I have an early 2011 15” MBP (2.3GHz i7 8GB) and I’m annoyed about the sound of the fans. I know how a defective fan sounds, but these do no sound abnormal, but what what is abnormal is that I hear them even when computer is almost not used.

  • The fans are running at ~2000rpm and ~64 C.
  • I do have a SeeThrou Satin Case which I bought from Apple, so I suppose it should have a major effect
  • No signifiant HDD or CPU activity observed with Activity Monitor
  • Yes, usually I do keep it on my lap, eventual on bed and have to use a pillow or something else to isolate me from its heat.

This annoys me because I would like to have a quiet work environment and not having to to start music just to hide the FAN noise.

What can I do to solve the noise problem?

  • 1
    There are applications that let you adjust the fan speed, but I don't recommend it. The more you turn down the fans the hotter your laptop will get. – jtbandes Apr 18 '12 at 7:57
  • One sub-question: is the 2000rpm the minimum speed of the MBP fans? – sorin Apr 18 '12 at 8:11
  • By default, yes. I haven't tried but I suspect you can lower this with third-party software. Personally I raised my minimum to 3000rpm, because it's a more comfortable temperature for me. – jtbandes Apr 18 '12 at 8:13
  • The fans of my previous MacBook Pro were clearly audible at the base RPM, but the ones on my MacBook Air are very quiet. (The base RPM was 2000 in both.) I asked a question about lowering the minimum fan speed, but there's no answers yet. Just getting an Air solved the annoyance with the fan noise for me anyway. – Lri Apr 18 '12 at 17:31

What you can do is use the laptop on a solid underground. Especially if you use a pillow (which where you laptop completely sink in), the pillow is covering the laptop's ventilation holes. And it's even stated in the user manual:

Do not push objects into the ventilation openings.

The exhaust is the screen hinge, but the intake is most likely all the other cracks and holes in the case. And if the laptop can't take enough fresh air (since you're covering most of the cracks and holes with your pillow/blanket/lap), the fans have to work very hard to get all the hot air out.
Try to lift up your Mac as you're sitting on your bed, does that improve the activity of the fans?

But no worries, you're laptop won't suffer from the heating. And if it get's too hot, it will shut itself down (to prevent damage), so then you'll know you've gone too far :)

Another thing what makes your Mac blow like a turbine is playing flash-files or converting stuff, but I guess you're not doing that since you haven't got any high CPU or HDD activity.

  • Thanks for the feedback, still it does not provide a solution for the fan noise. – sorin Apr 18 '12 at 7:13
  • 3
    Yes, it does. Don't use your laptop on your lap :-) It's not designed for it, neither is any laptop. – Michiel Apr 18 '12 at 7:14

If you really really want to use the laptop in bed, try a breakfast tray (the things that are used to serve breakfast in bed); they are flat, so they won't cover any ventilation holes and will protect you from the heat.

I agree with Michiel, don't use the laptop on your lap especially with pillow that covers the intake holes and exhaust. Also try without the case, I've seen cases like this that cover the ventilation holes, not sure if this is properly designed though.

And to answer your question -- it is not normal to hear the fan when the laptop is at idle or when used lightly. The reason why you hear it, as Michiel already said, is because you are blocking the ventilation holes.

  • Probably I will get an iLap - but I will try to find one at a better price. It's made of aluminium and has no fan (which is a plus!). – sorin Apr 18 '12 at 9:39

if the fan is loud on an older machine it may need to be cleaned or replaced. just have it checked. i did it on my old macbook. now it doesn't make a peep.

  • btw, if that's still under warranty have them check it at Apple. They may just replace it for you. The fans on MacBook (I've had three) should not be annoying. If they are it's likely dirty or motor going. – cgrl May 16 '12 at 14:07

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