Repair your noisy CPU and system fans

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#1 06-25-2006 nork, TechSpot Booster

Repair your noisy CPU and system fans
This is a fix that will last for a long, long time.

Buy some graphite powder and some oil at an auto or hardware store. They come in different packages. For oil, the best is the pen-type as they are easy to handle and only give a small amount at a time. Just about any oil in a pen format will work fine. The graphite powder comes in small plastic tubes. But make sure you get graphite powder, not graphite oil, its too thin for this job! So you need graphite powder in a small tube and oil in a round "pen" that can be squeezed out and placed just where you need it. Also, when the oil is used up in the "pen" you can open it and add your own oil.

First, clean the fan blades off real well. If you have a heatsink with the fan then clean the heatsink off as well. You can even use a bit of your oil and some q-tips for cleaning if needed. Then, take the small circle, it usually has a name on it, but its in the middle of the fan. Peel one edge up carefully and put a very small amount of oil in where you lifted the label up. Now add some graphite powder in the same place where you put the oil, add as much or a bit more of the graphite powder than the oil. Clean off excess oil and graphite and push the label back where it was. You may need a very small amount of duct tape to hold the label in position and to prevent leakage. This is important if the fan is going to "sit up" as opposed to lying flat.

Now put the fan back where you want it and when it starts spinning it may be noisy for a few seconds until the graphiteoil works its way in. Then it will stop and it will stay stopped for many years and you may very well not need to buy a new fan after all!

I experimented a lot with this and this is the very best way to quiet all those fans and have them work well. I have always been a big fan of those removable ide hard drive trays that you can buy. But the fans are the pits, they get noisy real fast. So i had to find a way to fix them as they are very expensive and hard to replace. Now i dont have to. Combo of oil and graphite is the very best, by far. One caution, graphite stains worse than oil, so be careful! Im talking about staining your clothes and hands.

You can use this system with all cpu fans, video card fans, system fans, and even fans inside power supplies. But one word of caution, its easy to open a power supply and take out the fan, but do be careful as there are voltages there can can hurt you badly. If you dont know what you are doing then wear rubber gloves to get the fan out and to put the fan back in after the repair!

Trust me, this will work. If the fan spins my method will work for years and I have even fixed fans that were stuck and wouldnt spin! This is better done with the fan on the table but in those cases where you cant or dont want to take the fan out of the system, thats where the "pen" with the needle comes in again, but i still find a way to get some graphite in as well, graphite is what makes the oil last a long time! And graphite is also an oil, but you need both together for maximum effectiveness. Oil by itself will only last a few weeks or so and then evaporate, and the fan will get noisy again. Its the graphite powder that does the long term job. The oil really only helps to spread the graphite powder around really well so the graphite can do the job!

Nothing, or at least not any common, inexpensive oil works as good as graphite powder. When i first started mentioning this at other forums i was surprised that not too many people knew about graphite powder. I actually found out about graphite at an auto forum. They use it in place of grease to reduce friction. And since it works in heavy duty applications, you can bet it certainly reduces friction in small itens like pc fans. I guarantee that if you try it you will never wanna be without graphite powder.

Another thing it does. If you cant get a part to fit in, instead of using vaseline or some other lubricant, use graphite powder. The only thing, as i said above, it does stain, so you have to be careful with it, wipe up any spills, etc. And, in some cases, you might want to use it with a touch of oil, just enuf to help spread the graphite powder around a bit better and faster.

It works on all fans, ball-bearing or otherwise, as it reduces friction and acts the same as any regular lubricant or oil only it does a superior job at the outset and outlasts plain oil by, well, years in some cases. Let me put it this way. As i stated i had been having problems with those small fans that are commonly found in the rear of ide trays. I would oil them and a few weeks to a month later the noisy fan would be right back. Thats when i tried graphite. First i tried graphite oil and that worked better than plain oil. Then i tried graphite powder and voila! The fan was good after a month, 2 months, and so on. By then i had experimented with putting a small amount of oil in and then adding some graphite powder.

I have some ide tray fans that have been going for years now with nary a squeel. Same thing goes for case fans, power supply fans, any fans.

Now the second part of your question i am not really in a position to answer, unless you count a guess as an answer. I dont think that graphite powder is a conductor, otherwise i think i would have run into trouble doing what i do.

And believe me when i tell you, i have a whole ton of computer equipment, not to mention the fact that i have half a dozen pcs at any given time. In addition i use about a half dozen ide trays, another half dozen or so usb and firewire boxes, some of which have those same fans. And I do all the repairs and upgrades for a lot of people i know and I have fixed many a squeaky fan and never have i had a return, lol. Also, on the conductive thing, i have never had a problem there either, so i dont think it is conductive material. But i could be wrong. Good point too!

