Burning Smell Coming From Laptop: A Troubleshooting Guide

If your laptop begins to smell like it is burning, odds are something is wrong with your machine. 

A burning smell can be caused by several factors including heat issues, dust, the AC adapter, or hardware meltdown.

Heat

Heat can be a major factor in causing a burning smell coming from your laptop. Heat is generated by your CPU (processor) and your GPU (graphics card). 

When these pieces of hardware are put under pressure (e.g. when gaming or using a lot of processing power), your CPU and GPU heat up. In some laptops, the temperatures of these pieces of hardware can reach 150°F or higher.

heat
Source: maketecheasier.com

Without a way to cool these pieces of hardware, they can begin to emit a smell similar to an electrical fire. 

..the first thing you should do is stop whatever high processing activity you are doing and allow your laptop to cool down completely…

If you are experiencing this type of smell, the first thing you should do is stop whatever high processing activity you are doing and allow your laptop to cool down completely. You can either turn it off or let it idle with no background processing to let it cool.

Once it is cool, turn it back on and check to make sure it is running alright. If it is, it is likely that you just experienced a heating problem. 

To ensure it doesn’t happen again, consider purchasing a cooling pad. These pads work by using fans to blow air beneath your laptop (where all the hot hardware is stored) to cool it when it is under high pressure. 

Most of these cooling pads plug into a USB port on your laptop and run while the laptop runs.

If your laptop has fans of its own, check to make sure they are running properly as well. You’ll be able to hear them when your laptop is running under high pressure. 

Some laptop models give you the option to manually turn fans on under pressure. If your fans aren’t running, you should take the laptop to a computer repair shop to see what is going on.

It is not normally a good idea to open up the chassis of your laptop to see it’s inner hardware, especially if your laptop is under warranty. Opening up your laptop will void the warranty. 

If you do still have a warranty on your laptop, consider sending it to your manufacturer and opening a query with them. They may be able to locate a possible flaw in the heating system that can be fixed.

Dust

Dust can play a huge part in causing laptop burning smells and it again is caused by heat. The laptop heats up with use and begins to burn the dust that has built up inside. Think of the smell when you turn your radiator on for the first time after it’s been off for a while.

..it can build up on the hottest pieces of hardware and begin to burn off when we use our laptops…

Dust builds up naturally in our laptops but left unchecked, it can build up on the hottest pieces of hardware and begin to burn off when we use our laptops. 

Look at your laptop’s vents and see if you can find evidence of dust build up. Even if there’s just a little bit of dust collecting on the vents, it’s probably a good idea to clean it out.

The best way to get rid of dust is with a can of compressed air. First, turn off your laptop. This is incredibly important! Start by blowing air from a good distance away from your laptop (we recommend about 2 feet) and then move closer. 

Blow the air into the laptop’s vents as well as the keyboard to gently loosen the dust. Most of this dust will come out of the laptop via the vents and other slots of the laptop. If you see signs of a large build up of dust, take your laptop to a professional to have it cleaned.

DO NOT use a vacuum cleaner to suck out the dust. Vacuum cleaners cause a huge build up of static that will eventually be discharged into the most conductive material, i.e. the small electrical components of your laptop. 

This can cause major damage to the hardware of your laptop and could even cause it to stop working altogether.

Again, try not to open the chassis of your laptop if you can avoid it. Unless you know exactly what you are doing when you open up your laptop, it’s best to take it to a professional to have it done. 

Just be sure that your laptop is no longer within its warranty before you open it. The reason for this, as mentioned above, is that you will void the warranty if you open the laptop chassis.

You want to avoid voiding the warranty just in case there is something wrong with the laptop. If there is, whether the issue is the burning smell or something else down the road, you’ll want to be able to use the warranty you paid for to fix it. 

Most manufacturers will not fix laptops that have been ‘tampered’ with by opening the chassis.

Regular cleaning for dust can improve your laptop’s performance and health over time so it is suggested that you clean for dust at least once every three months or more depending on the amount of build up you find.

AC Adapter

ac-adapter
Source: walmart.ca

The AC adapter your laptop came with (i.e. the charger) can sometimes be the cause of the burning smell. If the smell is that of burning plastic, the adapter may be the culprit. 

The first thing you should do is unplug your laptop from the adapter and unplug the adapter from the wall. Failing to do so can be extremely dangerous to your laptop and to you.

Inspect the adapter for any exposed wires. Exposed wires can spark and burn away the plastic insulation of the cable, causing a burning smell. If you don’t find any exposed wires on the cable, look at the connector. 

This is the bit that connects to your laptop and it often has a little bit of plastic around the inside of the connector. If that appears to be burned or melted away, then the short circuit happened there.

It is our recommendation that you replace the AC adapter immediately. You could take it to a professional and possibly have it fixed but you should not rely on that adapter. 

A piece of hardware that is so essential to your laptop should always perform to the highest standards. Relying on an adapter that has failed at any point is not recommended.

It will absolutely be worth the money to replace the adapter if it has short circuited. You and your laptop will be much safer.

These are the three main causes for a burning smell coming from your laptop. If you cannot find any evidence that the burning smell is being caused by these factors, it’s recommended that you take your laptop to a professional immediately and see what may be going on.

Leave a Comment