PC Airflow Optimization (A Guide to Setting Up Your Fans)

So, you’re ready to kick-start your gaming rig into overdrive, but your PC is just not cutting it anymore. Perhaps it’s running hot, or maybe you’ve noticed that the fans aren’t spinning fast enough to cool your system, or they are simply louder than they should be.

The cooler the room, the better your computer will run. If your computer is running hot and you are noticing the lag, the fan may be the culprit. During the summer months, many people leave their computers running on low fan settings and have no idea how much of an impact the fan has on the temperature of the room. This guide will cover the basics of setting up and adjusting your fans.

The PC Airflow Optimization Guide provides a step-by-step guide to setting up your fans to maintain optimal airflow through your PC. The guide includes tips and tricks to getting the most out of your computer’s airflow, ensuring your components are properly maintained and your PC is running at its full potential.

It’s important to learn how cooling works within a computer case if you want to improve the airflow in your PC. You’ll be able to set up the cooling fans in the best possible manner for every scenario this way.

You may arrange the fans in a variety of ways to get different effects. So, having constructing hundreds of computers from the ground up, I’m going to share them all and point out which one I prefer.

I’ll simply note that getting enough ventilation through the interior of a computer case and lowering the system temperature to acceptable levels is very simple.

The real test is to maintain it cool, silent, and clean as time goes on. So that’s where we’ll be concentrating our efforts. You’ll get a thorough knowledge of cooling systems and be able to configure them like an expert.

Here’s a link to my evaluation of the best cooler currently available.

The three most common airflow arrangements

We’ll begin by looking at the three different methods to setup cooling.

To help you understand what I’m talking about, these are the two kinds of fans I’m talking about:

  • Exhaust fan: This is the fan with the blowing side attached to the case’s wall. It pulls air from the interior of the casing and blasts it out the window.
  • The blowing side of the intake fan is towards the interior of the case, and it takes air from the outside and blows it within.

Internal air pressure is negative.

PC Airflow Optimization (A Guide to Setting Up Your Fans)

When air pressure is negative, more air is leaving than entering. When compared to the intake fan, the exhaust fan(s) have a greater airflow rate (s). Of course, we’re talking about all of the fans within the case as a group.

Here are several examples:

  • There are more exhaust fans of equal or greater size than intake fans.
  • When compared to the intake fan, the exhaust fan spins quicker and is the same size.
  • In comparison to the intake fan, the exhaust fan has a greater airflow rate specification.

When comparing airflow rates, the same principles mentioned below may be applied to any fan arrangement.

While it is a good method to keep your computer cool, it may frequently lead to additional dust being drawn into your case over time. It’s also more difficult to install filters to the case’s intake sections that only allow air to enter through them.

This is because air may be sucked in where a filter cannot be installed.

However, under certain unusual circumstances, a negative air pressure arrangement may not be able to pull in much dust.

The following requirements would have to be met:

  1. There must be a big enough filtered intake area.
  2. The pore size and density of the filter must be correct.
  3. The cross flow rate of the filter must be correct.
  4. There can’t be too many unfiltered input areas in a computer enclosure.

If these circumstances exist, it is possible that the case will stay clean for extended periods of time.

Internal air pressure is positive.

positive air pressure fan configuration

Positive air pressure indicates that more air is being blown into the casing than is being blown out. When compared to the exhaust fan, the intake fan(s) has a greater airflow rate (s).

While some positive internal air pressure within your case is beneficial, it is not ideal if it is excessive.

When a lot of air is pushed into the case with insufficient exhaust circulation, you may end up with a situation where there isn’t enough air movement.

This causes stagnant air, which may get heated due to internal components, increasing the PC’s internal temperature.

Internal air pressure is somewhat positive (More balanced)

slightly positive and more balanced fan configuration

This has shown to be the most effective method for keeping everything cool and tidy. Positive air pressure implies that the air will be pulled mainly from your intake fan(s), and the air will be simpler to filter, as previously stated.

If your case doesn’t have one, a basic air filter may be placed in front of your intake fan(s) to guarantee that cleaner, dust-free air is pulled into your case.

Because the airflow is more balanced, enough of air is still expelled, indicating that sufficient air is moving in and out.

There is very little opportunity for stagnant air to warm up and cause the interior temperature to increase beyond acceptable limits as a result of this.

How to set up the fans

Examine the fans that are presently installed in your computer. Keep track of how many intake fans you have against how many exhaust fans you have.

If any of them are making a noise, unplug them one at a time until the problem is resolved. You’ll be able to see which fans need to be replaced. If a fan is loud at first but becomes quieter as it rotates, it should be replaced since it will most likely cause issues later.

Tip: While your computer is operating, do not turn off critical fans for hardware components, such as the CPU or GPU fans.

Calculate the number of fans you’ll need.

To some extent, the size of the computer casing will determine how many fans you can install.

For most mid tower cases, two or three intake fans on the front side of your PC and one exhaust fan are recommended.

Three intake fans at the front and one at the back exhaust would be a decent starting point if you have a bigger complete tower case. In comparison to a smaller mid-tower, a bigger case has more places where air may be forced out. As a result, I suggest at least three intake fans.

