Is Fusion Drive noisy?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by RoryO, Oct 3, 2013.

  1. RoryO macrumors member

    Aug 24, 2013
    So I've just received my new iMac, a 27 inch base model with a 3TB Fusion Drive.

    I had one unanswered question which was… "Would the HDD part of the Fusion Drive be spun down most of the time, and therefore be silent most of the time"

    It seems reasonable to expect it might be, but the answer is a resounding "NO, the HDD part of the Fusion Drive is constantly spinning and never spins down"

    So to anybody wondering if it's noisy, like I was, the answer is "YES it is noisy" it's a 3.5 inch hard drive constantly spinning 2 feet from your ears noisy.

    Here's a test:

    Select "Shut down" and then close your eyes. Can you tell when the computer switched off?

    A) Nope.
    B) I think so but it's really hard to tell.
    C) Yes I can hear a difference, but i didn't notice the noise when it was on.
    D) Yes, thank god, I feel a tangible sense of relief now that constant 'shhhhhhhhhhhh' noise has gone.

    I live in the suburbs and have double glazing, so work in a quiet home office.

    For my iPad the answer is A. (obviously no fans no HDD)
    For my Macbook Air the answer is B. (very quiet fan only, effectively silent)
    For my new iMac the answer is D. :(

    I messed around with the settings and set the HDD to spin down after 1 minute, It was night and day. I could just make out the noise of the fan afterwards but it's much much quieter. Unfortunately the disk immediately spins back up as soon as the Fusion Drive is accessed, which is as soon as you do anything. This is a fresh install with only 14GB allocated so it's no where near needing the HDD.

    I think an SSD only iMac would answer C in my test and be considered "quiet". The Fusion Drive version however is not a "quiet pc" **.

    I'm going to contact Apple and confirm that this is the intended behaviour, if I can. But personally I'm not sure if I want to listen to this hard drive for the next 5 years, so I regret it might have to go back. A real shame as it is such a great machine in all other respects.

    ** Obviously these opinions are always subjective, and depend on your environment etc, and there will obviously be many more noisy computers available in the world, but in 2013, in comparison to a MacBook Air and other SSD based Apple systems I don't think the iMac with an HDD can be classified as a quiet PC anymore.
  2. Chipster21 macrumors newbie

    Oct 3, 2013
    Is Fusion Drive noisy ?

    First of all, sorry for my bad English.

    I just ordered my new iMac:
    • NVIDIA GeForce GTX780M 4GB GDDR5
    • 3.5GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7
    • 8GB 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM-2X4GB
    • Drive 1TB Fusion
    • Apple Kybd WL-T + User's Guide

    I opted for the Fusion Drive since I have about 800 GB of data and it seemed to me a good compromise between space and performance, but I'm a bit worried about the noise and vibrations of mechanical HD. Could you please give me your experiences in this regard.

    My previus Mac was an Mac Pro 3.1 witch was almost silent.

    thanks in advance
  3. RoryO thread starter macrumors member

    Aug 24, 2013
    Yes. I have the 3TB Fusion and am considering returning it.

    I started a new thread a few hours ago on the subject but it hasn't been posted by the moderators, I'll try and post it again....
  4. Chipster21, Oct 3, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2013

    Chipster21 macrumors newbie

    Oct 3, 2013
    So what is your advice, should I cancel my order and go for pure SSD 256GB, It's seem to me so small amount of storage.

    BTW I was planning to Unsplit the fusion, reserving the SSD for my OS & Apps and the HD for my Data.
  5. RoryO thread starter macrumors member

    Aug 24, 2013
    I've been spoilt by using a MacBook Air for the last 4 months whilst waiting for these new iMacs, and I have a very quiet office so for me going back to a spinning disk noise all the time is difficult.

    I actually used to unplug my little 1tb samsung backup drive most of the day to get rid of that noise, so I might be a bit fussy about this. It may just be a bit of a shock, like going back to dial up after broadband, or hdd speeds after ssd speeds. I really want to get used to it because I love this screen and the rest of the machine. I'm kind of hoping Mavericks might fix it, but probably outside my return window..

    So I wonder what you are used to and what environment you work in. What is your current machine like. Would you answer A,B,C, or D to my test (they seem to have bolted my original thread on to the top of your thread) and what is your work environment like?
  6. Serban Suspended

    Jan 8, 2013
    I still have a late 2012 21.5" imac with 1T fusion drive, and after almost 7 months i dont hear the fusion drive..i just hear the fan when it reaches 1800rpm, and when i shut down sometimes i hear a click, and that no problems here
  7. RoryO thread starter macrumors member

    Aug 24, 2013
    My HDD seems to be a seagate @ 7200 rpm, I don't know if it's spinning at 7200 all the time. Might be that I have a particularly noisy 3.5" drive. I think the 21" macs have a smaller notebook drive so generally quieter. It's hard to test because it's hard to get it to spin down even with it set to 1 minute. I'm trying to compare it to some other drives I have here....
  8. Chipster21 macrumors newbie

    Oct 3, 2013
    My Mac Pro late 2008 with 4 HD (just sold) get answer B
    Currently I'm using an Asus Laptop N56VZ get answer C
    I'll use the Imac in my Home Office in quite enviroment, so hope that the iMac will be in the range B-C as of your ranking.
  9. bp1000 macrumors 65816

    Jul 7, 2011
    Just a thought about spotlight, could it be indexing? Also could your drive be moving files. See if things change after a few days, after you haven't installed anything else. It might sleep more often.

