How can I stop my PC from rattling like Marley?
December 11, 2009 9:27 AM   Subscribe

My PC is rattling. It stops when I hit it. This is not a long-term solution.

It starts whining/rattling when I boot it in the morning. I thump it, and it stops. It's a tower case, with the MOBO on the right side, and the drives arrayed down the front. (1 IDE hard drive, 1 SATA hard drive, 1 DVD burner, 1 Lightscribe DVD burner, 1 3 1/2 floppy drive.)

The sound seems to be coming from the top of the case, toward the middle- where there shouldn't be anything except motherboard.

Until today, it only made this sound on boot up. Now it's doing it intermittently as I work. The fans are in working order and there are no cords getting thumped by fan blades.

If the hard drives were going bad, would they stop whining if I thumped the case? Have I missed a loose screw somewhere? What other parts could be making this sound?

(I have backed everything up. I cannot afford a Mac.)
posted by headspace to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sounds like a loose screw somewhere. Could be anywhere, really. The fans in your system cause vibrations--everyone's do--and a loose screw anywhere can vibrate in response.

I'd tighten all the screws in the region the noise seems to be coming from.
posted by valkyryn at 9:33 AM on December 11, 2009

Seconding (thirding?) the loose screw. You might want to start from the power supply (where the fans are) and move away from that.
posted by tommasz at 9:38 AM on December 11, 2009

define "working order" (re fans).
posted by jockc at 9:39 AM on December 11, 2009

jockkc: It's a gaming case, it has 5 fans. They all work, none of them skip, they're not loose, they're thoroughly dusted, the blades are smooth and unmarred, there's no debris caught in the casings or the intake screens. (I checked all the fans first because they've been known to be obnoxious before.)
posted by headspace at 9:45 AM on December 11, 2009

Might just be a staple or paper clip stuck in the fan. I'd try blowing it out with compressed air.
posted by stennieville at 9:45 AM on December 11, 2009

It could also be a loose disc on your optical or hard drives. Are those up there? You could try disconnecting the optical drives while you boot up to see if one of them is causing the issue.
posted by bitdamaged at 9:55 AM on December 11, 2009

Usually when that happens to me, it means that some of the dangly wires are getting whacked by a fan blade. I'd open the case and just take a look, try moving wires around and see if the noise stops.
posted by dualityofmind at 9:56 AM on December 11, 2009

I agree with the above people. But, loose screw/wires or no, there could be something bizarre that has happened to how it all sits over time, that I sometimes see every once in a while. I don't mean like the case is degrading cause there's some unseen mysterious force dissolving the case, just that maybe the way all the parts are sitting there now is clearly making SOMEthing vibrate due to age... sometimes I've had people tilt their case from either horizontal or vertical to the other position, just to see if that makes any difference. Sometimes it does (even if the problem is not the cdrom/dvd drives, which are often the culprit in those cases. Of course you wouldn't hear it if the drive isn't spinning).
posted by bitterkitten at 10:14 AM on December 11, 2009

Agree with dualityofmind. I have built several PCs, and a stray wire getting nicked by the fan blade is a common occurrence, and is usually fixed by a good whack. If you can, take the side off the case the next time it makes that noise and confirm the source of the sound.

If it is a stray wire, a twist tie is an excellent way to secure it.
posted by doh ray mii at 10:16 AM on December 11, 2009

I've had fans start going noisy before that looked like they were working just fine, weren't clogged up, etc. The whine on top of the rattle would make me suspicious. The next time it gets rattly-whiny, open up the case and bring a fan to a stop--the unhealthy-for-the-fan option is to do it by quick brute force, jab a pencil or finger in there to temporarily halt the blades; the slower way of going about it would be to unplug the fan, then power up and see if the noise is happening without that fan engaged.

If it stops, but you're still convinced the fan itself is fine, try unmounting and remounting it--the fan itself could be in perfect working order, but the mounting screws got a bit loose so it's rattling a bit.
posted by Drastic at 10:18 AM on December 11, 2009

I've had fans do that, even when they were working fine. Disconnect the fans one by one and eliminate that possibility.
posted by Behemoth at 10:21 AM on December 11, 2009

I had this happen once when I didn't tighten one of the expansion slot covers after removong a card. Drove me nuts.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 10:29 AM on December 11, 2009

Probably a problem with the fan being offcenter, most likely caused by dust buildup. Cleaning the fan by blasting it with compressed air might help, but really you just want to replace it.
posted by Artw at 10:40 AM on December 11, 2009

Agree on the fans. I've had fans that appear to be in OK shape do this before.
One more thing, did you remember to look at the power supply fans?
posted by jockc at 10:52 AM on December 11, 2009

Power it up with the case off, then reach in with a fingertip or the eraser end of a pencil and touch various objects. When you find something that makes the noise stop, it's probably your culprit or near it.

FWIW, fans' bearings can wear out / go bad even if there isn't anything else visibly wrong with the fan, though it's not the most common failure mode.
posted by hattifattener at 1:13 PM on December 11, 2009

it could be a case fan or more likely a power supply fan. Power supply fans go bad before case fans do.
posted by majortom1981 at 1:45 PM on December 11, 2009

Thanks guys- it was the power supply, and now that it's been replaced, my computer is running better than ever!
posted by headspace at 4:20 PM on December 14, 2009

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