Thank You William of Ockham (1287 – 1347) who coined the term “Ockham Razor” (“among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected“) has helped my overheating Late 2012 Mac Book Pro and solve heat problems by removing dust, installing fan control software and re-applying thermal paste.
I knew summer was coming (Thanks to Troy Hunt), I was already accepting high temperatures on my Development laptop.
My Mac Book Pro was reaching 95~104c right after bootup and stayed there. The Intel processor (2.6Ghz i7) was doing a fantastic job at throttling the core down to protect the processor. At this point, I thought my laptop was powered by a Fitbit processor (everything was super slow).
I was using the TunaBelly temperature monitor software to see temps.
I checked the Tunabelly Software website and found I was running an older version of the software (App Store version). I can now download a new version (direct from the author called TG Pro) and upgrade to a TB Pro ( see here ).
Old version (left screenshot below) and the new version (right screenshot below).
The new version has a nice drop-down menu (with stats).
TG Pro even has notifications when temps get too high 🙂
Why the High Temps
I had assumed that this heat was caused by extra CPU activity in the recent Apple High Sierra update (or Summer). I had noticed OSX locking up after I installed High Sierra. I had assumed that OSX 10.3 (High Sierra) was now pushing the CPU harder like Metal was pushing Apple GPU’s harder.
This morning the higher fan speed did not seem to help so I sat my Mac under a split system air conditioner (with no luck).
Even with the split system air conditioner running (and pointing at the Mac), the Mac was still overheating.
I was a boiling frog in my own pot of assumptions. This bad assumption sent me down the wrong (potentially expensive path (new machine)).
My brain dived into solutions mode and concocted that High Sierra was crap and I needed a new iMac Pro with advanced cooling (the problem is Apple have not released them yet). The image of the new Apple iMac Pro (below) is really here just so I can drool at the new iMac Pro insides: https://www.apple.com/au/imac-pro/
Simulated cooling in the new iMac Pro. **Mmmm Reality distortion field.**
After realising the high fan speeds and the air conditioner was no longer working I decided to open the laptop and check for dust. I had always assumed that because I don’t smoke, don’t let cats near the laptop and have a clean laptop area that dust was not the issue (hint: I was wrong).
Warning: Opening your laptop will void the warranty and you will probably kill it. You will need special screwdrivers, you will need to carefully follow anti-static procedures etc. I take no responsibility for your actions opening your devices.
P.S Watch Louis Rossman from https://www.rossmanngroup.com/ if you want to learn how to do things the right way. Here is a sample Louis Rossmann video (possibly NSFW) where he fixed a board (debugging).
I have pulled apart and modified heaps of PC’s before so I am comfortable opening up electronics and computers.
I have cut PCI-E 16x circuits down to PC’IE-8x to make them fit a server mainboard. Do not play with the insides of computers or electricity unless you know what you are doing period.
I have setup watercooled PC’s and dealt with water leakages in the search for silence.
Ok enough warnings.
Is Dust an Issue?
It seems I have ignored Ockham Razor (“among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected”). Time to crack my laptop open and clean away any dust, Although I don’t have before photos of the dust (it was rather hidden near the exit port), dust was clearly the cause of the high temps.
It is not as if I am editing 4K videos here.
Troubleshooting: Start with the basics.
- I should have considered dust inside the laptop,
- I should have considered the old thermal paste needed replacing.
After a quick clean with the kids paint brushes, tweezers, pin, the wife’s makeup brush and little rocket camera cleaning thingy I think I am finished.
After Cleaning Photos (Click for higher resolution)
fyi: These photos are just to show off my Late 2012 Mac Book Pro insides after cleaning.
fyi: SSD on the bottom left, memory in the middle and the heat pipe at the top of the photo.
fyi: SSD at the bottom, Fan and Heatsink near the top. The CPU fan was mostly clear and not an obvious overheating issue.
Most of the dust was on the heatsink at the end of the heat pipe (at the top of this photo, about 1/3 was blocked). The CPU fans had a slight coating of fine dust that I removed.
fyi: The heatsink below on the heat pipe was overheating due to 1/3 of the output duct being blocked.
fyi: This area (above) was rather dusty and possibly overheating.
Memory to CPU interconnect area (now clean).
fyi: Battery connector, battery power converter and fan.
Each primary air intake duct is now clean and free.
