Before undertaking any of the more time-consuming solutions below, here are a few fundamentals to get you started.
- Restart the device–especially if you have not done so recently. This can clear out any minor hiccups or bugs resulting from long uptime.
- To do this within the Operating System, press Steam, then navigate to Power > Restart.
- Alternatively, initiate a restart by pressing and holding the power button for three seconds.
- A force shutdown can be done if necessary. Press and hold power for ten full seconds.
- Check for updates:
- Press the Steam button
- Click System in the sidebar.
- Select Check for Updates. The available updates will prompt you to install once found.
- Perform a visual inspection of the vent grill along the top edge. This is where air from the fan is blown out.
- Make certain airflow is good (can you feel air coming out?).
- If it looks dusty from the outside, or you can hear the fan but feel no airflow, skip ahead to the Dusty Internals section.
Running Old Software
Although this was mentioned already, it bears repeating. Due in part to early complaints about fan noise, several patches were issued specifically to address these concerns. Beyond tweaks to the operating system, the ability to adjust the fan curve on your Steam Deck was introduced via update.
- This Setting is located at the bottom of the System menu.
- You can choose from the original fan curve, a new stock fan curve, or the ability to customize your own.
Under Heavy Load
It’s nearly inevitable that you will want to play a game that is more graphically demanding than a Steam Deck can handle at the settings you selected. Or maybe you like to test the limits. When you make a computer do heavy work, high fan speeds are its way of compensating for the additional heat this work generates.
- Try running something more lightweight and see if the fan noise lessens.
- Lower the graphics settings of the game you’re playing. It might not look as pretty, but it could improve the performance of your Steam Deck, and decrease the need for such heavy fan spin.
Just like your desktop computer, a Steam Deck can become laden with dust. This could choke off systems trying to exhaust hot air. Higher internal temperatures lead to higher fan speeds. This is the system attempting to compensate for higher-than-normal temperatures.
- Pop off the back and give the internals a good cleaning with some compressed air.
- You may want to remove the fan to get at the fins on the heat sink. Anything larger than a few specks of dust might get caught here as the hot air carrying it slips through
Type of Fan Installed
There was some controversy shortly after launch regarding both the noise level of the fan and the quality of noise the fan was generating. Early adopters noted fans from two different vendors had been used during Steam Deck production, likely to increase output capacity. One of these fan variants was ultimately deemed the culprit for the "whining" some users complained of.
- A Huaying fan was used in some production runs. Early units sent out for review notably contained the Huaying fan. This is typically the more desirable variant. It reportedly runs quieter and has a more appealing tone.
- The second variant comes from Delta. The Delta fan received more complaints regarding their volume or unpleasant whine.
Now you can check the type of fan and any other part in your Steam Deck within Settings > System > Model/Serial Numbers. This is a list of all the components in your specific device as it was manufactured, and serial numbers for any it can source.
If you have a Delta fan, swapping out for the Huaying variety might ease the noise.
If you’ve verified the device is clean and your heat sink is sound, make sure the fans themselves are fully functional.
- Really listen to the sound the fans are making. This is best done with the back removed. Is it rumbling, clicking, or making other noises that are new? Is it running at max speed constantly?
- Rattling, rumbling, or other atypical fan noises are caused by wear on fan components. They are often the only moving part inside of a modern computerized device and are subject to long periods of high speed.
- A fan might also be loud if it's only running at max speed. Steam Deck fans have an extra pin on the connector, likely to enable speed adjustment. If the fan is running at full speed, this could indicate a failure of this mechanism.
- If your fan is making a loud noise that sounds abnormal, replace it. Verify after installation that the new fan has resolved the issue.
- If the noise persists after fan replacement, be sure the fan is actually the source of the sound.