Where is Vista hiding that tricycle bell sound?
November 4, 2008 2:02 PM   Subscribe

Every once in a while, my desktop computer emits a sound like a tricycle bell - the kind on the handlebars that you work like your thumb. It happens maybe once a day, maybe once every other day on an always-on Vista machine. I have been actually sitting at the machine when it happens and can detect not one single change. Curiosity is making me a little crazy. How can I find out what's making the sound?

Here's what I've done so far. I've opened the options/properties of every running program to search for any audible options that I have not considered. No joy.

I've done a search for every .wav file on my machine and clicked through each one - no tricycle bell. (My indexing covers all drives on the system.)

I've gone through the control panel sounds list, sound by sound - no tricycle bell.

What else can I do to try and figure what the bell is telling me?
posted by susandennis to Computers & Internet (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't know Vista from Adam, but could it be something like Windows Update doing its regular check, finding that nothing needs updating, and giving you the all clear? Anti-virus doing the same? Check the Task Manager and see if there are any hidden programs running doing behind-the-scenes stuff?
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:11 PM on November 4, 2008

Another possibility is that you have a flash ad running that uses the sound as some sort of attractant. I'm not sure _who_ it's supposed to attract, since my natural reaction is to close the browser window, but it's not too uncommon.
posted by Kyol at 2:14 PM on November 4, 2008

What programs do you have running?
posted by GuyZero at 2:16 PM on November 4, 2008

It's not Skype or some old instant messenger program is it? My husband's computer makes a sound when someone comes on line.
posted by slightlybewildered at 2:19 PM on November 4, 2008

Are sure it's coming from the speakers? A misaligned fan that is occasionally brushing against its own casing or a stray cable could make a sound like that.
posted by contraption at 2:54 PM on November 4, 2008

Run Hijackthis and see exactly what you're running. If you notice anything that could remotely be the culprit - go into the program and look into preferences. Usually there's a checkbox for *sounds* on/off.
Another alternative would be - if applicable to Vista - to go into sounds (control panel) and check to see what sound you've got assigned to what program event. You could have missed something when you were searching for .wavs. Bicycle bell could well be listed under bike, bell, alarm - or even chime.

Just as a sidenote what you're hearing doesn't necessarily have to be in .wav format.
posted by watercarrier at 2:59 PM on November 4, 2008

Response by poster: Not running IM or Skype.

I have gone to the system tray and checked the preferences of every program running.

I have gone into the Control Panel and checked the sound of every sound listed.

I have searched for file names (file type = .*) of tricycle, bicycle, handlebar, bell, alarm, chime and alert. (in addition to the .wav search).

I'm gathering some solace that the solution is not obvious and I've already done what is the top of everyone's list. Thank you!
posted by susandennis at 3:06 PM on November 4, 2008

Did you run Hijackthis? All you need is something to load at startup and for it to recede into the background for it later to become imperceptible by any other means other than a program like HT, or What's Running or StartUp Patrol and the like.
posted by watercarrier at 3:17 PM on November 4, 2008

dont mean to be alarmist, but sometimes these high-pitched "beeps" from computers are the first indicator of HDs going bad...

bearings going, heads bouncing off of platters at 7.5k RMP...

might not be a bad idea to do some backup work.
posted by wackoacko at 3:26 PM on November 4, 2008

Can you list all programs running? Something might trigger a thought from another MeFite.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:36 PM on November 4, 2008

Response by poster: yes on the hijack this. no luck there.

the sound is coming from the speakers and is not high-pitched. it's the same every time and sounds just like the tricycle bell. (The drive is RAID'd so I'm not so worried about failure but I am thoroughly also backed up.)

posted by susandennis at 3:40 PM on November 4, 2008

WAV files can be embedded into executable files like other resources so a program can use sounds without them showing up in the file system.
posted by tomcooke at 4:19 PM on November 4, 2008

"some sort of attractant..." now that's ringing my bell. 'attractant' enters the lexicon today! ding-dong the witch is dead!

and yeah, i bet it's your hard drive. last time i was building a desktop box from scratch it refused to start and it kept singing the ding-dong song. turns out the drive wasn't set up properly (bad pin setting) so the box couldn't read it on start up. fixed the pin setting and the belling went away.
posted by artof.mulata at 4:22 PM on November 4, 2008

Naw I don't think hard drive, I have it too, never have figured it out. It's for sure through the speakers. If I turn off my monitor (which has built in speakers) I never heard it.

