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Inspiron buzz


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Inspiron buzz

  • There has been a number of posts I've seen regarding a buzzing noise emission from Inspiron laptops.  A lot of people talk about fan/speaker (mis)use and stuff like that, but I wanted to explain what's going on with my system and see what everyone else thinks.  Rest assured, it is not something so simple as a fan or speaker (it never is!).

    For reference, I have an Inspiron 4000 which is just over a year old.  No mods, drops, spills, or anything of the like--the machine is in its original condition; the noise has been present over the last couple of months, and loudest as of late.  Normally the buzzing is relatively light and has historically originated from the area roughly beneath the keyboard where the CPU is.  The best way to describe the noise is that it sounds somewhat like a notebook hard drive reading/writing (but is most certainly a not-normal buzzing).  The buzz idles relatively quietly with the machine on, but becomes rather slightly amplified when moving any attached pointing devices (trackpoint, touchpad, external mouse).  The noise seems at its loudest (which is at times distractingly loud) when there is a lot going on on screen, but I still cannot yet figure out how the buzzing works precisely.  However, it is important to note that the buzzing is almost certainly not correlated to CPU or power usage.

    I wanted to see what was really going on and not just make assumptions about the origin of the noise, so I completely disassembled the machine to see what I could see.  I attached a smallish heatsink to the processor so I could accurately mic the area directly surrounding it.  I traced the buzzing noise to coming from a small black box welded to the motherboard about an inch or so northwest of the ZIF socket.  The piece is marked "102HA/6./1713Q".  Directly beneath it is a much smaller chip marked "S4/IC", and to its left is a series of medium chips labeled "NEF/JN8".  The motherboard appeared to be in pristine shape (no cuts, scratches, scraped circuits, all ground contacts were made to the chassis, etc.) so I've really no clue what the deal with this is.

    So, what do I need to know about this problem, and how do I fix it?  The machine is out of warranty, and I'm not so keen on the idea of just replacing the motherboard, nor do I even know if that will really fix it.

    Thanks everyone.


  • It is the sound of things going on, mostly. However, today I made an interesting discovery at work. On a Dimension 4500 with a GF4MX card, I can actually hear the sound of things being drawn on the screen. I was selecting options on the runway lighting panel and i could hear a buzz from the video card when the options were selected (the case was open because I was troubleshooting a hard drive problem. I listened to different parts of the case and confirmed that it DID come directly from the video card.

    That being said, it could be the video cards are a bit noisy. But I have heard the noises you describe. In fact I heard those same exact noises in 1990 on my Tandy 1000 HX computer! (usually when I connected a set of headphones to the audio jack)

    Really, I am not bothered by it one bit. (Waves hand in a Jedi like motion) "And neither should you...These aren't the noises you are looking for!"

  • I'm pretty sure if i've got the same sound as you.  But my inspiron 4000 has got a static noise coming from underneath the keyboard whenever i move the touchpad and the trackpoint.   When i stop using the touchpad/trackpoint, the noise stops but there's still a faint cackling static noise.   It's there when I'm on the AC adapter and much louder when I'm on battery.   The noise goes away when I scroll continuously using the touchpad and when I click and hold on the X in the corner of windows.

    So if anyone does find any fix for this, please help as I don't want to send it in.  I'm not on warranty and I've already had to replace a hard drive which conveniently broke down a month after my warranty expired.

    Thanks, Liz 

  • The sound of your cursor being moved on the screen perhaps?

  • Turn the speaker sound all the way down (or mute it) and see. Also is the mic on and enabled? Try unchecking that.
  • Unfortunately I'm not as lucky as you regarding tolerance for this matter.  I'm rather sensitive to the noise, and even the light buzzing is driving me crazy.  But I think the sound of screen (re)draws and it being a display issue really makes a lot of sense, and is congruous to the symptoms described here and elsewhere. 

