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Computer warm to the touch, is it heat sink or SMC?

My girlfriend's 15" MacBook Pro hasn't been running quite as well as it used to. Most notably, the case next to the trackpad (where us normal typers like to rest our palms) is quite warm. It's gotten to the point where it is nearly unbearable to use the laptop without an external fan underneath it.

My question is this: Could this be an overheating issue that could be fixed by disassembling the laptop and reapplying the thermal paste on the heat sink? There is also evidence to suggest that the problem could simply be fixed with an SMC reset. That evidence is manifested in a short list of other problems:

  • Charging indicator on screen not accurate
  • Magsafe LED lighting up incorrect colors
  • Occasionally not waking from sleep when the lid is opened

Thanks in advance!

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Try resetting the SMC first. If that doesn't work you need to open the computer and clean the fans and while you are inside redo the thermal paste. You can us the step by step guides to assist in disassembly. You may also want to listen to the hard drive with a stethoscope as it could be going bad and is in the area where the heat is. Good luck. Ralph

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All right, that was my first instinct, but I wanted a second opinion. Update and rep pending...

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+ GOOD The spot where you are resting your hand is over the hard drive. Please make sure you are backing up your data as your hard drive may be trying to fail.

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Reset the SMC, so we'll see if that fixes it. She backed her hard drive up fairly recently, but I'll go ahead and mention that to her in case she's done important things on her computer lately.

Also, Mayer, when you say "GOOD," are you saying that it's good that it gets hot in that area, or that Ralph's answer was good?

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He meant that the answer is good, which I agree. And another thing, even if the drive is fine, the overheating issue can cause it to go bad, so I would follow Ralph's suggestions and also re-apply the thermal paste anyway. Replace it with Artic Silver 5. My Macbook has been running 5 degrees cooler since reapplying thermal paste. It's always good to replace it because Apple uses cheap thermal paste and it usually applied very poorly.

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