fan on laptop won't turn off!
January 26, 2008 7:56 AM   Subscribe

Why is the fan on my Toshiba laptop almost continually blowing? The computer doesn't seem particularly hot, and the constant on/off noise is annoying. Anybody know how to fix this?
posted by Ollie to Technology (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You my want to see if there is a BIOS update available. On my Dell Laptop I would experience odd fan behavior, especially if I left it in my car overnight when it was cold out. After upgrading the BIOS things were fine.

Where do you use the laptop? On a desk or on your lap? Airflow in and out of the laptop will change depending on the surface that it is placed on. Obviously you would want the best airflow to reduce the amount of work the fan needs to do in order to keep things cool.
posted by GooBerryCrunch at 8:28 AM on January 26, 2008

Based only on the information you've given, I'm not sure there's really a problem to be fixed. The computer doesn't seem particularly hot because, when it gets hot, the fan turns on. That's why the fan turns on and off a lot. That's what it's supposed to do.

There's probably a setting in your BIOS to adjust the temperature where the fan kicks on. And a program like SpeedFan might be able to manually adjust your fan speed. And it might be possible to replace the fan with a quieter one. Play with all this stuff at your own risk--when things get too hot, it decreases the lifespan of the hardware, and leads to instability. Again, though, I think it's quite possible that everything's working exactly as it was designed to.
posted by box at 8:42 AM on January 26, 2008

Had a Toshiba laptop issued by work that was similarly frustrating. Raising it with whatever was handy helped a bit.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 8:43 AM on January 26, 2008

There are several software solutions available, to either control the speed of the fans, or the amount of heath the CPU produces.

Personally, I use the RightMark CPU Clock Utility (RMClock), that underclocks the processor when there isn't that much power needed. Which is also very useful to prolongue the battery life.
posted by ijsbrand at 9:01 AM on January 26, 2008

You should already have a Toshiba utility to alter the speed of the fan via the power settings. Toshiba Utlities or something like that.
posted by A189Nut at 9:11 AM on January 26, 2008

thanks all. I'll try a few of these solutions. (i use it generally on a desk.)
posted by Ollie at 9:14 AM on January 26, 2008

check the heat sink. after a few years they get clogged with fuzz and work less efficiently. you may need to (or have someone) take a cover off the bottom to have a look. i have pulled what looked like a strip of felt from inside some machines.

happens to desktops too.
posted by KenManiac at 9:37 AM on January 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding the above about raising it a bit to create more airflow underneath, although this will probably at best just shorten the "on" times or make them a bit further apart.

If you've had it a while and it's been getting worse over time, then it's quite likely that the heatsink vanes are clogged with dust. If this is the case you may not be able to see it from the outside. One of my laptops has a fan that eventually wouldn't stop running. It was only after I opened it up that I discovered that the heatsink vanes (a bit like radiator vanes on a car) were completely clogged, in the interior part that surrounds the fan. You couldn't tell by shining a flashlight into the vents because the outer portion looked fine.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:41 AM on January 26, 2008

What KenManiac said. My Toshiba requires a cleaning every few months, actually. The symptoms are exactly what you describe.
posted by Krrrlson at 9:41 AM on January 26, 2008

If you do open it up, check around on the web to find a diagram of your model, if you can. I went to a lot of trouble and removed a dozen screws to take the bottom off, only to learn the hard way that you couldn't get at the heat sink that way -- just had to pop off a bezel on the top and slip out the keyboard, which involved one screw rather than a dozen.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:44 AM on January 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

My fujitsu laptop does this proactively as soon as the CPU usage goes up. Pretty normal. I agree it's annoying, but you can either (a) run lots of things all the time and bog down the CPU so the fan will always be on (b) get used to it after a few years. Sorry!
posted by beerbajay at 9:52 AM on January 26, 2008

I have the same problem with a new laptop (from another brand). The rmclock utility seems the best option, but it only works if you have a processor that supports Intels speedstep technology. My laptop has a Celeron-M, which does not support this technology, so there is no way to underclock or use other power management features that would help with this. There are a few threads on the RMclock forums about this.
posted by davar at 10:57 AM on January 26, 2008

Blowing it out with a can of dust off might help if you're not comfortable disassembling it to get at the heat sink. It's amazing how much cat hair/dog hair/dust can settle into a laptop.
posted by dws at 12:00 PM on January 26, 2008

Want the SIMPLEST solution?

I got a Kensington "LiftOff" laptop cooling stand for my Dell laptop. Cheap (about $20, depending on the computer store or Office Max/Staples/etc. store where you shop) and it definitely prevents overheating.

There are other brands, such as Belkin; and I think Dell makes its own, but I was in a big box store and saw my Kensington stand.

You could also just put it on an old-fashioned wire "in" basket turned upside down, if you're not concerned about appearance. That method, however, may put your laptop up too high for comfort.
posted by Smalltown Girl at 12:01 PM on January 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

This happens on my Mac a lot - I've found that certain applications kick the processor into high usage and high heat follows, thence the fan. Sometimes it's weird what will set it off. Sometimes an app in the background has a dialog box open and that's all it takes. If I let a YouTube video play on mute (to allow it to load fully) while watching Miro, the double video-rendering seems to do it every time. Keep an eye on performance. I guess the Task Manager is an okay place to start. You may simply have some app or systray utility that's running amok.
posted by scarabic at 12:24 PM on January 26, 2008

Some computers have BIOS settings that make their cooling systems run continuously, even when the internal temperature is within acceptable ranges. My computer does this.

There's a free software called Notebook Hardware Control, very similar to RMClock (mentioned by a poster above me), that allows you to control your fan settings, amongst other things. It'll let you set the threshold CPU temperatures for the fan.

For example (this is what I use), you can have the fan off by default, start running slowly at 45 degrees Celsius, speed up at 50, and go to full speed at 55. When the CPU cools to below 45 degrees, the fan would stop.

The fan control is an advanced feature and you'll have to look through their website and forums to figure out the details.

NHC is incompatible with Vista 64 bit, and is not fully compatible with Vista 32 bit, so this option is out the window if you use Vista.
posted by BeaverTerror at 2:01 PM on January 26, 2008

If it worked fine before and you didn't change anything, adding more crap to the computer isn't going to fix it properly!

kenmaniac has the answer. Unless there is some piece of software that's suddenly using 100% of your CPU, your laptop's cooling system isn't operating efficiently. Three things can cause this:

1) Clogged fins.
2) Dried out heat pipes.
3) Fan spinning too slowly.

Since your complaint is that the fan is spinning too loudly, that's not it. And heat pipes almost never dry out unless they were faulty to begin with. So, back to clogged. Turn the PC off, and blow canned air in where the air normally exits. If you're feeling adventurous, remove the keyboard. That usually gives better access to the heat sink.

Again, for everyone out there- modern, brand name laptops should cool themselves properly. Adding little software widgets to compete with that will cause more problems than they solve.

And those little fan board things *can* work, if they are matched to the particular laptop. But if the fans aren't matched up properly, it will do nothing, or even make things worse.
posted by gjc at 4:07 PM on January 26, 2008

This article and the discussion may be useful for people who want to cool down their laptop.
posted by davar at 5:22 PM on January 26, 2008

I had the exact same problem, and had to get my heatsink replaced and my fans cleaned out. I took it to a Toshiba approved shop. They did the two repairs for about $50. It was cheaper than buying a new laptop.
posted by reenum at 6:13 PM on January 26, 2008

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