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On my 2010 MBP, I want to encode several hours of video, which will end up with the CPU used at 100% for a long time and the MBP heating quite a lot.

Is this considered as normal use (I would say yes, isn't it what computers are made for! :)) ? Could it end up with a too high internal temperature and could it damage some components? (The aluminium case will be hot but the hand is not a good thermometer).

In case this could be a problem, is there a way to cap the maximum cpu% a process can use. I don't really care about the time it will take, I just don't want to kill my MBP...!

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5 Answers 5

up vote 7 down vote accepted

100% CPU utilization will not directly be harmful to your laptop. Heat, however, can be. Your MacBook Pro does have several internal temperature sensors that will turn on the internal fan and finally halt the machine should it get too hot. You can see the temperature each sensor is reading by using this free program:

http://www.bresink.com/osx/TemperatureMonitor.html

You should still use some type of cooling stand if possible. My 2007 MacBook Pro suffered a broken display from what I believe to be a heat related issue. After heavy use and high CPU utilization the bottom of the display would get very hot. Then, the screen would start to flicker slightly (but only when the laptop was running hot). Eventually, the screen had to be replaced. Using a laptop stand with multiple fans kept my machine running cool enough to prevent the issue from happening again.

Also, you do have some control over how much CPU a process gets. For that you can use BeNicer, another free piece of software:

http://frozenheads.com/page/benicer

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I shall add that battery is one of the victims as well :) –  Enrico Susatyo Jul 31 '11 at 13:06
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i would assume that 100% usage doesn't really mean that it's at it's full capacity and about to explode, but more that the CPU is does as much as it has been limited to do at one time, so it's kinda already capped.

The concept of overclocking is to push a computer to it's absolute limits and squeezing out as much "power" as possible, which has more chance of causing issues with overheating that could potentially cause damage.

As you said the CPU should be designed to be used upto 100% and shouldn't cause itself serious harm and as SomeOtherGuy said, it should protect itself from damage should it start to overheat.

Incidentally, my MBP gets ridiculously hot from being sat on charge all day, so I have resorted to having an external keyboard to stop my palms sweating while typing. The computer itself hasn't been affected by this obviously - any slow down is more likely to do with how much guff is on it and that I don't really maintain my computer. It'll be getting a reformat soon to clean it up and back to full speed.

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Defocusing from the percentage … 

Heat

Someone (not me) reported 90° C using Lion (not with the released version — some time before the golden master of 10.7 was seeded).

Here without worry I sometimes see peaks above boiling point. I trust the fans to cool things appropriately.

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I can't confirm this. My MacBook (Unibody, late 2008) is running at 60-65°C during normal usage with OS X Lion. –  René Jul 31 '11 at 10:50
    
I just received my new MBP running Lion. I had a 94°C during heavy load (batch work in Aperture) and its idle temp is around 65°C as you mention. Seems to be normal then... –  LudoMC Jul 31 '11 at 13:10
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Before components are damaged, the MacBook Pro will shut down, they have heat sensors and shut down if they get too hot. You may loose some data, but the MBP should be fine.

However, I would put it on a laptop stand with good ventilation, just to be sure.

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On the multi core CPUs that are used in recent MPBs the processor load can go up to "cores x 100%".

So for a dual core processor 200% would be maximum.

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