How to Cool Down a MacBook?

cool down macbook

This site contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, We earn a commission from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you.

Your MacBook is a fine-tuned machine to accomplish high-level tasks. This quality computer has many moving parts that work together to deliver smooth functioning. However, these moving parts also put in a lot of work from a hardware perspective and due to this, your MacBook can get hot.

If your Mac overheats, it can lead to potential performance problems and, in worst cases, component damage.

So, it’s a good idea to monitor your Mac’s temperature regularly and take precautions to cool down a MacBook. 

In this article, we’ve shared different methods to cool your MacBook if it ever gets too hot.

Why Is My MacBook So Hot?

Why Is My MacBook So Hot

There are several reasons why your MacBook Air might be running hot. Here are some common causes of an overheating MacBook:

  1. Intense Usage: If you’re engaging in demanding tasks like video editing, gaming, or running resource-intensive software, your MacBook’s CPU and GPU can generate a significant amount of heat. Sustained high temperatures can cause thermal throttling, where the system reduces its performance to prevent overheating. Cooling it down can help maintain optimal performance levels.
  2. Insufficient Ventilation: MacBook Air models have a thin and compact design, which limits the amount of space available for effective heat dissipation. If the air vents on your MacBook Air are blocked or obstructed, such as by placing it on a soft surface like a pillow or blanket, the airflow can be restricted, leading to higher temperatures.
  3. Dust and Debris: Over time, dust and debris can accumulate inside your MacBook Air, particularly around the, fan, under MacBook keyboard and heat sink areas. This buildup can hinder proper airflow and cause the internal components to heat up more quickly.
  4. Background Processes: Some applications or processes running in the background may consume a significant amount of system resources, causing your MacBook Air to work harder and generate more heat. It’s a good idea to check your Activity Monitor (found in the Utilities folder within the Applications folder) to identify any resource-intensive processes that could be contributing to the heat.
  5. Software Issues: In some cases, software issues or bugs can lead to increased CPU usage, resulting in higher temperatures. Keeping your MacBook Air’s operating system and applications up to date can help resolve such issues.

What Is the Optimal Temperature for a MacBook?

The optimal temperature range for a Mac is generally between 50°F (10°C) and 95°F (35°C). Operating within this temperature range ensures the best performance, stability, and longevity of your Mac. However, different Mac models may have slightly different temperature thresholds, so consult the specific documentation or support resources provided by Apple for your particular model.

While it’s normal for a Mac to warm up during usage, prolonged exposure to temperatures outside the recommended range can lead to performance issues, system slowdowns, and potential damage to internal components.

Excessive heat can also trigger thermal throttling, where the system reduces its performance to prevent overheating.

On the other hand, excessively cold temperatures can also impact the performance of a Mac. Extreme cold can cause the battery life to decrease temporarily, and some components may not function optimally until the Mac warms up to a suitable operating temperature.

MacBooks have built-in thermal management systems, including temperature sensors and cooling mechanisms like fans, to regulate and dissipate heat effectively.

These systems maintain the internal temperature within safe limits. But it’s still a good practice to avoid subjecting your Mac to extreme temperature conditions or exposing it to direct sunlight for extended periods.

When and Why to Cool MacBook Down

Cool Down your Macbook

Your MacBook Pro or Air is made up of different hardware components that start to build heat when the Mac is turned on.

The more you use it, whether it be for demanding computing tasks or for entertainment purposes, the more of a chance there will be for the device to overheat.

It is important to cool down a MacBook pro when its internal temperature rises to ensure optimal performance.

You must know when your Mac needs to be cooled down as an overheated computer could cause serious damage that may not be able to be repaired.

Here are some instances when cooling down your MacBook Pro is necessary:

  1. Overheating Signs: Any electronic device is going to generate some amount of heat when in use. But if you notice your MacBook is becoming unusually hot to the touch, or start experiencing performance issues, such as system slowdowns, unexpected shutdowns, or the fans working overtime, it’s a clear indication your MacBook Pro needs cooling down.
  2. Hot Environment: If you’re using your MacBook in a hot environment, such as outdoors on a sunny day or in a room without proper ventilation, the ambient temperature can contribute to increased internal temperatures. Cooling it down can prevent potential overheating and ensure smooth operation.
  3. Extended Usage Periods: Long periods of continuous usage, especially when engaging in demanding tasks, can gradually increase the temperature of your MacBook Pro. If you plan to use your MacBook Pro extensively for an extended period, it’s a good idea to take periodic breaks and allow it to cool down.

