It’s normal for a laptop to heat up when used for hours on end. This is especially true if you’re typing non-stop or watching a high frame rate video in 4K resolution. The heat emitted from the laptop can make the keyboard hot to an extent it becomes uncomfortable to use.  

A laptop keyboard getting hot is an early sign of overheating. This is because all the essential electronics your computer runs on (the motherboard, GPU, CPU, etc.) are located right below the keyboard. If they get too hot, the keyboard will almost certainly get hot too.

This article will cover why your laptop keyboard gets hot and provide a few remedies to prevent overheating. Let’s get started. 

A laptop keyboard area is getting hot and smoking.

Why does the laptop keyboard overheat?

The laptop keyboard overheats due to the laptop’s other hardware overheating. This happens primarily due to frequent use, little downtime, and inadequate ventilation. Heavy laptop usage can heat the keyboard and cause a slight burning sensation on your fingertips or palm.

Laptops have small built-in fans to prevent the device from overheating. However, the internal parts generate heat as they run programs and perform their designated tasks. 

After some time, these tasks accumulate, and the internal components collectively produce more heat and may become too much for the computer to run without raising the temperature.

Other reasons why the laptop overheats include:

  • Limited ventilation – Poor ventilation is the most common reason for laptop overheating. When air doesn’t flow properly through the computer, it can’t remove heat from the laptop. If you notice that your laptop gets very hot while in use, you may need to improve its ventilation.
  • Dust buildup on the heatsink and fan – Dust buildup is another common enemy of your electronics, including your laptop. The heatsink and fan help to prevent the temperature inside your laptop from becoming too hot. Over time, dust and dirt will accumulate on the heatsink and fan and hinder their ability to do their job properly.
  • Faulty thermal paste between the CPU and heatsink – Thermal paste aids in transferring heat between the CPU and heat sink. Over time, the thermal paste will break down and cannot efficiently transfer heat from the CPU to the heatsink. This can make your laptop overheat and even shut down.
  • Defective fans – The fans inside your computer are responsible for moving air through the laptop and cooling the internal components. Unfortunately, fans do break down from time to time. And if one of the fans inside your computer malfunctions, it may not be able to circulate as much air through the computer, which can gradually lead to overheating.
  • Processor usage too high – Another common cause of laptop overheating is high processor usage. If you notice that your laptop is overheating, open up the task manager and check the CPU usage. If the processor is being used at nearly 100% capacity, then it’s probably the reason your laptop is overheating.
  • Windows outdated or corrupted – This applies to Windows users. If you are using Windows on your laptop, you should update it continuously. Sometimes, Windows will install updates that don’t work correctly. If this happens, you could experience issues with your laptop, such as overheating.

While your fans and CPU are likely the main culprits, it’s worth checking (and ruling out) every possible cause.

If you suspect overheating, the solution is relatively simple.

Open up your laptop, check that it isn’t too hot, and if it is, try to reduce the temperature by removing the protective casing and allowing the laptop a couple of minutes to breathe. 

But if you can’t open the laptop due to inexperience or lack of know-how, it’s best to stop using the device to give it some time to cool. 

What to do when the keyboard gets hot

Unfortunately, heat generation is inevitable when using electronic devices. As such, you should expect your laptop to be a little hot as long as it runs.

It’s totally okay for your laptop to reach 140°F (60°C) when in use. However, if the temperature continues to increase, you should act quickly to prevent damage.

Here are a few things you can do when the keyboard gets hot:

Check for clogged vents

Cleaning a laptop vent using a small brush.

Your laptop has exhaust vents designed to keep the hardware components running efficiently. If these vents become clogged, they may struggle to draw in fresh air quickly, increasing the chance of overheating. 

To check for a clogged vent, look at the bottom of your laptop, where you’ll spot a few holes designed to allow cool air into the laptop.

Make sure that your computer is on a flat, smooth surface and that nothing is blocking these holes. 

If the vents are clogged, you can use a can of compressed air to clean them out. 

When spraying, be sure not to spray too close to your laptop, as the air can cause damage if blown in extremely strong currents.

If the vents are clear but your laptop is still overheating, move on to the next step.

Run diagnostics to identify the problem areas

If you’ve already checked your laptop’s vents and there isn’t any dust, it could be an issue with the motherboard.

A faulty motherboard could also lead to overheating problems. In this case, you’ll need to take your computer to a repair shop, as it’s a severe problem. 

However, before you take it to the shop, it’s best to run a few diagnostic tests to see if you discover the problem area. 

  1. Open your Start menu.
  2. Type in Settings on the search bar at the bottom left.
  3. Navigate to Update & Security
  4. Select Troubleshooter
  5. Click on Additional troubleshooters. Here, you should find other troubleshooters to help pinpoint any system issues.

To troubleshoot your Mac laptop:

  1. Power it on and hold down the power button until startup options appear.
  2. Hold Command-d to run the diagnostics.
  3. The system will present a list of any issues found.

Running diagnostics can help you identify the exact cause of the problem. So if your keyboard still overheats, perhaps our next solution can help fix it.

Check for dust and dirt

The cooling system of a laptop is clogged up with dust and pet hair.

If your laptop is running hotter than usual, there could be a dust buildup inside the vents and on your fan.

Dust and dirt in your laptop vents can lead to overheating as your fans struggle to draw in more air currents. 

