GPU Fans Not Spinning – How To Fix (or doesn’t it need fixing?)

CG Director Author Alex Glawionby Alex Glawion   /  Published 

GPU fans not spinning can cause all sorts of problems, from overheating and damaging the GPU to good old thermal throttling.

GPU Fan MSI RTX 3090 SUPRIM X 24G

Image Credit: MSI

No matter what your workloads look like, addressing the issues of GPU fans not working properly should be on top of your to-do list.

But first, let’s figure out if the fans are even supposed to spin:

Perhaps Your GPU Fans Don’t Need Fixing

A common reason why the GPU fans aren’t running is that it’s in idle mode.

If that’s the case, you don’t need to do any further examinations as the card’s fans are likely to start spinning as soon as the GPU’s load starts ramping up.

How to check whether or not your GPU’s fans aren’t spinning because it’s in idle mode?

It’s simple – the easiest way is to check your GPU’s temperature with its driver software or a third-party tool like Open Hardware Monitor.

If it’s below a certain threshold, let’s say 50C, then the default fan curve might be the reason why the fans are not spinning.

But, as soon as there’s load that puts strain on the GPU, it will heat up and cause the fan curve settings to activate the fans.

My current fan curve settings

Screenshot of my fan curve settings in AMD Radeon Software

If you’re an advanced user, both Nvidia and AMD allow you to adjust fan curve settings through their driver software, GeForce Experience, and Radeon Software respectively.

GPU Fans Not Working – Causes and Solutions

To properly address GPU Fans not spinning even though they’re supposed to, we need to look at the most common causes and the easiest solutions:

Dust Build-Up on the GPU Fan Blades

Here’s the most common cause of GPU fans not spinning – dust!

After prolonged use, dust and debris can build up inside the heatsink and go all the way up to block the blades from spinning up.

How is that possible? How can a bit of dust prevent fans from spinning?

After all, we’re talking about powerful fans with several thousand RPM…

Yes, GPU fans are powerful, but they have extremely low torque meaning even the slightest obstacle can immobilize the blades and prevent them from starting up.

Solution – Thoroughly Clean the Insides of your PC and GPU

This goes without saying – if you haven’t cleaned your GPU or PC in a while and you’ve noticed the fans are either not spinning or creating weird noises while ramping up, then you’re in for a belated cleaning session.

A can of compressed air is your best friend for this sort of thing. Use it to clean all dust off the blades and the heatsink.

GPU Fan Cleaning Tips

Take the entire PC, remove the side panel and clean it outside so you don’t blow the dust into your room.

Cable Management Issues

Cables blocking the blades is another very common reason why the GPU fans aren’t spinning.

As explained earlier, it only takes a small obstacle to prevent these low-torque fans from ramping up, so cables blocking them is a common issue.

Solution – Move interfering cables

This one is pretty straightforward – just make sure there are no cables near the fans and that’s it.

If there are – either invest some time into better management or force them out of the way with a zip tie or two.

Mechanical Failure

If you’ve already:

  • cleaned the insides of the heatsink and fans
  • ensured there are no foreign bodies stuck in between the blades
  • ensured the fan cables are properly connected
  • double-checked that the fan curve isn’t causing the issue

Then I am afraid you’re dealing with a mechanical failure.

Solution – Replace the Fan

If nothing else works out, I’m afraid you will have to replace the fan.

If you know your way around PC hardware, you can just order the part online and do it yourself.

If you’d rather not touch an expensive piece of equipment like a GPU, you can always send it in to an authorized service center.

If your card is still under warranty, you can RMA it and either get a brand-new one or get the issue fixed free of charge.

Summary

If you’ve just noticed your GPU fans aren’t spinning even under load, there’s a good chance something’s not right.

If you’ve also noticed your GPU is overheating, then you have a serious problem on your hands.

Thoroughly clean the fan blades; remove dust and debris stuck inside and make sure there are no loose cables stuck between the blades, preventing the fans from spinning.

Another thing worth checking, even if you’ve already done high-load tests, is to double-check that your fan curve isn’t set to 0% all the way through.

It’s an unlikely scenario, but still – it’s better to double-check than to buy a new GPU fan.

If you’ve checked all of the above and your GPU is still overheating and its fans aren’t spinning, I’m afraid you’re looking at a mechanical failure.

This means you’ll have to:

  • A – RMA it if it is still under warranty
  • B – order new fans for your GPU
  • C – send your GPU to a licensed service provider

FAQ

Can GPU fans not spinning cause overheating?

Yes, if your GPU fans aren’t spinning properly, which can be a result of a number of things, then your GPU can start overheating.

You must get to the bottom of the issue and figure out why the fans aren’t spinning, so you can work on the solution.

In some cases, though, idling GPU fans won’t cause overheating.

How is that possible? Well, if the card is in idle mode (f.e. >50c), its fans won’t start spinning until the GPU temperature goes above the threshold.

Can GPU fans not spinning cause thermal throttling?

It depends on the reason why they’re not spinning.

If it’s a mechanical failure, dust debris build-up, or a stuck cable, then the GPU is likely to thermal throttle under heavy loads.

What is Thermal Throttling

The same goes for custom fan curves that weren’t properly tested or straight-up copied from the internet.

Do GPU fans always spin?

No, GPU fans don’t always spin.

The fans will only start spinning once the GPU has reached a certain temperature.

Prior to that, the fans will stay put, as the card’s heatsink will be enough to provide proper heat alleviation for light(er) loads.

When do GPU fans start spinning?

As soon as the load increases, the card’s temperature will ramp up and the fans will turn on to lower it.

This is controlled by the card’s fan curve which can be adjusted through the AMD/Nvidia driver software.

Over to You

Are you having trouble with your GPU? Leave a comment below or on our forum and let me know if you have any questions.

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Alex Glawion - post author

Hi, I’m Alex, a Freelance 3D Generalist, Motion Designer and Compositor.

I’ve built a multitude of Computers, Workstations and Renderfarms and love to optimize them as much as possible.

Feel free to comment and ask for suggestions on your PC-Build or 3D-related Problem, I’ll do my best to help out!

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