Computer Smells Like Burning? 6 Ways To Fix It Quickly

We all know that unpleasant plastic scent that comes with every new appliance or electronic item we purchase, and that smells a little like something is burning. However, after a few weeks, you shouldn’t even be able to notice it anymore, as it should completely vanish.

If this is not the case with your computer and the burning smell just won’t go away, it could indicate an issue. Now, it is important to fully inspect the device and figure out if the issue is marginal or something that requires immediate action.

Either way, burning smell from computer is something you shouldn’t ignore, so keep on reading to learn more about it. 

Why does your computer smell like burning plastic?

If your computer smells like burning, it is one of those issues that could potentially lead to a much bigger problem. Therefore, it is best to act as quickly as possible and find out where this smell is coming from.

1. CPU fan issue

Since the role of the CPU fan is to prevent the computer from overheating, if it’s not functioning properly or it is broken, likely, the temperature has significantly increased.

Depending on the model, the fan should turn on after the computer reaches a certain temperature – the upper limit usually being 50°C.

However, if something is blocking its spinning mechanism, or it has some sort of defect, the entire computer system will be in danger of overheating. 

When it comes to a faulty CPU fan, numerous factors could be compromising its functioning. Oftentimes, the fan isn’t properly connected or mounted, or there is a wiring issue.

The problem could also be in built-up dirt and dust blocking the spinning mechanism of the fan. Sometimes, if the fan is damaged, there could be a loose component stuck in the fan that is preventing the fan from spinning.

It could also be that the CPU fan isn’t recognized by the computer in the first place, which is a software connection issue and much easier to solve than a hardware defect, which may call for a CPU fan replacement. 

2. Blocked vents

Just like the fan can be blocked – so can the air vents on the computer. The computer must have enough space to cool off, and this will be impossible if anything is blocking the vents, whether it be a wall or dirt.

In case the back of the computer is positioned up against a wall or another surface, it could be that there isn’t enough space for it to cool down. Also, air vents often get blocked by accumulated dirt and debris.

Also, if your laptop smells like burning plastic, it could be that you’ve kept it on an inadequate surface for too long. If you have the habit of placing your laptop onto a pillow, blanket, or similar surface, it will likely overheat at a certain point.

3. Faulty battery

Another potential problem with your laptop is the battery. If the battery is defective, or it has started leaking, there will be a strong plastic smell and it may seem that you’re dealing with a burnt laptop

Luckily, the laptop battery is something that can easily be repaired or replaced, but it is necessary to take it out and check for any defects if there’s a burning smell from the laptop

4. Faulty AC adapter

An AC adapter is a rather important factor in the functioning of your laptop, and in case there is a problem with it, it should be repaired or replaced as soon as possible. 

The urgency comes from the fact that a defective AC adapter could cause serious havoc, including shortages and power surges. As you can already imagine, any of these scenarios could be fatal to your laptop.

In case the burning smell is coming from the AC adapter, it is very likely that the problem lies in the adapter, and not necessarily the laptop itself. 

5. Laptop case blockage

Accumulated dirt can block air vents, fans, and laptop cases. In case there are any blockages in the laptop case, whether it be built-up dirt or a loose component, the cooling system of the laptop could fail

Therefore, when inspecting the laptop for any defects or loose connections, it is necessary to clean every single component and remove any items that could block the fans.

As we’ve mentioned before, it is necessary to enable the cooling fans to function effortlessly to prevent the computer from overheating, whether it be a laptop or PC.

6. Damaged cord or wire

As with any other electronic appliance, a power cord of a computer can overheat and ignite. Therefore, it is necessary to first check for any signs of burning around the cords and wires if you notice a burning smell.

As opposed to other situations we’ve described, the burning smell will be much more intense in this situation, and you will probably be able to notice it right away.

How can I fix a computer that smells like burning?

If your computer smells like burning electronics, the most important step in fixing it is determining what is causing the smell, or where this burning smell is coming from.

Once you’ve successfully done that, it shouldn’t be too hard to find and apply the appropriate solution. Here are the most efficient ways of handling and preventing burning smells coming from the computer.

1. Check the CPU fan

To determine whether the CPU fan is the issue, it is necessary to turn your computer off, reboot it, and then use it actively for about an hour, closely monitoring the activity of the fan.

In case the spinning mechanism isn’t starting even when you’re using the computer at full capacity, it is almost certain that you’re dealing with a faulty CPU fan.

Also, if you notice that the computer is overheating, you can sense the burning smell from the computer, and the fan is still not turning on, something is blocking it, or it is defective.

What you can do is inspect the CPU fan, look for any loose or damaged components and have them repaired or replaced. Also, you should consult the manual and double-check the positioning of all the components, including the fan itself.

Oftentimes, the fan hasn’t been properly mounted in the first place. Also, the computer may be placed on an uneven surface, which may also affect the functioning of the fan. 

Try relocating the computer and placing it onto a flat, even surface. Also, once you’ve opened the CPU fan, make sure to clean it thoroughly, even if you’re not noticing any type of blockage. 

Even if it isn’t noticeable, accumulated dirt could seriously affect the cooling mechanism of the computer, as well as any loose components – even as small and seemingly marginal as a single screw. 

2. Clean air vents

The cleaning session shouldn’t stop at fans, since other components require regular cleaning as well. Air vents are a vital part of the cooling system of your computer, and they should never be neglected.

To get into all the nooks and crevices and ensure there are no blockages left, you can use canned air, a duster, as well as a handheld vacuum. Once you’ve vacuumed or dusted the vents, go over them with a lint-free cloth.

Also, as convenient as it is to keep your laptop on your lap, and especially on top of a couch pillow, remember to take breaks and allow the laptop to cool down on a flat surface.

Keeping the laptop on surfaces such as pillows and blankets for a long time may contribute to overheating, which is one of the reasons why you may smell a burning odor when you’re using your computer. 

3. Check the battery

A faulty battery is definitely among the top reasons when it comes to the burning smell coming from a laptop. To troubleshoot the laptop battery, remove it from the computer and inspect it for any defects or leaks.

Also, you can turn on the laptop without the battery using the AC adapter. In case there is no burning odor when you’re using the laptop without the battery, the battery is likely the issue.

The best solution in this situation would be to invest in a new laptop battery, as it is a vital component you shouldn’t compromise on. 

4. Check the AC adapter

Speaking of vital components of your computer, the AC adapter certainly belongs in this category. If you notice that it is overheating, it may be defective, and in this case, it is necessary to replace it with a new one. 

It may also be that the voltage the AC adapter is receiving is too high, but this is rarely the case, as most modern AC adapters cover pretty much all standard voltage ratings. Nevertheless, you should definitely check the voltage standards in the manual. 

5. Check the laptop case

Just like the air vents and the fans, the laptop case needs to be free of any kind of blockage, including accumulated dirt, debris, and other particles. Open up the case and clean it thoroughly using alcohol and a lint-free cleaning cloth. 

Make sure that you’re cleaning all the laptop components regularly to prevent these blockages from forming, as they could lead to serious damage in the system – including overheating. 

6. Ensure the cords and wires aren’t damaged

As we’ve mentioned, cords and wires on all appliances, including a computer, can catch fire in case they overheat

Of course, this can only happen with defective cords and wiring, so it is necessary to inspect them regularly and replace them as soon as you notice the slightest sign of damage.

Sometimes, the cause of this problem may be a manufacturing defect – especially a power cord defect. 

What’s more, if you’re using extension cords, make sure you aren’t connecting too many devices at the same time, as this could lead to a dangerous overload and even result in a fire.

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