iMac 27 inch hum/buzz/vibration

Discussion in 'iMac' started by jsheppherd, Oct 25, 2011.

  1. jsheppherd, Oct 25, 2011
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2011

    jsheppherd macrumors newbie

    Oct 25, 2011
    I have just come from the new Apple store in Hornsby, having returned the second iMac 27 inch computer with a hum/buzz/vibration noise complaint.


    The story goes like this...

    I bought a 3.4 Ghz, quad core 27 inch iMac with a 1TB Seagate HDD and 8GB of RAM, and the 1GB video card a few months ago from the Apple store in Castle Hill, Sydney NSW. Took the machine home, set it up, and was extremely happy with it. Upgraded to Lion, had no issues with performance or ambient noise etc... it was whisper quiet. I would leave the machine running all the time, letting it simply sleep when inactive, and it never made a sound other than the optical drive or maybe occasionally the drive heads when reading or writing data. It was dead silent!

    I receieved an email from Apple stating that in some circumstances the Seagate drive could fail, and for me to contact a store to make an appointment to have the drive replaced as part of a product recall. I thought 'I'll do the right thing' and made an appointment with Castle Hill Apple store to see a 'Genius'. Here comes my first gripe! I am an IT professional myslef (a CIO with a technical background) I should add, at this point. When I made the appointment I was unable to ascertain the status of stock for the replacement hard drives or how long the replacement would take. I get to Castle Hill and I am advised that the drives are not in stock and it could take a few days to get this completed. I don't want to be without my new computer for that long!? So I take it home and rethink how I should approach this.

    Hornsby Apple store opens! I live in Hornsby so that suits me! On talking to a representative at the Hornsby store just this Friday passed I am advised that they do have the 1TB replacement drives in stock so make an appointment quick smart! So I do. It goes downhill from here...

    On Sunday just passed I drop my iMac with a Seagate 1TB HDD in for hard drive replacement. As my data needed to be transferred from one drive to the other, I was told it would take overnight. No problem I thought. All good. I pick up the iMac the next day, with the Seagate drive replaced with a Western Digital one, and take it home. Set it up and turn it on. Suddenly my iMac is no longer 'whisper quiet'. From the point the system status chord sounds there is a humming or buzzing 'droan' that resonates through the desk and can be heard even over my television, fridge and fish tank! Sitting in front of the iMac for more than 10 minutes results in discomfort from the sound. It didn't make this noise before!? My assumption was that the new drive was either faulty or incorrectly installed. Dissapointed, and informed by reading countless blogs and forums on others returning multiple iMacs with the same complaint, I box back up my iMac (which I had previously been VERY happy with - previous to it being a buzzing machine that was) and the next morning (Tuesday) return it to the Hornsby store.

    At this point I must note that the staff (Manager Kate and Technician or 'Genius' James) have been outstanding in terms of customer support. I cannot fault the staff at this point, just the product.

    Tuesday morning the folks at the Apple store advise that they can either try to repair my now noisy iMac, or replace it. I figure, well I'll replace it then. So James sets about that day transferring all my data again, moving my 8GB of Ram from the machine to a new machine. The new machine has in it of course, a Western Digital drive (not that I am attributing the hum/buzz/vibration to the WD drive, but it is an odd coincidence don't you think?). I pick that machine up Tuesday afternoon, thanking everyone for all their wonderful help, and knocking on wood that this new machine is as faultless as my first one was prior to the drive replacement. Guess what!? It wasn't!!!

    So I return the second machine this morning. You guessed it... I am now irate. The 'Genius' told me he could not recreate the issue... OF COURSE! GENIUS! You have music in the background and it's a noisy store! I wish I had never let anyone touch my iMac in the first place. As I've said I've read countless forums on this issue - it DOES EXIST! If I pick up the machine when running, the buzz vanishes. You can FEEL the vibration through the stand. If you lean the machine forwards onto the front ledge of the stand the sound goes. It is something to do with a moving component that is creating a vibration and in quiet environments the noise actually becomes irritant. I left my iMac running overnight and from my bedroom, I could hear the droan. The desk is a wooden desk, on tiled floor - but I must impress, MY FIRST iMac DID NOT MAKE THIS DROAN!

