Cooling Overheating PS3 Cabinet

The Playstation 3 is a very powerful machine. So powerful that it needs a lot of electricity to run, and that means it produces lots of heat. It has a very efficient built-in fan to keep it from melting down, but when it gets too hot, the fan starts to run very fast, making a noise something like a small jet taking off.

My PS3 is in a cabinet with a glass door, and I use mostly for watching DVDs. If the door is closed, then the PS3 will overheat in about 30 minutes which makes it hard to hear, but if I leave the door open, then all is cool, except you can now hear the normal fan noise from the PS3. I did not like this state of affairs – for one thing I would forget, and half-way through watching a DVD I would hear this horrible high-pitched roar coming from the cabinet, and I’d have to either ignore it and hope it did not explode, or open the door and listen to it at full volume until it cooled down.

I could move the PS3, but there is really nowhere for it to go in a way that my wife would find aesthetically pleasing, so it’s kind of stuck there. Adding an aftermarket PS3 fan such as the “intercooler” is pointless, since the problem is the air inside the cabinet getting too hot, and having nowhere to go. The PS3 is quite capable of cooling itself, so long as it is “well ventilated”. So I decided what I needed to do was mod the cabinet by adding a cooling fan that would blow in cold air.

At first I was thinking some kind of PC fan, with an external power supply, but then I found the ideal solution: a USB powered fan. If it’s powered off the PS3’s USB port, then it would automatically switch on and off with the PS3.

A little searching led to the ideal fan, the Thermaltake Mobilefan II, a USB powered fan, with speed control, for the stunningly cheap price of $9.30 (plus shipping). (Note: don’t get the II+ version, as it has bright blue LEDs).

Here’s what my cabinet looks like, I’ve removed the top shelf, but you can see it’s pretty cramped. The PS3 has an intake on the back, and the hot air blows out the right side. So I keep it pushed against the left side of the cabinet, with as much space on the right as possible. It’s hardly surprising it overheats.

So first I plug the fan into the PS3, and switch it on. The fan starts and stops with the PS3, great! I note which way the air blows. I’d read somewhere that it’s better to blow cool air IN to a cabinet than to suck hot air out. Apparently this stops dust gathering in every air inlet hole as well. So I figure I’ll mount the fan in the back, pointing at the PS3’s air inlet. (But see later)

The fan is intended to be external, and so it comes with grill covers on both sides, and a little stand. The first thing I did was remove these, and then use the grill cover as a handy template to mark the mounting holes, and the circular outline of the fan.

I then drill those mounting holes, and drill holes around the edge of the fan outline, and punch out the middle. Not the neatest job, but it’s going to be covered by the fan. One thing to be careful here is cleaning up the edges. Excessively protruding pieces can mess with the fan blades. Just give it a spin manually to make sure nothing catches. This photo shows what it looked like just before I removed the middle piece.

I then mount the fan using the nuts and long bolts that came with the fan (that were holding on the covers). This was rather fiddly, and if the back of your cabinet is thicker then you might have to use screws.

I clean up the dust, put the PS3 back, connect the fan’s supplied USB cable, and we are good to go!

The fan’s cable is actually very small and neat, being flat it can go underneath the PS3. The big cable above is the USB cable for charging the controllers. Note the position of the fan relative to the PS3. It’s blowing cold air right at it.

Results? It works! We watched three episodes of “Lost” with the door closed. I had the fan on the lowest setting at first, and it did seem to still be getting hot, so I turned it up at bit. The fan itself is silent at the lowest setting, but does get noisier at full power. But a fairly low power setting seems to work fine (I think the positioning of the fan relative to the PS3 is important here). With the door closed, the fan noise is not noticeable, and my PS3 can run forever.

[UPDATE] Since PS360 pointed out that the vents on the back are actually exhausts and not intakes, I’ve reversed the direction of the fan, so it now blows the air out of the cabinet. This seems to work very well, sucking out the hot air. While the blowing in cool air did work, I think it’s better this way around. You really have to consider the overall flow of air here, as PS360 says the intakes are actually on the front, with the exhausts on the side and back.

