Is Your MacBook Pro Retina Overheating? Fix It Now!

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Is your Macbook Pro overheating to the point where you can’t even hold it in your lap? The issues go beyond your discomfort– computers operating at higher temperatures won’t last very long, as the components tend to wear out faster than a computer operating at normal temperatures. Keeping your computer at a reasonable temperature is good for both your comfort and your pocketbook.

Thankfully it’s easy to fix issues with an overheating Macbook Pro.

We also recommend that you read this very popular post of ours on how to speed up Macs. Some of these tips can help reduce the load on your system, thus helping you keep your computer’s temperature in check.

A simple setting change in your system preferences

Try out this system tweak to lower your computer’s temperatures:

System Preferences -> Energy Saver -> Uncheck “Automatic Graphics Switching

Believe it or not, that is one of the simplest and most effective ways keep your computer’s temperature in check.

This simple settings tweak changes how your computer delegates graphics processing. Your computer will only use its graphics hardware to process your on-screen graphics. This will make sure your computer’s components will only do the work they’re optimized to do, instead of switching between multiple components for higher graphics performance.

This tweak isn’t available on all models of the MacBook pro, only ones with a discreet graphics card. Try this tweak instead if you can’t turn off automatic graphics switching:

System Preferences -> Energy Saver -> Graphics -> Choose “Better Battery Life

This setting will lower the your computer’s performance slightly, thus increasing your battery life and decreasing how hot your computer will become. If this still isn’t enough, there are some other things to try outside of software tweaks:

Using laptop cooling fans to reduce your MacBook Pro’s heat

Your MacBook Pro has built-in fans that work to keep your computer at stable temperatures. The fans do their best, but the computer will start to suffer if temperatures reach higher than 75 C, something that can happen when using taxing graphic processing software like Final Cut Pro, Adobe Photoshop, or Blender 3D modeling. This is especially true in the case of the MacBook Pro with retina display as the high-resolution display is very taxing on the computer’s hardware.

This is where external fans can be a godsend, keeping your CPU and other critical components at a stable operating temperature.

Understand that most of these fans work off of USB power from your MacBook Pro. In other words, using these fans will  drain your computer’s battery more quickly. The good news however is that the power draw is not very significant. In other words, if you can get your MacBook Pro to last you around 4 hours on a full battery, the laptop cooling pad might bring take you down to 3 hours and 40 minutes. This trade-off is worthwhile due to the fact that you’re helping keep your computer at stable temperatures.

Laptop cooling pads come in many shapes, sizes, and even color options. If you’re interested, check out this page on Amazon for some great options.

We have compiled a few quick notes on the most popular cooling pads out there, cooling pads that are compatible with your MacBook Pro.

Cooler Master NotePal X-slim Check out this option at Amazon.

This option supports 15′ and 17′ MacBook models. It comes in a slim profile,  including two height settings for ergonomic use. It sports one fan that rotates at about 1500 RPM.

Cooler Master NotePal X2 – Check out this option at Amazon.

This option is very similar to the NotePal X-slim, but it includes a blue LED light for a very different visual effect. Some people prefer the LED-lit-look (we don’t, but it’s a personal opinion) Give it a shot for a cool-blue styling.

Targus Space Saving Lap Chill MatCheck out this product at Amazon.

This is a very popular cooling fan for the MacBook Pro. The fans on this cooling pad operate at a very low noise level and the USB cable is integrated into the product so you don’t have to worry about a dangling cable with this cooling pad.

Cooler Master NotePal U2 PlusCheck out this option at Amazon.

This cooling pad  allows your to adjust the fans to the optimal points on your laptop. Your MacBook Pro, just like any other laptop, has certain hot spots that reach higher temperatures than other parts of the computer. With these fans, you can specifically target these hot spots, resulting in more efficient and localized cooling.

People who have used this particular laptop cooling pad have said that it can drop CPU temperature by as much as 20 C, making it a very effective and worthwhile purchase for your computer.

