How to Control a Laptop Fan

By Scott Shpak

Fan speed is a background element of your laptop's performance -- until noise or dangerous heat buildup catches your attention. Faster fan speeds improve cooling while slower speeds are less noisy. Depending on your specific laptop's design, you may have some control over how your laptop fan is activated, either through BIOS settings, operating system power profiles or third-party fan control software.

Reasons to Adjust Fan Speed

Keeping your laptop cool is a prudent way to improve operation and extend its life. Heat is generated by laptop machinery, particularly when using software that puts a heavy strain on the processor. Overriding system settings to operate the fan constantly at full speed may keep overall temperatures lower over a longer time. When heat buildup is not a consideration, turning down the fan speed may reduce distraction from noise.

Adjust Fan Speed in BIOS

Your laptop's basic input/output system is the base level operating system allowing computer operation below the working operating system, such as Windows 8.1 or Linux. You can access BIOS settings when starting your laptop by pressing the appropriate key indicated on screen, usually "Delete," "Escape" or "F10." Fan control will be on an advanced setup or configuration submenu. Depending on your computer make and model, you may be able to disable system control and force your fan to run at full speed by default.

Using Windows Power Plan Settings

Some laptops have heat sensors and fan controllers built in. You can choose fan control modes in your Windows Power Plan settings. Select the power icon in the notification area and click "More power options." Click "Change plan settings," then "Change advanced power settings." In the Processor power management submenu, you will find the "System cooling policy" option, if your laptop is equipped with heat sensors. Selecting "Active" runs your fan more frequently, at lower temperatures; "Passive" leaves the fan off until the laptop reaches a higher temperature.

Third-Party Fan Control

Laptops with heat sensors and fan controllers can also use third-party utility software to monitor system temperature and control fan speed. Programs such as SpeedFan and Asus FanXpert+ (for Windows) and smcFanControl (for MacBooks) allow you to watch the status of temperature sensors in your laptop and control fan speed and activation points. Fan controlling software takes advantage of 4-pin fans that use pulse width modulated voltages to respond to temperature changes. Not all laptops have controllable fans.