Top 12 tips on how to fix an overheating Mac in 2021

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While Mac is a great machine that can help you tackle the most advanced work tasks, play video games, and consume media, sometimes it feels like it’s on fire not just productivity-wise, but because the device heats up during work. In this article, we are talking Mac overheating, common reasons, and what could be done about it.

Why is my Mac overheating?

There are a number of possible reasons your Macbook Pro, Air, or other Mac is getting hot — it might just be placed in direct sunlight or its vents are blocked, preventing them from properly cooling down your Mac’s hard-working internals. Any dust gathering inside your Mac over the years you use it might also contribute to overheating.

Next, if the tasks you give your machine are processing-power heavy, your Mac might be heating up because it’s trying to perform too many operations simultaneously, meaning dozens of open tabs in your browser or several power-hungry apps running at the same time might get your Mac to heat up.

Overheating may also be a sign of a more serious technical or safety issue, so in some situations you’ll have to take your machine to service to make sure it’s safe to use.

How to stop a Mac from overheating

Some of the easiest ways to try and fix your Macbook or iMac running hot are managing the workload for your machine, reducing your multitasking zeal, cleaning out junk or malware, and a few more solutions we’ve outlined below. Let’s dive in!

Turn on Heat Protection 

If your Mac tends to overheat, the first thing to do is install AlDente Pro and turn on Heat Protection so that your battery will stop charging if the temperature goes beyond normal. This is a very important thing to do and we recommend not to ignore this step. Otherwise, your battery might degrade very fast. 

 

heat protection mac

Clean all junk from Mac in one click

One reason your Macbook Pro or Macbook Air are overheating might be too many files to work through as they perform daily operations. One way to address that can be cleaning out any junk or unnecessary files on your device.

CleanMyMac X is one such handy app. This cleaner can rid your Mac of unneeded files, junk, unused apps, app leftovers, and even malware.

cleanmymac x clean junk

Move large files to the cloud

When you’re running a drive cleanup, you might find that the files that take up the most space on your Mac are actually quite important to you. Large videos and image folders, 3D projects or movie renders, all kinds of important and increasingly megabyte-hungry items.

 

Consider moving large files into the cloud. It’s a win-win because if they’re important, you won’t lose them and at the same time they won’t take up space on your Mac. Whichever cloud hosting provider you choose, Setapp has a really handy app to manage and share all your files from the cloud — it’s called Dropshare. It feels like a native part of your macOS and works as a single platform for all cloud storage accounts that you have. 

dropshare mac

Tip: Install Dropshare via Setapp to get 10 GB of complimentary storage. 

Check Activity Monitor

If your Mac keeps overheating, try checking what processes are taking up power in the built-in Activity Monitor.

Access the app by going to Finder > Applications > Utilities > Activity Monitor:

activity monitor mac

You can also monitor detailed Mac stats, memory and CPU load, as well as internal temps with third-party apps.

iStat Menus is one such app. It allows you to monitor your device’s stats in real time in your menu bar. The app’s adjustable menu bar tool selection helps you see the CPU and GPU load, memory status, temperatures, and more stats about your Mac.

You can click on individual icons to see in detail which processes are taking up any specific parameter, e.g. internet upload or download speeds, CPU, memory, battery.

istat menus for mac

Manage your browser tabs

Browser tabs are notorious for taking up quite a chunk of your computer’s processing power. Having a habit of running dozens of tabs in your browser can be one of the answers to your question ‘Why does my Mac get so hot?’

Our advice would be to keep track of your tabs and closing the ones you no longer need. If you’ve just opened a bunch of pages for research but found what you need, one cool trick is two-finger clicking on your tab and selecting Close Tabs to the Right. This action will close all tabs that are open to the right of the tab you are clicking on. You can also opt to Close Other Tabs, which closes all your other tabs.

While closing extra tabs is the best idea for your Mac, you can also be mindful of the fact that multiple tabs use up a lot of energy and avoid opening other apps while you are browsing.

And if you are getting lost in your open tabs and just wish they all showed up as a single list, Tab Finder got you covered. This helper app displays your open tabs as a single list and you can just just to the page you need (or, you know, don’t need and want to close to save your device from overheating — by now we all know how some websites eat up way more energy than others).

tab finder

Also, if you know a page will use less power in a specific browser or want to open certain links directly in apps, without opening your browser, you can use helpers like OpenIn that allow you to designate open actions. Set default browsers for specific domains, select the browser you want to open your link to in the moment, and more configurations for your openings with OpenIn.

openin mac

Test graphics settings

Some Macbook Pros actually have two graphics cards to help them tackle everyday as well as more advanced tasks. If that’s the case for your device and you want your Mac to spend less resources on graphics rendering, you can actually turn on automatic graphics switching to help save battery life.

Here’s how to do that:

  1. Click on the Apple logo at the top left corner of your screen and select System Preferences.
  2. Next, press Battery and go to the Battery tab in the battery window.
  3. There, tick the Automatic graphics switching option.

Reset SMC

SMC is a System Management Controller on your Mac. It’s responsible for managing your Mac’s power. A reset may help you fix the overheating issue. 

Macs with Apple Silicon only need a restart to reset SMC.

