I have a small Zotac mini computers, one of those computers that is in a small box like a book. Everything is crammed in there in a tight space.

The computer is making some scary noises. How can tell if it is just the fan going bad or the hard drive is dying?

  • Is your computer running slowly and/or freezing up? Jan 6 '19 at 3:49
  • @juniorRubyist No, just a lot of bearing noise, but I don't know if its the bearings of the fan, or the bearings of the hard drive. Jan 6 '19 at 3:54
  • 4
    You might be in luck. The fans are probably jammed with dust or whatnot, otherwise just going bad. Do check the S.M.A.R.T. status on the drive, though, just to be sure. Jan 6 '19 at 4:15
  • 1
    You have backups, right? :) Jan 6 '19 at 15:18
  • 1
    If you have an SSD in there, it's the case fans. If you don't have an SSD... consider one.
    – Ian Kemp
    Jan 6 '19 at 21:29

If your hard drive is dying, you would hear repetitive clicking or buzzing noises and the computer may occasionally freeze up, getting worse as it dies. You can also tell that your hard drive is dying because of extremely slow transfer rates. You can try checking the S.M.A.R.T. status of your drive (almost like the "Check Engine" light on a car) by using the Command Prompt (or PowerShell) with the wmic utility in Windows. Corrupt files can also be a warning sign of drive failure. Linus Tech Tips does a good job explaining all sorts of hard drive issues. If you determine that your hard drive is dying, stop using it immediately and go buy yourself an external drive (1 TB+) to backup your data ASAP. Try not to rock the computer or drive around to prevent further breakage of your drive.

If your fan is broken, no big deal; just replace it. You could try opening up the case and watching the fans spin up to watch for any issues. If you have a solid state drive, then any noises would be from the fan (but you said you have a hard drive, so...).


You can open it up and disconnect the fan (or otherwise stop it from spinning).
If the noise stops, the problem was the fan. Otherwise try disconnecting the power to the HDD to confirm that it's the hard drive.

  • 3
    And obviously, if the fan is already running because of the heat and you stop it, you might damage the rest of the computer.
    – pipe
    Jan 6 '19 at 12:14
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    @pipe running the computer without a fan for a short period of time will not harm anything. But stopping it from spinning is not that good of an idea.
    – Odyssee
    Jan 6 '19 at 18:25
  • @pipe Assuming it has an Intel CPU the CPU has overheat protection and running without a fan will not cause permanent damage to it -it will just slow down. Over very extended periods the additional heat would put stress on the components, but you are talking months or years.
    – davidgo
    Jan 6 '19 at 18:40
  • Run your computer for as little time as possible without the fan; it's there for a reason, and doesn't just cool the CPU in many computers. Running your computer for even a relatively short time without the fan can destroy the machine.
    – wizzwizz4
    Jan 6 '19 at 19:27
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    @wizzwizz4 - Care to evidence your assertion about it destroying the machine? What components (other then CPU - and presumably built-in gpu) do you assert are that heat sensitive, and why is there this built in time-bomb on the huge number of computers which do not detect the fan speed, and why do you get so many fanless mini PCs?
    – davidgo
    Jan 6 '19 at 19:50

Your problem can easily be addressed referring to the computer behavior.

If you do not face any undesired halt or freeze and the computing speed is, less or more, that you are accustomed to, the problem is the fan, to be substituted.

In order to be more confident simply launch a detailed HD check or some defragmenting program.

You will be able both to understand more precisely the jerky sound origin and to find vaste amount of errors in the disk in case of hd failure.

If many many errors are not found, change the fan.

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