Is It Harmful To Use A Hot MacBook On Your Lap?

With laptops becoming increasingly more common than desktop computers these days, and the popular MacBook line getting ever-more-powerful with each refresh, the issue of overheating is a significant one. In addition to causing hardware failures within the computer (as explained in this article) the heat generated by your MacBook can cause you discomfort and can even be a danger to your health... the latter of which this article will focus on.

Note that if your Mac is experiencing poor battery life in addition to overheating, you should also check out this page.

Comparisons To Cell Phones

Many people believe that because laptops are complex electrical devices, they emit radiation that can prove harmful if one is exposed to it for too long. Research into whether high cellphone usage causes cancer has been highly publicized, and experts warn cellphone users not to talk on their phones for extended periods of time when not necessary. So does the same apply for laptops?

dangerous to have hot macbook on lap

Cellphones are believed to be harmful to people because they emit a large amount of radiation when sending and receiving signals. Calling being worse than texting or using the mobile internet, as when you're calling you're generally holding the phone up to your ear, exposing your head to the radiation produced by the signal of the phone call

However even having your cellphone on standby in your pocket is believed by some experts to be harmful, as it is constantly connected to the cellular network, and is, therefore, emitting radiation. But MacBooks are not connected to the cellular network. Sure, there's the WiFi signals, however, they are much weaker, and therefore much more harmless, than cellular signals. This is much in the same way that the short-range signal used in wireless landline phones are weak and harmless.

Cellular signals need to make it from a tower dozens of miles away to your phone, whereas WiFi signals only need to make it a few metres to your MacBook. So it is a pretty safe assumption to say that you don't need to worry about the radiation your MacBook produces via its wireless activity.

Screen Radiation

So what about screen radiation? Screen radiation is another supposed health hazard that many people are wary of when it comes to using laptops for long periods of time. However, while it used to be a relevant hazard 10 to 15 years ago, the danger of screen radiation when it comes to computers holds little relevance today.

dangerous to have hot mac on lap

When it comes to screens, the only type that emits enough radiation to be harmful is the CRT display. For those of you who don't know, CRT displays are those old, bulky "tube" monitors that were the dominant type of screen in the late 90s and early 2000s. Since the computer industry doesn't use CRT screens anymore (and the laptop industry never has) screen radiation is more or less irrelevant. LCD displays (the modern, flatscreen type used in laptops) do emit a little radiation, however, it's such a small amount that it's pretty much negligible.

It’s The Heat!

The thing makes using a hot MacBook on your lap harmful is not any sort of radiation - it's simply the heat it generates. If someone's genital area is constantly exposed to heat, a number of health problems can arise, including, but not limited to, fungal infections, infertility and even genital cancer.

So what sort of heats are dangerous?  As in, how hot does your MacBook have to be to be a hazard to your health? Well, that depends on a few things, such as the ambient temperature, how long you've been using the MacBook on your lap for and the clothing you're wearing.

Check The Season

During the winter, as long as your house isn't heated to an excessive level, your MacBook's heat will only be a problem if it seriously overheats, as in 90-100C (by the way, to check your MacBook's temp, download SMC Fan Control here). Furthermore, those type of high heats should only occur when you're doing intensive things on your Mac, such as gaming, video editing etc.

However, the summer is a lot more dangerous. Unless you're using your MacBook in a heavily air-conditioned room, heats as low as 70-80C (which can be reached by performing fairly normal tasks, such as watching videos) can cause the bottom of your MacBook to get very hot, especially if you use it for long periods of time. Exposing your genital area to significant amounts of heat for long periods of time will eventually cause infertility in men, and in both genders can cause nasty fungal infections that are difficult to get rid of. It is therefore very important that you protect yourself from your MacBook's heat, especially during the summer months.

Solutions For Keeping Your MacBook Cool

You can protect yourself from the heat your MacBook generates by simply placing something in-between your MacBook and your lap. Things like cushions and pillows will protect you, as will blankets and rugs. However while these things will protect you from heat, they also act as insulation to your Mac, causing it to heat up even more. This is bad for your MacBook's long term health, as overheating slowly fries the CPU and GPU (You can read more about the effects of overheating on your Mac in this article).


So what should you use instead of cushions or pillows? Hard objects, as they allow your MacBook to "breathe", promoting good airflow, which effectively cools it down. Things like large hardcover books (encyclopaedias, atlases, etc) will suffice, however they aren't the most comfortable things to have on your lap for long periods of time.

