Your laptop’s fan works to disperse heat and keep the device at the right temperature. This keeps the system running smoothly, and prevents overheating. When it’s working properly, you should only hear a gentle whir that won’t disturb you too much. But if you start to hear it running more loudly and more often, you should probably look into it.

A rattling or clunking noise from the fan is for sure quite annoying, and undoubtedly abnormal. Let’s look at how you can fix this and stop the fan from making so much noise.

Why is my laptop fan making a rattling noise?

A laptop fan is a moving part that can wear out. The rattling or clunking noises that you hear from the fan is a sign that the fan mechanisms have worn out, or fallen to rust. There are a few things that could accelerate this kind of damage, including dust or improper ventilation.

Dust accumulation

One of the things that could clog up your cooling system is the accumulation of dust. When there’s a large build-up of dust inside your laptop or desktop computer, this could block the fan from working properly and even break down. This creates the clunky or rattling noises that you hear from the fan.

Dust could also trap heat, which makes it harder to cool your computer. You may notice the fan running a lot more than usual, and making a lot of noise. This is because the fan is having trouble dispersing the heat, and has to work harder to do so. When the fan is overexerted, it may begin to break down.

Inadequate ventilation

laptop computer vent and ports

To properly disperse heat, we have to provide proper ventilation for the fan to work. This gets the hot air out of your computer. Keeping the vents of your laptop or desktop clear of any obstructions would be a good start.

This involves using the laptop on flat and clean surfaces like desks, and laptop stands. Using your laptop on fabric surfaces like your bed or on top of blankets would not be recommended. These fabric surfaces can block the vents of your laptop and trap heat. Getting a laptop stand or cooling rack could be something to consider as well, if you tend to do graphics-heavy work or play games often.

Physical damage / natural wear and tear

Laptop fans are mechanical moving parts that will break down eventually. They may stop working as smoothly, start making rattling noises, or stop working completely. This comes from natural wear and tear that can’t be avoided. After a few years of use, they will break down and need a replacement.

Nipping it in the bud

A rattling fan can still run, technically. It would obviously just run way less efficiently and more louder. Even if you can bear the noise, this issue should not be something you ignore. We definitely recommend fixing it.

A failing fan can lead to overheating, and that is not a good thing for your laptop. Overheating is one of the main causes of a lot of computer hardware failures. Heat can warp and damage parts of your laptop’s circuitry. It could hurt the motherboard, video card, along with other parts of your laptop. These hardware failures are quite complicated and expensive to deal with, so it’s best to nip it in the bud and get the fan replaced first. You’ll be thanking yourself for preventing future headaches.

What to do with a laptop fan that’s rattling

1. Clean vents and fan

Sometimes cleaning the vents and the fan rotors can solve your problem. If you haven’t cleaned the inside of your laptop in a while, take this time to do so.

Start by opening up your laptop and getting rid of the dust inside. You can use a small brush, or a lint-free cloth with rubbing alcohol. Just make sure you’re not using any water-based cleaning solutions.

You may also use a can of compressed air or a small electric air blower to blow away any dust that you can’t reach with cloth. Compressed air cans come with small nozzles that can get between tiny gaps, which comes in handy with sleek laptops.

Cleaning oils like WD40 could also be an option when it comes to fan cleaning. These oils are used to cut through particles and dust, and prevents metal from rust and corrosion. You may try applying some of these types of cleaning oils carefully on parts of the fan.

2. Reapply thermal paste

Thermal paste is used in all computers as a thermally conductive compound. It is used to eliminate gaps between heat sinks and heat sources, making sure that the heat transfers and disperses efficiently. We can commonly find it in spots where heat sinks are in contact with the CPU and GPU.

We recommend reapplying thermal paste anytime you open up the laptop for repairs. You can find different kinds of thermal paste from computer hardware stores, or online from Amazon.

To apply thermal paste, you’ll need to partially disassemble the laptop until you can get to the gaps between the heat sink and heat sources. Then you should clean off the old thermal paste with some rubbing alcohol before applying some new paste.

3. Kill processes + Reset SMC (for Mac users)

When your laptop fan is overworked, this might be a sign that you’re overexerting the CPU or video card. This might be from background processes that you’re not aware of. They can take up the CPU’s processing power and put a strain on it. This in turn creates a fair bit of heat that the fan needs to work harder to disperse.

You can try killing background processes from the task manager to free up this processing space. This can help keep your system running smoothly.

For Mac users, resetting the SMC could also be an option to try out. This procedure can possibly resolve issues related to power, battery, and the fan. You may be able to fix abnormal fan behaviour by resetting the SMC.

4. Run hardware diagnostics

Even if you are able to resolve the abnormal rattling noises of your laptop fan, it’s still a good idea to run diagnostics to check on the fan’s status. It could start failing again down the line, and catching the problem early is always a good thing.

Boot diagnostics runs a stress test on your laptop’s hardware to thoroughly check for faults and failures. You can run boot diagnostics by restarting your laptop and pressing a specific key when it boots back up again. Most brands of computers have different keys that prompt boot diagnostics, some of these include “F12” for Dell, “Esc” for HP, and “D” for Apple Macs.

This test helps to find issues across your laptop, so it can find possible hardware issues with the hard drive, battery, and fan as well. If you get a report back that confirms a fan failure, that’s probably time to replace it.

5. Replace the fan

Replacing the fan with a new one will definitely solve your problem. You’ll usually need to get the exact part as a replacement for your broken one. If you know your way around your laptop, replacing your laptop’s fan can be a great DIY project for you. Just follow some simple guides from YouTube or repair guide site ifixit, and you’ll be set.

Remember, computer repair doesn’t always need a ton of experience, but does require quite a bit of preparation. There are a few things you need, and a few things you should be aware of. Learn more in our guide “7 common DIY computer repair mistakes to avoid“.

Professional laptop fan repairs

Not keen on DIY? Too busy to deal with it? We understand. Computer issues can sometimes be quite annoying and frustrating to deal with, with the overload of information out there. Fret not, we’re always here to help. At Safemode Computer Service, we can help you with any computer issue and offer the right advice. At our store in Inner West Sydney, we offer quick diagnosis and free quotes for any computer issue. Our experienced technicians strive to deliver highly-rated services, from repairs to upgrade jobs. Call us or come by our Enmore store today!