High-pitched whining noises coming from CPU?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by Qusus, Feb 1, 2009.

  1. Qusus macrumors member

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    Jan 30, 2009
    #1
    Hey guys, I have a 1.86ghz 128GB SSD Rev B Macbook Air.

    The first one I had made a high pitch whining noise when the processor was idling or under light load. It was a very very high frequency noise, and you could only really hear it when the room was totally quiet - or unless you put your head near the top left side of the keyboard (where the CPU is located). A bit of googling and it seemed that older Macbook Pros also seemed to have had this exact problem.

    I took it to the Apple Store and a Genius there took it back and said he could hear it as well. He offered to go through the repair process but since that would have taken awhile, I got an exchange instead from where I bought it from.

    Unfortunately, this new MBA also makes the same noise but to a slightly lesser degree (though it's possible that the frequency range isn't as high so it's not as piercing... hard to tell though).

    Since this is my second RevB Macbook Air with the problem, I wondering if everyone else has had this experience as well or if I'm just really really unlucky? I realize most people have lower noise sensitivity than me, so you might not notice it unless you place your ear to the top left of the keyboard.

    Thanks!

    (And just to be clear, this is NOT a fan noise or a noise from the SSD - which don't make noises anyways. I am 100% sure this high pitched tsstt tssttt tssstttt noise is coming from the CPU or somewhere on the logic board.)
     
  2. DoFoT9 macrumors P6

    DoFoT9

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    #2
    are you sure its not a noise coming from the charger/battery??

    i only ask this because i know that when my MBP's battery is 100% charged it makes a high-pitched noise as well.. it only happens on this occasion though, not when its charging/running off battery.
     
  3. PowerFullMac macrumors 601

    PowerFullMac

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    Oct 16, 2006
    #3
    Computers do make these noises anyway, they can't be completely silent, can they? Complaining about this is like complaining about your new car making noises when you start the engine :rolleyes:
     
  4. DoFoT9 macrumors P6

    DoFoT9

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    #4
    agreed 100%
     
  5. tubbymac macrumors 65816

    tubbymac

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    Nov 6, 2008
    #5
    What you've described is the dreaded Intel processor whine. You can google search about it and you'll find that it's on pretty much all notebooks - just to different degrees. The high frequency bzzzt bzzzt sound you're hearing is due to the processor switching between it's various power saving states.

    The only method I've come across to completely eliminate the sound involves disabling some of the deeper power saving states (C6 is the state that is the big culprit if I remember correctly). Unfortunately I only know how to do it on Windows using a program called RMClock. I don't know if there's a similar application available for OSX.
     
  6. tubbymac macrumors 65816

    tubbymac

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    Nov 6, 2008
    #6
    You're completely wrong with both your assumption that computers cannot be completely silent and in comparing it to a car analogy, but a lot of people make this mistake.

    There are a lot of chips that do not make any noise whatsoever even though the most popular one - the Intel Core 2 chip isn't among them. Put your ear right next to an iPhone for example. Notice how it doesn't make any noise at all? Computers can indeed be dead silent if made properly.
     
  7. Qusus thread starter macrumors member

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    Jan 30, 2009
    #7
    Funny you mention this, as this was the first thing the Genius at the Apple Store brought up. Unfortunately, this my noise occurs with no relation to it being charged or on battery or charging etc.

    As for the idea that complaining about a high frequency piercing noise from an idling CPU is the same as complaining about a new car making noise... well first... solid state components, unlike mechanical components, aren't supposed to make noise. Of course, a computers mechanical components will make noise, such as the fan or a platter based hard disk.

    Secondly, I'm not complaining that the Air makes noise at all, which of course it does - for example the fan kicks in. But I'm wondering if the noise that I'm experiencing is constant through all Air's or if it's just the 2 that I've had. Surely, you can distinguish between a car making normal noises, and when say, the engine is knocking or the gears are grinding? No one thinks a car should be silent, but that doesn't mean that any noise emanating from a car is normal.

    Edit* I see tubbymac beat me to it by a minute.
     
  8. Qusus thread starter macrumors member

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    Jan 30, 2009
    #8
    Thanks for your response. I already figured it was the processor switching between it's power states due to the fact that it only occurs in less-processor intensive apps.

    However, I am still wondering if this is endemic on all MBA's... as I own several other Centrino 2 (Intel Core 2 Duo) notebooks that do not make this noise in the slightest as far as I can tell.
     
