The Day The Music Died...Hopefully.
October 22, 2009 3:29 PM   Subscribe

Every five minutes my computer makes a pretty sound. Why?

Ever since last night, my computer makes a short but melodious sound every five minutes. I haven't changed any settings that I'm aware of (I don't even know how to set up an alert/timer and don't know if it's even possible), and have run 2 virus programs. I've rebooted and it's still there. It sounds like someone very quickly and lightly running their hand over the keys of a toy piano. I have a pc running XP. I have nothing running in the background and only one browser window open. Any ideas as to what it might be or where I could look to investigate?
posted by iconomy to Computers & Internet (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Does it sound like this?
posted by sharkfu at 3:39 PM on October 22, 2009

Go to the Control Panel and open the "Sounds" applet and look at the list to see what kinds of things have sounds assigned to them. It's possibe to get those sounds played immediately to see what they sound like.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:41 PM on October 22, 2009

You should let us know if this sound is coming out of the speaker or from inside the computer. Also do you have anything sitting in the system tray? It might be good to list them out since they too can emit noises.

Awhile back I was hearing random "scratching" noises from my computer speakers every 10 minutes under XP. After searching for the issue I found it always happened when a search window open. The Windows search dog was scratching while bored. That may not be what it is but it shows where some of the sounds could be coming from.
posted by crapmatic at 3:44 PM on October 22, 2009

sharkfu, no, it's really a very pretty, girly kind of sound.

CP, I just looked at everything assigned a sound and listened to each sound and it wasn't any of those.

crapmatic, I have audioscrobbler, adaware, windows security alert, and the volume icon there. I'll turn off the ones I can - never thought to look there! It is definitely coming out of the speakers. I'll report back. It might be audioscrobbler/last fm....I hope so!
posted by iconomy at 3:54 PM on October 22, 2009

You could open up the task manager, sort by CPU usage and see which process is using the most CPU when the sound is playing. That way you'll know what program it is.
posted by elephantday at 3:59 PM on October 22, 2009

The time I had this problem an update to an instant messaging program (Gaim back then...) caused some settings to change. It made a noise like that every time one of my contacts logged on.
posted by cjemmott at 4:15 PM on October 22, 2009

Not audioscrobbler. I opened task manager open and sorted by CPU usage...waiting!
posted by iconomy at 4:23 PM on October 22, 2009

IF it's this sound, it's just a device connecting or disconnecting. I have a laptop and whenever I activate or deactivate the webcam, plug in a USB drive or device, or go out of wireless range I get that sound. If that's the noise, then not to worry.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 4:35 PM on October 22, 2009

PS: Go to the containing folder of that link I provided to hear all the default Windows XP sounds. This may help narrow things down.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 4:37 PM on October 22, 2009

It's not any of the sounds that came installed or in any of my folders, and I have no external devices connected - I disconnected everything. It's every five minutes exactly. It sounds like a very short, lilting harp or a toy piano, light and fast. Task Manager never showed any increase in any process - the only two that showed anything were System Idle and the task manager itself....GAH!
posted by iconomy at 4:41 PM on October 22, 2009

fwiw my first-gen Macbook used to moan at me regularly; it was the cpu fan spinning down too fast or something. This was so annoying I pulled the thing apart and redid the CPU cooling heatsink doodad properly.
posted by mokuba at 4:48 PM on October 22, 2009

Sorry the task manager trick didn't work.

People seem to be suggesting mechanical sounds coming from the hardware. Easiest way to eliminate that is to mute all sound and see if it still happens.
posted by elephantday at 4:51 PM on October 22, 2009

Have you tried closing firefox? maybe you have some web page open.

Windows vista's volume control will let you change the volume on a per-application basis and you can see 1) Which applications have even opened a audio channel and 2) Control the volume on each one. You can try muting different apps (including 'Windows Sounds') and see where it's coming from.
posted by delmoi at 4:58 PM on October 22, 2009

Oh my god. I am SO embarrassed. My son put his cell phone on top of the speaker last night so I would hear it beep and recharge it for him. Somehow it ended up behind the speaker, completely obstructed from view. I've never heard his cell phone make the "help, I'm low on batteries" sound so I thought it was coming from the speaker, not behind it.

Seriously, I'm so mortified I almost didn't post this. Thank you all for taking the time to help me.

Huge Moron in PA
posted by iconomy at 5:08 PM on October 22, 2009 [73 favorites]

If anyone stumbles on this thread for reference in the future and the sound is actually coming from the computer, check and see if one of those stupid helper animals in Windows Explorer's search panel is active and doing something on a regular loop. My computer kept making this little video game scratch noise every few minutes and I thought I had been hacked or something. Went through all the processes for a while and couldn't find it. Turns out it was that goddamned dog doing some cartoony action on a regular schedule in an open Explorer window. Kill you Microsoft helpers! At least it motivated me to turn it off for good.
posted by Askr at 5:32 PM on October 22, 2009

Guh. One more fav for my confession/comment and it will go to the sidebar where all of my contacts can see what an imbecile I am. Stop faving it!!

*runs and hides*
posted by iconomy at 6:45 PM on October 22, 2009 [10 favorites]

Actually, I've been having a similar problem -- only in my case, every so often my laptop makes a noise that sounds like trickling water.

It's been doing it right out of the box. I haven't noticed any consistent pattern or time or schedule, just that every so often it just sounds like...water.

I haven't been worried because it's otherwise worked fine (at least, when it wasn't fine I was eventually able to find the source and fix it, and it was unrelated to the water-trickle sound). Hopefully someone else may have heard of this, and if it did, your thread was not in vain. :-)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:42 PM on October 22, 2009

Guh. One more fav for my confession/comment and it will go to the sidebar where all of my contacts can see what an imbecile I am.

Ding! Hiiii! Sorry, you are still ridiculously awesome.
posted by cashman at 8:55 PM on October 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Guh. One more fav for my confession/comment and it will go to the sidebar where all of my contacts can see what an imbecile I am. Stop faving it!!

sorry, couldn't resist!
posted by NekulturnY at 3:45 AM on October 23, 2009

First time my cell phone did that (very short little melodious beep every nine minutes), it took us over four hours to figure out what was causing it--two hours to figure out that it really was a repetitive beep and then another two to zero in on the actual cause.

And that was with five people searching and the phone sitting in plain site the whole time.

So . . . don't feel bad!
posted by flug at 8:31 AM on October 23, 2009

ha ha iconomy :) don't feel bad. A few years ago I was visiting my parents and using a computer in the basement. It is right next to a window, and they live in a secluded section surrounded by woods and there is a lot of wildlife. One night I started hearing this strange animal noise sounding like it was just outside the window, like a bird, but one I had never heard before. Very strange sounding. I called them down and we sat next to the windows listening for it for about an hour, trying to identify it. It would only happen every 2-3 minutes and we would get all excited - "there it is, what the heck is it". It kept going on all night, and they went to bed, and it was only as I was turning the computer off at about 2 am that I realized that I had a webpage open to a blog that ran one of those webcam apps in its sidebar, streaming live from a watering hole in the middle of Africa.
posted by vronsky at 10:20 AM on October 23, 2009 [10 favorites]

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