Having recently been presented by PC World's support desk with an estimate of £230 to replace the fan on an unhappy and crashing Toshiba laptop, I had immediate sympathy for a man in Somerset who found a worm causing the same problem in his machine.

This time it was an earthworm, not a computer worm that had wrapped itself around his fan , in the process causing it to fail and, incidentally form a human point of view, cooking itself. At least its last coil was mortal.

Back with my Toshiba, I decided not to take up the repair department on their offer, and set to finding a more economic alternative. It presented itself to me in the form of a jeweller's screwdriver with a £12 laptop cooler as backup.

The ‘failing fan' problem is common on laptops over a year or two in age, which used active fan systems. These occasionally fail completely, but also seem incredibly sensitive to even slight loosening of the copper heatsink arrangement that feeds the fan. This causes more heat to build up before the fan-activation thermo cuts in (another point of failure incidentally), which causes the machine to shut itself down.

The obvious solution is to replace the fan unit which can be done by the technically gifted for a fraction of the sum demanded from ordinary punters for the job, but before doing that it is worth opening up the assembly and giving each of the heatsink locking screws a one-sixteenth turn (no more or you might damage the heatsink) with a jeweller-size screwdriver. This creates a firmed connection and seemed to make the difference to my Toshiba.

Just in case, I ordered the excellent and cheap laptop cooling pad from Belkin, which uses a single fan in its base (powered via a spare USB socket on the laptop) to keep the underside of the laptop frosty. The PC sits up a bit more than normal, but it works extremely well.

The Belkin can be bought from Amazon, and a number of other sites.

I just wonder how many poor sods end up paying PC World and Toshiba the money.