Early-2009 17" MBP, high idle temperature

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by cerberusss, Jan 4, 2016.

  1. cerberusss, Jan 4, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2016

    cerberusss macrumors 6502a


    Aug 25, 2013
    The Netherlands
    A friend gave me an early-2009 17" MBP. It runs El Capitan and furthermore has the following specs: 2,66 GHz Core 2 Duo, 8 GB memory and a GeForce 9600M.

    He said it was unreliable in the past (not further specifying) but also said it was fine now, except that the fans would sometimes kick in really loudly.

    I created a new admin account, deleted the old one, installed iStat Menus, and saw that the CPU Core temperature is around 60 C, even when idle. Is this normal for this laptop?

    If not, what could be the further diagnosis and/or fix?
  2. thermodynamic, Jan 4, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2016

    thermodynamic Suspended


    May 3, 2009
    If you prefer to get to the solution first, check out the bold/emphasized bit below and then read my testimonial afterward. :)

    I used to own the 2009 model. 42C idle was normal, given how the machine was built. 60C idle is way too high, noting that water boils at 100C... I would honestly expect something closer to 40C or 45C while idle, in an ambient room temperature of 23C (appx 74F). As I recall, under load, the 2009 MBPs got up to 96C under load so I kept the one I had with fans running on full and only for limited periods of time, saving hefty work for the desktop instead. I could never get any Mac laptop under 88C under load (without voiding the warranty so I waited for mine to lapse and then tinker so I could use the thing the way I needed it to and shave off 5~9C degrees in the process), and anything over 80C is pushing things big-time in terms of long-term stability.

    Start with these scenarios in order, then try the best case scenario for hardware recovery. If those fail, the machine might be on its last legs...

    50/50 scenario (marginal chance of success):
    Format the HDD and start fresh, completely, with a full OS reinstall. Rogue or orphaned software could be taxing the system, causing CPU usage to skyrocket. Keep an eye on task managers and system monitors. Look for apps that can increase CPU fan speed - SMC Fan Control is a popular and reliable tool...

    Best possible scenario for success:
    Thermal paste on CPU has dried up. Take apart laptop and put on a fresh, thin coat of Arctic Silver 5. I make no warranty or guarantee that replacing the thermal paste will fix the problem, and it is a delicate job to do (look at what people did to their 2011 MacBook Pro models thanks to Apple's gaffe), but aged paste is not as effective at transferring heat from the very sensitive cores to the heatsink for dispersal.

    If nothing else:
    Clear the vents of dust bunnies and hair. Get all airflow paths clear.

    If those fail:
    Thermal death due to overuse and inadequate thermal dissipation during its lifespan.

    MacBooks were never truly designed to run hot via intensive processing tasks (3d rendering, gaming, video editing, compiling, etc) for extended and/or frequent periods of time, much less dissipate it due to the compact size and, no, the chassis does not act as a heatsink because the CPU does not touch it. In fact, the chassis could act more as an insulator for heat. I should look that up, but the compact issue is still very real: Heat reduces lifespan of electronics. When the fans run at top speed, they get loud. So something is causing thermal overload.

    Lastly, it is highly unethical for sellers to not disclose details or to dupe people into buying something under false pretenses or with an incomplete amount of information in an attempt to skirt around the situation. All issues should be mentioned outright, told by the seller, without sugarcoating or deception or remaining silent on any tangent and not told in a way to cultivate greed on the part of the buyer, so the buyer can make a reasoned and truly unfettered choice and not be duped. But since when do buyers have rights or protections anymore?

    Oh, here's a resource showing the 2011 model. The 2009 model's screw and ribbon cable placements are likely different, but it shows an example of how hard it is to get at the heatsink to do this type of work:


    iFixit's website might have details on how to accurately take apart the 2009 model...

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