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How do I know why my fan is so loud?

All over the internet you find lots of more or less easy fixes for loud fans, such as: cleaning, replacing, or greasing the fan, renewing thermal paste, cleaning the interior of the laptop, etc. (not to mention several half baked software based "solutions")

The problem in my opinion is: There can be a multitude of different problems leading to the symptom of a loud fan. For example: bad heat transport from the cpu to the heat sink, a bad heat exchange between the heat sink and the air-stream used to cool it, the fan became solower over the years as a result of dirt, or wearout..) and so on and so forth. As long as you don't know where your problem comes from, you will probably treat it wrong.

I was wondering if there is any way to do a more sophisticated diagnosis. For example: is it possible, by looking at the different temperatures at heat sink / cpu, to tell what the problem is?

I guess this is a very relevant question, since almost every notebook gets noisy after a couple of years.

Thanks everyone :)

Answered! View the answer I have this problem too

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Depending on the make & model of your laptop you may have built-in sensors or access to them via the OS or add-on app and in some cases via diagnostic software.

As you didn't tell us what you have I can't get into details on what your given system has or how to access their sensors.

In general age & use dictate what actions are needed to service your system. It makes no difference if it's a desktop or laptop, while a laptop may need service sooner.

And yes, cleaning the dust and debris out of the system is the first step. Lubrication of the fan bearing may help, but, if overdone tends to make things worse as it can collect more dust clogging the bearing so the fan fails sooner. More often it just time for a new fan if it's not running correctly. You do need to know what the fan is designed to do and using a optical tachometer measure the fans rotational speed if you suspect it is failing.

Refreshing the thermo paste is the very last thing to do and only really needed on older or well used systems. Many people have the wrong idea on what the paste should look like when its working correctly. Thinking it must be wet (in paste form) or pliable which is not the case. The best tools to check out the paste is an IR camera as well as an IR thermometer so one can see and measure the effectiveness of the heat transfer.

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thanks for your comments Dan,

I deliberately didnt put any info about my system, since I wanted this to be more general discussion on the topic. And I wanted to avoid the "wild guessing" that typically dominates discussions on temperature. Since you ask: I have a MacBook 3.1 (late 2007) and I tried everything except for replacing the fan.

As far as I can tell, my system is slightly warmer would be the usual case when I do normal stuff, like word, or firefox, but it very easily gets into different state, where it is quite warm, and also very loud.

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Go to the App Store and download Temperature Gauge see what it tells you.

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Blowing out the fan and board with compressed air is probably the most obvious and effective approach, but there's also the non-hardware realm to consider -- the laptop heating up more frequently over time due to a cluttered OS and a less efficient use of resources. More RAM never hurts, if it prevents the machine from having to constantly write to disk (which heats up the system, if the HD is always grinding away). And resetting the PMU does seem to help at times. Of course it's extremely difficult to pinpoint specifically what's causing it, and unfortunately A1181s are especially prone to fan noise. The fan/heatsync assembly costs all of $8 on eBay these days, so I tend to just replace it rather than take the thing apart.

People often use way too much thermal paste, which I'm convinced defeats the purpose, so that's something to check for too.

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