How to Fix a Laptop Fan Making Weird Buzzing or Grinding Noises
If you’re used to working in a noisy environment, you may miss the exact moment your laptop starts making suspicious noises. However, when you start implementing some of those home office soundproofing tips I keep talking about, you may find the noise impossible to ignore. Usually, the buzzing and grinding sounds our laptops tend to make are to do with the CPU fan. So today, we’re going to talk about how to fix your laptop fan and prevent overheating once and for all.
When it comes right down to it, making sure that your laptop isn’t making any noise is also going to improve its performance. So before you reach for your noise-canceling headphones or earplugs — you should try to figure out where that noise is coming from. After you fix the issue, your laptop should function better than ever before.
As I’ve already mentioned, if your laptop is making buzzing or grinding noises, the fault is probably in the CPU fan. After all, that’s pretty much the only mobile part of your laptop. Unlike desktop computers, which have both a CPU and a graphics card fan, laptops usually only have the one fan — if that. Basically, it’s a matter of conserving space, but it also allows us to know the source of the noise pretty conclusively.
Now, if you’re wondering why the fan would suddenly start making a racket, that’s a different question altogether. It comes down to the fact that your CPU fan is working overtime. But that still doesn’t answer our most pressing question — why?
Well, there are several reasons why the fan might start buzzing or grinding as it moves. One of them is, simply, the position of the laptop. If you’re keeping the laptop on an uneven surface, the fan might start to wobble and grind against the surrounding parts. Alternately, the fan could be permanently bent after sustaining damage due to a fall. Even if dropping your laptop didn’t cause visible external damage, you could still have an internal issue on your hands.
In addition to physical damage your laptop might have suffered, the fan could also be acting up due to other reasons. Specifically, you might have a problem with overheating that your CPU fan would have to compensate for. However, even with that, there are several problems you might come across.
If your laptop tends to overheat, there are several issues that might be responsible. To begin with, the computer could be overheating due to environmental factors. Most laptops can only function in temperatures between 32 degrees and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. If you absolutely need a laptop and you work in temperatures outside of that range, you might want to spring for special equipment.
Aside from the temperature of your environment, there are other things that might make it harder for the fan to cool your processor. For example:
- Something could be blocking the fan air vent. Depending on where the vent is on your laptop, it could be blocked by a wall or even the surface you’re holding it on. Fortunately, there are several different solutions for this problem, including moving your laptop or using a stand or a cooler.
- Dust accumulation on and around the fan blades can also cause a buzzing noise to occur. Even though dust accumulates more slowly inside of a laptop than it would on the desktop you keep on the floor, it can still get inside your device. Not only that, but dust can make your computer overheat even more quickly.
But there is one more reason why your computer might start overheating more than usual. Namely, if the device is dealing with more processes than it can handle, the CPU fan would have to spin more quickly to compensate. Typically, that happens if you have too many programs running simultaneously or if your computer is infected with malware.
Of course, eventually, your laptop will become noisier due to age. After all, you can’t use a computer made 15 years ago to run current programs. At some point, you’ll have to bite the bullet and get a new laptop.
Ways to Fix a Laptop Fan Making Buzzing or Grinding Noises
Now that you know about the things that could be wrong with your laptop, you can start fixing the problems. The following steps are listed in the order that made sense to me — so you can try them all. Even if your issue winds up being dust, you’d still benefit from performing the basic checks I’ll talk about first. So with that in mind, let’s see what your first step needs to be.
Before you do anything else, you should make sure that your computer is performing optimally. The first way to do that is to check it for malware. Slow performance is often the first hint that you may have a virus on your computer. Any change in the resources your computer is using may be an indicator that it’s running programs you’re not seeing.
Of course, your trusty Windows Defender — or an antivirus of your choice — could also give a heads up about any viruses you might have downloaded. In fact, going forward, the best way to protect yourself from viruses would be to use antivirus software.
Both Mac and Windows computers have their own built-in malware defense mechanisms. However, I recommend that you go for an antivirus that comes with more proactive features. And don’t think you can get away with not using one just because you’re running a Linux kernel. They’re only slightly less susceptible to third party applications.
Besides, most antivirus programs also have cleaning functions, so they’ll help you get rid of the malware. Additionally, they’ll regularly scan your computer and update their virus database.
Close Unnecessary Processes
Even if you don’t discover any malware on your laptop, you may see that your computer’s resources are being overexpanded. After all, your laptop can run only so many processes at one time. So make sure that your CPU processor isn’t expending too much effort to keep your machine working.
