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So I'm a trainee Automation tester and I have been given a laptop and have been told I need to run test cases overnight using Selenium. This requires me to have my laptop on all night running our applications test cases. I would then analyze the results in the morning. I also work from home.

It might not sound an issue, but I don't live in a large house and so I have this running in my room, therefore I can hear the laptop running and the light from the laptop is visible. This could potentially mess up my sleep. I'm also not confident about the safety of this, what if I want to go out for that night, I'd be leaving a running laptop unattended, seems like a potential fire hazard to me. Also I'm not sure about how much electricity this would cost me in the long run.

My question is, is this allowed or seem normal? Haven't had a chance to bring this up with the employer, but am going to, just wanted to ask here first. Advice would be appreciated.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – motosubatsu
    Nov 4, 2021 at 17:12
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    It could help to clarify whether this is supposed to be a longterm solution or one that seems rather short-term. And whether it was a side-remark suggestion on how to do your development or rather a direct order. I.e. something like, "you're responsible for this project for the next 6 months, run the tests every night and check in the morning" or more like "implement these two features in this prototype the next two weeks, since we don't have a build server for that you need to run the tests locally, they take a bit, so maybe do that at night" or somewhere in-between. Nov 4, 2021 at 20:23
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    Size and type of company could also help to gauge how normal it would be and which options to solve this differently might be available. Nov 4, 2021 at 20:24
  • Do you work from home as a short-term solution because of the pandemic or do you have an actual work from home contract?
    – Michael
    Nov 5, 2021 at 6:37
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    Could you run the tests from end of work (say 6pm) until you go to bed, then start them up again immediately when you wake up in the morning before work? Seems like that would give you a good 7-8 hours of test runs to analyze.
    – DaveG
    Nov 5, 2021 at 13:52

13 Answers 13

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Is it normal to have a laptop running all night doing this? It's not unknown. Is it a fire risk? Not really. I'm sure there are reasons why a laptop would burst into flames, but running overnight shouldn't do it. Will it cost much in electricity? No. Laptops don't use that much.

But it's also very amateur-hour. Occasionally you may decide to run a test locally overnight, but that should be your decision, and not a regular occurrence.

Talk to your DevOps team. They should be able to set up a selenium environment that runs on one of their servers so that your overnight tests do not require a laptop at all. You can log in remotely to check results, and/or they can be emailed to you.

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    Development and IT Operations team. The people responsible for servers and the it infrastructure.
    – PeteCon
    Nov 4, 2021 at 0:40
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    It will vary by company, but most DevOps teams I've worked with will create a server for you and give you pointers about how to gain remote access, but will expect you to actually install selenium and configure the nightly test runs. If they hold your hand all the way though, they're being exceptionally helpful. Nov 4, 2021 at 3:20
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    Electricity usage will depend on the laptop. On your standard office type laptop, the difference will not be much. A mobile workstation or gaming laptop? You can see the energy usage difference on a daily basis (if living in a studio flat in Europe).
    – DetlevCM
    Nov 4, 2021 at 15:03
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    There is a few caveats you might want to point out/address: Not every company has a DevOps team, i.e. this might be a small startup. The project might be a small prototype and thus not worth setting up test servers for at this stage. Also OP is a trainee, their boss might not be happy if they go to DevOps and ask them to spend time on setting up a server on their own. Or DevOps might refuse without a higher level backed ticket etc. -> OP might suggest this first to the boss to get their backing. Nov 4, 2021 at 20:19
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    DevOps? You're calling it "amateur-hour," and in the very next sentence, telling the OO to "ask your DevOps team?" Chances are good they don't have a DevOps team. Nov 5, 2021 at 1:48
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My question is, is this allowed or seem normal?

Certainly it's allowed. And in my experience, it's completely normal.

When I was running test automation, it always ran overnight. I usually remotely connected to a work desktop (or more typically, several desktops), where the actual job was run, but occasionally would run them from my home laptop instead.

It might not sound an issue, but I don't live in a large house and so I have this running in my room, therefore I can hear the laptop running and the light from the laptop is visible. This could potentially mess up my sleep. I'm also not confident about the safety of this, what if I want to go out for that night, I'd be leaving a running laptop unattended, seems like a potential fire hazard to me. Also I'm not sure about how much electricity this would cost me in the long run.

If you aren't able to run it on a work computer in the office and must run it in your bedroom, consider putting a box or such over the laptop to block the sound and light.

Unattended laptops are not a fire hazard. And electricity usage is minimal.

