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Computer’s Fan Makes Unusual Noise. What to do?

Updated on May 19, 2014
Heat Sink, CPU Fan, and Thermal Compound
Heat Sink, CPU Fan, and Thermal Compound | Source

My PC is Too Loud

Since two weeks, my computer makes strange noises. Every day, when I boot my PC, I hear roaring fan. After a few minutes of thunderous noise, it works quietly.

“Okay,” I explain it to me, “this is more or less normal. So long there is no other problem...”

The computer is working well. It isn't the youngest one and not the fastest one, but everything else works. I decide, “There is no need for action.”

However, one day it takes almost half an hour to get it quiet again. I am thinking, “Yes, it isn't pleasant, but it might be just only today. Tomorrow it'll be much better!” Yes, this is true; there is no logic in it but the PC is running without any atypical noises on the next day. I hope it stays as it is. Who wants to take well working piece apart?

A Noisy Computer

A few days later, my PC is roaring for several hours. On the next day, the roaring is even louder!

Only a few days ago, I would solve this problem through restarting the computer. Today, restarting makes no difference. Sorry, I must open it. No way to leave it as it is. Even when it still works well, the sound makes me feel nervous. It makes me think that my computer is going to breakdown soon.

I hope that it might be the chassis fan, or one of the case fans and open my PC, connect it to the power source and inspect all the fans. They work well, and nothing is extremely loud.

I'm checking if any of the cable connectors is disturbing the steady work of the fans. It looks that the cables aren't causing any disturbance and the solution of this problem seems to be more difficult than expected.

Finding out Which Fan is Causing the Noise

The open computer is lying flat on my table. I'm listening closer to the CPU fan. It appears not to be particularly loud. However, I'm sure it's louder than the other case fans. It must be the noisy one, but I still don't have any evidence for my suspicion.

I decide to move my computer and to turn it off. Now it stands upright on the table. After switching it on, I'm listening to almost exactly the same disturbing sound. It must be the CPU fan. It can't be anything else. However, I don't understand why the fan is louder when the PC is standing upright. I see that still nothing is disturbing or is in the way of the working fan. Either the fan is going to be somewhat out-of-order, or the PC is too dirty. I notice lots of dust.

Even the heat sink is full of dust. “I must clean it,” I think. I don't know if the dust causes the problem. However, "To a certain level, it might do it," I speak to myself.

Do I Need to Replace Only the CPU Fan or Have I to Replace the "Whole Thing"?

Unfortunately, the cleaning didn't improve anything. A clear solution for my problem right now is, to buy a new fan. BUT! The question is, is it enough? What about the heat sink? I check on the Internet and receive the following information: Yes, I can replace an old fan with a new one, without even moving the heat sink. I like that. This is what I want to do. If it works, I am always for the minimally invasive surgery.

However, some other people on the Internet think differently about it. They suggest that the fan including heat sink must be replaced. Few of them wrote even that they couldn't remove the old heat sink from their CPUs! Some CPUs are glued with their heat sinks together. (?) Help! It doesn't sound friendly at all!

I still like the first idea, replacing only the CPU’s fan. The second solution may be much more inconvenient. I stick with the first one!

Buying a New Fan isn't Easy

Close to my place, I've seen a repairing shop for computers. On Friday afternoon, I decide to visit this place. From far away I can see signs flashing, in all possible colors, “OPEN! OPEN! OPEN!” Happily that soon my computer is going to work in silence again, I… open... I don't open the door! It's locked. Am I too late? The “OPEN” signs are simply lying. Nothing is open here. I am disappointed!

On the next day, Saturday, I'm in a town 40 miles away from here, there is a large computer center. There, I want to find a fan, buy it, and be happy again.

I find in the huge store only two fans in the size I need. I take one of them. It has the same size as my old fan, but I see also tiny differences between them and hope that it will not have any impact on the planned replacement.

In Which Direction Should the Replaced Fan Blow the Air?

Next day, on Sunday, I will install the new fan. First, I check online in which direction the fan must move the air. The answers are confusing.

Some people answer this question, into the processor, and some are sure the airflow must be in the other direction. It would be logical for me, to pull the hot air away from the chip and let it flow to the rear exhaust fan. It must be the right way. Later, I read more about the possibilities and see it differently. The only way to blow the air away from the processor is when you have another fan blowing cooler air into the CPU. WOW!

In 99 % of the setups, the CPU fan should blow the air into the heat sink, period. Okay, but how do I know in which direction the fan blows the air?

My old fan did have on its side two arrows. One was showing the direction of the moved air the other one was showing the direction in which the fan's blades were moving. My new fan is not that smart. It is pitiful! How would I recognize the working direction of a fan? It is simple. I let the fan work manually and feel in which way it is blowing. :-|

Okay, everything has been done, now I know exactly how to position the fan. The heat sink is still properly mounted, and I try to fit the new fan on top of the heat sink. It isn't working! The fan fits, but it is not fitting. So simply it is. Is it illogical? Okay. I have the right size of a fan, but the old one is fixed without screws. Hence, when you have this problem, you need exactly, exactly the same fan. It is not enough to have the same size of a fan. I'm "happy" that I have recognized it "early enough"!

