When was the last time you heard someone make a big deal about buying a laptop cooling pad? You’ve probably never heard someone talk about this accessory because it’s not something people think is necessary. However, if you’re on your laptop for multiple hours a day, maybe you should consider picking one up.
In this guide, we are going to be explaining exactly what a laptop cooling pad is and what it does, why a person would want to start using one, and how these accessories can prevent your laptop from becoming damaged caused by overheating.
What Is A Laptop Cooling Pad?
As the name would imply, a cooling pad is an accessory that you put your laptop on top of. As you use your laptop, the pad will work to keep it cool so it doesn’t overheat. These devices usually plug into your laptop’s USB port and they may have other features like having the ability adjust the height of the pad or adjust the speed of the fans.
In terms of what a cooling pad can do, we want to let you know right up front that it cannot perform miracles. It isn’t going to make your dated laptop suddenly work like it did the day you got it. With that said, they are a worthwhile product to have.
Staying Comfortably Cool
As you work on your laptop, it’s going to get warm and/or blow warm air around. That warmth is going to transfer to your body and unless the room you’re in is cold, you’re probably going to feel uncomfortable.
You can change that by elevating the chassis of the laptop even slightly. By elevating the chassis, you’re allowing more air to circulate under and around the laptop, thus allowing the heat to disperse and dissipate.
It’s going to be hard to cool down a laptop that is already overheated. By using the cooling pad every time you turn your laptop, you have a better chance at maintaining an even temperature so your device doesn’t overheat the longer you use it.
If you’re like many other laptop users, you probably use the laptop in bed or on the couch, with the laptop perched on a pillow, cushion or blanket. The fabric of these things block airflow that is crucial for keeping the laptop cool. However, if you were to use laptop cooling pad, you could notice a 13-degree drop! If you think about it, that’s a pretty big difference!
We mentioned that these cooling pads aren’t going to be able to perform miracles, but that doesn’t mean it can’t and won’t give your laptop a slight boost – like a 2% improvement in processing speed or a few more frames per second on a computer game.
Why Doesn’t A Laptop Cool Itself?
When laptops first started gaining popularity, many people had problems with their laptops overheating. It got so bad that people all over the world started reporting their laptops would actually catch on fire! As more and more people called in to report problems, big computer companies like Acer, Dell, and Sony began recalling their laptops.
Aside from faulty laptop batteries, there was a bigger issue: laptops run hot. But, why? Wouldn’t you think that with all of our technological advances, someone would have figured out a way to make a laptop cool itself?
Yes and no.
There are two big reasons why a laptop has more problems with overheating than your desktop.
The first and main reason is that all the hardware and electrical components are stuffed into a much smaller body than that of a desktop. Because these components are stuffed in the laptop so tightly, there is nowhere for the heat to go.
Now, we don’t want to paint a picture that laptop manufacturer’s haven’t done anything to remedy the problem. In fact, they know about the problem and they’ve installed components that is supposed to reduce (or remove) the heat. These components include things like fans, heat sinks (a passive heat exchanger that will transfer heat away from the laptop) and air vents.
Even with these added to the laptop, sometimes it just isn’t enough. Overheating can happen when fans aren’t working properly, air vents are blocked, or other components aren’t functioning correctly. And, of course, some of that overheating is a direct result of user error.
How Heat Affects Your Laptop’s Performance
In order to understand how heat affects your laptop, it’s important to first understand what components generate heat.
The Central Processing Unit (CPU) and Graphic Processing Unit (GPU) generates heat while it is performing algorithms and processing images. Gaming laptops will generate more heat than your average notebook because they require more GPUs to render those stunning graphics without a drop in frame rate.
Along with the CPU and GPU, your hard disk drive is going to cause your laptop to generate more heat than normal, especially if you’re copying large files like video and audio files.
The optical disc drive can also produce a large amount of heat when playing a DVD or a CD. Not only is heat being generated because it forces the disc to spin, but it also generates heat as it’s using the laser to read the contents of said discs.
How Does Overheating Affect Your Laptop?
A laptop that overheats is going to damage the components inside the laptop. Before damage can be done, your laptop should shut off. Unfortunately, damage can still occur to certain components:
When the processor overheats, you will notice that it slows down considerably and it isn’t going to work as efficiently. With a properly functioning system, the fans should turn on when the processor starts to overheat.
