How to fix an overheating Mac

13 min read
Key takeaways:
  • Use iStat Menus to get vital real-time info on your Mac's performance (track CPU, GPU, sensors, etc.).
  • Turn on heat protection in the AlDente Pro app.
  • To prevent your Mac from overheating, make sure your Mac is not covered with anything.

We love our Macs for productivity — for all the things they can handle fast and without hiccups. But sometimes, when things get heated in the number or complexity of the tasks we try to juggle, our Macs get hot too.

It’s normal for a Mac to produce heat as it performs its tasks. But when does hot become too hot? What causes Mac overheating? And, more importantly, can we learn how to cool down Macs? Let’s find out.

Why does Mac get so hot?

Generally speaking, all MacBook overheating issues can be brought down to these three: 

  1. Too much strain on Mac’s CPU or graphics card: too many windows or browser tabs open, multitasking between several resource-consuming apps or tasks like video editing or gaming, outdated software, or malware
  2. Compromised air circulation inside your Mac: something is blocking the vents, mechanical issues with fans, or there’s dust build-up on internal components
  3. High ambient temperature around your Mac: Mac’s placed near another heat-generating device or under direct sunlight, or you live in a hot climate or work in a poorly ventilated room

The hidden problem of overheating

If you regularly notice your Mac running hot, we recommend you definitely take it seriously. Overheating can reduce the lifespan of your battery and cause permanent damage to the screen, storage drives, and other sensitive hardware components of your Mac. 

Besides, when your Mac’s system is trying to cool down, it slows down CPU processes and GPU speed until the temperature drops to a safe level. This leads to slow performance or unexpected shutdowns of your Mac.

How to check your Mac’s temperature

The first step in learning how to stop Mac from overheating is getting into the habit of checking your Mac’s temperature, which ideally should fall within the range of 100 °F to 169 °F.

Although, there’s no default macOS utility to access your Mac’s CPU temperature monitor, you can use Terminal command for Intel-based Macs (type sudo powermetrics --samplers smc |grep -i "CPU die temperature") or go with iStat Menus to know what’s going on with your Mac’s temperature sensors at any given point.

check mac temperature using terminal

iStat Menus is a comprehensive system data collector that provides vital real-time info on your Mac’s performance. All you need to do is choose the stats important to you, and the app menu bar icon will show you all the data.

check mac temperature via istat menus

Or you can opt for a temperature control feature that’s a part of a more universal service toolkit, like CleanMyMac X. 

CleanMyMac X will help you take MacBook overheating under control as it reports the heat level inside the CPU every second and gives out a warning when the processor overheats. It’s convenient because you can see the CPU temperature instantly once you open the app, or go into more details if you need to (learn more in our dedicated article on battery monitoring with CleanMyMac X).

battery monitoring using cleanmymac

How to cool down Mac when it overheats?

When trying to reduce Mac overheating, first make sure that nothing obstructs your Mac’s ventilation, so that hot air has a way to get out from inside of your Mac. Then try one of the following methods to bring the temperature back to normal.

Turn on heat protection

If you often notice your Mac overheating, definitely take measures to protect your battery. Consider AlDente Pro for its Heat Protection feature — it controls your battery’s temperature and automatically stops the charging if it gets too hot. 

aldente pro heat protection

You can also manage battery settings manually by allowing for GPU adjustments based on the specifics of your tasks. This might help with preventing Mac overheating considerably, since the GPU that handles video, 3D gaming, and graphics editing on your Mac sometimes produces more heat than the CPU.

To allow for automatic GPU adjustments:

  1. Go to System Settings in the Apple menu ➙ Battery
  2. Click on Battery in the sidebar
  3. Check the box next to Automatic Graphics Switching 

Close resource intensive apps and processes 

It’s important to understand that even inactive apps running in the background still consume lots of CPU. This leads to slower performance, shorter battery life, and overheating. 

