Why Does My MacBook Get So Hot?

Your MacBook is a highly functional Mac machine and being such a complex computer, it has a lot of intricate parts that all work together to keep it operational. The more moving parts a machine has, the more potential there exists for these parts to generate heat.

There are multiple reasons why your MacBook Pro might be getting hot but it is actually normal for your Mac to be slightly warm up during normal operation.

There is a big difference between warm and hot when it comes to a computer, and if you think your MacBook Pro is running hot, you should probably take some time to figure out why this might be.

There are some quick things to address to cool your Mac down and also some warning signs that might indicate it might be close to upgrade time.

Why a Hot MacBook Pro is Bad

Like I just stated above, a warm computer is nothing to worry about and is actually the normal temperature your computer usually is under normal operating circumstances.

When your MacBook Pro actually gets hot is when you need to pay attention and take action to cool it down. A warm computer will run normally but a hot computer can lead to some short-term and/or long-term problems with your device.

One of the main reasons you don’t want your Mac to overheat is because it can cause damage to the hardware that actually allows your computer to work properly.

Important pieces of hardware like your hard drive and CPU can become damaged when exposed to constant overheating and this can cause them to operate poorly and possibly fail over time. Similar to other expensive machines, like your car, you don’t want it running hot for long.

If critical pieces of hardware become damaged, this can lead to poor performance. Excessive overheating of your MacBook Pro can cause it to run really slowly, freeze up all of the time, and generally not operate like it is supposed to.

A really hot Mac can also shut down automatically and this can lead to potential data loss if you don’t have things saved when your Mac attempts to protect itself.

Why Is My MacBook Pro Running Hot?

There are a few different reasons why your MacBook Pro could be running hot. Let’s take a look at a few of these reasons that could be the source of overheating and then we will take a look at how to fix them.

One initial consideration to note is the age of your Mac. The older a Mac gets, the harder its fans have to work to keep everything cool. If age is the reason for overheating, you might have to get a new machine at some point in the near future.

1. Demanding and Runaway Apps

If you’ve had your Mac for a while, chances are you have a bunch of different apps installed on it.

Usually, this is not a problem, but if you have apps installed that are very demanding of CPU or maybe a third-party app that is stuck in a loop, it can cause your computer to heat up quickly.

If you run several of these demanding apps at once or have multiple apps open without knowing it, your Mac can heat up in a hurry.

2. Soft Surfaces

macbook pro running hot

I know it’s in the name of the Mac, but just because it’s called a laptop doesn’t mean a lap is the best place to keep your MacBook Pro.

Soft surfaces like your lap, a bed, a blanket, or even carpet on the floor may be comfortable but they also can cause your Mac to heat up.

This is basically due to the fact that there is poor air circulation when you place your computer on a softer surface and it needs proper airflow to help it keep cool.

3. It Might Be Dirty

Your MacBook Pro has vents, covers, and other openings from the outside to the interior that can get dirty and lead to overheating.

It’s normal for your Mac to collect this dust and dirt over time but most people don’t know how to clean it out. The built-in vents are crucial to keeping your computer cool and if they get dirty and clogged up, your MacBook will start to heat up very easily.

How to Prevent MacBook Pro from Overheating

Here are a few quick fixes:

1. Close Demanding and Runaway Apps

The easiest way to deal with demanding and runaway apps that are causing your computer to overheat is to check your Activity Monitor to see what apps are currently running and if you can close some of them.

To find your Activity Monitor open your Finder, click on Applications, click on Utilities, and then click on Activity Monitor. You will see a screen like the one below and can close and monitor the CPU usage of all apps currently running.

Activity Monitor is a good place to figure out the “culprit” apps/processes and quit them.

2. Stay Away from Soft Surfaces

The method is simple. Don’t place your computer on any soft surfaces when using it. It may sound pretty easy, but so many people (myself included) are guilty of this one.

Instead of using your MacBook in bed or on the couch, make sure you set it up on a laptop stand. This will allow for adequate airflow to surround the computer and keep everything cool and operational.

3. Clean Dust and Dirt

If your computer is running hot due to dust and dirt, you need to try and clean it up.

Depending on the year of your MacBook Pro, the vents you should check and clean are located either above the keyboard below the hinge on the display, or on the underside of the computer.

You can use a small delicate brush to clean up these vents or a can of compressed air can quickly blow the vents clean as well.

You can get this brush on Amazon.

