May 04

Last year we expanded our web operations and invested in a 3.0GHz 8-core Mac Pro. The machine has performed flawlessly and met all of my expectations up until it was upgraded to Leopard. Apparently Leopard places higher demands on the video card, and as a result the fan on the original ATI X1900 graphics card began making more and more noise until it became intolerable.

It had gotten so bad that the tiniest task given to the video card, such as switching between Spaces, would cause the fan to start whining even louder for 10 or 15 minutes.

We found references to this happening as a result of dust buildup on the poorly designed intake area of the video card fan, but on inspection found ours not so clogged at all. We do open our computers for cleaning every 6 months or so, as we live and work in an area subject to powerful sand storms (Macs Are Great comes to you from the Sonoran Desert).

So in an effort to resolve this issue we ordered the new NVIDIA GEFORCE 8800 GT KIT from Apple. Installing this new card was a breeze, and of course it was not necessary to install any drivers or dismiss 5 annoying dialog boxes about unsigned drivers. It just worked.

Once everything was all done, put back together, and working great I discovered another thread on Apple Support that suggested this noise might be caused by the air intake on the card being clogged by dust. Of course I knew that was not the case on my Mac Pro, as I had tried cleaning it to resolve the noise. Then I saw a photo one guy had taken of the dust clogging up his card, and I realized I had failed to see that spot when cleaning mine.

So just now I took the old card out of it’s static bag and examined it more closely.

Ooops! It was so thoroughly clogged with dust that you can’t see the heat sink at all. So maybe it is a perfectly good expensive 512MB video card. My bad. Maybe I’ll be more thorough in the future while cleaning inside my Mac Pro. I think I paid enough for the new card to learn a lesson from this experience 🙂

written by Steve Rider \\ tags: , , , , , , ,

3 Pings to “Video Card Fan Noise on Apple Mac Pro”

  1. Six Sense Blog » Blog Archive » Video Card Fan Noise on Apple Mac Pro Says:

    […] Form: […]

  2. n3wblog » Blog Archive » Mac Pro Video Card Noise Says:

    […] I broke down and decided to do some research. First hit revealed, this entry on Macs Are Great. Sounded plausible and matched what I was hearing so I opened up my machine and […]

  3. Twitted by os1019 Says:

    […] This post was Twitted by os1019 – […]

43 Responses to “Video Card Fan Noise on Apple Mac Pro”

  1. 1. Bob Says:

    Thanks for this post! I was having the same problem and it was driving me up the wall, but this solved it! I never would have noticed that layer of dust if someone hadn’t pointed it out to me…

  2. 2. tjhcom Says:

    Thanks also — this solved the main issue with my fan noise — high speed fan running much of the time. Now the fan only ‘kicks into second gear’ infrequently and its not gone ‘into overdrive’ since I cleaned out the dust. I would also never had seen the dust if someone hadn’t pointed it out.

  3. 3. stonevibe Says:

    Same problem here with identical machine. ~Cleaned the ton of dust out the card and now it is almost silent again!

    I really should clean my poor old MacPro out more often.

  4. 4. Steve Says:

    I have the same card and experience the identical problem. I’m thinking about installing the same Geforce 8800 card and I would like to know which card performs the best.

  5. 5. Dave Says:

    Yup, worked like a charm for me, didn’t ever see how badly clogged the heat sinks in the video card had become, but a quick blast with the vacuum cleaner and blissful silence has returned to my office! BE CAREFUL THOUGH!!! DISCONNECT THE FAN ON THE VID CARD OR USE A PIECE OF THICK CARD TO STOP IT SPINNING BEFORE RUNNING THE VACUUM THROUGH… THE FAN WILL GENERATE ELECTRICITY IF SPUN BY YOUR VACUUM CLEANER AND SEND IT BACK INTO THE VIDEO CARD.. NOT GOOD!

  6. 6. Piet Hein Says:

    Thanks for this! Wish I found this post earlier…

  7. 7. Terri R Says:

    I have been tolerating this noise for over two years after being told by Apple that it was normal with all the heavy programs I run! I cannot believe this was all I had to do. My computer is quiet for the first time in years & I’m in total shock. Thank you SO SO SO MUCH!!! Ahhhh the silence is truly golden. ; )

  8. 8. Pete Says:

    Wow, thanks so much for posting this. My 3+ year old Mac Pro (read: fresh out of warranty) was getting so noisy that I was about to call my dealer anyway. The I thought one Google search wouldn’t hurt. My graphics card looked EXACTLY like that, and now it’s been nice and quiet for days! Many thanks again.

  9. 9. Ola Says:

    I am so grateful for Your post! Thank You so much and wish You all the best! Its fantastic You shared this solution!

    I was suffering from my loud computer for more than a year, looking for help hours and hours, and going crazy because the noise was so annoying and ruining my sanity . I called apple customer service in my country, and they didn’t help me. I payed for service repair (authorized apple service, Poland) and they didn’t find the solution, saying everything is ok, and that they’ve cleaned the computer inside.

