Yes, your MacBook Pro is running too hot, and yes, it is Apple's fault.

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by Doward, Apr 20, 2013.

  1. Doward, Apr 20, 2013
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2013

    Doward macrumors 6502a

    Feb 21, 2013
    YouTube Video (starting @ 9m 26s) showing the heatsink and compound issue.

    Let me preface this by saying the blame is NOT with Apple's engineers. I understand and absolutely applaud their methodology and execution in the Macbook Pro line.

    However, Apple's manufacturing and assembly need help.

    We're going to go into why:

    Apple's machine work on the heatsinks is sub-par, immediately causing poor contact, and thus poor heat transfer from the CPU/GPU to the heatsink.

    This is compounded with entirely too much heatsink compound on the dies.

    First, a little information that seems to be *sorely* lacking in the Apple community (some materials engineering):

    The very best heat transfer method is direct metal-to-metal contact. Unfortunately, once you separate a piece of metal into two pieces, you will always have air between the two pieces, due to surface imperfections.

    Now, if you were to look at a flat piece of metal under a microscope, you would see this:

    See those valleys, dips, mountains?

    Now notice the roughness average (known in the industry as RA) values.

    The roughness average of a polished mirror finish is usually 3-5 microinches. That NiTi 80 has an RA of 1 micron (1 micron = ~39 microinches), and you see the valleys and mountains.

    Here is an image of a proper heatsink base (Taken from Swiftech's website):

    Do you see how reflective the surface is? That means there are very few valleys. I'd say that Swiftech heatsink has an RA of 3-5 microinches.

    When I pulled the heatsink out of my Macbook Pro, I was astounded. While I don't have a profilometer available, I'd estimate the RA of the heatsink copper pads in the neighborhood of 40-60 RA. That's freaking pathetic in a system that you pay the kind of money you do for a quality Macbook Pro. I've seen better heatsink bases in a DELL for crying out loud. Now, my lapping was not the best job in the world. I may have gotten the RA down to the 25 range, but it certainly helped.

    If you'd like to read more on surface finishes, check out Wikipedia. Plenty of reading, and you can start doing some thinking on your own - Surface Finish

    So what the heck does that have to do with all the heatsink goop I see spread around like peanut butter on a sammich? (mmm sammich - sorry, I'm hungry) Glad you asked!

    Direct metal to metal is the best heat transfer mechanism, as we've already stated, but we have those surface imperfections that we can't even see to deal with.

    Enter: heatsink compound.

    See, air is a great insulator; air does not allow heat to transfer effectively. We use heatsink compound of low thermal resistance to 'fill in' those little valleys and imperfections, so we don't have air keeping our heat transfer at bay.

    The normal white stuff you see is usually a ZnO (zinc oxide) mixture. And yes, it does the job. However, something like Arctic Silver works even better at facilitating that heat transfer (pure silver is about 10x as thermally conductive as ZnO), so we can move that heat out of the CPU and into the heatsink system.

    That's also why it is SO important to have AS LITTLE HEATSINK COMPOUND AS POSSIBLE to fill those voids in the metal-to-metal contact patch. Copper is about 9x as thermally conductive as ZnO, so having too much heatsink compound hurts thermal transfer rate.

    To reiterate, this is *not* the fault of Apple's engineering team. The heatpipe assembly is good, the fan control is good, the exhaust system is... well, ok, I think they could have done better there, honestly, but they did the best they could within those design parameters.

    Under normal conditions that most use their fashionable Macbooks in, the raw heatpipe transfer will keep the laptop CPU/GPU under ~120F (49C). Heck, I have 11 tabs open in Chrome (one of which is Youtube, my channel actually) and carrying on a couple conversations in both Adium and Colloqey, and I'm sitting at 106F (41C) temperatures at the moment.

    The CPU will remain clocked down, the discrete GPU stays off, and things are great.

    Now, once you start pushing things, (such as encoding a 40+ minute 1080p Youtube video) CPU clocks come up, discrete GPU comes online and clocks up, and yes, heat starts getting really generated. Fans start ramping up to keep up with the thermal demands, exhaust gets blown out the hinge area, and away we all go.

    I have hit 201F (94C) while doing these full power encodes, and once the fans are up and running (5500rpm, not even full 6200rpm) temperatures tend to stabilize around 185F (85C), which I imagine is right where the engineers want it maxed at around. If I pop the Macbook Pro up on a 1" thick book so the exhaust area has more room to 'breathe' and push the fans to 6200rpm, I can get my temps down to 175F (79C) while does those full encodes. I have no thermal throttling at any time for any thing.

    Let me also mention that I have the BTO 2.5Ghz Quad i7 - NOT the normal 2.2 or 2.4 Ghz versions.

