Computer Power Supply making rattling/buzzing noises
November 12, 2016 4:06 AM   Subscribe

It does this every so often and I'm not sure what to do. Details to follow.

I have a HP Pavilion HPE h8-1110t computer. It has served me very well for the past several years. What's happening is my Power Supply is making noises, and I'm pretty sure it's the fan, because that's the only moving part in the PS(that I know of). It's not constant, the noise can go away for months then come back. The computer continues to work fine when it has these spells, and it's rattling away as I type this. Yes, I'm sure it's the PS, I disconnected the other fans to check.

I know, this machine is old and should be replaced, but I can't afford it right now. My question(s): Are these noises going to cause the machine to fail at some point? Should I replace the PS? If replacement is in order what PS should I buy? I've looked and they range from $35 up to $400. Or should I just ignore the noises?

Doing the actual replacement I can do, but I just don't know what to buy. Can the computer experts help me?

Thanks in advance
posted by james33 to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Over time sometimes the bearings in the fan go to crap and they'll do this, even intermittently. The only real risk is that the fan dies altogether, which can then cause the power supply (or more) to overheat and fail. You can replace the power supply if you're concerned about it.

Another thing that can happen though and cause intermittent noise from fans, is that a loose wire sometimes rubs against the blades and makes a noise. This is harmless, so make sure it isn't this before you worry about replacing.
posted by teatime at 4:23 AM on November 12, 2016

Agreed. Check for loose wires and hit all the mounting screws with a screwdriver. You could also buy a can of pressurized air at the hardware store and give the whole thing a good blow and vacuum.

As far as the power supply replacement. The number of Watts will be printed on the old one. Go to and filter down for on with the same wattage and then sort by "Best Rating". Pick the cheapest with the highest rating.
posted by humboldt32 at 4:45 AM on November 12, 2016

If you're confident that you have the dexterity required to open your power supply without touching any of the high-voltage-storing components inside and without dropping screws onto the circuit board, fixing a noisy fan is completely doable and costs nothing but time and patience and one drop of oil.

Unplug the power supply from the motherboard and drives, and unscrew and remove it from the PC case. Undo the screws that hold the power supply together (there are usually four of these, one of which might be under an Instant Warranty Death label) and separate the lid from the base.

Take this opportunity to take the power supply outside and blow out all the dust. Don't spit in it while you're doing that.

The fan will usually be screwed into the lid with four very stumpy self-tapping screws. Remove those and separate the fan from the lid.

Now you're looking for a sticker on the hub of the fan. Carefully peel that off - try not to tear it or crease it too much, because it's going to need to be stuck back on later.

With the sticker removed, you should see the hole in the middle of the fan where the bearing is. Put one drop - the smallest drop you can drip - of light oil in there. Sewing machine oil is good. Bicycle oil will do. Household 3-in-1 handy oil works as well. Don't use vegetable oil, which will turn into gummy glue in about a month, or eucalyptus oil or WD-40 which will both just evaporate.

If any oil at all got spilled where the sticker has to be put back, use toilet paper to wick any loose oil out of the hole and then thoroughly clean up the spill. Excess oil will make the sticker glue go tacky and fail.

Stick the sticker back down and use the back of your thumbnail to squeegee the air bubbles out from underneath it.

Reassemble everything (being careful not to over-tighten and strip the self-tapping screws that mount the fan, and paying careful attention to the tabs and slots that hold the lid and the base of the power supply in position), re-mount the PSU in the PC case and plug all the cables back where they came from. You should find that the grinding has completely gone away. It will probably stay gone away for at least another two years.
posted by flabdablet at 8:14 AM on November 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

It looks like your computer could have one of three wattage power supplies, 300W, 460W, and 600W .

You can use a power supply with more watts than what's currently in your computer, but do not use a power supply with fewer watts.

If you want to take the power supply out of your computer, and check the wattage (should be listed on a sticker on the power supply) you can find exactly what wattage you need, but maybe you just want to buy something here's a 600w power supply for $50. Here's a 500w power supply $40. Here's a 300w power supply $33.

You could spend more money to get a more efficient (lower power bills) power supply, but I wouldn't recommend spending extra money on an old computer.
posted by gregr at 8:48 AM on November 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

thank you! You kids gave me some things to try and I will, just as soon as the stitches come out (I nearly cut my thumb off last night, no fun).
Really, thank you!
posted by james33 at 2:44 AM on November 13, 2016

I nearly cut my thumb off last night

Perhaps fooling about inside a power supply case containing large capacitors charged to hundreds of volts is not for you :-)
posted by flabdablet at 4:44 PM on November 13, 2016

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