How to Cool Down Your MacBook Pro

If you’ve noticed your MacBook Pro running hot or experiencing performance issues due to excessive heat, it’s time to cool it down.

In this section, we’ll provide you with practical tips and techniques to effectively cool down your MacBook Pro, ensuring optimal performance, longevity, and a more comfortable user experience.

1. Check Your Environment and Air Circulation

The first thing to take into consideration with a hot MacBook Pro is external factors. This basically boils down to two things: the surface you have your MacBook Pro on and the sun.

If your computer is on a soft surface, like a bed or a blanket, it can restrict airflow, causing it to get hot. These surfaces can restrict airflow and cause your MacBook Pro to heat up.

Even your lap can add heat to an already hot environment. Similarly, using your MacBook Pro in the sun can cause it to heat up quickly.

To avoid this issue, place your MacBook Pro on a flat Surface such as a table or desk instead of your bed or blanket. This should increase airflow and cool the computer down.

You shouldn’t use your Mac in direct sunlight, but if you must, at least stay in a shady area out of direct sunlight.

But we would recommend taking the computer inside because sunlight can heat up your Mac’s components to the point of permanent damage.

2. Quit Runaway Apps Using Activity Monitor

Runaway apps are basically any apps on your MacBook Pro that use a lot of CPU even when you’re not running the app actively. High CPU usage causes the hardware inside your computer to work really hard which leads to excess heat.

You can use the Activity Monitor to see which apps are currently running on your MacBook Pro, how much CPU and other critical elements they are using, and close or uninstall any of these apps.

Here’s how to use Activity Monitor to close runaway apps on your Mac:

  1. Open Activity Monitor by navigating to Finder > Applications > Utilities folder, or you can use Spotlight Search (Command + Space) and type Activity Monitor to launch it.
Activity Monitor
  1. Once Activity Monitor is open, you’ll see a list of processes and applications currently running on your Mac. To identify resource-intensive apps, click the CPU tab in the top bar.
CPU tab in the top bar
  1. To sort the processes by CPU usage, click the % CPU column header in CPU tab. This will sort the list based on CPU usage, with the most resource-intensive apps appearing at the top.
Sort the processes by CPU usage
  1. Look for an app or process that consistently shows high CPU usage or is consuming an excessive amount of resources.
  2. Once you’ve identified the problematic app, select it from the list, and click the X button in the Activity Monitor toolbar which is labeled Stop when you hover over it.
Activity Monitor toolbar
  1. A confirmation dialog will appear, asking if you want to quit the process. Click the Force Quit button to close the app forcefully.
Force Quit button to close the app forcefully
  1. After clicking Force Quit, the selected app will be terminated. Please note that any unsaved data within the app may be lost, so ensure you have saved your work before proceeding.
  2. Your system will start cooling down after you close high CPU consuming apps.

3. Clean Your Mac’s Memory

Cleaning your Mac’s memory can help improve performance by freeing up system resources and optimizing memory usage, which in turn keeps it from overheating.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to clean your Mac’s memory using the Activity Monitor:

  1. Open Activity Monitor by navigating to Finder > Applications > Utilities folder.
Open Activity Monitor from utilities folder
  1. Once open, click the Memory tab in the top toolbar to see a breakdown of memory usage by various processes and applications.
breakdown of memory usage
  1. To sort the list of apps and processes by their memory usage, click the Memory header. It will list the apps in descending order, with the highest memory consuming app at the top.
click memory to sort by memory usage
  1. Look for an app or process consuming a significant amount of memory. Select the memory-intensive app and click the x button in the Activity Monitor toolbar.
click a process and tap the small x to close it
  1. Click Force Quit in the dialog box that appears, and the selected app will be closed, freeing up memory.
choose force quit

Cleaning your Mac’s memory on a regular basis can ensure optimal performance and responsiveness.

However, it’s important to note the macOS operating system is designed to manage memory efficiently, and it automatically frees up memory as needed.

