Why is my Mac hot or making a lot of fan noise?

A running fan or a hot computer doesn’t necessarily indicate a problem unless it’s accompanied by random shutdowns. A computer that gets hotter turns the fan on. But not because of the age of the computer or because something is broken. It’s mostly because new software and more modern websites are more demanding, causing it to work harder to keep up with things. But it’s not necessarily a problem. Just like taking your sweater off when you get warm, your computer is just doing what it needs to do to remain comfortable.

You also don’t need to worry about a very hot computer. I often get emails from customers who are concerned because their computer is giving off heat. But unless it’s so hot that you can’t touch it you don’t really need to worry. The heat on the body of the computer means that the heat is effectively dissipating from the electronics inside, much like a car radiator.

So you probably don’t need to worry about it. Those things are not necessarily problems. But if you really want to dig in here are a few things to check or try:

If the fan is making an irregular, grinding noise. This could be an indication that a ball bearing on a fan is going bad. There isn’t anything wrong with that exactly, but if the ball bearing gets jammed and the fan stops up then your computer could overheat and turn itself off. You may want to consider getting the fan replaced if you’re planning to keep the computer for a long time, or if the computer does spontaneously turn off you may want to try running Apple Diagnostics.

Try restarting your computer. Often a simple restart will knock out the gremlins. Apple menu > Restart.

If the computer turns off spontaneously then there could be a hardware problem. You should contact Apple Support, or if you are in San Francisco you can book an appointment with me. Unfortunately, more often than not the solution is usually a computer replacement.

See what apps are putting high demand on your computer. Open up Activity Monitor (in Applications/Utilities) and make sure you are on the “CPU” tab. In the “View” menu choose “All Processes”. If you click on the “% CPU” column heading all of your processes will be rearranged by how much of your processor’s resources are in use.

A few notes:

  • You may not recognize many of the items on this list, as many of them are underlying system functions, not just apps. But if you search for them by name on Google it might give you some ideas about where to look.
  • The % of an individual process does not mean a percentage of your computer’s abilities. It means a percentage of a single processor core. If you have something showing 50% but you have a quad-core processor, it’s really only using one-eighth of your computer’s processing resources.
  • Just because something is using a high amount of CPU doesn’t mean there is a problem. Maybe it’s working on a difficult task. Maybe it’s doing exactly what it is designed to do. So don’t get rid of something just because it’s using a lot of your computer’s resources if it’s doing something that’s valuable to you. This is just something to get you started on your hunt.

If you still feel something’s not right and if you are in San Francisco, you can book an appointment so I can check your computer out.

Photo by Ava Sol on Unsplash