    I read recently in a post on the forums that the area which emits the buzzing involves parts on the motherboard which are required to supply power to the video and display (which makes perfect sense in turn).  Move your mouse/input device, cursor moves, changes on the screen, etc.--more power is drawn on the graphics subsystem.  So piecing together the information from various users--yourself especially--this definitely seems to be a video issue.  Unfortunately for me, it wasn't an issue while the machine was under warranty.  But a good laptop should be properly electromagnetically shielded and protected from this type of design flaw (if shielding is part of the problem), and/or should use components that aren't so cheap as to emit a noise at all, ever.  A good laptop should be utterly silent (save the disk drives and fan, of course), and I find it shocking that Dell needs to be told this.

    I called Dell today regarding this design defect, which is obviously found on any number of Inspirons.  After 3(!) hours on the phone (and talking with seven people) they decided they weren't going to do anything for me because a) the issue doesn't appear in the Dell Knowledge Base and b) my machine is out of warranty.  So what they were saying more or less is that, first, if the Knowledge Base doesn't have an entry for a particular system issue then it must not be a real issue, and that it is a fluke (then how do issues get added, anyway?).  And second, even when they're negligent and produce improperly designed machines, they take no responsibility to handle the defects associated them without some sort of warranty coverage.  I see the situation as being analagous to the tires on the Ford Explorers that failed after 7,000 miles or whatever; you think Ford would dare not take your vehicle back for repairs because it is out of warranty?  That they would even think about making you pay for their own QC issues?

    Dell needs to face facts: they messed up and made series of laptop systems (4000 and 8000 series) that shouldn't have been made the way they were with respect to their video subsystems.  Now the end users have to pay for it in white noise because the problem (in this case, and I'm sure in the cases of others) only began to emerge out of warranty.

    So no, I'm not surprised Dell is now very close to having its Better Business Bureau license revoked by the huge case Austin TX is mounting against them.  No, I'm not surprised that Dell's BBB rep was recently quoted as stating they have had a "severe pattern of complaints" leveled against them over the past few years.

    You listening, Dell?

    Anyway, thanks for your input!

  • I know exactly what you are talking about.  I have had my Inspiron 4000 since 2001.  I immediately noticed the sound coming from the machine so i began emailing Dell about a week after recieving my computer.  After many long waits I tried every suggested "fix" the technician emailed me.  After about a month of back and forth emails I decided this was going nowhere so I called Dell to get a replacement system sent to me.  Yep! you guessed it.  My system was now out of the 30 day return period and so now I'm stuck calling Dell every day for about 3months with new and wonderful problems....mostly concerning this  static buzz.  After sending it into the Dell Depot at least 3 times(two of which new motherboards were installed) I was fed up and assumed it was a problem isolated to my computer, so I then requested a system exchange from my warranty.  I received a refurbished Inspiron4000, which would not in itself be bad, but in my opinion I paid 1300$ for a new computer, not a refurb. So I turned on the replacement and sure enough the static noise was still there....on the new one!. This is a system wide defect that Dell refuses to accept and correct for its warrantied customers as well as those out of warranty. That being said, One day i decided that maybe this problem is an OS issue, because i was running WindowsME at the time(it's what my computer shipped with).  I uninstalled that POS and installed 98SE.....And wouldn't you know. the sound was gone!!!.   After revelling in the great feelings of conquest over the machine, I pushed my luck further. I then went on an OS installing spree. I installed every OS Microsoft has.(being a former computer tech i had them anyway)  here are the results:

    Windows 2k : static

    Windows 98Se: perfect

    Windows98: perfect

    Windows ME: static

    WindowsXP Home AND Pro: static

    WindowsNT server AND client: static

    OK. So i lied. I didn't have/install 95, but the above results pretty much speak for themselves.....What they're saying, I have no idea.  For some reason this sound goes away with 98, but is present with all other OS's.  Anyway. That's my story, and I'm glad(reluctantly) that there are others out there who are having the same problem I'm having.  Recently my noise problem has expanded to a battery that discharges in 8minutes from full charge(new batter with most current BIOS), but that's another story, and I'm again on the phone with Dell trying to get it fixed. 

