Ever wondered why your computer is loud and how to reduce the noise?
This is the article for you, where I’ll be walking you through the main culprits of a noisy PC, what noises are legitimate causes for concern, and how you can actually address these issues.
Let’s get into it!
What Generates Noise Inside Your PC?
First, let’s start with the basics: what components within your system are actually responsible for generating noise?
Cooling Fans (Case Fans, Various Components)
The most likely culprit for many systems is fan noise. This can range from noisy case cooling fans to CPU/GPU cooler-attached fans.
Even your power supply has its own cooling fan, though you can’t really replace that as an end-user without putting yourself at severe risk.
Cooling fans are integral for your PC to function properly, especially during any kind of sustained workload.
If you notice your cooling fans are running loudly pretty much all the time, chances are high that your system temperatures aren’t under control and you may be overheating.
There are cases where cables inside your PC case touch the fan blades and start making a rattling noise. This is something you can easily fix. More on that later.
As it turns out, hard drives can be somewhat noisy too. This is because your HDD is basically a box with spinning discs inside of it, and reading to and writing from those discs can generate a low level of noise.
Generally, however, HDDs shouldn’t be considered “loud” under any circumstances— if they are, there may be a problem.
GPUs (and Coil Whine)
So graphics cards (GPUs) have their own dedicated cooling fans which can generate noise under load, but there’s actually a secret, second noisemaker in your graphics card that you may not know about.
This noise is called coil whine, and it happens as a result of components vibrating due to sheer power current and heat.
How To Identify Various Noises By Component
Noises Made By Cooling Fans
The low hum of a computer fan is most likely familiar to you.
Under heavy loads, you may notice the fan becoming significantly louder as it increases its RPM— this is fine as long as you don’t hear any actual-suspicious noises. Most noisy fans are just that— noisy fans. Your regular fan noise but louder isn’t a cause for concern.
Noises Made By GPU & PSU Coil Whine
Generally, coil whine doesn’t actually sound like a whine. It’s more of a clicking or buzzing noise that occurs when high-power current is being pushed through your GPU or even a particularly aging PSU.
An acceptable level of coil whine should be barely noticeable in most circumstances— but if it’s extremely loud, that may be a sign it’s time for a repair or return.
Our Coil Whine Article has some Noise samples that you can check out to see if you’re hearing something similar.
Noises Made By Drive Activity
SSDs don’t make any noise to speak of (it doesn’t have moving parts), whereas HDDs are usually quiet. Under load, HDDs do get noisier, but shouldn’t get much louder than other components inside your PC.
I’ll outline when you should be alarmed by your HDD noises in the next big section. An idle, spinning Hard Drive is a continuous noise, whereas reading and writing data makes a random scraping sound.
Noises Made By Your Motherboard (PC Beeping)
If you’ve ever heard beeping from your motherboard, you may be encountering a BIOS beep code.
These effectively function as a shorthand communication for what’s wrong with your PC that is preventing it from powering on, with different numbers of beeps communicating different problems.
Some PCs may beep once or twice while being powered on for the first time as well, but if your PC continues to boot after this without issue, it isn’t a cause for concern.
How To Tell When Your PC Is Too Loud
Fortunately, it’s usually pretty obvious when your PC is making a noise that’s a cause for concern.
Hardware issues tend to occur the most with moving parts, so there’s a noise factor that comes with dysfunctional hardware.
Outside of things like flash storage (SSDs and SD cards), which don’t have any moving parts, hardware will generally show some kind of telltale sign of failure or cause for concern. Let’s dive into descriptions and specific examples of each.
Bad PC Fan Noise Example
While I wasn’t as easily able to find video examples of bad case fan noises (at least, ones that were to the point), it will generally be very obvious if the fan noise you’re hearing is wrong.
Any sounds of fans coming into contact with other components/wiring or rattling due to improper mounting will be loud and incredibly jarring.
I once had a case fan’s wire come loose after a long trip and fall into contact with the fan, even creating a brief spark before I was able to turn off the PC.
Fortunately, as long as you mind your wiring/cable management and are sure to mount your fans properly, your case fan should be fine in the long term.
Definitely re-check all wiring in your desktop PC after shipping or moving it a long distance, though!
Bad GPU Noise Example
Bad GPU Coil Whine Example (Linus Tech Tips). Note that despite what it may sound like, the fan is functioning perfectly fine— the problem is the coil whine inside of the GPU.
Bad Drive Noise Example
Bad Hard Disk Drive (HDD) Noise Example. Look for sounds of clicking and excessive buzzing as a telltale sign of impending drive failure.
Some level of drive whir is to be expected at standard operation for a hard drive, but it generally shouldn’t be louder than other components in your PC.
How To make your PC quieter
So, how can you actually start reducing your PC’s noise levels? Let’s dive into a few key areas.
How To Reduce Cooling Fan Noise
Control your Fan Speed
First thing’s first: identify if your fans can actually be controlled via fan control software.
A PWM (Pulse Width Module) fan is able to have its speeds controlled by the end-user, whereas a cheaper non-PWM fan is much harder to control and may run at full throttle all the time.
PWM fans are ideal in most scenarios since you can reduce your power consumption and noise levels by lowering your fan speeds.
If you don’t have a PWM fan, unfortunately, your best option is just going to be replacing it with a PWM fan.
There isn’t a very large price difference between the two, but ultimately the best way to reduce your case fan noise is to get a quieter fan if you don’t have one already. PWM fans are quieter across-the-board than non-PWM fans.
Decouple your Case and CPU Fans from resonators
Because Fans vibrate, the vibration sound they create is often transferred and amplified by the metal case or CPU radiator, depending on where it’s attached.
