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I'll begin with an overview of my system:

  • Generic Corsair case
  • Asus Z170 AR Motherboard
  • 8gb x 2 (16gb) Ballistix RAM
  • i5 6600k
  • Radeon RTX 480 4gb
  • EVGA 650W Gold
  • Logitech G403 mouse
  • 144hz monitor
  • Headset with external sound card

I have been using various flavors of Linux on this build for quite some time in a dual boot setup, and have finally settled on Fedora. Originally I started with the full Workstation 29 install (with no issue), but decided to do a minimal install for more control over the packages. I started by giving Wayland and Sway a try, only to first encounter my issue:

This "grinding" or "scratching" noise coming from somewhere near my motherboard/PSU only when I move the mouse, scroll, or drag a window.

I initially chalked it up to bad drivers and Wayland, so I went with a full fresh install (probably over-kill) and installed X with i3. Everything seemed fine, but after about 30 minutes the noise came back.

Now, I've seen a LOT of posts online talking about grounding the case and motherboard power savings modes, but none of those have worked - with one exception. When I used a low quality 125hz mouse the noise goes away. Aha! I found it! Not quite... I followed the Arch wiki to pass mouse polling rate parameters into my kernel on boot (using this link) and confirmed that my 1000hz gaming mouse was now polling at 125hz. The noise was still there.

Why do I encounter a grinding, frequency noise when using a window manager, but not a regular desktop environment?

I have never experienced this with KDE, XFCE, or GNOME, but as soon as I switch to Sway or i3 it comes back. The polling rate of the mouse does not appear to impact it. I have tried using alsamixer to disable all sound cards except the external one for my headset to no avail. This issue is not related to distribution or even OS (not reproducible on Windows).

EDIT:

After installing a compositor (compton), the noise is much quieter. I'm wondering if maybe this was just the processor working overtime instead of pushing the tasks off to the GPU? The noise is still noticeable however. I will continue to tweak.

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