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PC Airflow Guide: A Guide For Configuration Of Pc Fans

Cooling is almost like a necessity for a machine, whether it’s a car, washer, PC, or even your room.

A working system tends to generate heat, and removing the said heat while keeping it cool is challenging, especially if you are planning to overclock your hardware, where more heat is produced due to the workload. And that is why you need a full pc airflow guide

Especially for an airflow guide pc, many mechanical and static devices can produce a lot of heat. Graphics cards, CPUs, DIMMs, and PSUs are some examples.

Some users might think that heating and airflow is not much of a deal, but it can really impact the performance and eventually damage the components. Therefore, it is crucial to achieving optimal airflow pc to keep a low temperature inside of the case.

There has been some debate between the enthusiasts, which states that the warm air tends to rise. Well, the air indeed rises when it gets warm, but it has little to no effect on the airflow system inside a PC. Therefore, busting is a common myth.

There may be many different ways to achieve airflow in the PC, but you must understand other aspects like casing support, heat dissipation, fan types & sizes, and testing.

Now, for your convenience, here is a simple tip for you. Think of your PC casing as your room. Analyze well and allocate optimal and effective windows for airflow system to keep the temperature low inside the room and to pc airflow optimization. It will help you determine and better understand how the airflow inside a system works, what are the consequences in every way.

Main Types Of Airflow Configurations

Starting pc case airflow guide with one of the main thing and that is configurations

There are three main types of airflow configurations or fan positioning debated by the PC builders. All of these configurations are achieved with different directions and numbers of case fans.

Moreover, all these configurations are exemplary in their way while having some disadvantages.

It is also crucial for you to determine the airflow direction of the fan before installing. You can always hook the fan and test the direction of the airflow directly.

Most of the time, the focus of airflow is usually on the supporting cover at the back. Also, the movement of the airflow is directed on the fan’s side. Some well-known and optimal-sized case fans are Corsair ML120 ProNoctua NF-P12Corsair QL120and Corsair LL120.

Before deciding the airflow configuration, you have to assess your casing and check the fan support.

If you are on the market to buy a new case, try to look for a container with the fan options you require.

Before jumping into the configuration, it is crucial to know different types of case fans. Mainly, there are two uses for fans, Intake and Exhaust.

Intake Fans: The intake fans are placed so that they blow the air inside of the case. Mostly, these fans are placed on the front panel or the top panel.

Exhaust Fans: The exhaust fans, as a word suggests, works as exhaust. They are mounted in such a direction that the air is moved outside of the case.

Positive Air Pressure

Positive Air Pressure Diagram For Airflow

Now, let’s go back to the airflow configurations. When there is more air coming inside the casing than the exhaust, a positive airflow is achieved. Following are a few examples of positive pressure airflow.

  • When there are more case fans for intake than exhaust.
  • When the speed of the intake fans is faster than the exhaust.
  • When there are no case fans for exhaust.

The positive pressure airflow brings more fresh air pressure inside the case , but you will find it hard to remove the hot air easily. The air inside the case will collide with the walls and find the gaps to leave the enclosure.

Moreover, the air pressure inside the chamber will increase, thus increasing the temperature. And, since the hot air is finding it hard to leave the casing, proper airflow is not achieved. Therefore, the heat remains inside the chassis.

Moreover, the intake air remains inside the casing for a long time, thus keeping the heat inside.

However, the only advantage of positive pressure airflow is that it spills less dust than other configurations. That is because dust filters are installed with the intake fans.

For Example, Install an intake fan in your room. Make sure it receives the air from outside. Now close all other doors, windows, and places from where the air can leave. After some while, you will feel the increased air pressure inside your room.

Therefore, the positive pressure airflow can be said the worst in all three configurations.

Negative Air Pressure

Negative Air Pressure Diagram for airflow

As the name suggests, the negative pressure airflow works opposite to positive airflow. When the air going outside the casing is more than the intake, the negative airflow is achieved. Following are a few examples of negative airflow.

  • When the speed of exhaust fans is faster than intake.
  • When there are more exhaust fans, thank intake.
  • When there are no intake fans.

The negative pressure airflow configurations work the best when it comes to cooling the components. That is because the heat inside the casing is constantly pulled outside. However, it works similarly as a vacuum. Therefore, the hot air will fill in the chassis from where ever possible.

And, as I have said before, the dust filters are added with the intake fans to reduce the dust intake. In this case, most people do not install a dust filter, which in return completely covers your components with dust over a short period.

