8 Ways to Keep a Mac Cool in Hot Weather

May 12, 2012 - 37 Comments

For those of us in the northern hemisphere, summer is fast approaching and that can often mean extreme heat which pushes the temperature limits beyond what any computer is intended to operate in. In fact, Apple species ambient operating temperatures for most Macs as between 50° and 95° fahrenheit, this means that anything above 95° goes beyond the conditions the Mac was specified to function within.

ways to keep a Mac cool in intense heat

Does that mean you can’t use your computer in intense heat? Most likely not, it just means you have to find ways to help keep it cool. With that in mind, here are some tips to keep a portable Mac cool when faced with blazing temperatures, they should be applicable to any MacBook, MacBook Pro, or MacBook Air. Some of these solutions come by way of OSXDaily reader Niladri Haldar, who regularly uses his MacBook Pro in summer temperatures over 100° without incident.

  1. Avoid using a Mac on a bed or fabric surface – Anything soft doesn’t allow for sufficient heat dispersion and can even block the air ventilation on many portable Macs, try to always use a Mac on a hard surface of wood, metal, or glass
  2. Use a Laptop Stand – anything that raises a Mac away from a base surface allows for heat to radiate out and for air to flow around it, cooling the hardware. I use a Griffin Elevator Stand and on hot summer days it can mean the difference between having the fans blasting or not having them on at all
  3. Raise the Rear of a MacBook – No laptop stand? Make do with what you have, and try placing the rear of the Mac elevated by a hardcover book or something similar. It’s not as effective as a laptop stand, but this promotes airflow and can make a significant difference in keeping hardware cool.
  4. Place a Mac at the edge of a table or desk – No stand and no book to raise the computer with? Try hovering the rear end of a MacBook over the edge of a desk or surface to increase air flow where Macs blow out their heat
  5. Use a Fan – Yes, a standard room fan. This may sound silly but if you’re in an environment without Air Conditioning and the mercury is rising, pointing a fan onto a Mac will blow cool air onto it and help disperse heat. If you’re using a Mac in temperatures over 90°, this is one of the best things you can do to not only keep yourself cool but also your computer.
  6. Keep Away from the Sun – Again this may seem like common sense, but using a computer in direct sunlight places an unnecessary burden on the fans. Even on reasonably mild sunny days the sun can cause fans to go into overdrive, it’s best to avoid direct sunlight completely.
  7. Frozen Peas to the Rescue – This might sound crazily stupid, but during a heatwave last summer I pulled a bag of frozen peas out of the freezer and placed my then toasty MacBook Pro on top of it so I could play Starcraft 2 despite the 100° ambient temperature. The result was practically no fan usage. You’ll want to be very cautious to avoid condensation from the frozen bag though, so setting a thin layer of hard plastic or something similar between the frozen veges and Mac is a good idea
  8. Consider a Cooling Pad – Some third party laptop stands have built-in fans that blow directly onto the underside of a computer, these can be very effective

Finally, a quick word of advice: if you’re in extreme heat and you don’t have any method to cool down your Mac, do yourself a favor and don’t use it at all until you get out of the crazy weather. Heat is one of the most detrimental forces to anything electronic and overheating can lead directly to reduced lifespan of hardware, diminished battery capacity, and other problems. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Do you have any special tips you use to keep a Mac cool during intense heat? Let us know in the comments.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac, Tips & Tricks

37 Comments

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  1. Carlos says:

    There are third party utilities that allow you to tweak the fan speed of most Macs. I use one called SMC Fan Control in the summer with my MacBookPro to avoid sweating and discomfort, here it is if you are interested in this as a possibility, it is a free solution.

    http://www.eidac.de/?p=207

  2. Romney says:

    Air Conditioning is your friend. Use it.

  3. Jason says:

    Yah. Good idea telling people to balance their $2000.00+ computers on the edge of a desk.

    • R says:

      Agree and amazed to find this topic here. Apple deletes all the posts regarding heat problems from everyware. I stopped using MBP for more then main and browsing for a long time same as my iMac who has protective screen melted from heat….

  4. Connor Odell says:

    Frozen peas. Frozen. Peas. Yessssssssssssssssssssss.

  5. Scott DuPlessis says:

    This should really be called “8 Ways to Keep a MACBOOK Cool in Hot Weather”

  6. pr10n says:

    When my MBP gets too hot and the fans are locked into overdrive I pop it in the refrigerator for 10-15 mins.

