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Old Oct 26, 2012, 12:45 PM   #1
50548
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URGENT help needed - weird hard disk noise when playing games

Whenever I play a Steam game or something like CoD 4, the hard disk (I presume, situated on the upper left of the Apple logo for someone looking at the screen) makes a whirring noise, IMMEDIATELY disappearing when I switch back to the Finder or any other program.

It's definitely not a sound issue, as I've turned off the volume to test it...I thought about possible dust accumulation in the area, but it definitely seems like a HD issue...is it going bust or is it just making noise all of a sudden?

I've tried opening folders, files etc. and can't replicate the noise when NOT playing a game (is it defragmenting in real time, therefore leading to the noise? No idea!)...

Your help is highly appreciated.
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Old Oct 26, 2012, 12:55 PM   #2
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Yeah, I would definitely make sure your Time Machine backup is up-to-date. Not using Time Machine? Run -- don't walk -- to the store and buy an external drive. (Target has external drives on sale right now.)

Now is also a good time to find your computer's restore CD/DVD.

Let us know if things go from bad to worse.
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Old Oct 26, 2012, 01:02 PM   #3
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Yeah, I would definitely make sure your Time Machine backup is up-to-date. Not using Time Machine? Run -- don't walk -- to the store and buy an external drive. (Target has external drives on sale right now.)

Now is also a good time to find your computer's restore CD/DVD.

Let us know if things go from bad to worse.
My TM backup is fine and up-to-date; I have also checked the disk through the recovery partition and all checks out fine.

Could it be that some large games are spread over the outer areas of the HD, thus leading to this annoying whirring noise due to fragmentation?

Any expert advice is more than welcome!
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Old Oct 26, 2012, 01:24 PM   #4
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Is there anyway you can post an audio clip of the sound? Since it's coming from inside the computer, the built-in mic should pick it up nicely. Upload it to SoundCloud if you don't know where else to put it.
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Old Oct 26, 2012, 01:26 PM   #5
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Is there anyway you can post an audio clip of the sound? Since it's coming from inside the computer, the built-in mic should pick it up nicely. Upload it to SoundCloud if you don't know where else to put it.
What's the easiest to record such a sound? Is there any included utility that does it?
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Old Oct 26, 2012, 01:34 PM   #6
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The QuickTime application should do it for you. I'm unfortunately not in front of a Mac at the moment, but check the File menu for New Sound Recording or something similar. QuickTime is small enough it shouldn't interfere with the operation of your game.
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Old Oct 26, 2012, 01:41 PM   #7
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The QuickTime application should do it for you. I'm unfortunately not in front of a Mac at the moment, but check the File menu for New Sound Recording or something similar. QuickTime is small enough it shouldn't interfere with the operation of your game.
Nevermind; I did it with GarageBand - will upload ASAP.

p.s.: Here you go: http://soundcloud.com/ricardo-gf/audio

It's the whirring sound you can hear from 30secs onwards...it only happens when a game, for example, is the active application - IMMEDIATELY at the moment I switch back to Finder it disappears...HD activity? No idea.

Last edited by 50548; Oct 26, 2012 at 01:51 PM.
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Old Oct 26, 2012, 02:04 PM   #8
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Do you think a SMC reset may help?
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Old Oct 26, 2012, 02:30 PM   #9
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Just performed a SMC reset - no change. The interesting thing is: ONLY when the game is the active app the noise happens - instantly when I switch to Finder or any other app, the noise disappears.

I am really baffled by this - is my GPU going down? Where is it located in the iMac 27" 2011?
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Old Oct 26, 2012, 02:50 PM   #10
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Nevermind; I did it with GarageBand - will upload ASAP.

p.s.: Here you go: http://soundcloud.com/ricardo-gf/audio

It's the whirring sound you can hear from 30secs onwards...it only happens when a game, for example, is the active application - IMMEDIATELY at the moment I switch back to Finder it disappears...HD activity? No idea.
That sounds more like a cooling fan with bad bearings/bushings to me. I wonder if the GPU has its own fan and when you are stressing the GPU with those games that makes the GPU fan ramp up and make noise.

I was just looking at the ifixit iMac teardown and I can't see if there is a separate GPU fan or not.
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Old Oct 26, 2012, 03:24 PM   #11
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That sounds more like a cooling fan with bad bearings/bushings to me. I wonder if the GPU has its own fan and when you are stressing the GPU with those games that makes the GPU fan ramp up and make noise.

