Quieting your Dell XPS 13’s Loud Fan

I’ve just replaced my old Dell XPS 13 with a new Dell XPS 13. I’ve never been 100% happy with the Dell XPS 13, but it’s always been a case of “Mostly very happy indeed but…”, and I decided that I didn’t want to think about the type of new computer and get used to a new set of quirks, so I decided to just go for the four year newer version rather than think about it.

I spent the first two days very very unhappy with this decision, because my computer was constantly running hot and sounding like it was trying to achieve liftoff. This was particularly pronounced when I was playing games but it also happened under such high-stress activities as “opening chrome”. I tried using Dell’s power manager (yes I’m running Windows. Most actual work happens in the Linux subsystem, but I have reluctantly concluded that I actually like Windows) to put it in quiet mode and the result was, well, less loud but also much hotter.

Anyway it turns out there’s an easy solution.

The source of the problem is that the new Dell XPS 13 has a very high res but small screen. This results in Windows’s default configuration being high res but scaled up by 300%. Unfortunately the Dell XPS 13 also has a very low end graphics card (I’m not sure if this is actually the source of the problem but I suspect it to be). This makes everything do much more work than it needs to, which is why you’re getting the heat and noise.

In order to fix this, go to the “Change the resolution of your display” system settings (if you press windows key and type “resolution” this should come up as top hit). There you will see “Scale and Layout” set to something like 300% and resolution probably set to “3840 x 2160 (Recommended)”. Change scale to 100% and resolution to one that you feel comfortable reading the screen at (mine is 1920 x 1080). Windows will moan at you about this not being recommended. Do it anyway.

Once you have done this, you should almost immediately hear your fan spin down to nothing. I’ve had no fan noise or heat problems since doing it.

PS. Thanks to David Stark for previously having shared his woes with Windows’s scaling with me, which is what allowed me to diagnose this problem so quickly. Also he has a game out today, Airships: Conquer the Skies, so if thanks to his indirect advice you are now able to play games again without your computer becoming hotter than the sun, why not celebrate with some steampunk aerial violence?

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