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My computer fan is kicking on high every few minutes, help!

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / March 5, 2010 5:31 AM PST

My computer fan is kicking on high every few minutes, help!

I am at my wit's end. I'm going to try and be concise and to
the point. My HP Pavilion desktop (Windows XP SP3 Media
Center edition) got a nasty virus, and the local shop wiped
the hard drive and reinstalled it for $90 flat fee. It will
never be as it was before the virus, but I expected that. The
real problem is the computer's fan; it kicks on high every
few minutes and then goes back to normal speed. There is no
dust or dirt inside the case and the fans are clean. I took
it to another tech who reset the CMOS and didn't charge me
anything. The fan never kicked up on high when it was in his
shop, but when I got home it started up again. It's like when
you call the TV repairman and it works perfectly while he's
at your house. I have run all my scans, virus, spyware,
malware, etc. Everything is clean. I don't use my
computer for any work, just e-mail, news, a few online games
and general stuff (no Facebook, Twitter, adult sites). I just
hope it's not the processor and I've never had this symptom
before. Thanks for any help at all.

--Submitted by Betsy in North Carolina

Here are some featured member answers to get you started, but
please read all the advice and suggestions that our
members have contributed to this question.

Fan problems --Submitted by waytron

Intermittent fan --Submitted by Boogaloo

Here's a few things to check --Submitted by J_M_DeAngelo

Fan, heat sinks, & temperatures --Submitted by Enforcer

This is likely a driver problem .... --Submitted by Watzman

Thermal paste --Submitted by amirat

Check the processor's heat sink connection --Submitted by LarryH

Thank you to all who contributed!

If you have any additonal advice, suggestions, or solutions for Betsy, click on the reply link and submit it. Please be as detailed as possible when providing your advice. Thanks

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Could be the heat sink

I have experienced a similar problem with my PC. With my machine, the problem was that there was not enough thermal paste underneath the heat sink. Once some more paste was applied, my machine worked beautifully.

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by bobclark19 / March 13, 2010 1:57 AM PST
In reply to: Could be the heat sink

Let me tell you the story of my HP - I had the same issue, it had three fans and eventually the motherboard went. I had three day turnaround extended warranty and contacted HP. They told me to stick up my butt and refused to honor the warranty or event to acknowledge its existence even when it was read to them and faxed to them and even though my Attorney and the State Attorney General contacted them. The AG's Office contacted the AG in CA and the BBB and they all said that they were swamped with complaints on HP warranty service. HP's attitude was tough, sue us if you don't like it, in CA and with limited liability. My computer was ultimately returned after 13 weeks, broken. I didn't bother to send it back, just bought a new one. It was a top of the line zd8000 and cost a fortune. I have been in touch with a class action Attorney who the last time i spoke with him is thinking of a class action suit.

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extended warranty trouble
by benalt / March 13, 2010 12:33 PM PST
In reply to: HP

Did you think about trying the extended warranty most credit cards give you when you purchase an item using them?

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I would certainly try this quick fix first.
by edpring / March 5, 2010 9:43 AM PST

Unplug everything. Take the side panel off and move the system outside. If an air hose is available, blow the system out, especially in the fan areas and the power supply. You will be amazed at the dust that has built up in the system. DO NOT touch the system with the blower or anything metal. A can of compressed air will work too. Be careful, clean it up and then try the system. This could be the easiest computer fix you will ever get.

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Never use "Shop" air
by amirat / March 5, 2010 12:47 PM PST

I would caution in using "Shop" air. As one never knows if the compressor has an Air/Water seperator. The use of hosed air can cause more problems than it solves. I'd stick to using canned air when ever possible.

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if air hose, be careful with...
by vex1 / March 6, 2010 4:16 AM PST

Don't make the fan go too fast, you can make it inoperable.

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Thank you!!!!!
by Rosiemarko / April 17, 2012 7:05 AM PDT

I pride myself to be a meticulous housewife! What came out of my computer shamed me to no end!!! It is soooooo quiet now, I had not noticed how noisy even normal operation had become!!!!
Thank you so much!

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Ditto - "sort of"
by RaiderNation258 / August 19, 2016 5:30 AM PDT

My fan started going on high speed every few minutes AFTER cleaning the computer with compressed air. Going to try it again today. It was running perfectly until I cleaned it.

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Sorry, I did not finish reading your note.
by edpring / March 5, 2010 9:46 AM PST

Apparently you have already done this.

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Updates From HP
by luke4k / March 5, 2010 9:51 AM PST

The question is did the repair person reload your system with the factory image for your specific PC from HP restore CD?

