Finding the right balance between fan noise and temperatures is essential for living with a powerful gaming rig. Default fan curves often aren’t great and can lead to overly loud GPU fans or CPU fans that ramp up during mundane tasks such as opening Chrome tabs. And that’s why you need the best fan control software to keep those fans in check.
Yes, you can reduce noise by building in a silent PC case. But these cases often come with downsides, such as reduced airflow and higher temperatures. So, as much as we like silent cases, tweaking your fan speeds with fan controller software is the way to go to find that perfect balance.
Our Favorite Fan Controller Software
1. Fan Control
Fan Control is, for our money, the best fan control software available for modern gaming rigs. It’s free and open-source, supports a wide range of temperature sensors (including custom ones), and offers a variety of graphs and curves for all your fan control needs.
The first thing you’ll notice about Fan Control is its slick and modern card-based UI. You get individual cards for each controllable fan, its corresponding fan speeds, as well as your custom fan curves and sensors.
If it looks a bit complex, that’s because it is. Thankfully, there’s an assisted setup option accessible from the wrench icon in the top-left. This is an essential step for first-time users, as it helps you identify temperature sensors, match them with the correct fans, and generally lay the groundwork for your own tweaks down the line.
We like Fan Control because it combines the custom fan curves you get on motherboard BIOS fan control with much more robust sensor options. It lets you assign almost any temperature source available in your rig to your fan curves. From GPU to VRM to even hard drives, if it reports a temperature to your system, then you can use it in Fan Control.
Fan Control’s fan curve options are excellent, too, with complete control over fan hysteresis, response time, and freedom to add and delete points as needed. You can copy and paste points between curves, and there’s a handy temperature and fan speed percentage readout if you want to get really specific. There’s even an auto fan control setting in the latest version, which is handy.
“Hysteresis” refers to the change in temperature that’s required for a fan to increase or decrease speeds according to the curve that you’ve set. It helps smooth out fan curves and stops your fans from ramping up or down immediately with a one- or two-degree Celsius temperature change.
That can get annoying fast, so setting fan hysteresis is an essential feature of the best fan control software. I like a five-degree Celsius hysteresis myself, although you should experiment to find the best setting for your ambient temperatures and components.
Overall, there’s no getting around the fact that Fan Control is the number one fan speed control software in 2022. It offers unparalleled flexibility and total control over your computer fans. However, that flexibility comes with a learning curve, which may put some of you off. So be sure to check out the developer’s tutorials on YouTube, as they’ll help you get up to speed quicker than figuring things out yourself.
Aside from the learning curve, the only downside is that Fan Control only runs on Windows 10 and 11. And while we don’t think this is a downside, we should point out that Fan Control also lacks the S.M.A.R.T. (disk health) monitoring of a paid solution like Argus Monitor. However, that’s nothing a CrystalDiskInfo install won’t resolve.
Fan Control is great, but it is limited to Windows 10 and 11. While most modern high-end rigs are likely running either of those two operating systems, this does leave out gamers who need to control fan speed on an older rig.
If you have a pre-2016 rig that needs fan speed software, SpeedFanis the program you’re looking for. It’s a lightweight solution that works as far back as Windows 95, making it perfect for a retro gaming rig or any old system that just needs some quieter fans. Niche? Sure, but even old systems deserve some software fan control.
SpeedFan gives you two ways to control your fans. The first method is the traditional fixed fan speed setting, accessible immediately when you open the program. The percentage figures next to your “Sys,” “CPU,” and any “Aux” refer to the fan speed percentages, which you can raise and lower as you please.
SpeedFan also has an auto fan control option, although it’s a bit more complicated to set up. If you want SpeedFan to ramp your fans up and down according to temperatures automatically, you’ll have to go into the “Configure” sub-menu and set the desired temperatures for particular sensors.
You can then link these sensors to your fans, which will result in the fans speeding up and slowing down automatically as SpeedFan tries to keep those sensors at or under ideal temperatures. It’s all a bit complex, so you can check out this handy guide to help you set up SpeedFan’s automatic fan control feature.
Overall, SpeedFan is the go-to system and CPU fan control software for older hardware. It shows its age in its UI and lacks Fan Control’s more advanced sensor and fan curve options. Still, it nails the basics of software-based fan control perfectly.
And as a bonus, SpeedFan also lets you monitor your storage drives’ S.M.A.R.T. status and temperatures, amongst other data. So it’s a handy tool for general system monitoring and maintenance, too.
