How to make my laptop run as quietly on mains as it does on battery?
September 18, 2022 10:15 PM   Subscribe

My laptop fans are noisy even when the laptop is not doing any work at all, like when I'm reading a web page. If I unplug it, it's wonderfully silent, but the battery life is very short. I understand that the CPU is throttled down on battery, which is fine for simple tasks - can I do the same thing when I'm running on mains power?

I'm using Windows 11; changing the power saving settings to "most efficient" doesn't make the laptop more quiet. What else can I do?
posted by Termite to Computers & Internet (14 answers total)
Has it always done that, or is this new behavior? There may be dust accumulated in the fan, and it'll be quieter if you're able to clean it out.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 10:26 PM on September 18

Response by poster: It's a brand new computer, and it has always done that. There is nothing wrong with it, it's just how Windows/Intel machines are set up to work. The latest Macs are much more power efficient, but it's kinda late to tell me I should have bought a Mac :)

When I'm on battery, the CPU (and perhaps other things?) is running at a slower speed, so the fans are not needed. This is fine for light work, such as reading or typing. I would like to be able to throttle it down when I'm running on mains as well, to have a completely silent computer. If I need to do some harder work, I could just crank it back up.
posted by Termite at 10:43 PM on September 18

When you say “the laptop is not doing any work at all”, have you verified that? It’s worth checking Task Manager to see if something is using up CPU time unexpectedly.
posted by ripley_ at 11:03 PM on September 18 [2 favorites]

It's not user friendly and frankly overkill, but if there aren't any other options & you have a laptop running an Intel processor, you could hire the A-Team use ThrottleStop . There's a handy guide here.
posted by ZaphodB at 11:31 PM on September 18

There may be options in bios or firmware at startup to set before Windows gets involved. Check your documentation for how to access the firmware and see what's in there.
posted by k3ninho at 12:59 AM on September 19

it's kinda late to tell me I should have bought a Mac :)

You should run linux! ;-)

(I'd first try to make sure it really is supposed to be acting that way (look up anything people have said online about your model?) and then maybe try CPU throttling software)
posted by trig at 1:03 AM on September 19 [1 favorite]

You should be able to change the power mode settings in Windows. If you look at the settings your computer has on battery mode and put the same settings for when it's plugged in, that should do the trick.

Note that this will limit your laptop to whatever lower-performance mode you set it to, meaning it will run slower than it otherwise could when plugged in. But if you're already happy with how it runs when on battery, this presumably isn't a problem. And, as you say, you can always put the settings back if you want to it handle something more demanding.

This will be imperfect, because charging the battery releases heat which your laptop might want to shift using the fans, and it feels a safe bet that Windows will "helpfully" ignore at least some aspects of those settings in order to give you what it thinks is a better experience. But it's definitely an easy place to start.
posted by metaBugs at 3:26 AM on September 19 [2 favorites]

You can go deeper in the power options and make settings for max CPU %.

Go to Control Panel > Power Options. To the right of the name of each power plan there's a link to "Change plan settings." Click that for the active plan. At the bottom of the resulting window click "Change advanced power settings."

You'll get a new window. Scroll down and expand "Processor power management." In there you can set the "Maximum processor state." You can also check the "Minimum processor state" to make sure it isn't set to an unreasonably high number.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 5:07 AM on September 19 [1 favorite]

A new laptop shouldn't have really bad battery life and shouldn't excessively run the fans for no reason.

It's possible something is running in the background and can be disabled. New computers often come with unneeded virus software, backup solutions, ad-ware, etc. Part of setting up a new computer is getting rid of this junk. If you let us know the model, there may be more suggestions.

The power settings should fix this but power settings help most when the computer isn't running a bunch of junk. Sometimes there are multiple places to set power settings. Windows should be the thing to control it, but sometimes there is vender specific software for this.
posted by jclarkin at 6:08 PM on September 19

My Lenovo x270 runs the fan for like 30 minutes after I plug it in every time I recharge (every like 4 or 5 days, it’s a secondary couch computer) and I always assume it’s because it’s charging the battery AND running normal stuff and maybe windows is updating things because it sees I’m plugged in. But after that the fan slows or stops and it’s just like normal. I unplug it at 100% until next time.
posted by one4themoment at 7:49 PM on September 19

I changed the polling interval for my fans in a Toshiba Satellite years ago, I did it as fans were sucking the battery (the tweak doubled my battery up time), but it's a Registry-level tweak and IDK how it would be done now. It's also likely to be specific to your make and model.
posted by unearthed at 12:02 AM on September 20

Response by poster: Thanks for all your replies!

I check the Task manager regularly, but I haven't been able to identify any energy thieves. I don't think my antivirus software is to blame, since it's only using 0-0.3 % of the CPU.

To metaBugs, under_petticoat_rule

Hmm ... When I dig into "Change advanced power settings" (through the old control panel), I find something called "Minimum/Maximum processor state". Minimum is set at 5 % on battery and 100 % on mains (Maximum is 100 % in both cases). Should I set Minimum to 5 % on mains as well?

you could hire the A-Team use ThrottleStop

This sounds interesting. If I understand correctly, ThrottleStop is used by people who want to speed up their computer. I want to do the opposite thing - can I use ThrottleStop for this?
posted by Termite at 10:55 AM on September 20

Wait? You are using Windows 11 - and have a third-party anti-virus? Windows 11 has that built-in, you are wasting CPU and memory if you are running a third-party AV.

Otherwise, it typically does come down to tuning the Power Performance profiles as others have mentioned - Microsoft has made this a little hard in each version of Windows, and I haven't touched 11 yet - but that is why the fans are significantly quieter when not plugged-in, the operating system is recognizing the absence of a power adapter and then tuning for longer-battery-life, so - lower processor usage. It should be possible to tune this yourself.
posted by rozcakj at 12:37 PM on September 22

Response by poster: rozcakj:
Thanks for mentioning this! I’ve been thinking of getting rid of my antivirus software. I’ve read that it’s no longer necessary. Do you agree?

I’m also using Norton for cloud backup of some files. This is the only function that I would miss if I uninstalled it. Could you recommend another program for online backup?

When you write "tuning the power performance profiles" – do you mean what I described above – changing "advanced power settings" to 5 %?
posted by Termite at 12:48 AM on September 23

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