Lap Desk

LapGear Home Office Lap Desk with Device Ledge, Mouse Pad, and Phone Holder - Silver Carbon - Fits up to 15.6 Inch Laptops - Style No. 91585
42,939 Reviews
LapGear Home Office Lap Desk with Device Ledge, Mouse Pad, and Phone Holder - Silver Carbon - Fits up to 15.6 Inch Laptops - Style No. 91585
  • Dimensions: The top of the lap desk measures 21.1 inches wide and 12 inches deep. It’s the perfect size for laptops up to 15.6 inches. You’ll have plenty of space for your devices and accessories.
  • Features: A built-in device ledge keeps your laptop, tablet, or notepad from slipping. The patented, integrated 5x9-inch mouse pad is easy to use and comes on either the right or left side of the...
  • Dual Bolster Cushion: A good lap desk relies on its cushion. This dual bolster microbead cushion is both comfortable and steady, giving you a stable surface. The dual design helps your lap stay cool,...
  • Portable: The Home Office Lap Desk has a built-in, sturdy carry handle. Weighing only 2.14 pounds, it’s easy to move from place to place. It’s also ideal for travel. Use it on the plane, in a...
  • Compact: This lap desk is big enough to work and small enough to store. You can use it while sitting near others without invading their space and tuck next to a couch or on a shelf when you’re done...

A more comfortable option is a "lap desk". A lap desk is what you can see in the photo above, and is a product designed specifically to provide a nice comfy "cushiony" surface to rest on your lap while providing a hard, flat desk-like surface for your laptop to rest on. This ensures that both that you are comfortable and your MacBook has good airflow.

Laptop Cooling Pad

If you want to go one step up from a lap desk, you could consider a laptop cooling pad to both cool your Mac down and make you more comfortable. A laptop cooling pad is similar to a lap desk, however, it takes the concept one step further by including fans that draw hot the air away from the computer, aiding in keeping you and the laptop cool.

Most laptop cooling pads are powered by one of your MacBook's USB ports, and some even include a USB hub in the body of the pad, so that your Mac's scarce ports aren't wasted. Laptop cooling pads are generally only required by heavier users, who use their MacBook to perform intensive tasks on a regular basis.

So if you're finding that yours is getting hot quite regularly it might pay to get a cooling pad.

AICHESON Laptop Cooling Pad 5 Fans Up to 17.3 Inch Heavy Notebook Cooler, Blue LED Lights, 2 USB Ports, S035, Blue-5fans
7,327 Reviews
AICHESON Laptop Cooling Pad 5 Fans Up to 17.3 Inch Heavy Notebook Cooler, Blue LED Lights, 2 USB Ports, S035, Blue-5fans
  • AICHESON S035 laptop cooler is special designed to cool down up to 17.3 inch laptop. Wave metal mesh, 1000-1500RPM 1 big laptop cooling fan and 4 small fans, flip-up silicone holder, 4 adjustable...
  • This laptop fan cooling pad can accommodate laptops up to 17.3" on desk use. The cooling pad for laptop has a large central fan with two smaller fans on each side (5 total fans). The upper surface of...
  • A metal bar for ergonomic design at the bottom provides elevation mechanism, 4 adjustable stand heights for healthy life. A flip-up high quality silicone grip at the bottom of computer cooling pad...
  • Two USB ports and a switch that turns fans and lights on and off (The greater you turn, the faster the fans run and the brighter the blue LEDs get). A USB-to-USB cord (approx. 1.5ft) is provided to...
  • The cooling fan for laptop can help to raise height from 2.4" - 4.8", and the angles is available to be adjusted from 7.5 - 21.5 degrees. Help to relieve neck pain caused by prolonged laptop use and...
Mike Roberts

Hi, my name is Mike and I made this site to document all the helpful tips and tricks that I've discovered using various Apple Macs and other Apple products over the years, as well as to provide more general guides in relation to using the internet. I've been obsessed with Apple products ever since I could afford my first iPod, and am somewhat of a fanboy (you might have guessed). For me, the simply work without any fuss, issues or errors. I can rely on their products. The build quality is excellent and I even have several, several-year-old Macbooks in my wardrobe that are still humming along fine (just a bit slower). You can contact me personally using the form on this page.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. I never actually considered this before but still invested in a laptop cooler anyway. Not only does it prolong the life of my Macbook but it also elevates the keyboard which is another nice bonus not often considered when choosing a cooler. Mine is actually quite similar to your second pick, only it’s a bit smaller and has fewer fans. Still, it does a great job.

  2. From the reviews I’ve read online, the MacBook does a really good job with thermals. I still wouldn’t use it in bed without some kind of lap desk, though. No laptop is designed to run very hot for a long time so it’s best to have a cooler especially in the summer. It will help extend the life of it as well.

  3. My MacBook runs kinda hot especially in the summer, I suppose it’s time for me to invest in a nice cooler for it. I never heard of SMC Fan Controller either and I always control fan speeds on my desktop so I’ll have to download that and try it out.