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So I bought a new laptop as my old one (2005 Acer Aspire w/ AMD Turion 64) running Ubuntu would restart on running CPU-intensive application. The new one (also Acer Aspire, but 2010 model with Intel Core 2 Duo) worked fine until it started crashing for the same reason. I fixed the problem on the new laptop by removing the dust in the fan. It worked well for a while, but started crashing again. Then I read in a forum that BIOS upgrade would fix this, and it did.
Q#1. Both my laptops have crashed several times due to intense CPU activity. Does this severely affect the life of the CPU ?
Q#2. I don't see any noticeable performance degradation after the BIOS update on my new laptop. Does it mean that restart threshold has been increased for CPU restart, or Linux is aware of the CPU temperature and is handling the system better ?
No offense, it could be just Acer sucks. Other notebook computers from better brands have better cooling capability than others. The heat issues all depends on size of notebook, the processor power consumption (not TDP), the power consumption of the hard drive, and graphics consumption. All these depends how much heat they produce. A small notebook computer or low-profile notebook can not move a lot of heat.
Try setting up laptop-tools to check the temperature of the processor and slow it down when it reaches a temperature that is too high. Probably your BIOS is not written to do this, so you have to resort to operating system methods which are cruel. You may try to set the trip points to adjust fan speed.
Do not use eye candy effects. Use a simple desktop or window manager like XFce or IceWM.
A.#1. CPU intensive (or whatever intensive) job for laptop is generally NOT a good idea. I use extra fan or something. As long as sensors are working, CPU may survive. (It may lock-up)
I notice the CPU frequency scaling all the way up while I'm running Youtube in HD or other Flash-based video streaming, and the laptop used to crash while running one of these. This is what I mean by CPU-intensive.
A hotter running CPU will have a shorter life than a cooler running CPU.
There are utilities that allow you to monitor the temperature of your CPU (example: lm-sensors with GKrellM) and to reduce its clock speed (CPU governors).
For my old laptop, I configured lm-sensors to generate desktop notification on Ubuntu. The laptop used to crash at 96 C, so I had set the notification to be triggered at 90C. This allowed me to watch Hulu or Youtube HD for 1-2 mins before pausing it to allow the CPU to cool down. This is what I call "human-aided monitoring"
It's a bummer that CPU lifespan is shortened this way.
No offense, it could be just Acer sucks. Other notebook computers from better brands have better cooling capability than others.
I bought the second Acer because the first one lasted ~4 yrs, and Acer tends to be cheaper $$$ wise. BIOS update was made available long ago from Acer website, but I didn't know about it until recently. BIOS updated fixed the problem. All I wanted to know was whether the update just masked the problem by increasing the temperature threshold for restart as I did not see any performance degradation after the update.
Speaking of the devil, my Laptop crashed again. It was fine for several days after updating BIOS. I was watching Youtube in HD. Usually mouse movement on Flash objects usually causes CPU usage spikes, which doesn't happen on Windows. My computer instantly froze; didn't restart though.
The symptoms you describe could indicate something other than the CPU being cooked, although the problem may have started with the CPU running hot. Bad RAM is always something I check for if a machine locks up. I've also seen bad desktop, laptop, and graphics card designs that dump excess heat on capacitors and end up cooking them. If you inspect the system board, see if you have any capactors (cylindrical components) with the tops bulged and possibly blackish goo having oozed out. The results with the system boards were random lock ups, on the graphics cards the display would either black out or freeze until things cooled down. The instances I've seen were machines running WinNT and WinXP, and the desktop machines were a line of HP workstations, so neither Acer or Linux were to blame in that case.