In trying to help a friend with computer troubles remotely, I jokingly asked if he was playing Janet Jackson albums near his laptop. He thought I was joking but no. Computers and requencies are weird. Rhythm Nation has the power to crash computers (with spinning hard drives.)

It turns out that the song contained one of the natural resonant frequencies for the model of 5400 rpm laptop hard drives that they and other manufacturers used.

The manufacturer worked around the problem by adding a custom filter in the audio pipeline that detected and removed the offending frequencies during audio playback.

Janet Jackson had the power to crash laptop computers – The Old New Thing
Careful playing near old hard drives.

This reminded me of the time in college I had a roommate who’s computer would play classical music at random. One of the weirdest things I’ve ever encountered in my years of computing.

I had to look for an archived version of this support article because it last affected Windows 2000. (Which was like, 7 years ago, right?)

During normal operation or in Safe mode, your computer may play “Fur Elise” or “It’s a Small, Small World” seemingly at random. This is an indication sent to the PC speaker from the computer’s BIOS that the CPU fan is failing or has failed, or that the power supply voltages have drifted out of tolerance. This is a design feature of a detection circuit and system BIOSes developed by Award/Unicore from 1997 on.

Microsoft KB Archive/261186 – BetaArchive Wiki

Credit to fuzzynyanko on reddit for linking to a video of this in action.