Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Inspiron 1525 - overheating running fan

The Dell laptop has been a steady workhorse, and never had any real issues.

It is now 3 years old and it requires a bit of home maintenance.

  • Fan is running more often
  • Regularly hitting 114 Fahrenheit (45°C) which looks a touch high to me
Two paths to success here, Amateur and Professional. These are convenience labels so don't read too much into them, just pick a path and follow.

Professional involves a little bit of preparation. If you are a system builder or a bit handy, then you might already know what Thermal Paste is (get some).
For the Amateur path, don't bother.

Next have a quick read of "Before you start" instructions on the Dell site.

Now have your screwdrivers to hand and,following the Dell instructions, remove the large plastic cover from the back of your laptop (it has 8 screws, no more, no less)

The ball of fluff which has been part of the overheating issue is shown to the left middle of the picture.

Being about the size of the Queens head on a one pound coin, makes it large enough to prevent proper airflow.

This is not the only issue as the following image shows:

Here the thermal paste (trust me) is crusted and hard. It has stopped doing it's job properly from just 'old age'.

Are either of these issues Dell's fault? I don't think so. The fluff ball is just a consequence of extended use. Home maintenance is the answer.

The thermal paste does have a lifespan. I think 3 years is very reasonable, and so am happy to replace this myself.

If you chose the Amateur path, then you will not have any thermal paste to hand.
Removing the fluff ball alone will improve your situation.

However if you have the paste then here is what comes next.

I have carefully scraped off the old crusty thermal paste, and tried to avoid nicking the flat plate area whilst doing that.

Now for the new stuff...

Note: I have chosen not to tinker with the blue sponge type thing on the second darker coloured cooler attachment.
( It looks to be in okay shape and I do not want to mess about unless I have to. )

Postscript: The amount of thermal paste applied in the picture above is WAY TOO MUCH. Try about a quarter of the amount shown or less for better results.
Too much thermal paste might give you higher temperatures by preventing proper contact between surfaces.

Now put everything back carefully, paying attention to the Dell instructions in the link given previously.

What you should find is that, with both actions completed, your running temperature should have come down by 5 -> 10°F (a couple of °C)

This small reduction in running temperature is just enough to put you below the fan threshold, and should help extend the life of your fan :)

Notes and Further Reading:

Always follow the Dell instructions if in doubt.

My advice here comes with No Warranty and you follow it at your own risk.
( Do not ignore the Dell instructions if you feel there is a conflict with what you read here. )
Before the fixes my laptop was idling at 114 Fahrenheit.

After the fixes it is now somewhere between 104 and 109 Fahrenheit on average.

The fan now runs less often, which is nice :)

114 Fahrenheit is about 45°C
       109 Fahrenheit is about 43°C
              104 Fahrenheit is 40°C

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