    Anyone wish to comment? Apple maybe!? The iMac is in the shop for further diagnostics.
  2. cannonierd macrumors newbie

    Oct 1, 2011
    I think you should make a video or recording of the noise and take it into them when you take your computer in again. My 2 cents
  3. paul82 macrumors newbie

    Oct 30, 2011
    Adelaide, Australia
    jsheppherd, I feel your pain - you're not crazy and you're not the only one. My advice is to not give up until you're happy. My story is a long and boring one, but here it is anyway:

    Bought a 27" i5 in May, the week they were released. Mine had the 1TB Seagate and I was very happy with it. It was so quiet that I would have to put my ear to the machine to tell if it was running. Then I receive the dreaded email from Apple advising that my hard drive may fail and needs replacing. I contacted Apple and they agreed to send someone to my house to replace the drive since there's no Apple Store in Adelaide and the nearest Authorised Repairer said it would take 7-10 days.

    A rep from Unisys arrives at the agreed time and swaps by defective Seagate for a WD drive. Loads up Time Machine, starts the restore process and leaves. At this point everything seemed fine. Once the restore is completed I notice the drive making very loud seek noises, much louder than the Seagate. Plus he got dust under the glass which I didn't notice prior to him leaving.

    Called Apple back and they agree to replace the drive again and clean under the glass. Second rep from Unisys arrives and swaps the drive with another WD. As for removing the dust - well, he forgot his cleaning kit and was partially blind so just made it worse. I restored the drive backup and this time, in addition to loud seeking noises, there's a noticeable hum coming from the machine. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about due to your experience, but it's the kind of vibration you can hear across the room, and is especially noticeable when sitting directly in front of the machine, and feels as if it's boring through your skull.

    Annoyed, I call Apple again and speak to a Senior Advisor. He agreed that it's not supposed to make noises like that and asks if I'd be happy with a replacement machine. Hoping this will resolve the issue, I agree. They send a replacement before collecting the old machine, but to my frustration, the replacement (which also has a WD drive) is exactly the same as the previous one with the loud seek noises and vibration. In fact, the vibration was slightly worse. I thought that perhaps it was my desk, so moved it to the kitchen table, kitchen bench, coffee table, even the wooden floor and it was the same. Tried putting a mouse mat, CD, book, etc. under the stand and while it may have reduced it slightly, the vibration continued.

    Called the Senior Advisor back and he said they'll swap it again until I'm happy. He suggests a hard drive upgrade since I'll more than likely get a different brand hard drive, but couldn't guarantee it. As much as the idea of paying to resolve the issue annoyed me, I was willing to try anything. So I pay the $180 to upgrade to 2TB and hope all will be resolved. New machine arrives with a 2TB Hitachi drive and no vibration/hum and the seek noises are much quieter, although still not as quiet as the Seagate. However, the hard drive motor was noisier than the WD and sounded like the iMac now had 5 fans instead of 3. I could hear if the machine was running from 5 metres away if that gives you some idea. I was considering just keeping it because although it was still noisy, it wasn't the annoying mind-boring hum that the WD had. Unfortunately, after a few days the hum/vibration started. It was intermittent (perhaps due to temperature?) and not as loud as the WD, but still annoying. That, combined with the yellow tinge at the bottom of the screen, the dust under the glass and the buzzing power supply, was the deciding factor to send it back.

    I called Apple again and just asked for a refund. I was so sick of the problem I was going to go and buy a PC again, as much as I thought I never would. After being transferred to about 4 different people, they said they couldn't refund as it was purchased months ago, but would replace it again. I didn't want a 2TB hard drive again as I knew it would be the same brand, so wanted to take my chances with the 1TB and hoped I'd get a Seagate. They said they couldn't refund the upgrade fee I'd paid, but could downgrade me. This was unacceptable, so they eventually agreed to refund the $180 and send a new machine after I threatened to involve Consumer Affairs.

    Received a new machine with a 1TB Seagate. Guess what? Quiet as a mouse, just like my original machine. :D This one does have a slight buzz from the power supply when it's off or sleeping, but the hard drive is quiet and the screen is perfect so I'm keeping this one. I know many people say WD has a better reputation than Seagate, but I'll take my chances (with backups of course!). I regularly work from home, so there's no way I could have lived with that vibration/hum sitting in front of it 8 hours a day.

