Added on Nov 9: I put the old cooler back in place, as per Keltari's suggestion, and while the sound is much less pronounced, upon close inspection I can still hear it. It may have been there all along, just not loud enough for me to hear it well enough. The new cooler has a larger fan, perhaps drawing more power, and is also heavier due to the larger heatsink, but putting a little extra weight onto the old cooler doesn't seem to impact the sound. Is it simply a poor quality motherboard?


I replaced the CPU cooler in a PC I built earlier this year, and while everything seems to be working properly, the motherboard now emanates a kind of intermittent sound somewhere between a beep and a "screech" that it never used to previously. Things I did prior to this:

  • Replaced the CPU cooler;
  • Moved the 2 memory modules I have to different slots for easier future upgrades;
  • Spilled a bit of cooling paste onto the motherboard (oops). It fell on the side of the PCIe slot my graphics card is in. I cleaned it up and could find no other spills on the board;

The sound is not continuous, and it is a little different from what I hear in "coil whine" videos, but it seems I to be triggered primarily (but not exclusively) by things happening on the screen, like:

  • Playing a video (passively), e.g. YouTube full-screen
  • Pressing a key on the keyboard and holding it (audible only when this results in text on-screen)
  • Scrolling through web pages

At first I thought it might be the graphics card, because the noise persists when the framerate is high or something is happening on the screen, but after removing the card I would hear it again.

I should add that when I first booted the computer after replacing the cooler, I got a POST error with a countdown, but it then proceeded to boot into Windows. There it became obvious that the time and date had been reset (now resolved), even though I had not touched the CMOS battery.

  • With no other hardware changes other than the CPU cooler, what might cause the screeching sound? How do I go about finding the source? Could it be the CPU?
  • What could have caused the date to be reset, if the battery has not been touched?

Computer specs:

  • Gigabyte GA-78LMT-USB3 6.0 motherboard
  • AMD FX-6300 processor
  • be quiet! Shadow Rock Top Flow SR1 CPU cooler
  • Nexus Value 430W PSU
  • 2x Kingston 4 GB DDR3-1867 / PC3-14900 memory
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 610
  • Crucial m4 CT128M4SSD2 128GB SSD
  • Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
  • 1
    The obvious thing is to undo the change. Put the old cooler back on and see if it happens.
    – Keltari
    Nov 7, 2015 at 9:03
  • Replacing the cooler was a major hassle. I'd like to avoid undoing the work until I have some more insight into what can or cannot cause these symptoms.
    – redburn
    Nov 7, 2015 at 9:31
  • 1
    Do you have a spare power supply? I had a similar problem that did not go away after replacing the video card. Ended up being coil whine from my old "Value" PSU. Try swapping the PSU out. Nov 7, 2015 at 15:42
  • @Keltari I got so frustrated I ended up undoing the change as you proposed. At first I thought that "fixed" it, but upon closer inspection the sound is still there, but much less pronounced (i.e. almost inaubible).
    – redburn
    Nov 9, 2015 at 16:22
  • @redburn to me, that sounds like the sound was always there, you just didnt hear it as you werent listening for it.
    – Keltari
    Nov 9, 2015 at 18:27

3 Answers 3


I hear lots of such sounds from probably every computer out there that I have tested (doctor says I still hear 20-20000Hz). Since you are sure it is not the cooler fan etc I think it may be either coil whine (from GPU, PSU or motherboard) or the VRMs.

It could be that the sound is more audible with the new cooler because perhaps it is more quiet? And the sound was there even with the old cooler, but wasn't so noticeable because it had a different noise profile.

See (read: try to listen and hear) if the sound is "activated" more by CPU or GPU load and thereby also higher power draw. Coil whine usually follows and changes in characteristics with alternating load and temperature.

  • It was definitely GPU-related, as the sound would be more consistent when I was playing a 1080p test video full-screen, or when I used mouse or keyboard to produce output on the screen. Oddly enough, I "solved" it by altering and then reverting some BIOS settings.
    – redburn
    Nov 10, 2015 at 11:10

First guess is fan noise, the new cpu cooler's fan could just be loud, or could be "going to fail" loud. When you hear the noise, you could quickly & gently & BRIEFLY slow down the fan with your finger (if it's not sharp steel or anything dangerous) and see if the noise changes. If it does, then it's a noisy fan. Swapping the fan for another one should be possible, maybe even without removing the whole cpu heatsink again if it's positioned right.

Not much else makes noise on a computer, mainly system/case fans, power supply fans, or a video card fan (but you already ruled that out by removing the card). Some hard drives can be noisy & sound "beep"-like when seeking or reading, but the hard drive light should coincide with noise changes.

Other noises I've heard only last a second or two while some component burns out, then everything fails ;-)

  • The sound reminds me of "spinning rust", and there's a HDD in the system along with an SSD, but it's not coming from either of these. Not the fans, either, I've stopped all of them and the sound persists.
    – redburn
    Nov 9, 2015 at 16:24

I put the old cooler back in place, noticed the sound was there but much less audible, then re-installed the new cooler and the sound got louder again. It may have been there all along, just not loud enough.

Finally, I ended up changing some settings in the BIOS, disabling Cool & Quiet, fan control, and some other things, and the noise was gone. So I then reverted those changes one by one to see who was the culprit, but after reverting all changes I have yet to hear the sound again.

I'm not sure how, but apparently that solved my problem.

Thanks for all your input.

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