Sunday, August 10, 2014

How to replace a CPU Fan

Replacing a CPU fan is probably the most fun thing you can do with your computer.  Ok, maybe not, but it is an occasional maintenance task that there doesn't seem to be too much detailed information about on the internet.  I recently had to replace one and here are the steps I took.

1. Preparation

I needed the following items:
  • The new fan (obviously)
    • I won't discuss choices or pros/cons here
  • Thermal Paste
    • I use Arctic Silver 5 like everyone else in the world, but my understanding is it's all a scam and they're all basically the same
  • Something to apply the Thermal Paste with
    • I used the edge of a credit card but people use business cards and other things that look like credit cards
  • A phillips head screwdriver
    • For opening the case, removing the old fan and securing the new on
  • Pure (ish) alcohol
    • This is for removing the old thermal paste
    • I used cheap 91% isopropyl alcohol from CVS
  • Something to apply the alcohol with
    • I used Q-Tips but people use coffee filters or lint-free rags or whatever

2. Open the case

 Obvious, but I had a picture so here we are.

3. Unscrew the old CPU Fan

I used a regular phillips head screw driver for this.  After it was done you could see a grimy mess of Thermal Paste on the CPU.

4. Remove the old Thermal Paste

I dipped a Q-Tips in the isopropyl alcohol and used it to wipe away the thermal paste.  As the Q-Tip got gunky I threw it away, dipped a new one in the isopropyl alcohol and repeated until the CPU was clean

5. Have a beer, you're doing great

6. Apply the new Thermal Paste

Start with a small dab the size of a pea in the center.

 Then use a credit card or some thin flat longish tool to spread it out evenly across the whole CPU.

 7. Install the new CPU Fan

 The fan should come with instructions on the details for adding backing plates or tighening bolts or whatever.  In my case I'm using a stock fan replacement so it's just a simple matter of screwing it directly into the old screw holes.

 8. You're done

 I'd say have a beer but we already covered that in step 5.  You should probably stop drinking now and do something productive like turn on your computer.


  1. i've been waiting for this instructional. question -- what is a cpu fan?

    1. lol - it's the thing that cheers on your CPU when it's feeling low.

  2. I always just smear the thermal paste with the bottom of the heatsink. Seems a little precious to smooth it with a card

    1. I've always heard it has to be carefully and evenly applied but I don't have any science to say there's something wrong with a smear.