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For various reasons, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models overheat. Surprisingly, age is not the most important factor. Even the latest MacBook can get hot when we switch between resource-intensive apps, use the laptop on our lap, or open dozens of tabs in Google Chrome. Because we can’t say for sure what’s causing your MacBook to overheat, we recommend trying all of the troubleshooting recommendations below; one of them should provide the solution you are looking for.
MacBook can overheat due to software and hardware issues. Even the latest MacBook models will get hot when memory-intensive operations strain the processor or internal fans fail. The following are some of the most common reasons why your MacBook Pro or MacBook Air may be overheating:
Apple says that “runaway applications can cause the processor to work overtime and affect the heat level of your computer.” If the apps I use on my MacBook Pro were in a road race, Chrome would have beaten the competition.
When your MacBook’s CPU works overtime, its cooling fan kicks in to dissipate heat. To see which apps are using the most CPU resources, open Activity Monitor and click the CPU tab. In my experience, the usual suspect at or near the top of the list that uses the highest percentage of the CPU is Google Chrome Helper and Google Chrome. If this also describes your experience, it may be time to switch to Safari or another browser.
Keep tabs to a reasonable minimum
Regardless of the browser you use, the more tabs you have open, the more system resources you use. Close or bookmark tabs you are not using to reduce the workload on your browser.
Chrome has a handy tool that shows you the CPU and memory resources used by each tab and extension. To open Chrome Task Manager, click the three-dot button to the right of the Chrome URL bar, click More Tools, and then click Task Manager.
Slow down your multitasking roll
I find that my MacBook Pro has issues when iTunes and Photos are open at the same time. So I use my iPhone to play music and open iTunes only when absolutely and unavoidably necessary. If your Mac is having trouble juggling multiple apps, decrease its load by closing apps you’re not using instead of leaving them running in the background.
No laps, no sun
I can no longer throw myself on the couch and use my MacBook on my lap or stomach without the fan kicking on almost immediately. When I want to use it on the couch, I grab a coffee table book to put it on, to keep my MacBook’s vents unobstructed. MacBooks vent from the rear edge, so make sure the back of your MacBook isn’t blocked or it will heat up quickly. That means prop it up not on a pillow or blanket, but on a flat surface like a desk, table, counter, or book.
I also find that the cooling fan spins less frequently when my MacBook Pro is not in direct sunlight. When the sun hits my kitchen table in the morning, it’s time to take my coffee and MacBook to my office. Apple recommends keeping your MacBook somewhere between 50 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit (10-35 degrees Celsius).
Test your fans
There is a possibility that the reason why your MacBook is overheating is that there is something wrong with the cooling fan. Built into your Mac is a hardware diagnostic tool. If it was done before June 2013, it will use Apple’s hardware test. After that date, you’ll use Apple Diagnostics.
These tools work in a similar way. With your MacBook plugged in and all external peripherals removed, restart it and hold down the D key to start any of the diagnostic programs. Follow the instructions on the screen to start the test. The standard test takes only a few minutes to complete and will report any hardware issues.
For a more thorough investigation, you can check a box to run an extended test that will take an hour or more to complete. Holding down the D button on my Early 2011 MacBook Pro didn’t start Apple’s hardware test, but option D worked. You can try this key combination if you are having trouble starting the test.
clean your mac
Sometimes you need to get under the hood. Get yourself a small Phillips screwdriver and you can remove the bottom panel of your MacBook to clean out any dirt, dust, and grime that may have accumulated over the years. Use a can of compressed air to remove any residue or use a lint-free cloth to clean it. Pay special attention to the cooling fan and its vents, along with the entire back edge of your MacBook. The goal here is to clean the aisles for maximum airflow.
Apple releases new versions of macOS and apps as free updates, so there’s no reason not to stay up to date. New versions of macOS contain performance and security improvements to keep your Mac fresh, secure, and running smoothly. Check in regularly with the Updates tab of the Mac App Store for updates, and don’t ignore notifications of updates that are ready to install.
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