How to Fix Grinding Noises Coming From Computer

Introduction

Listening to computer grinding noise.
It can be scary to hear your computer make a grinding noise when you turn it on or even just suddenly after running it for a while. The only components that can make this kind of noise inside a computer are mechanical moving parts, such as cooling fans or drives (hard disk drives or optical disc drives). The actual part that is making the noise can either signal a minor or a major issue, so it is important that you determine the source of the noise as soon as possible. Other symptoms that can be noticed during the noise are the computer to be running slower then usual, freezing or even crashing.

In order to find which of these components is causing the noise, you have to listen closely to determine where the sound is coming from. If possible, the computer case may need to opened for a more accurate assessment.

  • In case of the optical disc drive, without having to open the case, you can just eject the disc quickly and listen if the noise disappeared.
  • In case of a hard disk drive, the sound is more like a hard ticking or crackling noise. The disk drive may also be overheating and be unsafe to touch. In this case, you should be backing up your data as soon as possible as the disk may be at risk of failure.
  • In case of a cooling fan, the sound is like a loud whirring or miniature motor and is caused either by lack of oil, dust gathered on the fan and inside the case, the fan being misaligned or wires or other objects touching the fan blades.

It is highly recommended to seek a professional for help in these situations. However, if you feel tech savvy enough, there are few things you can try doing yourself.

? Which case would you like to learn more about?

  1. Optical Disc Drive
  2. Hard Disk Drive
  3. Cooling Fan

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Listening to computer grinding noise.
It can be scary to hear your computer make a grinding noise when you turn it on or even just suddenly after running it for a while. The only components that can make this kind of noise inside a computer are mechanical moving parts, such as cooling fans or drives (hard disk drives or optical disc drives). The actual part that is making the noise can either signal a minor or a major issue, so it is important that you determine the source of the noise as soon as possible. Other symptoms that can be noticed during the noise are the computer to be running slower then usual, freezing or even crashing.

In order to find which of these components is causing the noise, you have to listen closely to determine where the sound is coming from. If possible, the computer case may need to opened for a more accurate assessment.

  • In case of the optical disc drive, without having to open the case, you can just eject the disc quickly and listen if the noise disappeared.
  • In case of a hard disk drive, the sound is more like a hard ticking or crackling noise. The disk drive may also be overheating and be unsafe to touch. In this case, you should be backing up your data as soon as possible as the disk may be at risk of failure.
  • In case of a cooling fan, the sound is like a loud whirring or miniature motor and is caused either by lack of oil, dust gathered on the fan and inside the case, the fan being misaligned or wires or other objects touching the fan blades.

It is highly recommended to seek a professional for help in these situations. However, if you feel tech savvy enough, there are few things you can try doing yourself.

For an optical disc to be read properly:

  1. Make sure the disc drive is capable of reading the disc type you are inserting (CD, DVD, Blu-ray Disc).
  2. Make sure your device containing the disc drive is placed on a stable flat surface in the position it's intended to be used in.
  3. Make sure you are inserting the disc correctly in the drive. Most optical disc drives can only read discs placed in a horizontal position with the label facing upward, whereas others can read discs in a vertical position as well.

Check your devices documentation if you're unsure what types of discs it can read, how to position your device or how to place the disc into the drive.

  1. Hold the disc by the edges without touching the top or bottom surfaces.
    Proper way to hold a disc being shown.
  2. Inspect the disc for dirt, scratches or visible defects.
  3. If the disc is dirty, use a soft, clean, slightly damp cloth to clean it by lightly wiping from the center of the disc outward.
    Proper way to clean a disc being shown.

    Use water only. Do not use solvents to clean the disc.

  4. If the disc still can't be recognized or played, try it in another unit of the same type or try another disc of the same type in the unit.

Computer storage drives are devices that allow you to save your data and store it for future use. There are two main storage drive types in use today:

  • Hard Disk Drives (HDD) containing mechanical parts, mainly metal platters with a magnetic coating and reading/writing heads on moving arms that access data while the platters are spinning. Compared to SSDs they are less expensive and provide higher storage capacity, they have a longer life span but are more vulnerable to physical damage due to their moving parts.
  • Solid State Drives (SSD) containing no mechanical parts, but instead containing interconnected memory chips similar to those found in USB flash drives. Compared to HDDs they provide much faster access to data and are less vulnerable to physical damage due to lacking moving parts, but have a shorter life span due to their cells wearing out over time.

There are 2 main Operating Systems for personal computers currently available, Windows and macOS.

Windows
Windows runs on computers produced by multiple companies, such as Lenovo, Asus, Dell, Toshiba, Hewlett Packard, Acer, and Sony.Windows 10
macOS
Apple is the only company that makes macOS computers.macOS Mojave
  1. Type optimize in the search field at the bottom left corner of your screen then click Defragment and Optimize Drives in the search results.
    optimize keyword highlighted in Windows 10 search box and result pointed out.
  2. Look at the Media type column. It will show what type of drives your computer has.
    Media type column highlighted in Optimize Drives tool.

Data Backups

It is always wise to backup your computer's data. Data backups should be performed regularly. Even beyond the scope of malware or for the sake of security, it is always prudent to have frequent backups because hard drives can fail, systems can crash, things can break, "life can happen," so you're always better off safe than sorry.