    About 2 hours ago I took a look at my Radeon card and.. it looked exactly as on You photo! I couldn’t believe the solution was so simple! But it is! NOW Im sitting and looking at my Mac, ENJOYING its silence and sending You good vibes 🙂

    Thank You once again You made me more than happy!

  10. 10. Sarah Jane Says:

    I cannot believe the difference your post has made. I had EXACTLY the same issue, and my card looked exactly the same. One swipe with the dustbuster and my brain is no longer about to explode. I had tried everything and was losing my mind from the constant whining of the fans and frequent crashes. This information should come with every new Mac Pro with this card, as it would save heartache and hundreds of bucks, not to mention time. THANK YOU.

  11. 11. asopaque Says:

    Ditto to the posts here. Had a used MacPro in great condition, but the fan kept ramping up to high speed every 30 seconds or so. I was just getting ready to send it in for repair when i found this info. Pulled the card and voila! There was the pile of dust. Excellent post and a great help. Kudos!

  12. 12. adad98 Says:

    Thank you x 1,000. I have been having this issue for *three years*!!! I gave up on it because Applecare couldn’t figure it out for me. Just on a whim I searched and someone mentioned this article in a thread about this issue. And… a few minutes of dust cleaning later, I’m good!

  13. 13. Anton J. Zellman Says:

    After months of procrastination and then trying a great app, smcFanContol (which kept me going for many more months) I did this simple fix – With can of compressed air I blew out the dust from boards and back of fan and presto- loud sound, streaks across monitor screen and Freeze ups disappeared. Thank you to all who learn and post your experiences and knowledge!!


  14. 14. iClick Says:

    Bingo – you are a legend! I concur with all the posts above. I just moved into a new office ans spent the day setting up my workstation and thought timely to investigate my LOUD MacPro. Your fix has brought me sanity again after too many years of putting up with my noisy machine. Cudos to you!

  15. 15. Conny Says:

    Thank you very much indeed! Finaly some peace in my small studio again, after putting up with the noise of a dual quad core Mac trying to take of for over two years!
    Cleaned the machine, tried to figure out how temperature behaved, put extra HD’s to sleep. Everything seemed to be normal, but the Mac became louder and louder. It almost made me crazy for it got worse by the month. I read several posts on fora to find out what could be the couse and was about to take the whole machine apart in order to replace whatever seemed to be the problem when my partner came accross your posted picture.
    Now I just unscrewed the videocard and cleaned it…
    For sure it is a spot that you miss when cleaning – not a design to keep I should say 😉
    Thank you again for this post: it realy made my day!

  16. 16. Allister in Scotland Says:

    Came across your article today – i have been have problem noises with my Mac pro for 2 years now – loud rattling sounds coming from the rear – like a plane taking off! – Also in the past week it would shut down during mid-render in FCP or compressor – and a red light would come on inside my Mac on my graphics card just at the cable connection.
    I was told by Apple it may be a faulty logic board! But i had a logic board go on my Macbook a year ago and it didn’t start up so I thought let’s go Google.
    First of all I reset the Cudor chip which totally resets the logic board – no luck then i found this article.
    Guess what my card looks IDENTICAL to the pic above – so i cleaned it with a cotton bud and vacuum – reinstalled it and BINGO – total silence.
    I ran a 1 hour film in compressor and rendered a 1 hour section of footage with Magic bullet looks in FCP and burned a DVD in DVDSpro all aty the same time and i had total silence!
    THANKS SO MUCH for this article you saved me hassle and money!

  17. 17. Len Says:

    THANKS! My Mac Pro has been noisy with fans running for about a year. I looked at the video card and blew off a wall of dust. I can’t even hear it anymore.


  18. 18. Len (a different one) Says:

    Am nominating you for a Nobel ‘Peace’ Prize. This one post will change the world. Thanks so much.

  19. 19. Beppe Says:

    Thanks a lot…i was up to replace the card and you saved me…thinking the upgrade of lion 10.7.2 was the cause of that…at the apple store they said to replace the card cause not compatible with Lion…hahaahahh the power of dust…. God bless you

  20. 20. Daddy1967 Says:

    I absolutely NEVER, EVER !!!!! post comments, but for the new super quiet mac that you have just gifted me with… I agree with Len (a different one) at comment 18 and second that Nobel ‘Peace’ prize nomination, and oh go on then, President too 🙂

    Just to put this into a little perspective, I have had my Mac on constantly for the last 6 months or so because I have a couple of Apple TVs which access iTunes on it and the noise from the fan has been driving me crazy, so thank you!

  21. 21. Hipp68 Says:

    You rock! Weeks ago I cleaned out the inside hoping to resolve my issue and it did not work. Then I read this post. I too failed to clean off that portion of the video card. Works like new again! Ahhh, the silence has returned to my office. Thank you!

  22. 22. Colombo Says:

    thank you so much!!!!!!! i could kiss you. years of loud noise….. gone

  23. 23. Beyonce Says:

    I just cleaned my mac pro as well. I do not have that card but an NVIDIA. But the machine was very dusty. Now its all quiet. Thanks from me too.

