A free macOS app called smcFanControl lets you individually control the fans built into every Mac desktop or notebook in order to make your computer run cooler.

Keeping your Mac cool can be challenging

I blog from the beaches during the summer so my notebook quickly becomes unbearably hot due to the heat from direct sunlight. In order to protect the internal components, the built-in fans kick into overdrive to bring the overall temperature of the CPU/GPU/HDD down. macOS will also lower the clock frequency to give the processor a chance to run slower and cool off.

Your Mac may also suffer from overheating when running heavy apps and GPU-intensive games, or due to background processes such as Spotlight and Photos indexing. Worse, I’ve even had cases when the fans in my MacBook Pro would intermittently start spinning like crazy, without any app running whatsoever, due to some old process stuck from prior updates.

The said, I’ve always wanted some control over my Mac’s fan speed but I understand why Apple is reluctant to provide such an option as it could easily lead to CPU failures every time someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing reduces the fan speed below the minimum.

With smcFanControl, you have total control of the computer’s fans, all the time.

Mac fan control

Use it to safely set the minimum speed of the left and right fans individually. I especially liked three customizable presets for when my computer is connected to AC power, running off its battery or charging, which allow smcFanControl to set different speeds for each fan automatically, as soon as the power source changes.

The app sits in the menu bar, with the icon reflecting the current CPU/GPU/HDD temperature and individual fan speeds. Click the icon to open the menu and display more information, switch between your default presets, bring up the settings interface and access other options.

When you quit smcFanControl, the computer goes back to macOS’s default fan control.

Is smcFanControl safe to use?

smcFanControl manages your Mac’s fans responsibly to avoid damaging it. The app ensures that whatever value you set is within acceptable tolerances. You cannot set a minimum/maximum speed to a value below/above Apple’s defaults.

For those wondering, the minimum default fan speed is 1,000 rpm for the 15-inch MacBook Pro, 1,500rpm for its 13-inch counterpart, 2,000rpm for older MacBook Pros with Intel’s Core 2 Duo chip and 1,800rpm for the older Core 2 Duo MacBook models.

According to the FAQ, if you use smcFanControl to set a new minimum speed, your fan speed will still get a boost when the CPU load gets higher. “smcFanControl lets the fans stay in automatic mode and just sets the minimum fan speed,” reads the FAQ. “However, the higher you set the minimum fan speed, the longer it will take for the fan speed to increase.”

Why would I want to use smcFanControl?

smcFanControl has other use cases, including troubleshooting. Speaking of troubleshooting, if your Mac is experiencing fan speed issues, resetting the System Management Controller (SMC) may solve the problem because one of the functions of the SMC is controlling your Mac’s fans.

TUTORIAL: How to reset your Mac’s SMC

I’ve even seen cases of people using this nifty little piece of software to boost their fan speed and keep the temperature down versus having to clean dirt that’s clogging up the fans. The app is particularly useful to creative professionals such as designers, musicians and video editors who work long hours on their computer and want it to stay cool throughout their work. For instance, a video editor may use smcFanControl to set their own default fan speed high only when they’re exporting a video.

smcfancontrol Mac fan control

You don’t need to be a pro to find uses for smcFanControl, you could simply be a person who has avoided setting a Mac notebook on their bare legs because the bottom is just too hot (suggestion: maybe use a notebook stand instead of your lap?). Others may simply require some way of controlling the fan speed in order to fit their various workflows.

A word of warning

Keep in mind that iDownloadBlog does not condone using special software to alter the way macOS handles fan speed because Apple’s software does this right most of the time. But if you’re a power users or happen to be in one of the niches I mentioned above, you’ll probably want to use this app to set the fan speed however you want.

To install smcFanControl, drag its icon to your Applications folder after unzipping the download. To uninstall, drag the icon into the Trash (smcFanControl installs no permanent background processes or daemons).  As mentioned earlier, the app stops controlling the fans when your Mac shuts down, restarts or enters standby mode, in which case minimum fan speed falls back to the system values.

Before signing off, you’ll be asked to enter your admin password when using the app because smcFanControl needs administrative privileges to be able to change the fan speed.

Pricing and availability

smcFanControl is a free app, but you can make a donation to the developer for their hard work. It requires an Intel-based Mac with a 64-bit chip and Mac OS X Snow Leopard 10.6 or later.

You can download smcFanControl for free through GitHub.