This is the best way to restore your PC image. Often, there is a restore image stored right on the system hard drive on a hidden directory. You should read all the materials that came with your PC as generally, they will explain how to do a full system restore.

Once a full factory image restore is complete, you should run any HP software update program (they generally all have one) to make sure any HP specific drivers or programs that come with your unit are up to date as well as all Microsoft updates.

If you don't have the factory restore image, you should be able to go to HP and enter the serial number of tag number from your unit and see any drivers or software updates for your EXACT unit. Not all pavilions are the same so model number, serial number, Service Tag number or whatever is on your unit will be key.

You might also need an update to the BIOS/Firmware on your unit.

The reply about the CPU compound is a good one. Also, the fan may be wearing out. For $10-25 you can replace.

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Computer Fan kicking on high
by WintermuteX / March 5, 2010 9:52 AM PST

In my experience this is either due to dust accumulating on the fan (and the second is a BIOS update to correct sensitivity to the temp sensor). My first recommendation is to obtain a can of air - (provided you do not mind opening your box - if you have a laptop the procedure is simpler.) - Remove the panels from your chassis so the internal components are exposed) spray the air liberally around the chassis. If you are comfortable removing your processor - take it out and spray the air through the coolling fan and then through all cooling fans until clear). Re-assemble you system and see if this resolve the issue. Second for the Desktop - check with your motherboard or system manufacturer for a BIOS update.

If you have a laptop with the fan going on high then you can use the air can to blow out the cooling vents on the side or use a small hobby vacuum to draw dirt and dust out (this goes against convention of using a vacuum on a system but since you are drawing air out from seated components the risk of sucking a vital one is minimal).


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My computer fan is kicking on high every few minutes, help
by pegpluscol / March 12, 2010 12:18 PM PST

Lee's problem; the fan noise was intermittent.
I really don't know much about how fans are constructed these days, but I did notice that some do have ball bearings.

Many years ago I too had the same problem with a fan which turned on
a spindle. Before doing anything, I took off the cover and turned
the PC so that I could observe what happened during operation.
It turned out that the plastic around the spindle had worn, and
this caused the fan to oscillate as in the case of a motor cycle
speed wobble. The fan of course slows rather than speeds up.

I little thin grease on the spindle proved effective, and allowed me
a few days in which to obtain a replacement. Colin

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Are you using AVG?
by filops / March 5, 2010 9:52 AM PST

My family's pc had the worst case of roaring fan forever, forcing me just to put it in standby whenever it was not in use. I could not figure out what the issue was.

Then one day, for other reasons, I switched its virus SW from AVG to Avast.

Now? No roaring fan.

No idea what that was about.

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by clbanman / March 5, 2010 9:40 PM PST
In reply to: Are you using AVG?

I have had issues with AVG and excessive CPU loads since version 8. I recently installed AVG free 9.5 on my test machine just to see if things had changed, and it went right back to 40-55% CPU load. With that loading your processor fan will absolutely run harder.

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Another possible AV issue
by clbanman / March 5, 2010 9:45 PM PST
In reply to: AVG

I forgot to mention that Microsoft Security Essentials on an XP machine has done the same CPU overloading for me. It seems to work fine on Vista and Windows 7 but I have tried it on several XP machines with the same results.

I had similar results with Lavasoft's Ad-Aware's most recent versions.

What was different about your machine from before the problem started and now? If there are any hardware or software differences, I would start looking there, even if you don't see how it could be related. As far as the shop reinstalling, did they use the original CD or their own? Did they install any different software to "help protect" you?

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So Many Great Suggestions!
by morninglory / March 5, 2010 10:35 PM PST

Thanks to everyone for the great suggestions! My computer is clean as a whistle inside, has plenty of room for air to circulate, the room is always rather cool. I have used Avira Free for about a year. I do believe the tech (and I use that term loosely) saw me coming-LOL! He re-installed from HIS CD but left out the Media Center Edition so I took it back and he re-installed it again (said he bought the CD from HP for $16.00). Anyway, I have thought all along that the problem lies with the BIOS. I have gone into it but it's like Chinese arithmetic (to me). Right now the fan is quiet as a mouse but when I go to another website or topic the fan will immediately kick on high. Forgot to mention it in my original cry for help. But thanks again everyone!

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Adding to my last post....
by morninglory / March 5, 2010 10:37 PM PST

YES! As soon as I clicked on the Preview Message the fan went into high gear. WTH!

