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Replacing your computer's fan could cause it to shut down

So you want an ultra-quiet computer? That'll be one that also works then.

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There is nothing more annoying in the studio than a noisy computer. The noise is mostly due to cooling fans. Hard disks used to be noisy but their performance has improved greatly in recent times.

The component that depends most on cooling is the processor, which in a high-specification computer is the single most expensive component. It will have a large finned metal heaksink tightly mounted upon it. On top of the heatsink in turn will be a fan dedicated to just this one component. And it will be noisy.

So to gain an immediate improvement you could replace the fan with a better model. A better fan will be designed to produce more air movement without creating so much noise. One way to do this is to use more efficiently shaped fan blades, which can then run more slowly.

So install the new fan, plug it into the motherboard, close up the case and let's go...

Or perhaps no.

If you carry out this procedure (and be advised that you need some familiarity with computers even to attempt it) then you may find that the computer will start to boot up, but will quickly shut down again. Probably you will think that you have inadvertently damaged something, either mechanically or electrically. Then you'll buy a replacement processor, or motherboard. And the same thing will happen again...

The answer to this problem is that a modern motherboard can actually measure the speed of the fan. And if it considers that the fan isn't turning quickly enough, possibly because it has jammed completely, it will shut down to protect the processor. So even though your new fan is super-efficient, because it is turning more slowly then everything shuts down.

With some BIOS softwares it is possible to set the computer to ignore the fan speed, in which case you will be able to benefit from your new quiet fan. Otherwise, it might just be back to the old noisy one!

By David Mellor Monday October 9, 2006
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