How To Get Your PC’s Fans Running Cool & Quiet With 3 Simple Cheap & Fast Tips

Kannon Yamada 26-01-2013

make pc fan quieterHave you ever got tired of cleaning out your PC’s dust bunnies? Or have a rattling fan that just ruins your concentration? Believe it or not, fixing both problems can cost just dollars and the results provide coolness, silence and easier maintenance.


Getting started requires only one of the following – machine lubricant, a PC dust filter or pantyhose, although you can use all three if desired. However, keep in mind that these methods mostly apply to desktop PCs. For laptops, while you can easily build your own dust filter and grease its fan, you are better off How to Fix an Overheating Laptop: 3 Key Tips and Solutions The greatest threat to your laptop is overheating. Here's how to cool down your laptop and prevent it from getting too hot. Read More first applying conventional methods 6 Things You Can Do to Silence a Noisy Laptop Fan Wondering why your laptop fan is so loud? Here are several ways to get some peace and make your laptop fan quieter. Read More  because of their complex inner workings.

On the other hand, desktops are simple. The first part requires that you apply grease to a rattling fan. In the second part, you will attach a screen to your computer’s air intake vent. As an alternative to the second part, you can optionally build your own dust filter using simple, household items.

Part One – Silence a Rattling Fan With Grease

Rattling fans produce loud noises because they have suffered a bearing failure, a fault common to both sleeve and ball-type fans. When a failure occurs, it means the lubrication greasing the sleeve or ball bearings has dried out, causing the bearing to grind on plastic. Fortunately, regreasing the fan’s bearings will often fix the problem.

Though, of the many kinds of fan technologies on the market, some cannot receive lubricant; however the vast majority of low quality fans that come with cases can receive external lubrication. Ironically, cheaper fans have less expensive maintenance than high quality ones.

Determining your fan’s compatibility requires only that you remove the sticker covering its back and, in some cases, wedge out the rubber plug. Look closely at the area that was behind the sticker. If you see a raised metal nub, and there’s already applied grease, then this method will work. If not, skip to the second part.


Once you’ve removed the sticker and rubber plug on your fan, apply lubricant onto the raised metal nub. Only a small amount is necessary as the rotational forces of the fan will pull the grease into its inner workings, which will then coat the dried-out bearings.

make pc fan quieter

For this particular exercise, I used a high-grade grease (non-conductive) rated for 2,000-3,000 RPMs. A thinner lubricant will suffer from separation at high speeds, which causes the grease to literally separate from the surface it coats. And, never, ever use WD-40.

make pc fan quiet

Advertisement user ehume specifically warns against using 3-in-1 lubricating oil. His reasoning revolves around the presence of a “penetrant” in 3-in-1, similar to WD-40.

make pc fan quiet

How you apply the grease doesn’t really matter, although in my example an old needleless veterinary syringe finally found a use.

make pc fan quiet


In an ideal situation, a small amount of lubricant will silence the fan and restore full speed. However, if you’ve let the fan rattle for years, it’s likely that the bearing will have worn itself out and requires replacement.

I don’t suggest greasing a laptop’s fans as it requires a great deal of assembly in most models. However, lubrication has had tremendous impact on several of my laptops, you should consider some of these less invasive methods 5 Cool DIY Ways To Keep Your Laptop Cool Read More before popping your mobile computer open.

Part Two: Get Fan Screens

Fan screens don’t cost very much and can attach to your computer quite easily. My two favorite types are the SilverStone magnetic filters and the StarTech filters. Simply measure your case’s intake vents horizontally or vertically and buy a matching size. For example, you will want to match a 120mm opening with a 120mm dust filter.

make computer fan quieter


As you might imagine, the SilverStone magnetic filters attach to your PC through small magnets. The design makes removal and cleaning remarkably easy: simply remove and wipe the dust off.

On the other hand, the StarTech filters require fastening via screws. Fortunately, they have a removable plastic top, which holds the filter. These, like the magnetic variety, attach externally to the case, which allows for quick removal and cleaning.

make computer fan quieter

To install it, I merely removed the screws on the intake duct and screwed the StarTech filter in its place. There were some holes that went uncovered, so I covered them with electrical tape.

make computer fan quieter

Out of the two kinds, I prefer the StarTech filters, partly because of their low price, but primarily because the filter material is quite good and pops out easily.

Part Three: MacGyver Your Own Screen (Optional)

Optionally, using common household items or after a visit to the hardware store, you can choose to build your own filters. To get started, simply measure the size of your PC’s air-intake vents and cut an appropriate length of material to fit its opening. I’ve heard of pantyhose and screen from a screen-door being used with great success.

make pc fan quieter

There’s some variation on this method. For example, Reddit user Tw1tchy3y3 suggests using air purifier replacement filters, rather than pantyhose.

