INSPIRON 5100 Shutsdown Automatically --- Known Overheating Issue. The Problem. The Cause. THE SOLUTION. - General Hardware - Laptop - Dell Community

INSPIRON 5100 Shutsdown Automatically --- Known Overheating Issue. The Problem. The Cause. THE SOLUTION.


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INSPIRON 5100 Shutsdown Automatically --- Known Overheating Issue. The Problem. The Cause. THE SOLUTION.


    Most likely, if you are like the majority of 5100 users, you have owned your 5100 for at least two or three months.  One day, all of a sudden, the computer just shut down.  No warnings.  No messages.  No beeps.  No nothing.  Just shuts down.  So you, in your confusion, perhaps wait a few minutes, turn it on again, and it shuts down again.  At this point, your computer can probably only manage to stay on for no more than one hour, that is, IF you have it off and cooling for several hours before.

    At this point with my 5100, I remember that I called Dell and they had me run the fan test, which did pass.  Then they had me run the �Extended Test�, which takes about 1 hour to complete.  My computer, because of overheating, shut off within forty minutes�it could not even complete the test!


    Through the help of many �techies� on this forum, WE, not the dell diagnostic team, have properly diagnosed this problem.

    So what is the CAUSE of the Problem:  DUST.  Yes, dust.  Dust collects, over two to three months, via the Eureka vacuum (fan) on the bottom of the computer, and as such, the heatsink becomes covered in thick, dense, caked-on dust is unable to complete its one and only job, namely, transferring the heat off of the processor.  Then our idle temperatures, rather than being in the mid 30's(C), go up to the mid 50's(C), and upon doing basic computing, we get the auto-shutdown.
    It seems pretty simply, which can make you wonder why Dell support was baffled for so long over this issue, thinking it was a motherboard problem, or a processor problem, or this problem, or that problem.

    In reality, the CAUSE is bad design flaw, which results in dust literally covering the heatsink.  The heatsink, although only a piece of metal, MUST be completely clean in order to a) absorb the heat from the processor, and b) release that heat.  So here is where the shutdown problems happen.  Dust slowly accumulates on the heatsink, thereby inhibiting its ability to properly release the heat it absorbed from the processor.  Therefore, the heatsink, in its now crippled state, is unable to perform it's one and only task, which then causes the processor to overheat and automatically shutdown.


    The solution has several short and long term steps and depends on how long you have had your 5100 computer.


    1.  Using compressed air, blow through the BACK vents on your computer weekly.  This will keep the heatsink and surrounding areas clean, thus avoiding dust, and therefore, overheating issues altogether.  Simple.


    1.  If you are already experiencing problems such as performance decrease and auto-shutdowns, which ARE A RESULT OF OVERHEATING, and if you have already run the diagnostic utility on your fan and thermal sensor to confirm that they ARE WORKING, then you are dealing with DUST.  Period.  What can you do?  Well, thanks to everyone in this forum, we have figured this out and found the "fix" to this problem.  Use compressed air, or your own (if you can muster it up), and blow through the back vents on the computer, thereby blowing all dust off of the heatsink and out of the computer via the fan intake.  You should notice a small "cloud" of dust when you blow it out (assuming you use compressed air.)

    The auto shutdowns should cease and the computer seems to operate at the same level it did when new from dell.  Immediately implement step 2.

    2.  Download fanGUI at  This program will monitor your fan speed, and more importantly, will tell you the internal temperature of your cpu.  You can also manually set you fan on high in an effort to keep your system a bit cooler.  ***Note:  This program was made for the dell inspiron 8000 series of notebooks.  However, it DOES work on I5100s.  Also, a dell rep did mention that any problems that result from using this software will NOT be covered by dell, as this programs allows you to manually control the speed of the fans, and if for some unknown reason you turn them off, you could cause serious damage to your cpu. 

    After installation you should be able to read your CPU and HD temperatures.  If you cannot, then you probably have an old bios and must update your bios in order to successfully read your CPU temperature.  Also, you should not have to have fanGUI control your fans, BECAUSE IF YOU NEED A 3RD PARTY PROGRAM TO CONTROL YOUR FANS IN ORDER TO HAVE YOUR COMPUTER WORKING PROPERLY, THEN YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH YOUR COMPUTER...GET IT FIXED!

    The following picture is a screenshot of fanGUI running on my computer immediately after I blew through the vents:

    My idle temperatures were around 52C.  If I did a task which required a large amount of cpu usage, my temperature could rise as high as 68C.

    Please note that 52C is within the NORMAL operational limits of the Pentium 4 processor.  HOWEVER, IT IS STILL ABOUT 15 DEGREES (C) HIGHER THAN IT SHOULD BE!