Data backups, just like any type of backup, are a matter of redundancy. One backup solution is good, two or more is better.

Offsite backups (such as online data backup services) are always a good idea, especially as a secondary backup. That way, in the unfortunate event that a fire, flood, or theft happens, you have a copy of your data in a remote, offsite location to fall back on.

It is always prudent to set your backups to use a versioning scheme. When it comes to backing up data, versioning is like a saved history of your files. Versioning allows your backup service to record multiple copies (or versions) of your files in its system (how many depends on the service). You can use file versioning to go back and retrieve the version you need. That way if files are corrupted, infected, or locked, you don't have to worry about having only one backup which may be the bad version.

If you are using a local backup such as an external hard drive or flash drive, it is always a good idea to disconnect the drive when it is not in use. This is a safety precaution, as some forms of malware can encrypt or corrupt all of the data on any connected drive, so a drive that is no longer physically connected cannot be affected.

 

We will need an external disk to store the backup on.

Return to this guide when you have purchased an external hard drive.

Windows 10 comes with its own backup software.

To begin you'll need an external drive.

  1. Connect your external hard drive to your computer.
  2. Select the Start menu in the corner of your screen, then select Settings.
    Windows 10 Start Menu
    Windows 10 Settings
  3. Select Update & Security.
    Updates and Security Settings
  4. Select Backup.
    Backup
  5. Make sure your external drive is connected and select Add a Drive.
    Add a drive
  6. Select the drive you want to backup your data to.
    List of drives
    Backups will start automatically, you do not have to make any other changes.
  7. Windows 10 will now make a backup every hour of C:\Users\<your username>.
  8. If you want to change these settings click More Options beneath Add a drive.
  1. From the Apple menu select About This Mac.
    About This Mac highlighted in Apple menu.
  2. Then go to System Report.
    System Report highlighted in Mac system information.
  3. Select Storage in the left pane then look for Medium Type in the right pane.
    Storage pointed out and Media Type highlighted in Mac system report.
  4. If the medium type shows Rotational that means the storage device is a Hard Disk Drive and if it shows SSD then it is a Solid State Drive.

Data Backups

It is always wise to backup your computer's data. Data backups should be performed regularly. Even beyond the scope of malware or for the sake of security, it is always prudent to have frequent backups because hard drives can fail, systems can crash, things can break, "life can happen," so you're always better off safe than sorry.

Data backups, just like any type of backup, are a matter of redundancy. One backup solution is good, two or more is better.

Offsite backups (such as online data backup services) are always a good idea, especially as a secondary backup. That way, in the unfortunate event that a fire, flood, or theft happens, you have a copy of your data in a remote, offsite location to fall back on.

It is always prudent to set your backups to use a versioning scheme. When it comes to backing up data, versioning is like a saved history of your files. Versioning allows your backup service to record multiple copies (or versions) of your files in its system (how many depends on the service). You can use file versioning to go back and retrieve the version you need. That way if files are corrupted, infected, or locked, you don't have to worry about having only one backup which may be the bad version.

If you are using a local backup such as an external hard drive or flash drive, it is always a good idea to disconnect the drive when it is not in use. This is a safety precaution, as some forms of malware can encrypt or corrupt all of the data on any connected drive, so a drive that is no longer physically connected cannot be affected.

 

We will need an external disk to store the backup on.

Return to this guide when you have purchased an external hard drive.

We have a separate guide to walk you through backing up the files on your Mac.

Dust buildup inside a computer.
If you had a computer for more then a few months, it is likely to have accumulated some dirt inside and out. Dust, grime, hair and other debris can build up on fans, heatsinks and other parts. Components can also come loose or become unseated over time. All these can affect a computers performance in a negative way.

Using a compressed air duster is the best and most recommended way of cleaning inside a computer.

When blowing compressed air, keep the can upright at all times and never shake it to prevent the liquid refrigerant from leaking onto your electronics. Use short bursts of two or three seconds. When the can gets too cold to hold, set it down for a few minutes until it warms up again.

For a desktop computer

  1. Turn the computer off and unplug its power cable.
  2. Open the computer case and remove the side panel.

    Only perform this if your computer is out of warranty.

  3. Blow compressed air to clean up the inside of the computer. Pay special attention to the fans. Also remove any wires or objects that may be touching the fan blades.

    Using gas duster to clean inside a computer.

  4. Blow some air through the vents as well, from the inside and the outside.
    Using gas duster to clean computer vents.
  5. Locate any fans and peel back their sticker partially to see the bearing. If there is a protective cap underneath, remove that as well. Add one or two drops at most of oil.
    Dropping oil into fan bearing.

    Only use lightweight mechanical oil. Do not use cooking oil or spray lubricant.

  6. Once done, put the side panel back in place, reconnect the power cable and turn the computer on to test it out.

For a laptop or all-in-one computer

  1. Turn the computer off and unplug its power cable.
  2. Locate the air vents or other openings.
  3. Blow compressed air to clean up the vents or other openings.
    Using gas duster to clean laptop vents.
  4. Once done, reconnect the power cable and turn the computer on to test it out.
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