  24. 24. Alex Cohen Says:

    It worked!!!! Thank you!!!!


  25. 25. Mike Simmons Says:

    Sometimes you hit on just the right thing that changes something you had almost learned to live with, even though it never ceased to be something that just didn’t seem right. Before cleaning the graphic card on my Mac Pro as described, it labored on in a noisy manner that made me want to shut it down every chance I could, if only to be rid of the infernal racket it made. And now it is gone…completely! I can hardly hear the Mac when it’s running. Miraculous. Thank you so much.

  26. 26. Patricia Stitson Says:

    ARGGGHHH….why didn’t I google for this before??? I was ready to replace my graphics card tooo. Now it is quiet as a mouse…. THANKS for the heads-up!

    You should see the dirt I pulled out of that. Mike – I totally relate.


  27. 27. Aaron Jay Says:


    Thanks man. I really owe you one. : )

    u rock!

  28. 28. MichaelAz Says:

    Mac Pro Dual Quad Core Early 2008 with Dual ATI Radeon X1900 XT 512MB Video Cards. System was making lots of Fan Noise. I had the “Sounds like a jet taking off” going on. Previously I had searched and did the SMC Reset which would work for about 20-30 minutes then I would get lots of fan noise again. Did another search today and found this page. Opened up my Mac Pro and saw the blanket of dust covering my video cards intake exactly as shown in the image top of this page. Carefully vacuumed the area clean and did the same with as much area as I could get to and system is running quiet as new now. Thanks for the great post. I was about to go buy a complete new machine. Running quiet and I am loving it. Many Thanks. Great Post

  29. 29. Matt Says:

    Add me to the list! I’ve been putting up with a crazy-ass noisy fan for the past three years…went through the whole SMCFan business, tried upgrading system software a couple different times, wondering if problem had to do with something corrupt lurking in the software, even made arrangements to wire our office so the computer could be sitting in a nearby closet so I wouldn’t have to listen to it. On a whim, I searched again tonight for suggestions on how to control the fan’s noise. Lo and behold, I found your site, along with the picture showing a spot I NEVER would have noticed. Stuck the pipe from a can of compressed air in there and blew the living daylights out of it — huge chunks of dust come flying out. Restart the machine (on THE FIRST TRY!!!), and it’s like I’ve forgotten I even have a computer, it’s so quiet. Thanks for posting this!!!

  30. 30. TK Says:

    not only made my day,
    Thank you sooo much!!!

  31. 31. Don Says:

    Same comment here as above multiplied x 10. Mine was so bad that the video card was shutting down. I bet if it had went on any longer I would damaged my card. Absolutely silent now. Just like new.

    Apple needs to put this in a post and send it to all MacPro users as a preventive maintenance tip. How many people must have gotten rid of their MacPros for another computer by not knowing this quick fix.
    Hundreds if not thousands I bet.

  32. 32. Caleb Says:

    Wow – add me to the list. I used a straw to blow the dust out of mine. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  33. 33. James McEachen Says:

    This one is a real life-saver! 5 minutes and it’s like a new video card. Brilliant! And yet so easy.

  34. 34. graham Says:

    Fantastic. That’s solved it – my Mac was sounding like a squadron of Spitfires on scramble till I followed the above. Many thanks. GSJ

  35. 35. dylan Says:

    going to clean it tomorrow. i cannot express how excited i am to get rid of this noise. its been aggravating me for 5 years. wow!

  36. 36. faquio Says:

    thanks so much, this post was great and accurate. I solve my problem too, no more noise.
    but let me tell you some, I bought a powerful little blower in COMPUSA just 50 bucks and I cleaned everything, because blow is much better than sucks….

  37. 37. Marlowe Says:

    Wow, first I thought the superloud noise was a HD, then once I located the noisy fan on the video card I was prepared to replace it. Then I found this, cleaned the fan and…

    Perfectly quiet.

    Thanks a ton.

  38. 38. hutch Says:

    I have been trying to fix this for years. Never noticed that. Mine was 1/8″ thick. solved it immediately!!

  39. 39. mc Says:

    THANK YOU!!!! I concur with all of the post’s above. This solved it.

  40. 40. Heatnoise Says:

    This did it for me. Two years of cleaning my Mac Pro tower and I never saw this little niche before. When I did see it, the niche was a solid grey. I always assumed that was the normal color of the plastic on the card. I have cleaned it today for the first time and of the 1000 items I have read on the net in the past two years, your insight solved my problem. Thank you.

  41. 41. Joe Says:

    YES! Super big thank you!

  42. 42. Hans van Voorthuijsen Says:

    So simple and many thanks for this fine solution!
    You saved me a lot of bucks.

  43. 43. Cathy Hunnicutt Says:

    I have a Late model 2010 MacBook. I am having fan noise I have taken out the fanned got the dust out and dusted the computer with canned air. Put is back together and the noise is still there. What else could it be ?

    Need help.
    Thank you