Replacing Power Supply Fans

For some time now whenever I would turn on my computer the fans would make that classic “I’m going to die soon” sound which is never a good thing. I didn’t really want to throw down the money to replace an otherwise working power supply so I decided that I would simply replace the fans. This was a fairly simple project, but not worth breaking your warranty over. The power supply I was working on was a 5 year old Antec 480Watt power supply, nothing special. The basic tools you would need for this project are:

  • 2 Philips head screw drivers a smallish one and a mediumish one
  • Basic soldering skills
  • Soldering supplies (solder gun, solder, flux… etc)
  • Wire Cutters
  • Wire Stripers
  • New case fans that are the same size as the ones already installed
  • Heat shrink or some electrical tape

Before I continue on I want to issue this general disclaimer: Working with electricity or devices that use electricity can be dangerous. By following any of the instructions in the rest of this post you acknowledge that you will not hold wordpress.com, this blog, or writer of this blog responsible for anything that happens as a result of what you read/did as a result of reading this article.

Honestly I didn’t want to have to place such a disclaimer on my blog, but I feel it is necessary. This job is simple and can be safe as long as you are careful! It’s not my fault if you start poking your screw driver around and get zapped!

One last thing before I get started. That is a note on fan selection. I had to take mine apart once to figure out what size fans I needed. In my case I had two fans: an 80mm and 92mm fan. I ordered two of these: http://www.xoxide.com/80vanstealfa.html (not two of those exact ones, but two Ventec Stealth Fans). You can order any old 12 volt case fan as long as you think it will move enough air to cool your power supply. If you are concerned that your power supply uses some fancy non-standard fan then just follow the guide up until the part where you have to cut the fan wires and you can see for yourself. Anyway, I choose these fans because they were supposed to be quiet (around 20dB). Apparently they also move enough air, or I wouldn’t be writing this post right now ^_^;

The first step in all of this is to remove the power supply from your computer. You should unplug the power supply before you start removing it. The actual removal differs from computer to computer and if you are concerned you won’t remember where everything plugs back in then take a picture or take some time to label things.Typically the power supply is screwed in to the back of the case with 4 screws. It’s easy to locate because it’s where you plug in that monster power cable that your computer needs to operate.

Once you have safely removed the power supply from the computer set it down on a flat surface and pull out your smallish screwdriver. Most power supplies I have taken apart (about 6 or 7) have four tiny screws on the top. I circled two of them in the picture below.

Power supply case screws highlighted

Power supply case screws highlighted

The other two screws are simply on the other side. Also, notice that the screw on the right was originally covered with a sticker.

Warranty Sticker

Warranty Sticker

That sticker says something about violating the warranty and I imagine that by defacing it I voided my warranty (which had long expired). If you care about your warranty stop now and put down the screw driver. If not continue on by taking the top part of the case off. I had to be careful when taking mine off because, if you didn’t notice, there is a fan attached to the top of mine. That fan has two wires that run down to the main board and there’s slack in them, but I could easily seen them being yanked out by an overzealous tug. Here is when you can figure out what size fans you want to order. Simply measure any given side of the fan (it’s a square… all sides have the same length) in millimetres and this will tell you what size it is. I had an 80mm and 92mm fan in mine. They come in standard sizes (yes… 92mm is a standard size for some reason) so they won’t be hard to find.

Here is the inside of the power supply case

Here is the inside of the power supply case

Notice that, as promised, I have two fans I need to replace. Only one of them was making funny noises, but I figured if I was going to open everything up I may as well replace both of them.

Quick Note: If you look at the picture just below I have circled the main reason playing with your power supply does include risk of electricity.

Don't let these guys zap ya!

Don't let these guys zap ya!

Those bad boys are 200 volt capacitors. If you didn’t already know a capacitor is a magic device that can store electricity. It’s doubtful that a fully charged 200 volt capacitor would kill you, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend testing that theory out. Just don’t touch it, either with a screw driver, or with your body and there is nothing to worry about πŸ™‚ .

The next step is to detach both of the fans from the power supply case. These are standard case fans and detach with four screws each. They should be on the outside of the case as shown in the picture below.

Just to give you an idea of what to look for

Just to give you an idea of what to look for

Yes, this picture was taken with the case still screwed together, but that is because I forgot to take it with the case apart πŸ™‚ . In any case hopefully you get the idea… you have to unscrew all the fans to remove them.

Here is a fan unscrewed from the case

Here is a fan unscrewed from the case

Now we are tasked with detaching the fan from the main board. On my power supply they are plugged in with tiny plastic plugs as you can (sort of) see in the picture below.

Remove this if you feel up for a fight...

Remove this if you feel up for a fight...

I didn’t feel like fussing with the connector to try and remove it so I just cut the wires. At the end of the day you are going to have to solder anyway πŸ™‚ . I decided where to cut based on the next step which talks about cutting the wires on the fan. I tried to keep the final wire length the same as what it was originally, but to make soldering easier you want to have enough slack on each wire that they will cooperate nicely with you. Below is a picture of the cut wires. At the end of the day you just need to use your judgement. Remember: measure twice, cut once!

Here is a picture of the wires I cut

Here is a picture of the wires I cut

There are a few things you need to know about modern case fans. Any case fan I could find typically came with a 3 pin connector (for a motherboard) and an adapter to so you could hook it right in to your power supply. My power supply fans only used the red and black wires which are for power and ground respectively. The extra wire, usually colored yellow, is so the motherboard knows what speed the fans are spinning at. If your power supply happens to support that then solder that sucker in. Mine does not so I just cut the wire really short and figured nothing else would touch it.

Now that everything is ready, solder it all up. I am assuming you know how to solder and chances are you solder better than me. Once you have soldered you will end up with something that looks at least as good as this:

The fans all soldered in to place

The fans all soldered in to place

I would have used heat shrink, but I didn’t have any and really needed my computer to be running again. Before you reassemble everything I would suggest that you hook up your power supply just enough to get the fans spinning. This means you’ll want to hook up main board power, hard drive power, and video card (if needed). Press the power button, see if they spin, and they pull the plug so you don’t overheat anything. You want to make sure the fans will spin before you put it all back together. The last thing you want is for it to overheat without you knowing!

After you test and they work… you are done! Enjoy your new fans πŸ™‚ .

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One Response to Replacing Power Supply Fans

  1. Wes says:

    I would have used wirenuts or a butt splice connector. But it’s good to hear that you got to practice your soldering skills. πŸ™‚ And very good description with pictures…I would totally try this if I had a power supply.

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