    I thought that perhaps Apple had stopped using Seagate after the recall and I'd keep ending up with WDs, but it appears not to be the case. This one was manufactured in August and has the Seagate so they're obviously still using them. Keep at them until you're happy. One thing I have to say is that although their quality control may be slipping, their service is great. What other company would offer to keep swapping a product until you're happy?

    Good luck!
  4. jsheppherd thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 25, 2011
    Thankyou Paul!

    You have confirmed that I am indeed NOT CRAZY :)
    Luckily Apple have FULLY refunded my iMac purchase and I am now in the throws of deciding whether I repurchase - and if I will I will be getting the SSD option and an external HDD enclosure to stow away somewhere for storage.

    I just can't risk going through the process of trying to secure a non WD iMac.

    Good to see you got what you wanted in the end. I wonder if Apple will sit up and take note that there's a design fault with their HDD choice here?
  5. jsolares macrumors 6502a

    Aug 8, 2011
    Land of eternal Spring
    It wasn't long ago that the WD drive was thought to be better, heh sucks.
    could it be a fan that's hitting something? although i can believe it's the WD, i had a scorpio black for laptop that vibrated a lot more and made a lot more noise than the stock one.

    SSD is the way to go :D
  6. canucksfan88 macrumors 6502a


    Oct 28, 2007
    not related to the iMac 27 buzz but the overall Genius quality...i find machines are just not the same after they are opened up.

    I had a 17" mbp that the genuis people screwed up so many times they finally gave me a new machine - the last screw up was them forgetting to reattach the dvd rom and backlit keyboard wires...

    keep complaining, document and try to record audio. as steve jobs said, "don't settle." don't settle for a crappy buzzing/vibrating machine. you paid $X, and deserve a well working machine
  7. paul82 macrumors newbie

    Oct 30, 2011
    Adelaide, Australia
    Glad to hear you got a refund! It will make it easier to deal with things now if you want to go down the iMac path again. If you buy again from Apple, just take advantage of the 14 day return policy if you have any issues. SSD sounds the way to go...

    I highly doubt Apple will take any notice of this issue. Although there is 27 pages about hard drive noise on the Apple Support forums, no one I spoke to had ever heard of any problems and basically tried to pass it off as "normal". I guess in a lot of cases people would accept this response. For me, because I had started off with a quiet machine, I had a point of reference. If the replacement was my first machine, I may have just accepted it.

    jsolares, I'm sure the WD is actually a better drive than the Seagate, but it just vibrates more and seems to have louder seek noises. I doubt it's the fans because I tried software to change fan speeds and the noise didn't change at all. Slightly lifting the back of the stand off the desk made it silent. I believe it's some sort of harmonic resonance with the desk due to the 7200rpm drive. It just seems that the WDs resonate more with my desk, the Hitachis somewhat, and the Seagates not at all (or only very slightly).

    If the SSD option was more affordable, I would have taken that option. Hopefully the next model will have 2TB SSD as standard (yeah, I'm sure that will happen!)

    I agree with the comment on opening them up, which is why I wanted a replacement after 2 failed repairs. As I mentioned, they got dust and fingerprints on the underside of the glass which was very distracting when using the machine. They also scratched the side of the case with a screwdriver, and tore some silver tape that seals the LCD panel and LED backlighting, which may cause problems later on.

    You're right, don't settle! I felt like a serial complainer on all my calls to Apple, but I expect what I pay for. This is a relatively expensive machine so I wasn't going to go quietly until I was satisfied.
  8. weaztek macrumors newbie

    Aug 28, 2009
    The first thing you should do when you hear a vibration issue is tighten the three screw on the RAM slot cover on the bottom of the machine. Although they appear to be phillips head screws, I've yet to find a phillips that fits the screws. Instead I use a plain driver and it works well.
  9. kjmorris2023 macrumors newbie

    Jan 21, 2010

    I too just purchased a 27" IMAC 3.4 GHZ i7. Have the clicking sound. Wife is already complaining telling me to take it back. This was has the 2TB Hitachi Hard drive. I did sign up for the Apple protection plan. Any comments?

Share This Page