Introduction: How to Make a Cheap USB Powered Fan

Picture of How to Make a Cheap USB Powered Fan

How to make a cheap fan from parts bought at the dollar store. This fan can be made for about $2 (plus tax), unless you can buy a double ended USB wire, then you can make 2 USB fans for $3 (plus tax). That definately beats the $15 or $20 stores tend to charge for these types of devices.

This is my first instructable so I wouldn't mind if people posted their opinion.

NOTE: Pictures will be added at a later date when I make the second fan, the first one (which I am writting this instructable from) was simply a test to see if it would infact work.

Step 1: Preparing the USB Cable

Picture of Preparing the USB Cable

Cut the USB cable to the length you require (long if you need to attach fan to a USB port in the back of your computer). Becareful not to cut the inner wires, use a wire stripper (if you have one) or simply a pair of scissors (be careful not to cut yourself).

Once the protective jacket has been removed, remove some of the shielding such that the 4 wires which make up the USB cable are exposed.

Cut the white and green wires short (to the protective jacket) as they will not be needed for powering the device.

Step 2: Preparing the Power Wires.

Picture of Preparing the Power Wires.

CAREFULLY, remove the outter protective jacket from the red and black wires to expose the copper wire underneath. Twist the exposed wire (if not already done) to make your life easier.

Step 3: Taking Apart the Fan.

Picture of Taking Apart the Fan.

Remove the battery cover as well as the screw holding the two halves of the fan together (becareful not to loose any small parts such as screws/switches).

Step 4: Connecting the USB Wires to the Fan's Battery Terminals.

Picture of Connecting the USB Wires to the Fan's Battery Terminals.

This was done through trial and error. I found that while the fan would run both if the red were attached to the positive and black negative or red to negative and black to positive but the second way produced sparks at the negative-to-motor connection so I obviously chose the former hook-up. Wrap the indicated wire around the indicated battery terminal folding the wire over so it stays temporarily. Once this is done, plug the USB wire into your computer (NOTE: Do this instructable at your own risk, I will not take the blame if harm comes to you computer/yourself/etc but nothing bad happened to me/my computer when I connected the fan to the computer) and turn the fan on. If it works, on to the next step, if not, maybe the wires are not connected properly or maybe they are loose, play around with it,m it should work fairly easily (and as long as the fan does not require 3 x 1.5V batteries or more for operation (IE no more than 5 V) ).

Step 5: Making the Conections Permenant.

Picture of Making the Conections Permenant.

Now that the fan works successfully, its time to solder the USB power wires to the battery terminals to make the connections more permenant and stable.

NOTE: After completing this instructable, I've discovered that the USB port is too powerful fo the fan I chose so a resistor wired in series before the connection to the fan would help lower the power and therefore not overload the fan/motor. This is as simple as soldering a resistor of high enough resistance to decrease the voltage to around 3 volts (from thew 5 that USB puts out).

Step 6: Personalizing Your USB Fan.

If you find the fan too plain, you can spice it up with paint, decorations, etc, anything you want.

NOTE: this instructable can be used to power practically any device that requires no more than 5.0V.

Enjoy the breeze!


dsyn (author)2006-10-13

I am incredibly interested in learning more about powering things using USB. I have been wondering if there is anyway to power larger devices, like things you have to plug in to an outlet. Think a computer with multiple USB ports combined as one power source could do it?

bmlbytes (author)dsyn2006-11-04

No I don't think that would work. Computers output at 5v DC. Most electronics require 120v AC. Even if you got the computer to output 12v DC and used a DC to AC converter, there still wouldn't be enough amperage.

ajverbsky (author)bmlbytes2007-01-12


CaffeineHouse (author)ajverbsky2007-07-19

See that key between Tab and Shift? hit it. see what happens? you don't look like a moron anymore.

WHAT? WHICH KEY DO YOU ME---oh. wow. look at that. sheesh. i feel so relaxed now.

