Computers make many strange noises while they work. From whirring to buzzing to beeping, computers have a wide range of “vocalizations.” These vocalizations typically tell you exactly what’s going on with your computer — a definite plus side to communicating with machines.
So, what does it mean when your computer makes noise when moving the mouse? The answer might surprise you!
Causes: What Causes a Computer to Make Noise When Moving the Mouse?
The first thing you’ll want to consider when figuring out what’s wrong with your computer is to figure out what kind of sound you’re hearing. For example, buzzing and humming will have different causes than static or scraping noises.
The most common sounds you might hear while moving your mouse are buzzing or a slight electrical hum. You may also hear static or scraping, though scraping typically indicates an issue with the bottom panel of the mouse or the mousepad rather than an issue with the computer.
You’ll also want to consider where the sound you’re hearing is coming from. For example, sounds coming from inside the computer are typically problems with electrical grounding, while sounds coming from outside the computer generally are problems with the physical shape of the peripherals.
Buzzing or Humming Coming From Inside the Computer
Suppose your computer makes a buzzing or humming noise when you move your mouse. In that case, this is typically caused by an issue with the electrical grounding of the USB port. Start by moving your mouse to a different USB port and see if the problem persists.
Computer case manufacturers often don’t do their due diligence regarding grounding the case. You see, your computer case is intended to act as a Faraday Cage. It prevents the computer’s electric charge from damaging the computer’s insides.
Faraday Cages work by using an external electric field to cancel out the electric charge of the cage and keep the inside of the cage without any electric field.
Suppose the Faraday Cage isn’t grounded correctly. In that case, it will create an electric charge inside the cage, which can be responsible for the humming or buzzing sound you hear when moving the mouse. Likewise, if the case’s outputs aren’t grounded correctly, they can buzz or hum when in use.
As we mentioned, the first step here is to determine whether or not the sound is due to a single ungrounded output or whether there’s a more significant problem with the Faraday Cage that your computer is supposed to sit in. Start by switching your mouse port. If the problem persists, it indicates that your computer case isn’t grounded correctly.
If your mouse is plugged into the motherboard outputs on the back of the case, make sure you try the outputs on the front of the case. These are grounded for the case itself rather than the motherboard outputs, which are grounded for the motherboard.
There is some good news if all of the outputs give you a humming or buzzing noise when you’re using your mouse. This typically won’t cause any long-term damage to your system. While it may be irritating and a little bit worrisome at first, it doesn’t represent a long-term threat to your system. So, it’s possible to just live with it.
If the outputs are all giving you a buzzing or humming, the next thing to try is a different mouse if you have one. It’s unlikely that the grounding on all of the ports on your computer are bad, so checking to see if the grounding problem is with the mouse is in order.
Static Sound From Inside the Computer
Static sounds from inside your computer have a similar source from buzzing. However, unlike buzzing or humming, static noises are typically caused by a ground loop. These are the most common setups, including multiple inputs and outputs like recording music.
Still, they can occur with any computer peripherals. For example, ground loops typically occur when multiple pieces of gear are plugged into the same ground and then interconnected with cables such as HDMI outputs or your mouse output.
One way to eliminate the noise is to “pull the ground” by using a three-prong to a two-prong adapter, eliminating the device’s connection to the ground. However, this represents a shock risk and could even create a short circuit in your computer if not treated carefully enough.
The cheapest way to interrupt a ground loop is to plug all your devices into one plug using a surge protector/octopus plug. This configuration will eliminate the ground loop by moving your devices to the same ground. However, not everyone can put their devices on the same ground. Luckily there is some recourse for those who need to use multiple AC outlets with their entertainment devices.
Those who are particularly bothered by the sound—or those who are recording the sounds of their equipment and need a silent room—can invest in a hum eliminator like Ebtech’s Hum X. These devices tend to be pretty pricey and don’t represent a good solution for those who don’t have a lot of money to throw around.
Another possible cause of noise when you move your mouse is called Coil Whine. Coil Whine is the most common with computers that are performing graphically intensive processes or those that have older power supplies.
Unlike the other sources of sound when you move your mouse on this list, Coil Whine isn’t related to your mouse input or grounding. Instead, coil Whine is most likely to be heard from the Graphics Processing Unit.
Coil Whine has many faces, but it most often sounds like a rattling sound inside your GPU that occurs when a large amount of electricity passes through mechanical equipment; when such a large amount of electricity passes through these sensitive electronic pieces, they start to vibrate with energy. So, when the GPU is under extreme load, the electronics inside it may begin to rattle against its frame with how much electricity is passing through them.
Since GPUs tend to have some of the highest power draws of any component in a computer, they’re particularly susceptible to experiencing Coil Whine when they’re under load.
Unfortunately, GPUs that are experiencing Coil Whine are considered fundamentally faulty. Therefore, the only recourse you have to fix your GPU once it starts whining is to RMA the unit. Luckily, most GPU manufacturers are aware of Coil Whine and will RMA your GPU without too many questions if it’s started experiencing Coil Whine.
It’s important to remember that unlike the other issues on this list, Coil Whine does represent a serious issue with your computer. If your GPU is starting to whine, you should RMA it immediately to prevent any damage to the rest of the components in your PC.
Whether your PC is experiencing a severe mechanical error or just being a little bit noisy for no reason, it makes sense to be concerned when your computer starts making noises that it wasn’t making before.
Luckily, most of the issues that cause your computer to make noise when moving the mouse are benign, albeit annoying.
However, as we mentioned, if you suspect your GPU is starting to experience Coil Whine, you should RMA it as soon as possible to prevent any additional damage to your system. Leaving a whining GPU in a system can cause severe damage to other components, especially the power supply. So, getting that fixed is imperative to your system’s overall health.