Is It Okay To Run A Laptop Fan At Full Speed? {Fan Burnout?}

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It’s become a trend in recent years for laptop manufacturers to design machines that are incredibly slim, requiring components to be crammed into smaller and smaller spaces.

The compact interior of a modern laptop chassis subsequently requires seriously efficient cooling to keep the CPU and other components from overheating. Fans and heatsinks are two of the methods used to cool internal parts.

Most laptop fans are rated to work for 30,000 hours or longer  so running them at full speed for prolonged periods will not cause any damage to the fans or the laptop.

However, if your fans are continually running at full speed it may be a sign that the graphics processor is overheating or an internal temperature sensor has malfunctioned and so it’s worth doing some investigating to determine the root cause. 

If the noise generated by your fan has prompted a warning signal to go off in your head you may have a few questions you hope to answer, such as:

  •       What causes a fan to run at higher speeds?
  •       How long will a fan last when operating at full speed?
  •       How do you stop laptop fans from running at full speed?

And whilst we’ll address each of these concerns below, sticking with the theme of excessively hot laptops you might also be interested in learning whether a laptop keyboard can overheat

Internal components of a laptop rarely overheat to a detrimental level during normal use, however it is possible especially in a very hot environment (such as direct exposure to sunlight) or when the laptop is resting upon a soft surface (such as fabric) that restricts air being taken into the cooling mechanisms.

Why do laptop fans run at max speed?

A few of the most common reasons for a laptop fan to start running at high speed are:

  1. The temperature of internal components is close to exceeding their safe operating limit
  2. The inside of the laptop is clogged with dust
  3. A software glitch is causing the GPU to work harder
  4. The internal temperature sensor has malfunctioned

Laptops are designed to keep a close handle on their internal temperature with a temp sensor mounted near the CPU, and if you have a dedicated GPU a separate sensor to monitor the graphics card.

CPUs and GPUs can safely operate at temperatures between 140 – 190 degrees Fahrenheit (60 – 87.7C) and when their temperature approaches the upper limits of this safe operating range, cooling fans kick in.

Laptops can also become clogged with debris over time. Chunks of dust can obstruct ports needed to exchange heated air for cool air, causing the CPU to heat up quicker than normal.

It’s completely normal for resource-heavy applications, such as video games and image editing software, to also cause the fans to spin at full speed.

However if the laptop fans continue to run at top speed without any apparent cause this may be a problem caused by a software glitch – such as a program that forces the laptop to run at a higher frame rate than it can handle.

Troubleshoot this by opening programs one at a time, or in combinations of two or three at most to isolate the application responsible and avoid using it until you find a patch or an update.

Fans may also speed up due to a faulty internal temperature sensor which reports a high temperature when in fact the CPU is still within a safe range. A computer technician or the laptop’s manufacturer should have no problem replacing a sensor.

Image by ronstik on Canva Pro

How long will a laptop fan last at full speed?

Fans that run at high speeds are more likely to suffer from shorter lifespans as the fan motors are likely to wear down faster, causing the fan to fail sooner than one exposed to light tasks only. However there is no set manufacturer’s guidance or rule of thumb to suggest a maximum number of hours a fan can be left operating at full speed without issue. 

Despite being a relatively low cost component, laptop fans are robust and reliable with genuine OEM replacements often accompanied by a lifetime warranty.

How to stop laptop fans from running at full speed

Laptop fans typically run at full speed when a command for peak processing power causes the CPU and GPU to heat up, and so the first action to stop fans from noisily spinning is to limit the number of applications you have running at the same time. 

You could also lower the resolution of a video game or run an application in a window instead of full screen. You should also close any programs that are not actively being used (Settings > Background Apps > Toggle Off). 

You should also ensure that the laptop is properly ventilated. Placing it on a pillow, your legs, or soft furniture may keep hot air from escaping, increasing the internal temperature of the laptop. If you need to use a laptop on your lap, consider getting a lap desk or tray.

If none of the above helps reduce the racket, Will from Boosted Media demonstrates in the below video how a disassembly guide for your laptop can be used to check if your fans need cleaning out, or your heatsink may benefit from being upgraded.  Both actions will help your fans be more efficient at lower speeds.

Conclusion

Running a fan at the highest RPM will not damage the laptop, but it may increase the wear and tear on the motors that power the fans. Even with continual use at high speeds, the fans are still likely to last just fine for multiple years.

Keep in mind that a fast-spinning fan may indicate that you’re putting too much pressure on the GPU. Lowering your graphics settings and turning off all unused programs may help prevent temperatures from rising too quickly.

If the fans continue to spin quickly when you stop using graphics-intensive applications, you may have a dust problem. Open and clean the inside of the laptop using condensed air.

A faulty internal temperature sensor may also cause the fans to spin non-stop. Unfortunately, replacing the sensor is not an easy task for those without experience. If all else fails, you may need to have your laptop professionally serviced or consider upgrading to a new one.

Chris Dosser

Chris Dosser

Co-Founder of Eden Indoors

Enjoys sharing solutions to problems encountered whilst building and improving his own home office over the past 8 years. Environmental graduate with a love for biophilic design at home and houseplants. Obsessive about making information easier to understand and simpler to digest.

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