Cleaning my Macbook’s heatsink


For a while I’ve noticed my Macbook getting excessively hot under normal use and while encoding video it locked up registering a CPU temperature of 99c. Not being known for their ventilation design, I decided the machine was probably clogged with dust and that a clean out might help. Also, I’ve not taken my Mac apart before and wanted to see what was in one.

I used the iFixit guide on how to replace the heatsink of a Core2Duo Plastic Macbook which is quite easy to follow. I didn’t have the correct sized screwdriver and had to resort to a sharp kitchen knife.

After cleaning, the CPU runs at around 40c and the fan is barely audible, even when playing HD videos in a flash player. The computer has also stopped trying to burn my legs off, which is nice. If only there was a way to make the PSU run cooler, under heavy CPU load while charging the battery the PSU gets warm enough to make the power cables go floppy.

Here are some photos.

Heatsink of a Macbook showing the vanes clogged with fluff

The heatsink was coated in fluff, and its heatsink paste had dried out and was starting to crumble off.

Macbook logic board coated in fluff

The air to cool the CPU is draw in through some of the airvents at the back and causes all the components on the logic board to become coated in fluff.

Cleaned and ready Macbook Logic board

After cleaning some new heatsink paste was applied before reassembly.

Sunday BBQ

My bucket BBQ needs more modifications, it’s still not good enough. Once up to temperature it cooks food OK, but the area of usable heat is quite small, you can only get two burgers on it. My next plan is to get some chicken wire and tinsnips. The inside of the bucket has a wire stand to keep the fire bucket off the inside of the outer bucket. This inner bucket has very few holes which soon block with ash making a very poor burning BBQ.

If I get rid of the inner bucket completely and – by using the chicken wire to stop the coal falling through – make the fire on top of the wire stand, there’ll be improved airflow and a bigger surface to cook on. The only disadvantage is the entire BBQ will become very hot and all the orange paint might burn off.

The tinsnips will be used to “improve” the airflow into the bottom of the main bucket. There’s nothing technically wrong with the BBQ’s design, but you do wonder if its designers ever tried to cook more than a single burger on one. It quickly becomes obvious that it is a pain in the arse to light.

In the future I will buy a larger BBQ that will work much better.

75C CPU Temp

My server just locked up. After connecting a screen I saw a kernel panic, so figuring something must have gone wonky I rebooted the machine. While doing this I noticed the computer was rather warm. Warm to the point where, crawling around on the floor next to it, I could feel the heat radiating off the casing on my face. After booting back up I noticed the CPU temp was at 75C and the system temperature was around 45C. I think the system temp is the ambient temperature of the motherboard, so the inside of the computer was probably close to that.

It now has three more fans in it, whirring away and I can feel a definite airflow through the vents now. This is probably a good thing since I burnt myself on the southbridge heatsink.

I’m tempted to move the machine downstairs into my front room, where it is always cold. The problem is where to place it, and the fans are a bit noisy which would be irritating while watching TV. I have space under my stairs where it’s cool, but it also gets damp there.

This place is backwards

There’s something wrong when the reason to keep the doors and windows closed is not to keep the heat in, but to keep the heat out. Walking into a shop provides a comforting blast of cool conditioned air, which might be at a frigid 20c. The thing is, it’s still at least ten degrees warmer than a typical UK day, and isn’t that cool. This makes the transition into the ovenlike blast outside even worse. Climbing into a car gives an experience not unlike walking into a sauna.

Gradually, as time passes it becomes less of a problem. Last night was hot, but tonight seems cooler. It’s warmer than a warm summer in England, but relative to midday it’s cool. Maybe by the time I leave I’ll be acclimatised. Later I get to torture myself with high altitude. The walk goes over the 3,000m mark where the air becomes noticeably thinner.

Today was mostly spent walking round the supermarket – a giant place that makes Tesco look like the village shop. This place sells everything from freezers to beans, English food, Chinese food, dogs and cats (presumably as pets) to whole legs of salt-cured ham. The Spanish don’t seem to understand our ‘chip and pin’ Maestro cards, my dad’s causing much confusion, sign language and the use of another till. One the way back we drove through a huge orange plantation which had the added feature of prostitutes sat at the roundabouts under umbrellas, reading while waiting for their next ride. I bet they don’t take chip and pin either.

Tomorrow we’re off to the quieter beaches to swim in the sea. Avoiding the popular beach is a wise move, unless being sandwiched in between 6000 other people is your idea of a good time. The sand art was good though.