Now, you might be thinking that installing the dust filters will do the job. Well, the casing is not perfectly built.

There are many gaps on every corner. Since there is a vacuum effect inside the case, the air will fill in (with dust) from every gap and cranny. And, it is almost impossible to fill in all the gaps with dust filters. Therefore, requiring you to clean your system often.

However, you can go with the negative pressure airflow configuration if your chassis can be covered from dust easily, have a low crossflow rate, or do not have many unfiltered gaps. In such cases, you can get benefits from the negative airflow configuration’s excellent cooling.

Neutral/Balanced Air Pressure

Balanced Air Pressure Diagram for guide

The neutral or balanced airflow configuration is the one that is mainly used. When the hot air is constantly sucked inside the system while the exhaust is pouring the air outside with the same volume, a more balanced airflow is achieved.

If you are still confused in making decisions with airflow configurations, then balanced airflow is optimal for you. Following are a few examples of a balanced airflow configuration. It is also known as Slightly Positive Airflow.

  1. The speed of the exhaust fan is almost the same as the intake fans.
  2. The number of exhaust fans is almost the same as the intake fans.
  3. The exhaust is slightly slower than the intake.

In neutral or balanced airflow, fresh air constantly enters the system, while the exhaust fan is also sucking the hot air out. More airflow means cooler components. Therefore, this configuration is optimal.

However, be careful with the installations. If a lot of air is sucked in than the exhaust, the air movement decreases. This will end up with intake air remaining inside the enclosure and heating the components.

Due to the directed airflow mechanism, less air will come inside from the gaps. And, since it is likely to install dust filters with the intake pc fans, your PC will remain dust-free longer. And, online the positive air pressure configuration, the heat can leave the system quickly.

You have to think about it this way. It would be best if you had constant airflow inside your PC. The air that comes in needs to leave the system faster as the new air comes in. If you have three case fans in front intake and two case fans at the rear and top, you will achieve a balanced airflow with the same speed.

Similarly, you can also have a balanced airflow with two front intake fan and one exhaust fan at the rear.

Fan Sizes, Types & More

pc fan airflow guide

As I have said before, there are two ways the fans are used. However, the PC fans can be classified in different sizes as well. Moreover, these sizes can have a massive impact on the airflow mechanism of your system.

Before jumping into the fan sizes, there are few things that you need to know as well.

You might think that large fans are the most optimal, but that is not the case. Even though a large fan can cover a vast area, but the large wings make less airflow. It requires more space to cover on a single spin; therefore, a low RPM.

On the other hand, a small fan has tiny wings with less area to cover each spin, thus producing a high RPM. And, more RPM means faster airflow. However, a small fan will cover a small space.

I have seen many people discussing that stacking the fans can produce a faster and powerful airflow. But, that is not entirely true. The stacked case fans can create a collided airflow, thus reducing the airflow. But don’t get me wrong, you can install fans side-by-side or in a matrix.

The smaller fans are mostly the old generation and tend to sound louder.

Following are the commonly used sizes of PC fans.

Full Size InchesRPMWing Size
80mm 3.1″ 5000-7000 71.5mm
92mm 3.6″ 3900-4500 82.5mm
120mm 4.7″ 3000 105mm
140mm 5.5″ 2300-2500 124.5mm
180mm 7″ 1800-2000 152.5mm
200mm 7.9″ 800-1200 154mm

Fan Speed

The speed at which the fans spin can be controlled in many different ways. Many manufacturers provide products to control the speed.

On the latest motherboard models, you don’t have to worry about the fan speed, mostly. If installed on the motherboard’s headers, the BIOS system will configure the fans by default and adjust the speed according to the heat.

Moreover, if they are connected to the motherboard, you can also control the speed curve. Your PC features some temperature sensors to measure the hardware’s temperature. And, these readings are used to manage the fan speed accordingly.

On the other hand, software like SpeedFan can also gain you control over the fan speed. However, the case fans need to be installed on the motherboard.

If you are willing to spend more money on fan control, you can install PWM fan hubs. The fans can be connected to this hub, and the hub is associated with the power supply. These fan controllers can automate the speed on each fan according to the temperature readings from the sensors.

Static Fans vs. Airflow Fans

Static Fans vs High-Pressure Airflow Fans

There are mainly two types of PC fans, which are Static Fans and Airflow fans. Starting with the Airflow case fans or High Air Pressure Fans, they tend to work the best if there is little resistance.

For example, if you have thin dust filters and no obstacles coming in the air, the high air pressure fans do the job very well. Furthermore, their wings are designed to pass more air frequently in and out of the system, with high pressure.

