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Reduce excess fan noise by cleaning out dust System
There have been reports of high fan speeds on the iMac 15 in flat panerl after installing various versions of 10.3.8 or 10.4.x. I had such a problem. I tried the hints about restart with plug out and PRAM resetting and the rest. Nothing worked. Problem went on for months. Then the simple idea finally struck. A vacuum cleaner applied to the lower vents cleaned out dust and the fan now runs at normal speed. For those that had success with their maneuvers it may have been inadvertent cleaning when unplugging or button pushing that helped.

One thing that modern appliance computers don't have is a dust filter. Most people wouldn't change them anyway, so I suppose that is why they are not there. I lost a power supply to overheating on my old 6116CD PowerPC some time ago. That filter was inaccessible without physically removing the power supply. As most of us here function as the local tech experts, we should be sure to remember the basic support function of keeping the equipment clean. Dust is a big killer of electronics of all types, so clean out your computers, stereos, TV's and other devices from time to time.

[robg adds: Warning: A reader has emailed me that using a vacuum can be very dangerous, due to static charges that can build up. Instead, use a can of compressed air...]
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Reduce excess fan noise by cleaning out dust
Authored by: macgruder on Apr 06, '06 08:54:08AM

Ha! I sent this hint to Rob over a year ago but it was rejected as 'we don't do hardware hints'. Glad it's in here now. One of the most truly valuable hints here.

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Reduce excess fan noise by cleaning out dust
Authored by: pbeaudet on Apr 06, '06 09:26:56AM

We all know this, but how many actually clean their machines. I had to replace a faulty CD-ROM drive in an 18 month old eMac. I found enough dust and cat hair to choke my horse as well as the vacuum. The little fan on the drive was plugged with dust. It was no wonder it failed. I live in a very rural area. My house is new and fairly airtight with air conditioning.

Thanks for the reminder!


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Reduce excess fan noise by cleaning out dust
Authored by: mizraith on Apr 06, '06 03:00:18PM

I had HORRIBLE fan noise with 10.4.4 with my 15 TiBook. The upgrade to 10.4.5 made it all better. This same thing happened before in 10.3.? The take home point is that (no, i've never cleaned the fans) some of the OS updates mess with how the fan is throttled, occasionally causing the fan to go full out for NO reason.

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Reduce excess fan noise by cleaning out dust
Authored by: kahuna on Apr 06, '06 09:27:08AM

While I've been using the vacuum to suck out my mini for a year, I've always wondered about possible static discharge damaging anything. Any warnings out there?

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Reduce excess fan noise by cleaning out dust
Authored by: robg on Apr 06, '06 09:35:11AM
Someone just emailed me the following:

"Today's hint about vacuuming your Mac is extremely dangerous, enormous amount of static electricity is generated and can destroy electronics.

Vacuum cleaners should never be used with electronic equipment. Use canned air to blow out dust. It can be bought at most electronics supply shops."

I've added a warning to the note, as I don't know one way or the other for sure, but 'better safe than sorry' seems like good advice.


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Reduce excess fan noise by cleaning out dust
Authored by: ParadisePete on Apr 06, '06 01:35:05PM

If your wiring is properly grounded and your Mac is plugged in you're not going to fry anything.

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Reduce excess fan noise by cleaning out dust
Authored by: Clublights on Apr 08, '06 01:19:05PM

That is a MAJOR risk

you know how many houses aree wired poorly?

I've SEEN a vacuum destroy electronics... and not even a " cheap" Mac.

Instead it was a 35,000 dollar Lighting control desk ( see why I called the mac cheap? )

USE COMPRESSED AIR ONLY. the risk is HIGH. and yes you may have gotten away with it for years I've even done it some myself. but the risk is a lot

Better much safer then sorry your mac fried.

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On the static risk
Authored by: kd4ttc on Apr 06, '06 10:39:00AM

I forgot about that issue. A google search on "risk of damage to electronic components from vacuum cleaner" resulted in a few sites that mostly warned of the risk of static discharge, though a couple of sites said if the vacuum didn't touch anything all would be OK.

