Loud Fans and Adobe Flash on Early 2008 MacBook

Yufang has an Early 2008 white Macbook, which we upgraded to Snow Leopard last year. Since adding 64bit software to her daily processing, she’s had to deal with a lot of loud fan revving and droning while using Safari and Adobe Flash Player. Tonight, I finally thought of a solution that, so far, seems to have done the trick. Up to this point, I have tried everything short of a nuke-and-pave reinstall of MacOS X, including: installing all Apple updates, continually updating Flash, repairing disk permissions, and resetting the SMC. Tonight, I was watching what was going on in Activity Monitor, and I thought about the fact that Safari runs in 64bit mode by default and Adobe Flash is still 32bit software on MacOS X. I wondered what would happen if I launched Safari in 32bit mode and tried loading up some Flash videos. Eureka! Now, Flash isn’t identified as running in Activity Monitor, and I assume is running within the Safari process (or via some kind of process reporting magic). Whatever the case, it seems that if you are experiencing this same problem on a MacBook (probably due to its lack of a real GPU), you can resolve this problem by running Safari 4 in 32bit mode: Select the Safari icon in the Applications folder > File > Get Info > Check “Open in 32bit Mode” > Close window > Relaunch Safari. Good luck, and please comment if you have other ideas or if this doesn’t fix your problem.

Published by Jason W. Ellis

I am an Assistant Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY whose teaching includes composition and technical communication, and research focuses on science fiction, neuroscience, and digital technology. Also, I coordinate the City Tech Science Fiction Collection, which holds more than 600 linear feet of magazines, anthologies, novels, and research publications.

6 thoughts on “Loud Fans and Adobe Flash on Early 2008 MacBook

  1. Hey Jason,

    Chelsea has a Macbook and her fan is INSANELY loud when it seems like no real intense processes should be running. She uses Firefox though… So I just wanted to throw out that it isn’t just a Safari problem.

  2. @Matthew – Yeah, I have this problem in Firefox, as well & it already runs in 32 bit mode :(

  3. Hey Matt,

    Yes, I agree that there are other causes for this problem. I read a lot of posts on Apple’s discussion board, but there doesn’t seem to be a common denominator besides the hardware (i.e., a variety of software seem to be used when the problem exhibits itself, or no software besides the OS in some cases). A lot of folks did mention resetting the SMC for random loud fan activity (when a process didn’t seem to be pushing the CPU). It only takes a minute to do: shut down, unplug, pull the battery, press the power button for 5 seconds, reinstall battery, bootup. If there wasn’t an ocean between us, we’d have to hang out and geek out troubleshooting our Macs, heh. Good luck!


  4. Hey Andrew and Matt,

    Are both of you running Snow Leopard? I ask, because Yufang never experienced this problem with Safari until she upgraded to Snow Leopard. I suspect this has much to do with the switch from 32bit (Leopard) to 64bit (Snow Leopard) processes and perhaps the mixed ecology of the two types of processes running side beside. Could Apple’s Grand Central Dispatch be causing the problem by the way it allocates processes to the CPU cores? I wonder when there will be a Firefox 64bit release, and if that will solve that issue with rising CPU temps?


  5. Yeah, I downgraded Yufang to 10.5 Leopard, and made sure she had the most up-to-date Flash. Unfortunately, that seems to help some video sites, but not others (she watched a lot of video from overseas sites). I don’t know why this would cause a problem with Flash. My guess is that certain video codecs that Flash uses are optimized while others are not (at least not for the early 2008 MacBook hardware). I installed the Gala beta version of Flash the other day, but she doesn’t get any hardware video acceleration with that. I don’t remember the kind of integrated video hardware on the Early 2008 MacBooks, but it must be crap or at least unsupported by most video software. My next idea is to install Windows 7 and see if the problem happens on that side of the great divide.

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