The sound is coming from inside the computer!
October 24, 2010 7:03 PM   Subscribe

Why is my early 2006 Intel Combo-Drive iMac beeping intermittently?

I installed new RAM in the iMac about four days ago (it now has a single stick of 2 GB RAM), but the beeping only started today, probably about two hours ago. It's happened probably five times so far. It is always eight beeps - four sets of two - in the same tone. There's no activity going on that I can tell... most of the time when the beeping occurs I was just reading or listening to music.

I've run Temperature Monitor and the iMac isn't overheating. The beeps do change in volume depending on what the system volume is set to. I've unplugged everything except my wireless mouse, the bluetooth dongle to pair with my wireless keyboard, and the mini-DVI attached to an Acer external monitor.

It's not particularly irritating or urgent, but if something is wrong with the iMac that requires my attention I'd rather fix it than leave it be. The problem is rather hard to Google for, and most of the results I find describe the computer emitting single beeps.

Thanks in advance!
posted by Phire to Computers & Internet (12 answers total)
Have you tried rolling back the last change you made? Uninstalling that new RAM?
posted by thejoshu at 7:10 PM on October 24, 2010

I googled this issue and I found this forum entry here.

According to the above post, you might have the wrong speed of RAM. Where did you get the new RAM from?
posted by patronuscharms at 7:23 PM on October 24, 2010

This also may help:

1 beep = no RAM installed
2 beeps = incompatible RAM types
3 beeps = no good banks
4 beeps = no good boot images in the boot ROM (and/or bad sys config block)
5 beeps = processor is not usable
posted by patronuscharms at 7:24 PM on October 24, 2010

Response by poster: I bought the RAM online off of Amazon, using the SKU that I got by searching for my computer on Kingston's website. My computer is still running fine, by the way, and I've had no issues with restarts or putting it into/getting it out of sleep.

I have not uninstalled the RAM, no, because only having 1 GB of RAM is so painful that I'd really rather all other options before I reach for that one...
posted by Phire at 7:26 PM on October 24, 2010

There's a universal access setting that makes the computer beep every time you press a particular key. Go to Universal Access and check the keyboard tab and turn everything off.

But then again you said it beeps without any user interaction.

Another thing you can do is just quit as many programs as possible, open activity monitor in the utilities folder, view all processes from all users, sort it by CPU column (decending order) and just monitor it to see if any processes jump to the top of the list when the beeping occurs. It may clue you in to whats going on.
posted by sammich at 7:27 PM on October 24, 2010

the beeps that patronuscharms is talking about only happens at boot, before you see the gray apple logo on the screen.
posted by sammich at 7:29 PM on October 24, 2010

In the case of slightly dodgy RAM that passes the POST, it can also happen coming out of sleep and occasionally while running. Took me ages to figure that one out last time I swapped RAM…

But you're not running MS Office, are you? Entourage had/has 2 beeps as the default "No mail" sound, and IIRC it goes off once for each account checked (i.e. if it's checking 4 accounts, and none have new mail, it'll go off 4 times).
posted by Pinback at 8:20 PM on October 24, 2010

I have not uninstalled the RAM, no, because only having 1 GB of RAM is so painful that I'd really rather all other options before I reach for that one...

I'm suggesting it for testing purposes, not as a permanent solution. In other words, you can certainly enjoy the wonders of 2GB of RAM -- but it might be good to find out if this specific stick of RAM is the answer.
posted by thejoshu at 8:50 PM on October 24, 2010

Response by poster: I didn't have anything running in Universal Access and I am not running MS Office (though that's definitely an interesting phenomenon), no.

Pinback: What did you do with the "slightly dodgy" RAM? Replace the stick?

sammish: I do have Activity Monitor taking up half of a screen now just in case, thank you for the suggestion!

thejoshu: Point taken. The beeping's stopped since I've posted the AskMe (of course) but I'll try putting in the old RAM if it starts up again.
posted by Phire at 9:27 PM on October 24, 2010

Yup, replaced it. Didn't bother to find out which of the 2 sticks it was. Thinking about it, it was either Kingston ValueRam or no-name Hyundai, and I swapped it for some Crucial/Micron. This was in a 2007 Macbook.

(Long story shortened: I'd swapped my 2 x 1Gig into my gf's 1Gig PC laptop, then bought 2 new sticks for mine. Booted fine, but after a little while it just seemed … I dunno, off the pace a bit. Just a feeling, nothing I could put my finger on. RAM tested fine, & there was nothing showing up in the system logs. Next day it was giving the 2 beep pattern on wake; day after that it started doing it while working. Took it back, it tested fine in the shop's RAM tester, but they swapped it anyway. No problems since.)
posted by Pinback at 11:10 PM on October 24, 2010

Its likely the ram - re-seat the ram first -pull it out clean it off with some compressed air, clean out the ram slot with some air put it back in & boot.

Still beeping? Try running the computer with just one stick and then the other - keep track of which one is the new and which is the old - if it only beeps when the new stick is in: send the RAM back for replacement.
posted by zenon at 10:04 AM on October 25, 2010

Response by poster: Um. This might literally be the most stupid thing I've ever posted on this site, but I've figured out what the beeping was.

My school installed a new portal system for distributing course material, and one of the functionalities was a "pager" system. Yes, really. So when someone sends you a pager message, it hides in an out-of-the-way place on the portal and just beeps at you. I guess I left the portal open while I was working the other day, which I don't usually do because I prefer shutting down Firefox when I'm concentrating.

Since I have the volume muted on every other computer I come in contact with, I've never heard the sound replicated elsewhere until tonight.

(I'm a little embarrassed, but thanks, everyone, for your helpful answers.)
posted by Phire at 6:12 PM on October 27, 2010

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