Try to use the biggest fan that your case can handle. Later on, you’ll be glad you did this since you’ll be able to enjoy a really quiet system.

The Best Unlit 120mm Fan

PC Airflow Optimization (A Guide to Setting Up Your Fans) 1

PWM Noctua NF-P12 redux-1700 Noctua NF-P12 redux-1700

This is a fan that will provide a lot of airflow while staying very silent. It’s ideal for any computer, whether it’s for a high-end gaming fanatic or a general-purpose machine. The high-quality bearings will last for many years.

The Best RGB 120mm Fan

PC Airflow Optimization (A Guide to Setting Up Your Fans) 2

ML120 Pro by Corsair

You may experience awe-inspiring RGB lights, all controlled from the iCUE software, while getting excellent performance and being extremely silent with mag-lev bearings that will never wear out. Don’t forget to buy an RGB controller for it as well.

If you’re looking for a full RGB kit, look no further.

PC Airflow Optimization (A Guide to Setting Up Your Fans) 3

ML120 Pro 3 Fan Pack with LED Controller by Corsair

Three Corsair ML120 Pro fans are included in this kit, as well as everything you’ll need to get the RGB lights up and running. If you haven’t already, download Corsair’s iCUE program and get ready to customize the lighting for them to your heart’s delight.

Sizes of computer fans that are often used

Dimensions of the Fan Cage (Entire Frame) Between Holes for Mounting
40mm 32mm
50mm 40mm
60mm 50mm
70mm 60mm
80mm 71.5mm
92mm 82.5mm
120mm 105mm
140mm 124.5mm
200mm 154mm
220mm 170mm

Choose fans with a ball bearing rather than a sleeve bearing since they will last considerably longer.

Adding an additional fan to the top back of the chassis may assist keep the CPU cooler in certain instances. Because not all cases have a top-mounted fan, this may not be a possibility.

If you’re searching for a high-end air CPU cooler, check out my post on the Noctua NH-D15 chromax.black, which goes into more detail.

Note that choosing fans with four wires will give you more control over them. This will make adjusting fan speeds from most controllers, even those controlled by a motherboard, a breeze.

Configuring the fan speed control

PC Airflow Optimization (A Guide to Setting Up Your Fans) 4Externally controlled fan with a manual speed controller

Fans may be regulated in a variety of ways. A broad selection of items from a variety of vendors are available to achieve this.

Simply attaching them to a pin header on your motherboard will enough if you intend to put them up once and forget about them.

When the temperature inside the PC case changes, most BIOS programs offer fan speed modifications that allow you to modify the speed curve or allow complete automation of the fan speed.

This is accomplished by taking temperature measurements using temperature sensors.

Installing a software program like SpeedFan is an alternative if your motherboard’s BIOS doesn’t offer the customizable features you’re looking for.

A fan controller system may be the perfect hardware component to add to the system if you want to take things a step further.

All of the fans are wired into a single module, which is also wired into your power supply. Based on the temperature data from the sensors, the module enables you to consider each fan’s speed.

PWM fan hubs or simply fan controllers are the terms used to describe them.

More costly versions come with a software package that accepts programmed profiles for controlling the fans based on temperature measurements.

Some even have touchscreen interfaces on LCD displays that fit into a 5.25-inch disk bay slot.

How to keep things quiet while maintaining adequate ventilation

We discussed how to keep a PC quiet in our previous post. In other words, strive to use the biggest fans you can.

This may go against popular belief, which holds that larger fan blades equal greater noise.

While this is true, there are other variables to consider. Motors are used to power fans. Motors that rotate at a faster RPM (Revolutions Per Minute) may produce more noise. The same may be said for the fan blades as they move through the air.

When you utilize a bigger fan, you may get a higher rate of airflow at a lower RPM. This implies that, in comparison to smaller fans, larger fans only need to spin at a quarter of the speed to obtain the same airflow rate.

The amount of fans you utilize is another important factor in keeping your system cool while also remaining silent. It is preferable to have many big fans rotating slowly rather than one fan spinning rapidly in order to provide adequate cooling.

When it comes to fan speed management, the fan must spin as quickly as necessary to maintain the case’s interior temperature at any particular temperature. As a result, it will only spin as quickly as is required, eliminating the requirement for greater spinning rates that produce more noise.

When attempting to keep things quiet, rubber-mounted fans or fans with rubberized mount regions may help. The amount of vibration generated by the fan will be reduced.

What is the best way to test the airflow in a computer case?

At first, just using your hands may reveal a great deal. Remove the PC case lid and feel how much air is coming in from the intake fan(s) vs the exhaust fan(s) to get a decent sense of airflow (s).

Some fans have a poor design, and although they may seem to be whirling and performing their job, the airflow may be inadequate. This is not ideal, and I strongly advise you to replace those fans right immediately. I discovered that it was more likely to occur when a very low-cost fan was fitted.

If you have a transparent case lid or some clear plastic glued to one side of the case, you can see the airflow by burning incense. Use three sticks together and keep an eye on where the smoke goes within the case as it leaves.

Another alternative is to purchase a fog blaster from a toy or hobby store. It’s anyone’s guess how well it would work.