[UPDATE2 – after constructive feedback from the Playstation 3 forum] There was a photo that was not showing up in IE, which might explain the mixed opinions. I know it looks like it’s really cramped in there, but there are actually a couple of inches on the right, enough for the exhaust, and the vents at the back feed directly into the fan. I know it also looks dusty as well, that’s mostly from the flash, and it’s been cleaned since. The fan being bright orange is not an issue, as it sits at the back of the cabinet, and you can’t see it with the shelves in. Here’s what it actually looks like now (normally the door would be closed):


  1. //

    That’s some very clever problem solving. I wish we would have thought of it before we blew through 2 PS2’s. I had heard people say just to not use it as a DVD player at all because of the overheating problem.

  2. //

    The vents in the back aren’t intakes they, just like the top ( or right side in your case) are exhaust vents. the PS3’s active cooling “intakes” from the vents in the front,and through the vents on its under-front side.So in actuality you’re forcing it’s exhaust back at it. you would be better off sucking the hot air out rather than force cold air at its exhaust.but if your solution works more power too you. but just adding my 0.02$

  3. //

    Darn! You are correct, I was simply not paying attention. I’ve flipped the fan now, and I think it will work better this way, allowing me to have the fan on a lower power setting, and so be even quieter.

  4. //

    Curious…have you upgraded your PS3 to software 2.01 and if so have you experienced the fan running much more frequently regardless of the fan installation you did or does it still run quiet?

  5. //

    How much room is behind your entertainment center? I am trying to figure out how to do something very similar. I would like to know how much space is behind the cabinet because I don’t have much space behind mine. I am not sure this will work with my set up.

  6. //

    There’s quite a lot of room. I’m not sure how important it is though. The important thing is to create airflow, and if you are pushing hot air out the back, then cool air should get sucked in elsewhere.

  7. //

    I did something similar for my Xbox 360 which is in an entertainment center.

    The problem with the 360 is that the USB ports are constantly powered even with the system “off”.

    So, naturally.. I opened it up and soldered onto the motherboard!

    Required mounting a little pin connector on the back so I can remove the 360 from the cabinet without problems, and now the fan only runs when the system is on.

  8. //

    Great solution. I burned up my PS2 because I did not take venting into consideration. I think your solution should work nicely. The bad thing is, I just put my 360 in the same place as the PS2 without thinking about the venting problem. Thanks for the post, I think you just saved me some money.

  9. //

    Very helpful solution – just ordered a USB Cooling Fan like yours.

    Do you have any problems with the wireless network connection with the PS3 enclosed inside the cabinet?

    I have a similar setup and the PS3 does not connect to my wirless network any more.

  10. //

    Absolutely, stellar, this is what the web is about, collective thinking and information distribution, will be adopting ASAP. One thought did come to mind, as hot air rises it should , in theory cool the entire cabinet, av receiver etc as well if placed towards the top of the cabinet. Also have you looked at the flow rates of this fan? do you know if it is strong enough to handle more, and a gasket of some type should dampen the sound from the cabinet somewhat, my 2 cents

  11. //

    The key to cooling the PS3 is to have a ready supply of cold air. The ideal solution would be to blow cold air at the front intakes, but that’s general not practical, so the next best thing is to suck hot air directly from the outtakes at the side and back.

    Putting the fan at the top of the cabinet might not work, as you wold not then have the direct air flow over the PS3. You would then be relying more on convection for cooling. My PS3 is in an isolated part of the cabinet, under a shelf, so really the fan needs to be in that section. Theoretically you could have TWO fans, one blowing air in, and one sucking it out, which would give you much more control over the air flow path. That’s what most large PC cases do.

    This little fan can blow a lot more air than I use it for. It’s adjustable, and I think I have it around 30% power. It gets a little loud at higher settings – but as you say, dampening materials might help there.

  12. //

    Mick, thanks for putting my thoughts to pictures and words!

    A few ideas that I had that may be of use to you (or others)…

    1. My wife requires things to be esthetically pleasing as well, and in this vein, I am going to replace the glass in my entertainment center’s doors with a decorative stamped metal that is often used as a radiator cover. It will allow air to enter at the front, and keep my kids from monkeying with my equipment.

