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I use my MacBook pro for audio recording. With the summer coming up, the fans tend to come on more often, which can be a problem. Recording audio is fairly processor-intensive (especially when using plug-ins for monitoring), making this problem worse. This was actually less of an issue with my iMac G5 than it is with the Macbook Pro that's replacing it.

The obvious solution is to record in an air-conditioned room with good ventilation. However, that's not always possible.

It would at least be nice if I had some warning so this doesn't happen without warning in the middle of a take. How would I monitor this situation? Do the fans come on when the temperature gets to a certain point? Is it strictly related to CPU and hard drive load? Is it possible for me to install something that will let me know how long I have until the fan noise starts?

I'm using a Macbook Pro 13" 2.3 GHz Intel Core i5, with conventional hard drives (i.e., not SSDs), 8MB RAM, OSX 10.6.7

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As I'm pretty sure we have exactly the same problem, I'll post a link back to my thread on DIY here too in case someone either has an answer, or in case an answer is found and someone coming here needs it:… – Shabbyrobe Jun 2 '11 at 1:27
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Fan speeds are related to the temperature of your laptop. If you're just interested in monitoring the temps, iStat Menus ($16) has an excellent temperature monitor that sits in your menu bar and can track any of the dozen temperature sensors built into your MBP.

iStat Menus

There are various free apps which purport to allow you to control your Apple laptop fan speeds.

EDIT: After looking at those in depth, it appears that they let you increase fan speeds, but otherwise don't interfere with Apple's built-in fan controls. You might try running the fans at high speeds just before recording to cool your machine, then shut them off when you start recording. Then, if the fans come on during recording, you've done the best you could, and you'll just have to record in shorter segments if fan noise is an issue.

I've found that the best solution to keeping my computer cool and the fans off, even when really tasking the processor, is to put it on a little stand to allow plenty of airflow underneath. Personally, I swear by Podium Pads -- I've been using them with my Apple "pro" laptops since 2004 -- but there are many alternatives.

Finally, I'm not sure what you're recording, but you could try using a directional USB microphone to eliminate extraneous noise from your recording environment. There are many excellent options on Amazon for under $100 (be sure it is Mac-compatible before purchasing).

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Will try the Coolpad first, thanks. I'm mostly interested in getting some warning; think, "time for a coffee break, the fans will be coming on! Damn this heat!" – Neil Fein May 5 '11 at 22:51
I'm using fairly directional mics for vocals, but I prefer using omnidirectional mics for acoustic instruments, they get the sound of the room quite well. (Even better is using one of both when possible.) – Neil Fein May 5 '11 at 22:54
@Neil Fein Good choice. A nice side effect is that it will no longer feel uncomfortably warm to use your MBP on your lap. The tilt height of the CoolPads is adjustable, but it doesn't have a significant impact on how well it cools the laptop -- so just set it to an angle that is comfortable for viewing and typing. – Austin May 5 '11 at 22:56
@Neil Fein Ah, okay -- if you're using them for music recording, I'm sure you'll know what mic setup is best for your situation. :] Sorry that the fans are troubling you! – Austin May 5 '11 at 22:58
@Neil Fein Didn't take it that way at all, no worries. (But I totally know what you mean about feeling a bit "snobbish" in general as a Mac user.) ;] – Austin May 5 '11 at 23:17

I used to have that problem and a mix of a good laptop stand (I use a Griffin elevator stand to make sure it's not sitting directly on a heat-retaining desk) and keep an eye on iStat.

If you can access those stats somehow, you might be able to create your own script to pop a silent notification (Growl or otherwise) when it hits a certain temperature at which the fans are likely to launch into rocket-takeoff mode?

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That would be perfect. Unfortunately, when the fans turn on is a bit of an open question; see this answer for more information on why. Will be noting the internal temperatures when the fans go on in the future, with an eye towards either writing this sort of script or just being look at the sensor temperatures and know what "too hot" means. – Neil Fein May 6 '11 at 15:32

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