Please note: the information presented this article,
today (September 2003) is pretty outdated as the number
of cooling fans, and especially their noises, are
getting pretty hard to take care of. I've left it
posted here the way I first wrote it as some of the
info still applies. As a sidenote, about the only
specification of any importance whatsoever on any
computer on the market now today is the number of BTU's
Computers can make all kinds of noises. Here's what you can do
about some of them. But - kind in mind, it involves opening
your machine and taking some parts out to work on. If you are
not comfortable to do so - DON'T. I purposely will not go into
a lot of details on how to do things. If you feel you cannot
figure it out from what I've written, sorry, you should not be
trying to tackle it yourself - pay someone qualified to do it
- Only during read/write access - whirring/grinding/whining
sound, operation time usually too little to worry about it.
- Always on when computer powered up: whirring and/or whining
sound. Harddrives are usually not rated for dB levels.
The noise level will probably vary even in units of same
manufacturer and same model. Put little rubber rings or rubber
feet between the harddrive and the plate it mounts on. Be sure
to use a ground wire from the harddrive to the mounting area
(or anywhere on the casing). This helps prevent the case from
vibrating and resonating.
CD ROM drive
- Only during read/write access - whirring/grinding/whining
sound, operates continuously depending on application. If you
only use it to install software, put up. If you play a lot of
movies, audio cd's or work a lot with encyclopedias (don't bug
me about encyclopediae please) - see harddrive.
Cooling fan (power supply and/or CPU)
- Continuous use (hopefully...). Disect the power supply and
take a look at the blades of the fan. If you've used your
computer for a while you notice a lot of dust built up on the
blades. Especially if you smoke around your computer the crud
really piles up. The dust and crud adds wind resistance, often
to the point where it starts to whistle. Simply cleaning the
blades with a tooth brush with a bit of dishwashing liquid (or
whatever mild soap) can produce unbelievable results. Don't
splash water around, fans are not dishwasher dafe, and DO NOT
lubricate. Same trick applies to CPU fans (if your computer has
one). Generally CPU fans are too small to create noise problem
to start with. Some fans are noisier than others, fans using
ballbearings are almost silent. It might be worth your while
looking around for one of these. Use the rubber ring trick (see
harddrives) for the power supply fan, NOT for the CPU fan. When
remounting the power supply, use rubber rings or feet, or a
crumpled up bunch of kleenexes as this is a like area for noise
to resonate also. Once more for good measure: DO NOT lubricate
Tapedrives (for backup): that good ol' Black and Decker
- Personal soap box opinion: these horrid things have no
place in modern technology. Considering the price of harddrive
has tumbled down, buy a second harddrive and a
sliding/removable bracket. Backup AND verify all your stuff in
only about 10 minutes or so. Why put up with anything less. Zip
drives are an attractive alternate choice if you need to carry
your data with you.
Computer case: resonating noise where it stands.
- Put rubber feet under the case, or set the whole thing on a
sheet of styrofoam, foam rubber etc. to prevent the case from
rattling and resonating on your desk. Is the motherboard
properly fastened inside the case? If not, expect some rattling
here too - tighten motherboard hardware. Anything standing on
top of the case that's merrily rattling away?
- Some just click louder than others, some you barely hear.
Nope, can't use Slick 50 here either.
Various electronic components on the motherboard and cards can
produce whining noises:
- Usually black, or light blue thingmies: all over the
motherboard and accessory cards (i/o, video, sound etc.)
If you can identify noises, humming or whining, from capacitors
try bending them ever so slightly if it improves. BE CAREFULL
you might break them off! If a cap is noisy (opened up) replace
it if you know how.
- Silvery looking, about 1cm X 1.2cm, on mother boards and
cards. They often sport numbers like 10 MHz on them. When the
casing becomes unglued, they produce a nice whining. See
- Mounted inside the power supply, a big and heavy thing.
These are made up from a lot of plates sandwiched together.
Some times these plates get loose and start vibrating or
humming. Some of them have nuts and bolts going straight
through them and can be tightened. Check to see if the
transformer is bolted down tight to the housing of the power
supply - no rubber feet here! The power adapter of laptops is
mostly transformer, check it out too.
- Whining, whisteling, enough said. Usually the flyback
transformer or something. Capacitors, synch pulses - big time
noise hunting. Big time voltage if you hit the wrong wire - big
time better taking it to a repair shop.
- Some video cards interact somehow with the monitor and
produce terrific high pitch frequency sounds, especialy when
set at high resolutions. Try picking a lower resolution as a
cheap fix, it often works. Besides, you you really need to slow
down your machine with 16 million colours while balancing your
Computer next to stereo
- Nice program on AM, nice whistle or chainsaw from the
computer coming in through the stereo's speakers. Time to hook
up an external antenna using shielded cable (RG58 etc.).
- Monitors do not get along with fluorescent lighting. The
monitor flickers at one frequency rate, the fluorescent lights
at 50 or 60 Hz., depending on what part of the world you are
in. The flickering at different rates is known to cause
headaches. Headaches are known to make you feel bad. Feeling
bad is known to cause people pay more attention to tinnitus
than they should, or certain Pauls to reach for yet another box
Monitors - again.
- The proper position for a monitor is BELOW eye level (when
looking straight at it). At, or above, eye level and you'll run
stiff necks etc.
- Bubble, or inkjet, printers are the quietest. If you cannot
use one of these for whatever reasons, get an extension cable
and put your printer farther away - in another room if
What make of hardware is quieter than another? Hard to say,
keep modern assembly practices in mind: any make, or brand, may
be manufactured in one country one day and in another the next.
The same goes for any of the components used. One day they use
harddrive brand A, brand B tomorrow - this applies to all
manufacturers. That beautifully silent machine your friend
bought last month might well be the noisiest one around today.
When buying your hardware talk to your dealer about your
specific reasons for wanting quiet gear. Anybody wants/has to
make a buck, but don't be afraid to ask to make an after-hour
appointment to listen to the equipment when all's quiet in the
store. If they don't want to accommodate this request, you
might to consider dealing with someone that does.
If despite all your handy work you're still not satisfied with
the noise level of your computer there's always the big, yet
simple, solution: extension cords! Get one for your keyboard,
the monitor and other things you need close by, and toss the
whole thing out the door. There's nothing that says you
couldn't put it in the room next door, or in a closet or out in
the hallway. Of course, the latter is not the most ideal thing
to do if you live in an apartment building... On the other
hand, maybe all the squeaking was only your swivel chair. Yup,
Slick 50's ok here.