FAQ: Can Noctua fans be used to replace noisy stock fans in switches, routers or other network devices?
Noctua fans such as the 40, 60, 80 or 92mm NF-A series models are ideal for replacing noisy stock fans in switches, routers and other network devices in order to make them quieter and thousands of users have managed to significantly reduce the noise levels of their units this way. However, while it is easy and straightforward to replace the fans in some cases, it can be very difficult in others, so Noctua strongly recommends that users carefully research if it is possible to easily replace the fan(s) of their network device before purchasing a Noctua fan for this purpose. Some of the common issues that can occur when replacing pre-installed fans are:
- Different pin assignment: Whereas Noctua fans use the standardised pin assignment for PC fans (see this FAQ for details), some network devices use different assignments. For example, some devices have the power and GND or rpm and PWM pins swapped. Therefore please carefully verify that your device uses the same pin assignment as standard fans. Experienced users may also change the pin assignment by cutting and resoldering the fan cables, but please note that this will void your Noctua manufacturer’s warranty.
- Different pin functions: Noctua fans use the standardised pin functions for PC fans (see this FAQ for details); however, some network devices use fans where certain pins serve a different function. For example, some devices use the RPM pin for “power good” signals. Therefore please carefully verify that your device uses the same pin functions.
- Firmware speed control: Some network devices demand a certain maximum or minimum fan speed. If the new fan doesn’t have the same or similar maximum or minimum speed, the device may display errors or even shut down.
- Different starting voltage: Most network devices use voltage-based speed control. If the new fan has a higher starting voltage than the original fan, it may not start up right away. This may lead the device to display errors or even shut down because it suspects a fan failure.
- Different power draw: Some network devices monitor the fan’s power draw. If the new fan has a lower power consumption than the stock fan, the device might display errors or even shut down.
Please note that most network device manufacturers don’t provide detailed documentation regarding fan compatibility and control, so users who want to replace the fans of their devices usually have to rely on “How to” guides, blog and forum posts or video tutorials. Please also note that fan compatibility and control can vary from model to model and even from revision to revision even if the devices stem from the same manufacturer. As a result, it is important to make sure that the information or guidelines you rely on when replacing your fans are applicable to your specific model as well as your specific hardware and firmware revision.
Due to the possible issues listed above, Noctua recommends that only experienced users attempt to replace their pre-installed fans in network devices. Please note that since there are so many different devices and most of them lack documentation for aspects such as fan compatibility and control, Noctua customer support cannot assist you with compatibility issues when replacing pre-installed fans. Please contact your network device manufacturer for any questions regarding aspects such as the device’s pin alignment or fan monitoring and control.