    Whomever Apple has manufacturing their heatsinks, seriously needs to get on the ball with providing a properly machined surface to attach to the logic board.

    Whomever Apple has assembling the laptops, needs to learn how to properly apply heatsink compound.

    Combine too much heatsink compound with poor heatsink machine work, and you know what you have?

    A Macbook Pro that runs too damn hot.

    I hope this was helpful for you all. Questions? Comments? Keep your blind fanboy-ism, but constructive discussion, I'm all for.

    *edit* Micron to microinch conversion - my fault. Used to dealing with µin, not µm;)
  2. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    TLDR. The vast majority of Apple notebooks run just fine, with temps that are well within normal safe operating range. There are a few who obsess about these temps, but it's not something most users should worry about. A Mac will shut down if it truly overheats, to prevent damage. If it's not shutting down due to temps, they're most likely normal, even if someone new to Macs isn't used to such temps.
  3. canucksfan88 macrumors 6502a


    Oct 28, 2007
    this is what apple wants you to think
  4. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    Well, considering that millions upon millions of Mac notebooks are running without failure for many, many years, Apple is right. I'm posting this from a 5 year old MBP that I've hammered extensively for 14+ hours a day, almost every day, with no reapplying thermal paste, no fan control apps, no cooling pads, nothing beyond just using it. It still runs like it did day one. The vast majority of Mac users can report similar experiences. If temps were a significant problem, there would be mass recalls, floods of news articles, etc.

    There is a small minority who freak out about Mac temps, but it's largely unfounded, as most Macs just keep on running. The OP has made these arguments in several threads before starting another redundant thread on this beaten-to-death topic. The fact is that for most Mac users, temps are perfectly fine.
  5. bill-p macrumors 68000

    Jul 23, 2011

    People freak out about temperatures so much after coming from desktops, not knowing that other laptops (non-Apple) actually have it much worse.

    Look up idle temperatures on an Alienware M17x. And if that isn't enough to scare you already, look at load temperatures.

    Then go back and compare that to the same readings on a MacBook Pro 17".
  6. justperry macrumors G3


    Aug 10, 2007
    In the core of a black hole.
    Pretty positive those 100s of Apple engineers know better than you.

    Laptops have always have (much) higher temps than Desktops.
  7. maxosx macrumors 68020

    Dec 13, 2012
    Southern California
    There's a lot of variables involved when it comes to temps. The example you've given is far too vague & completely irrelevant.

    Apple's & Lenovo's laptops are both the finest of their respective platforms. Each are extremely well designed, engineered & long lasting.

    That's all that matters to the educated user.
  8. negativzero macrumors 6502a

    Jul 19, 2011
    That's where you are wrong. I've read your copypasta tons of times and yes the CPU has a operating temp of 100C, that's not the problem. Intel can create a chip with a operating temp of 200C and you would say the same thing.

    The problem lies with the heat transfer of the CPU which isn't executed properly because of excess thermal paste. And that excess heat is transferred to the other parts of the MacBook, namely the aluminum case. And if the MacBook stays at 80-90C for too long that heat will make using the MacBook uncomfortable. Try using a hot laptop sometime.

    I've used laptops from HP and Acer with higher ambient temperatures but they are hardly hot to touch. But MacBooks need lower temps precisely because of its aluminum construction because metal will conduct heat better than plastic and one of the reasons why it's not removing heat well is because of the badly applied compound.
  9. vpro, Apr 20, 2013
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2013

    vpro macrumors 65816


    Jun 8, 2012
    Is it okay to ask for a civil law suit case to open?

    Is it? How about one?

    My first 15" r-macbook had this issue on the second day of my 14 day return period window, watching a simple 2 minute video, 15 seconds into the video the fans are ROARING louder than the dishwasher, dryer and fridge combined. Feeling around the computer, closest to the vents the temp reached or a raised surface with plenty of air movement by an open window in the winter time it got up to 135 C, immediately shut down and unplugged manually. Called Apple, they were completely shocked and totally helpful, basically she exclaimed that this is NOT NORMAL and that I needed to bring it down to my nearest store ASAP! When I did, they didn't even have to look at the computer, they just gave me two options, to replace with a new one or get a full refund along with a 500 dollar gift card. I took the latter, I upgraded my late 2011 17" MBP completely, saved the rest of the cash and recently got a new 15" r-macbook just for the heck of it. It runs the hottest out of all my Macs since 1994, was my first Mac.
  10. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    It's not just a matter of the maximum acceptable CPU temp, which is 105C. It's the fact that all these arguments about temps being too high are proven wrong by the millions of Mac notebooks that are used every day without heat-related failures. Those who complain about the heat never provide legitimate proof of their arguments in the form of statistics on how many Macs fail due to heat.
    That's only your opinion. As Apple is on the line to provide warranty coverage for its products, it's wiser to trust their team of engineers rather than a few posting in a forum who think they're smarter than the expert team that Apple employs.
    I have, but I use common sense, as recommended by Apple:
    That's because aluminum transfers heat better than the materials used in many other notebooks, so you'll feel it more.
  11. Mackan macrumors 65816

