Computers will make some noise while running, but they shouldn’t be loud enough to distract you or cause annoyance. If your PC makes an audible buzzing noise, it might signify something is wrong with the internal hardware.
A computer buzzing noise is due to obstructed case fans, loose screws & cables, damaged DVD/CD-ROM, failing hard disks, CPU overload, coil whine, or an overworked power supply. First, determine where it’s coming from and fix it accordingly to reduce the noise.
In this article, I’ve compiled a detailed list of the seven most common reasons your desktop or laptop is buzzing.
And don’t worry. I’ve also included potential fixes you can apply to fix each of the possible causes.
Why is My Computer Buzzing?
A buzzing noise from your computer is generally a sign of hardware trouble. But knowing which exact hardware component is malfunctioning can get tricky.
Often, you can detect where the buzzing noise is coming from just by listening closely. Put your ear against your PC and figure out which component is causing the ruckus.
This is generally easier on desktops than laptops, where all the parts are closely packed.
That said, even if you can’t figure out which part is causing the problem, don’t worry.
I’ve curated the following list, reviewing these seven causes, why they might create a buzzing noise, and how to prevent/fix it.
1. Dusty or obstructed case fans
Dirty case fans are the most common cause of computer buzzing noises. Unfortunately, the fans gather dust with time, and eventually, it becomes more difficult for the fans to cool your desktop or laptop.
As a result, it starts to spin faster, creating a mild buzzing or whirring sound.
Similarly, if the PC case or laptop doesn’t have adequate airflow, an overworking and loud fan will result.
This commonly happens when you place your laptop directly on your bed or a pillow.
The same is true when PC cases are flush with a surface, especially if fan vents are nearby.
How to fix
The best way to clean dusty fans is by passing a dust blower or electric duster over them.
Avoid using a hairdryer (unless it has a ‘cool’ setting) because hot air can cause damage to the internal hardware.
Also, if you’re tech-savvy enough, you might want to unscrew your system and manually wipe off the dust.
This is best done using a microfiber cloth and gentle pressure. The fans are made of plastic and can easily bend or break.
Also, giving the fans adequate space for clean airflow is advised. Use a laptop stand instead of placing it on your bed or a pillow to do this.
Keep at least 4 inches of gap between your PC tower’s fan vents and any surface like a wall or table.
Take note of your computer’s case fans. Whether or not you hear buzzing noises, you should keep them clean.
Dirt and dust inside your PC can lead to more severe issues if left to build up for long periods.
If the fan is still noisy after giving it a good clean, you must replace it with a new one.
2. Loose screws and wires
Loose screws and wires/cables are generally more common with desktops. This issue usually won’t happen in laptops unless it’s recently been removed for an upgrade or repair.
Occasionally, a loose cable gets close to one of the fans. The fan blades then repeatedly hit it, creating a buzzing or rapid clicking noise.
On a similar note, a loose screw can misalign the structure of the casing, which, in turn, may slightly dislodge the fans.
If a fan isn’t spinning in place, it can vibrate against the surrounding components and create a subtle rattling or buzzing noise.
How to fix
To fix loose cables, open your computer, move the cables away from your fans, and secure them so they don’t fall back again.
To fix loose screws, simply tightening them should suffice. Make sure to align the casing beforehand, if necessary, properly.
Notably, this is comparatively easier on desktops than laptops. Furthermore, tampering with the laptop internals by yourself can void the warranty.
For these reasons, I recommend getting a laptop checked out by a technician if you think there’s a loose wire inside.
3. Damaged DVD/CD-ROM
DVD/CD-ROMs create a subtle buzzing noise while in use. This happens because the CD or DVD placed inside spins at high speeds as the device reads it.
Generally, this noise isn’t overly loud or annoying. However, if the device is damaged, it can lead to very noticeable buzzing and crackling noises.
Also, a DVD/CD-ROM can start rumbling if dust particles get lodged inside, or a cracked or heavily scratched-up DVD/CD is inserted.
How to fix
Here’s how to fix a damaged DVD/CD-ROM:
- Open the DVD/CD-ROM and use a dust blower to clean it.
- Take out any DVDs or CDs you had inside and check for scratches or cracks. If present, discontinue use and discard the disk. If it’s intact, use a microfiber cloth to clean the disk and remove dust particles.
- Re-insert the cleaned disc back into the device to check if it’s still making noises. If yes, the device is likely damaged, and a repair or replacement will be required.
However, it should be noted that it’s best to call in a technician if you notice the buzzing noise from the device when no disk has been inserted.
4. Failing hard disk drives
A hard disk drive (HDD) working normally can produce a low hum or clicking noise. This is because there are a lot of components inside an HDD moving at high speeds.