Most laptops use a lithium-ion battery that is susceptible to heat damage. As the computer gets hotter, the ions in the battery will begin to move faster. That extra heat is going to increase a chemical reaction that is going to affect how long it holds a charge, but the general life of the battery.
By letting your laptop overheat, you could be footing the bill for a new laptop battery – and they aren’t the cheapest thing to buy.
Your motherboard is made of major components that are necessary for your laptop to work, such as the CPU and memory banks. As part of the cooling system, your motherboard will restrict some applications from running like normal. Your motherboard can even instruct some parts of the computer to shut down completely as a way to protect itself from damage.
Sadly, overheating can affect your hard drive. Due to thermal expansion, components in the laptop can expand and warp so that it doesn’t work properly. Just by increasing the ambient room temperature more than 5 degrees could take up to two years off your hard drive’s life expectancy.
You can apply new thermal paste to the heat sink and the processor surface, but unless you are tech savvy and don’t want to ruin your laptop, we recommend leaving that to the professionals – or at least someone who knows what they’re doing!
How Does A Laptop Cooling Pad Work?
In order to understand how a laptop cooling pad works, it’s important to know that there are four types of cooling pads:
Active Cooling Pads
An active cooling pad uses small fans to create extra airflow around the chassis of the laptop, thus pulling the heat away from the laptop. Depending on the model, there can be as many as 6 fans working to pull the heat away from the laptop and/or blow cool air onto the chassis so that it doesn’t overheat.
These pads are generally powered when you plug the USB cable into the USB port on your laptop. Many of these pads will have a built-in USB hub so that you can still use other USB peripheral devices.
Passive Cooling Pads
A passive cooling pad doesn’t require any electricity in order to cool your laptop. Instead, the pad will be filled with an organic salt compound that absorbs the heat that’s created while using the laptop and they can provide a limited amount of cooling time, typically for up to 8 hours.
The passive cooling pads are not recommended for laptops with the fan vents located on the bottom because the pad is going to block any airflow. Before going with this type of cooling pad, we recommend checking the bottom of your laptop to make sure there aren’t any air or fan vents.
If you have a choice between an active cooling pad or a passive one, you should always go for the one with fans. The fans work better to keep your laptop cool, whereas the passive cooling pads do not. Also, with a passive pad, you have to be extra careful not to damage the pad because the salt compound could leak out if the pad was damaged.
Multi-Surface Cooling Pad
A multi-surface cooling pad is going to let air flow between the chassis of the laptop and the cooler itself, but it will also let air flow between the cooler and your lap. These cooling pads are great regardless of what surface you plan to work on, as it can be used on hard surfaces like tables and desks, but also on a soft surface like a bed or a couch.
Multi-Purpose Cooling Pad
There have been advancements in cooling pad technology and there are more pads available that can do other functions. For example, there are some cooling pads that have card readers for key drives or memory cards. Some cooling pads will function like a small workstation where you can take notes with pen and paper.
Do I Need A Laptop Cooling Pad?
There are a lot of things you’ll need to take into consideration before you run out and buy the first cooling pad you see. You’ll want to think about the temperature of the room you will be using the laptop in. You’ll also want to think about your laptop, how old it is, and how hot it gets when you use it.
Let’s examine these factors, shall we?
Temperature Of The Room
The temperature of the room you’re working in is important because it isn’t necessary if the room you’re in never gets above 74 degrees Fahrenheit. Even if you’re outside, as long as there is fresh cool air, you should be okay.
However, if you are going to be using your laptop in a hot environment, then a laptop cooling pad is a must-have accessory to make sure your laptop performs like it should.
Your laptop itself is important because some brands have a tendency to run hotter than others. Not only can laptops run hot, but so can certain processors. We can’t provide you with a list of laptops and how hot they run, but you should be able to determine whether your laptop is getting too hot or not.
Along with the make and model of your laptop, you will want to think about how old your laptop is. As your laptop ages, the hardware is going to be less efficient and it’ll slowly become hotter and hotter when you use it. If you notice that your old unit gets hot when you use it, then you’d definitely benefit from using a notebook cooling pad.
What Will You Use It For?