    3.  Even after blowing through the vents, you will still have a resonating problem with heat, namely, that although you have avoided the auto-shutdowns, the computers are still running 15-20 degrees Celsius higher than they should be.  Why?  Simple.  By blowing the compressed air through the vents, you have successfully ridden your computer of the loose dust on and around the heatsink.  However, imagine if you have a dirty desk with layers and layers of three to four month old caked on dust.  Then you used compressed air to blow off this dust in an effort to clean the desk.  Would your desk be dust free?  Would it be clean?  No, of course not.  The loose, lighter dust would be gone.  However, the thick, now dense, caked-on dust would remain, and even if that were to have been blown away, at the very least, small remains of dust would still remain on the desk.  The same goes for the heatsink.

    The only thing you can do is return your computer to the depot.  They will replace your heatsink and/or fan, and of course the thermal gel will get replaced in this process.  They will further clean all the area within your computer.  Therefore, you will get a new, dust-free cooling unit.  AND unless you want to go through this again, YOU WILL HAVE TO AIR YOUR VENTS PROBABLY WEEKLY.  You can decide how often.  But bottom line, you can't wait so long that dust begins to cake onto the heatsink.  Cause you can blow out the loose dust, but you can't blow out the think, dense, caked-on dust.

    I shipped my computer to the depot last Tuesday, and it had the cooling assembly (fan and heatsink) replaced.  It took exactly one week, as I received my computer yesterday, Tuesday 2/3/04.

    The following picture is a screenshot of fanGUI running on my computer after it was returned to me from the depot:

    You can notice a significant drop in idle temperatures.  My average idle temperature is 34C, which seemed impossible before they replaced the heatsink.  Further, when I ran BenchONE III, the temperature rose to only 48C, whereas, before the replacement, it would go up to 68C.  So a dramatic difference indeed.

    So if you are still running at around 55C, please know that your system is still overheating.  Granted you may have to be without your computer for a week or so, but it will be worth it to have them replace the cooling assembly, thus bringing your computer back to its original working condition.

    Lastly, someone at Dell did inform me that they are aware of this problem and are working on some type of fix.  What will this be?  I have no idea.  But if we find out, we�ll keep you posted.

    For additional information you can read the two main posts on this issue:


    Message Edited by cazint on 02-04-2004 05:28 PM

    Message Edited by cazint on 02-04-2004 05:31 PM

    Message Edited by cazint on 02-18-2004 10:16 PM

  • Could you fire up your calculator and run this equation n! 1000000000? This will max up your cpu usage. If you could not max up your cpu usage, launch another instance of the calculator. My cpu is giving a reading of 68C ~ 70C. My idle temperature is 35C at 1600mhz. I'm trying to confirm my cpu temperature for months. It's a little too late to know the optimum temperature because I'd it for two months. Thanks.
  • cazint, many thanks

    there is one additional small detail  -  the alloy heatsink surface may have a thin oil film from diecasting process/extrusion process  -  this is what causes gradual dust build-up to "cake" & adhere to heatsink surface

    a small modeler's paint brush & solvent (your choice, absolute alcohol is safest - do not use petrol/diesel/mineral spirits -  aerosol can of "electronics cleaner" should be sprayed into cup & painted on, not sprayed onto motherboard) will clean oil residue & prevent future "caking"

    however your point that "blowing out of dust" is weekly requirement is very, very important

    again, thank you

  • I've got a 5150, noticed some 5150 users as well as 5100 users were having thermal problems.  I've had mine for about 4 months now and have never experienced shutdowns or any other problems due to excessive heat.  Looking at the cooling fins visible from the back of the computer, I see NO dust accumulation, and have never used compressed air or anything of the sort.  Perhaps in later manufacturing runs, the heatsink assembly was solvent dipped to remove molding oil prior to installation.  In regards to operating temps, I'll share my findings.

    Using FanGUI 2.2.0 on I5150 Mobile P4 3.06 non HT

    Idle: 33 deg

    BenchONE III Full Test Battery: 59deg 

    n! 1000000000 (allowing to process for 20 min): 63 deg

    Hope this helps

  • Thanks for that info.

    Curious to know your benchone scores and anyone else who may have them.


  • Thank you...I believe you have just saved me hours on the phone and future attempts of pulling out my hair..what I have left.

    Modern technology and DUST is the conqueror.


    Thanks again,



  • My 5150 idles at 33C and peaks between 67C ~ 70C (n! 10000000 calculator test for 20 mins) at portable setting. I've it for 2 months now and no visible sign of dust accumulation yet.