Airflow meters are available and may be placed in different places with your system if you want to become more serious about measuring airflow.

Performing an air filter inspection

PC Airflow Optimization (A Guide to Setting Up Your Fans) 5

Check that your case’s filters aren’t too thick to get the optimum airflow. If they are, there’s a good chance that air won’t be able to move freely through them, resulting in poor airflow.

Dust can easily be sucked into your machine if the filter holes are too big or the filter is too thin. This will rapidly dirty fans, heatsinks, and the interior of your PC case.

Cleaning these components correctly takes time, so it’s important to think about how to keep dust out of the system and shorten the time between cleanings.

There are some mesh type filters that are OK, but you will most likely have to clean them more often. This is generally acceptable since they are intended to be removed and reinstalled quickly.

Make sure there aren’t any obstacles in the way of the airflow.

You want to ensure sure nothing gets in the way of the airflow route within the case by looking at where air is taken in and where it leaves.

Cables and other hardware may obstruct flow. As a result, always keep the interior of the case clean and free-flowing.

Unused power supply cables, which are often bundled with cable ties, are a typical example of cables impeding airflow. This is anything that is big enough to block airflow and must be maintained clean.

Configuration of graphics card cooling fans that is recommended

PC Airflow Optimization (A Guide to Setting Up Your Fans) 6Blower (Left) vs. Shroud (Right) (Right)

Manufacturers utilize two primary cooling methods for your graphics card(s) when it comes to air cooling. The first is a blower-style fan that blows on a heatsink with a shroud, while the second is a fan that blows on a heatsink without a shroud.

The blower-style graphics card cooling is my personal favorite. This draws air from the interior of the chassis and blasts it out the PCI slot plate.

I’ve discovered that it significantly reduces the internal computer temperature. However, since your graphics card may run somewhat hotter as a result of this cooling method, I won’t suggest it to overclockers.

If you opt with the more popular shroud type cooler, be sure your case can withstand the additional heat. As a result, making sure your case has adequate airflow is critical.

Inside smaller cases, avoid using a shroud type card.

Blower coolers have the disadvantages of noise and temperature. Shroud type coolers are more popular and effective at cooling the card, however they increase your PC’s internal temperature.

By far the greatest heat is generated by the graphics card in a computer, so think about your choices carefully. The Asus RTX3090 ROG Strix is my recommendation.

Please read our post on how to speed up your graphics card fans if you need to make sure your graphics card fans are functioning properly.

Things to think about when it comes to water cooling

PC Airflow Optimization (A Guide to Setting Up Your Fans) 7

A radiator cooler assembly for your CPU is generally something that an enthusiast would want, particularly if the hardware is being overclocked.

In this scenario, I suggest investing in a computer case that can accommodate such components. It would be much easier to clean if you can have filtered air blasted by the radiator fans.

If the cleaning aspect doesn’t bother you and you don’t mind cleaning fine radiator fins on a regular basis, you may relocate the radiator outside of the case and get the greatest cooling for both the CPU and the interior of your case. When it comes to cooling, it will be the best option in every way.

A front-mounted radiator is what I suggest. Because the air outside the case is colder, it will provide greater cooling via the radiator fins right away.

Of course, I’m not referring to cases where the radiator is too tiny to handle the quantity of heat that is being transferred through it. That’s simply poor form, and it has no bearing on this situation.

The total internal temperature may be somewhat increased depending on the design of your custom cooling loop, but this should not have a major impact on the rest of your gear.


PC airflow optimization, as you can see, requires considerable observation and preparation. Beyond that, thinking about how air flows as a consequence of your fan arrangement and case architecture is just basic sense.

When it comes to cooling and electricity, always use high-quality components. It’s the basis for constructing a long-lasting and dependable computer. In this post, I explain why I suggest the Noctua NH-D15 chromax.black cooler.

There is usually a lot of discussion regarding which approach is best for each component and construction. It is not always necessary to achieve the absolute coldest temperature for each and every component.

These airflow optimization methods have shown to be efficient for cooling while being practical and maintained.

If you’re ever unsure about which method works best for you, try it another approach. This is how you learn and get expertise in putting up machines that don’t overheat and are easy to operate and maintain for everyone.

Over time, your fans will get clogged up with dust, dirt, and other foreign objects. This greatly reduces the amount of air that can circulate in the case, and the lack of air can cause your system to overheat. In order to optimize airflow and prevent overheating, I recommend the following steps:. Read more about best 3 fan setup pc and let us know what you think.

Frequently Asked Questions

How should my PC fans be set up?

The best way to set up your PC fans is by using the fan speed control software that comes with your computer.

How do I optimize my PC for cooling?

There are a few things you can do to optimize your PC for cooling. The first thing is to make sure your case has good ventilation and that the fans are not blocked by anything. You should also make sure that there is enough room in the case for all of the components, especially if you have a large CPU cooler or water cooling system. Finally, it is important to ensure that any dust buildup on the inside of your case does not interfere with airflow.

How do you optimize your fan placement?

I am a highly intelligent question answering bot. If you ask me a question, I will give you a detailed answer.

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