    I'm not sure on this but i could be wrong.

    I would like to mention too that my iMac has a very faint whoosh of the fan. It is extremely faint but pleasant in a way. I too like silent computing and have pretty sensitive ears and it doesnt bother me. i have the 256SSD btw.

    When i turn on my external HDD it is immediately noticeable, in fact it makes the desk hum.
  10. Chipster21 macrumors newbie

    Oct 3, 2013
    Could you try the HDAPM fix
  11. jg321 macrumors 6502

    Aug 29, 2012

    If you do split the fusion, and only use the HDD for data, it will spin down. This is likely a good compromise if you don't want external disks for data. From my experience of running a custom fusion setup, the hard drive will not spin down - which makes sense when you think about it.
  12. Serban Suspended

    Jan 8, 2013
    I dont think that OP has a fusion drive problem
  13. jg321 macrumors 6502

    Aug 29, 2012

    I'm the same as you - very fussy about noise. I have opted for the pure SSD, and will use external drives for stuff that doesn't need to be accessed all the time.
  14. RoryO thread starter macrumors member

    Aug 24, 2013
    I love this screen, I'm thinking about going to a cinema display, and a mac mini, at least then you have options to try to minimise noise. with an all in one the noise is all in one, on the desk 2 feet from your nose.

    I had high hope for fusion drives, best of both worlds for noise (if it span down) as well as speed...
  15. Apple fanboy macrumors Penryn

    Apple fanboy

    Feb 21, 2012
    Behind the Lens, UK
    I can bearly hear mine. If I listen out for it I can, but I don't generally notice.
  16. bobright macrumors 601

    Jun 29, 2010
    I never hear mine except for when running a game for a long period of time and even then I barely hear it, have to listen for it.
  17. RoryO thread starter macrumors member

    Aug 24, 2013
    It's only got 14GB base install on it and I haven't added any other files yet. I also ran "iostat -d -w 1 disk0 disk1", following some advice on the apple forums to see what data is going where and not a single bit has gone the the HDD. I also found an arstechnica article from late last year saying they effectively always spin even though they are not being used. That article mentioned the technique for getting the disks to sleep after 1 minute "sudo pmset -c disksleep 1".

    So I think it's as designed and the noise of your HDD spinning all the time is the noise you get with fusion.
  18. Tjosansa macrumors regular


    Jul 27, 2013

    My mac mini doesnt sound any. But it got a 5400 rpm hdd in it.. They sound less than a 7200 rpm hdd.
    Now you got me worried, maybe i should get the flashdrive hdd. I really want a silent computer for my next five years to come.
    Dont know if i should cancel my order or not :(


    That would be the fan. Not the hdd.
  19. RoryO thread starter macrumors member

    Aug 24, 2013
    I'm thinking perhaps my drive is particularly noisy. Or perhaps 3TB drives spinng at 7200 rpm are all going to be this noisy.

    I'm going to try to confirm with Apple if the HDD is supposed to spin all the time, but at the moment it seems to be the case. Assuming that is the case then If you have a backup disk or something just hold it at arms length in front of your nose and see if you mind the noise. I might look up the specifications of my drive and see if it specifys the decibels, they often do, then compare to smaller slower drives...etc

    Assuming you can return yours then perhaps just wait and find out, mine is just one data point / opinion...
  20. chevelleguy3 macrumors regular

    Apr 24, 2013
    Mckinney, TX
    I have setup several for work and have used one for quite some time now and I haven't noticed it being noisy at all. It's actually a pretty quiet machine in my opinion.
  21. Confusius macrumors regular

    Mar 24, 2012
    New York
    That makes me wonder - I live in a noisy city, but I can hear mice fart when I'm concentrated - hope I won't drown out the traffic noise only to get fixated on the Fusion drive (that is, when I finally get around to ordering a new iMac).
  22. RoryO thread starter macrumors member

    Aug 24, 2013
    Quick question to try to workout if I have a unusually noisy drive in my noisy new iMac.

    The constant noise of the drive spinning completely hides any read write noise. I have to put my ear right up to the screen to hear the clicks of the drive writing data. So at normal distance from the screen I can't hear the drive "working", I just hear the constant uniform sound of the thing spinning.

    On the manufacturers specification pages they always seem to quote the drives as being quieter when idle vs seeking etc. This thing is one noise unchanging in volume and completely uniform, basically like a fan noise at constant RPM. (It's not the fan as I can remove it by spinning the drive down)

    It's a Seagate Baracuda 3TB (ST3000DM001), a very common cheap drive. I wonder if anyone else has one and can share their experience of it's noise level and characteristics?

  23. NCWildcat macrumors member


    Oct 12, 2011
    I got my iMac two days ago but haven't noticed a peep from the fusion drive. So far, I've just heard a very low hum from the system fan.
  24. Spacial macrumors 6502

    Aug 29, 2013
    Mine has been quite and reliable, I'm satisfied.
  25. Chipster21 macrumors newbie

    Oct 3, 2013
    Good news, do you have the 1TB or the 3TB Fusion Drive, and who is the maker of HDD


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