Most PCs of today come pre-built with at least 1 fan which is usually a rear/exhaust fan. That should be fine for normal day-to-day usage, but it would be nowhere near good enough for more powerful gaming PCs that ideally should have 2 fans minimum for good airflow.
There could be many situations where you would want to buy and install an extra aftermarket case fan (or 2, or 3, or more).
Here are 4 cases where users would want to consider adding multiple fans to their systems:
- If you want to overclock
- If your PC will be sitting in warm conditions e.g warm places like Texas
- If you want to add more lighting effects (case fans can include LED or RGB).
- To replace a stock fan/s that came with your case with a larger, better quality, and/or less noisy fan/s.
So if you have an extra fan or two in your arsenal, this guide is going to explain the correct ways for you to install them on your computer. We are also going to look at the correct ways of installation along with the basics of good and bad airflow.
- 1 Where Can You Install the Fans?
- 2 How Many Fans Can a Gaming PC Have?
- 3 What are the Best Brands for Case Fans?
- 4 Which Way Should the Case Fans Face?
- 5 How to Install a Front Fan?
Where Can You Install the Fans?
Let us understand how computer case airflow works. The role of fans is not limited to just helping cool down the system. A system with good airflow means a system in which air flows from the front to the back (and from the bottom to the top if your case has the option for the bottom and top-mounted fans).
The relatively cool air from outside of your case (the cooler the room where your PC will live, the better) is sucked/pulled in through the front of the case by one or more front fans. These fans are known as intake fans. That cool air is pushed through the inside of the case, cooling your components in the process, and is then flushed out the back of the case by one or more rear fans. These rear fans are known as exhaust fans.
How Many Fans Can a Gaming PC Have?
This really depends on a variety of factors, which means there is no one definitive answer. Computer airflow optimization can get a little complex if you try to talk about numbers and figures so we have to look at each case one by one.
As a general rule, many high-end gaming PCs require a bare minimum of 2 fans (1 rear and 1 front).
Keep in mind, we are talking strictly about case fans, and NOT including the fans included with the PSU, CPU, and graphics card. Also, keep in mind that you would need 3 fans minimum for super-duper builds with powerful gaming CPUs and GPUs.
For low-end PCs, with something like the Ryzen 3 3200G or Ryzen 5 3400G (integrated graphics, ie no graphics card), or a system for normal office work, you wouldn’t even need to add a front fan and could actually get away with just having a single exhaust fan. Honestly, even some super powerful gaming PCs with customized GPU s would run fine with just a single exhaust in the entire build. However, that isn’t recommended for obvious reasons.
Understanding Positive, Negative, and Neutral Air Pressures
A positive pressure fan setup is the one in which the system has more intake fans than exhaust fans.
A negative pressure setup is the one in which the system has more exhaust fans than intake.
A neutral setup is the one in which the system has an equal number of exhaust and intake fans.
Which of these setups is the best? To keep it short, again, there’s no definitive answer to that, as it all depends on so many factors.
Each setup has its pros and cons, and it’s one of the most heated gaming pc-related debates out there. While positive pressure airflow could help avoid the buildup of dust, in the long run, negative pressure airflow could generally help overall ventilation but could sacrifice on the dust department.
A neutral pressure case is another viable option where you have an equal amount of intake vs exhaust fans. Also remember that when calculating the number of intake fans compared to exhaust fans, you need to take into account fan speeds as well. But don’t count the CPU, GPU, or PSU fans in your calculations.
Most gamers prefer a slightly positive pressure fan setup. Something like 2 intake fans and 1 exhaust should do it nicely for you.
What are the Best Brands for Case Fans?
The best brands for case fans are Noctua and Be Quiet. That being said, you could go ahead and consider other viable options if they fit your budget. You could look at other brands like the Arctic, Cooler Master, Thermaltake, Corsair, DeepCool, and Cougar.
also read: How To Install Motherboard Drivers?
Which Way Should the Case Fans Face?
This part has confused many of us and I won’t be surprised if it ends up confusing you as well. When installing a fan, you have to make sure that it is facing the right side, as a faulty direction will mess up the airflow and lead to potential overheating or permanent system damage.
Many case fans will have an arrow printed on the outside of the fan which tells which direction the air will blow. When setting upfront intake fans, make sure that the arrow is pointing into the case, vice versa for rear exhaust fans.
Some fans won’t have any arrows though, in which case you can figure out the direction by either noticing which side the spokes/grille are on. Look at the image. The side of the fan with the sticker and the spokes is almost always the side where air will blow out. Hence, for mounting a front fan for instance, the spokes/sticker should be facing inwards into the case.
How to Install a Front Fan?
One question you could ask yourself is how you would install a front fan when the front panel is shielding everything. Well, the good news is that while the front panel may seem as stubborn as ever, it does come off. Here’s how to do it.
How to open a front panel depends on the case you’re using. If it is a branded case, it is better to check out a video on youtube which shows the front panel opening. Most panels are pretty simple to open by just pulling firmly on either the bottom or the top of the panel (without having to unscrew anything). It may require quite a bit of force to get off though, so don’t worry if you have to use a bit of force. These front panels are mostly not screwed up, but still, be gentle as you could end up damaging any wiring inside with excessive force.
How to Mount and Screw the Fans
No pun intended here. If you follow our methods, you won’t end up screwing the fans, but instead screwing them securely into the pc case.
For those of you who want just one front intake fan, it is always best to consider the bottom as shown in the image.
Some people however prefer installing it in the middle of the front so that it directly blows air onto the motherboard area.
Always keep in mind the cable length of your fan. If you install a fan in a certain position and the cable length cannot reach the designated port on the motherboard, you’re in some trouble.
also read: Does Motherboard Affect Performance?
To physically install the case fan, line up the 4 corner holes of the fan with 4 matching holes on the case, and screw them in using screws. Those screws must have come with the fan box.
Should you screw in super tight? Not really. Just make sure that the fan is tightly mounted to avoid vibration/rattling noises. Going overboard with the tightening could end up damaging some low-end pc cases.
Connecting Fans to the Motherboard:
Look at the fan header closest to your fan to keep things nice and clean. If the need arises, use cable ties to avoid fan cables from getting messy.
Your motherboard might also have a PWR_FAN (power fan) header, but avoid using that if you can as it’s typically meant to be used to monitor power supply fans. If you’re being curious, the PWR_FAN is absolutely safe to use and won’t cause any issues.
Just don’t use the CPU_FAN header as that’s only for connecting a CPU cooler fan. The same applies to the PUMP_FAN (for AiO liquid CPU coolers only).
What if Your Motherboard Doesn’t have Enough Fan Ports?
If you don’t have enough fan headers on your motherboard for a certain amount of fans that you want to install, you can simply plug the remaining fans into the PSU. Another option you take is getting a fan splitter (called a Y-splitter) which will connect 2 fans to one motherboard fan header.
Connecting Fans to PSU
If you plug case fans directly into the PSU (Power Supply Unit), you won’t be able to control the fan speed. That means the fan will always run at maximum speed. However, sometimes you’re left with no options. Let us say you have got 3 fans connected to your system already, but have run out of fan headers? In such cases, it is totally alright to go for the PSU option.