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Which brand makes the best computer case fans?

There are a lot of manufacturers of case fans and each has their advantages. Our best selling fans are the Corsair Air series which are really high performing fans in all the major sizes (120mm case fans, 140mm, 80mm, etc.) We generally recommend Noctua, AeroCool, Cooler Master, Corsair, and Rosewill for most applications. For lower-end fan models we recommend brands like Masscool or Kingwin. For cheap computer fans we suggest Logisys or Generics. In addition to these manufacturers, We've also heard great things from customers who buy Rosewill and be quiet products.

What is a 4-pin fan connector?

4-pin fan connectors are for fans that support Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM). This technology allows the fans to automatically adjust speeds according the temperature around your internal hardware.

What does the case fan cfm rating mean?
CFM stands for cubic feet per minute, and is an important specification when looking for a case fan. For instance, if you have a case that is roughly 24" x 9" x 21", then you have a case with about 2.25 square feet. If you have a case fan that is rated at 50CFM, then, effectively, the air in your case can be recycled about 45 times in a minute. The ideal scenario is to have cooler air pass into your case to replace the air heated by your components, and to do that, it is best to have negative pressure inside your case by having a lower power fan for intake and a higher powered fan for exhaust. This helps move the air in and out of your case without getting too hot.

What are the most common computer case fans sizes?

The most common size for a standard desktop PC is 120mm, followed by 140mm and 80mm. 120 mm case fans seem to be in that sweet spot of size, noise, and performance as many cases & radiators can fit them adequately and they move a lot of air at reduced noise levels. The other sizes we offer are more for specialty applications or for specific needs - such as 90mm, 40mm, 240mm, 360mm, etc. If you find that your case will support a 120mm fan, that section is probably your best bet.

What types of pc fan can I control using software?

If you purchase a fan that supports PWM functionality (and the device or motherboard you plug the fan into also supports it) you can control your fan spin rate either in your BIOS, in Windows, or both. The point of this is to be able to ramp up or ramp down your fan speed when you choose to do so to control your airflow (and thus your temperature) and resultant noise.



Do led case fans tend to be worse?

Whether or not your fan has an LED on it does not affect the performance. The LED simply is an added part on a fan that you'll have to pay more for (because it costs the manufacturer more to put the part on, more for assembly, quality control, testing, etc.) So it's sometimes thought that for the exact same amount of money, you'll get better performance out of a fan that doesn't have an LED because you won't be paying for something that doesn't contribute to cooling. We prefer to quote fan performance by the airflow ratings & RPM rates of the fan vs just looking at its cost as a basis for selection.

Where can I find fan filters or grills?

We do carry a variety of fan filters, grills, and covers in a section of our website here. These items are sold based on the size of the fan.

If my case, radiator, or heatsink supports multiple fan sizes - which do I pick?

This question can be a little complicated but assuming all things are equal, usually go with the largest fan size your application can support. The reason for this is simple - the larger the fan, the longer the blades. The longer the blades, the more air they can move through them. And the more air they can move through them, the less you'll need to spin the fan so they will make less noise and less vibration. This is a general rule and obviously there are exceptions to it. However, if two fans are identical outside of the size specification, choosing the larger one is usually the better bet for noise minimization.



I heard sleeve bearing fans can't be mounted horizontally - is that true?

While fans generally live very long lives in any mounting orientation, it is true that a horizontally mounted sleeve bearing fan can possibly make more noise and/or decay at a slightly faster rate than a vertically mounted one. This has to do with the sleeve bearing and how the mounting affects it. If this is important to you consider purchasing a ball bearing, rifle bearing, or similar case fan for horizontally mounted applications.

Where Does the Noise in Your Computer Come From (and How Can I Have Less of It?)

The determining factor of a computer's speed is the time it takes your processor to fetch data from where it's stored on a hard drive or memory, process the data's instructions, and then output the result into your systems RAM. This process could happen at almost infinitely fast speeds if it weren't for the limitations imposed by heat. Every time your CPU goes through the steps above it draws an electric current through a resistive conductor. The resistance causes some energy to be lost, which then becomes heat. Multiply the process by the millions of times per second a computer's processor is capable of completing it, and you quickly end up with a tremendous amount of heat.

