If you want to maintain the best performance from your PC, you need to keep its components cool. Case fans push cool air to your components while removing hot air, but many factors determine how many fans you need.
The number of fans your PC needs depends on your case size, fan size, and workload intensity. Typically, you need at least three fans for a gaming PC. You should have fans near the bottom-front, the rear-top, and the side of the case.
In this guide, you will learn the basics of case fans, how many fans you need, how to install fans, and many other tips!
What To Know Before Choosing Case Fans
It is essential to know how airflow direction works with your case fans. The placement of the fans will determine whether they suck in cool air or release hot air out of your system.
Some fans have an arrow that indicates the correct airflow direction, but many do not. You can position your fans to intake air from the front, usually displaying the branding. Next, ensure that your fans exhaust air out the back, typically indicating the fans’ technical information.
Intake vs Exhaust
Some cases only include one intake fan at the front or only one exhaust fan at the rear. However, you need to equip your PC with intake and exhaust fans to push cool air towards your hardware while removing hot air from the case. So, to avoid your valuable parts from overheating, buy extra fans if needed.
Case Size and Design
The design of your case can affect optimal airflow, so look for cases with a mesh front rather than cases with closed-off or glass panels.
The size of the case also determines how many fans you can have. If you use powerful hardware, you may need a larger case to accommodate more fans. However, if you prefer smaller cases, you can use liquid cooling to prevent overheating.
Case fans are measured by their diameter and thickness in millimeters (mm). They come in many different sizes, from small and slim (40 mm diameter, 15mm thickness) to large and thick (200 mm diameter, 25 mm thickness). Larger fans generate more airflow, while smaller fans generate higher static pressure (i.e., the force of air the fan produces).
The most popular fans are 120 mm and 140 mm because they fit in most cases and have a good balance between airflow and static pressure. However, always refer to your case specifications to determine what fan sizes you can mount.
Intensity of PC Workloads
The intensity of your workloads will determine how much internal temperature your computer will build up. If your daily workload sustains heavy processing strain, your components will heat up quickly and even reduce their speed by thermal throttling when equipped with a pair of fans.
On the other hand, you will not need as many fans if your daily workload requires short performance bursts, such as editing Photoshop, writing documents, or browsing the Internet. Your components might heat up for short periods but not reach any sustained throttle limits.
How Many Fans Should a Gaming PC Have?
While the exact number of fans a gaming PC needs varies, you will typically need at least three case fans – not including CPU and GPU fans. It might sound excessive, but a lack of cooling can damage your motherboard (and other connected hardware) by overheating.
While compact cases are portable and cheaper, they will not accommodate enough fans for demanding gaming sessions. However, with modern gaming towers like the SkyTech Blaze II, you will have enough space to install many fans.
Here are some setups for different budgets if you want to get new cases and fans.
Buying PC Cases and Fans
$0-50 Budget Setup
While you cannot be picky within this budget, you can get the minimum requirements to meet your gaming needs. Keep in mind that you will need to buy extra case fans for an optimal setup.
You will typically find cases with only one fan installed, so you should look for cases with at least two extra slots to install fans in. Although uncommon, try to look for a case that allows you to place one intake fan at the front, one exhaust fan at the rear, and another intake or exhaust fan.
For instance, the Thermaltake Versa H15 includes a 120 mm rear exhaust fan, but has four extra slots to install two front fans and two top fans. In total, you can install up to 5 fans for optimal airflow and cooling.
$50-100 Budget Setup
In this price range, you will have a wide variety of fan and case options. If you use a gaming PC, you will need a case with at least one front-mounted intake fan, one rear-mounted exhaust fan, and one top-mounted exhaust fan. You can also invest in customizable RGB case fans to give your setup a cooler look.
On the low end of this budget, you can use the AeroCool Cylon RGB Mid Tower, which includes a rear 120 mm fan and three slots for one front fan and two top 120 mm fans.
Higher up in the budget, you can find the MUSETEX ATX PC case, which comes with six pre-installed 120 mm ARGB fans. With this convenient case, powerful hardware components will always be cooled without issue.
$150+ Budget Setup
Beyond this price, you can afford as many case fans as you need and larger cases to fit them. If your computer runs extreme workloads or you prefer custom case designs, you can expect these prices. You can also have side-mounted intake fans. Ideally, you should look for 140 mm and 200 mm fans.
How to Install Fans in Your PC
Installing new fans on your PC is simple, and all you need is a Phillips head screwdriver to get started!
1. Locate Case Fan Slots
If you are replacing a burnt-out case fan, then you can install a new one in its place. Otherwise, find empty slots in your case where the fans can be mounted. You will typically find fan slots on the front, back, side, and top of the case tower.
You should place intake fans on the front and sides of the case, while exhaust fans go to the rear and top.
2. Open the PC Case
Before opening your case, you have to unplug your PC and discharge any remaining power by holding the power button for ten seconds. You can then open the case with these simple steps:
- Remove the side panel of your computer. Depending on the model of your case, you might need to remove some screws first.
- Ground yourself to prevent electrostatic discharge from damaging your components. You can use an anti-static wrist strap, or touch a grounded metal object while installing your fans. For example, you can place your hand on an unpainted metal piece of your computer case.
- Find the fan headers on the motherboard. Their labels should say CHA_FAN or SYS_FAN. You might need to check your motherboard’s documentation if you cannot locate the fan headers.
If you do not have enough motherboard headers for your fans, you can use Molex adapters to connect extra fans directly to your power supply. You may also plug case fans into your power supply.
3. Install the Case Fans
Now comes the crucial part of the process, so follow these steps carefully to install case fans:
- Use a Phillips head screwdriver to mount the fan. Ensure it is secure and does not rattle. Try to avoid over-tightening the screws.
- Connect your case fans to the fan headers or Molex adapter. If you install many fans, you can use cable ties to organize your fan cables.
- Close your case and turn on your PC to test your newly-installed fans.
If your fans are connected to the motherboard, you can access your BIOS to change their speed. However, any fans plugged directly into your power supply will not be monitored and will not always run at full speed.
Finally, you can download a program to monitor your computer’s temperature, such as SpeedFan for Windows or Macs Fan Control for macOS.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Change RGB Fan Color?
Before changing your RGB fan color, you must ensure the fan is connected to the motherboard. After downloading a compatible controller software, you can follow its documentation to change the fan color. However, if an RGB fan is connected to your power supply, you cannot change the color.
Why Is My Computer Fan So Loud?
A noisy computer fan can indicate excessive dust, incorrect fan installation, poor ventilation, corrupt processes, or even malware attacks. There could also be a stray cable touching the fan blades as they rotate. In a worst-case scenario, your fan could be faulty and may need to be repaired or replaced.
Are 4 Fans Enough For a Gaming PC?
Intense gaming can heat computer components quickly, so you need at least three fans to keep it cool. Four fans are more than enough and will allow you to upgrade to more powerful hardware without the fear of overheating.
Planning the fan setup of your PC is essential for keeping your components cool and maximizing your computer’s performance. Many factors can change how many fans you need, such as case size, fan size, and workload intensity, but you need at least three fans for gaming.
If you enjoyed this guide on case fans, you should learn how to test GPU fans. They are entirely different from case fans!