    2. I’m going to attach a 3-fan USB laptop cooler to the back wall, and cut out 3 holes to accommodate the fans (that will blow the hot air out, and draw cool air through the front screen). The one I’ve ordered has blue LED lights – I’m partial to that look – to each his own I guess!

    3. I’m going to cut 2 – 6″ long strips of 1×2″ wood to set under the feet of the PS3. This will raise it an inch off the shelf, and should allow the air to be pulled both over, and under the unit.

    My only concern is that the USB draw will heat-up the PS3’s transformer, and create more heat than it will remove – any thoughts on this would be appreciated.

  13. //

    I found 2 very quiet fans, attached them to an adjustable thermostat and installed them in the back of my cabinet. I installed them so that they would draw the hot air out of the cabinet. The thermostat is at the top on the inside, and its temp. setting is adjustable. Each fan blows 45 cfm which is more than adequate for my electronics cabinet. The PS3 will always activate the fans! It blows its hot air right out the back, firing up the fans every time. My Onkyo 875 A/V reciever gets very hot and alone will never set off the fans. When I add the PS3 the fans get to work.

  14. //

    I forgot to mention that this set up is not powered by the PS3. It is plugged into the power strip in the cabinet.

  15. //

    Thanks for trying this out. I have a similar set up and this page really helped. I installed the same fan in my cabinet and it works really well. I run it at about 30-50% power most of the time with the cabinet closed, and it keeps the PS3 pretty cool and both the fan and the PS3 stay very quiet.

    Running it at full power keeps the PS3 almost cool to the touch, but the fan is pretty loud. Its good to have the option if I’m worried about the heat though.

    I also drilled a couple of extra 2 inch holes next to the fan to allow air to come in. This helped noticably, even though I ended up using one to run cables through, as it provides more air intake.

    I also attached the grate on the back of the cabinet, which required drilling some extra screw holes. I didn’t want any curious fingers getting caught in the fan.

  16. //

    I did EXACTLY the same thing using the exact same fan, then I found your procedure! Great minds think alike. My cabinet from Ikea isn’t really made for electronics, although it functions really well as a media cabinet. I installed my PS3 and it ran really hot right away. I couldn’t find a cooling fan at any of the electronic stores, but I found that USB fan at Fry’s. It works perfectly. I’m thinking of installing another one to cool my DVR, although it doesn’t run as hot as the PS3.
    Thanks for the info!

  17. //

    I bought two huge 5″ 110v server rack fans and rubber-mounted (grommets) them to the inside-top of both sides of my entertainment center to exhaust air out. The larger the fan, the more air that can be moved with less noise. Besides, low noise is more tolerable than higher pitched whiney noise. The suction from the two fans at low RPM is enough to draw in fresh air through the seams of the solid front doors. To control the speed of the fans, I wired in parallel a potentiometer (A.K.A. manual wall dimmer switch). I mounted the dimmer to the inside of the cabinet. Power is provided by my receiver so that they only run while my TV is on. To be extra cautious, I then installed a Nyko intercooler in my PS3; which will run on wall power and will continue to run automatically after the PS3 is powered off until the right temp is achieved. This setup is super cool and there is no overheating whatsoever!

  18. //

    I just ordered a similar setup for my PS3. It’s inside my entertainment center, with a glass door in front. I got 2 Scythe S-Flex fans, 120mm. An 800 rpm model for the exhaust fan, which will go directly behind the PS3, and a 1200 rpm model for the intake, which will go to the right of the PS3 (it’s horizontal). Hopefully that will blow air around the side and to the front of the unit.

    I’ve got a similar setup on my Onkyo receiver, with two fans blowing cool air over the top of it, and one sitting directly on top of the hottest part of the receiver, pulling the hot air up and out into the air stream from the other two fans. That seems to work fantastic. The Onkyo ran really hot, but with 3 low powered fans, it’s nice and cool.