    Sep 16, 2007
    Lenovo's laptops can't compare to Apple laptops as of today. Lenovo can't even implement a good fan control. They simply don't care about the details, that Apple do. First hand experience, owning Apple laptops and Lenovo ThinkPads.
  12. makaveli559m macrumors 6502

    Apr 30, 2012
    Thinkpads and MacBook Pros are great notebooks :)
  13. swingerofbirch macrumors 68040

    Oct 24, 2003
    The Amalgamated States of Central North America
    I agree with the OP. I've had a MBP reach 218 F internal temperature and the bottom case reach the 140s. It's a temperature that simply burns. There's no question about it. It obviously depends on what you're doing, but the bottom line is that I don't think the device is safe with young children, for example. The devices shouldn't be able to get that hot regardless of what the software is doing. And that's quite a different story from any other Apple device. I think we've just been conditioned to believe hot notebooks are normal.
  14. Doward thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Feb 21, 2013
    Wrong, already explained why. Read the post and educate yourself. Or don't, that is your prerogative.

    Irrelevant, both counts:

    1) Already stated the engineers did a superb job. Comprehension of the written word is important.

    2) Never compared laptops to desktops. Logical fallacy at it's finest.

    Again, Apple's engineers did a *fantastic* job. Had you read the OP, you would know my stance on this. Apple's manufacturing is to blame for the heat issue.

    As for your insistance that it's 'ok' to run at or near thermal junction max temperature and not affect electronics life:

    NASA disagrees with you.

    JPL disagrees with you.

    Physics disagrees with you.

    You also appear to not understand how warranty coverage works. Long story short, all companies employ actuaries (look them up, they handle weighing financial risk vs uncertainty) to compare final product vs warranty claims.

    Apple's betting that you won't complain enough to return their product vs their current manufacturing choices. And with so many people simply being brainwashed into "poor manufacturing is awesome" in the Apple community, that bet is paying off for them.

    Partially correct. The substandard machining of the copper pads on the heatsink exacerbates the issue.
  15. duervo macrumors 68020


    Feb 5, 2011
    I'd be willing to bet that most laptops suffer from this, not just Apple. In fact, I've seen forum posts on Lenovo's website about the same thing for the ThinkPad's. I'm confident that if I went looking, I would find similar concerns about laptops from Dell, HP, Asus, etc.

    I would like to fix it myself, as I've done it on my desktop graphics cards and CPU heatsinks on my PC's for years. However, the threat of voiding my warranty so far has prevented me from doing anything to any laptop that I've owned, for as long as the warranty is still valid. Maybe when the warranty on my current system expires, I'll go ahead and fix it and see what difference it makes. We'll see.
  16. CitrusPisser, Apr 21, 2013
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2013

    CitrusPisser macrumors member

    Apr 20, 2013
    Considering i only just upgraded from my 17inch 2007 MBP purely for better performance (old one stills works fine) i think it's a solid testament that even the components back then can last under moderate-high temps. That computer ran WAY hotter than the 2012, it's like chalk and cheese. my GPU and CPU temps on the new model rarely hit 70c even in high intensity rendering and gaming.
  17. Queen6 macrumors 604


    Dec 11, 2008
    Flying over the rainforest at dawn - Priceless
    Stop this nonsense this is not an arbitrary fix for all; you need the right tools and most importantly the right skills, as some have found this out to their rue. you are simply posting across multiple threads that this is the solution to everyones temperature issues. Your MBP is one of literally millions produced, by far the vast majority of modern MBP`s run well within their thermal envelope. You are simply making assumptions based on approximations.

    As much as you believe this is the "big fix" you are very much mistaken there are posts here show that replacing the thermal paste can be very much a "mixed bag" some have seen good results, others little to nothing. Before encouraging others to rip apart their MBP, you need to be certain of "root cause". If the idle temp is elevated, if temp ramp up is rapid and cooling slow (no load), significant throttling then there may be case to start looking at the cooling system. In general cleaning the fans and heatsync`s will do more good on an older machine. If you have the skill`s, the tech spec`s have at, if not there is a lot more you can do before breaking out the screwdrivers...