For laptops with T2 chip, here’s how to reset SMC:

  1. Shut down the laptop.
  2. Press and hold for 7 seconds Control, Option, and right Shift (yes, specifically the one on the right side of your keyboard).
  3. Without releasing the previous three keys, press and hold the power button for 7 seconds.
  4. Release the keys.
  5. Turn on your Mac by pressing the power button.

If you are using a desktop Mac with T2, the process is a bit different:

  1. Shut down and unplug your computer.
  2. After 15 seconds, put the plug back in.
  3. After another 5 seconds, turn on your Mac.

If your Mac does not have a T2 chip, follow the SMC reset instructions on the official Apple support page.

Clean your Mac from dust

Sometimes you have to take the cleaning from the inside of your device to the outside. Some users note that they’ve figured out the reason for their iMac overheating, and it’s dust! That’s right, dust that gathers on top of your device as well as on its parts could be a cause for poor ventilation and heat distribution.

Clean your device from dust and make sure to keep it away from the dirt as you bring it with you to various adventures. Here are the detailed instructions from Apple on cleaning your Apple products.

Don’t block the vents

Another common issue that may be the answer to your question ‘Why is my Mac heating up?’ is blocked vents. The vent openings are there to make the air circulation and cooling of your device easier, so inspect your Mac to make sure they are not blocked.

Keep your Mac up to date

Outdated software can result in your Mac working slower and facing more mistakes and bugs. Make sure you’ve installed all the latest software updates to your system by doing the following:

  1. Click the Apple logo in the top left corner of your screen and select System Preferences.
  2. Click Software Update.
  3. Wait for your system to check for available updates (you’ll see the Checking for updates message on your screen) and install any updates that are offered.

Certain outdated apps can cause your Mac to misbehave, which might include freezing, slowing down, or overheating. CleanMyMac X has a handy Updater feature that shows you the full list of outdated apps. Select those you want to update or update all in one click. 

cmm check updates

Check for malware

Just like any app, malware can take up your computer’s processing power and contribute to its heating up. This means one of the reasons why your Mac overheats so easily can be malware and you certainly don’t want that on your machine.

CleanMyMac X — the cleaner app we’ve just mentioned above — can thankfully also scan for malware and remove it. If you want to cover all your bases and check if your device might be overheating due to malware, run a quick scan on your system with CleanMyMac X:

Check your fans

Fans are installed on your device to circulate the warm air out of the device and help the system cool down faster. If your fans are malfunctioning, your computer can heat up unnecessarily. If that’s the case, you may need to take your Mac to service. But if you have iStat Menus installed on your Mac, you can prevent this problem. 

iStat Menus has a dedicated module for sensors control — it allows you to monitor the temperatures and adjust fan rules to avoid overheating. iStat Menus can’t lower fans below the speed the SMC would normally use, but it will help detect the problem early enough.

check fans mac istat

If you notice issues with fans, resetting your SMC should resolve the problem.

You can also run Apple Diagnostics to see if there are any hardware issues with your device. Here’s how to do that:

  1. Shut down your Mac and disconnect external devices, place your Mac on a flat hard surface in a place with good ventilation.
  2. For Intel-based Macs: Turn on your Mac and press and hold the D key on your keyboard. For M1 devices: Turn on the Mac and immediately press and hold the power button.
  3. For Intel-based Macs: Let go of the key once you see a progress bar or are prompted to choose language. For M1 Macs: Let go of the key when you see startup options and press Command + D.

Conclusion

That’s about it on the subject of Mac getting hotter than it should. We hope this guide has been of help and if you want to make sure your favorite computer stays cool, get iStat Menus for health monitoring, AlDente Pro for battery maintenance, and CleanMyMac for decluttering in Setapp — they should cover your needs. To improve how you work with browsers and tabs, get OpenIn and Tab Finder, both are part of Setapp as well. 

In case you’ve tried everything we described above and your Mac is still overheating, you might need to book in with a Mac specialist. More serious problems may require a trip to a certified Mac Consultants Network retailer, or Mac support from your nearest Apple Genius Bar. Apple Support can also offer help online or over the phone — you just need to book an appointment first. 

Overheating mac FAQ

How bad is overheating for a Mac?

Properties of the components of your device change with temperature increase, e.g. resistance goes down as material heats up, which increases current. Moreover, your components may be programmed to shut down once they hit certain temps, so this may cause your system to slow down or even shut down temporarily until the device cools down. Additionally, too high a temperature is capable of causing damage to your device.

What to do if my Mac overheats when playing games?

Rendering image-heavy games with picture changing every split second can be challenging to your device, especially if it’s older, has modest tech specs, or is loaded with other apps, software, and files.

If your Mac overheats when playing games, first cross check the specs of your Mac with the specs your game manufacturer lists as ideal for playing the game. Next, close other apps, including browsers, to see if that can help. Go through steps outlined above to see if you can fix the overheating. If overheating persists or is too intense, take your device to service.

How to fix an overheating Mac?

Go through the steps outlined in the article above and see if any of the measures can help your Mac. If overheating persists, take the device to service for professional assistance.

How do I know if my Mac is overheating?

If your Mac’s surface is hot to the touch or/and your Mac produces loud noise. You can also monitor your Mac’s temp with apps like the above-mentioned iStat Menus that can give you more detailed information on the temperature of some of the internals.

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