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The Silence of The Laptop

My wife's laptop was dying not so long ago, the screen wiring had gone so that the screen wouldn't work except when opened to a silly, unusable angle, and the keyboard was getting a bit flaky, keycaps falling off etc. Underneath these flaws it's a powerful machine, but a laptop with dodgy screen and keyboard is obviously not much use.

So I gave my, less powerful but fully functional, laptop to my wife, and took her old one to work where I repaired the screen hinge and plugged in a large external monitor and keyboard. Since then it has generally served me well, with two flaws - it often crashed when playing video, and the fan was very noisy. I got fed up of this and decided to see if I could improve matters.


The fan was clogged with dog hair - not a good start. The fancy heatsink which cools the CPU, dedicated Graphics Processor (GPU) and I/O Chip was connected to the GPU and I/O Chip by thermal conductive pads which were obviously well past their sell by date and no longer conducting the heat away from the chips. The problem was obvious, the laptop was crashing because the GPU was overheating, and the fan noise was awful because it was both clogged up and running all the time.

I hoovered out the fan - easy. Replaced the two thermal conductive pads with two shims of copper to reconnect the GPU and I/O Chip to the heatsink. Total effort 10 minutes and £2:30 for the copper shims, I expect a repair shop would have charged me £50 or something ludicrous, but being a techie I can do my own maintenance.

I'm now working in my office again using the same old laptop - but it's not the same. The laptop doesn't crash anymore, but the most significant difference is that the silence in my office is eerie, the laptop makes no noise at all, not a whisper, it is probably quieter than the day it came out of the factory. My office seems empty without the background hum of the machine - and I am able to concentrate better.

When I used to run the IT for large companies I was always insistent on using low-energy, low-noise desktop computers. To me the price premium was well worth it, an open plan office with over 100 noisy computer fans running is a  very tiring place to be. The constant background "white" noise makes conversations difficult, makes concentration harder, and results in staff tiring more quickly, making worse decisions, and being desperate to leave the office at the end of the day. Computer noise in the workplace is a very real drain on productivity. 

Take a walk into your office when people aren't talking - maybe at the beginning of the day before the sales team have started their outbound calls or before customer support have opened for business, and have a listen. Is it blissfully quiet? or is there a background hum? If your office hums you might want to fix it - that noise is almost certainly costing you a lot of lost earning power.

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