Performing memory cleaning manually is generally not required unless you encounter specific performance issues, such as overheating.

4. Avoid Using Google Chrome

The Google Chrome browser can cause your MacBook Pro to work excessively, leading to excess heat. Apple calls apps that increase the heat level of your computer runaway applications.

They cause your computer to work extra hard to handle the resources needed to power the app.

Chrome is a CPU-intensive program, and if you’re using the app often, chances are your MacBook Pro will be struggling to stay cool.

If you run Google Chrome, you’ll find Google Chrome Helper and Google Chrome at the top of your Activity Monitor CPU usage list.

Activity Monitor CPU usage list

Although it doesn’t necessarily mean you should not use Chrome, you should avoid using it whenever you can. Apple has its proprietary browser, Safari, that is designed specifically for macOS and consumes much less system resources than Chrome. As a result, it doesn’t overheat your Mac.

5. Close Unused Tabs on Your Browser

The more tabs you have open on your browser, the more resources your MacBook Pro will use. This will lead to your Mac working hard to keep up with everything and can build up heat.

Close Unused Tabs

But this issue has a simple solution, close unused tabs on your browser. If you have a bunch of tabs open, close any that you do not need and try to limit the total number of open tabs to only a few.

The less you have open, the easier it will be to keep your computer cool.

To close a browser tabs, click the small x icon at the left side of the browser tabs.

small x icon at the left side to close a tab

6. Run Diagnostics on Your Mac’s Fans

Your MacBook Pro has built-in fans designed to keep the machine cool. Sometimes these fans can break or get dirty and will result in your Mac overheating.

To resolve this issue, you can check the status of your MacBook’s fans by running a diagnostic test on them.

Here’s how to run a diagnostics test on Mac fans:

  1. Remove all external devices except for the keyboard, mouse, and display.
  2. Click the Apple menu and choose Shut Down.
choose Shut Down
  1. Press and hold the Power button until the Apple logo appears on the screen.
Press and hold the Power button
  1. Release the Power button after the Apple logo appears, and immediately press and hold the D key on your keyboard.
D key on your keyboard
  1. Apple Diagnostics will initiate automatically and prompt you to select your preferred language. Use the arrow keys to choose your language and press Enter.
  2. Once the hardware test is complete, the results will be displayed on the screen through Apple Diagnostics.
Apple Diagnostics result
  1. If you cannot resolve the issue on your own or if the hardware test indicates a hardware failure, you will need to get it repaired or replaced. So, we recommend contacting Apple Support for further assistance.

7. Minimize Multitasking

The more applications you have open at the same time, the more resources your system has to dedicate to running them. This includes both CPU resources and graphics resources.

As a result it overheats quickly.

If you’re running a graphics-intensive application, like a game or a video editing software, and you have a lot of other applications open at the same time, your system might not have enough resources to run the graphics-intensive application at its best.

By closing unnecessary applications, you can free up system resources and potentially improve the performance of your graphics-intensive applications.

To close applications on a Mac, right-click (or control-click) the application’s icon in the Dock and select Quit.

application's icon in the Dock

Remember, some applications also run in the background even after you close their windows. To ensure these applications are completely closed, you can use the Force Quit option in the Apple menu.

To access the Force Quit window, follow these steps:

  1. Press the Command + Option + Escape keys simultaneously or click the Apple icon in the menu bar and choose Force Quit.
Command + Option + Escape keys to Force Quit
  1. The Force Quit Applications window will appear, showing all currently running applications.
Force Quit Applications window
  1. Locate the app you want to force quit from the list. If the app is unresponsive or frozen, you may see its name highlighted in red.
  2. Click the application you wish to force quit to select it.
  3. In the bottom-right corner of the window, click the Force Quit button.
Force Quit button
  1. A confirmation dialog box will appear, asking if you want to force quit the selected application. Click Force Quit to proceed.
confirmation dialog box
  1. This will forcefully terminate the app and close all its associated processes.

8. Update macOS

macOS updates often include performance optimizations and bug fixes. These improvements can help streamline the operating system, making it more efficient in managing system resources and reducing excessive heat generation.

