MacBook overheating is often caused by software that stops responding. Its easy to check and fix by yourself. This is how you do it:
1. Activity Monitor
Activity monitor is found in your Applications/Utilities folder. (Or just search for it with spotlight). When you open this app you should see something resembling the window you see above.
Now click on where it says: %CPU to sort the list. You should now see the name of the process that are using up your computers resources. If you want, click on that process and force quit it.
Maybe the computer actually have a reason for working hard? Make sure you dont just kill a process that are doing something important. If you dont know what the process does, just do a quick Google search of the process name and you will find out what it is before you kill it off.
Maybe you imported a lot of pictures from your vacation into Photos from your DSLR camera? Even though it seems like everything is imported, photos may do some background work on its own. This is true for other apps as well.
2. Clean and check for malware
As I said above. Macbook overheating is mostly caused by software. Try to keep your computer in shape and dont click on everything you see on the Internet without a critical eye. Make sure to check my other articles on 9 Ways To Free Up Space And Clean Macs and Slow Mac Performance? 12 Great Tips!. I have a lot of suggestions of both paid and free software you can use to try combat this issue. See tip Nr. 9 in the Slow Mac article, specifically the section about SMC reset.
3. Gaming, Video Rendering, Image Processing, Audio Work… it WILL tax the CPU
Maybe you are doing work that demands a lot from your computer. If that is the case maybe the heat it produces is perfectly normal. If you are gaming or doing media work like video rendering or image editing it will most probably make your mac very hot. Especially right under the display above the keyboard. Where the vents are.
Remember that the Apple MacBooks and Pros have a very thin design packing powerful CPUs. The heat has to go somewhere.
4. Macbook overheating due to dust and dirt
Dust in your computer and especially in the fans will make it hotter. You could try removing dust and dirt using a little brush. Compressed air is another option but you have to be very careful with that. It can potentially damage components, and make sure the compressed air doesn’t spit out any water. Liquid damage in your Macbook Pro isn’t fun. I can’t stress this enough, make sure you check that!
Check the vents, on the retina MacBook Pro its located under the display and above the keyboard. In the hinge area. You probably have to tilt the computer a bit towards you to see it.
The Retina MacBook Pro also have vents on the underside, they can quickly gather dust and dirt as well. They look like this:
Be careful when cleaning these areas.
5. Advanced Tip – Reapply thermal compound
This should be an last resort but in some reports re applying the thermal compound have reduced the temperature significantly. Check https://www.ifixit.com for guides on how to open your particular model. They also have all special tools you need for sale, to open certain macs. In most cases you just have to remove the bottom case (thats easy), then remove the heat sink, clean the CPU(s) and heat sink with Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA) Wipes, apply new thermal paste, slap the bottom case on and you are ready to go.
But, re-applying thermal paste is not something an regular user does. By doing this you will also most certainly void your warranty. Especially if you damage something, and spare parts for Macs are extremely expensive. Its not difficult but some computer hardware experience is good to have.
Hope this little guide helped prevent your MacBook from overheating. 🙂