How to connect several coolers to a computer at once: connectors, pads, controllers

The cooling system is the most important part of the computer. It protects components from overheating, which is especially important for gaming assemblies. A powerful graphics card and a modern processor require good cooling. This means that one CPU cooler is not enough: its capabilities are simply not enough. Most likely, you will have to connect a whole system of case fans. How to do this – we will tell in the material.

Pads and connectors
The organization of the fan cooling system directly depends on the capabilities of the case. Simply put, there should be enough space for connecting coolers. There are many modern cases on the market today, one of the most common is the Midi Tower. It allows you to connect a large number of fans, up to five or six pieces. This time we will not delve into the organization of air flows and other subtleties. Our task is to deal with the connection.

There are three main types of blocks through which coolers are connected: 3-pin, 4-pin, MOLEX. These are the most common connection types. There are also fans with 2-pin connection, but they are mainly used in power supplies. This is not our case.

If 2-, 3-, 4 pins are used almost everywhere, then the MOLEX connector is gradually becoming a thing of the past. This type of connection does not have rotation speed adjustment or rotation reading function. With this connection, the fan constantly rotates at its maximum speed. That’s why it’s often noisy.

So, we figured out the pads, let’s proceed directly to the connection methods.

Connecting directly to the motherboard
This method is one of the most common. Modern boards have a large number of connectors for connecting fans. A lot depends on the price range. For example, the MSI B660 Tomahawk has two CPU fan headers (4-pin each) and five case fan headers (4-pin each).

CPU_OPT FAN – a connector, in fact, duplicating CPU_FAN. If you have a cooler that comes with two fans, the second one can be connected here. However, it is not necessary to do so. Modern coolers are equipped with special splitters that allow you to connect two fans to one channel. We will talk about them a little lower.
SYS_FAN (CHA_FAN) – connectors for connecting case fans;
AIO_Pump (Pump_FAN) – a connector designed to connect a pump (needed by owners of water cooling systems).
With such an extensive selection of connectors, you can connect your own fan to each and set their rotation speed using special utilities or the BIOS.

What if the fan has a 3-pin connection and does not have a fourth pin (rotation control)? In modern BIOSes, there is a section responsible for monitoring and controlling fans. As a rule, it is located in the Monitor section. The section offers a choice of two types of fan control: PWM and DC. They allow the fans to spin faster or slower – this is done by lowering / increasing the voltage.


PWM (PWM) is a type of control in which the rotation speed changes automatically depending on the temperature. Set by the motherboard.
DC is a type of control in which the fan speed is set by the user and remains unchanged.

In addition to adjusting using the BIOS, there are special utilities. For example, Fan Control. It makes it possible to change the speed of rotation of the fans connected to the motherboard in real time.

Regulation of each fan separately;
Real-time fan speed monitoring (with the ability to change them).

To adjust the speed, you need to boot into the BIOS each time or keep special utilities in Windows startup.
The internal view of the system unit is spoiled. This is critical in the case when cables are laid inside the system unit in a special way – Cable Management.
There is no flexibility when connecting a fan to a specific header. Different fans have different wire lengths, so you need to consider the location of the fans to a specific connector. The problem can be solved by buying extension cords, but this spoils the internal appearance.
Special splitters
What to do if there are very few fan connectors on the motherboard – say, only two pieces? Let’s take the MSI B450M VDH-PRO MAX motherboard as an example. It has one connector for connecting a cooler and one connector for connecting a case fan.

Some models allow you to increase the number of coolers up to six pieces. In this case, the splitters do not necessarily represent a “bouquet” of wires. There are also more subtle options. For example, in the form of a special board on which a different number of connectors for connecting fans are soldered. A double-sided adhesive tape is glued on the reverse side, which fastens the splitter to the housing wall. This whole structure is powered by a single 4-pin wire.

Connection methods in all listed cases are the same. A fan is connected to each block, then a common wire is connected to the motherboard. In fact, several fans are combined into one group.

It is not recommended to connect a large number of fans to one motherboard connector. A reasonable limit is limited to three pieces. Connectors overloaded with coolers can simply break.

Fan controllers are a more complex but effective option. You can really connect a lot of turntables to them: even four coolers on one channel will not be a problem. For example, up to 24 fans can be connected to the controller number 3. It is mounted on the rear wall of the case in the PCI-Express hole.

There are touch controllers. Today, such devices are no longer in demand due to the design features of the cases. The fact is that a special compartment 5.25 is required to install such controllers.

With the help of controllers, you can control the fans and monitor their operation in real time. Some are equipped with special thermocouples that allow you to monitor the temperature of the components. They can be placed at various points inside the case (for example, on the surface of a hard drive). Now, however, thermocouples are a thing of the past: they are easily replaced by specialized programs.

Such fans are connected either to the motherboard or to a special controller. In the first case, backlight control is carried out either using the BIOS or using special utilities. Programs are supplied by board manufacturers themselves: Asus Aura Sync, MSI Lighting Sync, AsRock Polychrome Sync, Gigabyte RGB Fusion, Biostar RGB Sync.

Controllers for illuminated fans are equipped with an additional control panel. It allows you to customize not only the operation of coolers, but also lighting. The remote control is connected directly to the control unit, and the unit itself is connected to the motherboard and power supply.

The connectors are different. For RGB, a four-pin connector is used:

There are special splitter cables that allow you to combine coolers into a group. And, of course, control their lighting.

Connecting backlit fans is a simple matter. We place the fans in the case, then use special cables to connect them together. If we control the backlight using the BIOS or software, then we connect two main cables to it: 4-pin and RGB / ARGB. Then, in the BIOS or the program, we configure the backlight and speed at our discretion.

If we will control using the controller, then first we connect the main wires to it. Therefore, we are already connecting the controller to the motherboard. Such designs, as a rule, are supplied with detailed instructions – so there will be no problems with installation. Motherboards that support backlight mode also have a corresponding instruction.

Connecting a group of fans inside the case is, of course, fascinating. But it is important to remember: you need to approach the matter seriously. It is necessary to carefully select fans, correctly position them and adjust the air flow. There are a huge number of options, there is plenty to choose from. It all depends on your needs, the style of the case and, of course, on the components themselves.