Fan Noise

Over the past two weeks, one of my computer's fans has started running constantly.  Before, I would hear it come on occasionally and then turn off after a few minutes.  

This computer is about 3 years old and I no longer have the service contract on it.  Everything else seems to run fine.  I just don't want to burn anything out from it running constantly.

 I have a Dell Dimension 8100 running Windows ME.  What should I do?  Is this a cause for concern?
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LucFEMEA Server EngineerCommented:
Hi BSELawFirm,

Open up the case and see which fan is making noise (it's safe to turn the computer on with the cover off, just don't touch anything)
Then, after you've located the troubling fan, turn the computer off again and pull the plug (yeah, the main power needs to be disconnected, just turning the computer off doesn't mean your motherboard is powerless)
Try cleaning the fan that's making noise, or even better, replace it, most fans are pretty cheap.


BSELawFirmAuthor Commented:
Does it mean that the fan's going bad if it's on constantly?  Or could something else be causing this?
LucFEMEA Server EngineerCommented:

Sometimes it's bad, sometimes it's just dirty.
And I've even seen occasions where a cable accidently contacts the fan (which will make a huge amount of noise)
You'll just have to find out which fan. The noise can be annoying, but the worst part is that a fan that makes noise isn't efficient and it could get worse.

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hello  BSELawFirmhmm, !!!

so your fan is running constantly,

so first, i have never heard of a fan burning out, so your in save hands, but why?

maybe the fan uses heat sensors to detect when it needs to be activated, so maybe they are broken, or maybe the fan unit has worn away the part that start it at the right times

thinking about it though, maybe you could look on the bright side of things, if the fan does not get on your nerves, then leave it, it shouldn't burn out, and if it is on constantly, then your computer will be cooler and maybe your cpu will run faster !!

if it really does get annoying , clean it, or replace it, if your just worried about it, it should be fine, most my computers on almost 16 hours a day, with ALL fans on constantly, and i runs well, nothing burnt or worn out yet !!

good luck  BSELawFirm !

from joe goss
"Does it mean that the fan's going bad if it's on constantly?  Or could something else be causing this?"

The increase in fan use is because the MB detects a temperature build up some place.  Most likely it is the fan not moving enough air when it is on.  There is a remote possiblity that something else like processor probs are causing a heat issue but the average life of these small fans are only 2-3 years.  Faster depepnding on the amount of dust and dirt they pick up.  Besides replacement fans are cheap, <$10.  

LucF has given good direction on how to dectect the rogue fan, the only thing I would add is to buy some canned air when you buy the new fan and blow the dirt build up out of the machine.

If I read correctly, this is not about the fan being noisy but running constantly when it did not before.  If it used to cycle but now runs full time, it is probably from a temperature sensor somewhere in the machine.  Certainly the fan is not to blame if it runs, unless the sensor is built into it, which is not very likely.  Replacing a perfectly good fan is not going to change what you described is going on.  There is probably no need for concern; it is much better for the fan to run all the time than not at all.  Most are designed to do that.  If it quits, replace it then, not before.
You are right Aramis11 the fan running constantly is likely not the bad fan.  The more likely scenerio is the case or power supply fan has died and now the processor fan is working overtime to take up the slack.  While it is not a bad thing for a fan to run constantly, one starting to run constantly when it didn't before is a warning sign that something isn't right.
Get the dust out of the computer and verify the cooling holes on the case too.
I have run into similar scenerios.  Do you know for sure that the fan would cycle on and off before?  Most of these cases that I have come across have been that the person just never heard the fan running before because it was quiet.  Once the fan gets some dust and grime or gets worn down it starts to get louder and louder.

The cycling on and off before might have been the hard drive or something else.

Once you replace the fan you will not here it anymore.  And get a can of compressed air and clean it out when you have the cover off too.

Like you can see, there could be a few things that could be causing the noise.  Probably the best thing to do would be download a monitoring tool.  Here is a link to a good tool, which is free:

Download and install it.  

You will need to know what type of motherboard you have.  I can't think of any motherboard detection tools at the moment, as I usually just look on the motherboard itself.  You should be able to see what manufacturer it is, ie ASUS, NVIDIA.  And usually a number code is the motherboard.

When you have it installed got to High/Low option and you can view all the specs of your motherboard.  Pay attention to your CPU temperature, Motherboard temperature, and your fan speeds.  See if one fan is faster than the other etc.

If you have cleaned your fan, given it a good blow out to get rid of dust and problem still exists, you could check to see what type of spinner the fan has.  Remove the label ontop of the fan in the centre, to see if it has a ball barring type spinner.  It could be that it is blocked, you could try applying a small amount of engine oil or something to loosen it up if the case.

If the computer is 3 years old, it's probably safe to say it has smaller fans, which rotate faster.  It is now more common to have larger fans that spin slower, which prolongs the life of them.  You may find that you fan has had it's life and time to upgrade to a newer, large, more cooling type fan.

Hope this helps.


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Good point from Tronstek in that failure of another fan could cause an overheat condition that has a sensor driving the good fan full-time.  The obvious thing to do for that is to see if all the fans [especially the CPU one] are running.  My BIOS has a temperature monitor function that could be enlightening in a case like this.  I was not about to second-guess your knowing what a fan sounds like and that you really did hear it cycling before.  If all the fans run and are not blocked the machine should be all right.
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