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Windows 7: Unwanted, Changing Hard Drive Noise When Using Headphones

02 Nov 2014   #1

Windows 7 Home Premium (x64)
Unwanted, Changing Hard Drive Noise When Using Headphones

Here's the issue that I've been putting up with for god-knows how long:

I've got this pretty nice laptop, had it for a while now. There's one thing I very much hate about it - when using headphones, there's some kind of a.. noise, that sounds like it's coming from the hard drive. As I click, scroll or move windows around on my screen, the noise changes or disappears. It's been driving me insane and I would love to get rid of it. I am not sure where it's coming from and what causes it, it's been there since I got this laptop. This noise it's there no matter if it's muted or on full volume, with or without the drivers.

Any suggestions are better than no suggestions, feel free to get involved and tell me what you think, thanks

My System SpecsSystem Spec
02 Nov 2014   #2

Windows 7 Professional x64 SP1

It's electrical noise that gets amplified by the amplifier. Sensitive and low impedance headphones can easily pick these noises up. Use an external Digital to Analog converter via USB to completely remove those background noises while improving sound quality. The reason it eliminates those noises is because only digital audio is sent to the USB and the sound card is far from the "electromagnetic interference" of GPU, HDD and motherboard. I use Meridian Explorer USB DAC as external sound card for my headphones to remove unwanted electrical noises from the motherboard, GPU and HDD.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
03 Nov 2014   #3

Windows 7 Home Premium (x64)

Thank you for your reply. I think it would be my last resort to buy an external device for a laptop, making it less portable and more annoying than it already is. The USB DAC that you're using is wayy out of my budget (I bet it sounds fantastic, hehe), but I believe I could find a cheaper one that would do the job too, for me.

Isn't there a way and not workaround to get rid of the noise? I know this laptop has been taken apart by someone claiming to be a "professional" (previous owner) that managed to put wrong screws in wrong places and make them stick out through the case. I don't think the manufacturer would sell a series of laptops with such a bad design flaw. Something tells me it wasn't assembled correctly, a cable got pinched or has been positioned wrong - I won't know until I take it apart. I'm not sure what I'm looking for even, any ideas?

Exact model is: Toshiba Qosmio X505-Q860
I've tried the same headphones on another laptop - all I could hear was the wonderful sound of absolute silence.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

03 Nov 2014   #4

Windows 10 64 bit

About 5 years ago, Dell had a desktop model that was getting noise from a hard drive introduced into the headphones (front panel jack). With that one, the routing of the cable for the front panel headphone jack was the problem. Re-routing the cable away from the hard drive fixed the problem.

Using a Digital "DAC" as suggested is an extreme measure.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
03 Nov 2014   #5

Windows 7 Professional x64 SP1

@ TheDeerDude

My laptop shows the same symptoms only on sensitive earbuds (not the full size headphones) while my other laptop doesn't. IMO, it's just poor placement of the onboard sound card (the amplifier to be exact) on my laptop which is right next to CPU/GPU and definitely HDD. That's what led to my purchase of external sound card to remove noises and improve sound (it's expensive since it's made in UK).

One way to solve this is to use a headphone with more impedance (at least 75 ohms or greater) and those noises should be minimized or even completely eliminated. Another is a video that shows that a better power brick solves the issue as well Solving Laptop Noise and Ground Loop Audio Interference - YouTube
My System SpecsSystem Spec
03 Nov 2014   #6

Linux CENTOS 7 / various Windows OS'es and servers

Hi there


1) Ensure Computer is PROPERLY EARTHED - that usually means live and neutral wires are connected the correct way around and the THIRD EARTH connection is connected.

2) Keep mobile phones / other wireless devices away from the computer -- lots of stray noises emanate from the Wireless signals of mobile phones.

3) ensure you haven't got extraneous electrical equipment running nearby - Microwaves / Vacuum cleaners etc.

(I've assumed you've done the obvious like check all the computer cards are properly seated, HDD's are bolted properly on to the chassis and aren't just dropping on the floor of the case etc etc).

Laptops usually have a better quality "Isolating transformer" and the parts are correctly seated - i.e you don't have a loose card so the effect won't be so noticeable.

Picking up any sort of extra sound on earphones usually means the EARTH is not connected or not very effective. Wifi signals will exaggerate any noise too. Keep those to a minimum or use 5GHZ and above.

Cheap monitors can also cause havoc with quality sound systems --ensure cables properly seated and tightly connected.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
04 Nov 2014   #7

Windows 7 Home Premium (x64)

Hello All,

Thank you all for your replies and suggestions, you're all being very helpful. And please excuse me for my late reply as I was (and still am) busy with coursework.

That's interesting. Thankfully if was a simple fix for them, I doubt that's the issue in laptops, because the cables are usually just the right length and can be positioned only in one way. Maybe adding some shielding around them would help to reduce the noise. Thank you for sharing this little story.

@theveterans:If that's the case, I probably won't be able to do much about it - I'll have to either buy a different pair of headphones or a DAC. I'm glad you've found a way to solve it for yourself. Now, about the power supply...

Thank you so much for those suggestions, I will try each one when I'll have time and get back to you with the results.
Here are some facts to clear things up:

1) As theveterans has said, a better power supply might solve the issue. My power supply (I can't remember if it's genuine from Toshiba) is an enormous brick (literally almost the size of a brick because it supports 110/220v) and it is making a terrible, high pitched, non-consistent (keeps changing slightly very quickly) noise all of the time. I try to ignore it because I can hardly hear it from under my desk, but it's been worrying me since I got the thing. However, because it hasn't been getting extremely hot like some power supplies do, and has been working properly, I decided to ignore it.

I'm not sure if that is the issue, and I am not sure how I can check if the wires are connected the right way around and if the earth is connected. I sure do have a multimeter, so I will think about how to do it and give it a try but I really have no clue how to check it (I'll probably look up a pinout for the laptop's power jack and check if it's same with what I get from the plug and also do the same before the power supply, as the power goes in)

2) I do keep a mobile phone nearby, but putting it into airplane mode didn't make any difference. Other than that, there aren't any devices that emit wireless signals (at least not in my room - WAP) so I doubt that's the issue, although that's some good advice that'll come in handy.

3) I do actually have a 2300W electric heater that's often running, but it's plugged into a socket that's just outside my room, on the opposite wall. Whether it's on or off, it doesn't make any difference.

About the obvious checks.. I do have a secondary hard drive in this laptop that didn't come with a caddy. The case of it is not earthed, but at least the PCB is isolated from the case with a thin piece of foil. I will definitely try removing it to see if it'll make any difference, if it does - I'll buy a caddy for it, or somehow earth it.

Again, I will test the earth connection on the power supply as well as the headphone jack.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

 Unwanted, Changing Hard Drive Noise When Using Headphones

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