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The unibody Macbook Pro makes disturbing creak noises when I move it around on my lap - or when I apply pressure to either the top or bottom of the case.

How else can I eliminate the click noise? What is causing them?

I've applied insulating tape at places of the RAM slot which I had manually upgraded. However, the place where these noises originate from are spread out over the whole left side where the logic board and battery are located.

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Can you make the noise on command - as in one out of three lifts causes the squeak? Or is it a once a few hour or even longer interval between noises? –  bmike Mar 10 '12 at 16:32
    
@bmike I can make the noise on command. But like you said: One out of X times. It's not related to a single spot which would allow me to create it X out of X times. –  gentmatt Mar 10 '12 at 17:00
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I had a hunch - also - remove the tape that doesn't help with the squeak once you have ruled that item out - you want the grounding pins to contact the bottom case and anything you do to throw off the alignment could make the squeak worse. I also forgot to mention in my answer to clean the trackpad area and inspect those screws that lie under the battery. Huge area for loud, clicks with the parts there and small clearances make a grain of sand a potential noisemaker. –  bmike Mar 10 '12 at 17:06
    
If you can borrow a stethoscope, sometimes you can really pinpoint where the noise is sourced (at least down to a centimeter or two area). –  bmike Mar 10 '12 at 17:11

3 Answers 3

I'll list some general things to check in the order I would isolate them.

  1. The bottom case itself is bent slightly compared to the frame (you should see wearing of the cases and brown dust where the parts rub)
  2. The plastic clips that hold your bottom case to the topcase are bent, not engaged, loose or damaged.
  3. A screw is not seated and rubbing. (and replace screw with cable, connector, lever, or cage - all of them are in there)
  4. Foreign debris came in from the exhaust vents and is stuck between parts where normal flex is causing a noise.
  5. Fan or blower bearings (unlikely - but I've seen/heard them make the darndest noises some times)

A great place to find pictures of your model is the iFixit repair guide - I'll use the Early 2011 15" iFixit guide for some tips below:

Look over your bottom case very carefully - you should see wear marks or fine dust or scratches where it is hitting the insides. If the noise is coming from the bottom case contact - you should see physical evidence of wear. If not, then focus on the other parts (fans, hidden debris stuck under the battery, board or other parts near the keyboard side of things, etc...)

It's probably from the bottom case, so look at all potential contact points where the bottom case can rub. When putting the bottom case on again, remember where these inserts are so you can press them and hear a click for each before screwing the fasteners. When open, inspect the clips very well - a broken clip or not getting the insert into the snap is a big cause of the bottom case moving around when in use.

topcase _ bottom case internal contact points-2

Similarly, pay attention to the clearance between the battery indicator, keyboard ribbon ZIF socket and trackpad connector cage as well as the clips under the left hand side of the mac. Even a battery screw could be too high and scraping the case. Once you have exhausted the easy things, you may even need to remove and re-seat the components on the left hand side of the mac to ensure nothing is stuck under the topcase and between the components.

Unless you are a very good tech and know what things cost should they break, it might be better to take it in for service - especially if you can show the tech how to reproduce the noise. There are so many components, any one of which could be harboring a loose screw or piece of debris that made it's way in the heat exhaust vents - it's hard to guess what exactly is making your mac squeak.

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Thank you for that detailed answer @bmike! You helped me find the real solution. But I have to add another answer because the solution I found is missing (and requires a few pictures). –  gentmatt Mar 10 '12 at 17:47
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Following @bmike's advice I carefully studied the back cover for wear marks. Then I took a close look at the logic board without touching it.

  • On the whole logic board you'll find tiny elastic sticks. They can be pushed a little. These sticks hold the aluminum bottom off the logic board.
  • If you include the parts from the RAM module there are in total 14 (!) of them.
  • I did not take any chances, therefore I applied insulating tape on every place of the aluminum bottom that the sticks can contact. Also I did not want to open the cover multiple times :)
  • Apply the tape again as it easily wears out.

Your're done!

The Macbook Pro does not make any of the previous mechanic noises anymore.😊
It feels like a solid aluminum brick on my lap.

enter image description here

And a close up...

enter image description here

This is what the back cover looked like when I was done. Uh, it's ugly! I'm glad it's on the inside.

enter image description here

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I wonder how many are affected by the noise?! This is a problem by design... –  gentmatt Mar 10 '12 at 18:23
    
affected user here with Retina Macbook Pro –  Render Aug 1 '12 at 11:11
    
I don't think they're elastic, though they may well be sprung. They look like they are a part of the EMI shielding - they're meant to make electrical contact with the bottom case. –  jrg Jun 16 '13 at 9:52

The click noise you're hearing is probably the hard drive parking its heads to protect the drive platters.

To test this, simulate dropping your laptop while holding onto it or drop it a short distance onto a very soft surface (onto pillows on a couch or bed). The drop only needs to be about 6-12 inches. When the accelerometer realizes the computer is in freefall, it'll park the drive heads and you'll hear a click. If this click is the same as the one you're hearing now, the hard drive protection mechanism is the culprit. This is not a problem, as it's a protection mechanism built into the laptop.

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I have a SSD build-in. So this will not help :(. Also the hard disk is located at the right side of my MBP, whereas the noise comes from the left side. –  gentmatt Mar 10 '12 at 15:22

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