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Is Your Computer Buzzing? Make It Stop With These 10 Tips

Key Points

  • Computer buzzing can be caused by issues such as insufficient airflow, dust buildup, worn-out fans, faulty electrical connections, peripheral devices, worn-out components, incorrect settings, malware or viruses, software issues, and failing hard drives.
  • Insufficient airflow and dust buildup can cause overworked parts and overheating, leading to computer buzzing.
  • Worn-out fans can cause irregular spinning and vibrations, resulting in buzzing sounds.
  • Faulty electrical connections and cable issues can cause electrical shorts and buzzing sounds.
  • Peripheral devices and components in close proximity can cause electrical interference and buzzing sounds.

What would we do without our personal computers? Few people go through an entire day without completing some tasks on a computer. Budgeting, email, social media, research, shopping, gaming, and more — we depend on them for virtually everything. However, what do you do when you notice an annoying computer buzzing sound?

Your computer’s fan may sometimes be audible, especially on an overworked laptop or gaming computer. A buzzing sound is more than irritating; it indicates something is wrong. What do you do now? Is it time for a new computer?

Before you begin browsing for the best laptop to replace old faithful or the best gaming computer to upgrade to, take time to review these likely causes of computer buzzing and ten simple tips to make it stop. You could save money, time, and your nerves with just a little time and effort.

Common Causes of Computer Buzzing

Any of these issues could be the culprit causing the annoying computer buzzing you hear. Let’s take a closer look at each one and how to fix it.

Insufficient Airflow

Adequate airflow is essential for your computer’s seamless operation. The cooling fan draws air inside the case and across the critical parts to keep temperatures at optimum levels. Any obstructions to this airflow will cause overworked parts and overheating. The two main causes of insufficient airflow are blockages and dust buildup.

Solution

Make sure your computer is at least five inches away from any wall or other hard surface that could prevent airflow. Most desktop computer fans are located at the rear of the tower, so keep computers away from walls. Some towers and all laptop computers draw air in from the bottom. Keep the fan vent unobstructed by sitting your computer on a hard surface. Laptops are seldom used on laps — many people choose to sit them on pillows for comfort. This can block the cooling fan and cause computer buzzing and overheating.

If dust buildup is preventing sufficient airflow, your computer could use a good cleaning. Electrostatic energy draws dust and makes it cling. The cleanest environments can still make for dusty computers. Begin by vacuuming the cooling fan vent on your computer. Sucking dust out instead of blowing it in removes offending dust particles instead of spreading them around the inside of your case. The Meudeen Electric Rechargeable Air Duster and Mini Vacuum works well for this chore. Keep reading for more tips and tricks to eliminate dust.

Dust Buildup

Computer buzzing from dust buildup isn’t limited to just your cooling fan. Dust can build up everywhere in your computer and hinder its performance. Dust can clot your motherboard, cover the hard drive, cling to cables and wiring, and create an extra layer to retain heat. Your components get hotter and work harder, wearing them out faster and causing that troubling computer buzzing that signals something is amiss.

Solution

If cleaning your computer’s cooling fan didn’t solve your computer buzzing problem, the next step is to open the case and perform a more thorough cleaning. You want a small soft brush attached to a long vacuum nozzle to help loosen dust and debris. We recommend vacuuming first to remove everything possible and then a good blowing out with medium-pressure air. Vacuuming and then blowing reduces the amount of garbage that gets into the air around you and onto everything else. The Amourate Compressed Air Duster and Vacuum includes several handy tools for getting into tight places inside a computer case. It is a vacuum and air duster with three speeds and a rechargeable battery for convenience.

Worn-out Fan

Computer buzzing that sounds like angry bees can indicate that your cooling fan is worn out. Fans do wear out over time, especially when they are overworked. If dust buildup and excessive heat have been a problem for a while, your fan could be buzzing because the tiny bearings inside are worn out. The fan spins irregularly or off-balance and vibrates, which causes the buzzing sound.

Solution

Replacing the cooling fan is your solution here. Be sure to check the size specifications on any potential replacement cooling fans to be sure they fit inside your tower. Another option is to remove the buzzing internal fan and replace it with an externally mounted cooling fan. Either solution is workable. The Noctua NF-P12 1700 PWM, High-Performance Cooling Fan runs quietly while providing exceptional airflow for keeping your computer at cooler operating temperatures.

Faulty Electrical Connection

Computer buzzing can be an electrical issue and not only a component issue. Insufficient voltage regulation from a poor power supply can cause buzzing or crackling sounds. Haphazard cable management can cause interference and computer buzzing. Loose connections or damaged wiring can cause electrical shorts and buzzing and even damage your computer’s components.

Solution

Start by making sure all cables are sorted and grouped neatly. Separate power cords from audio and video cables and bundle them together. Use zip ties or clips to secure bundles together and separate bundles to eliminate interference. This ultimate Cable Management Kit from SOULWIT has everything you need to manage your computer and peripheral cabling for neat and buzz-free operation.

