App of the Week: smcFanControl

Macs are well-known for their sleek aesthetic designs, especially the unibody Macbooks, but the trade-off for such design isa lack of ventilation.  Normally, computers have exhaust ports to dispel heat out of the computer and keep it cool.  Mac’s don’t have the same exhaust systems as normal computers.  Most of their heat is dispelled through the various ports on the Mac, and if you’re running a Macbook system of any kind, through a small vent located in the hinge.  This isn’t a problem when you’re typing papers, reading emails, or doing other light tasks, but it is an issue for resources intensive tasks, like gaming, burning/ripping discs, or exporting movies.  And your Mac’s fan doesn’t naturally kick in nearly as much as other computers do, as it tries to keep that low-key beauty.  So what can you do?  Get a utility to let you control the fan, and I recommend smcFanControl.

smcFanControl, or smc for short, works by allowing to adjust you fan’s default speed and also have other settings for specific events.  These other settings can be kicked in either manually or at certain points in time.  For example, I have a setting for Quiet, Default, High, and Gaming.  Quiet, obviously, is the lowest speed and so generates the least amount of noise, but I activate this only manually when I need it to be quiet, or in a low power situation.  Default is the setting I usually have it on, and it’s a little bit faster.  When I plug-in my Macbook Pro to charge, the High setting kicks in to help dispel some of the heat that charging generates.  Finally, Gaming only kicks in automatically when the MBP is fully charged, but I also engage it manually for high resource activities, like gaming.

smc does have a slight fault, but something that is a logical trade-off; by adjusting the fan speeds, you will lower your battery life at higher settings, and could potentially wear out the fan faster by leaving it at very high speeds for long periods of time.  However, I haven’t really heard of any problems like this, it is really only theoretical.

smc works on Leopard and Snow Leopard (10.5 and 10.6 respectively), but early reports indicate that it runs fine on Lion (10.7) as well.  smc also runs fine on most Macbooks, Macbook Pros, and Airs, as well as Mac Mini’s.  Support for iMacs and Mac Pro’s are limited and can be read on the app’s first startup.  Download it at

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