Why is My MacBook Fan So Loud?

macbook fan noise

White noise doesn’t usually bother us… until it comes to the whirring of MacBook fans while you’re trying to work. It seems the MacBook fan can be very loud after a macOS update, when you play games, all of a sudden, or for no reason.

So how do you determine what’s kicking your fans into action? In this guide, we’ll help you identify the reasons behind MacBook fan noise and what you can do to get it back to normal.

Read on to learn more!

Possible Cause 1: Poor Venting/Circulation

This is the simplest of loud fan causes and also the easiest to check, fix, and resolve.

Here’s the explanation: Your MacBook heats up as the electrical process required to use it to release energy. The fans inside are built to cool it down, but they have to work overtime when there isn’t normal airflow around the laptop.

If you’ve been working with your MacBook flat on your lap or desk, you’re effectively blocking any air from circulating underneath your laptop and forcing the fans to work twice as hard to cool the component.

How to Fix:

If you just need a short-term fix, propping your MacBook up and leaving it inactive for a few minutes to cool down before you go back to work should help alleviate the problem.

But if this is a consistent issue for you, consider investing in a quality laptop stand to lift your MacBook and allow for better air circulation. Also, consider using a cooling pad if the laptop constantly heats up.

If you are using an old MacBook (2015 or earlier), you may also consider cleaning the vents and making sure there is no dust stuffing around. Do this with caution as you need to unscrew the bottom case and the vents. Once you clean the air tunnels, it can make a big difference. This video has more.

If you are using a somewhat newer MacBook (2017 model or later), don’t try to open the case as it’s different from old models. Look for other solutions below.

Possible Cause 2: Running Heavy Apps

Because the fans are used to cool the internal electronic components, forcing these components to work overtime will also kick the fans into high gear. This results in the annoying whirring noise you want to get rid of.

Web browsing is a simple everyday task that wouldn’t contribute to this problem. However, if you’re using heavy creative software such as the Adobe Creative Suite, photo editing, video editing applications, or graphics-intensive games you could be sending your fans into a frenzy trying to keep up. As you know, MacBooks are not really good for gaming.

How to Fix:

If you must run heavier applications, take all possible steps to reduce the load on your computer.

  • Only run apps you absolutely need at one time and don’t leave others idle in the background.
  • Turn down frame rates or processing speeds as needed.
  • Make sure you’re already taking all possible steps to optimize your Mac such as using it in a temperature-controlled room rather than outside on an already hot day, etc.

If this is a regular problem and you can’t reduce the workload, you may need to consider upgrading your MacBook by adding more RAM or if you can get a new MacBook specifically for video editing, so it can keep up with your demands.

Possible Cause 3: Hidden CPU Drains

So you haven’t been using any noticeably heavy programs but suddenly the fans are acting up?

Especially if you’ve recently updated, changed some settings, or installed a new program, you could be experiencing some hidden background tasks that are eating up your CPU.

The easiest way to check if this is happening is by analyzing via Activity Monitor, go to Spotlight (with a search icon) in the top right corner of your screen, and type “Activity Monitor”.

Once Activity Monitor is open, navigate to the CPU tab and look for programs that are using extremely large percentages of the available power. If you find one, then you know what your culprit is.

Keep in mind if it’s an app and not a background task (apps have recognizable names and icons, background tasks are a bit more obscure looking), then you should check #2 instead.

How to Fix:

As you can see in my screenshot, I’m not currently experiencing any issues and all the usages (highlighted in red) are fairly low. But once you’ve identified tasks that are using unreasonable amounts of CPU, click on it in the Activity Monitor.

It will be highlighted in blue, and you’ll be able to click the X button in the top left corner which will quit the process. Wait a few minutes for the fans to wind down and to examine how quitting the process affects your machine.

Pro tip: make sure you’ve saved everything you’re working on before force quitting tasks from the Activity Monitor.

If the task re-opens later or comes back, it may be built into a specific program. In that case, you’ll need to research the program it is part of and see which setting is to blame.

Possible Cause 4: MacBook Fan Needs Repair

Have you been using your MacBook in dusty or dirty locations lately? Perhaps you had to take it to a worksite out of the office or went on vacation and took it with you.

Lint, dust, and other air contaminants can build up on your fans if you’ve been in a less than ideal environment lately, or simply over time.

How to Fix:

There are two ways you can clean dust out of your Mac’s fans. The easiest way is to use a can of compressed air to push air through the vents that are on the back of your laptop. Be careful not to hold the can too close and apply unnecessary pressure, which will potentially damage the components inside.

If compressed air doesn’t work from the outside, you can also open the body of your MacBook to clean the fans (for old MacBooks). This is not recommended unless you’re sure you know what you’re doing.

First, find your model of MacBook on iFixit to get instructions on how to open the body for your particular Mac. Then gently use the compressed air to blow particles out of your Mac. Do not under any circumstance use a vacuum, as the static can ruin electronic components.

Also, you may need to replace the fan of your MacBook for better performance. First, get a left and right side CPU cooling fan from Amazon, then again go to iFixit, find your MacBook model and locate the right guide.

If all else fails, take your MacBook to a nearby Apple Genius Bar to have it serviced and professionally cleaned.