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Genuine HP
by comp_dok / March 6, 2010 1:01 AM PST

HP and many other OEMs use customized power management software to control fan speeds and overall system performance. So assuming your "tech" actually did use a genuine HP recovery set for your system you should have all those tools avaliable to you. Look in your start menu for a HP folder and then look in that for tools like "PC Health" and "Power Settings." The names may be different, but they will be similar at any rate.

Another dead giveaway to whether he used genuine HP Recovery is when you got the system back it should have a start up program to help with setting up Media Center and customizing it for your locale.

You can order the recovery set for your system directly from HP by visiting or calling them at 800-BUY-MYHP.

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Genuine HP
by geoffzie / March 12, 2010 11:59 PM PST
In reply to: Genuine HP

I work at a thrift store and we do computer repairs and rebuilds on a regular basis. I just repaired a computer the other day with the following problem ... it's worth a check.

Check to make sure the power supply fan is working. While it doesn't cool the CPU directly, it does pull a steady flow of air through the case (usually in at the front, and out the rear). If the PS fan is NOT working, it will cause the CPU fan to work harder, and will eventually cause your PS to fail (which is what happened in my case).

With the computer running, and warmed up (some newer computers are using thermostatically operated PS fans, so they're not always running) ... hold your hand over the rear of the computer ... the PS is usually near the top ... and you should feel a steady flow of air coming out. If you can easily see the rear of your computer tower, you'll be able to see the fan turning.

Also, I don't know if this has been addressed, but go into your Bios (usually by pressing either the F1, F2, F10, or DEL keys repeatedly. There should be a page called "Hardware Monitor" or something similar, and it should have "CPU Temperature". It should read about 25 - 35 degrees C. normally (warmed up) ... if it's reading 50 - 70 degrees, you have a problem, and the CPU should be reseated.

And finally, I know you've just reloaded your operating system, but spyware and trojans can cause excessive CPU usage (you might be picking them up at a specific site you're going to). I use a program called "Malwarebyte's Anti-malware" ... it's a free download and works excellent ... it even works in Windows safe-mode.

Just some possibilities to check.

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animated graphics can exercise the CPU causing it to heat up
by timo888 / March 12, 2010 7:49 PM PST

"Right now the fan is quiet as a mouse but when I go to another website or topic the fan will immediately kick on high. Forgot to mention it in my original cry for help."

The CPU doesn't run at a single temperature but gets hotter the more "work" it has to do. Animated images/graphics use more CPU cycles than a still image does, causing the CPU to heat up. Anything that is "computationally intensive" can have this effect. So the fan comes on. Nothing's broken.

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noisy fan
by emcdon / March 12, 2010 8:50 PM PST

How new is the machine, did it have HP Advisor on it. i would suggest going to and entering your model number or allow the site to auto detect your system and update all of your drivers. If HP Advisor is not a choice I would suggest to search it on the HP site. Allow the sytem to update and tell you what the issue is.

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Fan kicking in on high
by Vanillaman / March 12, 2010 9:46 PM PST

Hi Betsy. I haven't read through all the replies you've had from these good folk, so please forgive me if I cover ground you've already come across. First off. I hope you're not paying this so-called tech guy each time you bring it back to him?

The problem most certainly has to be tied to a process running. You're probably already familiar with startups in msconfig? Th biggest resource hog of any system is usually "media" related, eg. movies, music, images etc. If you're running a Peer to peer to download anything, that'll cause the fan to kick up a gear. If you're running any kind of scan, that will cause it too, but as someone has already probably said, it depends on the processes running in the background. I hope this helps in some way.

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Which Model of HP is it?
by sumsolstice / March 15, 2010 8:40 AM PDT

Which model of HP is it? Is this a notebook, or a desktop? There are some drivers that are required on some PCs for fan control - that can figure into it. Some desktop model #'s are like a1520n, or m280y, or s5220n - knowing what you have - might explain it a bit.

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by iwish40 / April 4, 2010 11:04 AM PDT

Mine used to do the same thing, my husband replaced the fan, and after a quiet week, it started doing it again, the Motherboard finally bit the dust, and WaLa I got a new computer!
I had an HP Windows XP now I have Win 7.. its a little different but I do like it.

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AVG no problem here
by figmentKLM / March 14, 2010 3:05 AM PDT
In reply to: AVG

I use AVG 9 on 6 machines and have installed it on 20 others for others. I have seen your problem on one installation in version 8 which was solved by removal and reinstallation. I have seen the problem with Zone Alarm too; also about 2 versions back. That is when I switched to AVG and no problems since.

