How to Fix Overheating on a MacBook

Introduction

In This Guide
You'll Learn How To:
  • Manage temperature issues that can cause your MacBook to overheat.
Infrared heat map of a MacBook.

1 Use Compressed Air

Most laptop computers have easy-to-spot ventilation areas where heat is expelled from while they are in use. Your MacBook computer has a less-obvious ventilation area around the rear screen hinge.
MacBook Pro with exhaust vent highlighted

Ensuring this area is free of dust, debris, and other blockages is the easiest way to make sure your MacBook is able to expel heat in the way it was designed. Use compressed air to clean around this ventilation area to help keep your computer running cool.

2 Keep In Well Ventilated Area

Most electronic devices need space around them to ventilate heat properly. This is especially true when it comes to laptop computers. While having the freedom to move about with your MacBook is incredibly convenient, using it in certain locations or situations may prevent it from being able to properly dissipate heat.

  • Most MacBook computers expel heat though the rear screen hinge area. Make sure this area is clear, and not blocked or being smothered by any object.
  • Be very careful when using MacBook computers on a soft surface, as this can easily block this ventilation area.
    MacBook Pro with exhaust vent highlighted
  • Avoid using on a bed or other similar cushy or cloth-like surfaces where sheets, blankets, or other items can bunch up and smother this opening.
  • Use of a laptop cooling pad can help to both elevate and increase cool airflow to the underside of your MacBook to help with heat dissipation. This type of accessory can be purchased separately and typically plugs into an available USB port or uses a separate AC adapter.
    Laptop Cooling Pad

3 Check Activity Monitor

There may be occasions when a piece of software on your Mac will crash or become unresponsive and take up too much CPU or memory. The best option is to go to the Activity Monitor and see what is causing the congestion.

Activity Monitor shows the processes that are running on your Mac, so you can manage them and see how they affect your Mac's activity and performance.

  1. Click on the Spotlight icon.
    Spotlight
  2. Type Activity Monitor in the search bar.
  3. Click on Activity Monitor in the list
macOS utilities folder highlighting the activity monitor icon.

Items in the list can be arranged alphabetically or numerically, by clicking each heading at the top of the column (Process Name, %CPU, CPU Time, and so on).
macOS activity monitor.

  1. Click the title bar at the top called %CPU. A small arrow will appear and should point downwards. This will show the items with the highest percentage of CPU usage at the top. If there is a process that is running very high, it may be malfunctioning and causing a problem.
    macOS activity monitor highlighting CPU usage.
  2. To terminate a process that may be causing a problem, click on it with your mouse to highlight it, then click the X button in the upper-left corner of the Activity Monitor window.
    macOS activity monitor highlighting a process and the end process button.
  3. You will be asked if you really want to quit the process. Click Force Quit.
    Confirmation prompt with force quit button highlighted.

4 Automatic Graphics Switching

Many MacBooks have both an internal graphics processor and a discreet graphics processor. When automatic graphics switching is enabled, your MacBook will switch to the internal graphics processor. When this happens, it can save power, but also puts an extra load on your CPU causing it to heat up. You can turn this option off to use the discrete graphics processor which may cool your CPU temperature but use more power.

Not all MacBooks will have this option available.

  1. Click on the Apple menu and go to System Preferences.
    Apple menu with System Preferences highlighted
  2. Click on Energy Saver.
    Energy Saver
  3. Uncheck the Automatic Graphics Switching option
    Automatic Graphics Switching

5 Still Overheating

If you have performed all of these steps and still have concerns with excessive heat, or are still experiencing issues with overheating, you may actually have a hardware issue that requires service or repair.

? Are you still having issues with excessive heat or overheating?

  1. Yes
  2. No

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In This Guide
You'll Learn How To:
  • Manage temperature issues that can cause your MacBook to overheat.
Infrared heat map of a MacBook.

Most laptop computers have easy-to-spot ventilation areas where heat is expelled from while they are in use. Your MacBook computer has a less-obvious ventilation area around the rear screen hinge.
MacBook Pro with exhaust vent highlighted

Ensuring this area is free of dust, debris, and other blockages is the easiest way to make sure your MacBook is able to expel heat in the way it was designed. Use compressed air to clean around this ventilation area to help keep your computer running cool.

Most electronic devices need space around them to ventilate heat properly. This is especially true when it comes to laptop computers. While having the freedom to move about with your MacBook is incredibly convenient, using it in certain locations or situations may prevent it from being able to properly dissipate heat.

  • Most MacBook computers expel heat though the rear screen hinge area. Make sure this area is clear, and not blocked or being smothered by any object.
  • Be very careful when using MacBook computers on a soft surface, as this can easily block this ventilation area.
    MacBook Pro with exhaust vent highlighted
  • Avoid using on a bed or other similar cushy or cloth-like surfaces where sheets, blankets, or other items can bunch up and smother this opening.
  • Use of a laptop cooling pad can help to both elevate and increase cool airflow to the underside of your MacBook to help with heat dissipation. This type of accessory can be purchased separately and typically plugs into an available USB port or uses a separate AC adapter.
    Laptop Cooling Pad

There may be occasions when a piece of software on your Mac will crash or become unresponsive and take up too much CPU or memory. The best option is to go to the Activity Monitor and see what is causing the congestion.

Activity Monitor shows the processes that are running on your Mac, so you can manage them and see how they affect your Mac's activity and performance.

  1. Click on the Spotlight icon.
    Spotlight
  2. Type Activity Monitor in the search bar.
  3. Click on Activity Monitor in the list
macOS utilities folder highlighting the activity monitor icon.

Items in the list can be arranged alphabetically or numerically, by clicking each heading at the top of the column (Process Name, %CPU, CPU Time, and so on).
macOS activity monitor.

  1. Click the title bar at the top called %CPU. A small arrow will appear and should point downwards. This will show the items with the highest percentage of CPU usage at the top. If there is a process that is running very high, it may be malfunctioning and causing a problem.
    macOS activity monitor highlighting CPU usage.
  2. To terminate a process that may be causing a problem, click on it with your mouse to highlight it, then click the X button in the upper-left corner of the Activity Monitor window.
    macOS activity monitor highlighting a process and the end process button.
  3. You will be asked if you really want to quit the process. Click Force Quit.
    Confirmation prompt with force quit button highlighted.

Many MacBooks have both an internal graphics processor and a discreet graphics processor. When automatic graphics switching is enabled, your MacBook will switch to the internal graphics processor. When this happens, it can save power, but also puts an extra load on your CPU causing it to heat up. You can turn this option off to use the discrete graphics processor which may cool your CPU temperature but use more power.

Not all MacBooks will have this option available.

  1. Click on the Apple menu and go to System Preferences.
    Apple menu with System Preferences highlighted
  2. Click on Energy Saver.
    Energy Saver
  3. Uncheck the Automatic Graphics Switching option
    Automatic Graphics Switching
If you have performed all of these steps and still have concerns with excessive heat, or are still experiencing issues with overheating, you may actually have a hardware issue that requires service or repair.
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