Questions about Fan Noise in iMac with Retina 5K and Best Actions to Correct It

Discussion in 'iMac' started by onmyo-za, Feb 3, 2016.

  1. onmyo-za, Feb 3, 2016
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2016

    onmyo-za macrumors newbie

    Feb 3, 2016
    Hi All,

    I'm new to iMacs (after years of PC's) and a first-time poster. I will sincerely appreciate any comments/advice you can give me.

    I bought a new iMac online in December 2015 and picked it up at an Apple store in January 2016. The details are:

    27-inch iMac with Retina 5K display / 3.3 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5, Turbo Boost up to 3.9GHz / 16GB 1867MHz DDR3 SDRAM - two 8GB / 2TB Fusion Drive

    Since the first time I used it, there has been a low volume, constant whirring noise coming from, I believe, one of the fans in back. However, when I'm sitting in front of the screen (about 2 feet away), this noise sounds like a high pitched insect's drone. It's still low volume, but the fact that it's constant makes me nuts. I'll add that the fans do not seem to run faster/louder than normal, which I read has been a problem with iMacs in the past.

    I chatted online with Apple's customer service about this, and they recommended the typical unplugging to reset the SMC. But this didn't help, so they recommended that I visit an Apple store.

    So I visited the same Apple store where I picked up the iMac. A guy plugged my iMac into an iPad and ran a diagnostic program for around 20 minutes, which didn't show any problem with the fans cooling the system. He also listened at the back of the iMac in the store and in the separate "Employees Only" Genius Room, but claimed he and other employees couldn't hear anything unusual. I asked him if I could take a brief video of the iMac at home, which would include the sound, and send the video by e-mail to him or another customer service person to show exactly what I'm talking about, but he said that wasn't a possibility. My only option was to bring the iMac back to the store and bring the video with me.

    So I'm planning to take the video and go back to the store, but I wanted to ask all of you:

    1) Is this a common problem with iMacs? In a separate 2014 thread called "Retina iMac fan noise while idle," a poster mentioned, "Sometimes the iMac 5k whir on the left side. Don't know what it is." This made me wonder if it's a common problem.

    2) Is the only option to fix the problem to replace the fan? That's what the Apple store guy said. But I'm wondering if this is the best way to go or if replacing the fan might lead to some new problem.

    Anyway, if you have any experience with this problem and ideas about what to do, please let me know.
  2. colodane macrumors 6502a


    Nov 11, 2012
    When you had it in the Apple store did it still sound loud to YOU? (as best you could determine with the different background ambient acoustic level)

    What graphics processor option is in your system?
  3. onmyo-za thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 3, 2016
    Hi Colodane,

    Thanks for the reply.

    My iMac has an AMD Radeon R9 M395 with 2GB video memory.

    In the Apple store it was impossible to hear anything because there were so many people around, including people to the immediate left and right of me at the Genius Bar. And I wasn't given the option of going into the Genius Room since it was for employees only.

    Again, this sound is low volume, but constant. I'm just wondering if it's a common problem or not.
  4. colodane macrumors 6502a


    Nov 11, 2012
    Of the available GPU options the M395 is likely to be the loudest under heavy load. However, your comparisons seem to be at a near "idle" condition. My speculation is that under that kind of condition the M395 shouldn't create any more fan noise due to cooling load than the other GPU options. I have not had first-hand experience with any of them, so perhaps some users with more experience can chime in here.

    When you go back to the Apple store, the most meaningful test you can perform (along with the Apple tech) is to put your machine next to another 27 inch 5K machine randomly selected from their stock. See if both of you can agree that either they are similar or yours is louder. Frankly, I don't know what the outcome will be. But if you both agree that yours is noticeably louder then it seems that Apple should replace it for you.

    Unfortunately, this is all fairly subjective. But the one thing in your favor is that Apple usually treats their customers well. The first 14 day period is your best opportunity for accepting a fix that they volunteer or, if needed, insisting on a new machine. Also, you may get a different tech this time that is more receptive.

    Good Luck!
  5. IndyBob macrumors member


    Sep 23, 2012
    For what it is worth I have almost the same iMac. Mine has the 512GB SSD instead of the fusion drive. My iMac is in my home office and it is a quiet room. I never hear anything from mine unless I am doing some Handbrake work on videos. Then I may here the fan come on. No high pitched noises.
  6. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    My iMac is whisper quiet and its the M395/2TB model. OP, the Apple Genius didn't take into the backroom where its much less noisier then the floor of the store?
  7. hfg macrumors 68040


    Dec 1, 2006
    Cedar Rapids, IA. USA
    You might also be sure it isn't coming out of the speakers. Select "line output" or something in SystemPreferences to try to disable the internal speakers completely.
  8. cynics macrumors G4

    Jan 8, 2012
    Can you take a recording, put it on YouTube and post a link?
  9. Kosimo macrumors newbie

    Aug 5, 2010

    I have the exact same problem as you do. My iMac is a Late 2015 4GHz i7 + Radeon M395X 4GB. I think that this rotation "click" I would call it, which is quite difficult to hear is probably the result of a small contact between the fan and some cable or something. A fan replacement should solve it. Thing is:

    1) It is quite difficult to hear. You have to be very close to the computer in a very quiet room. So when in the Genius bar, the apple employee won't notice anything. Probably not even putting the mac in those genius rooms.

    2) Having a flagrant brand new 5k iMac, I don't know if I really want them to open the computer, remove all the components, change the fan... Usually when they mess up with the interior, it'll never be as good as when was assembled in the factory.

    But this noise really annoys me...

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