I was just looking at the ifixit iMac teardown and I can't see if there is a separate GPU fan or not.
Actually I think I've got the sucker - after performing the Apple Hardware Tests, the following error was reported:

4M0T/4/40000003: HDD-1212

Looks to me like an HD problem. Any ideas?
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Old Oct 26, 2012, 03:30 PM   #12
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It is the fan speed problem u have
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Old Oct 26, 2012, 03:37 PM   #13
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It is the fan speed problem u have
Does my HD require replacement?
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Old Oct 26, 2012, 03:50 PM   #14
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Sorry I cannot say if the HDD needs replacing but I did a quick search on the error u posted and it come up with the HDD fan issue and this would explain the loud noise when playing games. Maybe the fan is running extra loud when the game starts? maybe try an application like iStats to see the fan speeds when the game is playing
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Old Oct 26, 2012, 03:54 PM   #15
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Sorry I cannot say if the HDD needs replacing but I did a quick search on the error u posted and it come up with the HDD fan issue and this would explain the loud noise when playing games. Maybe the fan is running extra loud when the game starts? maybe try an application like iStats to see the fan speeds when the game is playing
I've tried this, but I honestly think it's the HD itself...it's not a fan noise, in my opinion...I will probably have to take it to a local Apple service provider, then.
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Old Oct 26, 2012, 06:36 PM   #16
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I'm having a hard time hearing anything abnormal in that clip. But I can tell you whatever you're hearing is the fan. CPU/GPU detects activity, clocks up to full speed, fan kicks up. Go back to finder where theres no activity, fan ramps down.
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Old Oct 26, 2012, 06:58 PM   #17
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I've tried this, but I honestly think it's the HD itself...it's not a fan noise, in my opinion...I will probably have to take it to a local Apple service provider, then.
The little bit of Googling (is that a word?) I did points to the HDD fan and not the HDD. That noise sounded more like a fan than a HDD. In either case, unless you are prepared to do open heart surgery on your iMac... it is off the the Apple repair center for you.

The pattern you describe that brings on the noise matches up better with a fan than a bad HDD IMO.
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Old Oct 26, 2012, 07:10 PM   #18
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Have you used something like SMARTReporter?

Sounds like failure of your HDD is imminent.
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Old Oct 27, 2012, 07:45 AM   #19
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Have you used something like SMARTReporter?

Sounds like failure of your HDD is imminent.
Yes I have, no problem reported. Faulty fan or not, I took it this morning to an AASP and the guy told me the message given by the AHT was not something to be really worried about.

Even then, I wasn't convinced and requested an HD replacement (for a higher-capacity Seagate drive), as well as a thorough check of rubber paddings and internal dust...I should have it back in four days or so, for a price of some CHF 250; will let you know how it feels afterwards.

P.s.: the noise can be heard from 30sec onwards...it's a whirring sound that has never happened before, and only when I play games...the weird thing is: IMMEDIATELY as I switch to Finder from any game the noise disappears...there is not even a ramping down of the fan, if you will...
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Old Oct 27, 2012, 12:44 PM   #20
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Could you try turning down the brightness when it occurs? If it stops the sound it can be an issue with the power board. Ive got this issue myself and im not sure what to do since ive installed a ssd but still have apple care.

Please let me know your findings.
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Old Oct 27, 2012, 03:51 PM   #21
Stan Mikulenka
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Hey, Lawyer,
is that the Mac which is "build better then the rest of PC world"?
(By your words???)
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Old Oct 27, 2012, 04:46 PM   #22
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Hey, Lawyer,
is that the Mac which is "build better then the rest of PC world"?
(By your words???)
Of course it is, and I am absolutely happy about it. I am also perfectly aware of the fact that HDDs are prone to problems - there is just no comparison with the rest of the crappy PC universe out there, trust me.
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Old Oct 27, 2012, 05:05 PM   #23
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Could you try turning down the brightness when it occurs? If it stops the sound it can be an issue with the power board. Ive got this issue myself and im not sure what to do since ive installed a ssd but still have apple care.

Please let me know your findings.
Can't test now because the Mac is already undergoing service...actually I remember this issue with a very old iMac of mine, which had some noise caused by faulty inverters.

However, this happened only when brightness was at high levels or totally turned off; this is not the case with my current iMac, though.
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Old Oct 27, 2012, 06:30 PM   #24
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Its the fan(s). I say fans based on your description of "whirring". I re-listened to your audio clip, through a pair of good klipsch over ear headphones powered by an onkyo receiver. I still can't hear anything abnormal, but I trust that there is since you're noticing it.

Theres nothing that any game or program will do to a hard drive that will make it any more or less noisy. The platters spin at a constant speed, so if that were the noise, you would hear it all the time. If it was the head seeking and reading/writing data, and it were audible enough to hear it, your drive is shot and you wouldn't be loading games much less able to return to finder.

I hope when you get it back its fixed for you. But if it is, its due to the fact they blew out some dust or reseated the fans.
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Old Oct 27, 2012, 06:47 PM   #25
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Umm, did you call AppleCare?
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