So, if you keep asking yourself “why does Mac keep overheating?” while multitasking with lots of apps and processes, use Activity Monitor to identify which of them are consuming CPU the most:

  1. Open Activity Monitor from Utilities in Finder
  2. Click on the CPU tab 
  3. Close any apps or processes you don’t need at the moment to take the load off the CPU (click on the Stop icon in the top bar ➙ Quit)

activity monitor close apps or processes

Or choose a more efficient way to detect and manage CPU consumption with App Tamer. 

App Tamer automatically spots idle apps that eat up CPU and notifies you instantly with color indicators in the app's menu bar icon. You then have a choice to slow the spotted app down, quit, or configure how much CPU it can use when idle.

app tamer spot idle apps

If you need to quickly bring the temperature down and take the heat off your CPU, you can instantly shut down all background apps and processes with QuitAll.

QuitAll lets you quit all the apps at once right from the menu bar if you don’t want to go looking for each individual one to quit, or view the list of active apps and apps working in the background and selectively quit the ones you don’t need at the moment. 

quitall quit apps

Clean up your Mac

Often your Mac overheating issues can be caused by the sheer amount of files your Mac has to work through. So cleaning up your system from clutter and unused files may help reduce overheating considerably.

With CleanMyMac X you can clean all the junk from your Mac with a single click. This powerful Mac cleaner finds and removes all duplicates, old unopened files, random app caches, gigabytes of dormant email attachments, leftover installment files and folders — leaving your Mac ready to revive its speed and performance.

cmm scan junk

Manage your browser tabs

One of the simple yet very effective methods of how to stop Mac from overheating is managing the number of open browser tabs. It’d be ideal if you could keep your tab count to under 12 — anything above that is an extra load for your CPU and may become the reason for your Mac running hot.

With this in mind, remember to occasionally review your open windows and close the ones you don’t need at the moment. 

Tip: You can close tabs in bulk if you work in Chrome or Safari — simply control-click on the tab you want to keep open and choose Close Other Tabs or Close Tabs to the Right.

If you’re known for always having dozens of tabs open and don’t want to tediously go through them one by one, install Tab Finder.

Tab Finder brings all your open tabs from all your active browsers into a searchable list with page descriptors, so that you can find exactly what you need and let go of the rest.

tab finder manage browser tabs

Or if you’re serious about effectively managing your tabs, try OpenIn.

OpenIn helps you set specific browsers to open links with certain domains. This could become a real lifesaver if you’re looking for a way to separate your work, study, and personal online activity. You’ll be able to:

  1. Use multiple browsers for different tasks
  2. Appoint specific mail clients to open mail links 
  3. Customize the way you open files with certain file extensions
  4. Create defaults for all the files you open on Mac

openin manage browser tabs

Another great idea to avoid MacBook overheating issues is to opt for a browser alternative that doesn’t create too much pressure on your CPU. WIth MenubarX you can browse the web right from the menu bar, using very little memory with no limits on the number of pages you can open or bookmark. 

Your most visited pages appear as icons organized by categories and auto-update every time you open the page. 

menubarx manage browser tabs

Keep software updated

If you wonder how to stop Mac from overheating, one of the things to watch out for is outdated software. It can slow down your system, straining your processor with unnecessary mistakes and bugs fixed in the newer versions.

To ensure that all your apps run with peak efficiency, regularly monitor available updates from the App Store:

  1. Go to System Settings in the Apple menu 
  2. Choose Software Update
  3. Install available updates 

system settings

Move large and archived files to cloud storage

You’d be surprised, but even keeping a library of files on your hard drive can contribute to you regularly wondering “why does Mac keep overheating?” 

Besides adding to the clutter, transferring files, especially large ones, and generally processing lots of data causes your MacBook HDD or SSD to produce a lot of heat.

To configure yourself a seamless access to your files even after you move them out to a cloud, try CloudMounter.

CloudMounter mounts all your cloud storages as local disks, creating an easy one-point access to your existing cloud accounts from your Mac’s Finder — as if it was an expanded storage space right there on your hard drive. 

cloudmounter manage large files

Review external monitor settings

Using an external monitor with your MacBook Pro may lead to your Mac running hot, even if your display is idle and Mac’s lid is closed. 

