We’ve all heard them. Noises that make us think someone is vacuuming in the living room. Sometimes it comes and goes and others it just stays permanently until that dreadful day when your machine suddenly shuts down on its own! Man, is that scary or what?
The noise could be generated by multiple reasons, but in my experience, more times than none, it comes from the fan that ventilates the processor chip in the motherboard. It is a very important indicator when things are not going so well in there. Think of that fan as the laptop’s lungs and compare the “lack of maintenance” that you are surely not giving it, with smoking cigarettes. The more you smoke, the more trouble you’ll have to breathe until one day you can’t breath anymore and you shut down.
So what is actually happening to the fan?
There are two main possible causes for an ‘over-working’ fan. It could be that it’s clogged and dust is not allowing it to move properly. It can also be an overuse of resources, meaning too many applications are running at the same time against a processor that can’t really take that beating so it overheats and the fan has to work harder and longer than normal. These are two completely isolated problems but having the same symptom, just like in our human body, it takes a little investigation to find out exactly what the problem is.
Another one bites the dust:
Let’s consider the first possibility. Dust happens, and to fans (regular ol’ fashioned fans as well as computer fans), it happens all the time! Be that a desktop or a laptop, odds are that if you’ve used the machine for more than six months without cleaning the fan, it has some nice little dust bunnies. A little more time and they become dust encrusted bunnies, and a few more months and they could make the fan stop spinning. As a result, the temperature in the computer raises and it ends up overheating and shutting down. So, while an overworked fan could indicate that there is a problem, not hearing the fan at all and not being able to feel it throwing hot air out is even a worse sign. If you get to the point where the fan stops working, you’ve lost the war. At that point you need to either contact your warranty service provider or find a person to repair your machine.
It’s an App world after all:
The second possibility says that many applications are running against an overworked processor. What do I mean by that? Well, it’s something that goes under the radar for a lot of people. You buy a computer with some software installed and it’s running fine. Months pass and you download tons of music, videos, free apps, tool-bars, renew your anti-virus and new Microsoft windows updates, and a new browser and its updates… and the months turn to years, and the updates keep on piling. Then you buy a new version of Office and so goes the story until you get to a point where the newer updates or the newer applications installed, have specific processor requirements that your machine barely supplies.
Another example: I have this laptop I bought in 2005 with a very nice single processor. Now I know most people would say, “Woa, that’s an oldie!”, but in reality, it behaves rather decently. This is true, mainly because I take care of it (yes, I’m looking at you who don’t even do a defrag). So, if it behaves so nicely, what’s the matter you ask? Well, this computer was built to work with Windows XP SP2, Office 2003 and various other softwares with versions equal or previous to 2005. As the years passed, I was forced to go to XP SP3 which required a lot more from the hardware. Then the Internet Explorer browser upgraded from 7 to 8 and recently to 9 Beta. All of a sudden, the Internet was all about video. In the meantime, new computers with dual processors and even multi-threading quad processors (basically meaning a lot of processor power), meant for this new Internet. So my little old computer can browse the web or use Office fine but, the moment I try to do more than three things at the same time, I start hearing the fan music. If you hear that music too, then you most stop some of your activities because, you really want your oldie to last you a bit more, don’t you?
So how do I resolve this?
If you are proactive with your maintenance you can tackle the first issue quite easily and in a very inexpensive way. All you need is a can of compressed air and find the fan (in some laptops is on the side and in others at the bottom). Spray the air in short bursts and while you are at it, clean between the keys. It can get very nasty there too.
If you have some more know-how or feeling more intrepid (only if your warranty is done with), then you can try to find online instructions for your laptop model and see how to open and clean it more efficiently. But remember, never reverse engineer something you might not be able to put back together.
For the second issue, if your computer starts freezing while the fan is going, the best option is to go to task manager. You can get to task manager by right clicking on the START Bar below and selecting Task Manager or by pressing the CTRL + SHIFT + ESC keys together at the same time. Close the applications open that say “Not Responding”.
If this becomes an issue on a constant basis then you should consider purchasing some application that allows you to clean your machine from debris of old and unnecessary applications that make your computer behave slower and hotter than it should. I’ll talk more about that type of applications later on. If the computer is extremely old and navigating the web becomes unbearable, videos buffer, you can’t have more than two or three windows open at any given time no matter what you do, then perhaps its time to start planning for an actualization of your equipment. For now, I’ll keep listening to the silence my normal working fan makes. That is a beautiful lack of sound we should all be able to enjoy.