    I share your feelings on Dell's reluctance to acknowledge this problem and it makes me very mad.  However, being meer consumers the only thing we can do about it is complain and work with each other to find fixes IF they exist for our problems.  It is apparent the manufacturer, who in this case I used to respect as a quality computer dealer, is not going to take care of its customers the way a company should.  I'm glad the BBB is cracking down on them and I hope they get driven into the ground. . . never to return.  While it is a shame to see a once admirable company crash and burn, having done so myself with their product, I'm glad it's finally happening to them. I'll never buy a Dell again.  Mission Failed Dell!!!

    P.S.  I live in TX where Dell is based. I've already promised myself that once my laptop finally either dies or is worthless due to age, I will not be throwing it away. I will make a road trip to Austin and place it on their many many little pieces!! Oh what a day that will be......if they're still around :)


  • I am having the same problems as everyone here on this message. I have replaced my hard drive twice now hoping that would fix it. After spending all that time reinstalling everything again i am getting the same loud buzzing and clicking noises. If anyone has any success finding the problem and getting it fixed please let me know. You would think as many people there are having this problem dell would address it. If they dont fix mine i will be contacting the Better Business Bureau. Maybe enough of Dell's customers doing that will get someones attention.


  • I have had an inspiron 4000 computer for about a year and a half still under warranty that has the same buzzing problem since I've gotten it. I sent it in three times to get repaired and the buzzing never stopped. I gave up for about a year on getting dell to fix my computer but now I'm getting sick of it again. How would one go about contacting the Better Business Bureau? and what would happen once I did contact them?

  • You can find information out about the Better Business Bureau at, and can pursue complaints on this page.

    Good luck!

  • Thanks for the link b-lock,

    Does anyone know if the new inspiron 4150 buzzes like the older inspirons or has dell resolved the issue with it?
  • I've got an 8100 laptop, and it does the same thing. While reading this post I tried somethings. The noise really only comes on when the speakers are on and they're at a high volume. Then I can hear my mouse moving etc. I got rid of this actually just now by muting "Phone Line" in the sound options (The little speaker icon in the task bar). I still have a problem sometimes though when I plug in my AC Adapter, sometimes I get a loud static noise like the electricity is jumping from the cord to the laptop. My speakers also crackle when they're blasted at full volume and playing music, anyone else get these problems?
  • I recall reading a couple of 4150 owners with the same complaint, but I can't find the links now.  I'm sure they'll pop up if you hunt around the forums/google for a little while.  Apparently it affects the 4100 though, but I'm not sure what the difference is there in terms of internal components between the 4100 and the 4150.  I'd bet dollars to donuts, though, given Dell's track record with this problem thusfar that some 4150s will suffer from the buzz.  Conclusion: don't buy Dell until they get their act together.
  • Sounds like your noise issues with the speakers are not really related to this.  Apparently a lot of people with Inspirons also have buzzing speakers and the like, but this buzzing is more than likely something entirely different.
  • I also have the mysterious buzz in my 4100.  It has been there since day 1 of my laptop.  I tried several times to get it resolved via Dell with the same results as everyone else.... they did nothing and assumed it was the same speaker issue that others have even after I INSISTED it was not (sorry johnallg ... it most definitely has NOTHING to do with ANY of the volume settings, as I have seen you post in countless threads regarding this issue). 

    So, like b-lock, I did my own investigating.  I opened up the beast to do my own investigation. After completely removing the almost all the parts except the video card (I even removed those little junky speakers), I booted the system and found the buzz was still there.  With the system dissected I was able to narrow down the buzzing noise to the same vicinity as b-lock (sorry I was not as astute as to record the part number). 

    I've also noticed something similar to what Mystr Byrnz has seen.  When booting into another OS (DOS, Linux, etc) the buzz does indeed disappear.  This leads me to believe that there must be a software solution to the problem.  Well, where is it Dell?  Why haven't your techies fixed this problem yet? 

    So I guess this post has nothing new, just reiterating the fact that the problem exists and adding another poor customer to the list of people that have the problem.  Sometimes I wish that the bottom line for a company was to actually release a quality product instead of saving 5 cents per unit and screwing the customer with cheap components.