The type of cooling pad you choose will depend on what you intend on using it for:
If you only use your laptop for checking emails, watching videos, and other relaxing activities, you’ll want a cooling pad that is going to be portable, comfortable to use, and it should dissipate the heat well. These cooling pads will usually be something simple and have things for your comfort, like padded sides, for example.
If you rely on your laptop for work, then you will want a professional looking cooler that has ergonomic options, enough USB ports, and can provide excellent cooling power. Because you will be in a professional setting, you will want to choose a unit that is sleek, sophisticated, and does not have bright LED lights (unless you happen to work in a cool office).
If you’re an avid gamer and could spend hours upon hours raiding hordes and shooting the bad guy, then you’re going to want a portable cooling pad with an USB hub, fan controls, and maybe even LED lights to make your set up extra cool. You can spot the gaming laptop cooling pads because they will have high powered fans and bright LED lights.
In general, gaming laptops would benefit the most from using a laptop cooling pad because these systems eat up a lot of power, therefore they generate a lot of heat. Not only that, but the longer you use your laptop, the hotter it will get.
So just imagine playing Call of Duty for 8 hours without a cooling pad. Your laptop is going to get incredibly hot if you don’t have adequate airflow. After you figure out how you’re going to use your laptop, you’re going to want to think if you are going to be using the laptop primarily at home, or if you will use it while traveling.
If you are going to use it for traveling, you will want to make sure your cooling pad is portable. A mobile cooling pad is perfect for those who go to school or take their laptop to and from work. A portable cooling pad should be lightweight, slim, and even some models will even have a carrying handle.
It’s worth noting that older laptops can benefit from using a cooling pad as well. A cooling pad will be able to help the fans work more efficiently. While it won’t give your laptop new life, it will help it trudge along so you can play simple computer games, watch videos, and basic computer tasks.
How To Keep Your Cooling Pad Clean
Once you’ve decided to take the leap and get the best laptop cooling pad to suit your needs, you’re going to want to make sure you keep it clean. Dust is going to be one of the biggest concerns when it comes to cleaning your cooling pad.
It cause your cooling pad to not work properly, but that dust can get up into your laptop and cause more troubles like not being able to cool down properly.
To clear the dust out from your cooler, you can use a can of compressed air to blow out any dust and debris that may have accumulated on the pad. You can also use a Q-Tip to get any dust that’s collected in cracks, seams, and openings. Also, take a dry micro-fiber cloth and wipe down the surface of the pad.
If you notice the fans of your cooling pad are beginning to make noise, or if they aren’t spinning correctly, you will want to take it outside and blow out the dust with a can of compressed air.
You can use a set of tweezers to remove any hair that has gotten wrapped around the blade of the fans. While you’re there, make sure the blades of the fan aren’t poking through the protective mesh covering, or they aren’t broken.
Should one of the blades on the fans be bent, you can snip off the bent blade (if the bend is severe). With a broken off blade, it isn’t going to work as efficiently but it will still circulate air and keep your laptop cool for the time being.
Note: We don’t recommend using a broken laptop cooler longer than you necessarily have to. A broken cooler pad could drain your laptop’s battery sooner than it should because the pad requires more energy to work properly.
You probably spent a lot of money on your laptop, so why wouldn’t you do whatever you could to keep your laptop in good working order? A laptop cooling pad isn’t going to be a life changing accessory if you’re a casual user who only checks their email or social media accounts because these activities do not require a lot of energy, therefore it doesn’t create a lot of heat.
However, if you’re a hardcore gamer, a programmer, or even a video editor, then you know that a laptop can get pretty hot, really quickly. The more demand you place on your laptop, the harder it is going to have to work and the hotter it will get.
By using a cooling pad, you will be able to keep the laptop cool so it won’t overheat, but it’ll also be more comfortable for you, too! Your legs won’t feel like they are frying under the laptop. Depending on the model you choose, you can find a pad that will even elevate the laptop so that your neck is in a comfortable position.
If you’re interested in picking up a laptop cooling pad but you aren’t sure what to get, we’ve got you covered. We have reviewed five products that we think are some of the best cooling pads on the market.
Along with our final recommendation, we also provide you key factors you should take into consideration when buying the best option that meets your needs and your budget.
Head on over to our buying guide to see what we feel are the best cooling pads that you should think about getting! If you want to continue shopping around, still check out the buying guide because we highlight the important features that you’ll want your cooling pad to have.