3. MSI Afterburner
MSI Afterburner is the go-to option for controlling and tweaking your graphics card settings. The program’s primary focus is GPU overclocking, with controls for your core and memory clocks, power limits, and GPU voltages. But Afterburner also gives you control over your GPU fans, including an excellent firmware-level control that lets you save your fan settings to the card itself.
Afterburner offers two types of GPU fan control. First is a conventional fixed fan speed setting that you can access from the main window. But you also have the option of setting a custom fan curve in the program’s configuration menu. Here, you can draw your preferred curve, set fan hysteresis, and determine how often fan speeds are updated.
Afterburner’s fan speed control is straightforward, but it has the advantage of working properly with most GPUs’ idle fan stop feature. It’s great if you want absolute silence from your GPU at idle but dislike how the fans behave when gaming.
Unlike more general PC fan controller software, MSI Afterburner also has a toggle for a “firmware control mode.” Enabling this allows you to set your GPU’s fan curve directly in firmware, bypassing the need to have MSI Afterburner open in the background. This frees up system resources and reduces the number of programs that load in when you start your computer.
So if you only need GPU fan control, you can enable Afterburner’s “use firmware control mode” toggle. You may want to keep it running, though, as Afterburner also offers a great way to monitor your temperatures. There’s even a handy in-game overlay option courtesy of the accompanying RivaTuner Statistics Server.
Of course, all the performance tweaking features that made MSI Afterburner such a hit back in the day are still present. That said, the limited overclocking headroom on modern GPUs makes these features a bit less valuable than in the past. But they’re still there if you like to tinker and eke out every last bit of performance out of your GPU.
Overall, MSI Afterburner is the gold standard software for controlling your GPU. Whether you’re trying to get some extra performance or quiet down your graphics card’s default fan speeds, Afterburner is the program to start with.
And don’t worry about Afterburner being an MSI-branded product. The core functions (overclocking, fan control, voltage adjustments) work with GPUs from any manufacturer.
Other Fan Control Options
We don’t think there’s any reason to consider fan control software other than these three for most users. But there are a few alternatives worth discussing, even if only to discourage you from using them.
Motherboard Control Software
Most motherboard manufacturers have their own software suites, such as MSI Dragon Center or Gigabyte App Center. These programs work as a sort of one-stop-shop for a host of motherboard-related features such as auto CPU overclocking, ARGB, and fan speeds.
The big problem with these manufacturer software suites is that they tend to be unstable, eat up system resources, and have a ton of features you’ll rarely use. The fan control features pale in comparison to Fan Control, too. Most of these suites are essentially bloatware, and we highly recommend avoiding them unless necessary.
Companies like Corsair and NZXT also have their own control suites (iCUE and CAM, respectively) designed for managing and monitoring their RGB fans and other components. We’re not that keen on these either, but are excellent ways to control your rig’s RGB lighting (provided you’ve bought into their respective ecosystems).
If you’re running Corsair or NZXT RGB components then these programs are the best, most full-featured ways to set up a killer lighting scheme. So they’re definitely useful, just not programs we’d recommend solely for fan control.
BIOS Fan Control
BIOS-based fan control is arguably the second-best PC fan control solution behind Fan Control in our books, although it comes with a couple of obvious limitations that stopped it from making our main list.
Firstly, your sensor options are relatively limited. BIOS fan control only works with on-motherboard sensors, so there’s no way to pin curves to GPU or storage drive temperatures. Most motherboards will have a PCIe slot sensor, but there’s often no direct relationship between GPU temperatures and the PCIe slot temperature. So any GPU-based fan curves will be tough to set up in BIOS.
Secondly, there’s the hassle of having to restart and enter BIOS every time you want to tweak your fan curves. It’s alright once you’ve figured it out and don’t need to change it again, sure. But having to restart your computer over and over again when you’re finding the right settings to optimize your rig’s airflow gets old fast.
So, while the three fan speed control software in our main list aren’t the only options, we think you’ll understand why we believe they’re the best choices for most users.
Finding your rig’s best fan curve settings might not sound like the most exciting activity, and we get that. But we’d argue that it’s an essential part of owning a gaming rig, especially if you’ve ever been dissatisfied with your computer’s noise levels or temperatures. Whether you’re trying to balance the two or just want to brute force cooling by ramping your fans up to max, the best fan control software will help you set things up exactly how you want.
If you have a modern gaming rig running Windows 10 or 11, Fan Control is the way to go. Since it works with CPU, system, and GPU fans, there’s no reason to use anything else for your fans. You’ll probably want to install MSI Afterburner for its other features, but Fan Control has fan speed control on lock.