Is your Macbook Air overheating? Here’s a technique I’ve been using for the last couple of years; works everytime. I suspect it still works on the new models – I *suspect* they have the same basic design flaws as the original, from looking at the case.

Problem: vents in wrong place

Those vents along the rear underside of the case … don’t work. I don’t know how they ended up there, but I suspect it was a triumph of “looks” over “not breaking the expensive laptop” (until Apple patched OS X, just running Flash was enough to cause OS shutdowns on a regular basis).

The only vents on my MacBook Air are at the hinge

Solution: What to not do

Don't hurry up and listen to what everyone says. Read the rest of this before you decide to throw away good money on yet another snake oil solution such as:

  • Cooling pads
  • Ventilated stands
  • Height increasing suction cups (yep, confused me just as it did you)
  • Cooling fans
  • Cleaning services
  • Fan upgrades

The Real Solution: assume launch position…

Grab your MacBook, hold it at the hinge (so the lid doesn’t slam down and switch the laptop off), and tilt it towards you 90 degrees.

i.e. the keyboard half of the laptop should be vertical, resting on the long, bottom, edge.

The vents now vent air straight up – unimpeded – instead of down-and-out (impeded by the case itself).

This brilliant technique also works for most other laptops as well!

Result: fast cooling

I can usually get my Air that’s been running “hot” (fans very loud and noisy) for minutes / hours to cool down in under 60 seconds using this technique.

Why does this matter?

Well … once an Air is cool, it tends to stay cool. i.e. it’s crap at bringing it’s own temperature down, but it’s got enough oomph to *keep* it at whatever temp is current. So, manual intervention fixes the problem.

Super-fast cooling (a.k.a. “PANIC!”)

What do you do if your Air starts beeping?

(hint: this is the never-actually-explained-to-you hardware warning that “your CPU is about to melt. Cool it down NOW or buy a new laptop”. I wonder how many people realise what’s happening when they hear that screeching, high-pitched beep and think “WTF?”)

As above, only shut the lid too.

This may seem counter-intuitive – after all, this will reduce the air-surface of the Air by about 50%, reducing it’s ability to cool down.

In practice, although that’s true at low temperature, at high temperature the heat is already concentrated in the top-left corner of the keyboard (where the CPU sits) – and most of the case is too far away to help.

In practice, closing the lid causes OS X to suspend processes, which normally takes enough load of the CPU that the laptop / hardware is able to cool itself MUCH faster – but only if you’re holding the whole laptop vertically, with the vents pointing upwards.

I’ve found this normally cools my Air from “max fans” to “silent” in under 15 seconds.