The nice thing is that you can pick up a tube of graphite powder and try my idea out for yourself, lol. Heck, we all have oil around, and we all have duct tape, so all thats missing is the graphite powder which you can get at hardware or auto store for around $2.

I already know the results but i still would like to hear from those of you who try it out for yourselves. I wanna hear you say that you tried it out and the fan was noisy for about 5 seconds then got quieter and quieter. And then i can hear from you 6 months down the road that old once noisy fan is still working fine, lol. If you do it like i said it will work. Ive done so many of them.

Another thing, i think that once you reduce solid graphite to an oil type substitute that is suspended in other material, that there is likely other properties to it that make it less conductive. I can tell you i have done a ton of fans and never a problem, so i dont worry about that anymore.


Well, i did post a warning about this in my tutorial. Its the end of the 4th paragraph. That said, heres what i would do.

Since this is an oil-based stain, you need an oil-based cleaner. So i would get out some baby oil or any other clear oil and rub that into the stain. Then take a clean cloth and try to "lift" the graphite out of the clothes.

Then i would add some laundry pre-wash or pre-soak and let it sit for a while and wash separately on heavy cycle with some regular detergent.

This may or may not work as i cant remember what i did last time i got graphite on my clothes. But next time, after you have done a fan repair, wash your hands first before you put your hands on your husband and then you wont get graphite on him!! (This is a joke, i think, i imagine it was your husland who was messing around with the graphite?).

The only other thing i can say is to keep trying but you do want to remember that you have to use an oil-based solution to lift or move the graphite out and then use prewash and detergent to get the clear oil-based solution out of the cloth.

Almost all stains are either oil-based or water-based. That means that the product that caused the stain was produced with or has either water in it or oil in it. The easiest explanation is with paints and stains and varnishes.
Most paints these days are water-based whereas most stains and varnishes are oil-based, although these days they have come up with water-based stains and varnishes.
A water-based stain will take water and some other detergent(or other water-based or water-activated product) to clean it.
An oil-based stain will mainly take an oil-based product to clean it but after that you need a detergent or pre-soak, and usually both, to get the rest of the oil out.
Thats why i suggested a clear oil-based product to get as much of the graphite out as possible. After you have done that, there is still oil in the clothing so that is when you use scrubbing, pre-soak, and detergent to get the rest of the oil out.

For the rest of us, take care when using graphite as it is messy. I dont use graphite oil because of that, its too runny. Graphite powder is thicker and does a better job anyway. We run into the same cleaning problem when we get thermal paste on our fingers and transfer it to our clothes and other items. Again, wash it off with clear oil. Dont use water. I keep lamp oil on hand for these jobs as its cheap to buy. But you can use baby oil, lamp oil, kerosene and even gasoline, lighter fluid, varsol, turpentine, etc to remove oil but i find that lamp oil is best for in-home use. But these items mentioned are all oil-based products.

I mentioned thermal paste and then all the oil-based products to remove thermal paste. That's fine and they work, but so does 90% pure rubbing alcohol and dont use the other products to remove thermal paste from cpu's or other electronic parts, only use rubbing alcohol.

So, again, i was only talking about removing thermal paste from hands, furniture, plastic, vinyl, cloth, etc, not computer parts!

The only reason i found out was that i have used those ide removable trays. I put one drive with win xp pro on it and another removable tray with, say, win 98se, and even another with a backup of win xp pro on it and a backup of 98se. As it turns out these trays are great but most of them have these very small fans that are cheap but replacing them is very expensive. I started out with plain oil but i found that in a month the fans were squealing again. So i started toying around other lubricants. I tried lighter oils, heavier oils, i tried greases such as wheel bearing grease, etc, etc. Finally i bought a tube of graphite powder and it worked great. 2 months go by and still no noise from the fans in my removables. So i experimented with graphite oil (not as good) and settled on the powder. So use either the powder alone or the powder with just a smidge of any clear oil, but just a smidge, just enough to move the powder around so it gets everywhere its needed.

Result: no more fan noise!

I hope lots of people try it. You can pick up a tube of graphite powder for about $3 or so and theres enough to fix maybe 100 fans or more. Course it works on noisy and sticky doors in the house, anything that needs to slide like windows in wood and aluminum frames. I got an email from a person who used it to fix a sticky key on an old favorite keyboard. It works on just about anything, but, again, be careful as it does stain so its hard to get it out of clothes.

