Noisy Mac Pro Fans

For various domestic reasons (children) my Mac Pro has ended up in my bedroom, on a carpet.  This is arguably the least ideal location to locate a computer other than of course the bathroom, given the level of dust accumulation in the typical conjugal bedroom.

One advantage however is that my wife and I can at least watch content from the BBC’s iPlayer whilst lazing in bed.  Not so advantageous however is the increasingly intolerable level of noise being produced by the machine, or more directly its fans.

This increase has been gradual and although I knew the current levels were clearly not as the Apple engineers had intended I couldn’t remember what the noise levels were when I originally bought the machine.

I decided to take the machine apart for a clean, and as it transpires not a moment too soon.  I removed the RAM riser boards which were caked in dust and fluff and blew them through (outside) with my own surprisingly still powerful lungs.  This dislodged the vast majority of the muck so encouraged I set the riser cards aside and removed the hard disks.

All four slots are occupied in my Mac Pro and each disk had a fair amount of dust on.  Next came the ATI graphics card (a Radeon X1900.)  Oh dear, it was grim, similarly as thick with dust as the RAM on first inspection it was then I discovered what I imagine has been the main issue.  The card is one of those double width monsters with a huge heatsink and fan.  On the side of the heatsink opposite to the fan, where the air is drawn through was what I can only describe as a small carpet blocking the airflow (picture below.)

Much huffing and puffing later the ‘carpet’ came free, the process was akin to changing the filter in a vacuum cleaner!  Whilst I had the box open I took the opportunity to remove the DVD drive bay which was also pretty filthy.  I then took the carcass of the machine outside and blew through the area where the processors are located, a thick cloud of dust came out of the machine.  I decided to reassemble the machine at this point and try it, I’d like to get access to the processors heatsinks but it’s quite involved and I’ll probably break something.

I’m pleased to say I am now reminded how much noise this machine is intended to make, not a lot, under typical use it’s almost whisper quiet.  On watching some iPlayer content whilst encoding a video file with Quicktime there was a barely, if at all, perceptible increase in noise.  Now I’m just angry that I left it this long but pleased the situation is resolved.


Right, so I’m encoding a video into H.264, I’m applying a radial blur to a 21 megapixel image, I’m live streaming iPlayer, browsing the web and playing chess and the machine is still whisper quiet, good grief I can’t believe what a dufus I am.

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