Ask LH: How Can I Quiet A Noisy Computer Fan?

Dear Lifehacker, My laptop fan is super loud, and I can't seem to get it to quiet down. It's all BRRRRRRRRRR the whole day, and I'm like FUUUUUUUUUUUU and slap it BAAAAAM and it won't quit. Help! Sincerely, A Deaf-By-Laptop-Fan ReaderPhoto by Jon Ross.

Dear Deaf,

First things first: I'd probably stop hitting your laptop because that isn't going to help. Unless you're The Fonz.

There are a number of reasons your computer's fan could be noisy, but most of them boil down to "it's just too hot in there". Here are a few things you can try to get it running a bit cooler and quieter.

Check Your Processes

Your CPU fan will start blowing like mad if you're running CPU-intensive processes, like games or video conversions. If you aren't doing one of these things, you'll definitely want to see if another process is eating up your CPU for no reason.

Hit Ctrl+Shift+Esc to bring up the Task Manager (or, if you're on a Mac, open up Activity Monitor under /Applications/Utilities). Check the processes tab to see if anything's taking up an abnormally large precent of your CPU's power—usually, if something's out of control, it'll be up close to 100. If everything's relatively low (single-digits or maybe the tens), then it isn't your CPU going out of control, it's the fan itself.

There's also a chance it's your video card's fan that's going out of control, in which case you might want to update your drivers. It's usually a long shot, but it's worth a try.

Cool Down Your Computer

There's a good chance that your computer's just too darn hot, for one reason or another. Perhaps your computer tower is stashed inside a small cupboard with little airflow, or you're using your laptop on your lap and not letting enough heat escape. This will cause your computer to overheat, even if it isn't taxing itself, and it'll spin your fans like crazy.

If you're on a desktop, make sure you have adequate airflow in and around your computer tower. If it's in a little cupboard, move it outside the desk for awhile and see if that helps. If you're on a laptop, try using one of the many DIY laptop stands we've featured to cool it down—that may quiet those noisy fans.

Clean Your Fans

If none of that is helping, you're going to have to open up your computer and dig around. You'll definitely want to clear all the dust out of your machine, since this can cause overheating which could make your fans blow loudly. And, if your fans are really dusty, they could get especially noisy too. We've talked about how to do some of this before—all you need is some compressed air and some oil.

You'll also want to try lubricating your fans. TechRepublic has a great, picture-filled guide for doing this. This should help get your fan running faster and quieter.

If all else fails, you may need to replace the fan entirely. You can usually buy fans at electronics stores (though you might need to get laptop fans through the laptop manufacturer, depending).

It's worth noting that, while there are a lot of tools out there like Speedfan and smcFanControl that you can use to manually slow your fans down, I wouldn't recommend using them. They're generally for advanced users only, and if you're fan is running loud, there's probably a reason—usually that it's too hot in there. If you slow it down without cooling off your computer, it could overheat. That said, these tools could be useful for figuring out which fan is making all the noise, but other than that, I wouldn't recommend using them until you've actually fixed the problem.

Hopefully this gives you a bit of direction into fixing your problem. If you guys have any other suggestions, be sure to share them with us in the comments!

Cheers Lifehacker


Comments

    I bought an Antec 300 case with my last computer a few months ago and it came with really great antec fans, they are extremely quiet. Something that wasnt mentioned above, you may have a loud fan or two if the bearings are wearing out, although that takes ages.

    If you can't fix them after all this buy new ones. They are cheap and easy to install.

    Just power the new one in where the old one was plugged in - and screw the new one where the old one used to be attached.

    Just need to find out the size in millimetres of your existing fan then order something from PCCaseGear or some website like that (I am not affiliated with PCCaseGear). You would also want to choose one with low decibels rating.

    http://www.pccasegear.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=9

      Just be careful if you're replacing the fan that goes over the heat sink for your cpu, those usually need to be connected onto a specific area in the mobo so that it sends info to the cpu saying hey there's a fan here and it's working, otherwise, every time you restart your pc, it will say oh noes there's no fan, wtf? And your mobo could overheat as well.. (mine hasn't.. yet but it could be a good excuse to get a new mobo haha)

    On my Lenovo T61 the amount of time the fan spends running (which is not that loud, but noticeable as it starts and stops) is also related to the power mode you are in.

    Since most recent intel laptop chipsets do that speed step thing, if you are in "performance mode" even just doing regular office stuff will make the fan run more often (as I guess it is heading up to max MHz more often), but putting it into "balanced" or "maximise battery" (just using standard Windows 7 power settings) will mean the fan runs alot less often, or not at all...

    The fan does also run quite a lot when the battery is charging from low, presumably this is to dissipate the extra heat that is gathering during charging.

    Rob

    Also, make sure the internal wires are not touching the fans.

    I have also found that fans cause vibrations, make sure everything is zip locked pat or rubber band, loose cables and wiring can also get loose an vibrate around there, also if you tried cleaning and didn't oil the bearings, forget it and get new ones, so much cheaper, but if you like getting your hands dirty, clean them. Also to note, is that I don't leave my PC on the ground, carpets and te ground in general is where dust settles, so think about that one.

    The intake can is swallowing all that up if its on the floor.

    I had a noisy video card fan once and tapping it did help...it would start quite then build up a vibration. A tap would normally rebalance it. Eventually I would lubricate it and that helped the bearings for a couple more months. I could never find a replacement fan as it was tiny and custom to the video card.

    quiet...it would start quiet...not quite. really got to read more carefully before hitting submit.

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