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Gaming components

How many fans does a gaming PC need?

The main boss everyone fears: heat. A case needs proper cooling to give the desired gameplay output and fans are the most important part for cooling a case. So, how many do you need?

You’re concerned about whether your GPU can give you the FPS you want and whether your hardware inside the case will be able to give you the smooth gameplay that we both know you deserve. And you want to know how many fans for a computer? Well, the answer isn’t very simple.

We’re going to specifically talk about how many fans does a case need for good gameplay.

Note that good GPUs have their own fans and we’re not incorporating those in our discussions. Case fans are strictly the fans that you put on the case or cabinet.

The bottom line

The bottom line is that any gaming computer must have at least two fans on the case. If you have a mid-tier GPU and you’re going to play games that aren’t very demanding, then the bare minimum you need is just one, but a high-speed one.

For more hardcore gaming, you need to change your perspective from “how many fans” to “how efficient airflow system” you want. More on that below.

It’s important to understand that different types of fans provide different levels of cooling. High-speed fans with metal blades are much more efficient and long-lasting, for example. Fan positioning is also very important for proper airflow and cooling.

Those spinning Beyblades need to be positioned well and be high-quality to supply the proper cooling and airflow.

How many fans can your case fit?

This is the primary consideration. Cases are limited as to how many fans they can fit. Yes, you can manually create space but that’s a niche skill. For the most part, there are designated spaces for putting fans that you’re limited to.

If you have a portable, light case then it’s probably very compact and can’t fit multiple fans. On the other hand, specialized gaming cases are designed to not only hold the biggest GPUs and motherboards but also include 4-5 fans very efficiently.

So, if you already have a case, read the bottom-line section again.

It’s more about how much airflow do you need

At the very basic level, the inside of a case is a system. And it’s not about how many fans you need but how much airflow do you need. Depending on the case design, the games you play, the settings you play at, the GPU and processor you have, etc. — you’ll find sometimes it’s more about the air circulation and not the number of fans.

The Obsidian Series™ 750D Airflow Edition Full Tower ATX Case from Corsair is prebuilt to maximize airflow so players don’t just depend on “how many fans it has” and succumb to the heat. Image taken from Corsair website.

Negative pressure

So, it’s a system.

A system can have too much heat when you have dust-caked components, slow fans, and a high-end GPU. Will getting two exhaust fans solve the problem? Not quite.

When you have two fans pushing the hot air out way too fast, the system inside the case will develop negative pressure. Sort of like a vacuum, but not quite an actual one.

In that case, you’re supposed to add intake fans. These fans are ideally placed on the front, taking in room temperature air. The exhaust fans ideally sit on the back panel, pushing hot air from inside the system out.

Exhaust + intake = perfect case system

A user on Overclock had posted this years ago. Essentially, Will made his side and front fans intake fans and the top fan an exhaust. A setup like this ensures proper airflow. Instead of top, you might go for a back panel exhaust only (especially if your case sits in a place where the top area is blocked).

So, the bottom line remains the same. Two fans are the ideal recommendation for most gaming computers. But it’s not just two exhausts. One exhaust and one intake combined.

Sure, two intakes and two exhausts will be even better. If you’re struggling with the heat, go for 2+2. It will make your case at least 3 degrees cooler. However, after that point, it won’t be about quantity anymore.

In simpler terms, 2+2 will reduce your case system temperature by 3-4 degrees. But 4+4 fans won’t double that. A total of 8 fans will give a marginal temperature improvement over 4.

If the 2+2 system is still hot, you need to look elsewhere.

What is “elsewhere”?

Oil/immersive cooling, water cooling, a barebones chassis, and hat-less components, manually setting up components on some structure that’s not a closed cabinet, building a complex heat sink network, the choices are endless.

If all fails, I am pretty sure you’re dealing with a server and not a gaming PC – invest in liquid nitrogen cooling or move to the North Pole. Expert advice, I’ve been there. Caution: The polar bears are good company, but they’ll cheat in PUBG.

Facebook's data center in Sweden
Facebook’s data center in Sweden. Ultimate cooling. No need of fans.

By Earl "sloth" Richards

Earl is a big-time FPS lover. Since his childhood, he has found peace amid the sounds of bullets and explosions. Currently a Legendary Eagle Master in CS:GO, he fails to believe anything can be superior to his beloved title (except, of course, being a Supreme Master First Glass or a Global Elite). He’s recently got his shooting skills more versatile by becoming quite the professional in Rainbow Six Siege and Overwatch as well.