You can get used 8440p laptops pretty cheaply because HP Elitebook 8440p overheating is rather common. Symptoms of overheating include unexpected reboots, shutting down, and bluescreens.
The problems with the cooling system are unfortunate. They have nice keyboards, they’re easy to work on, and they’re reliable otherwise, so they’d be nice laptops if they didn’t overheat so much. Here’s how to improve their cooling so you can get a bargain–buying off-lease business laptops is a great way to save money.
Clean out the dust
The first thing you need to do is just vacuum the vents. Shut the system down, remove the battery, and then vacuum all of the vents on the sides and underside of the laptop. Just use the handheld brush attachment on an ordinary household vacuum cleaner. Use it like you would if you were vacuuming your baseboards.
When these vents get fouled with dust, the laptop doesn’t get enough airflow and the chips overheat. Usually just vacuuming out the vents is enough to make it work reliably again.
You can also blow the vents out with compressed air instead of using a vacuum cleaner, but if you have a vacuum cleaner, it’s cheaper to just run the vacuum for the couple of minutes it takes. I think it’s more effective too; I’d rather pull the dust out rather than redistribute it inside.
I’ve seen a few people rage about this on Youtube, but I’m not sure there’s any laptop that’s immune to dust buildup, unless it runs cool enough to not need an internal fan.
To see if vacuuming is sufficient, stress-test the laptop with Prime95. If it can run 24 hours, you can probably call it good at this point.
Going forward, install Open Hardware Monitor so you can check in on the temperature. When the vents start getting fouled, you’ll hear the fan more and more often and the average running temperature will increase. When the system runs over 90 degrees under load, it’s time to vacuum it out again. Sustained temperatures near 100 degrees cause sudden thermal shutdowns.
If you want to go the extra mile, or if the computer fails the stress test, you can make the laptop run cooler, quieter, and faster by overhauling the cooling. This can potentially make it faster in addition to cooler and quieter. Intel i5 and i7 CPUs will turbo-boost under heavy load as long as the temperature stays low enough. The cooler the CPU stays, the longer it can boost if the workload gets demanding.
While you’re in there, it makes sense to replace the thermal pads on the capacitor and GPU. The pads worked fine when they were new, but they degrade over time and these laptops aren’t spring chickens anymore. You can replace them with new thermal pads of the same size, but there are two better options.
The first option is K5 Pro thermal paste. K5 Pro is designed to fill large gaps that conventional thermal paste doesn’t.
An even better option is to replace the pads with copper shims. Put regular thermal compound between the shims and the CPU, and thermal adhesive between the shims and the heat sink. This ensures the shims don’t move on you, but be sure of which side you’re using the adhesive and don’t mix the two up. You don’t want to glue stuff to your chips. Or if you don’t want to spring for the adhesive, put a pea-sized drop of compound in the center of the shim, and just before you replace the big heatsink, put a tiny drop of super glue in one or two corners of the shim.
Replace the compound on the CPU with a premium compound like Arctic Silver 5, Noctua, or IC Diamond. Why? In the short term, there’s not a lot of difference between them, but in the long term, premium compounds tend to last slightly longer, and under heavy loads, cheap compounds drop temperatures by about two degrees, while a premium one drops it 5-6 degrees. You don’t want your CPU to reach 100 degrees. For the price difference, you can get a faster system and a longer lifespan. Slightly cooler temperatures mean the CPU can boost longer when it needs to.
While you have the laptop apart, be sure to clean any dust out of it that remains. You can do a more thorough job with cotton swabs than you can with compressed air or a vacuum cleaner through the vents. You might as well make sure you’re getting good airflow while you’re in there.
Running Prime95 and monitoring temperatures with Open Hardware Monitor, I reached a CPU temperature of 97 degrees within 26 minutes and tend to stay there.
Under normal usage, my CPU temperatures top out at a much more reasonable 88-93 degrees. But most of the time, they hover in the 40s and low 50s.
I’ve thought about taking the laptop apart and changing the thermal pads and paste, but so far I haven’t felt the need. Vacuuming takes a couple of minutes. Transplanting thermal paste is likely to take closer to an hour. I’m not seeing the return on effort, so I’ll probably just vacuum the vents again if those temperatures start getting too high.
If you’re wondering, the HP Elitebook 8440p does seem to need some tweaks to run Windows 10. But it does OK after minor adjustments. And here’s my general advice on tweaking Windows 10 for performance.
If you ever have trouble powering up an HP Elitebook, here’s a fix that takes less than a minute.