One way to check your CPU is to hit Control+Alt+Delete to get to the Task Manager. Alternately, if you’re working with a Mac computer, you can do a similar thing with the Activity Monitor. In the program, you’ll be able to see all the apps and background processes that are currently running.
The CPU activity is expressed in percentages, which is most easily accessible in the Windows 10 version of Task Manager. For example, my laptop is currently fluctuating between 3–17% of CPU processing power. So the fact that it’s so quiet isn’t all that surprising. However, if I had to guess how much CPU my previous laptop was using going by the noise alone, I’d say that it was running at over 80%.
Still, assuming that your computer isn’t falling apart like my old laptop, you should be able to pinpoint which program is using up most of its processing power. In my case, that’s usually my browser — but to be fair, I usually have dozens of tabs open. If I needed to reduce the fan noise, I’d probably just exit most of the windows.
Install Cooling Software
I know what you’re thinking. If your laptop is struggling to function quietly as it is, it can seem counterintuitive to install more software on it. However, a certain kind of software may help you alleviate the issue of overheating.
Installing cooling software of your choice would allow you to closely monitor your laptop temperature. These kinds of programs typically keep track of different components’ temperatures. However, some of them can also adjust the speed of the fans as well. Mainly, I can see how they can be helpful if you want to see whether your laptop cooler is doing its job.
Of course, some operating systems may have a similar feature built into the code. Windows has a System cooling policy you can enable in the Control Panel. Specifically, you’ll find the option in the Advanced power settings window that will come up in the Power Options menu when you click on Change plan settings.
Get a Stand or a Cooler
If your laptop is heating up when you start using it, you’ll first need to make sure that the fans are functioning properly. Usually, the fan vents on a laptop are either on the sides or on the bottom of the device.
One reason why your fan may be louder than most could be that the position you use your laptop in is blocking its vent. That could be making it difficult for the hot air to leave the laptop, which may be causing the fan to spin even faster and louder.
I recommend ones that will allow your laptop to breathe — so to speak. This one from AmazonBasics is the ideal contender, as is this Soundance one. Both of these products would allow ample space for air to flow underneath your device.
On the other hand, you could also get a cooling pad for your laptop. Like a stand, this product will lift your laptop from the table. However, it also has several built-in fans to keep your device cool.
Clean Your Laptop Fan
Every so often, I take my desktop computer out into the yard to blow the dust out of the case. Well, you can pretty much do the same thing to your laptop, if on a slightly smaller scale. Still, you should blow out your laptop at least twice per year to keep it fully functional — and quiet.
So how do you do it? Well, first things first: you’ll need to unplug the laptop from all power sources. That much should be a given any time you’re tinkering with any kind of electrical device. So save your files and turn off the computer, unplug it and remove the battery, for good measure.
Now, before you get ahead of yourself, see if you can dislodge the dust without opening the case. Use dry cotton swabs to clean the vent grid and a can of compressed air to get the dust off the internal fan. Hopefully, this combination will get the dust out of your laptop. You can check if the noise is still there by powering up the computer and going about your business.
However, if the problem still isn’t fixed, you may have to open the device and clean it internally. Consult your laptop user manual to see if there are any instructions for cleaning the inside of the device. If there aren’t any, you can look up the make and model of your laptop and see how other people have cleaned it. But don’t undertake the project unless you’re sure you’ll be able to see it through — as you can see in this video, getting to the CPU fan may be more complicated than you’d think.
Replace Your Laptop Fan
Your final option would be to get a completely new laptop fan. After all, if it’s still making all that racket even after you’ve cleaned it, it’s probably irreparably damaged.
Once again, you’ll need to know the exact product code of your laptop so you can order a replacement fan. Of course, you should only attempt to replace the fan yourself if you already know how to do it. Even if you’ve previously fixed your desktop computer, you may not be able to deal with your laptop on your own. In my experience, it’s best to leave the business of servicing electronics to the professionals.
Should You Fix a Noisy Laptop Fan or Buy a New One
There you have it. If your computer is still making strange buzzing or grinding noises after everything you just did to it, I’m afraid you’ll have to throw in the towel. There are plenty of other models that won’t make nearly that amount of noise. Better still, they’re probably more powerful than the computer you have now — and more affordable, too.
Still, if you followed my instructions carefully, and the laptop was salvageable, I’m sure you’ll be successful. However, that doesn’t mean that you’re in the clear. If your computer is already capable of making this kind of noise, it’s definitely capable of producing an encore performance. Nevertheless, you just need to take good care of it and routinely check it for internal dust. If you do that, you can be sure that it’ll stay quiet for a long time.