Removing the Heat Sink

I still do not believe that all of these problems affect this particular fan... However, I don't give up. I have to remove the heat sink from the CPU first. I'm doing it, but it seems to glue to the CPU. Help! I hope this is a joke! It can't be true! This is a common tale that the CPU could glue to the heat sink! However, my does not want to move!

There, I see some screws, and maybe I must remove them. By my first attempt to do so, the heat sink jumps (really, it did jump!) down from the CPU. I hope (I can only hope) that I have not damaged anything.

Okay, now I am able to clean the heat sink. I do it with my vacuum cleaner. Yes, it works. I am especially careful and use the cleaner only on the heat sink, which is straightforward an aluminum alloy block.

The heat sink is clean. The new fan is ready, but it is still not fitting on top of the sink. The fan does have too high edge, and this prevents it to be mounted. I was trying in every way possible, and even asked friends for help, but nothing worked. Tomorrow I'll give the fan back and buy a new cooler for the processor. I also shouldn't forget to buy the thermal paste. I must remove the old paste and place a new layer on top of the chip. Without this, I cannot assemble the PC again.

Buying a New Heat Sink

I'm driving to the town again, ninety miles for the round-trip. It takes the whole day… This is not much fun! The only positive ray of sunlight on this is that I love the large computer store. They have the newest computers, parts of computers, and every imaginable gadget. I totally love it!

First, I walk again to the place where I found the not fitting fan and see the whole wall full of coolers. They are all gigantic! My processor, the ancient AMD Athlon 64 x2 Dual Core, needs rather a small heat sink. There are five different smaller boxes with the coolers. I am opening them all because I am thinking, "When I see the entire item, I can better imagine if it would fit or not."

All of them are much too different. Some are even too small! Finally, I am on all my fours trying to see what they are hiding on the lowest shelf. There, I find a last box that looks different from the others. I hope that it might be the right one. I open it and see that it looks a little bit less bulky than my old heat sink. The box says that my processor is compatible with it. OK, I take it.

The last box from the last corner and I buy it. I have no choice.

Cleaning the Processor from the Old Thermal Paste and Spreading the New One

Back at home again; I try first to use my old heat sink with the fan from the new heat sink. I try hard, but also this fan will not fit. Pity, I have to use the new flimsy sink. Okay, I hope at least that this thing will fit on top of my processor. Yes, it is, but first I clean the processor from the old thermal paste. I do it just with facial tissue and kitchen towels.

After that, I put some of the thermal paste on top of the clean processor and spread it evenly over the entire chip. I bought thermal compound with diamonds. Yes, diamonds are the girl’s and CPU’s best friends, you know? I read it somewhere that, the thermal paste with diamonds is the best cooling paste of all. This is why I use it.

Testing the New Cooling Assembly

The computer is fixed and ready to go. I turn it on… No, no, no explosion. No, no. Nothing. Nothing happens. Hmm. What is that? Okay, I better press the button on the front panel of the PC case. Okay, done it and still nothing happens… Yes! The power! I forgot to turn the power on the electrical panel!

Now! What is happening now? The information on the screen says that there is no booting hard disk, and I must insert a disk with the operating system. I am confused. I did nothing to any disk. I have not even touched them. Okay, I remove the PC from the power again and check the connections to the hard drives. Yes, that is! I have by chance disconnected the hard disk.

I put the computer together again and let it work. It is producing the same noise as before. Nothing has changed. I shut it down and after two minutes boot it again. This time it is working almost silently. Hallelujah!

A day after, the PC is howling again, worse than ever before. I check on the Internet if there is any solution and see many thousands of pages speaking about loud and hauling fans. Especially AMDs are producing the “singing” computers.

Is it possible that I have used too much of the thermal paste? I will check it today. It is also possible that AMD does not like diamonds. He is not a girl, obviously. It is also possible that the chip is dying. I see black colors. Black diamonds?

As I open the case and try to remove the heat sink, I do not succeed. I cannot move it at all! Help! It seems to stick to the processor. Maybe I should not have used this particular thermal paste. I read something about arctic silver. I should have better used it. Now I cannot even replace it.

A Happy Ending

It is possible to run the PC for twenty minutes and try to remove the heat sink while it is still warm. I do not have the time right now to do it, so I put my computer together again and let it work… It works pretty well. I can tell it because I began to write this article four weeks ago, and today my computer is still running well and almost silently.

Where is the logic of the story?

I have no idea. I think, computers are humans or at least humanoids. They behave too often illogical!

© 2011 Maria Janta-Cooper


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    • jantamaya profile image

      Maria Janta-Cooper 6 years ago from UK

      Thank you :) I appreciate your comment very much.

    • Stigma31 profile image

      Stigma31 6 years ago from Kingston, ON

      Good job, voting up!