A louder than normal fan in your computer, or one that is making strange noises, is not something to ignore. These sounds are usually an indication that a fan is not working properly, a potentially serious problem.
Fans located inside the computer help remove the large amount of heat generated by the computer’s CPU, graphics card, power supply, and other hardware. When heat builds up inside the computer, those parts heat up until they stop working…often permanently.
Below are three different strategies for solving a noisy fan problem that are worth investing some time and effort into. With that said, cleaning the fans should be the priority if you’re looking for the most likely solution.
Many other “computer fan troubleshooting” articles recommend software tools that force your computer’s fans to slow down, but I never recommend them. There is usually a good reason for a fan to be running fast or noisy, the root cause of which you are working to resolve with the steps below.
Start by cleaning your computer fans
Time Required: It will probably take about 30 minutes to clean all the fans on your computer, maybe less if you have a laptop or tablet, and more if you’re using a desktop.
- Clean the CPU fan as well as the graphics card fan and any other component fans you may have for RAM modules or other motherboard based chips.
Canned air works great for cleaning the CPU and component fan. A bottle can usually be picked up for around $5 USD on Amazon. Keep it upright, make sure the computer is turned off, and blow dust outdoors if possible.
Laptops and Tablets: Your computer may or may not have a CPU fan and may not have a fan for other components. If you’re having trouble figuring out which panel to remove to access the CPU and fan, take a look at your computer’s manual online.
Desktops: Your computer will almost certainly have a CPU fan and probably a graphics card fan (a GPU fan). See How to Open a Desktop Case if you’ve never had to go inside.
- Clean the power supply fan and, if applicable, the fans. Canned air works great here too.
Laptops and tablets: Your computer probably only has one fan and it’s blowing it out . Avoid blowing dust directly into the computer, which could aggravate the fan noise problem in the future. Instead, blow air into the fan at an angle, blowing dust away from the fan grills.
Desktops: Your computer has a power fan and may or may not have intake and exhaust fans on the case. Blow these fans from outside and inside until you don’t see any more dust coming out of them.
If after cleaning a fan, it doesn’t move at all , it’s time to replace it. Check first that the fan is connected to the motherboard or whatever is providing the power, but beyond that, it’s time for a new one.
If the fan is still working but not much better, or if it’s still not behaving the way you think it should, read on for more ideas.
Due to safety concerns with power supplies, do not open the power supply and replace only the fan; instead, you must replace the entire power supply. I know it can be a big expense, and fans are cheap, but it’s not worth the risk.
Keep your computer from getting that hot in the first place
Chances are good that your fans are in perfect working order, and now that they’re clean, they’re working better than ever. However, if they are still making a lot of noise, it may be because they are being asked to do more than they are designed to do.
In other words, your computer is very hot and even with big fans running at full speed, they can’t cool your hardware enough to slow it down, so noise!
There are many ways to cool down your computer, from moving it where it is, to upgrading to a better fan, etc. See Ways to Keep Your Computer Cool for a full rundown of your options.
If those ideas don’t work, or you can’t test them, it’s time to see why your hardware might be being pushed to the limit.
Check Task Manager for hungry programs
Unless your fan-cooled hardware has a physical problem and is running hot and making your fan noise for that reason, your operating system and software are the main reason your hardware is working harder (i.e. running hotter). ).
In Windows, Task Manager is the tool that allows you to see how individual programs are using your computer’s hardware, especially the CPU. Here’s how:
- Open Task Manager. The keyboard shortcut combo Ctrl+Shift+Esc is the fastest way to do it, but the link has other methods as well.
Task Manager is a behemoth of a program. See our Task Manager: A Complete Tour if you’re interested in everything it can do.
- Tap or click the Processes tab . If you don’t see it, try the More details link at the bottom of Task Manager.
- Once in the Processes tab , tap or click on the CPU column to have the programs that use the most CPU capacity appear first.
- Typically, if an individual program is “out of control”, the CPU percentage will be very high – around 100%. Programs listed in single digits, even down to 25% or more, are typically not a concern.
- If a particular process seems to be driving CPU usage through the roof, which will almost always show up as serious computer fan activity, that program or process may need to be fixed.
Your best bet is to write down the name of the program and then search online for the process and high cpu usage . For example chrome.exe high cpu usage if you found chrome.exe as the culprit.
Updating your video card drivers is an easy step that you can also try, especially if the problem seems to be with your GPU fan. This isn’t a likely solution for a GPU fanatic, but it might help and it’s super easy to do.
See How to Update Drivers in Windows if you need help.