    Of all the 15" MBP`s I use only my Early 2008 ran a little hot, when the fans finally quit after over two years in the Middle East and a year and a half in the Tropic`s I replaced them, cleaned the heat syncs, temperatures reduced, thermal paste still the same as it left China in 08.
  18. Comeagain? macrumors 68020


    Feb 17, 2011
    Spokane, WA
    I think to say you're making a mountain out of a mole hill is almost an understatement. Of all the things to complain about on a laptop, thermal paste is the one you choose? Keep in mind, many people use their macs for email and Facebook.

    Why are young children doing extremely processor intensive tasks for long periods of of time, with their device on bare skin? Or, really anyone? If you're going to be doing something to drive your processor that hard, you're probably not going to be resting the computer on your lap.
  19. leman macrumors G3

    Oct 14, 2008
    I think that OP raises a valid point. Not that I ever had problems with heat on my rMBP (and I play lots of games on it). Still, if the heatsink performance can be improved, I would also like Apple to look into it - in the end it will give us more reliable performance and (arguably) slightly better lifespans. I would not recommend anyone to manually reapply the heatsink though - the risk of damaging something is just to high.
  20. swingerofbirch macrumors 68040

    Oct 24, 2003
    The Amalgamated States of Central North America
    You're suggesting that a person should have to consider what they're doing with their computer in relation to whether they can have the computer on their lap or near children. And it's not that it takes very long for a MacBook Pro to get that. Start video recording, screen sharing (especially back in Lion) and you can get the computer really hot without maxing out the processor.

    I think that's just a defense of the way things have been. It's not something the user should have to consider. There's a difference between what is and what's ideal. If Apple has any sense, they're envisioning a future where you can touch a screen and edit any quality of video with no lag. Everything is instant. You don't have to consider processor load. You don't have to consider whether processor load will burn you.

    Regardless of an ideal future, I think a common sense present is one where the external temperature of a device has a specified maximum temperature it will not go above and that no matter how you use the device--unless you're using it a way not intended by tearing it apart and doing something odd to it--it shouldn't burn you.

    I don't know of people who have an experience with an iPhone or iPad that gets so hot it could burn them because of what they're doing with the device in terms of software. And I don't think that if it were the case they would blame themselves for having used the device's software in the wrong way.
  21. CitrusPisser macrumors member

    Apr 20, 2013
    Considering that apples specifies that MBP's are NOT designed for laptop use i would say its perfectly reasonable to consider what you should and shouldnt do with it sitting on your lap. That said, i'm currently streaming HD video with my MBP on my lap and it's a very comfortable temperature.
  22. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    All I know is that my rMBP has been the best laptop I've owned, it does not run too hot, and This topic about cooling, and thermal compounds have been bantered about for years. This is not a new subject, people say the manufacturer puts way too much on, and that might be true, but re-applying it only reduces temps by 5c

    I think too many people get worked about the details when they shouldn't. The computer operates within normal parameters and there's no need to tear it apart to look at how shiny heat syncs may be or how the thermal compound has been applied.

    Are there superior heat syncs and thermal compounds - without about. Should apple use them, possibly. Are the current ones sufficient - evidence seems to suggest they are adequate
  23. Robster3 macrumors 68000

    Dec 13, 2012
    If you have owned enough apple products you will know they all run hot if pushed. 09 27" and 21" iMac, ipad3, iphone5, 15"mbpr, and even my ipad min can get warm on LTE.
  24. swingerofbirch macrumors 68040

    Oct 24, 2003
    The Amalgamated States of Central North America
    I remember being in a sketch comedy group a couple of years ago--no chairs or desks--was sitting on the floor with my MacBook Pro on my lap and was wearing shorts so it was on my skin. I got a burn that lasted for a good while from that. What was I running at the time? I don't recall. Did I notice it being hot . . . very warm, yes, but not painfully so, or I would have moved it.

    And I'm not sure what Apple intends, but this is how they market:
    Which is pretty much exactly how I was using my computer, except my shorts were shorter.
  25. Doward thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Feb 21, 2013
    Having lots of heatsink compound isn't the major problem, though. When the assembly tech bolts down the heatsink, most of the compound is pushed out anyway.

    The substandard machine work on the copper pad is the issue.

    I personally saw (and is documented in the video) 30F (17C) degrees of change after polishing the heatsink and applying Arctic Silver.

    I would expect to see 4-6 C difference in temp based on a generic vs premium thermal compound.

    Seeing a 17 C difference implies a different, more serious issue at hand.

    Everyone keeps bantering about the compound, so let me try this one more time:

    The main issue is NOT the compound used, nor the quantity. The main issue is the substandard machining of the heatsink's copper base. The over zealous use of thermal compound exacerbates the issue, but does not create it

    Maybe that'll get through....

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367 April 20, 2013