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Previously, on Ubuntu 14.04.1 LTS, my computer's fans were always spinning just as much as they needed to. Today I switched to the base version of Debian 8.3.0 and now they are always running at 100% speed, even when the computer is completely idle.

Looking at other, similar questions around the web, fancontrol should solve this, but it fails to start.

$ sudo service fancontrol start
Job for fancontrol.service failed. See 'systemctl status fancontrol.service' and 'journalctl -xn' for details.

$ systemctl status fancontrol.service
● fancontrol.service - fan speed regulator
   Loaded: loaded (/lib/systemd/system/fancontrol.service; enabled)
   Active: failed (Result: exit-code) since Sat 2016-03-26 00:11:17 CET; 48s ago
     Docs: man:fancontrol(8)
           man:pwmconfig(8)
  Process: 4735 ExecStartPre=/usr/sbin/fancontrol --check (code=exited, status=1/FAILURE)

I have configured lm-sensors with sensors-detect, this is the output:

$ sudo sensors-detect
# sensors-detect revision 6209 (2014-01-14 22:51:58 +0100)
# System: MEDIONPC MS-7646 [1.0]

This program will help you determine which kernel modules you need
to load to use lm_sensors most effectively. It is generally safe
and recommended to accept the default answers to all questions,
unless you know what you're doing.

Some south bridges, CPUs or memory controllers contain embedded sensors.
Do you want to scan for them? This is totally safe. (YES/no): y
Module cpuid loaded successfully.
Silicon Integrated Systems SIS5595...                       No
VIA VT82C686 Integrated Sensors...                          No
VIA VT8231 Integrated Sensors...                            No
AMD K8 thermal sensors...                                   No
AMD Family 10h thermal sensors...                           Success!
    (driver `k10temp')
AMD Family 11h thermal sensors...                           No
AMD Family 12h and 14h thermal sensors...                   No
AMD Family 15h thermal sensors...                           No
AMD Family 15h power sensors...                             No
AMD Family 16h power sensors...                             No
Intel digital thermal sensor...                             No
Intel AMB FB-DIMM thermal sensor...                         No
VIA C7 thermal sensor...                                    No
VIA Nano thermal sensor...                                  No

Some Super I/O chips contain embedded sensors. We have to write to
standard I/O ports to probe them. This is usually safe.
Do you want to scan for Super I/O sensors? (YES/no): y
Probing for Super-I/O at 0x2e/0x2f
Trying family `National Semiconductor/ITE'...               No
Trying family `SMSC'...                                     No
Trying family `VIA/Winbond/Nuvoton/Fintek'...               No
Trying family `ITE'...                                      No
Probing for Super-I/O at 0x4e/0x4f
Trying family `National Semiconductor/ITE'...               No
Trying family `SMSC'...                                     No
Trying family `VIA/Winbond/Nuvoton/Fintek'...               Yes
Found unknown chip with ID 0x0903

Some systems (mainly servers) implement IPMI, a set of common interfaces
through which system health data may be retrieved, amongst other things.
We first try to get the information from SMBIOS. If we don't find it
there, we have to read from arbitrary I/O ports to probe for such
interfaces. This is normally safe. Do you want to scan for IPMI
interfaces? (YES/no): y
Probing for `IPMI BMC KCS' at 0xca0...                      No
Probing for `IPMI BMC SMIC' at 0xca8...                     No

Some hardware monitoring chips are accessible through the ISA I/O ports.
We have to write to arbitrary I/O ports to probe them. This is usually
safe though. Yes, you do have ISA I/O ports even if you do not have any
ISA slots! Do you want to scan the ISA I/O ports? (YES/no): y
Probing for `National Semiconductor LM78' at 0x290...       No
Probing for `National Semiconductor LM79' at 0x290...       No
Probing for `Winbond W83781D' at 0x290...                   No
Probing for `Winbond W83782D' at 0x290...                   No

Lastly, we can probe the I2C/SMBus adapters for connected hardware
monitoring devices. This is the most risky part, and while it works
reasonably well on most systems, it has been reported to cause trouble
on some systems.
Do you want to probe the I2C/SMBus adapters now? (YES/no): y
Using driver `i2c-piix4' for device 0000:00:14.0: ATI Technologies Inc SB600/SB700/SB800 SMBus
Module i2c-dev loaded successfully.

