How to Set Up Your Case Fans for the Best PC Airflow: A Practical Guide

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By David Young

During long game sessions, your PC will get hot, so you’ll need to improve the airflow to keep the parts from getting too hot. Adding new fans is one way to improve the temperature of your game rig as a whole, but it’s just as important to manage the number of intake and exhaust fans. The same goes for how your fans are set up and how the air flows inside your PC case. There are a lot of things that can change how the air flows, and we’ll show you everything you need to know to make your PC cooler.

How to choose the fans for the case?

When choosing fans for your cabinet, you should always think about their RPM, CFM, size, and noise levels. RPM, which stands for “rotations per minute,” is a way to measure how fast the fan blades spin. In most cases, fans run at 500–2000 RPM. Increasing their RPM can make them cool better, but it also makes them louder and shortens their lifespan.

Noise level, as the name suggests, is the decibel (dB) measurement of how loud the fans are. Silent case fans make noises that are hard to hear, around 15 dB, while performance fans can get as loud as 30–40 dB. Most fans make a lot more noise as the RPM goes up. The faster it spins, the more noise it makes. However, there are some high-end fans that are relatively quiet even when the RPM is high.

The CFM of your fan is the amount of air it can move through your closet in one minute. Case fans are either static pressure fans or airflow fans, depending on how much air they move per minute (CFM). Static pressure fans are made to push a lot of air through tight spaces and around obstacles. This makes them the best choice for radiators and computer boxes that don’t have any air intake on the front panel. Airflow fans, on the other hand, move air better when there aren’t any obstacles in their way. You should choose airflow fans if your case has a mesh front panel and good wire management that doesn’t get in the way of the airflow.

How to Set Up Your Case Fans for the Best PC Airflow

Lastly, case fans come in many sizes, but the most popular ones are 120mm and 140mm. Assuming they have the same RPM, you should always use 140mm (or bigger) fans instead of 120mm fans as intakes. The reason is that two 140mm fans can move the same amount of air as three 120mm fans, even though they spin much slower and make less noise.

Intake vs exhaust fans

Simply put, an intake fan blows cool air into the cabinet, while an exit fan blows warm air out of it. All fans have sides that let air in and sides that let the air out. How they are oriented affects how they move air inside your case. To keep the right airflow (more on that later) inside your PC, you will need both intake and exhaust fans.

How to determine the fan orientation

The intake and exit sides of cabinet fans are marked by one or two arrows on the side. The first arrow shows which way the air is moving, and the second one shows which way the fan blades turn.

If your case fans don’t have these lines, you can tell which way they face by looking at how they are built. The fans are held in place by an X-shaped spoke on the side that lets air out. This side is easy to find because it is where the wires for the fans come out.

On the input side of the fan, the fans will be curved away from you and there won’t be any X-shaped bars.

Adjusting the PC for airflow

The air pressure changes when you move the front panel of your cabinet. Mesh front panels almost always have lower temperatures than glass or solid front panels because the holes in the mesh let more air through. Mesh front panels will get more dust because of this, but you should be fine as long as your closet has good dust filters. You can even get rid of all the side pieces and go with an open-air case if you don’t mind having to clean it often.

Also, thicker dust screens can stop dirt and grime from getting in, but they can also block the air coming in from your intake fans. This doesn’t mean you should get rid of all your dust filters, but if your PC starts to get too hot even after you’ve set up all the fans correctly, you might want to try it without them.

Also, the number of fans you can put in your gaming rig varies on the size of the cabinet. Some full tower cases can fit as many as ten fans. Large cabinets also have places to mount AIO coolers and custom liquid cooling blocks, which makes them better for having more cooling solutions than small cabinets. But that doesn’t mean you should completely give up on small cases. Many high-quality mini towers and small form-factor cases are made to let air flow through so that your system can run at better temperatures.

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