My laptop's hard drive heats up quite badly. The regular operating range hovers around 42-44 Centigrade. It gets even worse when the screen is locked with temperatures shooting up to 50C. The casing next to the track pad gets ridiculously hot and at this point I am really worried that continuous high temperatures is a hard drive failure waiting to happen.

I've searched and fiddled with hdparm spin-down options with no success. The other related option seems to be installing this thing called laptop-mode-tools. I'm not sure if this will do the trick since it seems to be about extending battery life whereas my problem occurs even with AC power on.

What are the options I have ? Will installing Laptop Mode Tools do anything good in this case ?

I am using a SATA 7200 rpm drive. Ubuntu version: Lucid Lynx.

  • Mine hovers around 56° C., so 50° doesn't sound too bad :) Truthfully, laptop hard drives are designed to withstand higher temperatures. – Nathan Osman Dec 11 '11 at 6:20

7200rpm is unusually fast for a laptop hard drive, and faster means hotter. There's no standard setting for making a hard disk spin slower, but maybe your disk has a nonstandard setting that the Windows driver uses. You could try hdparm -M 128, which tells the disk to be quieter (which implies slower and therefor less hot). There are plenty of disks where that makes no difference however.

  • 3
    7200 is standard for a laptop HD, circa 2004. – Dante Ashton Oct 17 '10 at 23:34
  • Thanks. I tried hdparm -M128, but no luck. – suhridk Oct 18 '10 at 10:10

Maybe it's just a problem with the hard drive. Is it old? Did it work normally before? Try maybe a LiveCD and see if you still have the heat problem: if you do, then it's probably that your hard drive is in need of a check, maybe even a replacement.

  • 1
    The hard drive was working normally with Windows Vista about a month ago which was when I made the switch to Ubuntu. I'll check if the problem persists with the LiveCD. – suhridk Oct 17 '10 at 16:33

I know this might be kind of obvious, but have you tried dusting out your laptop? I had the exact same problem on my Acer Ferrari, and once I cleaned all the dust out it cooled down quite nicely.

  • Yeah, I vacuumed my laptop innards, but didn't help. I bought a laptop cooling pad as well - it keeps the cpu temp down, but does nothing for the hard-drive :( – suhridk Oct 17 '10 at 15:49

One change you could make to decrease the amount of access to the disk, is to set the noatime option on fstab. This way the filesystem does not need to be written with the timestamp of the last access to the file.

I am assuming that for your purposes you do not need this timestamp, as for most desktop users use cases it is not used anywhere, just the modification time to determine when file was changed.

Example of entry in /etc/fstab with no atime:

UID=xxxxxxxx     /     ext3   errors=remount-ro,noatime 0 1
UID=yyyyyyyy     /home ext3   defaults,noatime          0 2
  • 1
    Ubuntu defaults to relatime, which already gets rid of most atime updates (so noatime has little extra effect). – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Oct 17 '10 at 17:56

have you contacted the manufacturer of your computer just to know if they have any reports of possibles issues with those hard drives?

I used to work on a Customer Support line for a respectable computer company and I've seen those issues even on Windows too.

  • Thanks for the idea. I'm going to ask this on the Seagate forums. – suhridk Oct 19 '10 at 6:20
  • You are welcome, let us know what they say – Heiner Valverde Oct 28 '10 at 13:47

You'll find a disk utility tool under System -> Administration -> Disk Utility. Get it to look at your hard-drive, run SMART checks and see what it comes up with.

It could also be the case that your machine does not have enough RAM and is using the hard-drive to compensate. I don't know, I need more details :)

  • I ran the SMART checks and I see green lights everywhere. RAM is 4GB - the max for a 32 bit OS, so I dont think it can be an issue ? – suhridk Oct 19 '10 at 6:19
  • Curious...the Disk Utility should report the tempreture (if your HD is equipped for it) – Dante Ashton Oct 20 '10 at 18:32

I've had this issue on 4 occasions, since having several laptops since 2007. It didn't matter what brand(Toshiba, HP, Dell, ASUS)

Everything you're talking about is plausible.

