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Fan config: Does it matter? Testing push vs pull vs push/pull

When I built my first PC a few years back, I used the excellent Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO to cool the processor. However, I remember feeling very confused about how I should mount the fan to the heatsink – some people said ‘just stick it on any way’, while some online pundits were certain that I HAD to use two fans in a push/pull configuration or else my PC would burst into flames at any moment.

I am of course exaggerating slightly, but there is a great deal of misinformation and contradictory statements to be found online about setting up the fan(s) for the CPU cooler. This article is designed to cut through the noise and get to the facts: does it actually matter where you mount your fans, or how many you use? Read on for how I put this to the test, as well as the all-important results and what conclusions can be drawn from the data we gathered.

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  • chris

    Well if your within a few c of your cpus maximum temperature your cooling is either insufficient or your overclock is too high

  • Brayden Merrill

    I’ve got my PC (4770k @4.5GHz + 970) setup with a slightly positive interior pressure, and have found this works best for me. I use 2 140mm Fractal R3’s in the front and 1 120mm on the bottom (wood floor, plenty of room) for intake, 1 140 in the back and 2 120’s + radiator on top for exhaust. All inside the Define R5. Use a Lepa something or other AIO. Seeing max temps around 66C on the CPU. Not bad imo.

  • Juris József

    3770K stock with corsair h75 push pull config with noctua nt-h1 thermalpaste, 65-72 celsius under 100%load, room temp 20C.

  • Giordano Saltafossi

    I always ask myself a thing when i read about cooler testing: if Amd FX 9590 is the hottest cpu, why use Intel ?

  • warriorscot

    Using a double thickness 240mm with push I get 45C under full load on a 3770.

    The difference is mostly just from the flow patterns inside the cooler, higher flowrates change how the air moves within the cooler allowing it to transfer more heat. Basically all that stuff on turbulent or laminar flow and Reynolds number you learned at school.

  • jt AJ

    shouldnt need to test its pretty obvious when it comes to physics push > pull and push/pull > push with just 1 fan.

  • >savt

    I agree, a 9590 is a higher heat load but more people use Intel products so this wold be more relatable, and with this being an older HED chip, it would be more likely more people would be running something like this. There is a valid argument either way

  • Greg Zeng

    Use an infra-red temperature meter (eg in-ear body temperature gadget is what I use). Then work out which parts of the computer are at which temperatures.

    Then, using the push-fan, direct the cold intake air towards those hot units: cpu, gpu, hdd, power-supply, etc. I used cut-pieces of (plastic) cola bottles to direct this flow. The dvantage of push-fan is the use of an air-filter to prevent dust rubbish moving into the computer.

    Any other air-leaks were sealed with tape & putty-stuff (post-it putty). Other people pipe in cold, fresh air from outside the room (outside & under the building, etc).

    I also tried humidified air, to increase the loading of the heat extraction of the “fresh” air. Humidified air can come from a fish-tank, or from a ultra-sonic humidifier injecting water into the air stream.

    Extracted-air is higher temperature (& humidity?) than room temperature. So I directed this extracted air out of he room, along with the noise of the PC. Pull-fans help overcome the restrictive friction of any air tubes needed.

  • Bert Tweetering

    Looking at the numbers, push/pull clearly did best under load (this is what you expect from physics too). Cooling under load is what’s important. (I assume the RPMs spin down in idle.)

  • Bert Tweetering

    commence operation vacuu-suck

  • jt AJ

    ye, push is better than pull cause a bit more surface area and more wind force.

  • pao

    Yup. Little difference unless in the push config where someone wants to cool a device such as a hard disk or video card.
    As someone mentioned below, the only difference also is in dust control. I have a design that minimizes dust using an all Pull config.

  • Matthew

    Slim margins, but push confirmed as better than pull. Throwing air in with push obviously works better than the lazy path of least resistance airflow drawn through by a pull fan.

    The unconvincing gain of push/pull tallies with the results for pressure vs. flow fans, so long as the back pressure is not limiting the flow, the extra suck from push/pull is not going to make a huge difference.

    A two stage tower with mid fan would probably benefit from push and mid

  • Christer Galzow

    I have a little Question about the Arctic Liquid Freezer in Push/Pull config.
    How does it fit in the Kolink Aviator V Case?
    Did you put it in the Top Slot or remove the Hard Disk Frame to mount it in Front?

  • giu46

    hello, personally i have the same cooler but not the case.
    My case is a h440v2, i have removed 3 hard disk “slots” on the front to make a push & pull.
    I got it by 11 months, all is ok, but i want to test in future the changes with push or pull on the top.