    I’m hoping my PS3 will be cooled as well :)

  19. //

    Hi, ive got the exact same cabinet too! Anyway ive had the same cooling problems. I bought my ps3 from launch and has only recently got the YLOD, anyway my original setup was to lay the ps3 horizontal with a vent/grille behind it, it seemed to work ok but was still quite hot, so i removed the shelves above it and had the ps3 standing up and left the door ajar about a inch (its got child proof door latchs to stop kids getting in but can be opened about an inch then the latch stops it) and that seemed to be ok for quite some time until i got the YLOD,

    so i think im going to run a usb fan like yours and do the same and maybe fit a larger vent at the top of the cabinet, i will try a few different setups and test the temperture inside the cabinet with a thermometer and let you know how it goes, Ive just got to wait until i get my ps3 back from repairs sigh….

  20. //

    You never can be too careful with a subject like this {folks|folk|people} need to take notice.

  21. //

    I simply set my PS3 on a laptop cooler and it has done the job.It has 3 usb fans that glow blue and the stand is clear acrylic so it looks pretty cool too. I backed it up by putting a small high powered plug in ac outlet fan to keep airflow and coolness from the side.Has been running six months and never a shutdown from overheat.Also plenty of space around the PS3 is key as well.I have 3 shelves in the entertainment center and the bottom is for the reciever which always runs hot.The second shelf is for the PS2 and the 3rd for the PS3(has second biggest amount of space next to reciever and ps2 slim has smallest amt of space.It all works pretty darn well.

  22. //

    I have just completed my 8th hot air gun repair on my 60gb launch machine, and have come to the decission to run it with the top off the Blue Ray Drive and the top off the unit. sweet as a nut now…..

  23. //

    Oooops…. Forgot to mention, all this talk on cooling fans here, there and everywhere not one person has mentioned the effect of forced induction or extraction, You see the ps3 already has a cooling fan built in, so really all that you should be looking for is some form of cooling without the need of extra fans, remember, the internal fan is running at a speed at which it in itself feels comfortable, now adding extra fans on say the intake will force the internal fan to either spin faster, or slower depending on their output capacity, same goes for the exhaust, sucking air out of the unit will cause the internal fan to spin faster. I do take it you have done such testing before adding un-needed fans. try it with some standard pc fans, set one running at an average speed then introduce another fan either in front of it or behind it, power it up and see the outcome. this forced slowing down or speeding up of the internal fan must have some effect. Im no professor, im just trying to think logically so if im missing something please feel free to comment.

  24. //

    Well, my final setup had the fan sucking hot air out of the cabinet, so the incoming air would be coming in from multiple points, with very little forced airflow at the intakes, hopefully just cooler air.

  25. //

    I suppose extracting the air from a cabinet wouldnt affect displacement, I was mainly thinking of directly from the ps3, like the clip on fans sold on ebay

  26. //

    This is an awesome fix, but it’s really just better to not keep it in the cabinet to begin with.

  27. //

    I too was forced to place the ps3 inside of a cabinet, so I mounted two fans at the rear to vent all the hot inside. The fans are controlled by a standard thermostat,so the fans only come when the temps that I have preset(78F)So now all that hot air is removed from the area. Also I just recently opened up my ps3,cleaned and applied new thermal paste(arctic-silver5)this actually does help with the heat transfer, but it takes up to 200hrs before the paste breaks the actual results might change

  28. //

    my ps3 is not in a cabinet,it sits next to the tv,in the open air,so there’s no heat build-up,but i have it sitting on a 3-fan laptop cooling pad,powered by the ps3’s usb port.i have never heard the fan,even before using the cooling pad,so am i just making the ps3’s power supply work harder unnecessarily?

  29. //

    Yeah, the extra fans are probably not necessary, especially if you have not heard the regular fan yet,

  30. //

    just wondered how this setup is still working for you. yeah i messed my ps3 up in my cabinet, had the door closed, dumb. now i leave it open and i put some large holes behind the ps3. im looking for a fan to put behind it figuring it would pull the air out better than the way it is now. ive been looking at the 12 volt fans with a thermo sensor. but the setup you have draws its voltage from the ps3, 5 volts. just wonder how that fan would compare to a fan that runs on its own 12 volt supply.

  31. //

    It’s still working pretty much as before. The PS3 has been in use several times a week for three years, and still works just fine.

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