Laptops making noise is a unique issue due to the unique design of each laptop unit.
However, you can easily trace your laptop’s noise by considering its location and the components in your laptop.
By remembering what noises are associated with what components, you can get a pretty good idea of what’s happening with your laptop without bringing it into the shop. Let’s take a look at the most common noises that are associated with computer components.
Laptop CPU Noises
One of the components people are typically most worried about is the CPU. Normally, CPUs don’t make too much noise.
If your CPU is making noise, usually that’s the CPU Cooler, as CPUs don’t generate any noise on their own. Their components cannot even generate a noise known as Coil Whine. So, never fear — your CPU isn’t making any noise.
Laptop CPU Cooler Noises
Now the cooling system for your CPU can definitely generate noise.
Laptop CPUs are typically cooled using an air cooler. Air coolers usually consist of a fan affixed to the CPU by thermal paste.
Any fan is liable to make noise. Fans consist of rotating blades that move air around to whisk warm air away from the CPU and prevent it from overheating. However, this movement is highly likely to make some type of noise.
CPU fans can make a variety of noises, many of which are typical and don’t represent any type of severe error. However, when the computer starts up, for example, the fan has to spin up to its typical speed, which will strain the fan’s motor. Additionally, as the CPU continues to function and generate heat, the fan may automatically change speeds to accommodate higher strain or save power during periods of low-performance needs.
Cleaning out your laptop’s vents is critical for laptop maintenance. Dust, pet fur, and other blockages are a natural occurrence with laptop vents. So, grab a can of compressed air and blow the irritants out of your laptop’s vents regularly to keep the computer from straining to keep cool with its fans. Ensuring that your laptop has proper ventilation won’t just make it run quieter in the long term; it will also keep the components from being damaged by excessive heat.
Laptop coolers can also become noisy when the thermal paste on the CPU has expired. This is because thermal paste transfers heat from the CPU to the air faster than the heat would transfer naturally. This setup allows the CPU to transfer its heat into the air, where the cooler blows it away. However, thermal paste has a limited lifespan, and exposure to excessive heat can even lower its lifespan.
Excessive heat is always a risk regarding laptops because laptops’ cases are individually designed and aren’t typically designed for airflow (they’re usually designed to be small and compact, which actually restricts airflow.)
If your fans are always running high, that might indicate that your thermal paste has expired. Unfortunately, if your thermal paste is shot, you’ll have to open up your laptop and replace it. In that case, you’re probably better off taking it to a professional. After all, if you damage your laptop trying to self-service it, you’ll have a more challenging time getting it fixed.
Laptop GPU Noises
Another major component that’s well-known for making some strange noises is the Graphics Processing Unit. GPUs typically come front-loaded with pre-installed fans, and some desktop users will pad out the GPU cooling with a water block that allows them to water-cool their GPU.
GPUs are particularly susceptible to a noise known as Coil Whine. Coil Whine isn’t an actual whining sound, usually, though that isn’t unheard of. Instead, typically Coil Whine sounds more like a rattling noise from inside the GPU.
Coil Whine is the result of large amounts of electricity passing through the sensitive electronic environment of the GPU. When large amounts of electricity pass through the components, they start to vibrate with power and, under too much stress, can start to rattle inside the casing.
GPUs can also make noise if the laptop is poorly ventilated. Like the CPU cooler, the GPU’s cooling fans can make noise when the GPU is under stress. The symptoms and sounds of the GPU cooler making noise are similar to that of the CPU cooler, and the fix is also the same: compressed air and blowing out the vents.
However, if the GPU cooler remains noisy after the vents have been cleaned out, you may have a more severe problem with your GPU. In this situation, you should RMA the laptop to avoid any damage caused to the internal components from excessive heat.
Now it’s also important to remember that not all laptops have a dedicated GPU. In fact, most modern laptops use a unit with internal graphics processing loaded into the CPU. In these cases, the CPU fan may still run high when the computer is trying to process intensive graphics like gaming or video editing.
Laptop PSU Noises
The Power Supply or PSU is another component highly susceptible to Coil Whine. Some even consider the PSU more susceptible to Coil Whine than the GPU. Still, like with the GPU, Coil Whine in the PSU is caused by an immense electrical load being processed by the PSU, and the sounds are similar: rattling inside the casing of the PSU.
The problem with diagnosing a laptop PSU with Coil Whine is that it’s hard to ascertain where the PSU is located in the laptop case. Modern laptops are typically designed for sleekness, and there’s always a push to make them thinner. However, this leaves much room for error when diagnosing a laptop’s errors without opening up the case. Still, if your laptop is making Coil Whine noises and doesn’t have a GPU, it’s probably the PSU making the noise.
Unfortunately, the only way to fix Coil Whine in the PSU is to replace it. Coil Whine is the most common with older PSUs that can no longer run at the same high strain that they used to be able to bear. Replacing the PSU in a laptop is exceptionally difficult because the PSUs are typically made in-house by the manufacturer to fit the specifications of the laptop’s case.
To replace the PSU, you’ll typically need to contact the manufacturer of your laptop and send it to be repaired by them. While it’s possible to find replacement parts on websites like Newegg, it’s much harder to replace laptop parts than desktop ones because they aren’t standardized at all. Therefore, when looking for a new PSU for your laptop, make sure that you search it with the model number of your laptop to ensure that the PSU will fit in the case.
Laptops make a lot of weird noises, and some of them are definitely more meaningful than others. If your laptop components are starting to make noise, it’s a good idea to clean the case and check if the problem persists. Most laptop manufacturers will take your laptop in for repairs if you contact them about the issue. So, don’t be afraid to reach out for help!
Check online for spare parts if RMAing your laptop is out of the question. When servicing a laptop, you want to ensure that you’re using the parts designated for your laptop unit; the parts aren’t standardized, and there’s no telling whether you’ll be able to fit a non-native part into your case. Buying parts specifically made for your unit will provide you with the best overall experience with servicing your laptop.