Mac Running Hot? Lower Your Mac's Temperature with SMC Fan Control

For years, Apple has been known for producing great portable products like the MacBook and MacBook Pro. They are thin, powerful, sleek and run very, very hot. It’s an unfortunate result of cramming the latest and greatest technology into the thinnest, most attractive casing possible.


There are a variety of solutions to help keep your Mac cooler. You could go with a laptop stand to lift the laptop up, improving airflow and breathability. It’s no doubt a valid option, but there is an easier, free option. It’s called SMC Fan Control, and today we’re going to take a look at it.


SMC Fan Control is a free app that allows you to change your Mac’s default fan speed, as well as create fan presets that can be activated from the menubar, or when the power source changes (battery vs. AC).


From the menubar, you can access SMC Fan Control’s settings.


At the top you’ll see the presets list, with the option to add or remove them. Below that you’ll see one or two fans listed, with a slider next to each (the amount of fans varies by model). At the bottom of the preferences you can adjust how your presets are applied. For example, you could make a preset that turns the fan speed up when your Mac is plugged in to a power source.


All of these settings are fairly simple. The more difficult part is figuring out what fan speeds for your presets. I’ve always used three presets: Default, Higher RPM and Super High. For my Mac, that translates to 1800RPM, 3800RPM and 6200RPM, respectively. However, those numbers won’t apply to all Mac models. Instead, its best to just go by the position of the slider. My default position is with the slider all the way to the left. Higher RPM is with the slider about halfway, and Super High is with the slider all the way to the right.


Once you have that set up, you can start to think about if you’d like any of these presets to be triggered based on your power source. Running the fans at a higher speed will decrease your battery life. The exact decrease is unknown, though we can estimate it may be around 5-10 minutes. Not much, but to some that may be an issue. Because of that, I tend to keep the “Default” preset on when running on battery. When my Mac is charging, or running on AC, it is set to run at the “Higher RPM” preset. This helps keep the Mac cooler, without a huge increase in fan noise.


There are times when you will want to manually switch to the “Super High” preset. Maybe you are using Photoshop, or rendering video in Final Cut. Whatever you’re doing, you’ll know it’s time to kick up the fan another notch when you either feel a burning sensation when touching the bottom of your Mac, you hear your Mac automatically increasing the fan speed, or you see SMC Fan Control reporting a high temperature in the menubar.


Generally 85 Celsius is temperature where you might want to start thinking about turning up the fan. Of course, this also varies from Mac to Mac. My Mac (2011 17″ MBP), for example, is pretty safe up to 90 Celsius, at which point I kick up the fans. You can manually switch to your “Super High” preset by selecting “Active Setting” in the SMC Fan Control menu.




Overall, SMC Fan Control is a great solution to keep your Mac at a comfortable temperature. There are, however, a few things you need to know.


  • Running fans at a high speed can decrease battery life.
  • Running fans at a high speed for long periods of time may decrease fan life. Nobody really knows what the effects of this software are in the long run. I’ve used it for years with no problems, but that may not always be the case. Use the higher fan speeds sparingly.
  • Your Mac is built to handle very high temperatures. It is not however, built to do so in a way that is comfortable for the user. SMC Fan Control is really only necessary to make the Mac more comfortable for the user.
  • Running fans at a high speed can be very loud.


With those things in mind, you are well on your way to safely using SMC Fan Control to make life with your Mac a much more comfortable experience.



SMC Fan Control

Five Stars

Do you feel like your legs are burning whenever you use your MacBook or MacBook Pro? It isn't uncommon for Macs to run at a very high temperature; In fact they are built to handle it. However, that doesn't make it any more comfortable. Help ease your pain by installing SMC Fan Control. SMC Fan Control allows fine tuning of your Mac's fan speeds, meaning you can increase its default speed to prevent a hot Mac. You can also quickly switch between your own predefined settings in the menu bar, or set it to switch automatically based on your Mac's power source.



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