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MacBook Pro 16 Has a Fan Problem (om.co)
110 points by hellofunk 23 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 103 comments

`sudo powermetrics` will tell you die temperatures. It's possible the author has a bad sensor, in which case the fans will ramp to max whenever the machine is not asleep.

FWIW I run the same machine (except 32 GB) and a 4k external display. It's silent when idle (~45C) and quiet even when loaded (~97C).

> quiet even when loaded (~97C).

Yikes, that seems like an issue on its own. It's generally not good for parts to get that hot regularly.

Apparently, intel accepted that laptops will just never have decent cooling, so they let the high power chips get right up to 100C and throttle based on how much cooling is available.

If your laptop CPU is at 100C and the fans are quiet, you're wasting a lot of performance potential.

The chips themselves will probably outlast their users or at least their own useful lives quite comfortably at 100°C. If sat on a desk, not in something mobile.

Heat cycling the motherboards will definitely shorten their effective lifetime significantly. There's no reason not to have proper cooling.

Having said that, modern Thinkpads are not great in this regard either.

Modern intel parts run that hot no problem, what is normal for temps changes wildly over time across product lines. The current gen CPUs will self throttle at 100C.

On the other hand, the fact that the user upthread's computer is quiet even at 97C strongly implies that throttling is happening.

Running close to TMax values for extended periods of time is not a big problem.

Servers in our HPC cluster runs with similar temperatures even with enough cooling and we change CPUs very very rarely.

Yea no, Apple would rather run hot things quietly... That has been the case ever since retina MBPs came out.

My 2008 MacBook Pro ran at those temperatures for many years just fine.

Computers are not humans. 100C is just fine, lots of people are running their bitcoin miners for years on that temp with no issue.

Why not?

Thanks for the tip. I hadn't known about powermetrics before. I've had a 16" MBP with the same specs as OP for almost 2 months now, and I use it with a 4K external monitor, and haven't noticed the any issues with fan yet.

  **** SMC sensors ****
  CPU Thermal level: 47
  GPU Thermal level: 0
  IO Thermal level: 0
  Fan: 1828.89 rpm
  CPU die temperature: 64.80 C
  GPU die temperature: 68.00 C
  CPU Plimit: 0.00
  GPU   Plimit (Int): 0.00
  Number of prochots: 0
Incidentally, the `Number of prochots` field in command's output made me chuckle. At one of my previous jobs, I spent some time on a team that owned the fleet wide server auto-remediation service and the prochot alarm and the resulting CPU throttling would end up reducing the available CPU capacity in clusters and sometimes knocking out entire services. I have bittersweet memories spending sleepless nights trying to debug it.

Intel Power Gadget might also prove handy here (assuming it runs on the newer MBPs?) - it charts some useful power/performance related stats, including temp/power/speed, making it clear to see when/if the system is throttling/boosting/etc.


THANKS! Didn't know that existed!

32GB+2TB here, with TB3 RAID and XDR. No fan issues. I understand the author's frustration but extrapolating a single defective unit to "Apple doesn't care about QC anymore" is sort of bonkers.

Also 32GB/2TB/2.4GHz_i9, no noticeable fan problems.

Loaded 64g/2t/2.4/5500 8g - and zero issue with fans.

> "Apple doesn't care about QC anymore" is sort of bonkers.

Excuse me, but that's exactly the case here.

Only Apple can brag about "learning about mistakes" and then have temerity to do them even worse.

The MBP has poorer thermal solution than noname Chinese OEMs that market similar machines at $700-800. Just look at that wimpy single heat pipe and the radiator sizes.

I have the base model MBP 16 inch and I've been experiencing slow downs with laggy keyboard input, momentary freezes, etc. Battery life is also not as good as on my old MPB 13 and I don't use it for much more than browsing with many tabs. I've done plenty of troubleshooting and a reinstall but no luck.

I'm hoping that 10.15.3 which I installed yesterday will help remedy.