    20 minutes test

    1600mhz 29C ~ 33C    < 10% cpu usage

    3200mhz 67C ~ 70C   ~ 50 % cpu usage

    3200mhz 67C ~ 70C    at 100% cpu usage (don't know why but this is what I'm getting)

    3.20HT uxga 7200rpm 60gb

    Message Edited by ksiow02 on 02-05-2004 05:45 PM

  • KSIOW02.

    I don't remember the exact figure, however i did some factorial, which was large enough to not figure out within 10 or so minutes.

    I idle at around 33C.  Now, with average use, the computer is at 39C.  When I did the factorial, I was only patient enough to wait for probably about 8-9 minutes, and the temp. never rose above 61C.

    Hope that helps.


  • Does this dust accumulation seem to take place in all Inspirons or just the Inspiron 5100? Kinda worried now.
  • cazint:

    I think my observation seems fine. Right now, I'm idling at 30 and sometimes at 29. Given my cpu is pentium 4 mobile 3.20HT, I would expect it to run a little warmer. I think Dell found the mobile pentium 4 could be used in the 5100 and hence the new line becomes 5150. I'm still waiting for a person with a brand new 5150 reports his/her observation.

  • I've had a 5150 (3.06Ghz) for 6 mos that wasn't shutting down yet, but it was hitting 71-72 C while running apps.  The processor was halving speed to allow cooling to occur.  Soon enough, I would have a machine that probably would have been shutting itself down!  The performance drop is what I noticed, and lately a lot of people have been telling me about problems with their laptop computers (not just Dell's either!) just shutting down on them while running proc-intensive apps.  That led me to this forum, and THE SOLUTION!!  I now idle at about 32 C (maxing at 63) as before I was up at 55 C constantly, and peaking at 72 with processor cuts every 1-2 seconds.  It seems to me that some major developments in heat transfer need to be made if faster processors are going to be available in laptops, but until then, I'll be blowing the dust out!


  • Hey dave17, I've a 5150 (3.20HT) that is 2 mos old. Idle at 29C - 34C (1600mhz) and 40C - 45C (3200mhz). It peaks between 67C ~ 70C at 3200mhz for 20 minutes test. I didn't see any drop in processor speed during the 20 minutes test period except the temperature fluctuation. I hope this is normal.

    Could you elaborate about the processor cuts? Thanks.

  • When my computer was new, I had no problems with this, but as time went on, the temperatures gradually crept up.  Let me try and explain what was happening just before I blew the dust out...

    I would run the processor at 100% load (@ 3065 MHz) with a program called the client (it uses all unused processor power in thousands of machines across the internet to complete mathematical operations that are part of one huge math problem).  As it would run, the CPU temperature would rise to 72-73 C in a matter of about 3 min.  At this point, the processor would halve speed to 1597 MHz until the temperature dropped to 68 C (I guess the lower processor speed didn't produce as much heat) and then the proc speed would return to 3065 MHz until it hit 72-73 C.  It would just cycle every 2 minutes or so.  I tried to use I8kFanGUI to try and increase my fan speed so that it wouldn't cycle speed as often, but that only increased the time between processor performance cuts.

    Then, yesterday as I was talking to several people, they would just randomly tell me about their laptop just shutting down on them (both Dells and other manufacturers).  That led me to this forum, where I figured it wouldn't hurt to blow the dust out of mine.  After I gave some good breaths into the back of the heat sink (with ensuing clouds of dust) and vacuumed out anything else I could, my idle is now at 32 C (@1597MHz) with max load at 63 C (@3065MHz).  It doesn't cycle speeds anymore, as it doesn't even get close to the 72-73 C limit.  Dust is the culprit.

    I'm sure even though my laptop is 6 mos. old, it has quite a bit more time than average running the fan because of the client constantly running the processor at 100% load (now that I think about it, that's not such a good thing), but the design flaw in dust collection in the heat-transfer assembly is still there.  I imagine that if I did not blow the dust out, my processor would have overheated even running at only 1597 MHz, and then it would have just shut down as the 5100's are experiencing.

    Ksiow02, I'm sure it wouldn't hurt to try and blow any dust can only help keep your processor cooler.  Our idle temps are about the same, and i would imagine that your faster processor would produce a little more heat at full load, but it certainly couldn't hurt to try and see if clearing some dust out would decrease temps.


  • ...
  • hi cazint,

    i have a inspirion 5100 2,66 mhz for 2 month and i never had any of your problems - but i find the thread very interesting and maybe it will help to fix further heat-problems (which i hope will not occur!!!). the notebook idles with 33° and with 10 minutes of cpu 100% it will peak 57 ° and then rapidely cool down (within 2 minutes) back to 33°. so i think everything is fine. but to avert heatproblems i have decided to blow the dust away every week. one question: you are always talking about FANS. i only can find ONE fan on the back of my inspirion. is this normal - or did dell forget one?

    many thanks for help