Even sorted cables can get damaged or worn. Routinely inspect your computer cables and wires for wear, damage, or signs of electrical shorts, and immediately replace any suspicious-looking components.

Peripheral Devices or Components

Many issues can cause electrical interference and computer buzzing sounds that drive you to distraction. If your computer setup is in tight quarters, closely packed devices can cause interference. Newly installed hardware may not have the appropriate drivers and this can trigger a buzzing sound as the device struggles with inefficient operation.

Solution

If buzzing seems to come from your external speakers, move them farther away from your computer or other peripheral hardware units. Spreading your speakers farther apart sometimes helps, too. Placing them too close to a combination printer/fax/scanner or Wi-Fi router can also cause persistent buzzing. If separating units doesn’t help, try unplugging all your devices and then reconnecting everything. This executes a hard reset that can often solve interference issues.

You may also need to install new drivers for external devices if computer buzzing persists. Try uninstalling and reinstalling any accompanying software to update drivers. Cheap computer speakers can sometimes be a problem. Try these Logitech Z207 2.0 Multi Device Stereo Speakers that connect via cable or Bluetooth.

Worn-Out Components

Everything wears out eventually, and this includes your computer’s internal components. Over time, heat, dust, and use can cause components to weaken and fail. Computer buzzing from deep inside your case may indicate a pending component failure.

Solution

Unfortunately, solving this will require opening your computer’s case and plugging it back in to try and isolate which component is buzzing. Experienced computer techs or hobby builders can possibly isolate a specific component and replace it; the rest of us are likely shopping for a replacement desktop or laptop.

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Incorrect Settings

Regardless of whether you purchase a new laptop or a fully-equipped gaming computer, incorrect settings can cause pesky computer buzzing to ruin your work or game. Advanced features can cause your computer to run at a higher frequency and cause interference noises. New components that are set up incorrectly can operate abnormally and buzz incessantly.

Solution

Finding and fixing incorrect settings can take considerable time. Check your computer’s device and driver configurations and see if they match the manufacturer’s specifications. Items that do not match could need adjusting or updating to the latest driver or setup. Restart your computer after making adjustments to see if the buzzing persists. If so, keep checking other system configurations and making adjustments.

Malware or Viruses

Insidious viruses or malware can infect your computer from any number of sources and cause strange sounds like buzzing. They can slow down performance and place a strain on components, triggering computer buzzing that you may blame on the component instead of the underlying problem.

Solution

Always avoid clicking on suspicious links and downloading unfamiliar applications. These are prime ways bad actors gain access to your computer and data. Protect your system with robust firewalls and malware/antivirus software and regularly scan your computer system and files to detect and remove threats. The Norton 360 Deluxe 2023 package for five devices protects against viruses, ransomware, malware, and more and comes with a one-year subscription to valuable updates for new threats.

Software Issues

Your computer is just a pile of parts without the appropriate software. Problems with software can be trickier to detect and solve than noisy hardware components. Some software may not be compatible with older versions or vice versa. Running new programs on older operating system software can cause problems including computer buzzing.

Solution

Similar to finding improper settings, software problems can only be detected by perusing the settings of each program and looking for inconsistencies or outdated drivers. Always be sure you have the latest operating software and other products and download any recent updates. Microsoft Windows 11 System Builder is the latest operating software for PCs and is available in Home or Pro versions. Mac users should update to macOS Ventura 13 now, but a newer OS is coming in the Fall of 2023 called Sonoma.

Failing Hard Drive

We saved the worst issue for last: a failing hard drive. Just like any other computer component, hard drives can fail. Extended use, overheating, electrical shorts or surges, and other problems can shorten the life of your computer’s hard drive. Computer buzzing that you trace to your hard drive is a sure sign of a pending failure.

Solution

Replacing your hard drive is the only solution for your computer buzzing from this essential component. There are many options for hard drives and which one you need depends mainly on how you use your computer. Hobby computer builders and experienced techs can likely replace their own hard drives. The rest of us will need to see a local computer repair professional or simply purchase a new computer.

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Heavier-use computers like servers or data centers will need a Western Digital Gold WD102KRYZ 10 TB Internal Hard Drive. Its larger capacities and advanced features can handle sustained always-on use and larger loads.

Computer Buzzing with Other Noises

Strange sounds from your computer are nothing to ignore. We’ve reviewed the most frequent causes of computer buzzing, but what if the buzzing sound is accompanied by other noises? Grinding, crackling, humming (actually different from buzzing), and rattling are all sounds that could come from your computer at different times.

Obviously, a symphony of sounds from your computer is a sure indicator that something is wrong. Computers are high-tech devices that perform many tasks at once, so numerous things could be happening to cause multiple noises. Just as we explained above for isolating buzzing sounds to determine their cause, the same applies to locating other sounds.

You may end up with cabling or interference issues, component failures, software problems, or any number of other concerns. Follow the steps above to isolate the causes of any strange sounds that accompany the computer buzzing from your desktop or laptop.

The image featured at the top of this post is ©Milkovasa/Shutterstock.com.