This happens because when you plug an external monitor in, macOS automatically switches to a more power-consuming dedicated GPU, which heats things up. Besides, if this is also accompanied by a mismatch between the frame rates of external and built-in displays, Mac overheating is guaranteed. 

To resolve the issue of Mac overheating when connected to external monitor, you need to adjust your Display settings:

  1. Go to System Settings in the Apple menu 
  2. Choose Displays
  3. Select your external display at the top of the window
  4. Set the Refresh rate to match the value of the built-in monitor settings

Check for malware

Regularly scan for viruses and malware and you’ll be able to safely cross one reason off the list of factors that contribute to Mac overheating.

CleanMyMac X can help you with the task — its specially designed Protection module performs in-depth checkups to identify and instantly remove any malicious files detected with a single click.

To start the process:

  1. Launch CleanMyMac X
  2. Choose Malware Removal from the menu on the left
  3. Hit Scan

cleanmymac x check for malware

Clean your MacBook from dust

The longer you use your Mac, the higher the chances for your Mac running hot due to the dust build-up inside it.

You can follow official Apple instructions on how to clean the outside of your Mac, unscrew the bottom panel and gently blow out any built-up dust with a can of compressed air, or contact an Apple authorized service provider to give your Mac a proper clean-up and prevent Mac overheating. 

Check for hardware issues

To rule out Mac overheating due to hardware issues with your fan, run Apple Diagnostics. It will test your Mac, point out a hardware component that might be out of order, and suggest possible fixes to your problem. 

To run Apple Diagnostics:

  1. Shut down your Mac and disconnect it from power
  2. Turn your Mac back on and hold the power button until you see startup options ➙ Command + D (for Intel-based Macs, immediately press and hold D on your keyboard as your Mac starts up)
  3. Check the results for error codes beginning with PPF (cooling fan issues)

What you can also try when you suspect that fans are the reason for your Mac overheating — is resetting SMC. SMC (System Management Controller) rules Mac’s thermal management and resetting it could fix MacBook overheating issues (you can learn more about the SMC reset process in our dedicated article on how to reset SMC on Mac).

Other tips to prevent your Mac from overheating

If you find yourself asking “why does Mac keep overheating?” way too often, keep in mind these simple tips:

  • Work on a well-ventilated, flat surface and be extra careful not to block the vents if you must use your Mac on any soft, textile covered surfaces
  • Avoid direct sunlight and temperatures outside the 50 °F to 95 °F range
  • Open at least some of the web pages you visit in your lightest browser (note that Chrome is notorious for CPU usage, opt for Safari or try MenubarX)
  • Use secure VPN when connecting to public WiFi

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  • Freedom to change your location to the desired country in a click 

clearvpn use vpn protection

How to cool down Mac and prevent overheating

Learning why does Mac get so hot helps you avoid the most obvious risk factors that cause Mac overheating and threaten to damage your Mac’s battery and sensitive hardware. So the sooner you take temperature monitors under control with instant vitals from iStat Menus or heat protection features from AlDente Pro, the better. Besides, take a closer look at the CPU strain from all the apps, processes, and open browser tabs running in the background. Use Activity Monitor to get an idea of what consumes the most CPU, or get App Tamer or QuitAll to manage the CPU load in real time and quit the threatening processes when necessary.

Additionally, remember that browsers themselves are not created equal in terms of how much processing power they require (Google Chrome being the most popular yet also the most resource-draining for your system). Use Tab Finder and OpenIn to help diversify your browser routines, or try MenubarX for the lightest browser CPU ever.

Store your biggest and archived files on cloud with CloudMounter to avoid clutter and unnecessary work for your processor. And be sure to partner with CleanMyMac X to get access to instant battery monitoring, app updates, regular deep system clean-ups, and powerful malware protection. 

Also, don’t pass on a unique chance to try all the apps mentioned above for free with the seven-day trial of Setapp, a platform of high-performance, best-in-class iOS and macOS apps. Learn how to stop Mac from overheating and check out more than 240 potential options to boost your productivity.

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 pictures 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 the 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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