On the other hand, static pressure fans are designed with such wings that air can overcome obstacles.

For example, you have a GPU blocking the air, thick dust filters, and radiators installed, a static pressure fan,s wing will overcome the burden. However, they tend to have lower air pressure.

If you are using a small casing with congested internal components, static pressure fans,s are best for you. Suppose you have the largest PC case with enough space for an optimal airflow (without any resistance) with high-pressure airflow fans.

You can find more information on Static Fans and Airflow Fans here.

How To Test The Airflow?

Properly installing the fans is not the only part of the airflow. Testing and analyzing is also crucial. You might have installed all the fans properly and thinking that everything is well. However, some poor fans ruin your expensive hardware because of overheating. That is why it is essential to test the airflow first.

There are many different DIY ways to test the airflow inside your computer case. To have a general idea, you can place your hand inside the casing while the fans are running to determine the airflow. Similarly, you can also place your hand in the direction of intake and exhaust to find the available speed of the air.

Another DIY way to test the airflow is to paste the paper tape (in the airflow direction of the fans, even for exhaust) from one side and leave the other end afloat.

Now place your CPU in a room where there are no fans or source of fast air. Turn on your PC and analyze the flight of these tapes to test the airflow. This method works best for the balanced air pressure configuration.

Moreover, If your PC features transparent side panels, you can also get a fog blaster from an old toys shop near you. Place the fog blaster in front of the intake fan, and let the fog transfer in. The flow of the fog will best determine the airflow mechanism inside the system.

How is Heat Produced?

Before jumping into the cooling methods, you must understand how the heat is produced. Firstly, it is common knowledge among PC enthusiasts that the temperature inside the enclosure tends to be higher than the standard room temperature. Furthermore, three more things come into play when it comes to heat.

Mechanical Parts: There are not many mechanical parts inside a computer nowadays, thanks to the evolution of PCs. Still, many users prefer to use a SATA hard diskette. It features a disk that stores and saves the data. This disk spins to retrieve the data. And, such movements can produce a lot of heat. Moreover, Optical drives and fans can also be counted as mechanical components because they require physical work.

Static Parts: All the remaining components inside a PC are mostly stationary machines, such as CPU, RAMs, and Graphics cards. These components transfer electric signals to complete their task. And, the movement of such signals can result in producing heat.

Dust: With time, dust particles can slip inside the chassis and get places on all the components inside. These dust particles can slow the movement of the fans and work as a blanket over your components, thus providing a helping hand in heating.

Dust Filters

Dust Filter on the Top Panel

Several preventive measures can overcome the issue of overheating. Dust Filters are one of them. In simple, these are plain meshy filters that work as a filter and prevent the dust from entering the PC. Mostly, these filters are placed with intake fans.

You will need to clean these filters regularly to make clear space for the air to go in since these are placed with intake fans in most PC cases. These dust filters are easily accessible.

Moreover, you need to check whether the filters are thin or thick. If they are too wide, the air will have a challenging time entering the system; therefore a poor airflow. On the other hand, if the dust filter is too thin, the dust will quickly enter the system.

Similarly, if the pores on the dust filters are large, the dust can quickly enter the system. Therefore, you will need to find a perfect-sized dust filter for maximum potential.

Cleaning The PC

Cleaning the PC

It is always recommended to clean your PC from inside out every six months. Even with dust filters, dust can still come in the casing through small gaps. Thus, jamming your components. On the other hand, cleaning the PC also means managing your cables and cleaning the heat sinks.

Cleaning the PC not only makes it more beautiful but also increases the performance. Make sure to carefully clean the DIMM slots, Expansion slots, PSU, and HDDs as well.

Blocked Airflow

Blocked Airflow Diagram

You might end up removing the airflow obstacles if you do a proper airflow test. And, for your information, many different components can block the airflow. For example, GPU, DIMMs, CPU cooler, PSU fan’s direction, and GPU fan’s direction. These components can mess with the proper flow of the air, thus limiting the performance.

On the other hand, unoptimized cables can also block the air’s flow.

Graphics Card

Graphics Card

You might get shocked, but the graphic card also features different cooling methods: blower-style and shroud style.

The blower-style takes the air from the casing, passes through the graphic card, and blows it out through the expansion slots. The blower-style GPU cooling methods tend to work the best in terms of performance. Moreover, if you are looking to overclock your graphics card, the blower-style cooling system is best for you.

