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What is a USB Fan?

By Ben O'Neill
Updated May 17, 2024
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A Universal Serial Bus (USB) fan is any fan that makes use of a USB port for power. USB ports are standard features on most modern computers, on many other electronic devices, such as video game consoles, personal digital assistants (PDAs), smartphones, and digital video recorder (DVR) boxes. A USB fan allows a user to make use of these ports for cooling purposes.

USB fans come in a wide array of sizes and forms, from standard desktop fans to smaller, more functional computer case fans. Whatever design they adhere to, though, they all must work within the limitations of the USB specification and therefore can draw no more than 5 volts of power. This means that most USB fans will be relatively small in size and suitable for a desktop environment.

A USB fan can serve many purposes. For instance, many laptops can benefit from a USB fan for system-cooling purposes. Computer parts generate a great deal of heat. Often, over the life of a laptop, the built-in system cooling will prove inadequate to keep the laptop running at acceptable temperatures. When this happens, the system may overheat, resulting in a sharp decline in performance.

A user whose laptop is overheating might notice system lockups and graphical errors. Eventually, the laptop might cease functioning altogether as the excessive heat causes its internal hardware to break down. A properly positioned USB fan can prevent overheating from happening and greatly increase the lifespan of a laptop.

Many video game consoles have problems with overheating as well. Like in computer systems, such overheating can result in many undesirable side effects, such as freezing or poor performance. No gamer enjoys having his or her system shut off just as he or she are about to defeat the final opponent. Additionally, if left untreated, a heat problem can turn from a minor annoyance into a severe problem as the parts that are overheating continue to degrade.

Many modern video game consoles come equipped with USB slots. This means that a small USB fan often can be used to supplement the system fans already in place. This is often more than sufficient to reduce the temperature enough to prevent these problems from escalating.

USB fans also work well as desktop fans. Although the amount of power that a USB port is capable of transmitting is not enough to run a large fan suitable for cooling an entire room, it is more than enough to power a small desktop fan. A single user can greatly benefit from the increased airflow that a desktop USB fan can provide.

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Discussion Comments

By bear78 — On Oct 04, 2014

I'd also suggest to everyone to get a fan with a long base or wire. Otherwise, if the fan is too close to computer or laptop, it's difficult to adjust. And one can run fingers and hands into it easily. So it's possible to get hurt too.

By literally45 — On Oct 04, 2014

@stoneMason-- You might have too keep looking and read more reviews, but there are definitely decent quality USB fans out there. You'll not only want something that lasts long, has decent air flow, but also something that's quiet. A loud fan, however small it may be, will be very distracting during work.

I have a nice USB fan. It's very small but gets the job done. I don't use it for myself, just for my laptop. But it makes a significant difference and my computer hasn't slowed down due to overheating since I started using the fan. The only downside I can think of is that it doesn't have a switch to turn it off. So I have to pull the USB out. But it's not a very big deal.

By stoneMason — On Oct 03, 2014

I wan a small USB fan to use both to cool down my computer and myself in the summer. I'm not expecting amazing air flow, but even moderately air flow will be beneficial I think. I'm just worried about quality. I don't want something that breaks down after a week. And based on some of the customer reviews I've been reading, most USB fans aren't very good quality.

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