My Computer's Fan Is Making Weird Noises! Diagnosing and repairing CPU fan problems

Every computer owner has experienced it at one point in time or another: strange, often terrible noises coming from their computer's fan. It isn't just an annoyance- it can be a sign of serious problems with your computer. If you're looking to learn how to diagnose and hopefully repair any problems your computer's fan is having, read on. There are lots of different problems that could be causing the noise and many of them are simple to fix on your own.

Before starting, make sure you have a few simple tools at the ready to make sure the job goes smoothly.

  • A standard screwdriver
  • A small pair of pliers. Too large will make it difficult to move inside of a cramped computer case.
  • Tweezers
  • A pen-sized flashlight

It might also be useful to have anti-static guards, extra screws, and a small amount of rubbing alcohol. Once you've diagnosed the problem, you'll be able to decide what specialized tools you might need to repair the fan problem.

If your fan is wheezing, clunking, or squealing, it is time to look into fixing your computer's fan.
If your fan is wheezing, clunking, or squealing, it is time to look into fixing your computer's fan. | Source
This is an example of neat, safe interior wiring. If your wires are out of control, try and keep them bound and out of the way of moving parts.
This is an example of neat, safe interior wiring. If your wires are out of control, try to keep them bound and out of the way of moving parts. | Source

Find Out Why Your Computer Is Making The Noise

The first step to fixing a loud fan is to find out why, exactly, the fan is so loud in the first place! Here are some of the most common problems that cause loud fans alongside the sounds they make.

Wires Are Touching The Fan Blade - If you're hearing something that sounds like a playing card in the spokes of a bicycle wheel, you've probably got some wires bouncing off the fan blades. This can happen if wires have come loose or if the computer has been opened up recently. Simply open the side panel of your computer and rearrange the wires so they are away from moving components. It might be useful to purchase a few wire ties to ensure that the interior stays clean.

Don't ignore this problem! Not only will it slow down your fans and cause heating issues, but it will also erode the wire casing and cause serious electrical problems. It is very simple to fix, so don't let it wait.

Your Computer Is Overheating - If your fans are blaring at full speed constantly, it is very likely your computer is too hot. This can be the result of not all the fans operating properly, an overclocked CPU your computer is not equipped to handle, or simply being run too long. Download a third party program like Speed Fan if your computer does not come pre-installed with a temperature monitor. Using this, you can see what parts of your computer are running at what temperatures. I particularly like Speed Fan over other similar products because it allows you to manually change your fans speed from your desktop.

If you are overheating, it could be the sign of hardware failure. It is especially important that CPUs and video cards stay cool. Otherwise, your computer will suffer frequent involuntary shutdowns. Excessive heat could also cause permanent damage to your hardware. If your external fans are broken, read the guide below to find out how to replace them. If your CPU or video card's fans are the problem, consult with the manufacturer before attempting repairs. Video cards in particular will probably require a replacement unit, as there is very little a do-it-your-self computer repairmen can do.

Your Fans Are Dying - No piece of machinery can last forever. For many reasons, a fan could be on the end of its life cycle. If you hear lots of whining, stopping and starting, or a very slow start up, your computer's fan might be on its last legs. Although sometimes all that it takes to fix it is a little grease near joints, it is just as likely the motor is breaking down. It is most cost efficient to buy a new fan, especially for the CPU.

Dust- Be sure to keep your computer dust-free as well. Dust can and will accumulate over time in any machine and can clog up fans. Use alcohol wipes and compressed air to carefully remove any dust bunnies from your fans to ensure proper ventilation.


Installing A Case Fan

Sometimes you just need to replace a simple case fan.  These are the easiest computer fans to install.  If you've ever installed or removed RAM, you won't find this much more difficult.  Follow these simple instructions and you will be able to have a new PC exhaust fan replaced in no time.

  1. Carefully remove the old fan.  Use your screwdriver to carefully remove the screws located on the four corners of the fan.  These are very small, so be sure to put them somewhere they won't be lost.
  2. Unhook the power cables. There will be at least one (often two more more) power cables connecting your old fan to the motherboard.  Depress the tab and give a firm pull to disengage the plugs.
  3. Carefully place your new case fan. Usually, the same space you used to mount the old fan can be used for the new fan.  Make sure it is firmly secured, and screw in the new fan.  If you are planning to put your fans in a new position (higher or lower or changing to a side-panel exhaust system) be sure to replace the back panel.
  4. Carefully arrange wires. A new fan is a new opportunity to give your computer the best airflow possible. Make sure your system's wires aren't obscuring the fan from cooling vital hardware.
It's just that simple! Case fans are very simple to install, but they also do the least cooling.


Replacing Your Cpu Fan And Heatsink

This is significantly more difficult and should only be attempted by those who are confident in their ability to work inside of computers. Sometimes, it becomes necessary to replace a CPU's cooling system. If you turn on your computer and the big, square fan located directly on the motherboard isn't working, you'll either have to replace the CPU fan or have a professional do it for you. As the CPU almost always runs very hot, it can not survive without a fan blowing cool air directly on it for long.

