Fan stops computer stops.
March 8, 2012 10:55 AM   Subscribe

Weird problem with Dell Laptop stalling when the fan stops.

I have a new (~2 month old) Dell Inspiron N4110 that I bought from Best Buy. It has an Intel Core i3 processor, 4 gigs of Memory, running Windows 7 Home Premium Service Pack 1. The computer stalls every time the fan stops running. By stall, I mean everything is unresponsive for about 3 minutes and then starts working again. Key strokes or mouse clicks I do during the unresponsive time will register once it starts working again. Usually I am word processing in Word 2010 when it happens, but not always. Typically, if I have a Firefox browser open, I'll get a series of unresponsive script messages once the stall is over too. I hit continue and they resolve. The stall always coincides with the fan stopping, but ends while the fan is still not running.

I wonder if someone can tell my why this is happening and whether there is a quick fix. My google powers have failed me. I'm under warranty of course, but would rather avoid the process. Plus, experience with Dell customer service makes me worry that this would be a hard problem to explain or to convince them they need to fix it.

Additional info: I have Kapersky anti-virus that I installed. I uninstalled the other virus detection that came with it. I have all the updates available through Windows Installer current. I didn't get any of the Best Buy service plans, so Geek Squad is out. The laptop is usually on my desk and never feels too hot.

Thanks, all!
posted by Dr. Lurker to Computers & Internet (5 answers total)
The CPU is slowing down or stopping to protect itself from overheating. All modern CPUs have this self-protective behaviour built in. Sounds like the thermostat that triggers the fan is faulty, therefore isn't supplying adequate cooling.

Sorry, but you'll have to start a warranty claim.
posted by wutangclan at 11:03 AM on March 8, 2012

Best answer: Most likely, you have some demanding application running in the background, and that ties up the processor for a long time. Anti-virus is notorious for this.

The fan cycles with CPU activity, to keep it cool, and so that is why the fan noise is correlated.

You can figure out the offending process by running task manager (crtl-alt-delete, select task manager) - but I would bet that if you uninstall the AV for the time being, your problems will abate. That's where I would start.

There may be a hardware error, but based on your description, I'm guessing it's software.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:06 AM on March 8, 2012

I have a much older Dell laptop that belongs to my employer. It behaved the same way. It turned out that the fan was sucking up a lot of lint from my fuzzy red bathrobe. The IT folks replaced the fan and got a good laugh out of it. I suspect something is wrong with the fan, but there are many more expert than I am here.
posted by mareli at 11:36 AM on March 8, 2012

I had this issue in an older model Dell right after I bought it and it turned out to be the heat sink (same issue, where the computer would essentially shut off if the fan stopped running). Once I sent it in and they replaced the heat sink, I also noticed that the fan ran about half as often as it did before I sent it in. I should note that before I sent it in, Support asked me to buy a can of compressed air and clean out the dusty areas in case that would solve the problem (not so much, frankly). In any case, fans are not intended to run every single second your computer is on.
posted by librarylis at 4:45 PM on March 8, 2012

Response by poster: I uninstalled Kaspersky AV and installed AVG Free. Everything seems to be running much faster and smoother now.
posted by Dr. Lurker at 8:11 AM on March 9, 2012

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