Buying a good set of computer fans is very important to keep your PC cool and for the longevity of your PC parts, but how long does a computer fan last?
Computer fans can last up to about 10 years or longer. However, the fan’s lifespan strongly depends on its bearing type, and how hard the case fans work when in use. Cheaply made case fans last around 5 years, whereas high-end fans can last up to 15 years or longer.
A computer fan uses a few different bearing types, and different things to consider when we talk about the lifespan of a case fan. Keep reading to learn more about the lifespans of varying computer fan types and longevity.
What Are The Different Computer Fan Bearings?
Computer fans or case fans are usually made with three different types of bearings.
The first one is ball bearings, the second is sleeve bearings, and the third is hydraulic bearings.
Each type of fan bearing has there own pros and cons, so it is up to you to pick what type of fan bearings you want when thinking of the longevity of your case fans.
Ball bearings are the most common type of bearings for cooling fans in the PC. The reason for this is because they are very easy to make and they are pretty reliable.
How ball bearings work in a cooling fan is that metal balls are enclosed between two metal rings. One on the outside the other on the inside of the metal balls.
these metal rings are coated with a lubricant that allows the balls to rotate around very smoothly. These balls are what allow the fan to spin and cool off your computer in the process.
One main drawback to ball bearings being used on computer fans is that they are the loudest fan type. At lower speeds, these fans will probably not be heard through the case if you have a headset on.
However, when you put stress on your PC and it starts to heat up your case fans will speed up and start to spin faster.
This is where ball bearings become quite a nuisance because you will be able to hear a loud blowing noise coming from the inside of your computer case due to these fans spinning so fast.
The reason for this noise is because the balls inside of the fan will start to raddle as they spin faster, furthermore, the lubricant inside of these fans usually isn’t good enough to stop the friction between the rings and the metal balls from making noise when they are moving against each other.
Where ball bearings take advantage is longevity. these fan bearings are very durable and can last a long time.
Even though these bearings can last a long time many people purchase new computer fans after several years of use with these because even though the fans still work they will start to make a louder and more annoying noise the more you use them because the lubricant is wearing off and the balls tend to raddle more due to wear and tear.
Furthermore, cheaply made computer fans are usually manufactured with a not-so-great lubricant that can wear off pretty fast.
So, if you want to purchase a good set of ball-bearing case fans spend a little bit extra and go with a company like Noctua or Corsair.
Sleeve bearings excel in the noise category because these computer fans tend to be very quiet.
Sleeve bearings are made from crushed-up metals such as bronze, copper, or similar metals, which are then put into a sleeve that is surrounded by lubricant and oil.
The reason why these case fans are so quiet is that the sleeve rarely touches the metal rings that enclose the bearings due to the high amounts of oil and lubricant.
This allows for a very smooth fan that doesn’t create too much noise. However, without the oil surrounding the sleeve, the sleeve becomes very fragile and will wear away very quickly.
This is where the sleeve bearing lacks. The lifespan of computer fans with sleeve bearings is shorter than usually lasting anywhere from 5-10 years depending on how much stress you put on your computer and the fans.
Even though this is a very long time and you will probably have upgraded or bought a new computer by then, other bearing types for case fans usually last a bit longer.
Another problem with the sleeve bearing is when the sleeve bearing gets worn out or damaged the whole fan will start to fail.
Some things you might experience with this type of computer fan are slower fan speeds, an unbalanced fan that creates a lot of noise, or complete failure of the fan itself.
If you find out that your case fan has one of the issues then it’s most likely they will run into the complete failure of the fan very soon and it is time to start looking for a new set of computer fans.
Next, are the Hydraulic fan bearings which, are the most expensive, but for a good reason.
Hydraulic bearings work similarly to sleeve bearings but aren’t quite a sleeve bearing.
The hydraulic bearing excels because it uses its own rotation of the fan to improve lubrication which, allows for a much smoother, and quieter fan. This makes it much better in the sound department compared to the ball bearing and sleeve bearing.
It is also the reason why these types of fans are very popular for PC builds.
One thing that you have to take note of is that the smaller computer fan companies have designed their own way of making the hydraulic bearing, which allows them to add “hydraulic bearing” in the fan’s description, but it really isn’t the true hydraulic bearing.
These knock-off hydraulic bearing fans tend to deteriorate faster and tend to make more noise in the long run.
However, if you can purchase a real set of hydraulic bearing case fans from a company like Noctua or Cooler Master, then you will see that the lifespan of these fans last in between the lifespan of both the sleeve bearing and ball bearing.
Usually lasting around 7-12 years.
Not only that, but you will have a better experience with these bearings for a longer time as they don’t really wear and tear and tend to be faster, smoother, and quieter out of the box than ball-bearing computer fans.
How To Increase Computer Fans Lifespan
If you want to increase the lifespan of your computer’s case fans then there are a few different things that you can do.
The first is to apply regular maintenance to both your case fans and your PC, by regularly cleaning them.
One main reason for the wear and tear of a computer fan is dust accumulation inside of the fan. If you don’t want dust to get inside of your fan bearings you will regularly need to clean your fans.
You can do this by using a cloth to wipe down the excess dust, and using compressed are to blow out that hard-to-reach dust build-up inside of the fan bearings.
You will also need to clean your PC very often because of the dust that builds up in there too.
If you only clean your computer fans then as soon as you turn your computer back on the dust inside of your PC will blow straight back into your case fans and get stuck in the bearings again.
This will cause the fan bearings to erode, become unbalanced, and get damaged.
Here is an article that talks about How Often You Should Clean Your PC.
You should also move your PC to a place where it is less dusty. Such as moving out of the corner of the room or raising it onto your desk or small table so it isn’t touching the floor.
Especially if you are using sleeved-bearing computer fans then you should try to have your fans always facing in a vertical upright position.
The reason for this is that if your fan is laying face down horizontally the bearings will start to scrape on one side which will in turn create more noise, and slowly wear out the fan.
Run The Fans on a Lower RPM
Try to stray away from creating stress and heat on your computer, especially on your CPU.
Check out Why Managing Your CPU Heat Matters.
This will cause your fans to work harder and spin faster wearing them out very quickly.
A way to improve this is by using more cooling fans and having them set up in the right position to allow for optimal airflow.
To learn more about this check out How Many Cooling Fans Do You Need in a Gaming PC.
You can also use larger case fans as they will be able to run at a lower RPM and cool your PC more effectively, See the difference between “120mm case fans vs 140mm Case Fans.”
All in all, most case fans will last you a very long time so there isn’t really a need to worry. If you are worried about the lifespan of your case fans then you should try to stay away from any that use a sleeve bearing.
If noise is the issue then you should resort to a hydraulic bearing computer fan, and it is probably worth the extra money if you want a completely silent computer.
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