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Why is my Ubuntu laptop overheating?

Ubuntu 11

Understanding and addressing the issue of overheating in Ubuntu laptops

Overheating is a common issue that many Ubuntu laptop users face. This problem can be attributed to a number of factors, including hardware issues, incorrect system configurations, and software inefficiencies. This article will delve into these causes and provide solutions to help you keep your laptop cool.

Quick Answer

Overheating in Ubuntu laptops can be caused by hardware issues, incorrect system configurations, and software inefficiencies. Regularly cleaning the laptop’s fan and vents can help maintain proper airflow. If your laptop has an Nvidia Optimus enabled graphics card, installing Bumblebee and configuring it properly can help reduce overheating.

Hardware Considerations

One of the primary causes of overheating is hardware-related. Laptops, especially older models, can accumulate dust over time, which can block the airflow and lead to overheating. Regularly cleaning your laptop’s fan and vents can help maintain proper airflow and keep your laptop cool.

Software and System Configuration

Graphics Card Configuration

If your laptop has an Nvidia Optimus enabled graphics card, which means it has both an integrated graphics chipset and a dedicated Nvidia GPU, it could be the root cause of your overheating problem. Without proper configuration, Ubuntu may be using the dedicated GPU all the time, leading to increased heat and power consumption.

To address this issue, you can install Bumblebee, a tool that allows you to switch between the integrated graphics and the dedicated GPU as needed. Bumblebee will disable the GPU when not in use, allowing your laptop to operate in a low-power state.

Installing Bumblebee and the proprietary Nvidia driver

Before you begin, it’s important to remove any previously installed graphics drivers to avoid conflicts.

Open a terminal and run the following commands:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:bumblebee/stable

This command adds the Bumblebee stable Personal Package Archive (PPA) to your system. A PPA is a repository of software that isn’t included in Ubuntu’s standard software sources.

sudo apt-get update

This command updates your system’s package list, ensuring that it knows about the latest versions of software and their dependencies.

sudo apt-get install bumblebee bumblebee-nvidia linux-headers-generic

This command installs Bumblebee, the proprietary Nvidia driver, and the generic Linux headers. The “sudo” command is used to run the following command as a superuser, giving it the necessary permissions to install software.

After running these commands, reboot your laptop.

Using Bumblebee

After the installation, your laptop will use the low-power integrated graphics chipset by default, keeping the dedicated GPU powered off. You can start an application that requires the full GPU power by running it with the “optirun” command. For example:

optirun your-application

The “optirun” command tells Bumblebee to use the dedicated GPU for the specified application.

If you encounter any issues during or after the installation, you can refer to the Bumblebee troubleshooting page for assistance.


Overheating can be a serious issue for Ubuntu laptop users, but with the right tools and configurations, it can be effectively managed. By maintaining your hardware and correctly configuring your graphics card with Bumblebee, you can keep your laptop running cool. Always remember to monitor your system’s temperature and take necessary actions if it starts to rise.

How do I check the temperature of my Ubuntu laptop?

You can check the temperature of your Ubuntu laptop by using the sensors command in the terminal. Make sure you have the lm-sensors package installed. Run sudo apt install lm-sensors to install it, then run sensors to see the temperature readings.

Is overheating harmful to my laptop?

Yes, overheating can be harmful to your laptop as it can cause damage to the internal components, reduce performance, and even lead to system crashes. It is important to address overheating issues promptly to prevent any long-term damage.

How often should I clean my laptop’s fan and vents?

It is recommended to clean your laptop’s fan and vents at least once every 3-6 months, depending on your usage and environment. However, if you notice that your laptop is overheating more frequently, you may need to clean it more often.

Can I use an external cooling pad to prevent overheating?

Yes, using an external cooling pad can help improve airflow and reduce the temperature of your laptop. Make sure to choose a cooling pad that is compatible with your laptop’s size and has good ventilation.

Can I manually control the fan speed in Ubuntu?

Yes, you can manually control the fan speed in Ubuntu using tools like lm-sensors and fancontrol. These tools allow you to monitor the temperature and adjust the fan speed accordingly. However, be cautious when manually controlling the fan speed and make sure to monitor the temperature to avoid any overheating issues.

Are there any other software tools to monitor and manage laptop temperature in Ubuntu?

Yes, there are several other software tools you can use to monitor and manage laptop temperature in Ubuntu, such as psensor, TLP (Advanced Power Management Tool), and indicator-cpufreq. These tools provide additional features and options for temperature monitoring and power management.

What should I do if my laptop is still overheating after trying these solutions?

If your laptop is still overheating after trying the solutions mentioned in this article, it is recommended to consult a professional technician or contact the laptop manufacturer for further assistance. They can help diagnose any hardware issues or provide specific solutions for your laptop model.

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