What are the steps to troubleshoot my server room? There is a high-pitched screeching sound that is starting to drive me crazy. I am not sure if it may be a fan, but as there is no tech support in-house; I would like to try and figure out what's going on to stop or suppress it if possible myself.

  • 6
    Once she finds out what aisle or cabinet this is coming from, can we close this as "too localized" ?
    – mfinni
    Dec 17, 2010 at 21:21
  • It's amazing how hard it can be to locate a really high-pitched sound surrounded by lots of acoustically-reflective surfaces, even when it is the only sound around. My UPS just did that, and it's under my desk, and not nearly as easy as you'd think to find it. The suggestions below to use tubes or a "mechanic's stethoscope" are helpful!
    – nealmcb
    Sep 6, 2011 at 15:44

5 Answers 5


One way I find to help isolate sounds is to take a magazine or something and role it up turning into a tube. Place the tube next to your best ear, and cover your other ear. Then move around until you locate the sound. The idea is to use a tube to make your hearing very uni-directional. Once you get close you may have to move the servers around, or go to the back of the server to be sure. Also use the bone conduction trick suggested by Tom once you are close.

  • +1, I have done this with a shipping tube. All the fan noise can make it very difficult to locate certain frequency sounds.
    – jscott
    Dec 17, 2010 at 21:35
  • 1
    LOL @ "best ear". Reminds me of the old adage about warnings found on optical networking gear: "Do not stare into laser with remaining eye". :)
    – EEAA
    Dec 18, 2010 at 4:17

Find the direction that it's coming from. Walk towards it. If it's stronger from the left or right, turn in that direction.

It could be a fan. It could be a speaker in a UPS unit warning about low power. It could be a RAID card or internal battery unit complaining about something.

After that, hire some tech support.

  • +1 for hire tech support. There are LOTS of stories of non-tech persons's "fixing" odd sounds in the server room only to bring the entire organization to a grinding halt because it was the AC or UPS or some such.
    – Chris Nava
    Dec 18, 2010 at 4:52

If it's a fan or other rotational screech, you might find it by using an improvised "mechanic's stethescope" - A screwdriver, broomstick, or some other solid object. Solid objects conduct sound better than air does.

Place the tip of the screwdriver against the thing you want to listen to. Carefully put your ear to the handle of the screwdriver, so that it presses up to that little flap. You want a physical conduction path.. Don't put anything into your ear canal, obviously. The noise will be quite evident when you find the source.

  • This bone-conduction method should work really well once you are close to the source.
    – Zoredache
    Dec 17, 2010 at 21:35

If you don't have a lot of devices, shut each one off at a time and see if any of them make the sound go away. You could also shutdown the AC for a few minutes to see if that helps you make heads or tails of it. Most components will have an amber or red LED as well as the audible alarm to tell you something has failed. Trial and error, or ask someone experienced to come take a look.

Good luck Nora.

  • While shutting things down will work, you should be able to isolate the sound to a particular location without having to turn things off randomly, and interrupting services.
    – Zoredache
    Dec 17, 2010 at 21:33
  • 1
    Interrupting service to find a sound isn't the best plan.
    – mrdenny
    Dec 18, 2010 at 1:27
  • I didn't suggest turning things off randomly. I suggested process of elimination, or reducing ambient noise to more clearly pinpoint the location. I've dealt with enough bullshit buzzers in my time. Dec 19, 2010 at 3:19

You might try wanting to put your ear up to each server (if you've not got too many) ... with luck, you'll find the screeching server by the one that's making a bit more noise than the others. It's worked for me before now tracing the server whose fans have spun up to full speed...

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