Coil whine is this extremely annoying high-pitched noise that is often produced by electronics. If we’re talking about a computer, you’ll usually find it coming from your power supply or graphics card.
But, where does it come from? Is it a bad sign? And how do we deal with it? Well, this article plans on answering all these questions and more. So, if you’re interested in it, we’d recommend to keep on reading!
What is Coil Whine?
Graphics cards and power supplies contain electromagnetic coils that act as inductors – meaning that their purpose is to restrict/control the level of electricity that flows through them. And when the electromagnetic forces are too strong, the coil will start resonating strongly which is where that annoying, high-pitched sound comes from.
This is generally considered normal and safe – regardless of how annoying it may be. So, you generally won’t be able to return a component that’s suffering from coil whine. And even if you manage to do it, replacing that component with the same model will most likely not make a difference.
Just like the above video mentions, completely fixing this problem is just not possible. You can not get rid of coil whine unless you use a motherboard, PSU, or graphics card that doesn’t have it in the first place. And even then, it’s not that it’s not there – it’s just that you can’t hear it.
But that’s not to say that there aren’t any tricks to reduce it. In fact, we’ve got quite a lot that you can use depending on the source of the coil whine. Without any further ado, let’s get right into it!
1: If it’s the motherboard or the PSU
This is the worst-case scenario. If you’ve narrowed down the issue to the motherboard or power supply, then there’s not much that you can do about it. There is always the option of replacing them. But, that’s no doubt a very expensive fix for a minor issue.
Something cheaper and maybe more beneficial in the long run would be to use a silent case. In case you’re not familiar with them, many cases are specifically made to isolate the noise that your components produce with noise dampening materials.
Such cases are usually marketed as silent cases which is an easy way to tell them apart from “normal” ones.
However, do keep in mind that due to their restricted airflow, silent cases may end up delivering worse thermals compared to their high-performance counterparts.
Again, this is not exactly a cheap solution. But, at the very least, it can be a permanent fix which will also protect you from any coil whine noise that future components will make.
Other than that, you could try placing the desktop away from you or you could also go through the opposite route and make more noise instead of reducing it by adding case fans. The logic behind this is that fans can get loud. But, their kind of noise is arguably nowhere near as annoying as coil whine.
So, by adding more case fans, you’re both getting better cooling and masking the high-pitched noises at the same time.
2: If the Coil Whine Comes from the GPU
If you discovered that the noise comes from the GPU, then apart from using a silent case or adding more case fans to mask the noise, you could also try restricting your FPS and/or power draw levels.
See, graphics cards tend to make more noise depending on how many frames they’re pushing and how much power they are drawing as well. So, if you can restrict these two, then coil whine should at the very least come down to an acceptable level.
Getting rid of Coil Whine By Limiting the Framerate
As far as FPS are concerned, there are primarily two ways to reduce it – you can enable Vsync, or, if the game offers the option, you can also limit the framerate.
While Vsync is an option that you can find in virtually every game, it also introduces input lag – which is something that we need to avoid at all costs in competitive titles. Thankfully, some of them, like CS: GO, allow you to limit the framerate without enabling Vsync.
To do that in CS: GO, you need to bring up the console with the tilde button “~”, and type in fps_max (FPS). The exact steps may differ from game to game, so, make your own research as well.
Vsync, on the other hand, can be found in virtually every game and is commonly placed under the visual/video settings. Vsync waits for the monitor to finish displaying the frames before pushing any more. But, this also means that the exact FPS will depend on your monitor.
In our case, this can be an issue with high refresh rate monitors. That’s why there are times where apart from Vsync, you can also find the option of half Vsync – which does the same thing but it pushes half of the frames that the monitor can display.
How to Limit The Power Draw
Limiting the power draw of your graphics card is as simple as reducing the graphical settings. However, this can only be done when your framerate is limited.
If you’ve got the FPS unlocked, then reducing the graphical settings will only transfer the extra power to higher FPS instead – which doesn’t solve our issue. In fact, it can only make it worse since higher framerates are the worst when it comes to coil whine.
Now, obviously, turning everything to the lowest graphical settings would be the best for the lowest level of coil whine noise. But, it’s definitely not ideal for our gaming experience. Instead, you want a good balance between quality and power draw.
The exact settings to achieve that will differ from game to game and personal preferences as well. We’ve personally come to expect that lowering the shadows while turning up the textures and other details is often the best combination.
Other than that, Anti-Aliasing is also a huge power hog which may not necessarily make a big difference for you. That will largely depend on the monitor’s size, resolution, and its distance from your eyes.
3: Alternative Solutions
We assume that since you’ve reached this point, you’ve either tried everything without much luck or you simply don’t like any of our above-mentioned solutions. Fortunately, there are still a couple of solutions left. But, both of them will end up costing you money.
The first is using a noise-isolated headset. Noise-canceling headphones may help as well. However, we highly doubt that they’ll be effective against the high-pitched noises that coil whine produces. Not to mention that headsets are generally more ideal for gaming.
There are tons of decent options out there. But the HyperX Cloud series is one of the best that we’ve seen. The Cloud 2 and Cloud Alphas are particularly well-known for their build quality, sound quality, comfort, and noise-isolation properties as well.
Other than that, you could also try getting a different power supply. See, there are times where GPUs and motherboards may produce a lot of coil whine either because the PSU doesn’t “play well” with them. Or because you’re downright using a bad power supply which feeds your components with unstable voltages and that forces the inductors to work harder – thus why there is a lot of coil whine.
Now, this worked for us. We went from a Thermaltake Smart RGB 700W to a Corsair RMx 650W which almost eliminated the coil whine levels from our GTX 1060. But there is no guarantee that the same will happen to you.
Getting a new power supply to get rid of coil whine in motherboards and GPUs is a huge gamble. Especially if coil whine is present for everyone else who owns the same product as well (Take a look at tech-forums for that).
There is always a chance that the new PSU will not play well with your other components as well.
That’s all we’ve got for now. If you feel like we forgot to mention something important or that we got anything wrong, feel free to let us and everyone else know about it in the comments down below.
To wrap things up, here are all the fixes that we mentioned:
- Get a silent case
- Use more case fans to cover the annoying high-pitched sounds
- Limit your FPS with Vsync or with frame-limit commands
- Reduce the graphical settings of your games (While the framerate is limited)
- Use a headset with decent sound-isolation
- Try a different/better supply
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