I suggest electrical tape or the amazing, adhering substance known as duct-tape, to fasten the material in place. Pretty much any adhesive will do. However, you will probably want to avoid using extremely powerful rare earth magnets as fasteners.


For those of us experiencing issues with dust or fan noise, fixing either of these issues doesn’t require much effort or money at all. Using the two methods outlined in this article, adding a dust filter and lubricating a rattling fan, will improve long-term cooling, ease of maintenance and acoustic qualities.

However, for those completely sick of constantly cleaning the dust out of their PC, you might want to check out water cooling, which is an entirely silent and efficient means What Water Cooling Is & Should You Use It? [MakeUseOf Explains] Water is a great coolant. It’s plentiful, cheap and can be easily moved via pumps. The need for specialized hardware has often made this solution too expensive and too complex for mainstream users, however. That... Read More of keeping your computer running cool.

Image Credits: PantyhoseScreen Door and Computer Fan via

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  1. ian
    May 12, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    This is good stuff - I missed the mcguiver episode with the tights - but have you any experience/ advice on swapping over component/case fans aside from matching up the screw holes?
    I have plenty of old PC bits and bobs and the fans only differ by a watt or so in power - since I'm only likely to do this once in a while for me, swapping out the fans is probably cheaper than sourcing a high speed grease - unless you know where I can get it by the dab!

    • Kannon Yamada
      May 22, 2017 at 2:03 am

      I use silicon rubber screws instead of steel screws. Those case fan screws are horrible by any stretch of the imagination. They screw in funny almost all the time and they are non standard in threading, so they don't work in much aside for fans.

      A silicone rubber screw is also a sound dampener. So you'll notice that the fan will make less noise once they're installed.

      Case fans can also be controlled through the BIOS. If they're PWM (4-pins) you can get an added degree of control over how fast those fans spin. But basically, go into BIOS and set the fans to run at variable speeds. Variable fan speeds save on your bearings, which can lead to them lasting longer compared to maximum speed fans.

  2. Gianna Marie Lanete
    February 2, 2013 at 1:09 am

    Thnx dude this will help.

  3. ron
    February 2, 2013 at 12:52 am

    For desktops and towers, don't put them on the floor where the dust bunnies breed. At the very least put them on some sort of small platform to get them up from the dust that blows along the floor/carpet.

    They're not on the market yet, but I've been reading about a new style of fan, ie:

  4. marko
    January 29, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    If you are using grease (which is the best long term solution), the right way is to disassemble the fan, clean the bearings and then apply the grease along the entire length of the shaft.
    By cleaning we remove residue from the previous lubricant which sometimes may have gummed up or there's simply dirt inside the bearings.
    And by applying grease directly to the shaft, we insure even spread of the lubricant. Greases have low pumpability, that's why in industry, we use grease guns. In this case we can't use one to insure that the grease travels through the entire length of the channel.
    Separation of the grease should not be a problem since the diameter of a PC fan bearings is small. Speed factor is calculated like this Dn=rpm*d where d is diameter of the bearings in mm. So, even for hi-speed PC fans, this value isn't more than 15,000. And by looking up characteristics of most greases on the market, we can see that even the slowest greases can handle something like 200,000 (multipurpose lithium grease can handle double that). The main concern here is viscosity I must say. These DC motors in our fans are not very strong and it would be best if one used a low viscosity grease.

    • Kannon Yamada
      January 29, 2013 at 6:53 pm

      Marko, I am extremely fortunate to meet someone with expert knowledge on this subject. Thank you for sharing! In the future, I will use a lower speed grease.

      I wrote this article based primarily on experience, but it is (as you have rightly indicated) lacking in academic understanding.

      It worried me that the higher viscosity of the grease would slow down the top RPM out of fans, but after some experimentation, I found that it did not (according to the sensor). My PWM fans run at about the same speed as they did before - although after reading your comment, this seems to be because the grease did not fully coat the bearing. :-(

      After using (based on other guides) 3-in-1 on my fans, I found them rattling again after a few months. After what you've written, I would guess that the penetrant caused this and not separation. Do you think ball bearings differ from sleeve bearing in the kind of grease we should use? Thanks again!

      • marko
        January 29, 2013 at 10:32 pm

        I'm glad someone found the information useful. I've been experimenting with different grease types and oils and basically, grease will yield a little slower start up but it will last longer. For example, a greased 8cm fan will start with 1700-2000rpm and reach it's maximum of 2400rpm within 15 minutes. On the other hand an oiled 8cm fan will start at around 2200rpm and reach 2460rpm within couple of minutes. And when I say "oiled", I mean some industrial grade oil. CRC PowerLube is an example. The thicker the oil, the better. But grease is still more preferrable. Avoid motor oil as it contains detergents.