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I use AVG
by Speani / March 14, 2010 9:26 AM PDT
In reply to: Are you using AVG?

Yes, I have AVG in my Dell desktop with Vista, and it is very quiet. But I had an emachines with XP Home, before this one, that also had AVG and the fan ran continuously and was very annoying! I complained about it to Microsoft and various companies and they didn't have a clue what could be the problem! So I doubt very much if your problem was from using AVG! But if if using Avast works for you - than you made the right choice! I just didn't want AVG to get blamed for this therefore, giving them a bad name!

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Fan kicking on...
by Doh_1 / March 5, 2010 10:01 AM PST

I've got two ideas, one of which is more for the record than for you. First off, make sure that you have the latest BIOS from your OEM/system manufacturer/system board maker. Then go into the BIOS and look around for temperature/fan controls. Sometimes an early BIOS will make this happen, and manufacturers adjust the BIOS as time goes on. So I'd say to update your BIOS to the latest, and then get into it and see what controls are there for it. It isn't likely to be your CMOS losing it's settings, since you've just had the battery replaced for that, but there could be wrong settings. Or another problems related to the CMOS, like dirty battery contacts. It pays to look at the easy stuff first, take care of the low-hanging fruit *smile* problems like this are nearly always BIOS-related in some way.

The other thing probably doesn't apply to you, since you've had your system in for service recently. Many people don't look at the fan and ventilation grills on their system or inside their system for long periods. Overheating is often caused by dust bunnies...every house has a certain amount of dust in the air, and this gets pulled through the cooling path of your computer, getting deposited on the fan and vent grills, and internal components over time. A good vacuuming periodically can help with this, and keep your system from having overheating problems.

Hope this helps.


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Fan is cooling the CPU
by bw49 / March 5, 2010 10:06 AM PST

Generally, the fan's purpose is simply to cool down the CPU. So the trick is to find out why the CPU is heating up. Here are some common reasons:

(1) a program is running and using a lot of CPU cycles. You can tell this if, while the fan is running, the PC is very slow to respond to simple tasks like clicking on a button, typing into a page or switching from one process to another.

If you can get to the Task Manager (ctrl-alt-delete, then select Task Manager), go to the Processes tab, then click TWICE on the CPU column. This will bring the most CPU intensive process ("image name") to the top. Normally, this should be "System Idle Process" -- that is, the system is idle. If some other process shows up and stays around while the fan is running, find out what this process is and whether it should be running so often.

(2) The PC is dirty, clogged with dust bunnies and clutter. You already said this was not the case, and it is probably not the problem here. However, it is worth checking. Open the chassis and dust out the insides, using a can of "compressed air" or a clean, soft brush.

(3) The ventilation slots are blocked. If your laptop is on a blanket, towel or clothes, they can bunch up over the vents and keep the PC from cooling off. However, this would probably result in a constantly running fan, not an intermittent fan.

My best guess is that there is an intensive CPU process running. You say there are no viruses, and you're probably right. There are real programs which do this, not as a virus. Norton 360 is notorious for launching a nearly unstoppable scan process that completely consumes your machine's CPU. That's why my fan was running at full speed for over an hour before I finally just pulled the plug to stop it (don't do's a rather desperate move).

My solution was to turn off the Norton 360 utilities.

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thank you as a not to wise comp uers
by zrsally083 / March 5, 2010 10:07 AM PST

on how to bank-up my e-mails, that was good for someone like myself
that use a comp, but still worrys about hitting the wrong button
and my comp get out of order, so i find it hard to try new things
even that i do, but then i have to spend hours trying to get it back
working the way it was!!! but thank you for the last one on back-up
i am sure i be able to do that. thank you armando gutierrez

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This is likely a driver problem ....
by Watzman / March 5, 2010 10:30 AM PST

The most likely cause of this (not the only possibility, however) is that the shop that restored Windows did not do it right, and, in particular, did not get all of the proprietary HP drivers reinstalled. Someone needs to go to the HP web site and download and install all of the drivers. In this case, pay particular attention to power management related drivers. Also look for CPU and chipset related drivers.

Other possibilities:

This could be a power management setting rather than a driver; look for those under control panel.

It's also remotely possible that the CPU cooling system has a hardware issue, for example a heatsink clogged with dirt, dust and hair.

You gave us very little information, we don't know what the CPU or chipset is. It would be worthwhile finding a program that could monitor the CPU temperature so that you could see if it's really getting high or not just before the fan cuts on. Removing the CPU to clean the cooling system, and then remounting it with proper heatsink compound properly applied might be part of the solution.

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