Powdered graphite is powdered graphite so it should work, unless its adulterated with some other chemicals or agents. But as long as it only powdered graphite then it will work. You could make a business out of selling it if you get so much for free as you only need the smallest amount to repair a noisy fan. I would say that if there were no spillage or wasting when applied then you could fix 20 to 30 fans from a level teaspoon of it!

I dont have experience with that cooler, but a fan is a fan, so the graphite would likely work. It certainly wont do any harm if you pack the graphite in the right place. The fan may be made to be loud and thus not affected by the graphite or maybe the fan is not so great and then the graphite will eliminate the noise, or reduce it greatly.

It really does work so its worth a try, and it wont do any harm to the fan even if it doesnt take care of the noise so you cant lose by trying. Hope to hear from you that you did and it works!

Really, you can use just about any clear oil that is not thick. For instance, standard motor oil would work but my guess is that it might be better to go with clearer oil that is not any thicker than motor oil and probably thinner is best. You can get a small can of sewing machine oil with a needle type end on it. Personally i find that sewing machine oil is too thin, but again, it will work. Problem is that it wont work for that long, the oil will dissipate due to the heat in the fan assembly and you end up back at square one with a noisy fan.

I am pretty sure that somewhere in this thread i pointed out that one good source of oil is the pen-barrel type. Now that is my description of it so let me explain. Its a clear, round tube, about the same thickness of a pen and maybe 4 inches or so long. One end has a needle on it. The needle may have a cap on it but when you take the cap off you find a needle. The needle is there to help you place the oil exactly where you want it to go. You squeeze the tube and oil comes out the end of the needle. Also, you can refill this tube with other oil.

To me, any fairly clear to amber oil will do, within reason. It just cant be too thick. But again, even motor oil will work fine. But you would have to put the motor oil into the empty barrel of the pen-barrel oil stick that i am talking about.

This post is bound to get a few replies. It shouldnt, though, because its not really that big an issue what oil you use as the graphite is far more important. So standard, common sense should prevail here.

The oil only spreads the graphite around faster. But only use powdered graphite, not graphite oil as this oil is way too thin to be of any lasting goodness, this oil will evaporate in a few days. Use powdered graphite and you can use only the powder, you dont even have to use oil. If you are only going to use one thing, use the graphite!

I dont think there is such a thing as graphite vaseline so i imagine you meant to print graphite and vaseline?
On very worn fans you must use graphite, but on only lightly worn fans you can get away with greases and oils. However, the fix wont last as long and sooner or later the fan gets noisy again. But if you fix a fan once with graphite powder you usually dont have to fix it the second time. Thats the key to all this, graphite not only does a better job but it also lasts longer. But that isnt to say that oil or grease wont work. They will work, just not as good or as long as graphite.

Its easy to imagine why once you have tried to use powdered graphite as you will find that it goes into the pores of the skin on your finger and you can feel that it is very very slick. And it goes into all pores, wether its the pores on the skin on your finger or the pores of the plastic of metal of the fan blades. or on the ball bearings or sleeves inside the fan. Either way, once you handle this stuff you realize why and how it works so well. A caution again, you dont want to get this stuff on your best jeans, lol.

Graphite Vaseline would certainly do the job. However, i have repaired a whole lot of fans and i have found that there should be a lot of graphite and only a little oil. In your case it seems its a lot of vaseline and only a little graphite. Yes, it will work, but i just wonder how long? With oil a fan repair either doesnt work or only lasts a while as the oil burns off in the heat. So i expect that the vaseline will burn off as well. It may take longer, a month or more, but i expect it will burn off as well. But i dont know that for sure so it would be good to hear from you in a few months.

But again, any oil will oil a fan and will help most fans but it wont last, it will burn off. But graphite doesnt burn off and graphite binds much better than oil and is even more slippery than oil. There is a term for "slippery" that i just cant think of at the moment, but it just means that the fan will work better with less noise. One such term, if i recall, would be "drag co-efficient" but we dont need to get that technical here, lol.

Personally, i will stick with using either all graphite powder or almost all graphite powder and a small bit of oil as i have had such great success with this method. But others may want to know where to get this vaseline with graphite. The only problem i see is that you have quoted its 99% vaseline so its only 1% graphite. To be sure, in my mind, thats not near enough graphite. The repair will work, but for how long. And it will work for a noisy fan but will it work for an old fan that really needs attention, and, again, for how long? These are all things that will have to be answered, whereas, with the powdered graphite, i waited for a couple years of testing before i gave out this info to the public so that it could be guaranteed.

supersmashbrada, although i am not really surprised that is one heck of a difference you are reporting. I certainly believe it as i have repaired some pretty beat up fans and reduced sound by quite a bit, i just dont have the measurement capabilities of CMH.