Other ways to prevent your MacBook Pro from overheating

Avoid using your MacBook Pro on soft surfaces like a bed or a couch. These surfaces have a tendency to trap heat under the computer’s body and make it very easy for the computer to overheat. Try to use your computer on a flat surface like a table or a bench or the surface of a cooling pad. This allows your computer to direct heat away from the body as it was designed to do.

Try to also use your MacBook Pro in rooms that are not abnormally hot as room temperature can affect how quickly your MacBook Pro overheats.

You can also try using a metal surface or object as a heat sink. Any metal surface will help draw away and dissipate heat away from the computer.

Try resting your computer on a cool pan or metal table. The conductive properties of the metal will help draw heat away from your Macbook’s aluminum body. The computer should take much longer to reach dangerous temperatures.

How to monitor your MacBook Pro’s CPU temperature?

There are many free apps that help you monitor your MacBook Pro’s core temperatures.

We like these apps for monitoring your MacBook Pro’s temperatures:

Temperature Monitor

Marcel Bresink Temperature Monitor

Temperature Gauge by Tunabelly Software

These apps will give you individual temperature readings for your CPU, processor, graphics card, memory, battery, and even your hard disk.

There is also software available for your MacBook Pro that will allow you to control your MacBook Pro’s fan speed. You can program your MBP’s fans to work harder when it is doing CPU intensive tasks. One of the most popular programs for regulating and controlling fan speed is smcFanControl for Mac. We however would recommend it only for advanced MacBook Pro users who know what they are doing when adjusting fan speeds. Adjusting the speeds to be too low can have negative effects on your computer.

Tell us if we were able to help you with your MacBook Pro retina overheating problems. Are there any other fixes that worked for you? Share your comments and thoughts and we will be eager to publish them for all our readers to see.

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About the Author
Michelle, author at Mach Machines. A tech lover and an insatiable latte drinker. Michelle blogs about improving the personal computing experience.
  1. Jose Gonzalez

    The graphic card setting change fixed my problem. Incredible! Thanks a lot for the tips. I haven’t even tried the other tips but this worked like a charm.

  2. Rebecca Reynolds

    My MBP did not have the automatic switching setting although the other energy saving setting change did help bring the temperatures down. I am not able to resume using it on my lap.

    Have to look into a cooling pad as well….

  3. Magnar

    I couldn´t either find System Preferences -> Energy Saver -> Graphics -> Choose “Better Battery Life” or System Preferences -> Energy Saver -> Uncheck Automatic Graphics Switching.

    Where can I find this in OSX Mavericks ? And how can I manually deactivate this if not ? 🙂

  4. Magnar

    I´ve understood over the night that this tip mentioned above with disabling Automatic Graphics Switching is not valid for 13″ Macbook Pro, they purely uses the Intel HD 4000 Graphics-chip.

    I think this is the main reason for my ever annoying fan problems.

  5. Stoposto

    Got my first ever Mac yesterday, the top of the line 2014(mid)rMBP and I could not for the life of me figure out why it was so hot when only using a small amount of resources running Safari and the likes.

    Thanks so much for the tip, turning Automatic Graphics Switching off did the trick! 50 C cooler while idle now! I am so happy I got the one with Nvidia graphics instead of onboard only 😀

    Gotta be said, I usually plug it into my UHD 4k monitor so the CPU graphics are realy being fried with that setup.

    Just wanted to say Thanks and share my experience 🙂

  6. Mach Machines

    We at MachMachines are so glad that we could be of help! Will notify Michelle of your comment. I am sure she will love to read it too! 🙂

  7. jay

    As asked above, what about mavericks users? I also don’t ahve either one of the mentioned options in Energy Saver preferences. Fix would be appreciated. Thanks

  8. Michelle Smith

    Hi Jay

    For Macs with Mavericks on them, you can try doing an SMC reset. Simply search for SMC reset in our search bar and you will find a few posts that talk about it. I can’t say for sure if an SMC reset will fix your heat problems but it is definitely worth a try. An SMC reset can also potentially give your Mac a performance boost as well.