Moreover, the blower-style cards tend to make some noise, and the GPU temperature remains a little high compared to the shroud-style. However, the blower-style cards help other parts of the system to cool as well.

On the other hand, the shroud-style GPUs work the same as your CPU cooler and heat sinks.

However, the only downfall with this method is that it can increase the temperature inside the casing. Furthermore, the shroud-style cards are not recommended with the small case because they can quickly increase the inside temperature.

If your PC provides adequate airflow and cooling methods, it is best to go with the shroud-style cooling GPUs.

How Does Heat Leave The System?

Now, you know how the heat is produced. Now, it is time to understand how it is removed from the enclosure.

But first, you should see how the heat sinks works. The heat sinks are metal sinks that are attached to the crucial parts like CPU and GPU. These heat sinks are connected directly to the components, thus receiving their heat energy. These sinks then work to dissipate the heat into the air.

A Heatsink For Airflow
A Heatsink

The removal of heat from the system can be achieved in two ways.

  1. Place your PC in an environment with a lower temperature. Let’s say you live in a cold area, like Russia; then the average room temperature is good enough to keep your PC cool. But, this method is almost impossible for us.
  2. Therefore, the second method is most optimal, which is airflow. When proper airflow is achieved, the air (which comes inside through fans) will transfer the heat outside (through the exhaust fan.)

You can always increase the cooling inside the system by increasing the fan numbers. However, more airflow means more noise and dust.

A Quick Recap

Here is a quick iconographical recap of the entire article.

pc airflow optimization guide Infographical


An optimal airflow is required for your PC to give its full potential. A proper flow of air will cool your internal components and allows you to overclock the hardware. Moreover, it also prevents your internal components from heat damages.

There are several airflow methods. All of them have their Pros & Cons. However, the optimal approach is the balanced air pressure mechanism. It passes the air through the casing faster; thus, the heat is removed constantly.

On the other hand, the negative pressure mechanism is also good at removing the heat from the casing. But, it can cause the dust particle to enter the system.

Poor fans can also be a cause of poor airflow. If you find your system overheating, it is best to check the fan’s quality even with optimal airflow.

It is better to invest in better cooling fans than damaging your hardware due to overheating. On the other hand, a suitable casing is also required to support your fans and have enough space for heat dissipation and airflow.

But, choosing the proper airflow method is not the end of the game. You have to test the system first to find any loopholes or flaws.

Moreover, cleaning your PC every six months and the dust filters regularly is also recommended. Furthermore, testing the blockage of the airflow is also equally important. Internal components like GPU and CPU coolers often end up disturbing the flow of air.

The article also talked about how heat is produced and how it leaves the system. You need to understand this mechanism to implement the cooling methods better.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is water-cooling optimal for overclocking?

You can switch to the water or liquid cooling method. All you need is a casing that supports the water cooling reservoir and radiators. Many enthusiasts love the liquid cooling method due to its aesthetic design. Many users, including me, build PCs with overclocking in mind. In such cases, the water cooling mechanism can do wonders. It is always recommended to get a front-mounted radiator.

What is the best airflow mechanism?

When it comes to the best, balanced air pressure is always recommended because it comes with fewer risks and provides more airflow through the PC. On the other hand, the negative air pressure is also good at keeping the components cool. As for the positive air pressure system, it does more harm than good.

Does increasing the fan size improve the cooling?

No, increasing the fan size does not improve the cooling. Due to the large wings, it takes some time to complete a whole spin, thus reducing airflow speed. However, more giant fans are known to cover a vast area for cooling.

What should I look in a casing for airflow?

A casing must have at least one slot for the intake fan and one for the exhaust. The best course is finding a case that provides more intake and exhaust fans, say three intake fans and two exhaust fan.

Should I go with static airflow fans or high-pressure airflow fans?

If you have a compact casing and all the components are congested, it would be best to go with the static airflow fans. That is because they are designed to handle the resistance made by components or parts. On the other hand, if you have a big casing that does not block the airflow, go with the high-pressure airflow fans.

How to keep your PC quiet with more fans?

The fans are spined by a motor. These motors are prone to make the sound when working on a high RPM (Revolution Per Minute or Round Per Minute.) Moreover, the wings of the fan can also produce sound because of physical activity. Therefore, it is best to use standard-sized fans (120/ 140mm) large enough to provide a good airflow with less RPM while covering a large area. On the other hand, more fans running at a lower RPM will produce less sound than a single fan running at full speed. A PC casing can also impact the noise; therefore, choose a quiet pc casing.

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