If it still bothers you, talk with your boss and see if you can come up with an alternative process.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – motosubatsu
    Nov 5, 2021 at 17:30
  • Re "Unattended laptops are not a fire hazard": They contain lithium batteries and lithium batteries are always a fire hazard. For instance, the monitoring/charge electronics (or sensors) may fail, which may cause overheating during charging which may cause the lithium batteries to catch fire (thermal runaway). Nov 27, 2021 at 16:04
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Test Automation Engineer here!

The solution you're looking for is a build server such as Jenkins. This will allow you to schedule and kick off tests to run overnight on a remote machine.

You can sell this to your managers as an easy way for anyone (with access) to run tests and review results with minimal setup.

Jenkins is free and popular. You can run code from multiple branches at the same time. If your team is already using Atlassian tools such as Jira, the Bamboo build server (a paid product) integrates with it.

I'm going to level with you - I'm a little concerned that your team hasn't implemented this solution yet. It's basic infrastructure for test management and there's absolutely no reason why you shouldn't use it, precisely for the challenges you listed above - no one wants to run automation on their laptop for 8 hours.

Test Automation Engineer to Test Automation Engineer, and this is probably going to sound a little insane to those outside the industry, but if they push back on you re: the build server, I'd look for a different job.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – motosubatsu
    Nov 5, 2021 at 17:30
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Nah, don't do this. The employer is pushing this on you because you're an inexperienced trainee and less likely to stand your ground.

They didn't offer to pay you a differential for your increased power bill, right? Of course not.

For stuff that needs to run all day or night, the company could pay for virtual servers that don't need to be in your home. I work from home as well for a consulting firm, and on any given day I work with a bunch of these for one or more of our clients. I'm getting the impression that you're working for some cheapskates.

A laptop doesn't create a fire risk but it's overstepping for your company having you do any kind of business activity after business hours in your home. Someone will propose - "all you have to do is leave it on!" but if you're responsible for leaving it on, they're probably legally liable to pay you as if you were working. (I am not an attorney.)

Quality-of-life is a real thing that you're going to have to learn not to compromise or you'll get taken advantage of. A good night's sleep is precious. If you agree to lopsided arrangement #1, you should fully expect the same company to press for other lopsided arrangements in the future.

Boundaries.

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  • Boundaries. Enough said.
    – basher
    Nov 10, 2021 at 19:01
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Your employer can't force you to keep running their laptop in your room outside of your working hours. Noise is just one of the many factors here. After work, you are entitled to use your desk however you wish, including ways which are not compatible with a company laptop. E.g. you could drink tea/beer at your desk while watching a movie, and I'm pretty certain your company has a policy against food and drinks going near their electronic equipment.

So you can certainly object, and if you push hard enough, your employer will have to find another solution. Having said that, you should consider how much you value your employer vs. how much trouble it is to run tests overnight. I know I would find a way to run tests for my employer.

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    I think this is important here to emphasize. Issues like fire safety or noise are frankly speaking irrelevant. On the principle of it, your employer can't force you to do anything outside of work hours. The employer's lack of proper infrastructure for test automation is their problem, don't make it yours. If you decided that you don't mind and would like to help them with it, you are doing so at your own discretion. If your employer can't find a few dollars a month to set up proper cloud-based test infrastructure, you'd be much better off finding a better job, they're not worth your time.
    – Lie Ryan
    Nov 5, 2021 at 22:28
  • @LieRyan You can't set up a proper cloud-based infrastructure for a few dollars a month. You can get a cloud server account with that money. You still an engineer which will install all the test SW on the clould, make sure the test data is delivered to the server every evening, test results are fetched in the morning, and maintain the whole thing in a working condition. Nov 6, 2021 at 10:22
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    Yes, those are still not your problem.
    – Lie Ryan
    Nov 6, 2021 at 16:38
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Not allowed at all

Your company has absolutely no right to tell you, what you should do in your free time and how you should organize your living space.

If you have any issues with running your laptop when you're sleeping, for example because noise or lights are disturbing you, just turn that thing off, no explanation needed!

You can agree freely to launch tests in your free time, but depending on your location, it might be legal grey zone. Many countries require minimal free time between working shifts, so if you start the tests on 23, you might be, for example, legally not allowed to start work next day before 11 (eg. Germany has quite strict regulation).

If it's normal, it's another question. In many industries, it is normal to require actions that are unsafe, illegal or unethical. On the long term, if the company is pushing the borderline, it won't be a healthy working environment for you.

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  • This isn't a demand on the tester's free time, it's running an automated process overnight that they don't need to monitor until it's finished. Nov 9, 2021 at 22:49
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Talk to your boss about this, your concern of a fire hazard is valid and should be taken seriously. most office grade laptops are not designed to run intensive tasks overnight on a regular interval. also, even if the light can be fixed in the settings. The noise can be a real issue when trying to sleep.