I have been having similar issues with freezing, but only the video stutters, everything else keeps running in the background. I also have the base space gray model.

Weirdly enough this only happens if I don’t turn off the mac for days (only putting in sleep mode) and when the ram is close to 16GB.

However, when the ram gets to 16GB, the only thing that gets impacted is the video, there is no spinning wheel, audio doesn’t stop. Just the video stutters for a bit, then jumps to present.

The theory here is that the onboard graphics card doesn’t have enough ram for it, it is being swapped constantly, which causes the stutters.

I hope a system update will be enough to fix it.

Edit: adding “no” to spinning wheel

You didn't restore from an old Time Machine backup onto your rMBP right?

If not, it sounds like a defective unit. I'd strongly recommend taking it to Apple Store.

I had no issues with laggy keyboard input, freezes and battery life was very solid for me. I've returned the laptop not because of these issues but because useless touch bar and large trackpad on top of Catalina issues.

US airlines follow a limit on the size of Lithium ion batteries of 100Wh.


This happened to me a year back. Turned out there was an issue with SATA cable connecting SSD. Replacing the cable resolved it. Saying just in case!

There could also be an issue with your SSD or HDD. To come to a conclusion try putting your SSD to another MB and see wheres the issue

> To come to a conclusion try putting your SSD to another MB and see wheres the issue

The SSD is soldered directly to the logic board, so that may not be a viable strategy.

It’s also not SATA. Not that it matters.

There are some reports of this week's macOS 10.15.3 update drastically reducing performance in 16" MBPs, which previously crashed under load: https://mjtsai.com/blog/2020/01/28/macos-10-15-3/#comment-31...

If this is due to the processor being overstressed, Malik's fan issue may be related.

64GB 8GB Video card 1 TB SSD

I think you should bring your computer in for service. I haven't had a fan problem when I have used the computer.

You can also try disabling turbo boost. See http://www.rugarciap.com/turbo-boost-switcher-for-os-x/

Why is everybody in this thread providing their RAM and SSD size like it's relevant but no info on whether they upgraded their CPU or not? Issues seem relatively common but I can't find info on whether it only happens to those who upgraded the CPU.

It’s safe to assume that people took the model closest to their desired specs and then added RAM or disk space. In this case it’s always an i9.

I have the i9-9980H .

My 16 inch MacBook with a i9 2.4 GHz has a significantly better battery performance than my 2016 i7. It’s also so silent I can hear high pitch sounds from the RasPi4 lying next to me.

A very different problem that’s almost never discussed is the fact that you cannot always plug two different displays via TB3 in, one on the left and one on the right, without triggering some bug that doesn’t correctly enable the respective other display until the cable is removed and 20 or more seconds waited until it’s plugged in again. That’s been the case for the 2016 and my current 2019 model, and it’s been the case for everyone in my team with two or more displays via TB3.

I've always had problems with external displays on macbooks. Particularly when using 2, regardless of hdmi or TB, but even a single display sometimes refuses to work without repeatedly unplugging and retrying. Never explicitly tried leaving for 20 seconds though, I'll try that next time

This is something that has puzzled me for a long time. Why is it so difficult for monitors to simply turn on when the devices they are plugged into turn on?

Right now I own a high end LG TV from a couple of years ago and it won’t wake reliably when I turn on the Apple TV device attached to it. Sometimes, but not always, it requires both the TV remote and the separate speaker bar remote in addition to the Apple TV remote. Occasionally, to get a picture I even resort to restarting the Apple TV by unplugging it.

In my office, my monitor on both my new Mac Mini and on my Linux box both flash up a screen for about 2 seconds then turn off and the a second later turn back on. This happens every time they wake from sleep.

It just seems strange that with all the technology inside these devices that the first impression they make looks like some senior design electronics project powering up.

Anyone else getting horrible battery life under heavy use? Doing Xcode builds that aren’t crazy I’ve seen crazy stuff like a 1.5 hour total battery on my recent flight.

