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Ask Max: Over-ambitious PowerBook Fan

Asked on 09/05/2006:

Dear Jacob,I have an old TiBook 667 which I have babied for years. I've increased its hard drive and added another gig of RAM. I've probably spent too much on it and should have just upgraded, but...Anyway, in the past couple of days the fan has been running pretty much continuously. After a minute or so of launching Safari, Mail, etc., the fan starts.As far as I know my software and firmware are up to date. The laptop is sitting on the kitchen table - bare, without any suffocating tablecloth, etc. - and the air conditioning is always on. It's hot down here! But the house stays at around 79 degrees plus or minus 2 or 3 degrees.Any suggestions besides trading it in?


Any upgrades you do to a Mac can offset the cooling balance within the case. A larger hard drive that spins faster than the original drive will generate more heat and trigger the fans to come on more often. That being said, any good engineer builds in some padding to his numbers, and you do not sound like you are over-tasking this computer so there may be another culprit. In the Utilities folder within the Applications folder is a program called Activity Monitor. This program will show you what is running on your system and help identify what could be causing this problem. In Activity Monitor's window, make sure you are viewing "All Processes" and not just "My Processes." Then click on the column labeled "%CPU" to see what is eating up the most system resources. Make sure no process is marked in red or is using more then 30% of the CPU for long periods of time. Look at your "Disk Activity" and see if that corresponds to your fan use. It could be that everything looks normal in the Activity Monitor. If that is the case try changing your Energy Saver settings in the System Preferences. Allow your hard drive to go to sleep whenever possible and in the "Options" section make sure that your processor settings are set to "Automatic."As a last ditch effort you could do an archive and install of the OS and see if the software-based fan controller is corrupted.Good luck and let me know what you find out.Jacob Loeb

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