That’s why it’s important to regularly check for dust and debris in your laptop’s air intakes.

Keeping your ventilation clean is easy. You just need a quick inspection and some cleaning supplies. But don’t worry, this process takes less than 10 minutes!

  1. Get a can of compressed air and blow it on the vents.
  2. Use a vacuum cleaner to suck off any dust and debris stuck inside.
  3. Carefully open your laptop’s casing to access the fan and vents. Remember, you don’t want to open your laptop unless you know exactly what you’re doing. Even then, you’ll probably void your warranty. 
  4. Use a soft antistatic brush to clean the dust from the fan’s fins.
  5. Clean the casing with a microfiber towel.

But if you are unsure about your ability to clean the fan’s fins, it’s best to consult with a professional to avoid damaging your laptop. 

Taking care of the dust problem should restore a clean supply of fresh air to your laptop’s components.

Keep your laptop on an elevated surface that promotes airflow

A laptop is placed on a table with a solid flat surface.

Keeping your laptop on a surface that promotes airflow provides more fresh air to your fans, which, in turn, helps keep your laptop keyboard cool.

You can achieve this by placing the laptop on a stand or a flat surface, like a wooden desk or table. 

If on a table, you can also place something beneath your laptop to elevate it a few inches above the surface to promote more airflow.

Putting your laptop on top of a blanket or pillow could prevent fresh air from reaching the internal components, leading to overheating.

Laptop cooling pads effectively reduce the heat of a laptop by ensuring cool air is always present near the areas where laptops take air in to be used for cooling internally.

Close any running power-intensive programs

When playing games, streaming video, or doing anything else that demands a lot of processing power and RAM, your computer may start to feel hot and sluggish. 

Power-hungry applications consume more power and force the CPU to run faster. And as it consumes more power, it generates more heat.

Check for power-intensive applications and close any power-hungry apps on your Windows laptop:

  1. Press the Windows button on your keyboard.
  2. Type in Task Manager.
  3. Open the Task Manager app.
  4. Here, you should see a list of running applications and how much CPU they use.
  5. Close the most power-consuming applications. These may include running games, video-editing software, or DAWs.

Closing CPU-intensive apps can also be done on the Activity Monitor on your Mac laptop. Go to:

  1. Navigate to the menu bar and select the Go menu.
  2. Select Utilities from the drop-down list.
  3. Select Activity Monitor.
  4. You should see the list of running apps on the Process Name list.
  5. Select the most power-intensive applications and hit the X (Quit) button at the top left corner.

Don’t keep too many apps running simultaneously

In addition to power-hungry applications, running too many apps simultaneously increases the load on your laptop. The added load increases CPU usage and eventually raises the temperature. 

With the amount of work you’re likely doing on your laptop, it’s easy to fall into this bad habit without even realizing it. 

While it’s okay to have a few apps running simultaneously, you’ll want to ensure you aren’t opening too many idle apps and leaving them open. 

Every app consumes some energy that puts pressure on your computer’s processor.

The more you open apps, the more strain you put on your laptop, and the faster it will begin to overheat. 

When you notice your laptop is becoming too warm, it’s best to start shutting down idle apps.

Check your laptop’s specs and immediate environment

A woman is sitting on the beach using her laptop in the sun.

The immediate environment also adds to your laptop’s heat issues. By default, most electronic devices run hotter than the surrounding environment.

All that heat gradually builds up inside your laptop and can be felt on the keyboard.

Always check your device for its operating temperature. Check the manufacturer’s heat tolerance specs online or from the packaging.

Once you know how much heat your laptop can withstand, you can make the necessary modifications to your immediate environment to reduce the chances of overheating.  

It’s also essential to ensure your laptop is in an environment that can stay cool.

If you’re working in a warm and humid area, the temperature inside the machine will rise faster than in a cool, dry room. In that case, it would help if you turned on the AC.

Tip: Don’t expose it to direct sunlight – We promise that this is not one of those “don’t forget to wear sunscreen” tips.

But seriously, don’t leave your laptop out in the sun. Sunlight can be incredibly intense and can damage your laptop, including increasing its temperature and overheating the internal components.

Check for malware and viruses

A graphical representation of a virus inside a computer.

Malware and viruses can cause many issues on your laptop, including overheating. Some consume tons of CPU power, others infect the fans, and others shut down core functions.

This can be very dangerous, so you should look into getting an antivirus program if you don’t already have one!

Clean your laptop regularly

As with most things in life, prevention is always better than cure. So if you don’t want to deal with an overheated laptop, it’s best to clean it regularly now.

Not only can cleaning your laptop help prevent overheating, but it can also extend the life of the device. 

It’s important to clean your laptop regularly because all the dirt, dust, and debris you leave can build up over time and damage the internal components.

Here are a few ways you can clean your laptop: 

  • Regularly wipe down your computer with a microfiber cloth and isopropyl alcohol. This will help remove dust and debris
  • Use a mini leaf-blower to clean the vents
  • Consider investing in a laptop-cleaning kit. These kits come with all kinds of tools designed to clean your device, including reusable microfiber cloths.

Conclusion

When you’re hammering away on your laptop for hours on end, it’s almost inevitable that the keyboard will get hot at some point.

However, if the keyboard gets too hot and none of the solutions discussed in the article work, it’s best to stop using the device to allow it to cool. 

Getting in touch with an expert is also advisable if the overheating problem persists.