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Laptop cooling tips for outdoor live performance?

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Laptop cooling tips for outdoor live performance?

Postby eljohnny22 » Mon Jul 08, 2019 3:58 am

I'm a touring artist who runs a laptop for a number of VSTs and sample playback, all through Ableton Live, fully loaded macbook pro, sitting on a road case behind me.

In rehearsals, theaters or clubs my CPU usage hangs around or below 20%. No problem. However, at outdoor festivals with the sun beating down. I get CPU spikes above 150%, and debilitating digital cracks and pops. No good.

My solution so far has been to gaff a couple DI boxes underneath the computer to create an air gap, and point as many stage fans as I can wrangle directly at the laptop. (I have a friend that gaffs together a row of cold beers underneath his!)

I've researched a bunch of laptop cooling fans but none of them are really convincing me that they will do the job.

Anyone out there with more "professional" solutions? I've heard of some custom build boxes that house some components (i.e. audio/midi interfaces, network switch, etc) in addition to some cooling fans, but can't find any examples online.

Thanks in advance!
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Re: Laptop cooling tips for outdoor live performance?

Postby Sam Spoons » Mon Jul 08, 2019 11:52 am

You need to rig a sun shade of some sort, which will have the added benefit of making the screen easier to read.
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Re: Laptop cooling tips for outdoor live performance?

Postby AlecSp » Mon Jul 08, 2019 12:02 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:You need to rig a sun shade of some sort, which will have the added benefit of making the screen easier to read.
+1 - much easier to mask the source of the heat, than to remove the heat from the laptop itself. Prevention is better/easier than cure...
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Re: Laptop cooling tips for outdoor live performance?

Postby Martin Walker » Mon Jul 08, 2019 12:58 pm

eljohnny22 wrote:My solution so far has been to gaff a couple DI boxes underneath the computer to create an air gap, and point as many stage fans as I can wrangle directly at the laptop. (I have a friend that gaffs together a row of cold beers underneath his!)

I've researched a bunch of laptop cooling fans but none of them are really convincing me that they will do the job.

Spot on with lifting the laptop to get a good supply of air flowing through, and I suspect your friend is onto a good idea with that row of cold beers too. The most common layperson's laptop overheating occurs when laying the device on a soft surface like a sofa or bed :headbang:

I've tried out a few laptop coolers, but their effectiveness does depend on how they get the cooling air supply into the laptop, and that of course depends on where the laptop 'vents' are - you want to make sure that their air is getting directed into those vents.


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Re: Laptop cooling tips for outdoor live performance?

Postby Wonks » Mon Jul 08, 2019 2:48 pm

You also need to make sure that you are blowing air at the vents and not at/into the cooling fan outlet as you will then reduce the volume flow rate of the internal fan.

And as with any overheating laptop, open it up as much as possible and vacuum out any accumulated dust and dirt before use.
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Re: Laptop cooling tips for outdoor live performance?

Postby Martin Walker » Mon Jul 08, 2019 3:31 pm

Wonks wrote:And as with any overheating laptop, open it up as much as possible and vacuum out any accumulated dust and dirt before use.

+101 !!!

Accumulated muck and dust can increase laptop temperatures by a significant amount, even to the extent of having the device cut out when used at normal room temperatures! :headbang:


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Re: Laptop cooling tips for outdoor live performance?

Postby eljohnny22 » Mon Jul 08, 2019 8:01 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:You need to rig a sun shade of some sort, which will have the added benefit of making the screen easier to read.

I've done this also, but when temp in the shade is still 85+, it's still cooking at a higher temp then I'm comfortable with. I guess I'm really looking for a compact solution to pump cold air into my vents.
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Re: Laptop cooling tips for outdoor live performance?

Postby Sam Spoons » Mon Jul 08, 2019 10:20 pm

eljohnny22 wrote:However, at outdoor festivals with the sun beating down. I get CPU spikes above 150%, and debilitating digital cracks and pops. No good.

Fair enough :thumbup:
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Re: Laptop cooling tips for outdoor live performance?

Postby Dave B » Tue Jul 09, 2019 1:42 pm

At the risk of eggs/sucking/granny/etc .. have you considered a laptop stand with inbuilt fans? They are designed to blow air at the laptop and often run off a standard usb connection. Looking on Amazon, it would less than 20quid for one (under 30 dollars/euros) so might be worth a punt at least..
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Re: Laptop cooling tips for outdoor live performance?

Postby Martin Walker » Tue Jul 09, 2019 1:57 pm

Hi Dave,

eljohnny22 has apparently already researched these, but prefers a personal endorsement.


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eljohnny22 wrote:I've researched a bunch of laptop cooling fans but none of them are really convincing me that they will do the job.

Anyone out there with more "professional" solutions?
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Re: Laptop cooling tips for outdoor live performance?

Postby eljohnny22 » Tue Jul 09, 2019 6:52 pm

Dave B wrote:At the risk of eggs/sucking/granny/etc .. have you considered a laptop stand with inbuilt fans? They are designed to blow air at the laptop and often run off a standard usb connection. Looking on Amazon, it would less than 20quid for one (under 30 dollars/euros) so might be worth a punt at least..

Yes, in my OP i mentioned that I've checked out many of them, but none seem high powered enough to really overcome a hot summer day. Also, with Macbooks, the intake vents are on the back edge of the laptop, not the bottom, so a low-mid powered fan pumping at the bottom of the aluminum case doesn't sound too promising. I'm looking for something more industrial/professional than a plastic tray made for gamers in their bedroom :geek:

Check out the boxes Bassnectar has under his laptops... I assume there is some kind of high powered CPU fan system build into them, as well as housing interfaces etc.
https://pbs.twimg.com/media/D-4_D0CXUAIrU8Q.jpg:large
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