CPU Fan Error: What It Is and How to Fix It

Keep a crucial PC component running properly

A boy fixing a CPU fan

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The CPU fan error is a common error message that can appear when starting up a Windows desktop computer or laptop. The warning is usually triggered after a computer has shut itself down after overheating and when the fan (or fans) have been unable to cool the device sufficiently.

While frustrating, it's important to remember the CPU error message and the forced shutdown are actually good things indicating your computer's safeguards are working properly. If your fans were faulty and your computer continued to overheat, the result would be significant and there'd be permanent damage to a number of important components beyond a faulty fan.

Thankfully, there are a number of ways to confirm what exactly caused the overheating and the error message and also several ways to fix it.

How the CPU Fan Error Appears

The CPU fan error commonly appears during the boot up or start up process of a Windows PC, not during regular usage once Windows is operational. The error message text usually appears as one of the following:

  • "Error: CPU Fan Has Failed!"
  • "CPU Fan Error"

Cause of CPU Fan Errors

Getting a CPU fan error on boot up or start up is typically caused by physical damage to the fan itself, incorrect settings, or external factors causing the computer to overheat and forcing the fan to run at unusually high speeds.

Dust or other objects obstructing a device's air vents can also cause CPU fan errors.

How to Fix CPU Fan Error

Due to the potential for CPU fan errors to be caused by both hardware and software issues, fixes for the errors are equally varied and involve checking specific software settings and the actual fan or fans installed.

  1. Move your computer. Keeping your device in an are that frequently gets hot or is exposed to strong levels of sunlight can cause it to overheat and shut down no matter how hard the fan tries to cool it. Try moving your computer to a cooler room or making sure it's never placed in direct sunlight throughout the day.

  2. Stop overclocking. A consequence of overclocking is a dramatic increase in system heat that can't be managed the default fans. This can damage circuits and cause frequent shutdowns and errors due to overheating.

  3. Clean the air vents. The easiest way to clean the vents is to remove the brush from your vacuum cleaner, then us it at full power to suck any dust and debris out. Alternatively, use an airgun or canned air to blast the dust out.

  4. Clean the CPU fans. For this, you'll need to turn your computer off, unplug it from the power source, and open it up. Once opened, you can clean the interior and remove dust with an air gun or canned air.

    Refrain from spraying any cleaning agents onto any parts as this can seriously damage a variety of components.

    Many devices, such as the Microsoft Surface line of products, are not designed to be opened and doing so may void your warranty and cause permanent damage. If you're unsure, reference your device's official support manual or faqs on the manufacturer's website or call their customer support.

  5. Check your CPU fan. While you have your computer opened, physically check your device's fans to make sure they haven't come loose or fallen out of place. Depending on your fan model, you should be able to fasten your fans back into place with a screwdriver or glue.

    Whenever you're checking anything in the interior of an electrical device, make sure that it's completely turned off and disconnected from all power sources. Remember to choose Shut Down, not Sleep, when turning your computer off.

  6. Check your CPU fan's location. If you've installed the CPU fan yourself, ensure that it's installed in the correct location. It should be connected to the CPU header on the motherboard. If you've connected it elsewhere, the fan may run when the computer is turned on but it won't be sufficiently cooling the CPU, which is its main purpose.

    The CPU header will likely be labelled "CPU Fan," but if it isn't, it's still easy to spot with its three holes for the fan's three-pronged plug.

  7. Try an alternate CPU fan header. If you have multiple CPU fan headers on your motherboard, sometimes plugging your fan into a different slot can fix the CPU fan error.

  8. Check the CPU fan's settings in BIOS. It can occasionally be used to troubleshoot tech issues and to make sure everything is as it should be.

    Open BIOS, then select Advanced Settings > Hardware Monitor > CPU Fan. Enable Active Heat Sink and Fan Duct with Fan and disable Passive Heat Sink and Fan Duct without Fan. Save your changes and exit BIOS.

    You'll often be prompted to press F1 when you get the initial CPU error message. Pressing F1 when this message is visible will also open BIOS.

  9. Change this BIOS setting. If you can see your CPU fan working properly and you're sure your computer isn't overheating or running too hot, this change to the BIOS setting can bypass the CPU fan error message and get your device up and running properly.

    To do this, open BIOS and select Monitor > Fan Speed Monitor > N/A > Ignore > Exit > Save Changes.

    This can affect your computer or laptop's ability to detect your CPU fan and actual problems with it in the future. This is only recommended for those who are completely sure their CPU fan is working properly and have tested to make sure it's cooling their hardware sufficiently.

  10. Replace the CPU fan. If none of the above had worked, your fan could simply be broken and needs to be replaced. Your computer's warranty may cover the repair of the fan, or if you purchased the fan separately, it may have its own warranty you can use to get a free or discounted replacement.