Because of this heat issue, both cars and computers must devote a large amount of their overall resources into cooling systems. Cars use oil for lubrication, reducing the heat generates, and water to draw out and dissipate the heat. Computers are cooled by copper or aluminum heat-sinks and fans. These fans, now that we've finally come to it, are the source of almost all the noise in your computer. Depending on the heat generated by your PC and your cooling system's capacity to get rid of it, your machine may stay whisper quiet, or it may sound like an airplane flying through a flock of screaming cat-birds.

How to Quiet your Computer

Now that we've zeroed in on the source of your PC's noise we can talk about how to quiet it down. There are really only two ways to do this, either by generating less heat, or by improving your PC's capacity to remove it.

Reducing the Heat Generated

While there aren't a ton of options for reducing the amount of heat your PC generates, there are a couple of things you might try (neither of which is simple). The first is to choose a lower wattage processor at the outset. CPUs are rated by TDP (Thermal Design Power) which is measured in watts. The higher the number, the more heat your CPU will output and the more noise your CPU Fan will have to make to cool it.

A second option is to underclock your CPU. Most people reading this have heard of overclocking a processor, changing BIOS settings in order to make a processor to run faster, but underclocking is a little less common. It is just what you'd expect though; changing BIOS settings to cause your CPU to run at lower voltages and clock speeds, causing it to output less heat, though at the cost of weakened performance. If you'd like to learn more about underclocking, you can find a how-to guide.

Improving your System's Cooling

The second, more doable, route to lessened system noise is to improve the systems cooling capabilities.

Cleaning

This is the first step you should look into when attempting to reduce the noise in your computer. Over time, the interior of your PC can become very dusty; fans can become clogged, unable to push as much air, and your whole system will be running a marathon while wearing a fuzzy winter coat.

I would clean it, but it just looks so cozy

Cleaning a computer is a simple process, involving a can of compressed air, a dust rag, and about ten minutes of your time. Many people never think about this, and, if they do, are afraid of opening their case (since it's so scary and expensive in there!) If you're nervous to crack the case open yourself, most PC repair shops will offer a cleaning service for free.

CPU Heatsink & Fan

Since your CPU is the biggest contributor to your PCs heat issues, it deserves the most attention when talking about cooling. If you're unfamiliar with what a CPU looks like, here's an example:

A CPU cooler has a very smoothly polished copper base (copper is used widely in cooling systems because it's an excellent thermal conductor) which snuggles right up against the processor. The base will then draw away the heat with copper heat pipes that will lead into an array of aluminum fins that increase surface area, allowing the heat to be blown away by fans.

While any computer you've already got and any retail processor you purchase will come with a CPU heatsink and fan, but the model that comes default with most systems is usually nothing to write home about. Aftermarket heatsinks and fans are much better at cooling, so they don't have to push quiet so hard to get the same effect, plus they have much larger fans so they can push the same volume of air with out spinning quiet so much.

Another element of the heatsink/fan combo is some wonderfully goopy stuff called thermal paste (thermal compound) which bridges the microscopic gaps between the CPU and the heatsinks copper base. Purchasing a high quality thermal paste (like Arctic Silver 5) isn't very expensive and can shave off a few degrees off the temperature.


Here's great tutorial on how to use thermal paste and how to install a heatsink

Case Fans

Once your CPU heatsink and fan has drawn the heat away from the chip itself, it's up to the case fans to actually remove it from the case. This is also true of the other, less formidable heat sources in your PC, RAM, motherboard chips, video cards, and other devices all put off some heat as well. Because of this, the number and size of case fans you run largely determines the ambient temperature of your machine. This isn't to say that you should run out and pickup every case fan your case can support, at least, not if you're interested in quiet. Ideally, you'll install just enough case fans to keep system temperatures low enough that louder fans, like your video card and CPU units, don't have to kick into high gear.

So, there it is! Where does the noise in your computer come from? It comes from hard working fans that work non-stop to remove heat from your system. How can you have less of it [noise]? By decreasing the amount of heat your PC generates and by improving it's ability to remove it by cleaning, improving the CPU cooler, and installing just enough case fans to keep your CPU cooler from kicking into overdrive.
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Computer case fans. A PC case fan will mount inside your desktop's case and pump air in or out (depending on how your orient it). This leads to air circulation in your computer and is a great way to control your temperature. We carry all different sizes of pc fans so check your specifications and buy the size you need. The most popular size are 120mm case fans & 140mm fans. Be sure to check all the specifications to make sure your needs are met when it comes to noise (silent case fans tend to be the lower RPM models) and CFM rates.