My Lenovo T520 sits on a stand atop a small filing cabinet at the left end of my office desk. I can access it by rotating my desk chair to the left. Mostly, I remote into it from my main production PC right in front of me. Over the weekend, my wife came into the office to talk to me. She stood right at the end of that filing cabinet, right where the fan exhausts heat from that system. “Wow!” she said “That’s some pretty hot air.” I stuck my hand over the same spot, and couldn’t dispute her observation one bit. A quick glance at the CPU Gadget on the T520’s desktop showed the machine was running in the high 60s to high 70s (Centigrade: that’s 140° F to 158° F). Too hot indeed! That led me directly to the idea that a clean-up cools down T520 laptop.
I picked this little vacuum cleaner up from Newegg a few years back. It’s compact and powerful.
[Click image for full-sized view.]
How Clean-up Cools Down T520 Laptop
Normally, laptops run hotter than desktops anyway. My production PC is loafing along in the high 30s to mid 40s right now. The XPS 2720 is idling in the same range (nice for an All-in-One which is more like a laptop than a tower case desktop). My almost-new Lenovo Yoga 380 is idling in the mid 40s to low 50s, which is kind of what I expect from a compact laptop. But for the T520 to be running in the 60-70s is a little alarming.
That got me to thinking: “When was the last time I cleaned the air intakes and outlets on this laptop?” Because it’s been long enough that I honestly can’t remember, I whipped out my DataVac. It’s a special SFF (small form factor) vacuum cleaner designed for sucking up and blowing out dust from electronic gear. I sucked air out of the fan exhaust port for a minute or two. I also took off as many panels from the buttom of the unit as I could using my handy jeweler’s Phillips-head screwdriver. Most of them also serve as air intakes. Sure enough: I saw visible dust inside most of them and vacuumed that up, too.
Cleaning Leads Directly to Better Cooling
Take a look at the output from the CPU usage gadget on the T520, which incorporates temperature readings from the Core Temp utility. Now, temps are ranging in the 50s, which is just what I expect from this older laptop. My 2014 vintage Surface Pro 3 runs a bit hotter, though: it usually idles in the mid-50s to low 60s, and I’ve seen it run as high as 80-plus under heavy load. Just one reason why I keep a small box fan in my office, so I can provide extra ambient cooling for any PC that might need it.
Keeping PCs cooler isn’t just good for the local heat load. Circuitry lives longer when run at lower temperatures. Given that this laptop was purchased in 2012 or 2013 it’s near its end of life anyway. But that’s no excuse for not keeping things clean — and cool! I recommend that desktop and notebooks get dusted and cleaned out at least once every six months or so. More often, if used in dusty environments.