8 Ways to Keep a Mac Cool in Hot Weather
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 specifies 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.
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.
How to Keep a Mac From Overheating in Hot Weather
Using a Mac in the heat? Here are some tips to help keep the Mac cool and usable in abnormally warm temperature environments:
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Stay in the shade – If you’re outdoors and in the heat, or even in a sunny window with hot sun and a warm ambient room temperature, try to keep the Mac in the shade. The goal is to not add any additional heat to the computer.
- 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
- 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
Another trick that some users use is to manually force the Mac fans to run at higher speeds using fan control software. This can be helpful to cool down a Mac, but modifying fan behavior is not recommended nor is it supported by Apple, and could theoretically lead to hardware issues, thus it’s really not a good idea for most users to attempt this.
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.
It’s also worth mentioning that some Macs are better at cooling than others, and thermal efficiency varies per hardware, as well as fan use and design. For example, I have a 2018 MacBook Air that overheats constantly on warm days, and when used in the direct sun on even moderate days, whereas the same environments are tolerated better with a 2015 MacBook Pro.
Do you have any special tips you use to keep a Mac cool during intense heat? Let us know in the comments.