Noisy Computer Problem

Dear Computer Lady,

I purchased a refurbished Dell desktop (Windows XP). It runs great except that sometimes the fan(?) makes so much noise it sounds like it is ready for take-off! Other times, it doesn’t make any noise. I have been unable to figure out what triggers the noise.

Mostly I am concerned if this desktop is at risk for falling over dead. What do you think?

Thank you for your reply 🙂



Dear Twyla,

It sounds like you have a fan that is failing. The noise you are hearing is the worn out ball bearings making the fan off balance. I am more worried about the times when there is no noise at all. The fan is most likely not running during those times, and the computer could be overheating. Too much heat can damage the computer.

There are several fans inside the computer that could be making the noise. You need to figure out which fan it is, and replace it. You can either do that yourself, or take it to your local computer shop. Here are some commons fans that might need replacing.

1. Inside the power supply there is a fan. You should be able to see this fan on the back of your computer near the top. You need to get a new power supply to replace this fan. Don’t try taking the power supply apart, there are capacitors inside that can hold a charge even when unplugged that can hurt you.

2. Over the CPU is a fan also known as a processor fan. If this fan is the one giving you problems, you need to get it replaced as soon as possible. If the processor overheats, your computer will no longer work.

3. There might also be case fans inside your computer that either blow air in the front of the case, or out the back of the case. These are the least dangerous if they fail because they are not cooling the electrical system, or cpu.

As long as you get the failing fan replaced, your computer will be fine. If you let the fan stop working, the computer will overheat and damage will occur.


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    • Hana Kingi
    • October 7, 2010

    Sounds like you have dust build-up in the CPU fan.
    I used “You Tube” and typed in “noisy pc fan”, found lots of easy tips…
    You will need to remove the back of the pc case to access the fans.
    And then use a toothbrush, or small artists brush to remove all the dust… I did it all without having to unplug any of the components from their positions.
    To do a good job will take over an hour of your time BUT it is worth it! Take your time.
    To keep the dust nuisance down, try to keep the CPU off the carpet and away from corners (that attract dust). Also, vacuum or sweep around your desk regularly and especially around and under all your cables.
    Hope that helps. My fans have all worked silently since I cleaned them and no damage done.

    • ron007
    • October 7, 2010

    Your answer covered the fan options in an “older” XP machine.

    There is one more possibility in a newer computer, the GPU. Many high end graphics cards now include fans to cool the graphics processor(s).

    • alexnetherton
    • October 8, 2010

    Also, sometimes the computer is made like this. Mine is an Acer with Vista, but when there is a big load on the processor, it sounds loud. When the computer is idling, there is very little noise. Perhaps this lady has a computer with a variable fan that only goes faster when there is a load on the computer?

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