How do I know if my laptop fan needs replacing?

Customer concerned about laptop fan

Your laptop’s fan is vital to the health of your laptop. It protects your power supply, your graphics card, and your CPU and ensures these and all the other components are not allowed to overheat and are able to work properly.

You may need to replace your laptop fan if you detect abnormally loud or grinding noises, experience sudden shutdowns and performance problems during laptop fan operation, or observe physical damage like broken blades or excessive dust build-up, hindering airflow.

Regularly monitoring these factors and addressing any irregularities can help prevent potential damage to your laptop’s internal components.

In this blog, we’ll delve into ways in which you can spot a faulty fan and offer advice and guidance on maintaining optimal fan functionality. Should your laptop require an internal fan replacement, then at Lee Harvey Computing, we can source, fit and replace internal fans at a very reasonable price.

What is the lifespan of a laptop fan?

This is one of those “how long is a piece of string” questions. The official answer from the fan manufacturers is “between 30,000 and 50,000 hours” before fan replacement – which equates to between 3 and 5 years of continuous use.

However, these statistics come with a lot of caveats regarding the operational conditions under which the laptop fan is operating. Are you consistently using the laptop on a flat surface? Is there adequate airflow around the fan?

Environmental factors also play a significant role in the laptop’s operating temperature. For instance, if a standard laptop operates in hot conditions, this will affect the normal operating temperature of the laptop, and the lifespan of its components (including the cooling fan) will likely be considerably shortened.

Can I use my laptop if the fan is broken?

A faulty or broken laptop cooling fan can cause your laptop to overheat, and that can result in all sorts of expensive problems. Prolonged overheating can damage components like the CPU, hard drive, video card and even the motherboard and other vital components.

In short – running a laptop with a broken fan can leave you with an expensive repair job to replace all the damaged components. You might get lucky and prevent damage even if you run with a broken fan, but the overwhelming likelihood is that you will do some permanent damage.

Signs of a failing laptop fan

Laptop fans are designed to speed up or slow down, depending on the heat being generated. Tasks such as video or photo editing use a lot of resources and create a lot of heat. If your computer’s fan isn’t working as it should, the hot air will have nowhere to go.

You may get an on-screen message – “CPU Fan Failure” – for example. You can usually get a pretty good idea that your computer is overheating if you experience frequent system shutdowns with no apparent cause. This is your computer trying to protect itself as it detects vital internal components overheating.

You can usually feel when your laptop is overheating, but to check if the fan is the problem, you should:

Listen out for noise

Your fan is designed to be as quiet as possible, so this may not be the best way to detect a failed fan.

Nevertheless, when a laptop is working hard, you may hear the fan spinning at high speed and making a slight whirring sound. This is a good sign, but any screeching, rattling, clicking or grinding noises are almost certainly signs of a problem.

Any noise, apart from a soft sigh coming from the air vents, is a sign that you may need to get your laptop fan looked at by a professional.

Feel for heat

Overheating is the best indication that your laptop fan is not working properly – or has stopped working completely. If it is the latter, then the fan probably needs to be replaced.

A laptop fan is designed to draw cool air in through the air vents and circulate it over the processor to lower the CPU temperature and the temperature of other hardware components. The heavier the load on the CPU, the more the software forces the fan to respond and work harder.

However, if anything interferes or obstructs the fan speed or airflow (such as dust or debris inside the computer or case), then the temperature inside the computer can rise, potentially reaching damaging levels.

Check to see if your laptop frequently restarts

Typically, laptops operate smoothly, so frequent stops and restarts signal underlying issues. Your computer software will trigger a shutdown when it detects potential hardware risks, often stemming from overheating. As we’ve observed, the primary tool for regulating internal heat is the laptop fan, making it the likely culprit for addressing such issues effectively.

Can you check a laptop’s fan status?

There is software, such as a performance monitor, that you can download to check the fan speed.

Whilst this will tell you many things about what your system is doing, a failing or blocked fan can almost always be diagnosed by looking out for the signs described above without the need for a monitoring program.

Should you replace a laptop’s internal components yourself?

As we have said in a previous post, one of the greatest enemies of computer efficiency is dust. Dust can cause real problems for a laptop fan. It blocks air vents so that control of the flow of incoming cool air and control of outgoing hot air is compromised and gets into the workings of the fans so that they are unable to function properly.

It may be that compressed air is the simple answer to fix the problem. A blast of compressed air from a can might dislodge the offending dust, clear a vent, and everything will run smoothly again. However, if the fan speed is still low or the fan is not working correctly at all and the problem continues, it may be time for a fan replacement.

Computer fans are not, as a rule, hugely expensive. Laptops are, however, not the easiest things to work on as the parts are tightly packed inside the case, and fitting can be fiddly, so we always recommend seeking the help of an expert.

How can Lee Harvey Computing help?

With years of experience, Lee Harvey Computing is adept at swiftly diagnosing issues within your laptop, whether it’s a dust build-up or a faulty fan. If a new fan is required, we can efficiently handle the job, ensuring you’re back up and running in no time at all.

To find out more, contact us today.

Lee Harvey

Lee Harvey

Lee is an experienced computer repair engineer and operates across Cornwall from his base in St Austell.

Computer Repair Cornwall

About Lee Harvey

We offer full diagnostics and repair of any make and model of desktop or laptop computer as well as any software repairs on tablet computers.

Enquire Today

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