I'd suggest serval possible solutions in order of ideal to trying to live with the issue.

  • ask if it's possible to get remote access to an office server or desktop and run the task there.
  • ask if you can get a cooling pad for the laptop to reduce temperatures and thus noise levels. If your employer won't assist there are still several options to at least minimise risk.
  • if possible, remove the battery when running the laptop unattended and place it away from said laptop.
  • set the laptop to not turn off when closing the lid, a how to can be found here
  • if you know how long the task will last, set the laptop to auto shutdown, a how to can be found here
  • if the noise is the main issue, reduce the maximum power the cpu is allowed to use, a how to can be found here
  • keep the laptop clean, check whether it's dusty or has anything blocking the vents. if this is the case, either carefully try to clean it or if the dust and grime is deep inside of the system. Ask the IT department at your work to do it for you.

One warning, try not to cover or otherwise block the laptop in any way shape or form.

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    +1 for removing battery. I was going to post an answer saying the same thing. I have found that it also reduces heat generated (especially useful in hot countries, when you don't want any additional unnecessarily generated heat in a small room in your home/flat). I've got three battery-less MacBook Pros that have been running tests 24/7 for over three years. However, it is worth noting that if you live in an area prone to electrical failures then this can be a real pain... Nov 5, 2021 at 3:35
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    "most office grade laptops are not designed to run intensive tasks overnight" - really? I'm yet to see a laptop safety notice which forbids continuous operation. Nov 5, 2021 at 12:56
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    @DmitryGrigoryev There is a difference between forbidding it and it not being a good fit for the job. Laptops are primarily built for mobility and usually have a cooler design that is optimised for shorter burst tasks. Once you're looking for a system that needs to run at its full potential for longer. It's usually better to look at server or workstation grade parts that are built for more rigorous use cases
    – skippy
    Nov 5, 2021 at 13:03
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    Your answer implies it's a fire hazard, so it's certainly something that should be forbidden rather than merely advised against. Nov 5, 2021 at 13:56
  • @DmitryGrigoryev yes, leaving a laptop on a charger while unattended is considered a fire hazard and there is a reason many firefighters and fire safety advisors advise against it. However I don't really understand what you mean with forbidding it. leaving a candle unattended is also a fire hazard but by no means "forbidden"
    – skippy
    Nov 5, 2021 at 14:40
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It might not sound an issue, but I don't live in a large house and so I have this running in my room, therefore I can hear the laptop running and the light from the laptop is visible.

That's it IMHO: "I'm sorry, but I don't have room to run the laptop overnight".

It's not about absolute values, like fire hazard or electricity costs. It's about YOU not having the infrastructure necessary to run the laptop overnight. Don't ever say that "This could potentially mess up my sleep". It's a fact.

As others have mentioned already, the proper technical solution is to run long tasks on remote machines and then access the results over the network. Using laptop in place of a 24/7 server is amateurish.

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    However, if the company would find you an accomodation with 2 rooms, and pay the price difference, you'd have problems saying 'no'. Nov 5, 2021 at 17:31
  • @DanubianSailor: Huh? I'm certainly not going to move to different living space because my employer finds it convenient for their always-on laptop to live with me there. Even if it were "better" in some sense that my present accommodations, it would be moving to a place where staying is continegent on continued employment with the same company, which is absolutely a deal-breaker. Nov 6, 2021 at 23:11
  • You don't have a single wall plug in your kitchen? Because that's all that's needed.
    – gnasher729
    Nov 6, 2021 at 23:30
  • @R..GitHubSTOPHELPINGICE Basically, that would be living a datacenter with a bunk attached : )
    – Agent_L
    Nov 7, 2021 at 15:49
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    @gnasher729 I have a plug. But I can recall times when I didn't have kitchen at my disposal: As a young adult living at my parents place and later, living in a rented room in a shared flat. Neither kitchen was a place where I could leave my employer's property reliably safely, night after night. I can also easily imagine homes with kids and/or pets that are just waiting for their chance to play with a blinking thingy. Also, I vaguely recall "leaving unattended" and "preventing access by non-employees" clauses in contract signed when receiving a laptop.
    – Agent_L
    Nov 7, 2021 at 16:17
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Point of order: while it's certainly not appropriate for the company to tell you to leave your laptop on overnight running tests for them, this is not your laptop. You say that "I have been given a laptop" for company work, which implies that it's their property.

