Dust in computer fans and heatsink drastically affects the way your computer performs. A dusty computer fan will not spin at its designated RPM (Rotation Per Minute). With less airflow in the system, there is no way for the heat from the heatsink to exit. This affects the system by reducing performance and in extreme cases even reducing the lifespan of the hardware.
You can remove dust from the computer fans effectively using a can of compressed air, without even removing the fans. However, dust from these components may settle on other components.
In the article, we have explained the steps to clean the computer fans in detail and improve your system’s performance.
Why Do My PC Fans Get Dirty So often?
Computer fans are one of the components in a PC case that collects the most dust, especially the intake fans. Usually, the dust filter catches most dust particles that might enter the PC. However, if these particles pass through the dust filter, they first come in contact with the case fans and sits on fans inside the system and its heatsink.
- Dust filter filled with dust particles
- Fans run at maximum RPM (Rotation Per Minute)
- CPU case placed on a carpet
- System constantly overheats
How to Clean Computer Fans?
To clean the each fans inside your computer thoroughly, we recommend removing each of them out of the PC case before using compressed air. As mentioned earlier, using compressed air with fans still attached to the system may result in dust particle to settle in various PC parts. These dust in return not only increase the overall temperature of the system, but also erode the internal components.
Based on working mechanisms, there are several types of computer fans available and in use for computer system. Below, we have explained the process of removing each type of computer fan.
- Remove the PC connected to a wall outlet.
- Press and hold the power button for five to ten seconds to discharge the capacitors.
- Make sure you ground yourself to avoid electrostatic discharge from your body.
- Remove all the screws that hold the side panel.
- Remove the side panel from the PC case.
- Do not use a vacuum, hair dryer or any device that uses electricity to blow out air. These electronic devices will create static electricity and may damage internal PC components.
Remove PC Case Fans
These fans are usually located on the front, back, or top of the CPU case. These fans are responsible for removing hot air from the system and letting in cool air. As these fans face the dust filter, they are the first to accumulate dust.
Follow the steps below to remove the fan from the case.
- Remove the cable from the CPU fan that’s connected to the SYS_FAN header on the motherboard. If you are using an RGB CPU fan, it might be connected to a controller instead of the motherboard.
- Remove all four screws from four corners of the CPU case fan.
- Gently remove the CPU fan from the CPU.
- If the fan does not come out, check if any cables are still attached.
Remove CPU Cooling Fans
CPU cooling fans and the CPU heat sink generally come attached together. We recommend that you clean both of them.
- First, remove the cable that connects the CPU cooler to the motherboard. The cable from the cooler connects to the CPU_FAN header on the motherboard. Remove this cable.
- Four plastic screws in four corners of the heatsink hold the cooler plus the heatsink with the motherboard. Turn the screws counterclockwise and pull the plastic screws upwards.
- Once you remove all the screws, gently hold the heatsink and pull it outwards.
Remove AIO Cooler Fans
If you use an AIO CPU cooler instead of an air cooler, you need to remove the AIO cooler’s fan. The radiator in an AIO cooler holds the cooling fan. You can remove the entire AIO cooler to remove the fan, or you can just remove the fan connected to the radiator.
To remove the radiator,
- Unplug any cable that connects the AIO cooler to the motherboard. Like an air cooler, the AIO cooler connects to the CPU_ FAN header on the motherboard.
- Remove all the screws that connect the radiator to the CPU case.
- Gently take the radiator plus the cooler out of the case. You may or may not remove the cooling pad that is connected to the CPU. If you remove it, you need to reapply the thermal paste before you insert the pad back into the CPU.
- Now remove all the screws that connects the fan to the radiator.
Remove GPU Fans
Removing the GPU fans can be quite complicated as there are some cables under the GPU heatsink that you need to unplug. Before beginning, you need to remove the graphics card out of the motherboard.
Once the graphics card is out, follow the steps below to remove GPU fans.
- The GPU fan and its heatsink are connected to the GPU plate with multiple screws. Remove the screws located on the back side of the GPU.
- Check if you can see any screws under the heatsink and remove them as well.
- Once you remove all the screws, remove the heatsink and fan from the GPU plate.
- Remove any cable that connects the fan to the GPU. There should be two cables, one for the GPU fan and the other for LED.
Fans on the PSU are located inside the PSU itself. Before removing the PSU, remove cables connecting the PSU to the motherboard or any PC component. Once you remove all the components, it is time to remove the PSU from the PC case.
Remove any screws that hold the PSU. These screws are usually located in the back of the PC case.
Once you remove the PSU out of the PC case, you can remove the PSU case entirely to clean the PSU fans thoroughly. However, this is not recommended as short circuits to the capacitor may cause life-threatening hazards.
Cleaning Computer Fans
Use Compressed Air to Clean the Fans
Keep the following things in mind when using compressed air to clean the computer fans.
- Make sure you use compressed air at an angle.
- When blowing air from the can, make sure you use quick bursts of air. Do not constantly spray air on the fan.
- When you spray air constantly to the computer fan, it might spin at a higher RPM than the recommended limit, damaging the fan.
Clean the Fans using Ethyl Alcohol
Once you are done with the compressed air, follow the steps below to clean the fans.
- Use a clean microfiber cloth or a cotton swab with 70% ethyl alcohol to clean all the corners of the fans thoroughly.
- Soak the cotton swab in the alcohol and clean all the parts that the compressed air didn’t reach. If the microfiber cloth gets dirty, soak a small portion of the cloth in the alcohol and begin cleaning the fan again.
Clean Fan Bearings and Lubricate them
Fan bearings are parts that make the fans spin. Dust in these components is one of the major reasons fans run in low RPM. To access and clean the bearing,
- Remove the company logo at the center of the fan.
- These bearings can be hard to clean using just cotton swabs. So, blow small bursts of air into the bearing using compressed air to clean them.
- Once the bearings are clean, friction may still stop the fan from spinning at its recommended RPM. You can use lightweight mechanical oil to lubricate them.
- Insert one to two drops on the center of the fan and slightly spin them. Make sure that the fans spin without any restriction.
Clean the Heatsink
CPU and GPU fans will have heatsink attached to them as well. It is a good idea to clean these heatsinks as well.
- Insert the nozzle from the can of compressed air into the heat sink and blow a good amount of air into it. Make sure that you keep blowing air until the dust particle stops blowing out.
- If you have removed the heatsink from the CPU or the GPU fan, you can use soap and water to clean it as well. Since the heatsink does not contain any electrical components, you can clean it with water.
- Clean all the compartments of the heat sink and let it dry. Only reconnect these parts after they are dry.
Reconnect Computer Fans
To reconnect the CPU case fans that you just removed,
- Screw all the case fans right back where they belonged.
- As for wires, CPU case fans go into the SYS_FAN header, and the air/AIO cooler go into the CPU_FAN header.
- Connect all the cables that connect the GPU fan and heatsink to the graphics card. Also, insert all the screws you previously removed to attach the backplate and GPU fan back to the graphics card.
- Now connect the graphics card to the motherboard.
- To connect the PSU, screw the PSU in the PC case and connect cables from PSU to the motherboard.