My Overheating IBM ThinkPad T60p Laptop

My faithful old IBM T60p laptop has been with me for years.  Over time, and every so slowly, it has been running hotter and hotter (especially when running complex spatial queries on SQL Server 2008 or generating map-based reports using the new SQL Server 2008 R2 Report Builder… ;-).  A few weeks ago it got so hot that I had to take it off my lap … and then things went from bad to worse. Here’s the tale…

I decided that it was time to upgrade to Windows 7.  I ordered a new Seagate 7200rpm 320GB hard drive for the laptop.  I took the old internal hard drive out and put it into a NexStar3 USB2.0/eSATA 2.5-inch enclosure …


… and proceeded to do a fresh install of Windows 7. 

The Windows 7 install went flawlessly.  Even the most difficult (anticipated) parts of the install – new drivers for printers and other devices – went very smoothly.  In my case, Windows 7 found all of the drivers automatically over the Net including the driver for the eSATA Express Port card necessary to connect to my NexStar3-enclosed hard drive with all my data on it.  So far so good.

Then bad things begin to happen – for no apparent reason, the laptop started to shut down all by itself.  After having this happen a few times (Windows 7, btw, recovered very nicely each time),  I concluded that the shut downs occurred when the machine got very, very hot – perhaps a heat related shutdown? I did a web search to see if others were having this problem. I appeared to be all alone.  I speculated that it might be one of the following reasons:

1.  My use of an underpowered 65W power supply (its supposed to be a 90W supply but that brick is much larger and I had consequently been using the smaller power supply for the last couple of years).

2. The new operating system, Windows 7.  I imagined that Windows 7 was using the CPU or GPU (or both) just a little bit harder than Vista and this was pushing the laptop “over the edge”.

After swapping out the 65W power brick for the proper 90W unit, it was still overheating and shutting down.  I figured it had to be Windows 7.  Desperate, I sought advice from the hardware technician who supports the SQL Server engineering team.  He had a very simple suggestion:

1. Shut the machine down

2. Use compressed air to blow out accumulated dust from the CPU/GPU ventilation system in the upper left-hand corner of the laptop.

I was skeptical but, having nothing to lose, gave it a try. I liberally blasted both cooling ports on the laptop (see illustration, below) 


Several of the air blasts dislodged a noticeable amount of dust.  At the time it didn’t seem like enough to make any significant difference…

I powered up the laptop. Even after several hours of continuous use the machine was running cool and behaving perfectly.  It’s now several days later and the laptop is running like new.  Windows 7 is a delight.  I installed SQL Server 2008 R2 on it easily and moved all of my spatial databases from the external hard drive to the laptop.  I even got up the nerve to try the new Office 2010 beta distribution and again no problems.

The technician did say that it still might warrant a physical inspection of the cooling ports and further dust/cruft removal but this simple trick worked miracles on this particular machine.

Here is a cartoon, which just about sums it up.

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Comments (11)

  1. Saju says:

    That was awesome.. I was facing the same problem… I have z61p IBM and was heating up my lap. I tried your solution and it worked

  2. bb0y says:

    Thanks a bunch!

    I did this to my Toshiba and it worked a treat I think this just maybe a general problem with laptops.

  3. AB says:

    Ed, Works like a charm. My LapTop was heating up and going into sleep mode. I actually vacuumed cleaded the ventilation gaps and my laptop has been running for more than 24 hrs now without heating up…Thanks

  4. t60p owner says:

    Yes this seems to have helped. Can feel air coming out from the cooling fin vent on left side again. I vacuum regularly but it's not enough. Lots of very fine dust came out when I blew out with compressed air.

  5. Stefan says:

    Wow, who knew that a search for SQL Server spatial features would lead me to find a fellow T60p overheating owner =).  I too was impressed at how smoothly the Win7 upgrade and driver experience went and I've been experiencing the same exact overheating issues as you did usually accompanied with a refusal to go into sleep mode when closing the lid and an eventual freeze.  I'll try the crust removal technique you're suggesting.  Thanks!

  6. Nik says:

    This was the stupidest thing to try….and it WORKED!!! my system is not heating up – Wow!!

  7. ajazzman says:

    I am so glad I found this post. My T60p was overheating for a while and I was about to take it to a computer repair shop where the technician was going to replace the fan for about $80-100. I decided to go to Walmart and buy two cans of compressed air for a total of $10 and use that to clean and clear the two vents. Now my laptop is running much cooler. Thanks again.

  8. ric says:

    Unbelievably this totally worked.  After replacing fans in almost all my ThinkPads, I assumed this one was toast as well. Saw dust fly out, restarted and now its running smooth.  Shocking.  


  9. Zain says:

    It works Thank u so  much now i can enjoy my games for more than 3 hours!

  10. kemar says:

    my girlfriend caught me blowing into my thinkpad …awkward moment, but man! that worked like a charm

  11. gidz says:

    Like IBM servers (…/index.htm ) Thinkpad are sophisticated on designs and processing.