How to fix a noisy computer

If your computer sounds like a jet-engine, chances are it’s because the processor is getting hot, and the fan is not able to deliver the air-flow needed to keep it nice and cool. Most of the time, this is because there is dust blocking the cooler. Disconnect your computer from everything, and open the case. Then locate the CPU cooler, which will look like a big hunk of aluminum with a fan stuck on it. Check out these two pictures:

Before cleaning

In this picture, you can see that beneath the fan blades, there’s a layer of dust. No matter how fast the fan runs, there’s not going to be enough to make an impact. That’s why a computer might sound like an airplane, because the fan is trying its best to push air through this layer of dust.

After Cleaning

This picture shows what it is supposed to look like underneath the fan. Here you see the aluminum cooler beneath the fan, which is a heat-sink similar to the radiator of your car. However in your computer, the heat-sink is contacting the processor (actually there’s some thermal paste in between that assists with the heat-transfer), and is responsible for making sure all the thinking the computer does, isn’t causing it to overheat… Fortunately, today’s computers will automatically shut themselves off, if it gets too hot in there. So if you’re experiencing sudden power-off’s, this article may solve your problem too!

To get from the before picture to the after, all you have to do is use some canned air to blow out the dust.

MAXELL 190025 - CA3 Maxell 190025 - ca3 blast away canned air (single)

Please be sure to read the instructions on the can, because it usually states that you SHOULDN’T shake it first, nor should you hold it upside down. Also, I’d advise to take your computer outside to do this, because there will be a huge cloud of dust in your office if you don’t. You won’t need a mask, if you can hold your breath like Michael Phelps. If there are a couple of dust fuzzballs left over, don’t worry too much about those, the main thing is that the air can flow through properly. Dust itself doesn’t really affect the flow of electricity, unless it’s lodged between two connectors. So for example if you plan on installing new RAM sticks or a graphics card, then you might blow out the connectors if you see they have dust inside. Now connect your computer back up to everything, and enjoy the quiet operation!

In some instances if a fan is still making noise, it’s best time to replace the CPU cooler with another one that fits your processor type. These fan replacements are pretty cheap, but there are a huge variety of fans to choose from. Here are some things to think about when you’re looking for a replacement cooler:

  • Does the price fit inside my budget? (obviously this is probably the first thing you’d consider).
  • Will the fan fit in my case? (This is not always the case. HAH get it?-) (No but seriously, some of these coolers are huge.)
  • Which direction should the air flow to best suit my case? (some cases have a hole and an extra fan on the side, so an upwards blowing fan would be best, but most cases benefit from the air-flow pointing to the back of the case.)
  • Liquid or Air cooling? (If you really want a cool CPU, but don’t want to spend more than $200 on custom cooling to do extreme overclocking, then you’ll still have the option to get a closed loop liquid cooled solution.)

I’ve brought noisy fans back to life before by taking them apart, greasing them up or shaving off the edges of the blades if they’re wobbling and making contact with something. But these kind of hacks should only be considered to be temporary fixes, and you don’t want to mess up a perfectly good CPU just because you didn’t want to get a new $20 cooler. Right?

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