Did you know that there’s a medical term for the experience of being burned by your laptop? It’s called Toasted Skin Syndrome, and it occurs when an overheated laptop comes into contact with your body. Burns can be quite serious: there have been reports of second degree burns caused by overheated laptops. Overheated laptops can also be a contributing factor in structure fires. This is why it’s never really a good idea to use your laptop propped up on a pillow, blanket, or other soft, flammable surface.

Why Do Laptops Overheat?

PC laptops have heat vents underneath, while Mac laptops vent heat out through the hinge area. There are fans inside your laptop to efficiently move heat through the vents. If these fans stop working, heat builds up without being circulated. This can lead to an overheating situation. If your fans are working but the vents are blocked, overheating can also occur. Ironically, the worst possible place to operate a laptop computer is in your lap: your legs will block the vents and you’re very vulnerable to getting burned. If the fans on your laptop aren’t working properly, bring it to your local computer repair shop: it’s a quick fix that can add years to the useful life of your computer.

On an ongoing basis, it’s a good best practice to operate your laptop on a stand that elevates it slightly, allowing air to circulate freely underneath.

Another Overheating Cause: Dust

Even the most ardent housekeeper will wind up with dust build-up inside of a laptop. It’s inevitable. Electronics attract dust the way free Red Sox tickets attract baseball fans. This dust builds up and up, causing your laptop to run hotter and hotter. It’s possible to remove some of this dust yourself using a can of compressed air. For a more thorough cleaning, you’ll want to bring your laptop to your local computer repair shop. They’ll open it up and remove all accumulated dust in the computer and fan area for you.