A burning smell emitting from your laptop indicates that your machine’s cooling system is not functioning properly. If your laptop smells like something is burning, this usually means that your computer is overheating. Immediately turn the computer off and allow it to cool for 10 to 15 minutes. If you continue to use your laptop with a recurring overheating problem, you can permanently damage the hard drive and internal components.
Inside your laptop case there is a fan that cools the CPU when the unit gets warm. The fan switches on when the temperature inside the case reaches a certain level. If the fan fails, the laptop may overheat during periods of extended use. Troubleshoot the issue by actively using the laptop for about an hour, then listen for the fan to turn on. If you instead smell something burning when the machine heats up, and you do not hear the fan kick on, your fan may need to be replaced.
Occasionally, laptop batteries will fail and may emit a burning smell. To troubleshoot the battery, remove the battery from the computer, then connect the AC adapter. Use the computer for a while, then check for the burning smell. If the laptop no longer emits the smell, the battery is likely the problem. Replace the battery with a new one, then test the laptop again with the new battery.
Sometimes, the AC adapter will fail, causing power surges or shortages to the laptop. A faulty AC adapter may also emit a burning smell. Troubleshoot the AC adapter by unplugging the adapter from the laptop, then running the computer off of battery power only. Replace the AC adapter, if needed.