My name is Philipp C. Heckel and I write about nerdy things.
This site moved here from blog.philippheckel.com/blog.heckel.xyz!

Dell Latitude E6400: the Ubuntu fan and noise problem


Linux

Dell Latitude E6400: the Ubuntu fan and noise problem


A couple of days ago, my 4 year old laptop (HP nx8220) decided that it was time to retire and refused to switch on a couple of times. Even though it works most of the time, I can’t rely on it anymore and will therefore look for new notebooks in the next week.

On my journey through the Web I looked into the details of various business notebooks. I stumbled across the Dell Latitude E6400, which looks nice and has everything I wanted. Unfortunately, it also seems to have problems with Ubuntu. In particular, the fan seems to run all the time (and not too slow, but very loud) – as many forum posts and user reviews prove [1,2,3,4].

Since I couldn’t find a solution, I decided to ask the Dell support via their support chat.

Update Nov/09: It appears that a BIOS update addresses the heat problem. Please refer to the community forum post (thanks to chato) for details.

Here’s what I found out. Note: This is a chat with the German Dell support from September 21, 2009, translated into English.

Me:
The Latitude E6400 has (like many forum posts say) a big problem with Ubuntu. In particular, the fan is always on and makes a lot of noise.

Agent:
Welcome to the Dell Chat.

Me:
Hallo. I’d like to know if there already is a solution for this problem. I was thinking about buying a E6400, but I couldn’t find any solutions for the fan/noise problem in Ubuntu.

Agent:
Since we do not support Ubuntu on this device, Dell does not work on a solution. Ubuntu is currently only supported on netbooks. There is no solution.

Me:
Okay. Do you think there will be a solution in the future? Is Dell planning to support Ubuntu on the E6400? Or never?!

Agent:
As I said, we don’t sell the device with Ubuntu.

Me:
Okay. Thank you for the honest answer. I’m gonna have to buy a Thinkpad then … Have a nice day.

Agent:
I’m sorry. But we don’t support Linux.

Me:
It’s not your fault. Thanks anyway. Good bye.

Agent:
I’m so sorry.

So the outcome is: The Dell Latitude E6400 doesn’t support Ubuntu and is NOT planning to solve the fan/noise problem.. That means, I’m gonna have to buy one of those ugly Thinkpads. But what other solutions are there?! None!

8 Comments

  1. Peter

    Hey, I don’t think that ubuntu is not supported. I works very well (like I described in my blog entry). And the fan is not loud, but always on. This is the same under windows!

    I am sure you will have (different) problems with any laptop out there with linux, because no device manufactur will support linux until 2020 I guess ;-)

    Although with the fan stuff in my dell this is a bit ugly for such an expensive device … :-(


  2. Philipp

    @Peter: That’s exactly it, — when I buy a laptop for ~1500€, I really like everything to be as expected. That’s a whole lot of money. I don’t want to sit in the library (where it’s always super quiet) and have to feel like I’m disturbing the others.

    But I’m starting to think that there is no perfect notebook for Ubuntu. The Thinkpad T400 (which I’m also interested in) has two graphic cards (= switchable graphics), but Ubuntu doesn’t support it – btw. Windows 7 doesn’t either. What is it with those manufacturers. Shouldn’t they build devices that work for most OSs?


  3. Peter

    > have to feel like I’m disturbing

    oh, no. others have louder devices, I think. I only expected a !quite! laptop and so I was disappointed. It would be really interesting for me to see (or better hear) this T400, because it was one of the others I could have choosen from. To get more silent one you should choose the cheaper but old Dell D640 (ups, I don’t know the linux support :-|). A friend of mine had such a thing – nice! And you can use it for programming and such, but slower than E6400 …

    they should send you the E6400 + the T400 and then you can choose :-)


  4. Philipp

    @Peter: I bought the T400, quite a decent device. Ubuntu runs smoothly after tweaking the usual things. However, if running Compiz the UI is still terribly slow. Almost like on my 4-yr old notebook. Hope they’ll fix that pretty soon.


  5. Paul T

    BIOS update A17 (very new!!) seems to have improved things! (a lot more silently with Ubuntu 9.10B)

    Regards.
    Paul


  6. chato

    It seems that the fan problem exists as well in Windows and is related to the BIOS. There is extensive documentation here
    http://en.community.dell.com/forums/t/19247293.aspx?PageIndex=12

    It appears that a BIOS update A18 should specifically address the issue in the next days.
    Chato


  7. svctr

    For anyone who stumples upon this:

    For me it helped just to disconnect the power cable. After a while the fan stopped. Actually I had 3 minutes left. Since I currently have a very old battery that just stays alive for a couple of minutes I cannot say whether this would help others (fan going off could be caused by some “remaining time event” or a “X minutes on battery event”). I’ll check with a better battery then…


  8. Marvin

    Thank you for your tip svctr! It is true that if I boot my machine with attached power cable (BIOS version A20) the fan is always on. After removing power cable and attaching it again after one minute the fan stopped to disturb me. Strange solution but it works! :-)


Leave a comment

I'd very much like to hear what you think of this post. Feel free to leave a comment. I usually respond within a day or two, sometimes even faster. I will not share or publish your e-mail address anywhere.