  9. tubbymac macrumors 65816

    tubbymac

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    #9
    It's endemic to all machines regardless of brand or vendor but the severity varies even on the same model of machine built in the same week. If your hearing is good enough you'll be able to hear it on all machines but if you luck out you'll get a machine where it's not loud enough to be annoying to your own ears (but not to somebody else with better hearing... or a dog's ears hehe). It's a high frequency sound and that's where hearing usually starts to degrade first - in the higher frequencies as opposed to the lower frequencies.

    I've heard stories of audiophiles exchanging like 5-10 of the same notebook just to get one with less processor whine.
     
  10. Qusus thread starter macrumors member

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    #10
    HAHA... well that explains it then. I'm the kind of guy who owns outrageously overpriced custom fit earphones from Ultimate Ears for a 3% improvement in sound re-production so it makes sense that this would bother me immensely. (However, I'll try to avoid being that audiophile who exchanges 10 notebooks.)

    I suppose the CPU whine is especially loud on MBA's because the notebook is 1) really thin 2) has a really small quiet fan and 3) has no HDD to obscure the noise.

    I guess it'll be something I just have to live with until Intel fixes this.

    (And just as a funny aside, if I did have a dog, I wonder if this noise would drive him absolutely bonkers?)
     
  11. PowerFullMac macrumors 601

    PowerFullMac

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    #11
    If I put my ear to my iPhone 3G when I'm in a silent environment I hear a high pitched noise.
     
  12. Pixellated macrumors 65816

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    Apr 1, 2008
    #12
    I just tried it and both my 3G and Unibody MB make that really high whirr when put up against my ear. I don't care though.
     
  13. gooddeal macrumors regular

    gooddeal

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    #13
    No, you need to hurry and get these things replaced. They're supposed to be dead silence...................................j/k
     
  14. kvasir macrumors regular

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    Oct 9, 2007
    #14
    My first gen MBP had this whine, but my Rev A Air is silent (aside from some hard drive clicks).
     
  15. Qusus thread starter macrumors member

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    #15
    Interesting...
     
  16. DoFoT9 macrumors P6

    DoFoT9

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    #16
    yes mine does too... but only when its fully charged/when its running without a battery. so yea..
     
  17. tubbymac macrumors 65816

    tubbymac

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    #17
    It's mostly due to 3 or the lack of the HDD that's causing you to notice it. A normal hard drive, especially the older louder ones will usually mask the sound of the processor whine with their own spindle noise. The curse of getting quieter components like an SSD is each one you get allows you to hear the louder components you still have left over.

    A dog should be able to hear it but it wouldn't really affect it since the noise is at such a low volume that at about 2 feet away from the machine you hit the limits of exponential fall off and almost nothing can hear it from that distance onward.

    If you're really curious the only machine I know of that is absolutely dead silent is the Dell netbook, the Mini 9. It has no moving parts and uses the Atom chip where Intel fixed the processor whine. This is good news because if they fixed it on the Atom it could very well mean that the Nehalem mobile processors will be free from processor whine as well - much to the rejoicing of audiophiles everywhere.

    Wow, you guys serious or just joking around? :) As you can see from my signature I only have the 2G phone and this sucker is dead silent. It'd be a shame if they goofed up on the 3G but since I haven't heard anybody complaining about the noise it can't be that bad - or it gets drowned out when you're talking on the phone anyway.
     
  18. Qusus thread starter macrumors member

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    Jan 30, 2009
    #18
    A little more research and it turns out that tubbymac is 100% correct that is a Intel Core 2 Duo issue (not Apple's fault, all computers with Core 2 Duo processors apparently have this problem to varying degrees). Thus, all uni-body Macbook/ Macbook Pro's will have this noise. I checked my Macbook Pro after discovering this to see if it had that noise, and indeed it does. However, given the various fan and HDD noises it's not at all bothersome and you can only hear it when you ear is a few inches from the keyboard

    There are a lot of threads on the net where people are complaining about this with various computers, Vaio's, HP's etc etc.

    That being said, I'm surprised that no one with an SSD Macbook Air has mentioned this other than me (as far as I know). Given that the SSD drive and small fan make the noise pretty much unbearable in quiet environments (unlike other computers that heavily obscure the noise).
     

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