Either way, this graphite is a powerful substance. It beats oil as a repair material very badly, and look at how many fans we use, case fans, cpu fans, video card fans (these can really benefit from a graphite application), bridge fans, removable drive fans, hard drive fans, and even power supply fans. But one has to be really careful with power supply fans as you can get a shock very easily, so first find out how to do this. On the other hand, i have repaired many power supply fans so the power supply could keep on trucking!

And as for oil, its not really needed. I refer to supersmashbrada's post, just above, all he used was the graphite. Graphite is the main ingredient needed to repair a fan for a long time. Oil, vaseline, or anything else, can only help to spread the graphite around. I should have said, in my first post, to try graphite without oil first. If that fails, add a small touch of oil. That is really the best way to go. Some fans, you cant quite get at the bearings or sleeves that easy. But, supersmashbrada was able to get directly at the bearings on his fan so the graphite worked fine without any oil.

I am going to amend my thread when i put it up again some other place, just so people understand that what is needed is 99% to 100% graphite, with or without a small bit of oil, if needed.

This is my opinion, from my experience over the years.

I am waiting to hear from people who used graphite 6 months ago and their fans are still working fine. Now, of course, this wont work on every fan. Some fans get really bad before they start making a lot of noise. When you repair a very worn out fan its not too likely to last a real long time. But when you add graphite to a fairly new fan that is just a bit noisy, well, that repair will last for years. I know, i have fans on my 5 year old system that i repaired once with graphite.

Another thing, which i am sure that others can back me up on. Those cases we buy that you put a hard drive in, they have usb and or firewire connections on them. Some have fans and these fans are very expensive to replace and they almost always start making a ton of noise. Now, when i buy a new case, i immediately add graphite to the fan before i even start it up for the first time. And i do that with most fans as it will extend their life if you add graphite to them when new. I should put that in my first thread i suppose, i just dont like to appear to pushy or seem to be going overboard with this. But i just know how well it works. I have saved some really worn out fans over the years i can tell you that much.

It really does work and its even good for the fans on those expensive video cards too! I have had emails from people specifically saving their video card fans!

I know it works but i am really glad to see others trying it and reporting success.

Now i have taken up the habit of applying my "fix" on all fans i get before i even start using them. My thoughts are that this will work even better as it will prevent any wear and tear right from the start. This graphite, if you get some on your fingers, you can see why it works so well because when you rub one finger on the other you dont get any friction at all. Its a tremendous product! And, as i said in my original post, its better than oil as a lubricant, but it also lasts a lot longer as it doesnt dissipate with heat the way that plain oil does. So there are several reasons for using graphite powder.

I use it when i get a new lawnmover as the wheels dont wear out like they used to and i use it on almost anything i buy that has wheels or any parts that can wear out! I find that the graphite prevents wear and tear. So you can use this same method on all sorts of things! I hope to hear more stories showing how well it works. The more good reports the more others will use graphite.

And for the naysayers, which hasnt happened yet, but could, i ask you please to not post here. My reason is that one naysayer can turn one person off who would have used my method and i know for a fact it works and doesnt cause any problems at all.

I have repaired quite a few video card fans and we all know how much these video cards cost.

And i have had a ton of feedback from people who have followed my instructions, works all the time. Of course there is always that one fan that is too far gone to repair and i have run into them myself, but its actually fairly rare. My guess is that 98 to 99% of fans will work when done with this method.

I have taken to using my method even on new fans, get them before they go bad and they will last virtually forever. Again very important for vid card fans. Some are hard to open up though.

No, i havent noticed any fan go slower, but i have certainly noticed them going faster.

Thing is, i only use oil to help spread the graphite around and the oil isnt really needed at all, plus the fact that i only use a tiny drop of oil out of a pen-barrel type applicator, it has a needle on the end, so you can imagine how little oil is used.

I know one thing, the oil always dissipates in time anyway and you are left with the graphite powder only, which, long before that, has repaired the fan and its humming along nicely. thats why i said it hardly matters which oil you use as its only a drop to start with. And, again, it dissipates due to heat. I know because the first number of fans i tried to repair worked fine for a while but they all eventually started acting up again(bad little fans) and my repairs only started being permanent when i switched over to graphite powder, just to try it out. Turns out, for many reasons, it was the right choice.