If you want to update macOS on your Mac to prevent overheating, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Apple menu and select System Settings.
System Settings
  1. Click General and select Software Update.
Select Software Update
  1. Your Mac will check for updates automatically. If your Mac is up-to-date, it will show your current macOS version and you’ll see Your Mac is up to date written on the window.
Your Mac is up to date Message
  1. If an update is available, click the Update Now button to download and install it.
click the Update Now button

Wait for the update to finish downloading and installing. Once the update is installed, you’ll notice a significant improvement in your Mac’s performance and reduction in its temperature.

9. Reset the SMC

Resetting the System Management Controller (SMC) can potentially prevent your Mac from overheating by resolving certain hardware and power-related issues.

The SMC is responsible for managing power, thermal management, and other essential functions on your Mac. Resetting the system management controller allows it to revert to its default settings, which can resolve any underlying issues causing excessive heat generation.

Here’s how you can reset the system management controller on your Mac:

  1. Click the Apple menu and select Shut Down.
shutdown to Reset the mac
  1.  Remove the power cable from your Mac computer.
  2. Press and hold the Power button on your Mac for 10 seconds.
Press and hold the Power button on Mac for 10 Sec.
  1. After holding it for 10 seconds, release the Power button.
  2. Plug the power cable to your Mac computer.
  3. Press the Power button on your Mac to turn it back on.

10. Check for Malware

Malware often runs in the background without your knowledge, consuming system resources such as CPU and memory. These resource-intensive processes can put a strain on your Mac, leading to increased heat generation.

By scanning for and removing malware, you can free up system resources, reducing the workload on your Mac and potentially lowering its temperature.

So, checking for malware on your Mac can indirectly contribute to preventing overheating by ensuring your system is running efficiently and without any resource-intensive malware processes.

To check for malware on your Mac, you can follow these steps:

  1. Install Reputable Antivirus Software: Consider using third-party antivirus software specifically designed for macOS. Examples include Avast, Bitdefender, Malwarebytes, Norton, or MacKeeper. Visit their respective websites, download the software, and follow the installation instructions.
  2. Perform a Full System Scan: Open your chosen antivirus software and initiate a full system scan. This comprehensive scan will examine all files and directories on your Mac for potential malware infections. This process may take some time to complete, so allow the scan to run uninterrupted.
  3. Review Scan Results: Once the scan is complete, review the results provided by the antivirus software. If any malware or potentially unwanted programs are detected, follow the recommended actions, such as quarantining or removing the identified threats.
  4. Enable Real-Time Protection (if available): Some antivirus software, like MacKeeper, offer real-time protection, which actively monitors your system and scans files in real-time to detect and prevent malware infections. Enable this feature if it’s available in your chosen antivirus software to provide continuous protection.
  5. Regularly Update and Scan: Make it a habit to keep your antivirus software up to date and perform regular system scans to ensure ongoing protection against new and emerging threats.

11. Physically Clean Up Your Mac

You can also take the back panel of your Mac off and check to see if the fan is dirty. If it is, you can clean the fan off with a clean cloth or used a can of forced air to blow away any dirt or debris.

Physically cleaning your Mac can prevent overheating by ensuring proper airflow and removing dust and debris that can obstruct cooling components and fans. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to physically clean your Mac:

  1. Before cleaning, make sure your Mac is powered off and disconnected from the power source.
  2. You’ll need a few items for the cleaning process:
    • Soft lint-free microfiber cloths
    • Isopropyl alcohol (70% concentration or higher)
    • Cotton swabs or soft-bristle brushes
    • Compressed air canister (optional)
  3. Dampen a microfiber cloth with a small amount of water or isopropyl alcohol.
  4. Gently wipe the exterior flat surface of your Mac, including the display, keyboard, and trackpad.
  5. Avoid excessive moisture, and do not spray liquid directly onto the Mac.
  6. Next, gently clean the keyboard keys and trackpad using a soft, lint-free cloth or a cotton swab slightly dampened with isopropyl alcohol, wiping away any visible dirt or grime. Take care not to let liquid seep into the keyboard or trackpad.
  7. Next, wipe the display with a microfiber cloth in a circular motion, starting from the center and moving outward. Avoid applying excessive pressure or using abrasive materials that could scratch the display.
  8. Use compressed air or a soft-bristle brush to clean the vents and ports on your Mac. Hold the canister a few inches away and use short bursts to blow away dust and debris.
  9. Brush away any remaining particles gently, taking care not to damage the components.

