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Why are fans spinning

PostPosted: 21. Aug 2018, 16:18
by limestone_lenny
Hi All,
This is VirtualBox 5.2.18 on OSX 10.10, hosting Mint 19. Everything seems to be working. I noticed a performance lag compared with Parallels 10.4 hosting Ubuntu 15.04. After playing with settings, both guests are performing at what seems the same level. However, browsers in Mint (Opera, Pale Moon) cause the fans to spin. Wonder if anyone knows why that is?

Some current settings include:
Base memory : 8192 MB
Enable I/O APIC: checked
Enable EFI: unchecked
Hardware Clock: checked
Processors: 4
Execution Cap: 100%
Enable PAE/NX: checked
Paravirtualization Interface: Default
Enable Nested Paging: checked
Use Host I/O Cache: unchecked
Hard Disk: SATA Port 0
Solid-state Drive: checked
Hot-pluggable: checked
Format: Normal(VDI)
Details: Fixed size storage
Network adapter:
Network adapter attached to: NAT
Adapter Type: IntelPRO/1000 MT Desktop (default)
Cable Connected: checked

Any comments on these settings are welcome.

Re: Why are fans spinning

PostPosted: 21. Aug 2018, 17:30
by socratis
Posting the settings isn't enough I'm afraid. We're going to need to see a complete VBox.log, from a complete VM session:
  • Start the VM from cold-boot (not from a paused or saved state) / Observe error / Shutdown the VM (force close it if you have to).
  • With the VM completely shut down (not paused or saved), right-click on the VM in the VirtualBox Manager and select "Show Log".
  • Save only the first "VBox.log", ZIP it and attach it to your response. See the "Upload attachment" tab below the reply form.

limestone_lenny wrote:cause the fans to spin. Wonder if anyone knows why that is?
You know that the sole purpose that the fans exist, right? To spin. When your CPU is working. That's a GoodThing™. ;)

Here are a couple of applications, so that you know what's available on your system at any given time. What I do, is to have several monitor tools running at all times. Your preference may vary, but you can use either of them (I use all of them concurrently):
There are similar tools that you can use on your guest; "top" being the simplest CLI, and "System Monitor" being the GUI equivalent. Monitor both your host and your guest. See what's getting the CPU higher than idle. And idle (5-10%) is the only time that your fans won't spin. Otherwise they do. That's why they're there...

Ever tried to rip a DVD with Handbrake? Or compile VirtualBox from source? Give it a shot, let me know how it went...

Re: Why are fans spinning

PostPosted: 21. Aug 2018, 17:48
by mpack
I'm going to guess that 3D acceleration is enabled - incorrectly, and that it is rendering in software.

Re: Why are fans spinning

PostPosted: 21. Aug 2018, 19:01
by Tesla1856
mpack wrote:I'm going to guess that 3D acceleration is enabled - incorrectly, and that it is rendering in software.

Oh, really?

So, you suggest keeping that off? With it off, it would use the GPU hardware to render?

With a Mac-Mini(Late 2012) with just an Intel HD Graphics 4000 ... which setting is optimal?

Re: Why are fans spinning

PostPosted: 21. Aug 2018, 19:05
by socratis
Can you post the log that I asked for? It's going to answer mpack's question and a whole a lot more of them...

Re: Why are fans spinning

PostPosted: 21. Aug 2018, 20:34
by limestone_lenny
I noticed that video won't play on Opera, only thumbnail size, and the constant loop indicator is joined by fan action, so I focused on that. Then I :
1. Bumped video memory to 128 mb
2. Tried all the network adapter settings and adapter type settings
3. Downloaded a video and played in VLC to make sure video play was okay
4. Made a vm in Parallels of Mint 19 and verified browser video (but limited to 800x600 desktop)
5. Turned off HDPI setting in Mint and tried a number of screen resolutions

None of the above had any effect on the problem.

After that I restored HDPI, started a session, clicked a video, waiting for fan noise to build, shut down, and copied the log.

Thanks for the suggestion about monitoring apps, right now I'm limited to ctop. I will try another. By the way, 3D acceleration is not enabled, and 2D is unselectable.

I tried uploading the log. It got there, right? (Mint19 log 180821)

Mint log
(29.24 KiB) Downloaded 8 times

Re: Why are fans spinning

PostPosted: 21. Aug 2018, 22:59
by socratis
Go to the VM Settings » Display » Screen » Enable 3D Acceleration: Enable that.

00:00:00.593137 Host RAM: 16384MB (16.0GB) total, 9050MB (8.8GB) available
00:00:00.637036 RamSize <integer> = 0x0000000200000000 (8 589 934 592, 8 192 MB, 8.0 GB)
00:00:00.637391 VRamSize <integer> = 0x0000000008000000 (134 217 728, 128 MB)
Do you really need 8 GB of RAM? You're stressing your host. I'd lower it to 4 or 6 GB. On mine, I usually go between 1.5 and 2 GB. Except some Win10-64 and a couple of OSXes that need 3 GB.

00:00:00.834396 Full Name: "Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-4770HQ CPU @ 2.20GHz"
00:00:00.834099 CPUM: Physical host cores: 4
00:00:00.637033 NumCPUs <integer> = 0x0000000000000004 (4)
You have assigned all your CPUs to the VM. The host is going to run low on resources, since VirtualBox cares about physical processors (cores), not logical ones (threads). Your i7-4770HQ has 4 cores, 8 threads. See "CPU Cores versus threads" and "Why is it a bad idea to allocate as many VCPUs as there are physical CPUs?". I would use 2 CPUs for the guest (I do actually).

limestone_lenny wrote:None of the above had any effect on the problem.
You've got to understand that it is not a problem if your fans are spinning. It's called "normal operation". Especially with the Retina MBPs, Apple went more aggressive with the fans.

