Driving a Playstation 3 Fan

Lately I've been elbows-deep in some broken Playstation 3's and found myself wanting to test their cooling fans. These have a three-wire header with leads colored brown, black, and gray; you may be tempted to conclude that this is a brushed DC fan with a tachometer lead, but you'd be wrong. These are brushless fans, and the third wire is a PWM signal that you supply to control the speed of the fan. The two PS3s (both “fat” style) I've opened recently have compatible fans from separate manufacturers; one is a Nidec G14T12BS2AF-56J14 and the other is a Delta Electronics KFB-1412H.

Nidec and Delta models

It's not trivially easy to find datasheets for these fans, but no matter. If you just want to test them or need a good centrifugal blower for one of your own projects, do the following:

  • Apply 12 volts across the brown and black leads; +12 V on brown with return on black. The fan will probably jump a little but it won't start spinning.
  • Drive the gray lead with a TTL-level pulse train at 25 kHz from a signal generator or 555 timer circuit or microcontroller or whatever.
  • Control the duty cycle of this pulse train to adjust the speed.

That's it!

Seven Comments So Far

December 26, 2015
stan says:
i dont have a signal generator and have only a 12vdc supply
can i test it at max speed
by going across black and grey and at the same time keep 12v dc on brown?
as my ps3 is in bits as ive taken the motor out to test it
January 15, 2016
Eiki Martinson says:
I'm not sure if you can drive the duty cycle all the way to 100% on these. I'd try it myself but I don't have either fan anymore, and like I said, reliable information on these is not so easy to come by. If you try it though, put only 5V on the gray lead, not 12V. Please share your results!
October 01, 2016
Danny says:
Did u ever try doin the power on the signal wire as well? I dont wna burn mine out so was gna see if u burnt urs lol.
April 12, 2017
Anon says:
Late addition for informational purposes:

Recently roughly tested a couple of Original PS3 fans (Furakawa Elec version and another newer version I can't recall) using 12VDC from a PC power supply on the Brown (+) and the Black (-) pins, along with approx 3VDC from a couple of AA batteries in a holder applied to the Gray (+) and Black (-) pins for a few seconds.

Fans spun up to 100% speed (or close to it) since constant 3.3V is 100% duty cycle signal)

Only apply the 3V for long enough to see that fan works to be safe since it isn't a pulsed control input.
July 23, 2019
90skidjohnny says:
I am actually building a fume extractor using this fan.
I am waiting on a few resistors to come in, but will be powering this pan via 12v dc power supply and creating a voltage divider to send 3v to the control wire. We shall see if this works out.
August 07, 2019
Eiki Martinson says:
Share your results Johnny! Be sure to check out http://eikimartinson.com/engineering/fume0/ for more, er... tips on that one.
July 23, 2020
Mersc says:
"you may be tempted to conclude that this is a brushed DC fan with a tachometer lead"

I don't think anyone in their right mind would think that. Why on earth would a computer system use a brushed motor for a fan? I'm sure most people would see the 3 wires and think it's the same as a standard pc fan. brushless with tach on 3rd pin and mobo controls the voltage to regulate speed. But instead it's like a 4 pin pc fan but with no tach, just power and pwm wires.

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