Could a laptop overheating cause it to spontaneously turn off?
>___> Since that's what mine has been doing lately (both turning off, and getting very very hot).
Yes, this is entirely possible. I'd guess that one or more of your fans may have stopped working - you may want to check this out. If not, perhaps there is some dust or something else blocking an air inlet / outlet?
If none of the above, it may just come down to where you are trying to use the laptop (eg. sitting on top of a duvet or cushion that would cause it to heat up abnormally). Maybe you should look into a laptop cooling tray.
I experienced that before for my computer, where it just powers off automatically when the processor hits above 65 degrees Celcius...
Yes its very possible my computer fan broke one time and it would shut off after about 10 minutes. So you may want to check your fan out or buy one of those cooling pads.
That way your computer doesnt get messed up more.
I had a Sony Vaio which used to shut down when it got overheated. I used a software called speedfan to measure the temperature. when it reached 90 degree celcius it woud shut down automatically. Then I gave it for repairs and they put some cooling chemical and repaired the fan. Dust was the enemy. Dust particles block air from going out and it results in rise in the temperature.
Overheating is quite common. The previous posters covered everything quite well. It is probably the cause of your problem.
As for damage, the heat will definitely effect the life of your components. While CPUs will thermally throttle down at around 100C, temps that high easily wear down capacitors and can kill your motherboard, hard drive, wireless card, just about anything that the heatsink is near. I have seen melted plastic mounts from excess heat around CPU heatsinks on laptops.