Your job description is to work with tests. They need the tests run. The tests take longer to run than your working hours, but can be run unattended. That being true, there's nothing particularly objectionable about them asking you to leave the tests running unattended, on their own property, outside of your working hours.

Even if you're in a small house, or for that matter even a small apartment, you should be able to put it somewhere other than your bedroom and close the door. You should also be able to find a way to make the laptop continue to run with the lid closed, (exact settings vary from model to model, but it's not difficult,) so it doesn't give off light. Just make sure it's in an open space with nothing blocking the fans or vents and the risk of fire will be negligible. A laptop that overheats is designed with safeties that will put the computer to sleep rather than risk physical damage to the circuitry, let alone a fire breaking out.

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    "Even if you're in a small house, or for that matter even a small apartment, you should be able to put it somewhere other than your bedroom and close the door" This runs into other problems, like "my 3-year-old spilled orange juice on it" or "my cat knocked it onto the floor".
    – nick012000
    Nov 5, 2021 at 2:29
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    Some people live in one room apartments, where the only separate room is the bath room, and I would consider that an unsuitable environment for running a laptop. Nov 5, 2021 at 10:22
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    Sure, it's their laptop, but it's not their room and desk. And calling these tests "unattended" is a stretch: the OP won't be able to put the laptop in a bag in their closet and forget about it until morning. BTW, most trainees live in worse conditions than "a small house", and not everyone even has separate bedrooms. Nov 5, 2021 at 12:47
  • "on their own property", sure, but this isn't the company's property. This is the OP's house/apt. That's a completely different animal. Nov 5, 2021 at 15:32
  • Imagine renting a room in a shared flat. With flatmates you know by first names only. Who bring their friends overnight, friends that you don't get to see at all.
    – Agent_L
    Nov 7, 2021 at 16:10
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You don't really have an issue to complain from:

  • Power: the maximal power draw of a laptop is written on its power brick. Mine is 60W and the most-most powerful ones (you probably don't have one as a trainee) are like 200W. If you leave it powered on and fully loaded you will get at most ~150kWh per month or ~50kWh only for the nights. Or even less if you skip the weekends. 50kWh are like $10 - $20 in most developed countries.

The power draw also offsets your heating bill (your mileage may vary depending on the technology you are using to heat up your residence). If you are running A/C to cool your home instead, add $10-$20 for the A/C electricity.

If added expenses of this amount are of concern for you, ask your employer to compensate you for them. On the other hand, you save on transportation now, don't you?

  • Light: Set your laptop to turn off its screen when idle. Or not to get into sleep mode when lid is closed - and close the lid when you don't use it anymore. Problem solved. Closing the lid helps with the noise, at least for some laptops.

  • Noise: If your laptop makes more noise than your nearby streets or roads, neighbours, fridge, AC/heating, washing machine, family/roomies, pets, etc... you are lucky to live in quite a comfortable and silent place that most people cannot afford.

You can somewhat restore your level of comfort by leaving the running laptop in another room or at least leave some (bulky) furniture between your bed and your laptop.

More radical approaches to soundproofing tend to worsen the heat dissipation as well, so don't cover it in any way.

  • Fire risk: It is 2021 and laptops tend to shut off when mildly overheated. Don't worry, unless you live in a place with profoundly broken electricity grid. But if you do, you already know how to deal with things like overvoltages, blackouts, brownouts or surges.

The worst thing a modern (post-2000) laptop can suffer from bad electricity is a fried power brick. If this happens, ask your employer for help or just get used one off your local ebay-like website for $20 or $10.


All these considerations are generic and not related to the specific work you are doing with your laptop.

Other solutions (like using remote computers and servers to run the overnight tasks) may be better, but may not be applicable in your case.

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    sorry to downvote, but there's a free technical solution to this problem that would relinquish OP from this issue and bring several benefits to the greater team. Selenium tests cannot run from sleep mode, and can suck a lot of power/memory from a machine. Also, being able to turn off your work laptop during off hours should be a given.
    – LeLetter
    Nov 4, 2021 at 15:46
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    @LeLetter I changed the answer somewhat. I nowhere suggested running anything in sleep mode - it won't work, unless probably run in the Management Engine cpu in the laptop (and this cpu is somewhat weak and not really available to the general user).
    – fraxinus
    Nov 4, 2021 at 16:12
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    No down vote yet, but do a quick search on laptop fire. It's rare, but laptops do catch fire. Nov 4, 2021 at 20:37
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    "You don't really have an issue to complain from" and "You can somewhat restore your level of comfort" seem to contradict themselves. Some people are light sleepers, and a laptop would definitely impact my sleep (more so than any nearby roads, etc). In either case, it's nothing OP should have to endure in their free time if for whatever reason they don't want to; if the company isn't paying for the time, they can't dictate what OP does or doesn't do during it.
    – tim
    Nov 5, 2021 at 13:52
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    That $10-20 adds up real quick over a year. energyusecalculator.com/electricity_laptop.htm Running my work laptop 24/7/365 would cost $140 a year. Nov 5, 2021 at 15:27
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Don't make this about fire hazard or electricity usage. The former is going to make you look untechnical (many of your coworkers probably have had computers on continuously for all but a few hours of the past 10+ years of their lives) and the latter is going to make "okay, here's reimbursement to cover electricity" negate your standing.

