The Case of the Telltale Heart…

by admin on May 11th in Hardware Issues, Troubleshooting

When troubleshooting a computer, the sound it makes can be very helpful in determining the root of the problem.  In fact, I just purchased a mechanic’s stethoscope to help locate various and sundry noises in the computer.  However, even without the specialized equipment, you can many times ‘hear’ the telltale signs of impending doom and destruction.

When you start hearing noises from your computer, first take out any floppy disks or CD/DVD disks that are in the system…this helps quiet down the drives so you can better determine the location of the noise.

Many of the times the noise will come from one of the many cooling fans inside.  Unfortunately, computer manufacturers use cheap fans to cool the most expensive parts of your computer…go figure!  There are usually at least two fans in your computer.  One is inside the power supply, and you should be able to see it spinning by looking at the backside of the computer.  The second (and more important one) is on the CPU.   If this one stops, your CPU (usually the most expensive part of a computer) will overheat and possibly be permanently damaged.  Check this fan to make sure that no cables are blocking it.  Other fans can be on your video card, back and/or front of the case, etc.

Whenever a fan stops working, turn off the computer, and try to ‘flick’ the fan to see if it spins without much effort.  If it barely moves, or stops very quickly, the bearings in the fan are in desperate need of lubrication.  The challenge is in the applying of the lubrication.  Access to the location is often paved with obstacles.  First, you need to remove the fan.  That alone can be a problem.  Once removed, the access to the bearings is under a sticker on the backside of the fan.  When you remove the sticker, you will then see a small rubber plug.  Remove the plug using a small flat blade screwdriver (or reasonable facsimile).  Keep this for later!  Now, place a few drops of silicone lubricant (I like Super Lube Synthetic Precision Oiler).  Now spin the blades to allow the lubricant to work itself into the bearings.  If you have an air compressor, that speeds things up a little!  If after lubing and spinning, the fan still doesn’t turn easily, replace it.  Otherwise, replace the rubber plug (the sticker will never stick again, so leave it off), replace the fan and you should be good to go…

Another noise you may hear is the sound of the bearings going out in a hard drive.  This is VERY BAD!  The goal is to back up all your data NOW and replace the hard drive.  There is no easy way to lube the bearing on a hard drive, so once they freeze up, nothing short of a clean room visit ($$$$) will get you your data!  Also, if your hard drive makes ‘clunking’ sounds, or very repetitive noises, that is another sign the hard drive is on its way out…backup and replace!

The third source of noise is ‘leaky capacitors’.  Now, I am not an electrical engineer, so if I mis-speak here, forgive me…if you want the official definition of a capacitor, visit wikipedia.  However, basically the capacitor helps electronics ‘change/step down’ the current, therefore they ‘store up’ an electrical charge.  There are big capacitors in the power supply, and little capacitors on the motherboard.  When these start to get old, they can ‘leak’, giving off a high-pitched whine that is exceedingly annoying.  For the average person, these can’t be replaced…replace the item the capacitor is in (power supply, motherboard).

Hopefully this will help you determine the telltale sounds that are emanating from your computer…


  1. Necklace Holder 

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    18th October 2010

    our cooling fan uses a 7 blade design and it generates a great amount of air flow;:;

  2. Alex Allen

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    1st October 2010

    cooling fans are really great for cooling PC and electronics stuff`.,

  3. Erin Turner

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    12th August 2010

    i always prefer to use brushless cooling fans because they last longer and needs less maintennance’~`

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