One common problem Mac users experience is overheating. Not when a Mac is new, but when they get older and are full of files, images, videos, and apps that slow down processing speeds, causing them to overheat.
So if you’ve been working away and your Mac is hot to the touch. Like hot enough to fry an egg? Don’t worry; this can be fixed. Or what about when the fans are running so loud it sounds like a lawnmower? Again, both are signs that your Mac is overheating.
An overheating Mac isn’t something you want to try and ignore for too long. Apart from the fact the fans are noisy and distracting, and the hot temperature is irritating, your Mac could - probably will - crash and shut down. If you are working on something and haven't saved it recently, you could lose important files. Worse than that, you could risk the Mac suffering irreparable file damage, potentially erasing files, systems, and images you need and don't have backed-up.
Why is my Mac overheating?
Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this. It depends on how often your Mac overheats.
Assuming this is a recent development, then it could be a sign of an overworked Mac. Too many files, taking up too much space on the hard drive, or too many systems, apps, or browser tabs open at once. Especially if they’re heavy programs, consuming a lot of processing space and memory while you are running other apps, such as Spotify, and have multiple browser tabs open.
All of that activity can slow a Mac down and cause it to overheat. So most people won’t need to see an expert; this is something that can be fixed at home or wherever your Mac is overheating. Remember, even MacBook Pro’s are relatively compact devices. Excess heat doesn't have many places to go, so when a Mac is overworked, it will start to get hot. What you want to avoid is when it gets too hot, the fans get too loud, and processes slow down.
We’ve put together this guide to help stop a Mac from overheating and avoid it in the future.
How to stop a Mac from overheating
Firstly, you need to know what is causing the Mac to overheat.
You can get iStat Menus for the job, a handy app to monitor your Mac system stats, control the speed of fans in your Mac, and quickly identify what’s absorbing so much CPU processing power.
iStat Menus can’t lower fans below the speed the SMC would normally use, but it can raise the fan speeds.
If you’re notice issues with fans, resetting your SMC should resolve the problem.
Close all of the apps running in the background and anything else that is using more computing power than looks-wise. Unlike Activity Monitor, iStat Menus provides users with more data and insights, making it easier to manage to overheat. You can get this from Setapp, along with hundreds of other apps for Mac customers, all for one convenient monthly price.
Once you know what was causing it to overheat, you should be able to carry on working as normal. If it happens again, you may need to look at solutions. We have a couple in mind.
The first thing to do is to declutter your Mac. Older Macs are going to be full of documents, apps, images, videos you don't need. Just like a house, when all of that clutter gets in the way, you can’t find what you do need. Your Mac struggles the same way, causing it to overheat.
If while you’re tracking your Mac’s performance with iStat Menus you start noticing signs that gravitating towards overheating, try another app from Setapp collection, CleanMyMac X, a cleaning software.
CleanMyMac comes highly recommended, as the easiest, most efficient way to identify problems, applications, and settings that cause Macs to overheat, then clean them. Both apps are available on Setapp subscription and you can use them for free for a week.
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 video files and huge 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, this way 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, there’s 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.
Another way to reduce heavy CPU usage is to fix system issues or lighten up heavy apps. CleanMyMac X has a couple of tools for that. For instance, you can open its Maintenance tab and see Reindex Spotlight, Repair Disk Permissions, and Run Maintenance scripts. Simply select these tasks and hit Run.
After that, run a scan on System Junk and when it’s ready, find the apps with the largest cache (usually browsers and messengers) and clean up their cache.
Important: depending on the app, you might lose histories and preferences, but if it’s the reason your Mac overheats, it’s worth it.
Assuming shutting down browser tabs and apps, decluttering, and cloud storing didn’t work; you need to look at any physical reasons for an overheating Mac. Check the following:
- Are you working on a flat surface? Macs more effectively displace heat when on a flat surface, not bed covers or other uneven surfaces.
- Are you outside in the sun? As tempting as it can be when it’s hot, working outside is one of the quickest and surest ways to experience an overheating Mac. In some cases, they will simply crash.
- Are your vents/fans covered? Are you using any third-party devices to manipulate the fans? In either scenario, you risk overheating and need to unplug anything that could influence the fans.
- Are you in a dusty environment? Macs don't do well in dust. Once it gets in the fans, it could cause serious overheating problems.
Assuming you’ve done/checked all of those options and your Mac is still struggling, it’s time to look at an alternative solution. Your Mac could be too full of things that are slowing it down.
How to keep a Mac from overheating
To begin with, you need to define overheating and catch early it when it happens. To monitor the temperature of your Mac, use iStat Menus that we mentioned earlier. It looks into your system and gives you timely updates on CPU temperature, which is a key indicator you need to prevent overheating.
iStat Menus can’t lower fans below the speed the System Management Controller (SMC) would normally use, but it can raise the fan speeds.
Then, you can get timely notifications from iStat Menus when your Mac is near a dangerous temperature. This will help you mitigate potential damage or data loss and tone down CPU usage before anything crashes.
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 with monitors and CleanMyMac with maintenance tools in Setapp, that should cover your needs.
In case after both fixes and manual troubleshooting, your Mac is still overheating, you might need to book in with a Mac specialist. More extensive 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. Take care of your Mac and have a good day. Cheers!
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