How To Clean Laptop Fans

Chris Campbell01 Mar 2022

Cooling systems for CPUs and internal components are standard in all laptops. Processors do millions of computations each second, each of which necessitates the use of electrical charges. If not adequately cooled, the processor will overheat after some time.

Fans are commonly used in laptops to cool components that may otherwise overheat. A laptop will usually utilize one or two fans to cool the primary CPU and graphics chip. Many designs employ a heat pipe system that reduces heat from these components, with a single fan cooling a heatsink connected to the heat pipes. The heatsink will have several fins to disperse heat, and dust might accumulate between these fins, drastically lowering cooling performance.

There's little room for ventilation because everything is packed so closely to make the laptop as small as possible. As a result, even minor levels of dirt and dust might impair the cooling system's performance.

If your laptop's fan is spinning louder or more frequently than normal, or if it just won't turn off at all, it's time for some much-needed cleaning.

How To Clean Laptop Fans Without Taking Them Apart

Your laptop might be choking. Laptops, you see, could collect a lot of dust. Dust is considerably more damaging in a laptop since everything is so densely packed together. So when cooling fans have to run all the time, it's only a matter of time before the laptop overheats. When this happens, the laptop may freeze, the components could be damaged, or worse, it could cause a crash.

A laptop fan is usually utilized as an air circulation tool to cool down the inside of your laptop from extreme heat accumulation. The blades will rotate, directing hot air away from the components. The collection of dust and dirt particles on your laptop fan can gradually reduce the airflow speed. This may cause your laptop to overheat, resulting in a considerable performance slowdown in most circumstances, or an actual crash if the accumulation is extreme.

Do you need to clean your fans but are worried about destroying them? Not to worry! You can clean your laptop fans without dismantling them. One of the most effective ways to clean laptop fans is to soak a cotton swab or Q-tip in rubbing alcohol:

  • Turn off the laptop and disconnect it from the power source.
  • Then, turn it over and take out the battery.
  • Seek the air vent on the laptop's exterior edge.
  • Then, using the cotton swab or Q-tip, remove any dust or dirt from the accessible air vents or fan blades.
  • Lastly, for about 10 seconds, blow air using your mouth over the laptop fan by around an inch away.
  • This should help remove any dust particles left over by the rubbing alcohol, allowing your laptop to run smoothly.

How To Clean Laptop Fans With Compressed Air

If you're not sure about taking apart your laptop, you can always use a can of compressed air to clean your laptop fans. Because the air within a compressed air can is dust-free, it is great for cleaning the dust from the inside of a laptop, including the fan. These canisters are often affordable and can be found at most electronics stores, as well as pharmacies and dollar stores.

A word of caution though that a can of compressed air is not exactly eco-friendly. Each can is constructed of metal and plastic that has been fused, and they are not usually easily recyclable.

Here's how to use compressed air to clean your laptop fans:

  • If your laptop is charging, turn it off and unhook it from the power source.
  • Take out the laptop's battery if possible.
  • Find your laptop's fan intake vents. They are often located on the underside of laptops, however, this varies depending on the brand and model. If you are unsure, review your manual or the manufacturer's website.
  • Point the compressed air nozzle at the intake vent, but don't push too far inside and only release a short burst of air. Pick another vent and repeat the process. Blow pressurized air straight onto the fan blades if you have the option.
  • If your laptop fan is exceptionally filthy or blocked with dust, blowing compressed air via the exhaust vents might also be useful. These are often located on the side or back of the laptop.
  • When you power on your laptop again, you may see some dust being expelled from it as a result of the compressed air. 
  • For thorough cleaning, shut it down and follow the same steps again.

How To Clean Laptop Fans Without Compressed Air

To avoid dust collection, your laptop fans should be cleaned regularly. The process for cleaning with compressed air is straightforward, but we don't recommend this since the pressure can't always be controlled. It could irreparably damage your fans, not to mention that compressed air cans are bad for the environment.

However, all is not lost. You can still clean your laptop fans even without compressed air but keep in mind that this process is much more hands-on and requires tearing down the laptop, which may void your warranty and risk damaging the laptop. Only proceed if you're confident about taking it apart.

To do so: 

  • Turn off your laptop and disconnect it from its charger. 
  • Take out the battery next.
  • Find a breakdown guide for your laptop on iFixit if possible. Alternatively, check your manual or the manufacturer's website for instructions on how to disassemble your laptop brand or model.
  • Find and loosen the screws on the laptop's underside.
  • Remove the underside panel while being careful not to harm any ribbon wires. Detach them if needed and use a heat source to soften any adhesive.
  • Find the laptop fan and, if using a lint-free cloth, wipe and clear any visible dust or dirt.
  • Use that same cloth to clear any extra dust from your laptop's heat sink if it is accessible.
  • Reinsert the back panel, tighten all screws and reattach the wires.

Your laptop fans will inevitably accumulate a significant amount of dust over time. Cleaning your laptop regularly is a wise practice, but you don't have to do it all the time. How frequently you should clean your laptop depends on your laptop and how dusty your surroundings may be.

Chris Campbell

Chris Campbell

Thanks for reading! I'm Chris, an avid tech fanatic that enjoys keeping up with the latest laptop models. Hopefully my tips & tricks can help you out!

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