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Why are my GPU fans not spinning?

You need them spinning - that's their one job....

Updated: Apr 19, 2023 9:58 am
Why are my GPU fans not spinning?

So you switched on your shiny new computer only to see a lack of movement from your GPU fans. In some cases, we only notice the fans have stopped working when the graphics card has started to stutter and underperform with games it could previously handle.

Sometimes the fans not spinning can be a fault and not just the video card fans sitting idle, which can be highly frustrating. When you’ve just spent a small fortune on the best GPU, you start to get a bit concerned when the new build isn’t running smoothly.

There are a few ways to solve this problem and the promising news is that it is often a small issue that can be easily fixed, saving you from a costly replacement or upgrade.

How to fix fans not spinning


GPU fans aren’t spinning? – first things to know

You may have come across a term called ‘idle’ whilst searching for a solution to your GPU fans not spinning and that is because it’s a common trait of modern GPUs to sit idle. This means the fans will only start to spin when the GPU temperatures rise to a certain point and there is a need for it, saving power and keeping noise levels down.

To check and see if your fans are just idle and not faulty, start up a game and soon enough when the graphics card is put under a bit of stress the fans should startup. Load up your most graphically demanding game to speed this process up. Or try benchmarking software that will push your GPU like Furmark/3dMark/Unigine.

It is worth installing a program like MSI afterburner as this will allow you to change the fan speed on your GPU and it might be the catalyst to get them going. MSI afterburner is commonly used to overclock the GPU but you can use it for monitoring this too.

At this stage, a complete restart is worth a try. A restart is a go-to fix for a lot of common issues and you would be surprised how often it works. So is reseating the graphics card if you have the knowledge of how to do that.


Other issues that could be stopping the fans from spinning

Sometimes with a fresh build, the odd cable can be loose either because we forgot to plug it in entirely (it happens to us all) or it wasn’t completely ‘seated’.  These can get stuck in and stop your graphics cards fans from spinning.

Disconnect your PC and whip off the side panel to take a look. Remember some lower power GPUs don’t use PCIe power cables as they can run off the power coming through the lane instead.

Whilst you are inside your computer tinkering with cable connections it is worth checking everything is properly plugged in. As well as checking if any of the cables are stuck in your cards fans.

If the PCIe cable is plugged in and your GPU is recognized as connected but the fans are still not spinning, try swapping out the PCIe cable with a spare from your PSU box and re-test. At this stage, if the video cards fans are still not spinning it is going to be a different issue.


Next steps

If you have checked through your cable connections and everything is hooked up as it should be but you still get no fans spinning under load, there are a few other things we can look into next.

It is almost always worth updating drivers when you get a hardware issue as it can resolve the problem with little effort much like a system reboot. Even if you have recently updated the drivers it may be worth deleting them and reinstalling once more just in case something was bugged or corrupted.

For an extra bit of troubleshooting, we can eliminate the possibility this is a motherboard issue by first removing the GPU from the build. Then running the PC with your monitor connected to the motherboard (if your CPU has a video output).

If your PC boots up with no issues then it won’t be a motherboard issue that is stopping the GPU fans from spinning. Or if not you can try reinserting the video card into another PCIe slot.


Clean & maintain

Take out the graphics card and give it a quick dusting so there is nothing physically blocking the GPU fans from spinning (dust & fluff). A dust cloth and your breath may be all you need to get that dust out however a can of compressed air is highly recommended for cleaning PC components. Once the GPU is clean you can reinstall the card, re-cable it, and restart your system. Load up a graphically intensive game and wait for the fans to kick in.

So the card is clean however sometimes with older cards the fan bearings can wear, leaving them a little bit stiffer than when it was fresh out of the factory. With bearings losing lubricant they will have too much friction to work. A bit of oil can sort a mechanical bearing out but you need to make sure it is a lightweight machine oil which is also known as lubricating oil and whatever you don’t use WD40!

To add the oil we need to pop off the fans and to do that you will need a very small screwdriver that can fit in between the blades. Double-check online as to how to remove the fans on your specific graphics card but usually, there are 6-8 screws around the center of the fan which hold it in place.

