How to install (or replace) a case fan

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Many of the chips inside a typical PC generate a lot of heat and require some form of active cooling to remain stable. Powerful recent hardware like Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3000-series graphics cards and AMD’s Ryzen 5000 processors demand even more heat dissipation. 

System builders usually rely on heatsinks and fans to manage the heat within a PC. If you’re upgrading or building a new PC—or your PC is overheating—you may need to install new or additional fans. 

Here’s how to identify when you need to replace a fan and how to do it yourself.

Identifying faulty fans

Often, a fan will start to emit strange grinding noises or vibrations in its last death throws. Sometimes there is no warning at all, and a fan will silently come to a stop.

Open up the computer’s case, turn it on, and look around with a flashlight (but try not to touch anything while the computer is on).

the inside of a DIY gaming PC Thiago Trevisan/IDG

This exhaust fan is mounted to the back of the case to vent warm air. Exhaust fans can also be mounted to the top of the case, while intake fans are usually mounted on the front or sides.

In all but the lowest-power, passively cooled systems, you’ll likely find at least four fans: an intake fan, an exhaust fan, a CPU cooling fan, and a power supply unit (PSU) cooling fan.

The CPU and PSU will be mounted on their respective components, but case fans can be situated almost anywhere. It’s common to find intake fans toward the bottom of a system, usually at the front, where they can pull in the coolest air. Exhaust fans for expelling warm air are commonly found at the back or top of a case.

If one of the fans has stopped, check to make sure it’s connected. If the fan is connected and still isn’t spinning, it will need to be replaced.



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