  7. Cen Ay says:

    If you are at home or any place where no air conditioning is available but you can open the windows; place your desk in front of one table with the macbook on it, and open the window then open another window in the opposite direction (maybe in another room of the building) and create a current. It will cool down the ambient temperature and the mac a couple of degrees.

  8. Cesar says:

    What about the MacBook Air? Everything here works for this one too as well?

    Cesar

  9. Joseph says:

    I find it help a lot to preemptively set the fans to max RPM BEFORE using a intensive app.

  10. Parker says:

    I set my MacBook on top of an air conditioning vent. Keeps my wrists and laptop icey cold even when gaming or photoshopping.

  11. Name says:

    Heat also ruins iPods and iPhones.

  12. Thanks Paul for posting my tips,

    These tips can not only be used with a Macbook but with any laptop, but since Macs are so aluminium-ized they tend to get hotter than other laptops/desktops when the room temp is hot.

    Air Conditioning works best but it cant be the ‘Tip to keep a Mac cool’… thats just lame. So much power utilization just for doing this.

  13. kevin says:

    I use a heat/cold pack underneath to raise the macbook for better typing angle and also the cold pack takes away part of the heat by redistributing it.
    might be a bit of a risk though I though of trying to put the macbook on a water ‘beanbag’

  14. Brucey says:

    So another article that can be summed up in one line – use common sense.

  15. Zakriya Amjad says:

    SMC Fan Control is AWESOME!! I’ve been using it for a while and it didn’t let me down.Without it my mac’s temperature went unto 60 degrees and when i am using it… it doesn’t rise above 48 degrees….

    • Kalin says:

      i burned out my right fan using this, it may be common sense to most users but to cool down your computer, do not put it to max every time it starts heating up

  16. Logi says:

    I have a knee ice pack witch is the perfect size for my 15″ MBP, I take it out of the freezer when i have to encode video or any other intense application. WORKS PERFEKT

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_pNiaarbGvNM/TAcQJkvMG-I/AAAAAAAAANw/CusapZDHgzk/s1600/Knee+Ice+Pack+by+Cool+Relief.jpg

  17. Enrico says:

    If you have any granite around, try working with the Macbook on the granite. Whenever I take mine into the kitchen and set it down on the island (which is granite) the fan turns off in less than a minute. It’s amazing how much heat the granite absorbs.

  18. Chris says:

    9. Consider for once not to use your laptop on a hot sunny day and go to the beach instead ;-)

  19. Rickd says:

    My Mabook Air survived the past brazilian summer (40º C), even pushing it to the limits, playing WoW for hours.

    What I did is put a fan direct pointed to it at max exaust.

  20. blake says:

    Alternative for #2, I’m using a cooling rack (for cookies).

  21. Shirley Allan says:

    Two small door stops always are with me to raise the back of my MacBookPro, cheap, easy, works!

  22. Jhon says:

    Another advice is not to put it on white surfices, because
    white color reflects the heat back to the mac, and it heats up!!

  23. Steve Knobs says:

    Back in the day when I was called to desktop pcs that were not working due to overheating I’d often find a load of nasty grey material had settled on the circuits so stopping heat from getting away.. Maybe blowing compressed air throughout the laptop might also be something to consider?

  24. Adam Berson says:

    Nice article.
    How about a ChillBed laptop cooling stand made from solid aluminum?
    A great way to keep your MacBook cool without fans. No wasted battery life. Engineering tests have shown up to %40 cooling with these Canadian made stands.
    Available at Simply.ca in Vancouvet or on line.

  25. Jonathan A says:

    I use three of those Ice Bricks that I get in the mail with medications. If you lay three of them in a row they are the size of the MBP 15″. I wrap them in a towel so I don’t have to worry about condensation and then place my MBP on top of them. If it feels like it’s getting two cold I’ll tip it up onto them so that only the back edge is on the ice blocks, this keeps the hottest part of the MPB cool while not freezing it. It also allows ventilation around the casing.
    I have to add that Apple was pretty stupid to not put decent vents in the MBP!

  26. HokeyPokey says:

    I have always used a stable table with all my laptops I have used. They are the exact size for a 15″. Also, I didn’t have to buy one as there was one lying around from when we were kids.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/seattle_maddog/5272285337/

  27. […] help to improve the longterm battery life of the iPad. Remember, intense heat = bad, whether its a Mac, iPad, iPhone, or anything else with a battery for that […]

  28. Kim says:

    Take a mousepad and stick it in the freezer.

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