to reduce internal temperatures, thus stabilizing your laptop’s performance.

What you shouldn’t expect, though, is that a cooling pad will fix all overheating problems and troubleshoot bad practices that are leading your laptop to heat up.

Types of Cooling Pads

Depending on the method they use to cool your laptop, there are two main types of cooling pads:

Active Cooling Pads

Active cooling pads usually consist of one to six smaller pads that generate additional airflow around the laptop and transport heat away from it. They typically connect to one of the laptop’s USB ports for power or come with a built-in USB hub.

Active coolers either draw heat from the underside of the laptop or blow cool air towards it. Depending on the model, you can adjust the fan speed manually, or they run at a fixed speed.

Be careful not to buy cheap active fans, as they can use more power than the laptop USB port can handle, causing more harm than good.

Passive or Conductive Cooling Pads

Passive or conductive cooling pads allow for laptop cooling without needing a source of power. Typically, they’re filled with organic salt that takes away heat from the laptop. They’re only usable for a limited time, though (six to eight hours).

You should only use conductive cooling pads if the built-in fan vents on the laptop are located on the sides and not the bottom. If the fan vents are on the bottom, the cooling pad will block them and cause even more overheating.

Do You Need a Cooling Pad?

You don’t need a cooling pad, especially with new computers, but they are beneficial. Usually, placing your laptop on a flat surface, replacing its thermal paste, or cleaning up dust will fix any overheating issues. But if you like to play with it on your lap, a cooling pad will come in handy.

A cooling pad would help if you live in a hot environment or have your laptop placed close to a heating source. In this scenario, it would provide an excellent cooling source that’ll stabilize the temperature of your gaming laptop.

What To Look for in a Laptop Cooling Pad

If you feel like your gaming laptop would benefit from a cooling pad, there are a few things you should pay attention to to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.

The most basic thing is to ensure that the cooling pad is the right size for your laptop. 

It would help if you also considered where you’re planning to use it. For example, if you want to use it on your lap or bed, it should be comfortable enough for you to do so.

If you often move around with your laptop, it’s also best to go for a lighter option since it would be more portable and easier to travel with. At the same time, avoid going for cooling pads made of cheap plastic to save a few bucks, as they won’t last you for a long time. Instead, look for ones that are made from a combination of high-quality plastic and metal.

I’d recommend the havit HV-F2056 Laptop Cooling Pad (available on Amazon.com). It’s very affordable, easily portable, and comes with three fans.

Other Methods for Addressing Overheating Issues

Sometimes, a cooling pad won’t be enough to fix your overheating issues, as they may be caused by internal problems such as an ineffective thermal paste. 

If that’s the case, it’s best to consult a professional and have them look inside to identify and fix any problems that may be causing the machine to overheat.

It’s worth noting that you can address almost everything by yourself, but you should only do this if you feel comfortable and have experience in dealing with computer hardware.

Check out this video for an in-depth look at how to change thermal paste:

With that, there are also some simple things you can do that can potentially troubleshoot overheating without investing in a cooling pad or a laptop service.

Clean the Cooling Fans

Over time, the cooling fans on your laptop can gather layers of dust, making it hard for them to cool down the machine properly. 

Here’s how to clean the fans yourself:

  1. First, turn off the laptop and unplug any cables from it.
  2. If possible, remove the battery as well.
  3. Next, open up the back of your computer by reading the instruction manual from the manufacturer. 
  4. To clean the fans, you can use a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol. 
  5. Then, gently go over the parts with a vacuum cleaner.

Keep Your Gaming Laptop on a Hard and Flat Surface

You’ll hear this advice everywhere, and it’s one of the most standard and straightforward solutions to an overheating problem. 

Purchase a tray, a special laptop holder, or simply keep the laptop on your desk or table.

This way, air will flow freely, and you should see a significant increase in performance as soon as you move your laptop from your lap to a nice, flat surface. 

Underclock Your CPU

Even if there isn’t anything inherently wrong with some laptops, they’ll still overheat when gaming. If you experience this, you might consider experimenting with the CPU (and possible GPU) clock and volt speeds

If you do this right, you should see a significant improvement in CPU temperature.

Be careful and make sure you know exactly what you’re doing because messing with these settings has the potential to harm your machine.

One of the more popular tools for adjusting CPU core speeds and many other settings relating to the performance of your laptop is called Throttlestop. 

This video by jedi22300 gives a great introduction to Throttlestop and how to use it:

How To Measure Laptop Temperatures

You’ll usually be able to tell when your laptop is running at unusually high temperatures, as you can feel the heat by touching the spot where the CPU is, or in more severe cases, even when typing on the keyboard. 

You’ll also probably hear unusually loud whirring noises coming from your laptop.

To be entirely sure, though, and to know exactly how serious the overheating is, it would be beneficial to know the exact temperatures of your CPU, GPU, and other crucial components.

There’s an option in the BIOS that allows you to see the temperatures of your laptop’s components. Still, it’s much easier to use third-party software as you can see the information while the system is running normally, which will be more accurate.

Some popular freeware software you can use to find out your temperatures are:

  • HWmonitor
  • Core Temp
  • NZXT Cam 

Final Thoughts

Overheating is a common problem with gaming laptops. Often, the issue can be fixed easily by keeping the laptop on flat surfaces or cleaning it from dust. A cooling pad can also be an excellent addition for limiting overheating issues.

However, while it’s nice to have a cooling pad, especially if you live in warmer areas or if your room is hot, it isn’t entirely necessary. Cooling pads are only good for improving the environment your laptop operates in and aren’t a good long-term solution for overheating.

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