Battery life hasn't been great. ~6 hours when doing dev work. Was expecting more.

I‘m not the proverbial fanboy (pun entirely intended), but I seem to remember similar headlines for just about any new MAC of the last two decades. And the issue often seems to be caused by the initial run of the Spotlight indexer.

The author could have also maybe taken a look at what’s actually causing his problems with a simple click on the standard-issue system monitor. Not doing so is either disrespecting his readers, or just gross incompetence of the kind that doesn’t go well with his long-winded claims of being "professional“.

The three things that usually kill performance and make the fans go ape on new Macs are: - Initial Spotlight index; - Initial iCloud Drive sync; - Initial Photos sync.

My last three macs have had the same experience.


Not at all an ad hominem. Saying a quibbling author has not conducted the most basic research to see what a problem is before complaining about said problem is always a valid criticism. Saying an author is wrong because he is a stupid dumb meanie is an ad hominem attack.

“And any man who must say 'I am k̶i̶n̶g̶ professional' is no true k̶i̶n̶g̶ professional at all.”

-Tywin Lannister

I am really hoping to keep my macbook, the One True macbook, Macbook Pro 2015, and that it will last and be healthy until apple finally starts making stuff that doesn't break again.

Nearly everyone else in this thread is saying that their 16" MBP is fine. My roommate has one -- I'm not sure it's completely maxed out, but it's pretty hefty spec-wise -- and hasn't had any issues, either.

Personally, I just don't want a laptop that big -- I've always preferred the 13" models to the 15". So I'm waiting to see what happens with both the 13" MBP and the Air.

Is there any word on whether they'll release this in 13"?

I'm still holding out on my 2015 MBP as well, hoping to get the new 13" with the good keyboard.

Otherwise... surface book it is...

Apple almost never pre-announces products, so we don't really know, but they've strongly hinted the new keyboard is coming to at least the 13" MBP in the next revision. I don't remember the exact phrasing, but it was a comment from VP Phil Schiller something like "it's important for all our 'Pro' products." (I remember it was something that made it unclear whether the keyboard will come to the Air, although I certainly hope it will.)

I did see the comment from someone saying it'll be upgraded to a 14" the way the 15" became a 16"; while that's a reasonable guess, I don't think there are any supply chain rumors supporting that yet, and the 16" update had rumors nearly a year in advance of its release. My personal expectation is that we'll see an upgrade to the new keyboard in the 13" before WWDC, but it'll stay 13".

Apple filed an upcoming model A2289 that is rumored to be a 13" replacement [1]. I'm waiting for this too.

[1] https://www.macrumors.com/2020/01/13/apple-a2289-mac-eurasia...

They'll release it in 13 but it will be a 14 actually. Coming this quarter supposedly.

Same here. Tried the "new" Magic Keyboard. To me it feels just the same as butterfly, which is crap.

Not entirely sure if I will buy another Mac again. Cant believe in less than 10 years since Steve passed away I am thinking of going back to Windows.

This is unfortunate. Bought a top of the line used 2015 13” in 2017 to hold me down for the long term until they fixed the keyboard. Haven’t tried one yet but I’m worried I’ll feel the same as you do about it. Though it was the inverted-T that I was most hoping for!

I personally think it's a huge upgrade from the butterfly keyboard. I've got a 16" I just upgraded to at home, and an older 15" I was issued at work.

The higher key travel and further spacing apart from each individual key means I can actually differentiate between keys by feel, unlike with the older butterfly keys that all kind of blend together. The travel makes a huge difference in feel as well, as they're much less clicky.

If you're ever near a store carrying the newer model and an older butterfly model I suggest you try it out yourself.

32GB+1TB here, I haven't experienced anything I'd call a fan issue. Every once in a while fans spin up, mostly because of Chrome-based things. A few times I think it's been heavy GPU activity. I use it connected to 2 monitors (display port) most of the day. It's completely silent most of the time.

