Laptops

How do I make my laptop fans less noisy?

turbine
Big wind: laptop fans can be noisy (Image by Michael Schwarzenberger from Pixabay)

When you’re in the zone and trying to bash out the final, say, 15,000 words of a book that has to be in next week (gulp), the last thing you want is the distraction of your laptop fans wheezing like Hal with a heavy cold. But there are safe ways to banish that fan noise and not-so-safe methods. Here’s how to do it.

This article is an extract from Help! My Computer Is Broken. Click here to find out more and order a copy.

One of the easiest ways to cut down on the fan noise is to change your power plan.

Why? Well, 90% of what most people do on their computer doesn’t require maximum processing power. Web browsing, word processing, the odd email doesn’t need the processor running at full pelt, which heats up the system and forces the fans to kick in. To change the power mode in Windows, click on the little plug/battery icon in the bottom right-hand corner, and move the slider from “Best performance” to “Better performance”. If you’re doing some heavy lifting, such as video editing or gaming, you can always move it back, but if you want to hear less fan noise this is one way to achieve it.

Another way to limit fan noise is to change what the laptop is placed upon. Your lap is, ironically, about the worst place for it, because your thighs are two massive heat conductors (yes, we say that to all the girls). Likewise, don’t place the laptop on a quilt, sofa or any other insulating surface.

There are cheap (sub £20) stands that you can buy for laptops which lift the base off a flat surface, improving the airflow and not blocking any vents that may reside on the base of your laptop. They might be worth a shot if you’re constantly battling fan noise and often use your laptop at a desk.

Also have a good look around the laptop and check that any air vents are not dusty or blocked with other dirt. Don’t do anything silly, like using your household vacuum cleaner to suck the dust out, as you’ll almost certainly do untold damage to the sensitive electronics inside. Instead, carefully clean the affected areas with cotton swabs and clear any obstruction that could be limiting the airflow.

One trick we would definitely not recommend is to use software to reduce your fan speed. There are apps such as SpeedFan (Windows) and smcFanControl (Mac) that you can use to manually control the speed of your fans. However, these are intended for enthusiast tinkerers, the kind of people who ‘overclock’ the speed of their processors to eke out maximum performance. If you attempt to reduce the speed of your fans manually and don’t really know what you’re doing, there’s every likelihood that your computer will overheat, crash and (literally) burn.

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About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at barry@bigtechquestion.com.

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