G4 noise: It never really went away

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
May 2nd, 2005 • 4:33 am

Fan noise has been an issue with my Power Mac G4 MDD (dual 1.25 GHz) from the very beginning. The problem with the outrageous whine was eventually resolved through a Power Supply Unit replacement program, but that replacement program didn’t do anything when it comes to the overal noise levels of the machine.

This is my third year with the machine, and, for some reason, I am finding the noise more and more annoying. There are probably several factors involved in this.

One of them is that I’ve just returned from a vacation in Europe during which I visited my brother, who has a G5 in his home office. The home office is a large room with little furniture, so there is a fair amount of reverberation. Yet when he puts his G5 on, you can barely hear it. It’s not a top-of-the-line G5, and there is more background noise in his home environment than his mine. (I live in a remote rural area with no traffic noise. He lives in a city with a fair amount of background traffic noise.) But I am quite sure that my G4 would sound much worse than his G5 does in the same environment.

Another factor is that my G4 is objectively getting worse with time with respect to its noise levels. The G4’s fans have several speeds and the speed increases when the overall temperature of the machine increases. And when the fan speed increases, you can definitely hear the noise levels getting worse. I don’t remember ever hearing the fan speed increase during the first couple of years, except in very extreme situations. Now it seems that as soon as the weather gets nice, the G4’s internal temperature goes up a couple of degrees (according to Temperature Monitor) and the fan speed increases by one or two notches.

It probably is related in part to the fact that I’ve added some hardware over the years. The G4 now has two internal hard drives and two internal SuperDrives. But the two hard drives are not in the same location (there are two possible locations for hard drives, each with two bays, and I have one hard drive in each location), and the two SuperDrives are definitely not in constant use. There are many days where I don’t use them at all.

So why does my G4 seem to be more susceptible to ambient temperature increases than it used to be? There aren’t that many mechanical parts in the machine that might be expected to degrade over time…

I am really starting to think that having to endure such noise levels on a daily basis doesn’t make much sense in my situation. I work at home in an extremely quiet environment all day long — and yet I have to endure this constant background noise coming from my computer, simply because it was badly designed with little attention paid to acoustics.

Apart from the money involved in buying a new machine, the key question is of course whether things are really improved with the G5. Noise is such a subjective experience, and so dependent on the specific environment too… Apple did emphasize the effort put into making the G5 a quiet machine when it first came out, but that was a while ago, and processor speeds have increased since then, possibly straining the original design of the machine, which remains unchanged as far as I can tell. The fact that the top-of-the-line dual processor G5 features liquid cooling can’t be a good sign… And then there are the reports about G5 noise, and about noise issues in the iMac G5 too, which make me doubt that Apple has really learnt its lesson when it comes to noise issues.

The only real test would (will) be to get a G5 and put it in my home environment and use it there. But I cannot do this without actually buying one! In addition, if I get a G5, I won’t be able to reuse either my internal hard drives (the G5 only has two serial ATA bays) or my second SuperDrive (the G5 doesn’t have a second optical drive bay). Keeping the G4 MDD as a secondary machine, while convenient, would defeat the purpose of the replacement, which is to eliminate the noise of the G4 altogether. (I don’t really have another room where I could “hide” the G4.)

So basically I am stuck with options that don’t really satisfy me and don’t really provide me with a guarantee that all my noise concerns will be addressed.

One Response to “G4 noise: It never really went away”

  1. Betalogue » Going SSD says:

    […] with noise levels is that, overall, things have improved dramatically since the days of the horrendous PowerMac G4 MDD. Of course, I’d like my 2009 Mac Pro and my external hard drives to be even quieter (if not […]

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