I've experienced more issues with what I'm guessing is Catalina or driver-related bugs. Once when disconnecting my monitors I got RGB "static" on the MBP screen, had to force power down. Another time the touch bar quit working due (I think) to an external monitor plugged in. A restart solved that.

No fan problem here. Works silently while browsing or doing other simple tasks like iTerm and vscode.

The author of the blog should seek technical assistance for his hardware.

Same here. I pretty regularly use my 16” to play games and compile C++; I’ve never noticed the fans operating higher than normal. The author mentioned external monitors: I have it plugged into an LG27850-W (27” @ 4k UHD) and it’s never been a problem.

The one thing that does bother me: I have a hardware USB switch that Catalina doesn’t recognize properly (works fine on Mojave).

No such issues with MBP 16" here, unless of course there's a misbehaving process. I have noticed Catalina's new iOS device syncing can spin out of control if the device being synced disconnects or goes out of range before finishing. There's an "AMPDevicesAgent" or similar process that pegs the CPU at 100% when this happens and wreaks havoc on Finder, Music, etc.

I’ve got one, and the only time this happened was a rouge process that I installed using 100% CPU. I usually just open Activity Monitor and either sort the CPU tab by usage or the Energy tab by Average Impact. If it’s a software problem it’s going to be there.

First thing I did was search the article for the words activity monitor. Nothing. Moving on.

If i'm not mistaken, he indicates he's running the 6k display from it. That would likely be the cause: That's a lot of pixels to push from a mobile GPU.

The CPU temps increase by at least 10ºC whenever you plug something to the TB port. I've seen this happen on my last 4 Macs with TB. Not only monitors but SSDs too.

SSD's even? That's amazing. They shouldn't draw much current, and certainly shouldn't use much CPU.

Yep. Happened to me a couple of months ago on my iMac 5K with TB3. I guess it's because the TB controller is off when nothing is plugged.

if I’m not mistaken he mentions disconnecting it.

I'm a fan of using iStat Menus to see what's stressing CPU and causing temperature rise. It enables you to put the main sensors (like CPU temp, Watt usage, CPU speed) into the menu bar and see the cause with a quick mouse over. https://www.bjango.com/mac/istatmenus

I don't have a MBP 16, but a late 2015 MBP and an iMac of the same age. My MBP can be completely silent or annoyingly noisy, depending on a lot of factors. Generally, it seems to get noisy even when being relatively idle, if the room temperature goes beyond approx. 23C. Below that it stays silent unless loaded, above that, even small loads create constant fain noise. Interestingly, my iMac has roughly the same behavior, hinting to a common design parameter of the cooling systems.

With load, of course the activity monitor is the friend. Far too often, web pages manage to put load on the machine, even if they appear to be idle. In firefox, use the task manager to find the biggest offenders. Sometimes just reloading them reduces the load.

One big influence factor unfortunately not shown in the activity monitor is the GPU load. Just plugging an external 4k screen into my MBP causes the fans to spin up. This is also a good reason for web pages to create fan noise

You can actually get Activity Monitor to show GPU load history in a separate floating window—I think it’s under the Window menu? If you poke around (and you’re on a recent enough OS version) you’ll find it.

Thanks, that was a good tip. It is indeed in the window menu, together with the per-cpu monitor, which I didn't know it existed either - and that being a Mac user since 2003.

I've had some serious fan action on mine, and then about a week ago, the machine was seriously hot when I got home after my transit commute. Tried to take it out of my bag, but I couldn't. I literally had to get a pot holder to handle it. I was fearful I'd see melting or something when I opened it - but it quickly returned to normal.

The hot bag thing is a pain and has so many different reasons. I've been caught out with it in the move from a 2012 rMBP to a 2019 16", where on the old one if I was connected to WiFi/tethered and I had SSH sessions open in Terminal they would just die when I put the laptop to sleep. On this new one it will keep Dark Waking the machine in my bag in order to prevent my SSH connection from closing.

I keep switching off Wifi before putting my MacBook into a bag for longer time. Seems otherwise, it might try to run some updates during the night, which it shouldn't do when being in the bag. Switching off Wifi seems to prevent that.