If you feel comfortable with advanced hardware maintenance, you can open your Mac and clean the internal fans and components. However, we recommend consulting the official Apple documentation or seeking professional assistance for this process to avoid accidental damage.

Remember to regularly clean your Mac physically to prevent dust buildup and ensure proper cooling. However, exercise caution during the cleaning process and never let any liquid seep into your Mac components.

12. Remove Any Cases and Keyboard Covers

If you’re using a protective case or keyboard cover on your Mac, consider removing them during periods of extended use or when you notice increased heat.

Cases and covers can potentially restrict airflow and prevent heat dissipation, leading to higher operating temperatures. Removing them allows for better ventilation and can help prevent overheating.

13. Invest in a Laptop Cooling Pad

A laptop cooling pad/ laptop stand is an accessory designed to provide additional cooling to your Mac by improving airflow and heat dissipation.

These pads often come with built-in fans that blow air directly onto the bottom of your Mac, helping to keep it cool during intense usage.

Investing in a quality laptop stand / cooling pad can be beneficial, especially if you frequently engage in resource-intensive tasks that generate significant heat.

14. Use Genuine Mac Chargers Only

Using genuine Mac chargers and power adapters is essential for the proper functioning and safety of your Mac. Genuine chargers are designed to deliver the correct power and voltage specifications required by your Mac.

Using counterfeit or third-party chargers may not only compromise the performance of your Mac but can also pose safety risks, including overheating. Always use authentic chargers purchased from reputable sources to ensure optimal performance and safety.

Final Thoughts

Keeping your MacBook Pro cool is crucial for maintaining optimal performance and preventing potential damage.

By monitoring your Mac’s temperature, closing runaway apps, cleaning up memory, managing browser tabs, and taking steps to improve ventilation, you can effectively cool down your MacBook Pro.

Remember, older MacBooks can heat up quicker than new ones.

So, if your MacBook Pro is older than 5 years and constantly overheats, you may need to get a new computer.

Otherwise, follow the steps above and your computer should return to optimal temperatures.

Does your MacBook Pro ever overheat? Have you ever attempted any of the steps above to cool it down?

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it normal for a MacBook to get warm during use?

Yes, it is normal for a MacBook Pro to get warm during use. MacBooks have internal components that generate heat as they perform tasks. However, if your MacBook Pro becomes excessively hot to the touch or exhibits performance issues, take steps to cool down your MacBook Pro and address any underlying issues.

Can using a MacBook on a soft surface like a pillow or blanket cause overheating?

Yes, using a MacBook Pro on a soft surface like a pillow or blanket can cause overheating by obstructing the airflow. Soft surfaces can block the air vents on the bottom of the MacBook Pro, restricting the airflow needed for proper heat dissipation. It is recommended to use your MacBook Pro on a hard, flat surface like a table or desk to ensure adequate ventilation and prevent overheating.

Does cooling down your MacBook affect its battery life?

While cooling down your MacBook Pro does not directly affect its battery life, excessive heat can indirectly impact battery health over time. High temperatures can accelerate battery degradation, leading to shorter battery life. By practicing proper cooling techniques and avoiding extreme temperature conditions, you can help preserve the longevity of your MacBook’s battery.

About Eric
Avatar photo
Eric currently uses a 15-inch MacBook Pro for both work and personal errands. He did all the research and testing to make sure all the fixes and optimization tips shared on the blog are relevant to Apple’s latest macOS updates as well as fact-checking.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Annette

    I have ALL my photos, 95,000 DSLR format fine, not raw, in the apple photos library. I like having easy access to all my pics, and have read it “should” be ok. But, then I hear folks saying never store your pics in photos app. Problem is, usually when editing, mackbook pro 2020 laptop gets hot and or has to close library. I now have an external fan plugged in to help with heat. Question? Am I ok with all my photos in photos app??? I can transfer to “pictures” but that isn’t as easy to work with.

  • James Sutherland

    My Mac book started making a whirring noise tonight while I was using Skype. Very hot night here in Spain so I simply shut down for a while. Problem solved

    • macbookproslow logo


      Good to know that!