Cooling a laptop is difficult, because the air space inside the small case is not as efficiently circulated as is inside a Desktop. And Desktops can house a larger fan too.

Cooling is also critical, because heat, along with dust and vibration, can substantially decrease the TTF (Time to Failure) of a computer. (The heat, dust, and vibration killer combo has always amazed me when it comes to EPROMS in a car . . . I mean, what do you find under the hood of a car anyway?)

While getting a hot running processor equipped laptop is cheaper (Celeron’s come to mind), what you save up front will likely cost you on the back end when the thing fails from heat stress. When I was a moderator on a vendor forum, we were constantly getting complaints about “fan noise”. Nine times out of ten it turned out that it was a laptop equipped with a hot running processor and the fan had to run constantly just to keep the thing cool. (The most foolish complaints were from individuals that were overclocking their laptop . . . overclocking produces WAY too much heat in a laptop. While I had to be mature and responsible as a moderator, I was tempted to say to the overclockers, “What did you expect??!!”)

While there are many software utilities with descriptive names (like “Rain”, and “Waterfall”) that will cool the processor down some, and elevating a laptop to allow for air circulation underneath, or pointing a room fan at it, will cool it down some, I think the best solution is a chill mat.

The chill mat is simply a thin platform with some fans in it that you can place under the laptop. Typically, they plug into a USB port. They range in price from about $10 bucks to $30.chillmat TigerDirect has a nice one for about $15 bucks (that’s the one in the picture).

I mentioned dust as another factor. Cleaning the dust out of a Desktop is pretty easy. But with a laptop, you either have to crack the case (a definite no-no if the thing is still under warranty, and still risky if you’re case-cracking challenged like I am), or try a burst of compressed air in the vents.

But the burst of compressed air can be risky too. That’s because a shot of compressed air can get the fan blades spinning and ruin the bearings. If your going to try this, then you need to try to keep the blades from spinning by wedging something like a Bic pen refill in between them while you’re shooting in the compressed air.

Chill mat may be the best solution.