It's the GPU. There's a huge thread on Apple's forums about fan noise with connected external display: https://discussions.apple.com/thread/250878229

Using three models of Apples flagship over the past three years, I don’t think this is a case uniquely restricted to the authors machine. All Macs with thunderbolt 3 (the slimmed down form factor) seem to have processors that don’t like hot/humid climates a lot. When I’m home in the US, things are fine, but while traveling on work to places in Asia like Singapore I need to be in a room with air conditioning and good ventilation near the machine or the fans simply kick into high gear.

I made a conscious choice to avoid the top of the line i9 and chose the i7 instead for the last of the 15 inch Pros (mid 2019) looking at the thermal rating on Intels website (45w vs 60-something if I remember correctly)

The 16 inch ones are simply ridiculous with this. Even at home in the US, I have a desk fan pointing at the machine alone so it doesn’t heat up too bad.

His post is missing one important word, “My” before MacBook.

From all the Mac horror stories I’ve heard, it’s only making me realize by bottom of the line 2016 mbp w/o touchbar is abnormally amazing.

I currently have 15 windows, 10 chrome windows, around 200 tabs, 20 sublime text boxes, and a ton of other apps open(and plugged into an external monitor besides the Laptop screen itself)

Keep in mind I have a 8gb, 2.0 ghz laptop and is running all this. Sometimes I do get a kernel panic (forcing me to shutdown) but otherwise, I have absolutely no problems. It’s so surprising how my machine is able to handle all this.

My (horror) story with that model: goes to 50% battery within an hour. Then just turns off without notice.

My personal 2015 model does not (yet) have this problem.

I don’t have any such problem with 32gb and 1TB, and I push it pretty hard.

Author doesn’t reveal how many TB of SSD he configured, but maybe powering 64GB of not-LPDDR and lots of TB of SSD is what sets the fans off.

I have one with 64GB and 1TB SSD. Running multiple linux VMs in WMWare Fusion right now and it's silent. The fans only really get loud when I'm compiling.

This post is complete trash. I'm wondering if this is only on the front page because it takes a shot at a big tech company?

Help, I'm using CPU intensive apps on my laptop and the fan is coming on! Okay, and the sky is still blue?

I'm sorry but I just can't stand this post. One thing that may help the author that I don't see mentioned here is plugging it in. Seems running off AC power is less thermally intensive than battery.

HN posts often seem to get upvotes based on the topic of conversation rather than the quality of the original source.

I favorited because I am interested in discussion of potential issues with the 16”; I didn’t even read the article.

> Help, I'm using CPU intensive apps on my laptop and the fan is coming on!

If you had read it properly he said one time he had just booted it and had 3 Apple apps running (Mail, iMessage, and something else) and the fans were still loud. He says he'd understand if he had Photoshop open with many layers...

Not even sure why you were downvoted. I have who ever downvoted you should provide explanation for your perfectly acceptable answer.

Good performance, good portability, good thermals. Pick 2. It’s that simple, you can’t have all 3 no matter how much money you throw at the problem.

Why would that have to be the case? Also, wouldn't performance and thermals go together? You won't get good performance if you're constantly overheating.

That’s just how physics work. Here are some examples.

Good performance and good thermals: it’s going to be a thick laptop (or a desktop) with good airflow, portability will suffer.

Good thermals and good portability: you’ll end up with something like an IPad Pro or a surface. performance will be lackluster.

Good performance and good portability: The thermal solution will be sub par because it’s designed too thin, light, etc. This is basically what we have here with these specced out 16 MacBooks.

Not exactly great performance. The multi core score puts it on par with an Intel Core i5-8400.

Let’s add then - and use Intel chips.

Oh, I've seen something similar recently. Not sure which macbook it was, but apparently, at least in some cases, Apple appears to be subscribing to the great benefits of placebo ventilation.


