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The graphics card is the most important part of every gaming PC. It is responsible for drawing all the visuals, and when it starts having issues, every gamer will go through a mini panic attack.
One of those issues includes the GPU fan not spinning for one reason or another. There’s a plethora of reasons why your graphics card fan, or fans, has stopped spinning. The good news is that the majority of potential reasons aren’t related to physical malfunctions. And even if the fan has died, replacing it doesn’t require an engineering degree. Read on and find out how to troubleshoot this issue and ultimately solve it.
If your GPU fan’s not spinning while idle, that’s normal
The most common cause why the fan’s not whirling is because the graphics card’s running idle. Newer GPUs, released in the last half a decade or so, come with a fan-stop feature. This feature keeps the fan idle as long as the GPU temperature stays under 50 degrees Celsius. Some graphics cards have an even more aggressive version of the fan stop feature, not employing the fan as long as the GPU temperature doesn’t go north of 60 degrees Celsius.
So, if your graphics card fan is not spinning while the GPU is running idle, that’s completely fine. And even if the GPU core is running warmer than 50 degrees Celsius, chances are your graphics card behaves normally. You should start worrying only when the GPU temperature exceeds 60 degrees and your fans still stand still.
Before we move on, note that most graphics cards have two or three different thermal sensor data. In this situation, you should focus on the GPU temperature. That’s the data point the GPU uses when deciding whether to kickstart its fans or not. As for the GPU hotspot temperature and memory temperature, ignore the two during the troubleshooting process.
Check MSI Afterburner fan speed settings
Another potential cause for GPU fan not spinning is if you have installed MSI Afterburner, played with various options, accidentally tweaked fan speed settings, and then forgot about it. If you have MSI Afterburner or any other app that can change your GPU fan settings, such as Fan Control, make sure you haven’t messed something up.
How to fix MSI Afterburner fan speed setting issue
In MSI Afterburner, your fan speed setting should be set to auto. We recommend reverting to auto if it’s set to any other option. Once you revert to auto, start a demanding AAA game or run some 3D benchmark.
We recommend Superposition with 1080p Extreme preset. That one will seriously sweat every GPU out there and definitely make it run hotter than 50-60 degrees Celsius. You can find more handy GPU benchmarks in our best GPU benchmarking software for overclocking guide. If your GPU fans aren’t spinning even during a benchmark run while the GPU is running hotter than 60 degrees Celsius, continue troubleshooting.
GPU fan not spinning because graphics card isn’t under max load while playing games
Since newer graphics cards all come with the fan-stop feature, it may happen that you hear fans quickly ramping, then stopping, then twirling again, again coming to a standstill, etc. when playing games. This fan behavior may look like it’s something wrong with the GPU fan, but, again, chances are it’s a planned behavior.
When you’re playing an older game or a title that’s generally undemanding (AA games, indies), your GPU fans might kick in every couple of seconds to drop temperature under 50 or 60 degrees Celsius, then stop, then kick in for two seconds again, etc. This is normal and pretty frequent in case you have a powerful graphics card and play older games.
Newer high-end GPUs are very powerful, and they won’t hit 100 percent utilization in lots of games. They will barely go over 50 degrees Celsius, and then you’ll hear a slight hum since fans don’t have to work at high RPMs to cool down the GPU.
To check if everything works as supposed, fire up a newer and demanding AAA game set all options to the max, and run the game until you see your GPU temperature going over 60 degrees Celsius and staying there. If fans start spinning without stopping every couple of seconds, all’s fine.
Something may physically prevent GPU fans from spinning
If the power management inside your case is less than stellar, one of the reasons for your GPU fan not spinning is a loose cable or some other object blocking the fan. To solve this, open your side panel and check whether there are any loose cables or other things in contact with your GPU fans.
Also, make sure to run a 3D benchmark while doing this. Maybe one of the GPU power or fan cables is running loose. This may prevent you from noticing the issue if the fans are not actually spinning while troubleshooting it. For instance, the fan shroud may hide a loose fan cable. It may block fans when they ramp up, but otherwise, it may stay hidden under the shroud or the heatsink.
Graphics card’s dusty
Aside from zero-fan, newer graphics cards have another cool trick up their sleeves. They spin the fans in an opposite direction during the first couple of seconds after your turn on your PC to remove any dust buildup. On the other hand, dust can still choke older cards that lack this feature.
If you didn’t clean your graphics card in a while, maybe it’s time to remove it and see if it’s covered in dust. If that’s the case, use a can of compressed air and remove all the dust around and on the fans (it can get nasty in there if you forgot to clean the card).
Next, put the card back in your PC, start a demanding game, and see whether the fans will start spinning once the GPU temperature goes north of 60 degrees Celsius. If they’re not turning, maybe you accidentally unhooked a fan power cable while cleaning the card.
One of the power cables is disconnected
If you accidentally forgot to hook all GPU power cables, the graphics card may work fine when idle, even when playing undemanding games. For instance, a PCIe slot can alone provide 75W of power for your graphics card, which is enough for many cards to work while idle.
On top of that, if you have a card with two six-pin power connectors, unhooking one will still provide the GPU with 150W of power (75W for the PCIe slot and 75W for one six-pin power cable). Further, one eight-pin power cable can deliver 150W of power. In other words, your card may work fine, but it may lack the power to spin its fans during specific use scenarios.
How to fix this issue
For starters, open your PC and see whether all six or eight-pin power cables are connected. If everything looks fine, but the fans are still not spinning, maybe you accidentally disconnected a GPU fan power cable.
The GPU fan power cable is connected to the graphics card’s PCB somewhere on the PCB. Look carefully for cables and connectors; if you notice one is disconnected, reconnect it to the PCB. Also, do this after you remove the graphics card from your PC and disconnect it from power!
One or more GPU fans have failed
If all fan connectors are connected, but you still have issues, maybe one or more of your fans has died. If you have a card with multiple fans and only one doesn’t spin, chances are it’s dead.
Next, if all your fans aren’t moving, there’s still a chance that just one fan died. Since GPU fans use daisy chain power connections, it may be that only the fan directly connected to the PCB has died. And since other fans are daisy chained to the one that failed, they will stop working also.
How to replace your GPU fans
Luckily, you can solve this issue by replacing your GPU fans. The procedure is not too complicated, but it can be a bit tricky for certain graphics card models. We recommend searching for a fan replacement video for your particular graphics card model.
Aside from replacing the fan, or the whole fan setup, you can also install a custom GPU cooler. Our list of the best GPU coolers includes a number of options that work with the majority of modern graphics cards.
Another way to fix a dead GPU fan is to remove the whole fan shroud and replace it with off-the-shelf case fans. This procedure is called GPU deshrouding, and it’s pretty popular in SFF (small form factor) PC enthusiast circles.
Since it’s very popular, chances are you will find a deshrouding guide in video form for your graphics card model. You can also try deshrouding your GPU without a video guide but don’t start anything unless you know what you’re doing.
If you have found one or more of your GPU fans have died, and you won’t risk it all by attempting to fix the issue yourself, take the card to a service. A fan replacement procedure is relatively simple, and any PC repair service should be able to fix this issue. Just make sure they don’t try ripping you off since the process is simple and it shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg.
As you can see, a vast majority of potential reasons why your GPU fan’s not spinning don’t include dead fans or faulty graphics cards. Better still, most solutions don’t require any PC hardware-related knowledge and can be performed in just a few minutes.
While most solutions are fairly easy to perform, we don’t recommend hardware newbies to try replacing their fans or deshrouding their graphics card on their own. Either call your PC hardware friend (if you have one) for help or take the graphics card to repair service.