  9. Kim

    does your macbook have a discrete graphics card? if no, then that option would not have been available to you since you only have one graphics option.

  10. Jordan

    Hi there,

    I’ve got a late 2011 Macbook Pro 17″. Im trying to use an external monitor (HP), connected with a HDMI-Thunderbolt cable. After the monitor has been connected to the MBP for about 45mins, my MBP suddenly starts to lag, and and slows down to a crawl. When I disconnect the monitor from the MBP, the laptops performance gradually goes back to normal . When I check the activity monitor (which is tough because everything at this point is painfully slow), nothing seems to be taking any significant amount of CPU. I should also mention that while the monitor is connected, the MBP gets progressively hotter and the fans start to work harder.

    Anyone ever encounter this issue or know how to fix this? Seems to me that an external monitor should not be putting so much stress on the MBP…..

    Thanks,

    Jordan

  11. Michelle Smith

    Hi Jordan

    That is a very unusual problem indeed! I have never heard of such a thing. Can you try SMC and PRAM resets. Just search for those terms in our search box and you will find instructions. I think that might help you fix these weird problems. If that doesn’t work, try changing the connecting cable. I think the resets should work though.

    Michelle

  12. Jordan

    Thanks Michelle,

    I tried it and it worked! I also read on another thread that leaving your laptop on a soft “cushion like” surface tends to prevent the fan for letting the air flow out properly, thus causing the laptop to over heat quicker. I had been resting my Macbook on top of my foamy laptop cover as a way to prevent it from scratching the bottom – maybe that was part of it too….

    Regardless of what did it, I’ve had the monitor plugged in all day and my laptop hasn’t experienced any lagging yet. Thanks again for the help!

  13. Mach Machines

    We are really glad we were able to help! And yes, using your MacBook on a couch or bed or cushion like material is a definite no-no! 🙂 Michelle

  14. Aaron Gray

    @Jordan Glad to hear that fixed your problems. FYI, “When your computer is connected to an external display, high-performance graphics will remain on until you disconnect the display.”

    See here – support.apple.com/kb/ht4110

  15. Eric Anugraham

    Yes I have Done the Switching. I had a problem When my Mac Pro got hot it affected the LCD Screen very bad all the pictures looked blotchy & real Bad. I Am Pro Photographer shoot Hi Def Images larger files. The Screen had a strange Pattern. Apple says thats no good are willing to Replace the Computer. Its only 2 months old. I also Run a Cooling Fan made for 17″ underneath the Computer.
    After Apple Tech told me to shutdown & restart with power button & immediately hold down the ALT, COMMAND,P&R buttons the comp will sound twice then let go. This Cleared the Problem. Last month in sleep mode it hot very hot couldn’t hold the Computer. I am going to ask them to replace it as it got so hot might have damaged some components. Used to be SONY Technician for a long time. Getting Hot is a BAD Problem. This shouldn’t happen. Not enough ventilation since its very thin. I will try it for a few days since I have unchecked Automatic Graphics Switching. I think this will help.

  16. John Peachey

    Dear Michelle. You have saved the day. One of our macs suddenly started getting warm since the last couple of weeks when plugging in to an external thunderbolt display, and disabling Automatic Graphics Switching seems to have solved the problem. Thanks very much – this has saved us a lot of time! 🙂 We owe you a latte 😉

  17. Andrea

    if you do that you can use only DISCRETE Grafic card and not the integrated!!!!
    but what do you say?

  18. Dirk

    The settings you recommend are no longer listed. Any new idea for a fix? Mine only does it on occasion.

  19. Alexandra

    I just wanna share to you my experience. I have been experiencing some overheatng problem with my macbook as well and aside from these setting configuration, I used this laptop cooler I got from Amazon and it is great! It’s portable and easy to use. It helped me a lot these months! http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ZA0HFSA

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