Well, no harm done in my case. I did the following: the vacuum was used with the unit still plugged in and the case was not opened. Thus the static protection was intact. Computers are designed to take static hits from users touching them, and IC's have anti-static parts at the pins to protect them, though it still worries me when I touch my PC in the winter and a spark does the occasional jump. A vacuum is another matter, though, with the long hose and high air flow generated. Vacuuming a bare board without having a static dissipating hose and grounded vacuum (which is what the speciality vacuum cleaners are) is a bad idea.

Steve Holland

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static free vacuum
Authored by: fish2live on Apr 06, '06 11:21:41AM

I first encountered the warning not to vacuum the inside of my computer many years ago. At the time I had two vacuum cleaners, and one of them was almost entirely plastic. I had repeatedly noted that the plastic vacuum developed quite a layer of dust on the outside of the plastic wand, clearly as a result of static buildup.

My other vacuum was a high end Sears cannister vac with a hose that detached at the point where it entered the big floor attachment. The fancy vac had a steel pipe and a powered rug brush in the floor attachment, and the hose end terminated in a matching steel piece that mated to the pipe of the floor attachment.

Sure, the steel will dissipate a static charge better than plastic, but my vacuum had one other very special feature. The vac had every helpful dongle to avoid bending over, and one feature was an on/off switch in the handle where the hose connects to the floor piece. My fancy vacuum had a grounded nozzle, which prevented a static buildup.

It was just plain luck that I had been using the grounded vacuum to clean my computer, but when I ran across that warning, it specifically stated that I should only use a grounded vacuum hose if I insisted on doing it. The warning noted that such a setup is relatively rare. I have since used the same old vacuum many times to clean my computer, but I wouldn't dream of using any other to do the job. I also do my vacuum cleaning with the power cord connected to the computer to ground the whole thing as much as possible.

By the way, this whole phenomenon of static on plastic is not confined to computers. People living in marine environments may encounter warning signs at gas stations regarding plastic gas tanks on truck bed liners. Both air and gasoline build up static charges as they flow over plastic. If a plastic boat gas tank is filled while sitting on a plastic bed liner, the electrically insulated tank becomes susceptible to catastrophic discharge. It's good to ground.

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Reduce excess fan noise by cleaning out dust
Authored by: themacnut on Apr 06, '06 11:04:29AM

Something that's not clear to me from the hint; is the vacuum used on the inside of the machine while it's powered down and unopened, or is the vacuum hose simply applied to the fan vents on the back of the machine while it's closed up?

I'd think there'd be less of a risk from static discharge if the vacuum is used to suck dust from the fan vents while the machine is off, but still closed up. Clarification on the exact technique would make this hint more useful.

The MacNut
Owner, ClarisWorks/AppleWorks Email List

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Machine was plugged in.
Authored by: kd4ttc on Apr 06, '06 06:44:23PM

The computer was cleaned while still plugged in, but powered off. I was working on an iMac flat panel 15 inch - the cute half sphere machine now discontinued. The vents are along the bottom rim and the exhaust is on the top. The iMac has a heat pipe extending from the CPU to the edge, according to photo's of the innards I've seen. I suspect that removal of dust from that spot was important in the improvement on my machine.

Steve Holland

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Reduce excess fan noise by cleaning out dust
Authored by: cougar718 on Apr 06, '06 09:53:59PM

Forget using a vacuum, here is what I do for all my computers and customer's computers. Disconnect all the cables, take it outside on the drive way. Bring a towel with ya for the door if you have a G4.

Now fire up an electric leaf blower on low power and give it a quick blowing off. Don't worry about the fans being spun by the air coming from the blower, this will happen. Just don't sit there and hold the leaf blower right up to the fan grill for 5 minutes. That would be stupid, right?! Use quick bursts from a distance right into the case and the dust will fly right off. Been doing this since, well, I don't know. A long time.

Rick alias cougar

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more than dust ...
Authored by: sjk on Apr 07, '06 04:40:03PM

A tech at the Apple Store recently told me he really hates eMacs now after finding a few dead geckos in one he was repairing.

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