Why is my laptop overheating during gaming ever since I accidentally dropped it?

Tyler May 23, 2011
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I have a Dell Inspiron N5010 I bought back in January. It’s been running just fine. I play games such as World of Warcraft and Borderlands.

A little over a week ago, I had my laptop in my backpack and it slid off of a table onto a carpeted, but hard floor. Luckily, I had already turned the machine off.

Ever since then, the laptop will turn off during both games. An error message will come up, saying something about an application needing to be terminated then the laptop will shut off.

Could it be a damaged fan, or has something been disconnected? The computer runs decent when I’m not playing games, feeling just like normal. It overheats on any surface when previously it never overheated.

Chipset – ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5400 Series.
Windows 7 x64.
4 GB RAM.

Any help would be absolutely appreciated.

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  1. Oron Joffe
    May 24, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    Tyler, while the advice above is all good, the most likely scenario is that the bond between the heat sink and processor has loosened, and your processor is not being cooled as effectively as before. It therefore heats up more, and when put under stress (e.g. during games) it overheats and cuts out. The fix is to remove the heat sink, clean thoroughly and assemble again with high-quality thermal paste. I would not recommend you do it yourself if you've not done this before. Find someone to help you with this or take it to a shop.

    • Tyler
      May 27, 2011 at 2:56 pm

      Thank you Oron. I'll keep that in mind and see if my brother can help out while I'm with him. He just built a computer for my dad in the past couple of days so I think he could help me with that while I'm up here.

  2. FIDELIS
    May 24, 2011 at 8:05 am

    Hello, if you can post what the exact wording of the message is it would be helpful.

  3. Smayonak
    May 24, 2011 at 6:28 am

    There's three (or more) possibilities here, Tyler. Here's are three simple tips for diagnosing potential issues with suspected overheating caused by dropping:

    The first is that it may not be overheating that's causing the crashing. In order to isolate the issue, try running a stress test, while simultaneously checking your system's temperature. For the stress testing I use Orthos (http://www.overclock.net/downloads/138142-orthos.html) and for the temperature testing, try using OpenHardwareMonitor (http://openhardwaremonitor.org/). Enable logging on OHM and while running Orthos (use any option that runs the CPU or GPU up), pay close attention to your temps. If it skyrockets right before your system crashes, you've isolated the problem. If it doesn't crash, it may be another issue. You can check the OHM logs to see precisely at what temp the crash occurred.

    Your system will have multiple temps indicators, too. Any part, such as the North or South bridge/ICH, that registers abnormal temperature spiking is a likely suspect for damage.

    The second is that the problem may have started earlier and that dropping it only brought the overheating to your attention, or perhaps exacerbated a preexisting condition. A quick remedy is to try blowing canned air in the vents (but try not to go nuts on your fan with it) and a very light application of a vacuum nozzle to the vents might help clean out the dust, or unjam it. Also remove unnecessary startup programs - you want to minimize your default thermal profile so that the games are the sole contributor to heat.

    If you still have heating issues, it may be hardware.

    The third is that dropping may have caused a part to fail. Listen for the sound of your fans. If they're not moving air, that would explain a lot. Also, a common problem with laptops would be poorly fitted components. Oftentimes, heatsinks are barely in contact with the fan and little bumps can dislodge them and they may require reseating.

    Running up with temps with Orthos in step 1 will help determine where the fault is, if any.

    An optional step would be to change your fan speed. There's two ways that help: FanSpeed and through your BIOS. If you try your BIOS, there might be a setting for a faster fan speed.

    Good luck!

    • Tyler
      May 27, 2011 at 2:55 pm

      Thank you so much for the reply. I went on a last minute vacation with the family so I hadn't been able to check on the replies. I'll definitely go through the steps as soon as possible, hopefully by tonight and post the results when I get them.

      • Tina
        May 29, 2011 at 10:16 pm

        Hey Tyler,

        were you able to identify the issue? Do let us know!

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