Computer fans are the key cooling instrument for a computer’s internal hardware. The fan removes heat from the computer’s motherboard, processor, and blows it out through the computer’s fan vents, in the same way that a car engine radiator blower works by blowing hot air out through its radiator vents.
The fan produces a modest amount of noise while the computer is on, but if your laptop has become hotter than usual or is staying hot for very long, the most likely cause is that the laptop fan is no longer working properly and it’s time to take action.
A laptop fan plays a crucial role in prolonging the usefulness of your laptop system as a superheated laptop doesn’t function properly and will eventually cause problems with your system resulting in frequent abrupt shutdowns, application crashes, and an even worse result of permanent hardware damage.
Overheating can cause your laptop to malfunction and fall out of favor. To avoid this, make sure you check your fan regularly as overheating can lead to a lot of damage.
Going through the instructions outlined in your owner’s manual should help you understand how to swap out your problematic fan.
Make sure not to tamper with any other internal components if you are not comfortable with it or don’t have a degree in computer science. That way, overheating won’t be able to lead to more troubles down the road and your laptop will stay up and running.
The role of a fan is to cool down an electronic device. For example, a laptop fan typically aims to keep the computer at optimal performance levels by keeping the processor and other internal components cool.
Fans such as these are essential to preventing electronics from overheating and malfunctioning.
One solution (if you can’t afford a more permanent solution) is to put it close enough to the window so that some of that cool air from outside can flow in, or set up a desk fan next to your computer.
The major problem with a broken fan is that it can potentially damage other components of the laptop. This is because certain computer parts, like the motherboard and CPU, might not be able to sustain the heat level caused by the malfunctioning fan.
So if you don’t fix faulty cooling soon enough, your laptop could be at risk of breaking down completely.
The matter at hand is that a laptop fan is crucial to the efficient functioning of a laptop and needs to be up and running without fail. So now we’re going to take a look at how you can test your fan and make sure it’s working properly.
Check the Fan
Listen for Noise
The first thing you can do if your laptop’s fan is not working properly is to check its sound. A typical speaker should make a noise that sounds like something is running and an app called Speccy will provide more information about your computer’s fan speeds.
Most Dell laptops have a customary noise when turned on that’ll remind you of something running with a tone like another device you might have in the room.
Get your ear near the laptop’s bottom. In modern laptops, a fan doesn’t always work. When performing processor-intensive tasks like editing photos or videos, playing games, or creating graphics the fan will start working. Because in processor demanding jobs the system can warm up pretty quickly.
There might not be any noise when you first turn your laptop on, but that’s because the computer is running at the lowest possible speed in order to conserve battery power.
To preserve battery efficiency and improve performance, the manufacturers often set up laptops in this way so that they can operate with as little stress as possible. That way, there’s less sound and less electricity used.
To turn on your laptop’s fan, you can start streaming a 4K video or play a high definition game. These sure will put an array of pressure on the laptop and force the fan to begin working.
Note that your fan may be running even when you can’t feel the wind. The best way to tell if your fan is broken, is if it is making noises when it’s not supposed to – for example a jagged, pulsating or screeching noise.
Feel for Air
In case you are able to hear the fan’s noise, no worries. The air coming out from the exhaust of your laptop should be felt by holding a piece of paper in front of the outlet or by placing your hand close to an output.
If this is done your hands will experience cooling effects as well as movement of air which indicates that the fan is functioning properly.
Although sleek and small in size, laptop fans are not comparable to paper as they do help to blow some air. This is an effective way to hear the status of a computer’s fan.
There are numerous other ways through which one can determine if the fan is operational or has gone out.
Watch for Errors
There are many reasons which result in your laptop slowing down from running hot or you seeing a Blue Screen of Death (BSOD).
A common reason for this is that the fan might not be working or could even be faulty altogether, therefore it’s important to get the fan replaced if you find it isn’t functioning properly.
Otherwise, this could spell trouble for other components of your cooling system like the processor and graphics card – ultimately resulting in the machine and these important devices over-heating, causing them to break down entirely.
Testing through an application
You can use a software application to check if your laptop’s fan is functioning or not. There are many applications such as SpeedFan that you can install on your laptop that will display information regarding the functionality of your machine’s internal hardware, such as it’s temperature and speed.
Testing on Windows
SpeedFan is a popular application for the Windows platform that offers users both temperature control and fan manipulation. It can control the temperature in several ways, such as by automatically or manually changing fan speed depending on the system’s current temperature.
With SpeedFan, you can monitor your CPU temperature but you can also view the temperature of other chips on your laptop. So, for example, if your hard drive starts to overheat, the app will immediately warn you and give tips on how to solve this issue.
Furthermore, SpeedFan allows you to customize each sensor it monitors. For example, if your hard drive is prone to overheating, then you can decide what temperature would initiate an alert so that you don’t lose any data.
Apart from SpeedFan, you can try other software applications like HWiNFO, Argus Monitor, and Real Temp.
Testing on Mac
On Mac, there is an iStat menu which daisy-chains together multiple third-party applications and tells you what’s going on with your fans in addition to a bunch of other data that can help you as a developer create something great. It also offers info like Battery Sensors and Hard Drives.
You can download it for macOS, I’ve been using it for quite some time now. It is made primarily to show you the current CPU temperature and the fan’s speed. The application is pretty simple, efficient, and start-up at boot time.
Testing on Ubuntu Linux
To easily measure the temperature and fan speed of a server running Ubuntu Linux, simply install the lm-sensors tools package.
To install Im-sensor:
- Sudo apt-get install Im-sensors
Now run the app using the command
- Sudo sensors-detect
For fan speed:
- Sensors | grep fan
The command will output the fan speed.
I tried to shed light on some basic techniques for testing a laptop fan, but for anyone interested in something more hands-on, I included all the details on how to create and run your own, custom fan control script.
It is possible for the average person to understand the individual role fans play in a laptop’s performance and lifespan, but when it comes down to keeping your laptop functioning efficiently and robustly, knowing how to take care of all its parts and mechanics is just as important.
Cody is a passionate gamer, writer, and computer programmer who’s always looking for ways to optimize and automate everyday tasks. When he’s not immersed in prose and code, he’s busy tinkering with computers, automating his home, and spending time with his wife and kids.