It isn't a "fan" problem, it is a heat or perceived heat problem. It is either a temperature sensor, a problem transferring heat from the CPU or GPU, or a defect in the CPU or GPU (probably one of the first two).

Given the number of complaints, I'd wager the first or second.

16" MBP here, and I don't have any fan issues with it. The fans get loud when I push it hard, such as video rendering or export of photo collections, but other than that, the laptop is quiet and responsive.

..."In three years, the iPad will be more robust, Adobe Photoshop for iPad will be here — and for all I know, AI will just edit my photos for me in the cloud..."

AIs will just make make their own photos. The cloud does not need you.

Good to have confirmation of this; my 16 sounds like it's trying for vertical takeoff constantly. I resorted to disabling Intel Turbo Boost to get some relief.

So what does activity monitor or ‘top’ tell you is running? My 16 runs quiet unless I’m compiling and I run multiple vms and am impressed with how it runs.

Mine is also running hot with serious fan noise when Windows running in a VM. This was not the case for all my previous MacBooks.

I've had my MacBook Pro 16" for several months and haven't noticed any fan noise at all.

32gb, the beef grafix card and 2tb ssd and the lg 27” 5k display here with No fan issues.

2.4GHz 8-core, 64GB, 2TB, 5500m 8GB, external LG 5k display, no fan problems

been using the 2019 version that I got from work for a couple of weeks now, haven't noticed anything. I run a heavy Docker based setup on MacOS, the fans do make noise but that's about it.

i9-9880H (45 W) + AMD Radeon Pro 5500M (50 W) + 64 GB RAM (5 W) + 1+ TB SSD (5 W) + screen (10 W?) + fans, T2, wifi/BT, Thunderbolt, (5W?) = ~120 W

Maybe a lower specced model would do better...

I am reading this on a 6-year old ThinkPad I fished out of a dumpster a few days ago. It does not have a fan problem.

No problem here.

If you happen to be in the same spot for a few months, I highly recommend building your own PC.

More information on why laptops don't work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=947op8yKJRY

I've been through so many laptops. After I tried a desktop in 2019, I can't seriously consider a laptop, unless in a pinch. Even so-called "beefy" workstations, e.g. W series Thinkpads, I've returned. They throttle too.

You want to know what beats a $3500 Macbook Pro? For me, a desktop with "ok" parts and water cooling.

You'll never have a fan issue. You get to use high quality parts that are replaceable with their own warranty.

Even the cables are super high grade. And you still come in at a third of the cost, slightly more than half the cost if you want to splurge.

You'll never have slowdowns. You can power multiple 4k monitors, ultrawides, whatever you want.

It boils down to keeping all these parts in a small chassis. If Apple cared, they'd stop the soldering and add an inch and half thickness and let the thing ventilate, because these things are built for consumption, not creation (e.g. being under an intensive rendering/compilation/io workload).

You don't even need watercooling for really good thermal control on a desktop. Companies like Noctua make CPU fans that are just as effective, quieter, and are less complex than watercoolers (and I say this having built a watercooled system in the past year).

Watercoolers do have fans, so not only can you run into potential "fan issues" but you can also have a "pump issue" on top of that.

+1 on that. High quality air coolers are great options. They can still be super silent and are nearly maintainance free. I had higher end thermalright fan cooler on my old desktop and it run without issues for 6 years with multiple hours per day usage. For my new desktop I invested in a be quiet dark rock pro and hopes it will do the same. Noctua also has great options, and other companies too. But don’t try to save too much on coolers. The lower end models might be cheaper, but having to deal with less noise is so much worth 50$ extra over a couple of years.

I think the problem in PC land that small form factor solutions are hard to build or approaching the price of the Mac counterpart.

That being said, I am keen on creating an SFF build in the future.

Watercooling is probably overkill unless you want to overclock. Less complicated than it used to be though, Corsair and similar sell complete CPU/pump/radiator loops for relatively cheap that you just drop in.

I have a W541with a 4910MQ and haven't seen it throttle.

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