Computer noise at startup
June 9, 2016 6:01 AM   Subscribe

I bought this computer off an Ebay store where they assemble it for you. On cold mornings, it would make noise after turning on (power supply fan related). The noise would stop for a while. I got a replacement power supply (PSU) from the company and the noise stopped for a while. Now it's almost summer, it's not that cold, and the noise has started again. I'm thinking maybe it's not the PSU but maybe the flimsy case enters some resonant vibration? With the previous PSU I tried to buffer the spaces between the case and the PSU with tape, didn't do anything. With this new PSU, I tried to tighten the screws again, didn't do anything. I'm sure the noise isn't coming from the case fan, as, when I had the previous PSU, I disconnected that fan to make sure.
posted by spacefire to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
Have you checked any and all other fans? Say, the fan on the CPU heatsink? I'd double-check here first and think this to be the very likeliest scenario. It also might be the optical drive - sometimes worn bearings can make noise upon initial spin-up, and maybe the expansion in metal parts due to heat could have been what ended up resolving the sound in the past. A failing hard drive will be making a clicking sound - that doesn't sound like what's happening, but do be advised to listen for it just in case.

In any case, I'd go the route of unplugging the power source to your peripheral/auxiliary drives temporarily, just to take some variables out of the equation. It won't hurt anything, starting like that, and you can go through process-of-elimination that way.
posted by a good beginning at 7:47 AM on June 9, 2016

I don't have an optical drive. Replacing the power supply caused the noise to cease completely for a few months.
posted by spacefire at 2:43 PM on June 9, 2016

Is the replacement PSU the same model as the one that originally came with the computer? Could just be that the PSU manufacturer uses a cheapo fan in that model. Maybe go for a higher-tier PSU, they usually have more reliable components.

It might also be possible to crack it open and see if you can replace the fan yourself, as I don't think they use special fans or connectors, though this might not be the safest thing to do.
posted by clorox at 6:37 PM on June 9, 2016

Seconding the vote to check your other fans. It's entirely possible that you messing around with the power supply jostled some dust or dirt around that was the original cause of the noise and it's taken a few months for the cause of the noise to come back.

If the fans check out (including the PSU fan), and you have a spinning platter hard drive (e.g. not an SSD), that'd be my next suspect. If it is the source of the noise, that's your cue to back up all your important stuff and get a new drive, as in all likelihood the drive is not long for the world.
posted by Aleyn at 8:20 PM on June 9, 2016

But I thought only the PSU fan spools up on start-up, then slows down, which would explain why the noise only occurs for a minute after booting.
posted by spacefire at 6:20 AM on June 10, 2016

On modern computers, most or all of the fans are speed-controlled by the motherboard. If one is not, it is actually most likely to be the power supply fan.

You can tell easily enough by sticking a (plastic) pen or something else nonconductive between the blades of the power supply fan before turning the computer on. As long as you remove it within a few minutes so the fan can start turning, it won't hurt anything. It takes a while for most components to get too hot. (If you do the same with a CPU fan or fan on a video card, don't keep the fan locked for more than a couple of seconds. Those can heat up rather quickly. Even if you were to stop the fans for too long permanent damage is highly unlikely; your computer would just throttle itself or hang. (Some older GPUs would melt themselves, but if you aren't in the middle of a taxing 3D game, it will take tens of seconds minimum for it to overheat.)

Point is, preventing the fan from turning somehow, whether by unplugging it or physically disabling it is a 100% effective way to tell which one is making the noise.
posted by wierdo at 5:16 PM on June 11, 2016

Thanks, I blocked the PSU fan for a bit while it was being noisy and it was the culprit again. So, I guess, buy yet another PSU? Could it be resonating with the case which is quite flimsy?
posted by spacefire at 6:13 AM on June 13, 2016

Perhaps. Easy way to test would be to remove the power supply from the case but leave it connected to the components, power it on and see if it still makes a noise. (And no, having your computer in this configuration won't hurt anything, even if I wouldn't recommend it for long term use.)
posted by Aleyn at 6:36 PM on June 13, 2016

You can disassemble the power supply and replace the case fan. Just be careful to not touch the big capacitors inside. Or better yet let it sit unplugged a good long while before opening it up. They are often hard wired, so you might have to splice the wires.

If you aren't comfortable doing that and decide to buy a new PSU, I've had luck with the cheaper Corsair supplies. They are reasonably priced and use ball bearing fans rather than the ones with sleeve bearings, so they tend to last longer.

In the meantime, giving the top of the case a good whack with your hand will often make the fan quiet down for a bit. ;)
posted by wierdo at 3:44 AM on June 14, 2016

It's only noisy at startup and not every time. But if I do decide to replace the PSU, what's a good budget PSU with enough power and cooling to run a decent video card?
posted by spacefire at 5:44 AM on June 14, 2016

Seconding Corsair for PSU; something in the CX or CX-M line would probably be good enough without breaking the bank. I'd warn against cheaping out on the PSU, though; there is probably no other component in the system that will have a greater effect on the lifespan of the components, so if this is a computer you want to keep going for a while, save up for a bit and spring for something good and avoid the cheapo no-name crap.
posted by Aleyn at 11:15 PM on June 14, 2016

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