The core problem here is that your employer wants you to be responsible for operating their equipment, for work purposes, during time you're not working. What do they want you to do if the power goes out? Make sure it goes to sleep gracefully? Resume the job once power is back? If something goes wrong, are they going to assume you or someone else in your household did something to cause it? In a sense, their request is a lot like requesting you to be on-call - responsible for asynchronous events that occur during time you're not supposed to be working. You're babysitting the machine. This is highly disruptive to your life outside work. Having the machine on, producing heat and noise in your living space, is part of that.

If it's a one-time or rare thing, maybe consider just doing it, but inform your employer that it's disruptive of your non-work activities and that you don't expect it to become a regular thing. If they do want you to be doing this all the time, they should be paying you a lot more than they are, after determining that you're okay with such a role and that you all agree on what to expect if things go wrong.

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    Saying that you are "on-call" when all you are doing is leaving a machine running is ridiculous.
    – DaveG
    Nov 7, 2021 at 14:14
  • @DaveG: If you're expected to be aware of anything that might go wrong with it and handle that, then you are on-call. Even if not, there are strong similarities in terms of how the duty may interfere with your non-working time. Nov 8, 2021 at 17:09
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    There's nothing in the post that indicates that the OP needs to monitor the laptop and handle any problems. He's doing exactly what I've done in the past: start up a process, run it overnight, check the results in the morning. Trust me, I've been "on call", this is very, very different.
    – DaveG
    Nov 8, 2021 at 17:41
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Electricity is negligible; check the wattage of your power brick because it probably tops out between 65-100 watts. If electricity is a concern then why haven't you brought it up before? You know, for your 9-5 hours. While you're at it you could try to get partially reimbursed for your Internet service.

Do you have the option of bringing the laptop into the office at the end of your shift to start up the process, go home, and check on it in the morning?

Were you forced into WFH as an existing employee or have you been remote since day 1?

Casually ask your employer about how would they handle the insurance claim if the laptop caught fire. It's not unusual to have to run things overnight but that doesn't mean you have to put yourself in harm's way.

As for the laptop noise you should put it in an unused room. If that's not an option then bring it to the office. If that's not an option then explain that you cannot run the laptop all night as it affects your sleep.

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  • @JoeStrazzere Fair enough. At least ask them what's the re-imbursement policy on homeowner's insurance deductibles and inflated insurance premiums.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Nov 5, 2021 at 17:40
  • The OP already said they don't have another room to put the laptop in, so that's not a valid suggestion. Nov 5, 2021 at 17:50
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    @computercarguy "I've tried nothing and I'm all out of ideas" is a terrible way to go about this situation. OP specifies "house" so is it blasphemous to think they could put it in a bathroom and shut the door?
    – MonkeyZeus
    Nov 5, 2021 at 17:53
  • @MonkeyZeus, other people suggested putting it in the bathroom, like the tub or the floor, and I've already said why those are bad solutions. And it's pretty obvious the OP has already tried other things and said they don't work, so it's not "I've tried nothing". Not to mention that if it was as simple as putting it in another room, this question wouldn't exist. I've been in tiny single room houses and any noise is audible everywhere. Nov 5, 2021 at 17:59
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Mitigations you can try:

  1. Run a ceiling or box fan in your room. In my experience, the larger fans with their deeper drone, drowns out the higher pitch computer noises. This can also mitigate your worry of the laptop overheating.
  2. Pick up a white noise generator for your room. Similar to above, the regular noise from the laptop is drowned out by the irregular noise of the generator.
  3. Run your laptop overnight on the dining table. If security is an issue with roommates, you can get security cables to protect it, but if this is the case, you may want to move anyway.
  4. For the light, just close the laptop while changing the setting to stop it from sleeping when the lid closes.
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    Also changing the power profile can minimize the need for fans.
    – DaveG
    Nov 5, 2021 at 13:51
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    It does not solve the problem, it only minimize the nuisance. The OP wants no nuisance. Nov 5, 2021 at 17:32

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