My situation was resolved in the following way. As much as I have taken on board ALL the comments that OTHER people have also suggested, realistically all the 4 occasions were resolved after finding the one factor in all of them. When I replaced a NEW battery, the overheating issue wasn't a factor anymore. When I returned the OLD battery, YES I had what everybody complained about. In all 3 occasions I did the following; while assuming the battery was OK because I had often kept the AC connection plugged in, of course seeing the FULL BATTERY image made me feel the BATTERY was fine. It was easy to just go on with whatever I was doing. When I came across the issue with the hard drive overheating, I just happened to have a friend that owns a computer store that gave me a NEW or currently working battery(he tested for as reliable), then plugged that into my laptop. For THAT TEMPORARILY REPLACED battery, the hard drive OVERHEATING issue was pretty much non existent. Curiously, I replaced MY OLD battery that I ASSUMED was fine(because I LOVED to see it FULLY CHARGED), then I pulled out the AC adaptor to allow the laptop to run off the battery. NOW THIS is something that I OBSERVED in ALL 3 occasions, that allowed me to now SHARE this observation with you. In ALL 3 occasions, the battery RAN DOWN within the first 20 minutes(none of them went longer than 20minutes(ie 4minutes, 12minutes, 15min, 20min)) and the battery alert came up 7minutes remaining your battery is low. Basically the none of the batteries lasted as they would usually run for at least 2 hours.

YES I also cleaned out the fan and blew out the motherboard of any dust. My friend has the laptop repair shop. Even keeping the OLD battery, the same issue would arise, the Hard Drive would overheat, while I had the AC connector plugged in, AND if I took out the AC connector, the battery did not last very long(in my case under 20minutes).

Therefore, the issue was the battery that could not hold it's charge anymore. I had been keeping the battery plugged into the AC for about 3 years ongoing, & yes I also occasionally ran it on it's own without the AC while sitting on the bus or in the airport. BUT I MOSTLY kept it connected on the AC, like ALOT of people, FEELING the ASSUMED comfort that I was always 100% full power when something went wrong(blackout poweroutage in asia Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia). In the past I INITIALLY did what everyone else seem's to always bring up, clean the fan area, blow off the dust, check power settings, blame the hard drive. After REPLACING the battery, obviously because in all 3 occasions it could not CONTINUE past 20 minutes without the warning LOW BATTERY POWER. In my situation, which SOUNDS like what everyone is talking about, the battery was the issue.

Is the hard drive LESS HOT when only on the BATTERY(not connected to the AC adaptor), YES in my case it was LESS HOT, whether it was on the NEW BATTERY, or even on the FAULTY BATTERY(that did not last longer than 20 minutes with the warning LOW BATTERY POWER).

But in ALL occasions, when the FAULTY BATTERY(assumed to be working well with FULL POWER STORED) was connected to the AC connector, the Hard Drive and generally underneath the LAPTOP area was OBVIOUSLY very HOT, then often would cause an automatic shutdown after some time(within 3 hours sometimes or after many hours under 48 hours). It didn't matter whether I had the AIRCON in the hotel room or a fan blowing directly on the laptop. The Faulty battery always appeared to have the issue with the UNDERNEATH feeling GENERALLY UNCOMFORTABLY HOT(hard drive area, cpu, memory chips).

Replace the battery after seeing it not last very long like I did, then YES for the next 2-3years we MAY NOT have the same issues again(Max 4years). BUT I now know the symptoms of this after 4 occasions. I don't waste time, after watching the battery not last long on it's own. I just get a new battery.

Will there be times that your AC ADAPTOR is at fault? YES, but in that case, your battery won't be charged fully, and you will see that it doesn't appear to be CHARGING the battery or show connected to the AC power. Replace that too in that case. Only cost $6-$8 in Asia, and lasted LONGER than the batteries. THose occasions I didn't have overheating. I just didn't see the battery being charged.


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