Next adapter: SMBus PIIX4 adapter at 0b00 (i2c-0)
Do you want to scan it? (YES/no/selectively): y
Client found at address 0x28
Probing for `National Semiconductor LM78'...                No
Probing for `National Semiconductor LM79'...                No
Probing for `National Semiconductor LM80'...                No
Probing for `National Semiconductor LM96080'...             No
Probing for `Winbond W83781D'...                            No
Probing for `Winbond W83782D'...                            No
Probing for `Winbond W83627HF'...                           No
Probing for `Winbond W83627EHF'...                          No
Probing for `Winbond W83627DHG/W83667HG/W83677HG'...        No
Probing for `Asus AS99127F (rev.1)'...                      No
Probing for `Asus AS99127F (rev.2)'...                      No
Probing for `Asus ASB100 Bach'...                           No
Probing for `Analog Devices ADM1029'...                     No
Probing for `ITE IT8712F'...                                No
Client found at address 0x50
Probing for `Analog Devices ADM1033'...                     No
Probing for `Analog Devices ADM1034'...                     No
Probing for `SPD EEPROM'...                                 Yes
    (confidence 8, not a hardware monitoring chip)
Probing for `EDID EEPROM'...                                No
Client found at address 0x51
Probing for `Analog Devices ADM1033'...                     No
Probing for `Analog Devices ADM1034'...                     No
Probing for `SPD EEPROM'...                                 Yes
    (confidence 8, not a hardware monitoring chip)

Next adapter: SMBus PIIX4 adapter at 0b20 (i2c-1)
Do you want to scan it? (YES/no/selectively): y


Now follows a summary of the probes I have just done.
Just press ENTER to continue:

Driver `k10temp' (autoloaded):
  * Chip `AMD Family 10h thermal sensors' (confidence: 9)

No modules to load, skipping modules configuration.

Unloading i2c-dev... OK
Unloading cpuid... OK

Running sensors gives me:

$ sensors
k10temp-pci-00c3
Adapter: PCI adapter
temp1:        +44.5°C  (high = +70.0°C)

Then there's also pwmconfig, which says:

/usr/sbin/pwmconfig: There are no pwm-capable sensor modules installed

The PC was originally a Windows one made by Medion, the base board being the MS-7646, according to dmidecode. The content of /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu0/cpufreq/scaling_governor is ondemand.

What can I do to not have the fans spin uncontrollably all the time, just like they did on Ubuntu?

  • Do you have a /etc/thermald/thermal-conf.xml file and is thermald loaded? – Fabby Mar 25 '16 at 23:38
  • @Fabby I didn't have that file or thermald; installing it and starting the service led to much the same error message as for fancontrol. Running sudo journalctl -xn, as suggested, gave me dts zone /sys/class/hwmon/hwmon0/name doesn't exist, No Thermal Zones found as well as No thermal sensors found. – JangoBrick Mar 25 '16 at 23:48
  • fancontrol is just a shellscript, can you run it (as root) with sh -x and see where or why it fails? – ott-- Mar 26 '16 at 2:29
2

Turns out that after the computer had cooled down completely over night, the fans weren't running that fast, initially at least. I checked sensors and it reported a temperature of 16°C (60°F), but as that quickly rose to about 42°C (108°F) the fans started spinning up again. Conclusions:

  • There must already be some other fan controller active, perhaps BIOS-controlled.
  • Either a) the reported temperature is wrong (unlikely, as then it would probably be wrong all the time, instead of increasing so quickly), or b) the computer does actually heat up that quickly, and Ubuntu did wrong with not firing up the fans enough, instead of Debian being wrong in doing the opposite.

Opening the case, removing the fan and looking under there, this is what I found – confirming theory b:

Tons of dust on the CPU cooling fins

Believe it or not, removing all the dust helped tremendously. The average temperature is now slightly above 22°C (72°F).

The main fan is still relatively loud, but apparently that's just because it's a cheap one. I uninstalled fancontrol again, as there's no sense in keeping it.

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