Dell Inspiron 1100 overheating problems solved?

Background: When I tried to run SpinRite 6.0 on my laptop, it reached a drive temp over 62°C, which is the hottest temperature they’re allowed to run (or something along those lines).

Anyway, I emailed GRC support, and received this reply:

It appears that some laptops are not designed to work with DOS anymore and the temperature controls may only be available in Windows.

SpinRite will allow you, when you hit the temperature screen, to proceed with caution. It may be that the drive is not going to get much hotter and it may also be, as you suggest, that this is not really a problem because laptops generally have heat dissipation troubles and so characteristically run their drives hot. However, it may also be that your laptops fans or other cooling devices are controlled by Windows drivers and so your laptops cooling is not functional when outside of Windows and running SpinRite in DOS.

I didn’t get too much from this reply, so I held out on continuing the hard drive maintenance until I could solve the heat issue. Shortly following this email reply, I ran into “Our Dell Inspiron 1100 Notebook Computer Kept Overheating” and “Our Dell Inspiron 1100 Has Overheating Problems Again“.

Basically, I had to:

  • remove a few screws and panels
  • remove the heat sink and fan
  • clean the cooling fins from dust
  • [possibly] reapply thermal grease to the CPU
  • reassemble

To me, this was a fairly daunting task, simply because I haven’t tinkered inside the workings of a laptop. But, my laptop was running hot anyway, so I was hopeful that this would help cool things down.

Today: At work, I brought my laptop in and used the tools I have here in my office. I wasn’t planning on cleaning the CPU core and reapplying thermal grease, because I didn’t have any. Popping off the thin blue top plate was the only issue. It’s really flimsy.

Tools:

  • Compressed air
  • Mini Phillips screwdriver
  • Standard Phillips screwdriver
  • Flathead screwdriver

With the help of the pictures in the article mentioned above, I cleaned the dust out of the laptop, and SpinRite ran for over two hours. The drive temperature has held steady for the past hour at 54°C. Awesome!

I’ll be using it later tonight to see if my lap and hands feel better with it. (Yeah, even the area below the keyboard gets a bit warm!) I’ll also put some pictures up, marking the areas where you need to use the tools. I took them with my camera phone, because my main one wasn’t here, but it’s a 1.3MP camera.

Lastly, it’d be in your best interest to read over the both the articles, and skim over the comments. Some of them have important insight, so [take their points] into consideration.

Thanks to Dan for writing these articles!

Published by

Bryan Villarin

Bryan is a Community Guardian at Automattic. He's also a photographer, card magician, and cat whisperer. (Thanks to my friend and colleague Steve Blythe for the sweet photo!)

16 thoughts on “Dell Inspiron 1100 overheating problems solved?”

  1. Hmm… that could explain why my Inspiron seems to get warm easily… never occurred to me I may suffer from the same issue.

    I’m just aprehensive in taking it apart for fear I’d mess something up..

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  2. Dell Inspiron 1100 is notorious with overheating problems. It’s because it is running old 2.4 Ghz celeron, which is pretty fast. But what is use of 2.4 Ghz when the processor is constantly overheated and automatically slows down to control its temperature. I am running mine for 3 years now with constanly having at least 60 Celsius CPU temperature. It is a fantastic work horse notebook but this issue nags me from the beginning – there is no way to put it in your lap or hips get sweaty like crazy.

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  3. @Lucky: I also use I8kfanGUI to keep the fans running. It helps a lot.

    I8kfanGUI is a graphical Windows application to show the internal temperatures and to control the fan operation on the Dell Inspiron/Latitude/Precision notebook series. It’s running under Windows 2000 and above operating system versions (Windows 2000/XP/Server2003/Vista).

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  4. My DELL inspiron 1000 was overheating to the point where everyting was failing (hard disk, cpu crashing, tsc clock etc..). I took it apart and put thermal grease on the cpu and graphics chip and cleaned out an unbelievable amount of dust where the fan couples the heat sink and the difference was like night and day as it works perfect now. I hope I did not damage anything waiting so long to clean it. The problem appear to be that these are some of the first generation of laptops that have modern cooling systems with huge copper heat sinks etc… In the old days a laptop did not even have a fan and even if it had one it worked without it mostly. So once the cooling system fails the computer will hardly run for a few minutes. They really should consider putting some kind of a cleanable or replaceable filter so that you don’t have to take it appart everytime. I consider it an easy-medium level difficulty repair as far as laptops go however it is not mindless to do and I have read reports of people screwing up their laptop. You will know your cooling is working OK if you can play a long wmv with good animation on media player, repeat for an hour or so, the fan should hardly come on at all.

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  5. Ok, for those of you that still have an Inspiron 1100 this fixed my my overheating completely. Go to Radio Shack > get thermal grease (specifically Arctic Silver) > put a very small amount (less than a size of a pea) on the top center of your processor after carefully cleaning off the residue on the processor and the contact point with the heat sink > reassemble. My computer’s CPU now runs at a steady 91 degrees F.

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  6. the fix posted worked for me…
    key steps:
    1. remember to turn the zero insertion screw to unlock the cpu to remove the heatsink and cpu. (it is a black screw on the left of the cpu
    2. clean the old heatsink compound off both cpu and heastsink with alcohol and a soft cloth..
    3. swipe a smooth thin coat of heatsink compound onto the cpu….(google for instructions )
    4. be sure to check the inside edge of the heatsink fins for a buildup of lint–it may be a felt like pad…poke it out somehow, it can be too thick to vacuum out…
    5. reinstall cph and using the sero insertion screw to lock it in
    6. carefully tighten heat sink hold down screws in the numbered order..

    Result: my 1100 used to quickly rise to 65C and then after about 30 minutes to 75C causing automatic thermal shutdown..
    Now it runs at 50-55C and only rises to 60C under heavy load–eg DVD playback…

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