Final Thoughts

If your MacBook Pro seems to be running hot, don’t panic. Take a look at the tips above and chances are you will be able to cool your computer down and limit any damage or data loss that can result from overheating.

If none of these tips seem to work on your Mac, you might have to bite the bullet and buy a new one, unfortunately.

Has your MacBook Pro ever gotten very hot? How did you cool it down?

About Eric
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.

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  • Ed Horenburger

    Hi Eric, I have 3 MBPs: 2010 + 2 from 2012. All are basically the same 13″. The newest 2012, purchased from Apple in 2015 with only a 146 cycle count, suddenly started running very hot, whether plugged in or not. Found your article & as I was reading your APPS section, remembered that I had about a week ago, inserted a CD that I never finished watching & of course the Player was still “on”. Don’t use that function regularly anymore so forgot about it Turned off the Player and all is cool again Thx for the good Tips‼️ Ed

    Reply
  • jr

    Yes, I also have the 2019 Macbook that is crap. I tried Surface Laptop 4 and love it. Crappy Apple overrated mac

    Reply
  • fernando lamas

    I end up here for the same mac heating problem. Mac is not same anymore. My old 2010 macbook runs faster and colder. thanks for the tip I will try on my new expensive macgarbish

    Reply
  • vilo

    Hii I just bought my MacBook Pro a few weeks ago and whenever I update it, it gets really hot and you can hear the fans going I dont know why it does that its brand new!! Also whenever im on a zoom call it also starts to overheat!! Im really scared it might break so I sometimes have to put it to sleep for a few minutes just so it gets a break. :((

    Reply
    • Tammy

      try a cold gel pack, that is what I do know going use it for a long period of time. It works great especially if one that little square ones they lay flat.

      Reply
  • Susan

    My Macbook Pro is brand new. It gets warm within the first 10 minutes of use and is hot (uncomfortable to touch) in less than 30 minutes. I have not added any apps and have no run away apps, it’s not dirty and is on a desk. I also tried a cooling mat with a fan. For a machine that cost $2799.00 I find this unacceptable.
    Could this be a faulty laptop or is this just bad design?

    Reply
    • Artemis

      Same problem with you Susan. Totally agree with you!

      Reply
  • alexa

    Hi!

    I have exactly the same problem have try everything, I work as a video filmmaker and it cost me a lot to buy this computer to be able to edit my videos and photos , basic stuff like listening music sometimes shuts down, haha Writting this review is making my computer overheat, I have send it to apple before they fix it for like a month and then it happen again , but now the guaranteed is over of course, how is this possible that they sell so expensive and they promoted so much , like is the best product out there! I asked them so many times if it was good for video editing and stuff and they told me it was the best! now I can’t even edit at 1. minute video.

    Reply
  • Brita

    I have a MacBook Pro, new in Aug 2020, so 1 yr old. It gets SUPER hot when I watch work videos or ZOOM on it. I have it on an icepack when I do. This seems SO wrong. What about when I’m not at home and need to use it for work.
    Is APPLE doing anything about this problem? My last MacBook Pro (2013) that I retired last year, never got hot in all those years.
    My daughter, who bought a Mac Air the same day I did, has had nothing but overheating and the fan being SO noisy all the time. She’s put in multiple complaints to AppleCare. No help. She took it to an AppleCare specialist last week who said they didn’t have that problem when they had it, so couldn’t help her. WHAT??
    Where on earth do you go for help then? I’m wondering why I pay for Apple Care. Any thoughts?

    Brita

    Reply
  • Samantha

    My 2019 16in won’t do ANYTHING except get really hot when I plug it in and press the power button. Nothing has worked. They said it’s a bad logic board. So I guess I have a 3100 dollar computer now since I have to pay for it

    Reply
  • SHARI DYER

    I just got my new MacBook Pro 16″ today, and set it up with a Time Machine backup from my warped 15″ MacBook Pro. It runs very hot. I have set it crosswise on the edges of top box cover it came with. There is plenty of air circulating below. I can run my finger over the center of the top frame just above the menu bar and feel the heat. Not warm, but hot. Likewise along the bottom of the Mac, in the area closest to the hinge. It’s way too hot, even though Safari is the only app running and there is plenty of air under the computer. This worries me very much, and I’m thinking I just might return the laptop to Apple/

    Reply
  • Dieter Bohler

    fortunately Apple is switching away from thos crappy Intel Chips which are causing this extreme heat buildup. My MacBook crashes at least once a day with fans blowing like crazy……

    Reply
  • Tricia

    Just got my Mac Book Pro back from 3 weeks “repair” at Apple. I’ve had the computer back for less than 24 hours and it’s over-heating again. Maybe not so curiously, Apple removed the internal thermometer I had on the top user bar that used to regularly show the computer was running at 147 degrees. No kidding. It’s not that hot now, but it’s getting close, and I’ve had the computer on for maybe 4 hours — with a 1.5 hour dinner break in between when I put it to sleep. SO FREAKING OVER Apple. Totally underwhelmed.

