How to stop excessive MacBook fan noise

How to stop excessive MacBook fan noise

Summary: Here's the solution to a problem that plagues a lot of MacBook Pro and even MacBook Air owners.

TOPICS: Apple, Hardware, Software

I use a MacBook Pro Retina 13-inch as my primary Mac and love it. Until shortly after the time the OS X 10.8.4 update came out, that is. Almost immediately after installing 10.8.4 the fans in my rMBP would run at almost top speed every waking minute. Needless to say, excessive fan noise is extremely distracting and it got to the point where I couldn't hear the TV over the blaring fans in my MacBook.

Point of order: According to a Genius at my local Apple Store, the fans in all MacBooks run any time that it is powered up, but at a very low (and quiet) speed. The fans increase in speed as more CPU cycles are used and when the temperature rises.

To troubleshoot the noisy fans, I opened Activity Monitor and sorted by the column labeled "% CPU" to identify any runaway applications, which can shorten battery runtime, affect performance, and increase heat and fan activity, as documented in Apple knowledge base article TS1473.

How to stop excessive MacBook fan noise - Jason O'Grady

I identified a process called "udb" that only spawned when my rMBP was connected to a Thunderbolt display. It immediately pegged the CPU at over 100 percent and kicked the fans into overdrive. Voila!

The problem is that simply killing the process didn't help, it would immediately respawn and peg the CPU. The Genius at my local Apple Store narrowed "udb" down to something to do with iCloud syncing. Signing out of iCloud (in System Preferences) effectively killed the runaway "udb" process, but wasn't sustainable long term as a I use iCloud on a daily basis for Mail, Contacts, Calendars and Photo Stream. 

The solution was to sign back into iCloud and uncheck all the options. With Activity Monitor open, we slowly turned on iCloud sync items one at a time, and everything was going great (i.e. no runaway processes) until we checked the box for "Documents & Data."

How to stop excessive MacBook fan noise - Hint: iCloud syncing - Jason O'Grady

As soon as we checked the box for "Documents & Data" the udb process spawned and jumped to the top of the "% CPU" list and the fans kicked on. Unchecking "Documents & Data" made the process go away and the fans spin at a much more reasonable (and quieter) speed.

I really don't use "Documents & Data" iCloud syncing on OS X (while I do on my iOS devices) so I'm ok with leaving it turned off for the time being, but the genius suggested that it could be a corrupt iWork file that iCloud is trying to sync. He suggested that if I wanted to turn it back on, to download all my iCloud documents, delete them from iCloud and slowly put them back, while watching Activity Monitor for runaway processes.

Topics: Apple, Hardware, Software

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  • Tamagotchi strikes again

    "Feed me, give me water, pet me, pay attention to me."

    osx system maintenance is never ending. And confusing, schizophrenic. Sometimes you are forced to do things with the command line UI, sometimes WMP UI. Confusing. Jarring. Very poorly thought out.
    • I don't think you understand what the term

      "forced" means.

      It's pretty obvious that you don't have to do this.
      Michael Alan Goff
    • Hi Toddy

      Glad you borrow my Tamagotchi concept.

      Not to worry, I will share one day the rest of the story with you. Stay tuned. ;-)
    • Just when will one of these issues affect me.

      Maybe it's because cloud computing never impressed me that this never occurred on my MacBook pro, but I wouldn't cloud compute on my Windows systems either.
    • I thought...

      you were of the opinion Apple users were to simple for command line. Which is it, hypocrite?
    • And AGAIN...

      if you knew ANYTHING about the platform you keep trolling, or even about systems in general, you would know that NO WHERE in this article was the command line needed, let alone actually used. WTF is wrong with you?!?
  • Probably unintentional double ententre

    If MacBook fans are excessively noisy and won't leave, one might have to eject forceably them from one's premises.

    Unfortunately, I couldn't think an alternative way to word your title.
    John L. Ries
    • That's funny!!

      Arm A. Geddon
    • Funny...!

      LOL!!! - When I saw the title, I thought the article was going to be about smarmy comebacks to Apple fanboi posts on the forums!
  • Oh.. I wanted to say this

    Crappy software on overpriced crap hardware!
    I feel so much better now :)
    • So what's your point?

      Arm A. Geddon
      • How much more clear could he have been?

        osx is crappy software. It can only be used on macs which is overpriced crap hardware.

        paul2011 is 100% right.

        Any other questions?
        • Except it isn't

          It's actually pretty good software.
          Michael Alan Goff
        • Re: Any other questions?

          Did you remember to charge your very own iPhone and iPad?

          By the way, li-ion batteries love to be exercised, so while you are at it, you could play some Angry Birds to deplete the batteries, before charging them again. ;)
        • I thought you spouted somewhere...

          running OSX, either in virtual or via bios hacks was easy on the PC. Are hypocrisies a convenience in your writings?
        • Yes, why con't you understand the definition of "trolling"?

    • Unmistakable

      You must be referring to BottomOS on humanity.
  • Another glitch in the 10.8.4 OS

    Does Apple ever bother with quality control?
    • Another idiot to respond to.

      Duh!! Maybe all OSes have their problems? As the resident idiot around here says, "you just can't make this stuff up."
      Arm A. Geddon