Macbook pro loud fan

Updated:26/07/2021

Is your Macbook Pro making a fan-like noise, buzzing or has an invariable fan speed? Does the fan stay at 100% when you’re simply browsing the internet? The fan on my MacBook Pro was bothering me because it was too loud, so I did some research and found some solutions that can help. 

MacBook Pro Fan Always On:

MacBook Pro’s fans are always on but they shouldn’t be excessively loud. If your MacBook fan is excessively noisy or running at a high speed all the time (usually about 6000 RPM on a Macbook Pro), this indicates there is software running on your Mac that is stressing the CPU or GPU. 

In most cases, disabling the app will bring the fan speeds back to normal because the CPU isn’t working as hard and the temperatures can go back to normal. When a fan is spinning at full speed, it means the CPU is very hot and the fans are trying to cool it down. 

Here are some solutions: 

  1. Open Activity Monitor and close apps that have high CPU usage. You can also see which apps are using the most energy. Apps like Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, and VMware Fusion/Parallels, tend to cause the fans to speed up because they require a lot of CPU power which increases the temperature of your CPU/GPU. Even background apps like One Drive can be the problem. I suggest closing all unnecessary apps until the fans quiet down. 
  2. Switch web browsers. Google Chrome is known to be quite demanding on MacBooks, especially when you have lots of tabs open. I recommend using a streamlined web browser such as Safari or Firefox. Some web browser extensions might be stressing the hardware too. 
  3. Restart your MacBook Pro. If the fan is continually running at a high speed, a good old-fashion restart should do the trick. 
  4. Try resetting the SMC and PRAM. The SMC reset especially may help. Find out how to reset the SMC and Reset the PRAM.
Activity monitor

The first step is to install a temperature monitor software, to make sure the problem is with your temperatures and not the fans malfunctioning (rare but it can happen). There are lots of free temperature monitoring apps online. 

Fixing a Noisy Macbook Pro Fan

If your Macbook Pro fan is loud most of the time, it means something is causing the MacBook to overheat. The problem could be software, external, or a hardware issue. 

Here are the best ways to fix a noisy Macbook fan:

  1. Clean the fans, make sure dust is not clogging the vents.
  2. Consider a cooling pad for your Macbook.
  3. An external display could be stressing out the graphics card and causing it to overheat.
  4. Consider disabling Turbo Boost via Software (Decreases Performance). 
  5. Make sure the vents aren’t blocked. Place the Macbook flat on a table or desk. 
  6. The fans need to be replaced.

Clean Macbook Pro Fans: 

One of the most common reasons for noisy fans is dirt. The fans trigger when the CPU reaches a certain temperature, but if the fans are dirty, they can’t cool down the CPU fast enough, so they continuously spin at full speed. 

Dust will dramatically reduce the effectiveness of your Macbook Pro fan. Cleaning the fans will make the biggest impact on lowering temperatures, and therefore improving performance and reducing fan noise. 

Cleaning a Macbook Pro fan is pretty easy, and you can do it without opening your Macbook Pro by using a can of compressed air. Spray the can of compressed air into the vents and it should clear out most of the dust on the fans. If you’re familiar with Macbooks, you could disassemble them and clean the fans and other components with a brush. 

Tools you may need:

MacBook Overheating When Connected to External Display: 

It’s common for Macbooks to slow down and overheat when connected to an external display, even more so with two external displays. It doesn’t happen with all Macbooks, but it is a common problem. 

The reason for that is if you’re connecting external displays, especially high-resolution ones your graphics card will be working harder, which will generate heat and trigger the fans. 

For example, if your Macbook supports a max of 2 external displays with max resolution at 2k / each, then if you connect only 1 display – it should be fine. However, if you connect 2 external displays at 2k resolution, your fans will often rev up to maximum speed. 

There’s also a task called WindowServer which tends to consume a lot of CPU when you connect an external display. It’s responsible for re-sizing the UI to match the new resolutions. 

Another bug is an app called kernel_task starts using up to 500% of your CPU power when connected to an external display. In some cases, changing the HDMI cable solves the problem. You could also try one of the other solutions below. 

The solution here is to connect fewer external displays or lower the resolution. There have also been reports of Macbooks hitting 100% GPU usage when connected to one external display. In most cases, resetting the SMC chip solves the issue. 

Reset SMC Chip:

  1. Shut down the MacBook
  2. Hold CTRL + OPTION + SHIT + POWER for 10 seconds
  3. Start the Macbook again
  4. The fans should stay at a regular speed, even when connected to an external display. 

Resetting the SMC chip usually solves the problem where some apps hit crazy high CPU usage when connected to an external display. It should also bring the fans down to a normal speed too. 

