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Since I have switched from Win 7 to Ubuntu, it seems my laptop is much hotter and the fan is much louder. Is it normal behavior or maybe can I fix this by tweaking some settings? If so, what would be the steps to troubleshoot the problem?

Here is the output for "sensors" in the command line:

olalonde@olalonde:~$ sensors
Adapter: Virtual device
temp1:       +56.0°C  (crit = +100.0°C)                  
temp2:       +53.0°C  (crit = +100.0°C)                  
temp3:       +65.0°C  (crit = +100.0°C)

Update: I got a Dell Studio XPS 16 which is known for overheating, but after 1 year on Windows 7, it was never as bad as it is on Ubuntu.

Processor       : 2x Intel(R) Core(TM)2 Duo CPU     P8700  @ 2.53GHz
Memory      : 4024MB (764MB used)
Operating System        : Ubuntu 10.04.1 LTS
User Name       : olalonde (Oli)
Date/Time       : Tue 28 Sep 2010 10:55:25 AM EDT
Resolution      : 1600x900 pixels
OpenGL Renderer     : Unknown
X11 Vendor      : The X.Org Foundation
Audio Adapter       : HDA-Intel - HDA Intel
Audio Adapter       : HDA-Intel - HDA ATI HDMI
-Input Devices-
 Power Button
 Sleep Button
 Lid Switch
 Power Button
 Macintosh mouse button emulation
 AT Translated Set 2 keyboard
 Video Bus
 Dell WMI hotkeys
 SynPS/2 Synaptics TouchPad
 HDA Digital PCBeep
 HDA Intel Mic at Ext Left Jack
 HDA Intel HP Out at Ext Left Jack
 HDA Intel HP Out at Ext Left Jack
HP-LaserJet-P2015-Series        : <i>Default</i>
-SCSI Disks-
ATA ST9500420ASG
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Please tell us the make and model of the laptop in question. Some laptops have known issues and applicable fixes are very hardware specific. – Oli Sep 28 '10 at 11:52
And do the noise and temperature go down to the old levels if you reboot into Windows and perform similar tasks? The way you describe it, the culprit could be Linux or the normal passage of time (as dust accumulates and the fan mount deteriorates, the fan spins louder and louder for less and less effect). – Gilles Sep 28 '10 at 18:49
I have started using Ubuntu only a few days ago and the problems started at that time. It would be an unlikely coincidence. Also, is there any Windows live CD? – Olivier Lalonde Sep 29 '10 at 17:25
You can boot off of most Windows CDs, but it's for repair and administration only instead of being like a Ubuntu live CD: you can't run "normal" programs, etc. – Roger Pate Oct 2 '10 at 6:39

Some laptops are known to cause trouble when they are used with linux. If you could provide more information about your computer (manufacturer, model, BIOS version) it would be very helpful to find a solution for your problem.

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Check your CPU is clocked down when not in use. eg. right click a GNOME panel, ‘add to panel’, ‘CPU frequency scaling monitor’. It should go down when you're not doing much. If it's always on top speed you've got a cpufreq problem (sometimes a BIOS upgrade helps fix this).

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The option selected is "Ondemand" and at 800mhz most of the time. – Olivier Lalonde Sep 28 '10 at 14:53
Hmm, that sounds OK. I guess the next most likely would be graphics. Have you installed the non-free drivers from ATI (fglrx)? – bobince Sep 28 '10 at 23:09
No, didn't install those drivers. Should I? – Olivier Lalonde Oct 1 '10 at 18:10
I'd give it a go. The open source drivers have typically lagged on power management features. – bobince Oct 2 '10 at 18:42

I would first run top and see if you have a load > 1, and if so are any processes eating appreciable percentages of the cpu. If so, kill the process and verify it brings the temp down, then investigate why that app is behaving badly.

Next, use powertop to identify if any processes are sucking an unusual amount of power. Kill and investigate.

sudo service --status-all will tell you what services are running. You can test shutdown of services via sudo service <service> stop.

Use lsmod to see what kernel modules are loaded. rmmod can be used to check if the issue is a hardware driver out of control. (insmod to put the module back, or just reboot).

You didn't mention your video hardware, but if you've got ATI or NVIDIA, you could try using the proprietary video driver if your card is supported by it. Or if you're already using the proprietary driver, try the free one. Or try upgrading to a newer version (the x-updates PPA contains upgraded drivers).

I've had three laptops had fans break due to (afaik) age and hardware breakage. It could be worth ruling out it being just a hardware issues by booting on other livecds or onto windows. Fan control on Dell XPS seems to be a recurring and known issue... ... so you might check Dell support for BIOS upgrades or other solutions.

Finally, it could be just buggy software control of your fans. There is fan control software out there which lets you manually enable/disable/tune the fan. It can be dangerous to manually override BIOS control but if you end up wanting to take this route, google for 'linux fan control software' and be careful.

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Thanks for the very complete answer. One detail, when trying to "rmmod radeon", I get "ERROR: Module radeon is in use". Also, is it possible to boot in command line mode? That way I could see if the overheating is due to graphics. – Olivier Lalonde Oct 1 '10 at 22:14
you can boot into recovery mode, but probably a better approach would be to boot into X, and then shut down gdm via sudo service gdm stop, which should kill X and leave you at the console. – Bryce Oct 4 '10 at 7:06

You might want to join all that undervolting business. It'll save you some battery power as well.

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