How long since you last opened it and blew the dust/lint out? You won't believe the amount of crappola that gets in there...

Re: Why are fans spinning

PostPosted: 22. Aug 2018, 00:51
by limestone_lenny
(29.48 KiB) Downloaded 24 times
@Socratis: Ram, acceleration, memory changes made per your suggestions. But browsers still don't play video. However, browser video is not why I created the vm, and I can get used to its present set of capabilities.

Thanks for putting the fan operation in perspective. I'm not used to hearing them, I suppose I do not have the right perspective. It's been a long time since I had a laptop apart, one of these days I'll have to have a look inside this one.


Re: Why are fans spinning

PostPosted: 22. Aug 2018, 01:22
by socratis
limestone_lenny wrote:Thanks for putting the fan operation in perspective.
I haven't even started! ;)
Here's a small personal story from not so while ago (a month or so)...

Around 5.12-5.1.14, my MBP11,5 started going nuts. I know it's summertime, I know I'm in a hot area of the world, but I wasn't expecting the fans to be pegged at max the whole time. And then all of a sudden, my CPU would ramp up in a period of 15-20 seconds, from 5-10% to 100%. It was happening when I was launching a VM (most of the time). The offending process was "kernel_task".

How do you debug/troubleshoot kernel_task? Not easily. I started suspecting the kernel extension, the KEXTs. Those are the ones that live in that area and would be causing the high CPU usage. Obviously, I suspected VirtualBox, since they're the only 3rd party extensions that I have (except OSXFuse). Asked around on IRC the developers. Nothing. Started downgrading VirtualBox. Nothing. Then I noticed that the CPU was kept high, even if VirtualBox wasn't running. :shock:

Out of serendipity, I discovered that this was happening only if I had a 2nd or a 3rd monitor plugged in. Unplugging the external monitors would cause the CPU to drop immediately to 5%, the expected amount. So, I suspected an update to the GPU kext might have been the culpit. Nope.

And finally, after about two-three weeks of struggling, of having to unplug the monitor to have the CPU drop(!), I found this article at Apple: "If kernel_task is using a large percentage of your Mac CPU". And in summary it says, that if the MBP "feels" that the temperature is going to rise, the kernel jumps in, FAKES a high CPU usage (with lots of idle loops?), so that all the other processes take a step back. The end effect is that as the CPU increases, and stays at 100%, the computer cools down!!! :shock: :shock: :shock:

Which lead to one, and one only conclusion; the fans were clogged! Bingo! Opened and cleaned the computer (only one year of usage), and now I'm back in DEFCON 1, everything is back to normal...;)

Re: Why are fans spinning

PostPosted: 22. Aug 2018, 05:55
by limestone_lenny
@Socratis: Interesting story, thanks for passing it on.

My mid-2014 macbook I have had 3-1/2 yrs. A few months after I got it, the right fan got very loud on start-up. Something mechanical, obviously. Unrelated to working load. I bought an extra fan and prepared (mentally) to replace it. Then as suddenly as it begin, it disappeared. So I still have (probably) a spare fan around somewhere. Right now my left fan is spinning at 2161 and the right at 1999. In this mode, they are totally silent. It has been a long time since editing video or processing Mathematica notebooks has caused the fans to speak. I know there is probably a lot of crud inside the case. But unless it directly impacts some project I'm working on, I'll just shine it on as usual.

Because if I cleaned every speck of dust out of the fan ducts, that would not make the browser start running video. (It is a noteworthy housekeeping undertaking just the same.) The process that is blocking the video from running may be a bigger load than a running video would be. So if the video was actually running, there might be small or no issue with fans.

So far I have tried Firefox, Opera, and Pale Moon, none of which can run video.

I set up a vm of Ubuntu 15.04 using Virtualbox 5.2.18, using the guidelines for cpu, memory, and acceleration you mentioned earlier. It would not play video either. In that vm I tried Youtube, Nasa, and Vimeo outlets. The cache would load, then nothing further would happen.

If I wanted to be scientific, I would try falling back to an earlier version of Virtualbox to see if machines built with it could play video. But to be honest I'm not that motivated. However, I'm willing to try out other suggestions you may think of.


Re: Why are fans spinning

PostPosted: 23. Aug 2018, 03:14
by limestone_lenny
I decided I needed to get down to cases with this video play problem. I installed and tried out VirtualBox 5.2.12, then 5.2.8, then 5.2.4, then 5.2.0, looking for one that would make a vm which played video in a browser. I didn't find it. Then I landed on 5.1.38 and that was Eureka time. The vm played video like a champ. Fan noise very low. I guess an old OS like mine needs an old app to communicate with. :wink:

(24.42 KiB) Downloaded 9 times

Re: Why are fans spinning

PostPosted: 23. Aug 2018, 06:51
by socratis
That's interesting. Can you send me your exact setup in terms of application used in the guest, application's window size (windowed, full-screen, other), and the URL of the video(s)? I'm going to try and replicate what you're seeing...

Re: Why are fans spinning

PostPosted: 23. Aug 2018, 16:51
by limestone_lenny
@Socratis, Firefox 61.0.1 is bundled with Mint 19, and that's what I am using. (Looks better than previous Firefoxes on Linux.)

Rez is retina. Video resolution/window size is any. (For example, plays full screen without fans.)

One setting I couldn't make was 3D acceleration, because it breaks Blender. :?

For network setup, see log.