However, if these components get worn out or come in contact with each other, an audible buzzing, whizzing, or grinding sound may be produced. You might even hear periodic thuds.
These sounds are warning signs the HDD is failing, which can happen anywhere from a few minutes to a few months.
Since it’s hard to tell precisely when this may occur, it’s highly recommended to back up your data and get the drive replaced.
How to fix
If your HDD is failing, there isn’t much you can do to fix it.
Your only options are to back up the data to a new and working HDD, or preferably an SSD (Solid State Drive), which has no moving parts and better longevity than HDDs.
But how can you determine if the HDD is damaged just by the buzzing noise from your computer?
A failing HDD also has other problems, like slow read and write speeds. You might also notice some files on your drive got corrupted (not opening).
5. CPU Overload
If you only notice the loud buzzing noise when playing graphics-intensive games or editing 4k videos, it’s likely due to CPU overload.
Tip: Make sure you have a good quality CPU cooler installed and the thermal paste is relatively fresh, so you can be confident that the overheating CPU isn’t the result of an inadequate cooler or older thermal paste.
The CPU gets hot when it performs CPU-intensive tasks, which puts the fans on overdrive to cool down the system.
As a result, the high-speed fans produce an audible buzzing noise. This can be not very pleasant, but it’s completely natural.
You might also notice the noise when opening a particular program, albeit a low resource-intensive one.
In that case, a bug or virus within the particular app triggering high CPU usage could be to blame.
How to fix
To determine whether the noise results from high CPU usage and then fix it, follow these steps:
- Open the Task Manager on Windows by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Esc; On Mac, Go to Applications>Utilities and open the Activity Monitor.
- Check the list of all running apps and processes on your system to see if a particular app or process is pushing your CPU usage. If yes, then you have found your culprit.
- If it’s not something you use, just kill the app. However, if you do use the app, ensure other programs aren’t running when it’s in use. That way, you’ll free up your CPU resources and dedicate them to one app, which can reduce overall stress.
Another thing to remember is certain malware can cause high CPU usage. If you suspect the system is infected, use anti-virus software to find and remove the malware.
6. Coil whine
Coil whine refers to an electromagnetic phenomenon where coils inside particular electronic components vibrate at just the right frequency to produce an audible and annoying whining noise – hence the name.
In computers, coil whine is mainly associated with GPUs under high stress from playing demanding games or editing 4k videos.
Another common source for coil whine is power adapters used to charge laptops or deliver power to large monitors. It’s most common with older devices that use power bricks.
How to fix
The unfortunate thing about coil whine is that there’s not much you can do about it once you have it.
Furthermore, most manufacturers don’t offer a warranty for coil whine, so it can’t be replaced either.
If you notice the noise coming from your GPU, I recommend not stressing about it too much.
And while you’re playing the graphically intensive titles, wear an ANC (Active Noise Cancellation) headset to drown out the noise.
If the coil whine comes from the power adapter, move it as far away as possible from your device to reduce the noise.
Be sure not to cover up the power adapter and dampen the noise, as this could lead to overheating and even potential disasters.
Since there’s no fix for coil whine, the best way to avoid it is by purchasing components unsusceptible to it.
As such, it’s imperative to read user reviews before buying new hardware to see if other users complain about noise levels.
7. Overworked power supply
Power supplies or PSUs are in charge of delivering power to the various components of your desktop PCs. Laptops don’t have PSUs and don’t face problems related to them.
Now, if your CPU or GPU demands more power, the PSU needs to work harder, which can cause excess heat generation.
This is why all modern PSUs have dedicated fans to cool the device.
If the PSU is under load, these fans can create an audible buzzing noise. The same thing can happen if the fans become dusty or the airflow path is obstructed.
How to fix
The first thing to do is verify the PSU has a high enough wattage rating to meet the power demands of the different components of your PC, including CPU, GPU, monitor, etc.
If not, getting a new PSU with a higher wattage rating is best.
Also, PSU fans will gather dust over time, so you should schedule to clean it at least twice a year.
After that, a few simple sweeps from a dust blower or electric duster should do the trick.
Finally, avoid positioning your PC so that the PSU fans don’t have any room for airflow. Instead, keep it at least a few inches away from any surface.
Buzzing noises from your computer can originate from dusty case fans, loose cables hitting other parts, damaged DVD/CD-ROMs, failing HDDs, coil whine, high CPU usage, and overloaded PSUs.
To reduce this noise, keep the fans clean and avoid obstructing the airflow. Also, reduce the CPU load by killing unwanted apps and checking for malware.
Use a PSU with a high enough wattage adequate for your PC.
However, if you still notice the buzzing noise after applying these fixes, some components are probably damaged or faulty, and you need to repair or replace them.