Once the fans are off, you may need to remove a sticker to get access to the bearings in them. Apply a tiny amount of oil to the center bearings, and only there, be sparing with the oil as you can always add more.

Tip: Blott away excess oil with a tissue once applied as you want a nice coating and not a small puddle.


Test the fans

If you still find your graphics card fans not spinning then test them. If you’re lucky enough that your video card uses standard connectors on its fans, you can take them off to plug them into your motherboard. Then you can test them again and control them through software like Afterburner.

If you still have faults with the fans you have found your issue. If you still have a warranty on your graphics card then use that to get yours fixed. Or if not you can replace the fans yourself. As long as you have the same size and dimensions you can replace them the same way you took the current ones off.

Final thoughts

If none of these solutions worked and your GPU fans are still not spinning but your video card is still under warranty, then it is worth contacting the seller directly to organize an exchange or repair as you clearly have a faulty product. If it is old and way out of its warranty then this may have been your last-ditch attempt to get more out of your graphics card.

You might just have to face the fact it’s time to get something new. Whether you need a low-profile replacement or want the best possible GPU card for your setup, you can check out our guides to finding the best for you. It may be a bad time for this to happen but you tried your best to keep your card going.

GPU fans not spinning FAQs

Why aren’t my GPU fans spinning?

There a plenty of reasons why your GPU fans are not spinning. One reason may be simply a cable or something else jamming your GPU fan. Another reason is that your fans or GPU is on the way out and you might just have to start looking for another if you’re out of warranty.

How do I force my GPU fans to spin?

If your GPU is idle then the fans won’t be spinning, the only thing you need to get that fan spinning is to fire up your favorite game and have a hearty session. As your GPU’s temperature rises, the fans will automatically kick into action. Using a graphically demanding game or benchmarking software will speed up this process.

If you want your GPU fans to spin at all times, you can use MSI Afterburner to tweak your fan’s behavior. Simply find the ‘Fan Speed’ section, then click ‘Manual’. From there you’ll be able to dial in your custom fan curve.

How do I know if my GPU fan is working?

GPU fans aren’t known for being the quietest things in the world, so a surefire way to test if yours are working is to throw on your most graphically dense game, and play it on the highest settings. Or some intense software like Furmark or Unigine.

Before much time has passed, you should hear what sounds like a plane taking off in the room. Don’t worry, it’s not a plane; it’s your GPU fans. If you’ve got a top-of-the-range case with a tempered glass panel or two, it might be best to leave it open, so you can hear clearly.

If the hearing test doesn’t suit you, you can just use software to monitor your temperatures and fan speeds. Such software you can try are HWInfo, Rivatuner, or included monitoring in Radeon and Geforce software.

And if your fans use standard PWM connectors you can test them separately from your GPU. Plugging them into your motherboard or fan splitter will let you test them on their own so you can find the real cause.

How do I know if my GPU is dying?

If your GPU is walking the valley of death, there’ll be a few tell-tale signs:

  • Crashing – If your GPU seems to be doing a sterling job one moment, then seconds later, your PC crashes and won’t reboot, there’s a good chance your GPU is giving up the silicone ghost.
  • Excessive Glitching and On-Screen Artifacts – Noticing that your games are glitching out more than they used to? Or do you see more artifacts and defects on the screen? This could be another sign your GPU is not long for this world.
  • Abnormal Performance – Sometimes rising temperatures can just mean it’s time to replace the thermal paste on your GPU, but occasionally, the paste isn’t the problem. High temperatures and erratic fan behavior and noise can be symptomatic of a GPU about to kick the bucket.

Is it bad to have GPU fans running all the time?

There’s nothing immediately wrong with keeping your GPU fans running all the time, even if they’re set to 100%. You get the option to run them this way because they’re designed to handle the workload. That said, after years of constant spinning, the bearings and motor will start to wear, but by that point, you’ll be well overdue an upgrade anyway.

Having your fans running constantly will help to keep your GPU temps way below average, which is great, but if you like peace and quiet, we can’t recommend it. Constant fans are an extremely noisy prospect even if you have a case with tempered glass paneling. If you mostly game-wearing headphones and a directional mic, it’s not such a problem, but in any other circumstance, it’s not all that practical.

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