Laptop Suddenly Turns Off?

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What Just Happened?!

You’re using your laptop, not doing anything special or unusual, and with no error message or warning of any kind, it suddenly shuts itself off.

If it only happens the one time it’s probably nothing to worry about, but you should still run a virus scan anytime your computer does anything unusual. Assuming the virus scan doesn’t find any problems, what if it happens again?

Repeated, sudden power offs without a proper shutdown can corrupt stored files or even the entire hard drive, so if this is something that’s happening to you on a frequent basis you don’t want to put off addressing the issue and you definitely want to run frequent backups of all your important files. Fair enough, but how can you fix the problem?


It’s Usually An Overheating Problem
All laptops are sensitive to heat, some more than others. This is why they all have built-in fans, and why the manufacturers say you shouldn’t run them on soft surfaces (like the beds, couches and shag rugs you often see them resting on in TV shows and movies). The problem is that these kinds of surfaces can block the laptop’s fan vents.

Any surface soft enough that the laptop can “sink in”, or that can block the fan vents, is not a good place to put your laptop while it’s turned on. In general, sticking to hard, flat surfaces like tables and desk tops is the safest way to go.



What If It’s Not A Surface Problem?
Even if you only ever use your laptop on hard surfaces, vent blockage can still be a problem. Ensure there are no books, papers, mousepads, or anything else placed such that they could block or cover your laptop vents.

Also, over time the vents can become clogged with dust and other tiny particles and this can also interfere with the fan’s proper operation, so it’s a good idea to blast them with some canned air every few months—but only do this with the laptop turned off!

If you’re sure it’s not a blocked vent problem and a virus scan comes back clean but your laptop still keeps shutting itself off, it may be a bad battery problem.

Overheating/Failing Battery: After the laptop has shut itself down, feel the bottom surface with your hand: is it too hot to comfortably touch, especially over the battery compartment? This could indicate a damaged battery that’s overheating. But even if you’re not feeling excessive heat, a bad battery could be the root of your problem.

With the laptop turned off, try unplugging it, removing the battery, plugging in the AC adapter and running it on AC power only. If this resolves the problem, replace the battery. It’s safest to buy a replacement direct from the manufacturer, to ensure compatibility and quality construction.


If All Else Fails…
…and it’s a laptop that’s three years old or less, you can call in some tech support. I always recommend going with a local mom n’ pop store instead of a big box store, because the mom n’ pop operations are usually run by more knowledgeable tech experts and won’t generally try to upsell you on products and services you don’t really need. Big box store tech departments typically have very high turnover and employ technicians without as much training or experience.

Since tech support can easily cost a hundred dollars or more, if the laptop is older than three years you might want to consider buying a new one. If you have no backups and the laptop simply won’t stay on long enough to allow for backups, after you’ve bought a new laptop take both it and the old one to that little mom n’ pop computer store and ask to have your files transferred from the old hard drive to the new one.


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