Zen and the art of laptop cooling…

For about the past 2 years I’ve done a majority of my home computing on laptops.  Initially I used an Acer netbook which my wife still uses – but my need for gaming in a house where I couldn’t really use my 360 as much as I’d like anymore lead me to pick up an ASUS G51Jx gaming laptop from Newegg.  Great system, plenty of power – a year later I can still run most games on max detail settings and get an acceptable frame rate.

The problem is that from day one, this thing has generated some wicked heat.  Recently I’d started to experience graphics glitches and lockups.  I don’t exactly have the money to buy a new machine right now so I need to get as much life out of this one as I can.  That lead me down the road of active cooling for my system.

I looked at a bunch of the options online and in stores, all had varying reviews.  Eventually I ended up buying a “Gearhead” 15.4 cooling pad for $20 at Computer Discount of West Milford.  It has a pair of thin fans that pulls cooler air from below to aid in feeding fresh air to the existing cooling system on the machine.  It works fairly well – but I still find it a little cumbersome, and am anticipating either the USB cable or fans wearing out at some point.

My plan in the interim is to build a simple USB powered accessory cooling unit for the system.  Basically, I’m going to build/buy a small plastic box capable of holding two or more standard high-speed cooling fans that pull its air from the side of the unit.  On top of the box, I’m going to have an aluminum sheet (good for heat transfer) that either will or will not be perforated.  I figure with one fan pulling in and one pushing air out, it may be able to offer a fairly cool surface for the laptop to rest on, allowing the existing feet on the system to provide adequate clearance for air to move by the laptops built in fans.

Another option would be to use a perforated aluminum sheet that the laptop would rest on, and the side-fans would pull air into the box and route it to the built-in vents under the laptop.  It’d likely be thicker than normal pads – but it would keep both my lap and laptop more than a little cooler.  Also, I would avoid the whole ‘pull air from the bottom’ issue whcih isn’t really effective when I’ve got the system resting on my lap, or a bed… anything but a hard flat surface.

Queue Macgyver theme….

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