You'll need to make sure you have thermal paste or a thermal pad. These are necessary to keep most modern processors cool.

Each CPU is different and has a slightly different method of replacing a fan. Most, however, require you to carefully clasp your fan directly onto the motherboard and then screw them into place. This can be exceptionally finicky, so make sure you have a steady hand and a small screwdriver that can fit into tiny spaces. If you lose a screw, don't panic: just use your tweezers to remove it from where it fell.

If you find it difficult to unscrew due to the proximity of wires or other pieces of hardware, try using long-nosed pliers to loosen the screws first.

Once you've removed the fan, carefully unhook the power cable and slowly loosen it from its resting place. If it does not come off easily, gently rock it back and forth

Follow the manufacturer instructions regarding the use of a thermal pad or thermal paste. If you are unsure of which to use, read the instruction manual that came alongside your new fan. Different manufacturers have different suggestions.

After applying either the thermal pad or thermal paste, it is time to install the new computer fan.

  1. First, line the fan up with the claps that will be used to secure it. Once it is properly aligned attach the power supply.
  2. Then, slowly lower the fan into place. This is extremely important! Putting it down with too much force could cause a variety of different types of damages. Simply rest it where it is supposed to go.
  3. If the fan needs to be locked in, firmly hold it in place until it gently snaps in. If it needs to be secured via clasps, carefully pull them into place, making sure the heatsink/fan stay level.
  4. Screw the fan back in.
  5. Test the fan. Turn your computer on with the case still open. If the cpu fan does not work, turn the PC off immediately. If it does, let it start up normally and check the idle temperature of the processor. If it is satisfactory, close up your machine and congratulate yourself to a job well done.


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Comments 50 comments

Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

Wow, this is a really great guide. I remember the days when I had a desktop computer and the fan would heave and sigh like a dying creature. I think the problem was dust accumulation, because whenever I opened the darned thing up, a giant cat-sized ball of skin cells and fur would come out.

Well done!! I bet this will help a lot of people! At least... until we just have chips installed in our brains and say goodbye to desk-chained computers for good, hahaa.


Len Cannon profile image

Len Cannon 5 years ago from Brooklyn, NY Author

Ha! I'm sure yours were better than some of the ones I worked on for friends in the past. It was like a cheeto dust graveyard.


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

LOL!! Cheeto dust graveyard. Well, your expertise on this subject has really paid off - this Hub is the first Staff Pick winner of the So You Think You Can Write Online contest! Congrats!!


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

Great hub although I think I will just call our computer expert if ours starts making weird noises. In our case besides dust we definitely have animal fur! If the weird noises include meowing or barking, I'll KNOW that we are in trouble! :-) Congratulations on your win!


caltex profile image

caltex 5 years ago

Yes, this is truly helpful. Congratulations! Well-deserved.

Does this apply to laptops as well? Are their fans replaceable, too?


melbel profile image

melbel 5 years ago from New Buffalo, Michigan

Congratulations. I came here to see the winning hub and holy moly this one's a gem! Congrats on the win!


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 5 years ago from Templeton, CA

Congratulations. Your win is well-deserved. I hope I won't have this problem with my I-MAC, but my desktop PC used to sound like a jet taking off.


andycool profile image

andycool 5 years ago from the U.S.

Congrats! Great hub, really very useful. You deserve it! - Andy


rebekahELLE profile image

rebekahELLE 5 years ago from Tampa Bay

Congrats Len! I try to remember to always do an HP search before google! Most answers are right here on the site!

I'll have to return and read more of your helpful hubs.

Thanks for sharing!


Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Fantastic Hub and congrats on the well deserved win.


viryabo profile image

viryabo 5 years ago

Congratulations Len, this is a great informative guide, judging by the fact that everyone encounters this problem at one time or the other.

I have noticed some odd sounds coming from my computer, but tend to disregard it. Well this may just be what the problem is.

Thanks for the tips.

Well done


Les Trois Chenes profile image

Les Trois Chenes 5 years ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France

Hi, bit technical for me but great guide and excellent illustrations. Can you tell me why my toilet is overflowing and how to fix it?? Congratulations.


Ruby H Rose profile image

Ruby H Rose 5 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

congrats, very interesting


Sunnyglitter profile image

Sunnyglitter 5 years ago from Cyberspace

I had this problem with my last computer. It drove me insane!


almirah profile image

almirah 5 years ago from Indonesia

Congrats, you deserve it


Len Cannon profile image

Len Cannon 5 years ago from Brooklyn, NY Author

Haha, wow! Thank you guys.

I was so excited I had to call up my roommate and tell him all about it.


sean kinn profile image

sean kinn 5 years ago from Key West and Budapest

Nice Hub, congratulations. The green and blue fan photo is great (funny)! :-) SK


akirchner profile image

akirchner 5 years ago from Central Oregon

Interesting subject and congrats!


jackie.t profile image

jackie.t 5 years ago

Hey wow, nice hub, very well set out with photos and easy to follow instructions. Congrats on your win too!