        3in1 is probably too thin to form a thick lubricating layer and too runny to stay in the bearings. As I can see it's a product similar to WD-40 and WD-40 doesn't last long either. Penetrant is good for loosening stuck parts, and maybe some light lubrication, but it won't do for rotating parts. When the film is too thin, micro asperities on metal surfaces begin to touch and significant wear occurs. This is called boundary lubrication. But the rattling you heard is probably even worse case. Grease is also recommended for already worn out bearings and it can extend their life even further.

        It's the same story with ball bearings but the chances are ball bearings are sealed with metal rings on both sides. There are some types with removable seals, though. The grease must be "packed" inside the bearings, but as always, prior cleaning is recommended with a spray degreaser (available in every auto store).

        I was referring to a low viscosity grease in my previous post. It means that the grease is not stiff but rather soft and gel like. I think you are ok with what you have now.

        • Kannon Yamada
          January 30, 2013 at 7:55 pm

          Thanks again!

          Do you have a blog that I can plug for a future article? Or would you mind if I quoted you sometime in the near future?

        • marko
          January 30, 2013 at 10:25 pm

          Sure, you can quote my posts. I don't have a blog but I like to research and exchange ideas with others. And I'm always eager to sum up something I learn in one place so that other people can use this knowledge right away.

  5. Thomas Milham
    January 29, 2013 at 11:00 am

    Good Tips, I will sure to put it to use when I build my PCs for the Workshop ;)

  6. Kirby
    January 28, 2013 at 12:05 am

    Ugh.. Really need to take your advice on dust filters in this article. Lots o' dust bunnies running around inside my CPU.

  7. Igor Rizvi?
    January 26, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    Do you think that fans with rubber plated blades will do less noise then ones with plastic blades? at the same speed rotation?

    • Kannon Yamada
      January 27, 2013 at 5:33 am

      That's a very interesting question.

      I've seen many fan types - all were of plastic construction, although of varying rigidity. One of my favorite fans used a golf-ball divot technology and a much softer plastic fan blade (not sure if it was rubber or just soft plastic).

      But it was by far the quietest PWM fan I've used. However, the golf-divot style blade is specifically designed to muffle sound.

      • Igor Rizvi?
        January 27, 2013 at 9:54 am

        Thanks for the response,keep up the good work ! :)

  8. Ian Hart
    January 26, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    Another way to quieten the fan is to go into BIOS and slow it down, you should have at least one fan (The CPU) attached to the motherboard.
    Remember to set the upper temperature range so that if things start getting hot the fan will resume full power.

  9. Kshitij Verma
    January 26, 2013 at 7:18 am

    Great article. Do you have similar tips for laptops as well?

    • Kannon Yamada
      January 27, 2013 at 5:22 am

      That's a great question. If you have experience with disassembling your laptop, then I have two suggestions: First, if you absolutely know what you're doing, it's possible to replace the thermal compound that transfers heat from your CPU to your heatsink. A lot of manufacturers use cheap, low-grade thermal compound and it dries out over the years. Right around three years is when changing it would help.

      Second, many laptop fans can also be greased in the same manner as articulated in this article. There's an even wider variety of fan technologies used in laptops though, although most fortunately use the cheapest fan type that accepts lubricant.

      Strangely enough, the vast majority of laptops don't have a dust trap, which would SUBSTANTIALLY improve long-term cooling and reliability. I believe this is because a dust filter might restrict airflow and laptops already cut it quite close. However, you could easily create your own using screen mesh (which wouldn't restrict flow much at all) and just keep it clean.

      • Kshitij Verma
        February 1, 2013 at 6:32 pm

        They are great suggestions! Thanks!
        The first two won't work on my laptop, because, well, it's a mac. It has been working fine for 7 years now and I don't want to screw anything up. If I feel like the fan is running bad (which it is, but not THAT bad), I will take it to my local computer shop and tell them to add the thermal compound.
        However, I did find a great article on how to make your own dust trap for your laptop and desktop on instructables
        I am not good with laptop hardware (I can add ram, though) but I will definitely give the dust trap a try.
        Thanks again!

  10. John Adams
    January 26, 2013 at 5:09 am

    With water cooling, I would still recommended that one uses filters on computer chassis too keep the radiator from clogging up with dust and fans free of dust build up.

  11. Richard Steven Hack
    January 26, 2013 at 4:57 am

    Easiest way to quiet a rattling fan - at least when it's vibrating against the case - is to get those long, flexible rubberized screws which hold the fan a slight distance away from the case and absorb vibrations.

    If the fan itself is making noise, however, the above tips should be used.

  12. Keith Swartz
    January 26, 2013 at 3:33 am

    Good article with some great practical stuff! Thanks.