PCs make all sorts of strange sounds. Some of these sounds are innocent – like the beep you hear when you start up your PC. Other sounds are the sounds of impending doom – like the final death rattle of a CPU heatsink fan.
Today, I’m going to list a number of common PC sounds and explain what they could mean on your PC – and how you can fix them.
Hard drive death rattles
Hard drive death rattles are probably the most common type of PC noise you’ll hear. Hard drives fail all the time, and that means all your important data could be lost (if you didn’t have a backup).
However, hard drives also make noises that don’t indicate problems. When accessing a lot of data at once –like an HD movie – some hard drives might sound like they’re whirring into a second gear. This is particularly common with laptop hard drives.
Fortunately, one kindly company decided to make a collection of all the common hard drive death sounds you can hear today. Check out the collection here and listen to a few of the sounds to see what your problem could be.
If your hard drive sounds like any of the problems listed on that page, then you absolutely need a new hard drive. Hard drives today are cheap and relatively easy to install. And if you’re not good with computers, it shouldn’t be too expensive to pay a local tech company to install a hard drive for you.
Fan whirring and humming
Most PCs have multiple fans that help regulate interior temperatures. Fans are incredibly important and prevent your PC from permanent damage caused by overheating. A desktop PC will have fans over the video card and CPU along with fans along the outside of the case itself.
Fans, like hard drives, often switch into a higher gear when needed. If your PC detects that temperatures are particularly high, for example, then it will tell its fans to work a little harder. Even if your PC sounds like it’s in the middle of a category 5 hurricane, there could be absolutely nothing wrong with it.
However, there are some bad fan sounds that you should be aware of, including:
-Put a stiff piece of paper in a bicycle spoke and go for a ride. You know that sound? If your fans are making that same ticking noise, then a wire may have slipped loose and fallen into the fan’s blades. There should be nothing wrong with either the wire or the fan, and you can easily fix this problem by opening your PC and gently moving the wire to a safer location.
-If you don’t hear any fan noise from your PC, then that indicates are more serious problem – especially if you’ve experienced Blue Screens of Death and other error problems lately. This could indicate overheating, which can be caused by a malfunctioning fan in your PC. Turn off your PC and remove the case, then start it up while making sure to keep your fingers well away from any electrical components or moving parts. Take a careful look at each fan and try to spot one that isn’t working. The CPU heatsink fan is a particularly common culprit and it should be fixed as soon as possible to prevent permanent PC damage.
I also recommend installing SpeedFan, a free application that lets you manage the speed of individual fans on your PC. You can use this program to test each fan and listen carefully for noises.
BIOS beep codes when your PC starts up
When your PC starts up, you may hear a beep or two. These beeps kind of sound like the way R2-D2 talks, and to most people, it will sound like complete gibberish.
But these beeps are actually your PC trying to talk to you in its native language. They’re called BIOS beep codes and they can tell you important things about your PC. If you’re missing an important part of your PC, then the BIOS beep code will tell you that upon start up.
Here are some sample BIOS beep codes which can be very helpful when you’re putting together a PC:
-No beep: No power, loose card, short circuit
-1 long beep followed by 2 short beeps: A video error has occurred and the video screen cannot display any information about the problem
-1 short beep: On most PCs, this is good! Your computer will play one short beep when there are no problems with startup. If you have an AMI BIOS, then 1 short indicates a DRAM refresh failure, which is bad.
-5 short beeps: General process failure
BIOS codes change based on your manufacturer. An IBM BIOS motherboard will play different BIOS sounds than a Phoenix BIOS, for example. I recommend checking this list for a detailed overview of the beeping language of your PC.
There are dozens of BIOS beep codes. If your beep code problems aren’t listed above, check out this webpage which features every BIOS beep code known to man.
Your speakers are usually the quietest part of the PC during startup. In most cases, they won’t make any noise at all until you get to the Windows desktop, when you’ll hear the familiar welcome chime.
However, you may hear a single popping sound from your speakers, which is perfectly normal. This single popping sound simply indicates that your speakers recently received a change in power – in other words, they powered on. Which is a good thing.
Overall, the most important lesson to get from this article is that a quiet PC is a happy PC. If you’re hearing strange noises coming from your PC, then it’s important to fix those noises sooner rather than later.