Disable Turbo Boost:

You might have heard about turbo boost on Windows, but Macbooks use it too. If your Macbook CPU is getting really hot during basic activities, the problem could be with turbo boost. 

In some cases, with turbo boost disabled temperatures can drop by 20 or more celsius, which won’t make the fans work as hard, resulting in a quieter Macbook. Unfortunately, there’s no way to turn off turbo boost without extra software. 

The software you could use is called Turbo Boost Switcher.

Important: 

Bear in mind, disabling turbo boost also reduces the performance of your Macbook CPU. The reduction in performance might not be noticeable during office tasks, but it can significantly impact the performance in games. 

I would only disable turbo boost on your Macbook if your CPU is hitting 100 degrees celsius during casual usage. 

Your Macbook Pro Fans are Broken: 

The fans on a Macbook can break but it’s very rare. It’s unlikely that the fans themselves have failed but it’s a possibility. 

If your Macbook Pro fans are making strange noises, like a scraping noise or loud clanking, it’s probably a sign the fan’s motor bearings are broken. There could also be a piece of plastic or other obstruction in the fans which is touching the blades. 

In most cases, you can head to an Apple center to get your fans replaced or you can replace them on your own. Replacing them on your own is much cheaper but it voids your warranty and you also risk damaging other components. 

Unless you really know what you’re doing, it’s best not to attempt to disassemble and repair your Macbook. 

Controlling Macbook Pro Fan Speed:

Macbooks have default fan curves, but you can tweak them to your own preferences. Usually, the default settings are good enough. 

However, if you feel like your fans are spinning too fast for no good reason, you can manually control the speed of the fans with third-party apps. Likewise, if you don’t mind fan noise and want to guarantee your Macbook stays cool, you can create a more aggressive fan curve. 

Here’s what you need to do: 

One tool that you can use is called SMCfancontrol. It helps you create custom fan speed settings for your Macbook. For example, you can set certain RPMs for specific temperatures. It’s a handy tool if you feel like your Macbook is having temperature issues. 

By default, on ordinary load, the fans in a Macbook Pro run at 2000 RPM. I’ve always run mine at 3000 RPM, to keep the CPU/GPU temperatures extra low. If you are running a game, or something else that’s CPU/GPU intensive (video encoding, compressing files, decompression, image manipulation, etc), then you should select a higher RPM such as 5000 RPM. Although this will make the fans louder, it will keep your Mac a lot cooler.

What’s a Safe CPU Temperature for Macbook Pro? 

The exact safe temperature limits for a Macbook CPU will depend on the CPU installed under the hood. In most cases, as long as the CPU temperature is under 100 celsius you shouldn’t have any issues. 

What you need to understand is Macbooks (and laptops) are very space-restricted, so there’s not much room for the airflow needed to keep the hardware cool. The CPU and GPU temperatures on laptops will almost always be much higher than on PC towers. 

Conclusion: 

If your Macbook pro fan is always on or having issues, don’t worry. It’s most likely an app or web extension running in the background that’s consuming too many resources. With a few tweaks, you should be able to get the fan speed back to normal. If you suspect there is a hardware issue, and your Macbook is under warranty, another option is to have an Apple specialist take a look at it. 

11 COMMENTS

  1. Was hoping to see something on the last topic, since my fan isn’t working at all. Too bad there is nothing about this in the article, making it bad for me. Hope to see an update.

  2. The fan starts running with a grinding noise at startup. I did an smc reset – didn’t seem to reset. Didn’t work. I did a PRAM reset. Didn’t work. The temp is not even high according to smcfancontrol. I will have no app open and nothing opening on startup. The fan runs with a grindy noise all the time. Should I probably replace it?

    • Try rebooting your device and turn it back on. If nothing works, make sure you bring your laptop to a local Apple Store to get support

    • Since there is a grinding noise, then there are two possibilities.
      1. There something obstructing the fan blades or
      2. The ball bearing for the fan axle is failing due to dirt getting into the casing or the lubrication drying or seeping out.
      For 1. Try blowing out any dust or particles using compressed air from a can.
      For 2. If the ball bearing is failing or dirty, then you’ll need to replace the fan.

  3. “A Macbook Pro fan should always be on”

    This is simply not true, dear Mac Experts.
    The 2015 and newer Mac Book Pros turn the fans off when not under load. The 2015 and newer MacBook Pros are semi-passive cooled.

  4. I had same problem before with my mac, it was running at high speed eve. tried resetting the SMC and PRAM and didn’t work. But when i opened it to replace the feet pad of the cover, i noticed the battery is already bulging. Replaced the battery and also solved the issue of always running at high speed.

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