Manually controlling your Mac’s fan speeds is one way to increase airflow and keep your computer cooler. But is it a good idea to tinker with these settings, or should you just let macOS do everything for you?
Why would you change your Mac’s fan settings manually?
Your Mac generates heat during operation, and this heat output increases significantly when the computer is busy. This is probably harder to notice if you have a desktop model like the Mac Studio. If you’re using a laptop like a MacBook Pro, you’ll feel the heat through the keyboard and on your lap.
If you feel your computer is getting too hot, increasing the fan speed will help dissipate heat faster and keep your Mac cooler. This can make it more comfortable to type or hold, and can also impact performance and longevity.
When your Mac gets too hot, the fans can only do so much and performance is reduced to limit heat output. This is known as “thermal throttling” and is not unique to Apple computers. A more aggressive fan curve, which causes the fans to spin up before they reach Apple’s preset threshold, can help stave off thermal throttling.
macOS can be a bit conservative when it comes to fan speeds as Apple tries to strike a balance between functionality and usability. In the delivery state, this can lead to less aggressive fan behavior, which contributes to noise reduction.
On the other side of the equation, you may find that your Mac is too loud and you may want to reduce the fan speed for a quieter experience. This is not recommended as you can impact hardware longevity and also cause your computer to thermally throttle, limiting its performance.
Why is your Mac getting hot?
All computers generate heat as a by-product of normal use. This applies to almost all components including the CPU, GPU, memory and even internal drives. Even the newest, most efficient Apple Silicon Macs have powerful thermal management systems, although Apple chose not to put a fan in the M1 MacBook Air.
Putting your machine under a load is the number one reason you might find it getting hot. Playing 3D games, rendering high definition videos, producing music with many different tracks, running virtual machines and similar applications generate a lot of heat.
Heat build-up can be exacerbated by other factors, one of which is dust. Dust builds up inside your Mac over time, and this dust impedes heat dissipation. This causes your device to get hotter as it ages, which can also lead to more audible fan noise. You can counteract this by opening up your Mac and giving it a thorough cleaning.
The ambient temperature can also have a big impact on your Mac’s ability to cool itself. Of course, if you use your Mac in a hot environment, it will get hotter. Hotter air can’t dissipate as much heat as cooler air, and the problem is worse when humidity levels are too high. If you enjoy using your MacBook on your lap or on a surface that can obscure airflow (like a bed), the device’s ability to cool itself is severely compromised.
Charging and using your Mac at the same time can also result in heat build-up much faster because the battery generates heat while charging. This is a good argument against leaving your Mac plugged in all the time, but remember that stressing the hardware also causes it to use more power.
Finally, if you’re running an unsupported version of macOS that was never designed for your MacBook, you might find that it’s putting extra strain on your hardware. Since Apple never intended this to run on your Mac, you might want to take matters into your own hands and protect your hardware with more aggressive fan behavior.
How to monitor your Mac’s temperature
You can use third-party apps like iStat Menus ($9.99) or Hot (free) to view information about your Mac’s internals. You can use these apps to monitor the internal sensors of both Intel and Apple Silicon Mac models to get an idea of how hot each component is getting.
You can also get an idea of the temperature, but it’s hard to know how hot is too hot. In general, your Mac (on the CPU core) shouldn’t get much hotter than 80°C (176°F), with some considering 90°C (194°F) an acceptable upper limit. Ideally, you only see these temperatures under load, for example when rendering videos.
If you have a Mac with an Intel chip, you can use the free hot app to see when your computer is thermally throttling (when macOS limits CPU speeds to 60% or less). If you see the app’s menu bar icon turn orange, you’re thermally throttled. If you see this happening frequently, you might want to be more aggressive with your fan speeds.
A far less accurate but still acceptable metric is touch. If your Mac feels too hot to use comfortably, you might want to consider manually controlling the fan speed to make it more comfortable.
Things to consider before changing your fan speeds
Thinking about reducing your fan speeds? Know. If your main concern is noise, your first step should be to give your Mac a deep cleaning to remove the dust. You can also buy a laptop cooling pad to help keep your laptop ventilated.
If you want to increase fan speed, there are a few things to consider first. Cleaning your Mac to remove dust and other debris should also be your first step. Changing the way you use your Mac, e.g. B. Using a cooling pad or laptop stand and external accessories to keep your Mac more ventilated.
The best laptop cooling pads
Increasing the fan speed causes additional wear on your fans, which can shorten their lifespan. This is a double-edged sword as increased airflow can better protect the hardware that is causing your laptop to heat up. Fans should be relatively easy (and fairly cheap) to replace when they fail, but logic boards and NVMe drives cost a lot more money.
Increased fan speed also means increased power consumption. You might be able to set different rules on battery or AC power, but it’s something to think about either way, especially if it’s a MacBook that you’re primarily using as a portable workstation.
Finally, higher fan speed means more noise. This is a small price to pay for greater convenience and better protection for your hardware, but it’s something to consider.
How to manually adjust your Mac’s fan speeds
You can set your fan speed manually using the free version of Mac’s Fan Control or the aforementioned premium app iStat Menus ($9.99).
If you choose Mac’s Fan Control, you can access the basic functions for free. This allows you to set two presets (Automatic and Full Explosion) and set manual values for each fan module in your Mac. If you buy the Pro version ($14.99), you can save custom presets for activities like playing games or rendering videos.
If you use your (Intel)Mac to boot into Windows, you can purchase the combined macOS and Windows license ($24.99) to control your Mac’s fan speed from within Windows as well. This is a good idea if you use your Mac to play games and find that standard Windows fan control apps don’t work with Apple hardware.
TIED TOGETHER: How to manually control your Mac’s fans
Most people should let macOS handle fans
If you have a modern Apple Silicon Mac with an M1 or M2 processor, you probably don’t need to worry about that. Not only is your machine only a few years old, but these chips are also far more efficient in terms of heat generation than the Intel chips before them. Many MacBook Air users don’t even do this to have fans.
However, if you have an older device and are concerned about extending the life of your device, it’s a good idea to increase the fan speed to better disperse the heat. Would you like to apply the same logic to your battery? Also, learn how to extend the life of your MacBook battery.
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