It's an occasional DING, kinda like the sound when you use that old NetMeeting app (start / run "conf") when people connect.

I have it on a less than year old Dell. I'm confident it's not some kind of hardware alarm.
posted by thilmony at 4:50 PM on November 4, 2008

My speakers make a ringing or beeping noise right before my roommate receives a cellphone call or text message, due to interference.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 5:18 PM on November 4, 2008

Response by poster: thilmony! You are right!! That's exactly the sound - the old NetMeeting sound!

I feel better even just identifying that.
posted by susandennis at 6:43 PM on November 4, 2008

You run anti-virus and anti-malware programs, right? And they aren't finding anything?
posted by exphysicist345 at 6:48 PM on November 4, 2008

My old Dell laptop used to make a BEEP when I was typing too fast. My roommate had the same computer with the same problem. She called it the "TOO MANY KEYS!" noise.
posted by radioamy at 7:03 PM on November 4, 2008

Response by poster: My anti-virus and malware sweeping has not turned up anything BUT I have no reason to suspect this sound is a bad thing.

I have a Toshiba laptop that makes the Too Many Keys noise. It does not come out of the speakers but out of the bios somewhere and always scares the crap out of me. Until now I did not know what to call it. Thanks!
posted by susandennis at 7:36 PM on November 4, 2008

I have noticed vista does this regularly on my HTPC. It ceased to bother me since I switched off all system sounds.
posted by gergtreble at 8:45 PM on November 4, 2008

I just want to point out that "wav" files aren't the only sound files that vista can play. In the searches, you might just want to search for "audio files".
posted by philomathoholic at 11:39 PM on November 4, 2008

The NetMeeting bell is in the file "Blip.wav" which lives in Program Files\NetMeeting. It seems to have been used as an alert type sound in other programs so you might want to do a search for Blip.wav and see if you can find it anywhere else.
posted by tomcooke at 5:17 AM on November 5, 2008

Also, the size of the file is 21,260 bytes, using that information it should be quite easy to find if it is there under a different name.
posted by tomcooke at 5:43 AM on November 5, 2008

If this is a system alert, you ought to be able to go into your Sounds control panel and review the sounds set for different alerts. When you find the one that makes the "ding", you'll at least know what triggers it, and can shut the ding off (by changing it to "No Sound") if you desire.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:26 AM on November 5, 2008

Response by poster: Alas, the Blip.wav is very very close but not the same sound.

I have gone through the sounds control panel and tested every sound. I have searched 'audio files' as well.

I love the sounds my computer makes. I would much rather live with the mystery ring than turn the sound off.

My brother has a PC repair shop in Texas (he actually built the machine). I've let him know that when I die and he comes to get all my stuff, he can figure it out then.
posted by susandennis at 7:26 AM on November 5, 2008

Yes! Me too! I also get "jungle" noises. I went as far as to kill every process except Firefox one afternoon and still got them.
posted by GilloD at 7:28 AM on November 5, 2008

Best answer: Are you sure it's not a website that's playing it? My credit union's banking website plays a tricycle bell sound if I leave one of their windows idle for 15 minutes without logging out.
posted by helios at 11:14 AM on November 5, 2008

Response by poster: You know, I'm not sure it's not my credit union (or Discover or Ameriprise, etc)... But, it's easy to build those test cases and I will. Thanks!!
posted by susandennis at 1:55 PM on November 5, 2008

Response by poster: And the winner is... 1st Tech Credit Union!!! When it times out, it hits the tricycle bell.

Mystery solved. Thanks so much, helios!
posted by susandennis at 5:59 PM on November 8, 2008

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