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Should I be worried about these weird noises my laptop is making?
August 14, 2007 1:55 PM   Subscribe

Should I be worried about these weird noises my laptop is making?

I have a Dell Inspiron 640m (e1405) that's recently started to make weird noises whenever the processor load is high. Here are the technical details:

Intel Core 2 Duo Processor T5500 (2MB/1.66GHz/667MHz)
2GB Shared Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM 533MHZ,2 DIMM
Windows Vista Home Basic

The laptop makes two different sounds: a "crunch" and a "chirp," coming from what seems to be where my right palm rests when typing. Typically this happens when I'm doing things that require higher-than-normal processing power, such as watching YouTube videos with Photoshop open while downloading a torrent and writing an email in the nude.

I even recorded the sounds! Click here to listen [.wav, ~700kb] to it. The first sound is what I call the "crunch," followed shortly thereafter by the "chirp."

The sound doesn't really bother me. I just want to find out if I should send this sucker back to Dell before my warranty expires, or if this is a normal-sounding sound.
posted by nitsuj to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
 
I should also note: I originally thought it was my CD/DVD-ROM drive "reading," but I never keep a CD/DVD in there, so... FWIW.
posted by nitsuj at 2:04 PM on August 14, 2007


Sounds like either a hard disk or fan (connection to processing power suggests fan). If this hasn't happened before, it could be an indication of upcoming failure. If it's the hard disk, best to back up your data and have it checked out, as recovery will be painful. If it's a fan, chances are it'll just make more annoying noises as time passes -- my notebook fans have been grinding for months now with no adverse effect except annoying everyone around me. In the event that the fan fails completely, you'll have to replace it as well.

It's up to you if you want to wait for the failure or further signs thereof. Also, I am not sure about Dell's policy on replacing things that haven't failed completely yet -- this may well be the deciding factor.
posted by Krrrlson at 2:08 PM on August 14, 2007


Hard to tell. I suspect it's the hard drive, and often weird sounding hard drives soon become dead hard hard drives, so I'd backup files to another box just in case.
posted by StarForce5 at 2:09 PM on August 14, 2007


I was thinking hard drive too, but what's weird is it ONLY happens when processing is at its highest. Could there be a connection?

Thanks for the answers so far.
posted by nitsuj at 3:36 PM on August 14, 2007


It sounds very much like a harddrive doing seeks across the platter(s).

Do you keep it defragmented? If not, do a complete defragmentation (O&O has a very good one and it's not too expensive).

My conjecture is that the hard drive is heavily fragmented and when using CPU intensive applications there's more data than there is RAM so it then writes/reads it to the pagefile on the HD and because of the fragmentation the head is moving all over the place and the the velocity of the platters changes drastically.
posted by porpoise at 3:37 PM on August 14, 2007


Do you keep it defragmented?

It's my understanding that Vista defrags on it's own, in the background, when nothing else important is going on. Is that correct? If so, then yeah, I keep it defragmented. Otherwise, nope!
posted by nitsuj at 3:47 PM on August 14, 2007


Sounds like you have windows set to put the drive to sleep after certain amount of minutes and when it needs to do a disk read/write it has to spin back up (the whirling sound in the begining) and move the head to the right spot. The chirp sound is probably the sound of the head reseting itself.

Or the head is reseting itself because of a problem.

Defrag the drive and see if it helps. If not run a utility that can read the SMART data off the drive to help diagnose any problems.
posted by damn dirty ape at 4:06 PM on August 14, 2007


Sounds like you have windows set to put the drive to sleep after certain amount of minutes and when it needs to do a disk read/write it has to spin back up (the whirling sound in the begining) and move the head to the right spot.

I'm not sure about this. It typically does it while I'm working on stuff, but not right after I start. It's usually after I've been working a while, and then I start doing some processor-intensive stuff.
posted by nitsuj at 6:23 PM on August 14, 2007


I have the same model notebook. I can't tell if it's exactly the same from the recording, but mine does make a clicking/chirping sound from the right-hand side of the keyboard.

The sound concerned me a bit when I first got the notebook (about a year ago), so I researched it and eventually found out it was the sound of the hard drive parking the heads. Apparently the power management is overly aggressive or something, and it often parks the heads and then has to quickly unpark them again. Under Linux there was a way to lower the power management settings to avoid this, but I never found a way to do it under Windows.

I was able to verify this using the tool 'smartctl' from the 'smartmontools' package, either under Linux or cygwin. (There probably is some other Windows-based tool to read the SMART settings.) Anyway, each time I heard the noise the value 'Load_Cycle_Count' would increase by 1. From what I remember, the maximum acceptable value for Load_Cycle_Count before the drive fails is 600,000, and at the rate it was going there was no way it would reach that value in its useful lifetime (after 1 year it's only at about 90,000), so I decided not to worry about it.

Here's a link I found that describes the problem from the Linux point of view.
posted by dixie flatline at 8:41 PM on August 15, 2007


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