Repairing a Noisy Computer Fan
What you'll find in this article...
Skill Level: Intermediate
You’re sitting at your computer one day and all of a sudden you hear a loud groaning sound coming from your computer.
What’s causing it?
There’s a good chance that one of your fans needs some attention. You don’t want to put it off either.
Fans are necessary to keep your computer running cool and efficiently. If a fan goes, you’re going to have problems.
Fortunately, a noisy fan can usually be repaired quite easily. In fact, many times the answer is just that a simple cleaning is needed.
If that doesn’t do the trick, your next option is to oil the fan.
Replacing the fan is the last resort.
STEP ONE: Locate the Noisy Fan
Open up your computer’s case. You may need to refer to your computer’s manual or contact the manufacturer for instructions.
With the computer powered on, locate the fan that’s making noise. It shouldn’t be too hard to figure out which fan is the offender.
Once you’ve identified the noisy fan, go ahead and shut down your computer. It’s probably best to unplug your computer as well.
Unplug & Remove the fan. (Instructions for this part vary greatly from computer to computer. So, if you can’t figure out how to remove the fan, then you probably shouldn’t proceed.)
STEP TWO: Clean the Fan
Now that you’ve removed the fan, it’s time to clean it.
Blow out all the loose dust with some canned air. *When blowing out dust from your computer’s fans, be sure to gently hold your fan’s blades still while cleaning them.
(Compressed air can spin the blades faster than they were intended to go and damage the fan.)
Use an old toothbrush and remove any material left behind on the fan’s blades. The blades should be perfectly clean in order to maintain proper fan balance.
I like to dip the toothbrush in rubbing alcohol to remove material from the fan blades.
Afterwards, you can swab it dry with some Q-tips.
Attach the fan back inside the computer and plug the fan back in. Turn the computer on and see if the sound is gone.
If not, proceed to the next step…
STEP THREE: Oil the Fan
If cleaning the fan didn’t do the trick, then it’s time to lubricate it. Most of the time this will solve the problem.
Turn the fan upside down and locate the protective sticker on the back. Peel the sticker off and discard it.
Some people will reuse the sticker, but I feel that, once it’s been removed, you won’t get a good seal again.
Depending on the fan, you should now see the fan’s bearing. Some fans have a protective plug that can easily be popped out.
Now it’s time to oil the bearing. You aren’t going to need much oil. Usually a drop or two will suffice. If you use too much oil, you’ll just make a mess.
What type of oil should you use? I’d recommend either a sewing machine oil or non-detergent 3-IN-ONE oil (blue and red package that’s for electric motors).
Do not use WD-40!
One problem with oiling a fan is that eventually the oil will evaporate, leaving you with the same problem again in a month or two.
Adding a little dry graphite lubricant powder with the oil in the bearing will make the repair last a lot longer.
You can get both products at any hardware store.
Once the fan bearing is well lubricated, clean off any excess oil with a little rubbing alcohol. Cover the hole with some electrical tape for a firm seal.
Attach the fan back in the computer and plug it back in.
Turn the computer on and see if the sound is gone.
STEP FOUR: Replace the Fan
If cleaning and oiling your fan hasn’t helped, then your only other option is to replace the fan. Often, it’s just a matter of getting the fan’s measurements and locating a replacement online.
However, some specialty fans will be a lot harder to find.
Some fans aren’t worth repairing. Especially a small noisy laptop fan. If a fan goes bad inside the main power supply, you may not want to mess with it.
Some power supplies are very difficult to open up, let alone getting to the fan.
Also, unless you like risking electrocution, is it worth the risk opening up the power supply? It may just be a good opportunity to replace and upgrade your power supply instead.
Remember to have fun! (if and when possible)
There’s no greater thrill than being able to fix something on your own! When you hear your previously noisy fan, now running silently, you can congratulate yourself on a job well done!