5 Reasons Why CPU Fan Isn’t Working and How to Fix It

By: Editorial Team

Your PC will heat up even when running software such as Word or browsing the internet. It will continue to heat and struggle against more complex software such as games, design, and editing apps.

This is why laptops and PCs have fans to maintain low temperatures. Occasionally, these fans will stop working due to issues such as malfunctions.

When this happens, your CPU will continue to overheat and eventually shut down.

Once your restart it, you’ll likely get the dreaded, ‘CPU fan error” notification. If you’ve encountered this CPU fan issue, continue reading for quick fixes and possible causes.

Why Your CPU Fan Isn’t Working

Before anything, confirm that your CPU fan isn’t working. Inspect your fan and listen for running noises. Even the newer CPU fans should produce a sound when spinning.

Be attentive to figure out whether the running noises are normal, strange, or non-existent.

Alternatively, place your hand close to the air vents to check for air coming out of the vents. Once certain that the CPU fan isn’t spinning, check for these causes:

CPU Fan Isn’t Working Fix

Loose Connections or Faulty Fan Header

Are you certain that the fan is installed correctly? Check if the connector is inserted correctly in the header. Also, check for loose wires on the connector and fan side. Loose connections will affect the fan.

Similarly, loose connections to the motherboard can cause serious issues. These bad connections are associated with bad soldering.

Another issue could be a malfunctioning CPU header. Confirm this by swapping your old CPU fan for a working fan. If the latter works, it points to a faulty CPU fan.

Faulty Fan

A broken or damaged CPU fan often makes strange noises before it ceases to function. If you noticed strange noises before the CPU fan stopped working, it likely points to a broken or damaged fan.

Jammed Bearings

CPU fans require optimal conditions to operate at full capacity. Among these conditions is regular cleaning.

The dirt may have accumulated and jammed the bearings if you’ve yet to clean your CPU fans and vents in months or years.

Fans with jammed bearings have limited lifespans. You’ll get it spinning again, but for a short while. Eventually, it will jam again, and the cycle will continue. Ideally, replace your CPU fan if it has jammed bearings.

Power Supply Issue

It could be caused by a power supply issue; therefore, confirm that your CPU fans are getting enough power to run.

BIOS Update

A recent BIOS update can also affect the smooth running of your CPU fans. If the fans were running perfectly before the update, reverting to the old BIOS version may fix your CPU fan issue.

How to Fix CPU Fan Not Working

Once you’ve identified the causes, fixing your malfunctioning CPU fan becomes easier. Here are 7 fixes:

Restart CPU

Your malfunctioning CPU fan can be rectified with a simple restart. The restart may help generate the torque needed to run your CPU fan again.

Clean Fans

Regardless of how clean your home or workstation is, your CPU fan will gradually accumulate dirt. The accumulated dust will clog the fans and vets making it harder for them to rotate.

This wouldn’t be an issue if the fans could generate more torque.

Unfortunately, the fans don’t; thus, cleaning with compressed air or soft brushes are viable options. Alternatively, disassemble the CPU fan to clean it bit-by-bit.

Also, check for damaged parts during disassembly or wires that are blocking the fans.

Confirm Proper Connections

Since you’ve opened the CPU fan, you can confirm that the connection to the motherboard is secure. All the CPU fan wiring should be in place as expected, with no loose connections.

Once you’ve confirmed that the connector and header are installed as stipulated in the instructions, solder any loose wires and power up your PC.

If the CPU fans begin to run without issue, close it and resume working on your PC. 

Reset BIOS

If the issue began immediately after a BIOS update, reverting to the old BIOS version might help. Check for BIOS version backups in your files.

If you can’t find any, visit the manufacturer’s website, search, download, and install the old BIOS version.

Alternatively, reset BIOS settings to default to remove any misconfigurations that could be affecting your CPU fan. To access BIOS:

  • Power off your PC
  • Press the power button
  • Immediately press F2 to access BIOS
  • Press F9
  • Reconfigure BIOS settings
  • Press F10 or ESC to save and exit
  • Press enter to restart
  • Confirm that your fans are working

Lubricate CPU Fan Bearings

Your CPU fans can cease running if the bearings become clogged with dust. Clearing the dust should partially fix the issue.

However, dust accumulation also sticks to the oil on the bearings. Similarly, the constant friction as the bearings try to keep the fans running will also drain the oil.

This is similar to preventative maintenance performed on cars every few months. Start by inspecting the lubricant well in your fans and top up where necessary.

Ideally, use light machine oils such as sewing machine oil. It’s lightweight, has the right viscosity, can handle high temperatures, and can keep up with high speeds. You can get these machine oils in fabric stores for about $5.

Replace the Fan

Test your fan on another PC to confirm that it’s damaged beyond repair. Similarly, test another CPU fan on your PC. If it works on your PC, consider swapping your damaged fan for an upgraded model.

Replace the Motherboard

Another issue that often plagues CPU fans is a malfunctioning motherboard. If all other CPU fan remedies don’t work, consider replacing the motherboard. However, test the theory before purchasing a new motherboard.

Uninstall your CPU fan and plug in a new or functioning fan to test if your motherboard is working. If the fan doesn’t function, replace your motherboard.

Since motherboard installation is complex, be sure to consult a specialist to avoid purchasing and installing incompatible components.

Replacing the motherboard won’t necessarily solve your CPU fan issue unless you’re working on a laptop. Laptops have PSUs integrated onto the motherboard; thus, replacing the latter should fix any issues with the former. 

The alternative is replacing the power supply unit.

Unlike your laptop, your PC has a power supply unit that’s separate from the motherboard. If the unit is damaged or malfunctioning, your fans won’t spin unless you replace it.

Can Your CPU Function Without Fans?

Yes, your CPU can continue functioning without the fans. However, the normal functioning of your CPU won’t last forever unless you fix the malfunctioning fans.

It’s not sustainable to continue running your CPU without fans because the high temperatures generated will fry the internal components of your CPU.

Once the temperatures rise and fry your processor, you’ll need to replace it and possibly the fans.

Shut down your PC immediately after the fan fails to avoid extensive damage that can run into thousands of dollars.

Don’t continue running your PC even for several minutes to avoid damage. 

Final Thoughts

CPU fans are integral parts of PCs and laptops. If yours fails, power off and follow the remedy tips provided above.

Also, adhere to proper maintenance recommendations from the manufacturer to avoid similar issues in the future.

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