High-performance 9-bladed fans. Highly customizable RGB LED lighting. Easy to install. Runs especially quietly. Amazon Alexa voice control.
Its software could be a bit more user-friendly.
Affordable and reliable. Install this fan to pull cool air in or blow hot air out of a PC. Runs quietly. Easy to install.
Not the most durable computer fan on the market.
Optimized for durability. Whisper-quiet with a high airflow. Easy to adjust for low noise or powerful PC cooling. Anti-vibration design.
Only available in black.
Especially affordable. Bold solid-color LED lighting. Surprisingly effective cooling. Available in 120mm and 140mm sizes. Available in green, blue, orange, white, yellow, and red LEDs.
Not the quietest computer fan on the market.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
Any time you load up a game, play a video, or render a graphic on your computer, you use energy. That energy creates heat, and in electronics, heat is the enemy. Computer fans are crucially important to any PC build because they spin tirelessly to keep everything cool under the proverbial hood.
Cooling is particularly vital if you overclock your processor, play a lot of video games, stream content online, or work in visual effects. These processes create a lot more heat than normal, necessitating additional air circulation to keep temps optimal. Too much heat build-up will significantly shorten the lifespan of your components, and malfunctions can occur.
Computer fans can be mounted to cool your entire case, but they’re commonly a part of larger components like CPU and GPU coolers. Some even use liquid cooling technology that circulates coolant similarly to a car’s radiator.
The quietest, strongest, and prettiest fan in the world won’t do you any good if it can’t fit inside your case. There isn’t always ample room either, so measure the inside of your case carefully before shopping. When measuring, take care to check the clearances around your random-access memory (RAM) slots and the case itself, because these are common issues.
Modern fans are sold in 80-, 120-, and 140-millimeter sizes, with 120 being the most prevalent. However, central processing unit (CPU) coolers are larger because they often have multiple fans, heatsinks, pipes, and other parts.
Other than size, cooling power should be the primary consideration of any computer fan you buy. Its job is to keep things cool, right? This power is measured primarily in cubic feet per minute (CFM). Put simply, high CFM models move more air more quickly than low CFM alternatives. The more air you move, the higher the cooling efficiency.
Another key factor is how loud the fans are. Cooling efficiency is the name of the game here, but nobody wants a computer that sounds like a jet taking off.
Noise is measured in decibels (dB), commonly at max revolutions per minute. Look for a nice compromise of high cubic feet per minute and low decibels when shopping, remembering that fans in the 20- to 24-decibel range are considered “quiet,” while those approaching 30 decibels can be quite loud.
A few features affect the amount of noise a fan makes:
Speed: A fan’s loudness is determined by how fast it spins, measured in revolutions per minute (rpm).
Design: Another element is the blade design and how smoothly it slices through the air.
Housing: Finally, the housing design can play a role, as some are better at isolating vibrations than others.
Unless your fan is powered by a USB port or your computer’s main power supply, you’re going to be plugging into the motherboard’s headers. These connections come in two varieties: three-pin and four-pin. Both versions feature a power, ground, and speed sensor, but four-pin models add a functionality called pulse width modulation (PWM).
What is pulse width modulation, exactly? It’s essentially a fancy term for speed controls, as four-pin fans can have their revolutions per minute tuned via computer software. Three-pin fans, by contrast, either run at full speed constantly or adjust their revolutions per minute by undervolting, which makes them more prone to wear. For clarity, three-pin fans can plug into four-pin motherboard headers just fine, but they won’t offer pulse width modulation features without adapters or splitters.
Gaming PCs, workstations, and other custom computers commonly flaunt bright, eye-catching RGB setups. More often than not, these LED light shows come from fans and other cooling systems because they often come with them pre-installed. Fans can equip a nearly endless supply of colors, patterns, and light programs, most of which are tweaked through wired controllers, remotes, or software.
For even more personalization, some fans and coolers offer low-power modes that reduce the revolutions per minute for low-intensity tasks. This way, you can switch to a quieter, more conservative mode when browsing the web, but flip to a high-performance mode for maximum cooling during games.
An integrated heat spreader (IHS) sits atop your CPU to protect the processor cores. Although these products are usually made from copper, they resemble silver squares. IHS units distribute processor heat evenly to other regions of the CPU radiator to extend its lifespan.
CPU and GPU coolers may be expensive, but computer fans themselves are not. For around $10, you can find small, USB-powered fans that mount inside your PC case, on your gaming console, or even on your stereo. Fans will be small, in the 80- to 100-millimeter range, but powerful enough for light air circulation.
Increase the price to about $15 and you’ll find dedicated CPU cooler and case fans that plug into your motherboard. These models boast higher revolutions per minute, more cubic feet per minute, and even quieter operation. Four-pin models are common at this price point as well, and they equip more user controls, such as low-noise adapters and speed controls.
Spend $20 or more and enjoy some of the largest, most powerful, but still quiet fans on the market. These products typically have high-end lighting features and in-depth user controls.
A. If you’re installing case fans, use the following steps. To install new fans into a CPU cooler, reference the CPU cooler manual.
A. Computer fans tend to accumulate dust rather quickly because high volumes of air pass through them. Compressed air cans are very efficient at removing this dust, but you can also use a cotton swab or thin, slightly damp microfiber cloth to manually clean the blades. If the blades are particularly gunked up, use a bit of isopropyl alcohol for a deep clean.
As far as how often you should be cleaning your fans, it depends on the air circulation and dust level in your room. Shine a flashlight into your PC case every month or so to monitor the buildup. A solid cleaning twice a year or so is ideal.
A. When it comes to keeping your CPU and other components cool, there are two main options: air cooling and water cooling. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, and your choice depends on your setup, desired noise level, and budget.
Air: Let’s start with air cooling. It’s very common for good reason: it’s simple to install, simple to use, and simple to maintain. And while there are entry-level versions of air and water cooling, air cooling is generally less expensive than liquid.
Liquid: By contrast, liquid cooling is spendier and more complex, requiring more education and effort by the builder. There are additional coolant hoses involved, and with custom loops, there’s even more at play. This isn’t inherently negative, however, because you’re afforded more flexibility in how your system looks and performs. In addition, liquid cooling is often more efficient and quieter than air cooling. This is because the fans don’t have to do all the work on their own, so they can run at lower speeds.
Are you a casual gamer who doesn’t care too much about noise? Air cooling will likely suit you just fine. Do you need whisper-quiet operation and budget isn’t a concern for your top-of-the-line gaming setup? Try liquid cooling and invest a bit more up front for better long-term results. Consider how you use and plan to use your PC to make the best choice.