Removed Dust (and tools)
I removed this much dust from each of the fan’s outputs. The dust was mostly around the heat pipe area. The dust appears to be the same fibre as the protective case (Green Smart Neogreene case, that I slid the laptop into to protect it). This was not a lot of dust but was enough to block airflow, I will now clean my Mac Book every spring.
When I started up the laptop with the base on temps where better.
CPU Temperatures are about 40c cooler, GPU is about 35c cooler and CPU area is about 15c cooler. My Mac Book is no longer overheating and handles high CPU demands again without thermal throttling
Here are idle and load temps with the older Tuna Belly Temperature Monitor (fyi: I now use the newer TunaBelly Software TG Pro temperature Software) and output from the Intel Power Gadget Utility.
As a precaution I have I configured TG Pro to Auto Boost fan speeds. This has helped keep the high temperatures under control (when they go above 80c).
fyi: TG Pro also allows you to set your own ramps in fan speeds, email alerts, sounds etc (review coming soon).
In future, I will ask myself what the simplest possible problem is (Occam’s Razor or use Rubber Duck Debugging) instead of dreaming up problems/solutions and yes Apple computers need maintenance too.
Hope this helps someone.
UPDATE After 1 week
Temperatures have crept back up with the heatwave in Australia. The CPU is now in the high 90’s again. I am now solely using the TG Pro software to mange fan speeds until the new machine. Sadly Apple deliver quiet computers over cool ones so I’ll install TG Pro on all future machines.
Should the thermal paste be replaced? If this was a PC I would have done this already.
I have ordered some thermal paste and will apply that to the GPU and CPU soon and update this post.
I will try this when it arrives.
I could not wait and I did remove the stock thermal paste and applied some old (10-year-old) Vantec paste I had that was still good. I did have some Arctic Silver 5 (5x tubes) but it was 10 years old and gummy. The best paste I had was 1 tube of white silicone Vantec paste I had that came with a past PC heatsink. It was still the right consistency, not separated and spreadable.
Always test thermal paste and write the purchase date on the paste when your order i (it does go bad).
Removing my heatsink was easy (with the right screwdrivers) on my Mid 2012 MPB 15″ Retina. Consult ifixit.com or online guide to open your mac.
I removed these screws.
I removed the stock Mac Book heat spreader to reveal a terrible application of Apple stock thermal paste. The paste was very dry and the CPU die was not fully covered anymore.
This was the paste under the heat sink. Dry and flakey.
This is the thickness of the MBP heatsink.
I cleaned the old paste off the Geforce 650M GPU die.
I cleaned the Core i7 2.6Ghz CPU die too.
This is the size of the MBP heatsink.
The Heatsink is not very thick.
This was the cooler on the last Windows PC I built.
I cleaned the old paste off the heatsink and applied the new (old) Vantec silicone paste using a new application method mentioned here. I will lift the heatsink in 1 week (when the new Grizzly compound arrives) and see if this new method is ok over the tried and tested grain of rice size dollop in the middle of the die.
I reassembled the laptop and the results seemed to drop the CPU temps to 20c above ambient air temps. My CPU is no longer sitting in the high 90’s in the non-air-conditioned Aussie summer 🙂
I get the usual high CPU temp spikes but the temps quickly fall back down again.
Ambient temps are higher today (compared to past screenshots) so direct comparisons cannot be made.
I will wait for my order of Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut Thermal Grease 1g arrives and update this post.
Update: Applied Kyronaut – Ultra High-Performance Thermal Grease
7mm of thermal grease
Old Silicone Grease Removal.
I used this application method
16c above CPU Proximity Temp at idle 🙂 The Silicone grease was 19c above ambient temps.
I have no doubt the more aggressive TG Pro fan profiles and the Grizzly thermal grease application has brought life back to my old laptop. Idle temps are lower and when the system is pushed to high activity temperatures fall much sooner.
OMG, Apple still has NOT fixed the cooling on the Mac Book Pro (unless you plan to run it in a freezer)
I will never buy another Apple Mac Book Pro unless they solve the cooling issues.
Pro = Professional (not ProThetic)
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v2.0 Goodbye Apple, 2018 update
V1.9 Not editing 4K videos
v1.8 Applied Kyronaut – Ultra High-Performance Thermal Grease
v1.7 Applied old thermal paste information (before good thermal paste arrives).
V1.6 Added YouTube video
V1.5 Ordered some thermal paste.
V1.4 TG Pro, update, simulated cooling photo.