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All of us have had problems with our devices getting hot from time to time, but desperation to ease or solve the problem may lead to some unorthodox solutions. With that in mind, today’s SuperUser Q&A post has the answers to a worried reader’s questions.

Today’s Question & Answer session comes to us courtesy of SuperUser—a subdivision of Stack Exchange, a community-driven grouping of Q&A web sites.

Photo courtesy of rust.bucket (Flickr).

The Question

SuperUser reader kenorb wants to know if placing a MacBook in a refrigerator to cool it down will damage it:

I have a longstanding problem with my laptops (MacBook Air and Pro) overheating, especially during hot summer days. I have found that keeping them in a refrigerator for half an hour makes a dramatic difference in their performance. However, I am afraid of the side effects and that the laptops may stop working because of moisture getting into the internal parts.

How safe is it to put a laptop in a refrigerator? Is keeping it in a sleeve case or a plastic bag enough to protect the laptop? Does the temperature and time spent in a refrigerator also matter (i.e. half an hour is an optimal time)? Is it a bad idea overall and can it quickly damage the laptop (assuming it is in Sleep mode so that it is basically turned off)?

Will placing a MacBook in a refrigerator to cool it down damage it?

The Answer

SuperUser contributors Cand3r, Peter, and mycowan have the answer for us. First up, Cand3r:

The concern is not really the time during which your laptop is in the refrigerator, but after you take it out. The cold laptop/parts will pull water out of the air after it is taken out of the refrigerator, even if it was in a plastic bag. Think of a glass of water. It does not “sweat” while it is in the refrigerator, but if you take it out on a hot day it does.

The other concern is, depending on the temperature difference you are “creating”, some extra wear and tear on the components due to the expanding and contracting of parts.

The only thing I can think of to recommend is getting a laptop dock with fans built into it to help move air around the laptop.

Followed by the answer from Peter:

As others have already said, you are killing your laptop with the condensation. Some better solutions are:

  • You say the laptop is still under warranty. Use the warranty.
  • Use bottled air to clean the fans without opening the laptop up (and voiding the warranty).
  • Search Google for laptop cooling pads. The ones with larger fans make less noise.

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And our final answer from mycowan:

I had a similar overheating problem with my MacBook where the fan was always spinning away. My solution was to freeze an ice pack, wrap it in a tea towel to absorb moisture, and then sit my MacBook on that.

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After a few minutes, the fan stopped and my MacBook was happily cooled.


Have something to add to the explanation? Sound off in the comments. Want to read more answers from other tech-savvy Stack Exchange users? Check out the full discussion thread here.