    Reply
  • Jon Kristoffersen

    I got mine in 2018, and it did run very hot from the get go (my old 2013 MacBook Pro is never near the same heat unless I am using it when the air temperature is very hot – using the same soft/hardware as my 2018 MacBook). I did research it and a lot of people had the same problems with the 2018 version, brand new machine getting very hot. One guy tested it running some heavy tasks while putting it in the freezer, and only then did the machine actually work as good as it was supposed to. They did send out a fix where the fanes would work harder, but as I understood it they run too hot anyway and do not perform as fast as they should with what they put it in it. Which is the case for me, I do not think my new mac will live as long as my old Mac. Can not be good for it getting so hot.

    Do I understand correctly that some of you above in the comments have the brand new MacBook Pro (2020, or is it 2021?)? And still having heat issues?

    My personal theory is that they just build them too slim so there simply is not room enough to cool them down properly. I would much rather have a bigger casing and have the damn thing stay cooler (and with more slots). And since I am already rambling, what is the deal with only having usb-c slots? I do not have a single device using usb-c, and some of my devices are quite new. So now I have to have this thing connected on the Mac so I can connect what I need to connect. And getting rid of the old magnet power supply, which was such a great solution saving many Macs I would think. And lastly, the Smart Keyboard, the only time I use it is when I have to and when I accidentally touch it (the latter happens way more often). I think I will stop using apple when I have to get a new machine, after 18 years of being a fan. Seems to me like they have lost something after Steve Jobs.

    Reply
  • Julia

    I can’t help – but my MacBook is doing the same, its 9 months old and we’ve updated it. Am not impressed

    Reply
  • Sarah

    Thank you!!! The demanding runway apps thing worked! I was so worried that my MacBook Pro was about to burn up and that would be just detrimental at this point as I am a full time student in a time crunched 8-week course. YOU SAVED ME I closed out a few things the CPU was high on and then a couple of left open websites I wanted to revisit and boom the fan stopped and its back to normal!

    Reply
  • Kimberly Hart

    Hi

    Just wanted to get back with you that after my restart my Mac is faster than it’s been in a while…now my speakers are wonky. Any idea how I can check them or just take it to my mac guy? Thanks a bunch!!

    Best regards,

    Kimberly H

    Reply
  • Kimberly Hart

    Hi

    I followed the above instructions…force quit several applications that were using all my memory. Now my Mac doesn’t want to open up Finder. Can you help me pls?

    Thanks very much

    Reply
  • Greg Clapp

    Seriously? The solution for a crappy, overheated Mac is to buy a new one?? Thanks, no. I’m glad my employer paid for this junk and not me. It becomes unusable with an external monitor above 75 degrees ambient temperature and 80 degrees with no monitor attached.

    Reply
  • Jeff

    I’ve looked at all these things, even if I leave it on a table overnight with it closed sometimes it gets very hot overnight when I’m not even using it and the temperature was normal the day before. The only solution I have found is to reboot it. I have the i9 version.

    Reply
  • Nik mats

    Yes my MacBook Pro overheats a lot and I don’t know why none of the above is applied for the reason of it so the way I cool it down is by turning it off.. my MacBook Pro is brand new and this shouldn’t happen I got it less than a month ago and this is what it’s doing please help me in this matter thank you very much

    Reply
    • Charlie P

      Hi Nick,
      I am running into the same issue – I have a 2019 Pro and it randomly starts overheating.
      It also runs hot when I am editing on Adobe CC which is totally normal.
      Try resetting your SMC which controls your fan speeds and heat monitoring.
      Shut down Mac > Press and Hold Shift+Control+Option for 7-10 seconds >Continue holding them down and press and hold power button for 10 seconds. once you do this give your Mac a minute and then power it back on – This should help with overheating.

      Reply
    • sadra ferdo

      dont worry my macbook is new brand too and overheats alot its normal don’t panic
      if you see its realy scorching, turn it off for 5 minutes and turn on it again

      Reply