How to Control the CPU Fan on Windows 10

Access fan settings and gain fan speed control for better PC performance

Taking charge of your CPU fan control has a number of benefits. By mapping it to CPU temperature you can make sure that your system stays cool and doesn't overheat, but you can also adjust it by noise level, or even give yourself manual control. There are a number of different ways you can achieve this with many different software and hardware solutions, but we'll walk you through our favorite ways to fan control Windows 10.

This involves going inside your PC case. We would always recommend wearing an anti-static wristband when you do. Alternatively, touch something metal like your PC case, before and periodically during, your investigation. This will ground you and prevent static from shorting out any components.

Do You Need Windows 10 Fan Control?

If your PC is working just fine and you're happy with how loud its fans are, you don't need to adjust your CPU fan settings. Controlling the CPU fan speed in your PC (or all the fans, in fact) is a way to give you more control over your Windows 10 experience. You can make sure that the system isn't too loud, with the fan only spinning up faster when your PC gets warm. Or you can have it cranking away at full tilt all the time to make sure your CPU stays cool, potentially giving yourself some headroom to overclock the CPU.

Fan speed control is about choice. If you want it, here's how to get it.

What Type of CPU Fan Do You Have?

Before you can officially take control of your CPU fan speed, you need to make sure that its connector lets you do so. To do so, follow these steps.

  1. Turn off your PC and disconnect the power cable.

  2. Remove the left-hand side panel when viewing from the front. There should be some screws at the rear that when removed, let the panel pop off.

    In the majority of computers, the left-hand side panel is the one you will need to remove. If you happen to have a computer with a right-hand side panel (they're pretty rare), the instruction are the same once the panel is removed.

  3. Find your CPU cooler. It will likely be in the top-third of your motherboard. The fan on it should have a cable that runs away from it.

    A fan with a 3-pin DC connector
    A fan with a 3-pin DC connector. Metoc/Wikimedia

The end of that cable will tell you everything you need to know. If it's a chunky, four pin connector that plugs into a similar looking cable before routing to your power supply unit (PSU), it's plugged in using a two or 4-pin Molex connector. If it's a thinner cable that runs to your motherboard with a 3-pin female connector on the other end, it's a DC fan. If it runs to a 4-pin female connector, it's a PWM fan.

Here's a quick explainer about those different types:

  • Molex connectors take all their power from the PSU. They cannot be dynamically controlled and can only be limited using a resistor cable.
  • 3-pin DC connectors also run at full power, but your motherboard can limit the voltage going to them, thereby altering the speed.
  • 4-pin PWM (pulse width modulation) can be dynamically controlled by software and hardware very easily.

Control CPU Fan in the BIOS

The easiest way to adjust CPU fan speed is through the BIOS.

PC BIOS

Every BIOS is different, so instructions may differ from computer to computer, but you need to look for a tab or screen to do with Hardware monitoring. In the screenshot above, it was listed as PC Health Status. Look for a section to do with the CPU Fan. Once there, try some of these settings below to see what adjustments you can make.

  • Set the fan to your fan type (DC or PWM).
  • Select what mode you want the fan to run at. Examples might include Full speed, Performance, Silent.
  • Set a temperature threshold. Typically you don't want a CPU to go over 70 degrees, so make sure that your fan runs fast once it gets that hot, and preferably starts to spin up quicker at lower temperatures.

CPU Fan Control With Speedfan

If your motherboard can dynamically control fan speeds, then you may be able to make more in-depth adjustments with Windows software. One of the most popular and long-lasting software suites is Speedfan.

Speedfan

Be aware that if you set your fan speeds too low, you may overheat your PC. So monitor temperatures carefully.

  1. Download Speedfan from the official website and install it like you would any other program.

  2. Spend some time getting to grips with the application. It can be a little opaque to start with and certain temperature settings may seem way off (ours recorded a temperature of 97 for "Auxtin1") which suggests an erroneous reading because you don't have a temperature sensor there.

    Speedfan is designed to be ubiquitous, so it hits all the bases, even if your system doesn't support it. What that means is that you may see false readings for a number of different types of sensors that are not installed on your computer. Just look for the components that are installed and ignore the others.

  3. When you feel you're ready to take some control, you can select Automatic fan speed to have Speedfan automatically control your system. Otherwise, select Configure then select the Advanced tab.

  4. Choose your CPU from the drop down menu. The labelling isn't ideal, so you may need to play around to find the right one for your system.

  5. Find your CPU fan among the list based on what cable it connects to your motherboard and what port it connects to. Then set that to Manual. Alternatively, if you want to control every fan in your system, set them all to Manual.

  6. Select OK and head back to the main Speedfan page. Use the arrow keys next to your respective fan(s) to adjust the speed up and down. If it's working correctly, you should see the RPM increase or decrease and hear your PC get louder or quieter, respectively.

Fan Control in Windows 10 With a Fan Controller

If you want more control over your CPU fan and other aspects of your system, a fan controller is a good bet. Cases like NZXT's H-series i versions have a built-in link box which gives you software control over your CPU fan in much the same way as Speedfan, but in a more intuitive manner. It also adds support for RGB lighting and multiple fan configurations, profiles, and fan curves.

Standalone fan controllers can give you more tangible controls. Some, like the Thermaltake Commander FT, gives you touchscreen controls for your system's various fans, where others have physical knobs and dials you can use to control them.

You'll need to follow the included instructions for those, as their setup and management are unique to their respective designs.