Decoupling your fans from resonators by padding them with anti-vibration, rubber fan-mounts / screws (such as these) can significantly reduce the overall noise level.
Upgrade your Fans
If your Fans are low quality, don’t have ball bearings, are small, or are just plain old, high-quality Case and CPU Fans may considerably reduce the noise that is produced by the fans alone.
Great Brands to shop from are beQuiet and Noctua. You should pick larger over smaller fans as they can spin slower while still pushing the same amount of air. 140mm is optimal, 120mm is good as well.
Your Fans might be loud because they are spinning fast. Well, they usually spin fast either because they are not RPM controlled, or because they are ramping up due to high component temperatures.
You can reduce your PC component’s heat through:
- reducing your ambient temperature
- cleaning your PC, increasing airflow
- changing your thermal paste (CPU, GPU)
- adding more, higher-quality, newer, and more powerful fans (CPU Cooler)
- by reducing your workloads
How To Reduce Coil Whine
If you have a particularly severe case of coil whine, you should most likely consider getting a repair or replacement from the manufacturer.
If that isn’t the case or you want to take your own steps to reduce coil whine first, however, the immediate first step is to lower your power consumption.
Coil whine usually emerges as a result of a sustained high load on your system and its components— enabling things like low power modes can help a great deal in alleviating it.
To learn more about reducing coil whine, including examples of what it sounds like across different devices and more methods of reducing it, check out my extended How To Fix Coil Whine guide.
How To Fix PC Beeping
If your PC is unable to finish powering on and you’re hearing one or more repeated beeps from your motherboard whenever you try, your PC has failed to POST (Power-On Self Test).
Fortunately, these beeps should function as a shorthand that tells you why— but unfortunately, it’s usually related to hardware failure.
Head over to Computer Hope’s POST Code Guide for more information if you’re in this situation.
How To Diagnose Loud Hard Drives
Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to reduce the noise levels generated by your hard drive in most scenarios.
However, you will want to make sure that it is stably and firmly mounted inside your PC of choice, as a loud hard drive in a loose enclosure may degrade due to rattling.
Remember: hard drives are made of spinning disks, so they don’t do well with any kind of impact or vibration.
Similar to Case and CPU Fans, Hard-drives, too, like to transfer their vibrations onto the metal of your PC Case, which can amplify their sound considerably. You can often reduce their vibrational & amplified noise by decoupling your HDDs from the case through rubber anti-vibration screws/mounts.
Noise-dampen your Case
If you went through all the above measures and your PC is still too loud, you may want to consider adding noise-dampening foam/material to the insides of your case.
Even though this doesn’t fix the underlying cause, it can reduce the amount of noise that makes its way out of the case and into your ears.
Here’s a noise-dampening foam made by Silverstone specifically for PC Cases, that you can cut to the required size and sticks to the inside of your side panels.
When Should You Replace a CPU Cooler?
Well, before you jump to buying new hardware, be sure to give your current cooler a thorough cleaning before re-applying thermal paste and re-installing the cooler.
If you still aren’t getting the performance you want after that, you probably need a new CPU cooler— especially if you’re using a high-performance chip that seems to be being held back by the weaker cooler.
The specific needs you’re looking for in a replacement cooler might vary. If you’re in a Mini ITX PC build, for instance, you may want to look into high-end low-profile CPU coolers.
While the article title is somewhat specific, these coolers should work fairly well with the majority of desktop cases and motherboards, even AMD’s.
When Should You Replace a Cooling Fan?
As long as no disastrous damage has been done to your hardware, you don’t necessarily need to replace your cooling fans.
What you should be doing before considering this option is thoroughly cleaning and dusting your cooling fans, be sure to hold the fan stable while doing so in order to avoid damage to the bearings.
Something like compressed air does an amazing job but can do damage to the bearings of your cooling fans (on any component) if you don’t hold the fans in place while blasting the heatsink.
As long as your fan isn’t damaged and is performing optimally, you may not need a replacement. However, you may desire one for a variety of reasons, including better aesthetics, quieter acoustics, or better performance.
These are all perfectly valid reasons to want to replace a cooling fan, and will likely result in a more enjoyable experience with the right hardware and installation.
For standard 120 mm and 140 mm cases and cooler fan sizes, it’s pretty easy to find replacements.
In fact, I’ve already written up a pretty detailed article on finding The Best Case Fans, so feel free to head there if you want some easy, high-quality picks. (And a crash course on PC cooling.)
For something like a graphics card for a CPU cooler with an integrated non-standard fan type, you may have to order a specific replacement fan through the manufacturer’s site or a replacement part (re)seller.
How Long do Hard Drives Last?
Despite being occasionally noisy and slower than SSDs, hard drives are generally known to have good life spans.
It’s pretty easy for a hard drive to last for 5-10 years. However, since hard drives are composed of moving parts, they’re much more prone to permanent damage from accidental drops or impacts.
Do SSDs Make Noise?
No. Because SSDs are flash storage, they have no moving parts with which to make noise.
However, SSDs can still generate heat— especially high-end NVMe Gen 4 and beyond SSDs. This is why some NVMe SSDs ship with heatsinks attached, though these aren’t all strictly necessary.
Some are basically just for aesthetics— the difference will generally scale with performance, as a pretty-but-nonfunctioning cooler on a fast NVMe drive is actually an overheating (slow) NVMe drive.
Over to You
And that’s it, at least for now! I hope that you’ll walk away from this with a more thorough understanding of the noises made by your PC and what you can do to address or reduce them.
Even if you end up having to get new fans, having a quiet PC is fairly nice for anyone who enjoys working in peace and silence. Media playback will usually drown out average ranges of noise, too.