We hope this guide has helped walk you through some of the easiest ways to fix the MacBook loud fan issue. If yours are still loud even after trying a few of our solutions, it’s probably best to have it professionally examined at an Apple Service center. Especially if your MacBook is new or under an AppleCare warranty, you probably won’t pay very much and you’ll be able to use your Mac in silence again.

If you have any of your own methods for fixing the fan noise on your MacBook Pro or MacBook Air, we’d love to hear them! Drop a comment below or tell us how our methods worked for you.

About Lorena
Lorena holds a 13-inch Touch Bar MacBook Pro with Apple M1 Chip. Her role involves editorial management from writing to editing and ensuring that the articles are informative, useful, and relevant to readers who are new to Mac.

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  • Nils Jorgensen

    I have tried everything there is online to fix my more or less constant running and noisy fans. It is the second Macbook pro in a row I have this issue with and am extremely tired of spending 4.500 USD with the upgrades for a computer that makes so much noise the its giving problems during online meetings. Also impossible to focus on work.
    Cant update to the newest OS, the systems just stalls. Quite typical “new Apple”. After 20 year of loyal Apple user, Im giving up.
    Conclusion for me is that Apple for unknown reason just cant make the quality they use to.

    Reply
  • Carole

    My fan in my Mac Desktop is running constantly…so annoying. I have checked all your checklist and seems to be something else. Is it possible that it is the files I have on my desktop? Being too many on there? Thanks

    Reply
  • jeanette deltour

    My fan seems to come on when I’m using my Apple Mail program. The mail program is doing weired stuff and I find I need to force quit the program often. Any thoughts/suggestions?

    Thank you,
    Jeanette Deltour

    Reply
  • Prom

    Thank you. This sound was driving me crazy I found this article and there was something called SecurityAgent which was running not sure what it was. I was using 97% of the CPU killed it and macbook is silent. Loving it.

    Reply
  • Josè Lynn

    YES, WAS I RECENTLY FACED THIS SAME PROBLEM.
    I FOLLOWED THE STEPS AND AFTER EXITTING GOOGLE CHROME, FAN NOISE STOPPED IN A MATTER OF SECONDS.
    I WAS BROWSING A LOT OF HEAVY PICTURE TABS IN MY CHROME.
    HERE I THOUGHT THIS NEW MACBOOK PRO 2019 WAS FAULTY.
    THANKS FOR YOUR HELP.

    Reply
  • Jessica Humphreys

    Wonderful advice!! Thank you! Opened Activity Monitor and the Google Chrome and Google Chrome Helper (??) were both using 75%. Stopped them and the fan gently faded off. Whew!

    Reply
    • Erik

      How did you stop them?

      Thanks

      Reply
  • Janelle

    Mine was running loudly even while closed. The solution for me was to check the print queue. There was something stuck in a queue that I had no idea was there. Cancelled print job and voila, no more excessive fan issue.

    Reply
  • cltaylor12

    I purchased an updated 2011 MacBook Pro and the fan is constantly running . All I’m doing is using the browser. I have the machine elevated on two ice hockey pucks per corner so it is 4-5 inches off the surface. My mid-2012 machine does not have this problem unless the entire base is hot and the protective case is on it, and even then I just prop it up on its side and it is fine in moments. The 2011 machine is only running Firefox for watched various streams, the monitor brightness is off because I’m using the TV as the ‘monitor’, and the keyboard has zero backlight so the machine is cool to the touch except for the seam where it vents. It is so loud you can barely hear the TV.

    Reply
  • Minnie

    Oh my gosh! THANK YOU! My fan noise has been driving me CRAZY and I couldn’t figure out why it was happening – I had a lot of tabs open on Chrome, but nothing else running. Opened Activity Monitor, and the mysterious Google Chrome Helper was using over 100%! WTF? Killed it and the sound went away instantly, and nothing happened to my Chrome tabs either. Not sure what Helper was doing, but it certainly wasn’t helping.

    Reply
    • Francesca

      May I know how you stopped Google Chrome helper?

      Reply
      • Francesca

        Never mind 🙂

        Reply
    • TT

      don’t use chrome it heats the Mac

      Reply
    • Michelle

      Same here! Thank goodness for this thread!! Yay!

      Reply
    • Erik

      How did you kill the google chrome helper?

      Reply
  • Alex

    I just bought 2 brand new Macbook pros: both vents blow hard after 5 minutes for no reason. Very frustrating… I tried all the solutions possible. None of them work.

    Reply
    • Julio Voget

      If you are using iCloud, and both Mac are new, they might be downloading and installing iCloud files constantly. Keep them on and powered by a charger, so they can download and organize during nighttime. When everything is ready they’ll stop venting. Have fun!

      Reply
    • dave

      New Macbook Pros have very shitty thermal management. Chromebooks have better thermals than many modern macs. The thinner the laptop the harder it is too cool properly. I have a 2008 Thinkpad running MX Linux, thick as a house but it runs cool, vents heat out of the side of the machine not onto the screen, doesn’t get hot enough to cook an egg on even playing 720p video in youtube. Fans kick on, but they are quiet. You pay a price for thin, the new M1 Apple Silicons may solve many of these issues as those chips run very cool compared to Intel+Nvidia.

      Reply