Fix Thermal Throttling on Your Mac?!


Extreme heat and computers don’t play nicely
together as I demonstrated in my last video—which you should watch first if you haven’t seen
it. But knowing that Apple’s MacBook Pro and
iMac experience thermal throttling doesn’t help you any. A lot of people on the last video recommended
apps like Macs Fan Control or SMC to max the fan speed out before you anticipate resource-intensive
activities like video editing or gaming. But that doesn’t really help. Sure, it engages the fans early, and it will
delay thermal throttling a few seconds, but you can’t put out a forest fire with an
extra bucket of sand. The simple fact is that the cooling system
inside the Mac can’t adequately cool the CPU when it is under full load—regardless
of fan speed. I mentioned that I obviously can’t add a
fan or heat pipe to my laptop, but I might be able to do something to mitigate throttling. Cooling a CPU is actually a pretty simple
concept. Gamers Nexus has an excellent video you should
watch if you’re interested, but the basic idea is that a copper block and heat pipes
draw heat away from the CPU and spread the heat out on a fin-array radiator where it’s
exhausted from the machine by a fan. In order to eliminate all the air bubbles
in the tiny gap between the CPU and the cooler, thermal paste is used to effectively transfer
heat between the two. And it’s important. If Apple doesn’t apply enough thermal paste
from the factory, or they use a low-quality paste, it may be hampering the effectiveness
of the MacBook Pro’s cooler. So, I decided to take apart my 2017 base-model
13” MacBook Pro to re-apply quality thermal paste. Upon pulling the cooler off I couldn’t help
but laugh. This thing is so thin that I’m surprised
it does anything at all and I was a little skeptical that my thermal paste could be at
all effective. That said, the thermal paste Apple applied
did look poorly done. The paste already felt dried out and crumbly
which is unusual for a computer that’s only a few months old. I removed the old paste with rubbing alcohol
and a microfiber cloth to make room for the new stuff. I first tried Arctic MX-2. It’s Arctic’s cheap, industrial paste that
you can only buy in big tubes like this one. I use it in all my builds and think it’s
a good combo of value and performance. I’ll admit, I certainly applied more than
necessary, but as demonstrated by LinusTechTips, too much thermal paste is much better than
not enough and you really have to apply a TON of thermal paste before you’ll experience
negative side effects. I put the computer back together, booted it
successfully, and ran my Final Cut Pro benchmark 4 times, took the average, and HOT DOG! Or should I say, cool dawg! The computer exported the video about 7% faster. That’s quite a bit! So I started to get excited and I pulled the
machine apart again to use Grizzly Kryonaut which is super expensive thermal paste designed
for overclocking. I re-assembled the machine yet again, ran
the Final Cut benchmark another 4 times and the average was another 2% better. That’s nearly a 9% improvement on a modification
that takes 20 minutes and $10. The machine still hits 100 degrees Celsius
and it still thermal throttles, but it doesn’t decrease the clockspeed as severely. Taking apart your MacBook Pro is not for the
faint of heart. There are several very delicate ribbon connectors
you can damage, an obscene amount of differently sized screws you need to keep track of, and
an annoyingly tight CPU cooler retention bracket. Yes, there is better performance, yes, it
is measurable. But is a mere 9% improvement worth the time
and risk of doing it yourself? Probably not.