Fans are a very important part of a PC and laptop as they cool the components when things start to get hot. This can also mean that after a few minutes of any intensive tasks your rig starts to sound like an aircraft taking off.
You could install quieter fans (in a PC), but here we'll show you a few ways to control fan speed and quieten your machine for free.
Of course if you want to use the noisy device as an excuse to move to a new, super-quiet, fanless laptop, then you'll find quite a few tempting choices in our best laptops guide.
Why are my fans so loud?
There could be a number of reasons why the volume of your fans is so noticeable. If you’re pushing your PC quite hard in terms of the processing it needs to do – such as using video editing software or playing graphically rich games – then the CPU, GPU, and other components will start to generate a lot of heat.
Heat is not a good thing for delicate electronics, so the fans will engage to push all the hot air out of the casing, while simultaneously providing a gentle breeze for your PC’s innards.
This process is controlled by the motherboard, which detects when components are running hot. Manufacturers can be a little enthusiastic with these settings, mainly so that their products don’t melt after a few hours of solid gaming, but users can adjust them to more keenly fit their uses.
Practical tips before you begin
It’s all well and good fiddling with the inner settings of a PC, but sometimes a little housekeeping could solve your problems instead.
Dust is a major problem with PCs, as they attract it like no one’s business. A build-up of the material in or around the fan ports can make it harder for hot air to escape, and thus make the fans worker even harder.
If you can, open the case of your PC and do a little spring clean. You can use a vacuum cleaner to remove dust, just ensure that the plastic nozzle is fitted to the end and that you’re very careful not to touch any of the components. A can of compressed air is another option here.
It’s also a good idea to make sure that air can pass freely around your PC. So, if it’s stuck between boxes under your desk, buried amidst a pile of papers, or just in a poorly ventilated area, then you’re going to hear the whirring of those fans more often than might be necessary.
Software tweaks to try
It’s a simple rule that the more programs you have running on your PC at the same time, the more system resources will be used. This can slowly increase the heat of your machine and lead to the dreaded spinning of fans.
To help your machine keep cool, try closing any applications that you’re not using. Some will have less impact than others, but it’s a good habit to get into. You could also try streamlining the number of programs that launch when you first power-on your PC.
Follow our How to change Windows 10 startup programs guide for more information on how to do this, bearing in mind that many of the same steps are applicable for Window 7 & 8.1.
Adjusting the fan settings in your PC’s BIOS
When you first turn on your PC it will run through various checks and settings before you can use it. These are contained in something called the BIOS (Basic Input/Output System), which you can access and change.
To do this you’ll first need to turn off your PC, then power it on again. Look for a message that will appear very quickly saying something along the lines of ‘Press XX to enter setup’, where XX will probably be Delete, Escape, or one of the F keys.
If you miss it, and it does go by very fast, then just reboot your machine and try again. Eventually you’ll time it right and be presented with the Startup menu page.
Here you should find an option called BIOS Setup, or something similar. Each manufacturer has its own BIOS, so the precise names vary from machine to machine.
You’ll now be presented with a page of information about your PC. Look for a System Configuration option, navigate to it (usually using the arrow keys), and then look for a setting related to your fan.
On our test machine this was an option called ‘Fan Always On’ which was enabled.
Some PCs will give you the option to set temperature thresholds when you want the fan to kick in. Be sure to set these sensibly, as letting your PC run too hot for too long could do serious damage to your machine.
When you’re finished, press F10 to Save & Exit, then your PC should reboot with the new adjustments a permanent fixture.
Using third-party software
On our laptop, the only option in the BIOS was to disable the fans entirely, which is a very bad idea. If your PC has similarly paltry settings then you’ll want to seek out some third-party software to help.
The most popular one by far is SpeedFan, which has been around in various iterations since 2000.
This free software gives you an impressive amount of control over your system, allowing fans to respond to a number of temperature triggers.
SpeedFan is a powerful tool, and can admittedly be a bit overwhelming at first. So, be sure to read through the user guides on the site, and if you have any questions then a bit of time on Google will be a wise course of action.
While SpeedFan covers a wide range of motherboards, there are still some that are beyond even its impressive reach. Before downloading the software try visiting the support page to see if your motherboard is included on the list. If you don’t know your motherboard type, then Google is again the place to go, or check your manual if you still have it.
You can also read our How to check your CPU temperature feature that includes a SpeedFan tutorial.
Desktop users also have the option of fitting a physical fan controller to their PC. Read about this and other ways to lessen the din from your machine in our Make your PC quiter guide.
There you have it. A few quick ways to try and get your fans under control. Hopefully now you can enjoy your digital adventures without the roar of spinning motors in the background. Ah, such sweet serenity.