Concerned that my laptop’s thermal performance wasn’t what it used to be, I cracked open my 2 ½ year old Dell Inspiron 6000d laptop, compressed air in hand, and performed some serious guts cleaning. Some thick dust was blocking the vent that both the CPU and GPU air gets exhausted out. I cleaned that out, and I also removed the CPU heatsink and applied a fresh layer of thermal paste.
The difference? A drop of over 20 degrees Celsius (68 Fahrenheit) in the average CPU temperature. Not only that, but the once warm system now is cool to the touch. Most importantly, the laptop has gone from unsatisfactory performance running Team Fortress 2 at 640x480 (it turns out the CPU kept scaling the clock speed down to cool off) to running very nicely at 1280x800 with some GPU overclocking (now possible with the dramatic drop in heat).
I expected the compressed air and thermal paste to make a difference, but not that much. It’s amazing what dust and insufficient CPU paste will do.