I am only surprised this wasnt real common knowledge and still isnt all that common because i dont read labels, dont know that much about this stuff, only wandered into it by trial and error, lol. I had found it was great on hinges, doors, and stuff like that. So i tried it on a couple fans and found it worked great. After that is when i found out why it worked so well! Heat doesnt dissipate graphite powder like it does with oil and graphite powder is very very slippery, making it a great lubricant.

DO NO USE graphite scrapped off of a pencil. It contains clay which will wear parts out quickly and the repair will not last. The clay will be almost impossible to get rid of

Get the "store-bought" graphite as the graphite would be ground much finer than we can do. I say this because the problem here is that most fans run hot enuf to dissipate any oil or grease that is applied to the moving parts in a fan. The only reason my graphite solution works is because the graphite doesnt dissipate with heat and continues doing the job even after the oil andor grease has stopped doing the job. Put another way, oil and grease will dissapear, leaving only the graphite to do the job. so the graphite better be up to the job and the store-bought type is ground up fine enuf to do the job.

I'm certainly not knocking your solution. Its actually quite ingenious. I hope you post back to tell us if this ingenious remedy of yours works over time. I hope it does! even if it fails the test of time its still a great method to get you up and running while you do the permanent fix!

Since i wrote this article i have serviced a lot of fans. I had one, a fan in a good power supply.
This fan was in real rough shape and i told the fellow this is simply a test as i felt the fan was too far gone. Well the fellow reported back to me a month later that the fan was running just fine. I suspect its still working fine and it's been a long time now.

I've had a few other fans that were real bad, one on a video card. Put another way i havent had one person get back to me that the fan i repaired had gone bad again. Its bound to happen sooner or later, though. This isnt magic, its just that fine powdered graphite is a tremendous lubricant.

I hope more and more people see this and save themselves a lot of money. Especially with video cards. So often i read that the fan on their video card died and they couldnt find a replacement or the replacement cost so much. Quite often the video card fan can be repaired like you did yours. I know that i have repaired quite a few video card fans and some of these video cards cost $200, $300, and more, yet they have fans that wear out pretty fast.

Now there is a fix. I dont like to say that all fans can be repaired but i can say that i have repaired dozens of fans and i havent come across one that i couldnt repair, but i am sure there are some out there, especially the situation where the fan has been running and noisy for a long time in that condition. There is always the chance that the fan is just too far gone already. Sooner or later that will happen as my method is meant to work when a fan just recently becomes noisy, not when its simply too far gone.

Its nice to hear from people who try this and get their video card and other fans back running as they should!

I should point out, and i think i did in my original post, but if not, you can get powdered graphite at any auto parts store, most hardware stores and most big box stores. I dont suggest getting the liquid graphite as i find it too watery, get the powdered graphite because it has the highest concentration of graphite and its the graphite that works long term, not the oil, oil only works on a short term basis and eventually dissipates with heat.

Be careful not to overpay, the places i have mentioned are the places that sell it for just a couple dollars. Sooner or later the computer stores might start selling it but they might up the price, so go to the auto stores and get it cheap.

This is another matter altogether, but i have heard that you can go to auto stores and buy thermal grease real cheap as well. I havent tried that so i cant say anything about it one way or the other, just that i have heard people say that it works just fine on cpu's and such.

I just put a very very small amount of oil in between the blades or wherever i feel the best spot is, sometimes its right near the coil. The point is that you want some oil and graphite to get in between the plastic and metal and sink down deep. I dont know the terminology of the parts, lol. Then i just "puff" in the graphite. The word "puff" is used because when you squeeze on the graphite powder it indeed comes out in a puff. Its a bit hard to control, thats why i mentioned in my original post to be careful, especially if the graphite gets on your clothes. To get graphite off anything but clothes use varsol or turpentine. To get graphite off clothes use the commercial products that you apply to spots on your clothes, that is your best chance, that i know of, to get the stain out.

One nice thing is that i have used this method on a few fans on a few $300 and $400 video cards that were out of warranty. Saves a ton of money and keeps the cards out of the landfills. Whenever i do things i try and save, repair, re-use, whatever method i can employ to keep things out of the landfills. Furniture is SO easy to stain or paint, especially stain, and can so easily be made to look nice again. Its just that some people just dont realize they can do it, and cheaply too. But thats another thread, lol. On with the graphite powder!!

You know, i am getting emails from around the world on this graphite trick. Its really amazing how many people have read this and how many have taken the time to let me know they tried it, and, of course, it worked for them.

I'm not sure about exactly what kind of graphite should be used but I would use a much lighter weight of oil. 30W engine oil is too thick, IMHO. I think you should use a light machine oil or 3-in-one oil or similar.

Hope you do as well as i have with this info!

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