Treasuresofheaven profile image

Treasuresofheaven 5 years ago from Michigan

Congrats! I usually get my husband to do such things. This hub should save alot people some money! Nice work! Enjoyed the photos too!


eileeneleanor profile image

eileeneleanor 5 years ago from Surrey, BC

I wouldn't dare to approach my computer with a screwdriver, but thanks for the advice. Maybe I will give it to the techie I hire.


infonolan profile image

infonolan 5 years ago from Australia

I have a macbook and have yet to experience problems with the fan; though I try not to do too much at once and that seems to keep the fan speed down, which should help preserve it :)


nikitha p profile image

nikitha p 5 years ago from India

Great hub, thanks for sharing this.


lobonorth profile image

lobonorth 5 years ago

A combination of good writing and clear, instructive images combine to make a winning hub. Congratulations.


thejeffriestube profile image

thejeffriestube 5 years ago from United States

Good useful Hub. You explained how to identify it and what to do very well. Nice job!


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 5 years ago from Los Angeles

What a great hub! This info is so helpful for a do-it-yourself person. Thanks!


gp 5 years ago

intersting 1..


Johnnydowney 5 years ago

Great guide. If this guide can't fix the problem then nothing much will :)


awesomeactress 5 years ago

Very useful hub! My fan has been making a weird noise for a while now and I am going to use this information to see if I can take care of it! Thanks!


Wooded 5 years ago

This is a great hub! I downloaded that Speed Fan program too. Thanks!


darkside profile image

darkside 5 years ago from Australia

Any suggestions for an overheating notebook? The fan is starting to sound like a Russian diesel submarine.


sammy@isinay profile image

sammy@isinay 5 years ago from Philippines

This hub is well written and very detailed in its instructions that anyone could handle it all by himself/herself.. Congratulations!!


Susan52 profile image

Susan52 5 years ago

Computer problems give me panic attacks. You make it sound so easy! Fortunately, my husband handles details like this for me. Great presentation!


Kenneth Ray profile image

Kenneth Ray 5 years ago from Maple Ridge, BC

Congrats!


Patkay profile image

Patkay 5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

Good hub am a techie and i like the way you have done it.


Toby  5 years ago

congrats hub , awesome material and research , also love the tech fix . to len cannon watch out for those dust monsters that was well put never heard it called that before but fits the problem to a match..LOL


Psycho Gamer profile image

Psycho Gamer 5 years ago from Earth

I have a similar problem but not with the cpu fan but with the bios fan ( i think) , it is a tiny fan on the motherboard....For a month or even more than that, it was whining like a little kid...it almost drove me crazy...literally...until finally i decided to fix it...it took me 2 hours but i did it...

But now after 2 months of no whining i hear this annoying sound again....

Nice hub and really helpful for people with cpu fan problems


theprintcenter profile image

theprintcenter 5 years ago from Sacramento, CA

Very awesome hub! Really great guide for people looking to diagnose their computer. Very well written as well. Voted up!


Fay Paxton 5 years ago

Excellent instructions. Clear, precise and simple enough for us dummies.

up/useful


sweetguest 5 years ago

Great word dear,,,, keep sharing


Phanti profile image

Phanti 5 years ago from Levack, Ontario

Awesome Hub, Congratulations!

My laptop makes noises sometimes but I can't figure out how to get into it to get a look at the fan, also I don't want to be screwing with my warranty.

Can a laptop be opened? Or should I take it to a shop to find out why its noisy?

Thanks.


johnyjane profile image

johnyjane 5 years ago from London

Detailed, informative and worth reading hub!


Ibrahim K. Shafin profile image

Ibrahim K. Shafin 5 years ago from Dhaka, Bangladesh & Washington DC, USA

This is a great guide!!! WOW, I appreciate your writing, really...


Elrascal profile image

Elrascal 5 years ago

mmm Cheeto dust. Sounds delicious.


SummerSurf profile image

SummerSurf 5 years ago

Im testing fans in work at the minute...nice to see an article on it. Good detailed article.


nicomp profile image

nicomp 5 years ago from Ohio, USA

Don't forget to unplug the thing from the wall before taking the cover off.


tumblintumblweed profile image

tumblintumblweed 5 years ago

Great hub,with very helpful info..my computer fan has been driving me crazy for a very long time..Thank you for the great tips!


Duane Reeve profile image

Duane Reeve 5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

Great Hub! There is one other factor that can be considered before replacing a fan that is making excessive noice or getting stuck intermittently... Oil the spindle!

This may sound weird to some of you, but under the manufacturers sticker, is a small rubber seal. You can lift the sticker and the rubber seal (you may need a small flat screw driver), then add a drop of machine oil into the spindle area. Don't use regular w40, but rather an oil like Sowing Machine Oil or Hair Clipper Oil which is finer and designed for high speed components. One drop of such an oil will suffice! Replace the Rubber Seal and the Sticker and 'give it a spin'...


jantamaya profile image

jantamaya 4 years ago from UK

Great article Len Cannon. I should've read it as I had problems with my diabolic CPU fan... Thanks for writing! Voted up.


loyd 2 years ago

got a question i order a cpu fan for my computers and it a 4 wire but the one that got ship to me is just stright wire no plug part for the mother board is there a way i can use my plug piece on the old cpu fan any help would be great

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