NathanC91 (author)neuromonkey2016-05-01

That post was made nearly a decade ago, but whatever xD

Darkshot (author)ajverbsky2007-10-14

calm down there sparky....

EET1982 (author)bmlbytes2012-08-07

I built my own AC to DC converter. 120VAC to 12VDC with a 3A Transformer that gives me enough juice to run 3 fans at full power.

sleepykhan (author)EET19822015-08-28

Hi please instructable or a diagram might be very helpful :)

joeh1984 (author)bmlbytes2007-03-30

actually there is a way to make it. I'm not quite sure yet. I am currently researching it. I found a site that sells them. Origin of course is from china.

lukkbox (author)dsyn2009-03-12

1. if your near a power source, use the plug socket, not your computer 2. if your away from a power source, there is no way your laptops battery would last longer than a minute 3. this is just constructive critiscism offered before you start albert einsteining what is, a bad idea love lukkbox x

SusanT5 (author)2015-07-19

hi,we produce the USB mini rechargeable handheld DC fan.

My mail address:

SusanT5 (author)2015-07-19

markvergil38 (author)2015-01-27

how to create a 2-3 cpu fan through USB? I only know is 1 cpu fan to USB.

dog812 (author)2015-01-15

I am new to usb. I would like to make a usb adapter to charge my GPS. Will usb work on a battery that is roughly 6 volts? Or will it only charge up to 5 volts tops?

ssatyam (author)2014-06-25

how to make mini fan blades

ssatyam (author)2014-06-25

how to make mini fan blades

mnowak7 (author)2014-02-13

Jakwiebus (author)2012-08-18

Héhe, nice during these hot days! thanks :D

spartan094 (author)2011-04-11

Here's mine. Using an old Play Station (the fat one) fan. I super glued it to a cd, and used an old pointless screw (bolt?) as a sort of pole to keep the cord in place. Put's out a considerable amount of air. I know it's sloppy, but the PS2's fan wires must have been around 30 gauge, ridiculously small. I did solder btw.

Um? I was wondering it might be silly of me to ask
but can u tell me step by step how you made that fan work without using the ps2....I took my fan out but I'm having a hard time getting it to work if you can msg me back I would appreciate it thanx....

If I can remember right, the fan had two wires coming out, red/black (power/ground). They ran into some sort of connector, which I just snipped off. To provide the power, I used an extra usb cord. Inside this usb cor are many wires, you only need the red/black (once again, power/ground)

So first off, you need to, useing extreme care, strip the red and black wires on the fan, then set them aside.

Next, snip one end of the usb cord off (i was using an old cord to an mp3 player, so i snipped off the mini end). Strip off like a 2 inch part of the outer layer of the usb, then snip all the wires except for the red and black ones off. As you could imagine, the next step is to strip the red and black wire of the usb.

Finally, you have to try and solder the wires together (red to red, black to black). This is pretty damn tough due to the fan wires being short and thin, so you might need an extra set of hands helping you out. Tape it up when you're all done (taping the wires separately to insulate them) and plug it in to a computer usb port.

If you need more help go ahead and ask, I could even sketch out some diagrams if you need me too no problem.

helloakshaypoddar (author)2011-12-21

i just an awesome project....
you can connect more then one fan to one USB port soo there we dont have to use resistors.
but can anyone explain we how must amount of energy is required to operate a FAN that you have used.
and then its equivalent resistance for 1 fan

thanks for the info

nodoubtman (author)2011-08-19

I tried and the computer went off ... so don't try this, this motor needs a resistor, but how much Ohms??

Thank You!
CYa! :)

trebuchet03 (author)2006-06-16

Most (if not all) modern USB controllers have fail safe and short protection. I know on my computer if it find a short, windows has a popup saying that oh, BTW, you drew too much current and the hardware is now shut down... Typically a restart will turn the device back online... I noticed that knoppix did not tell me that the board shut down... I can't remember if fedora or Cent said anything... but in any case, the controller shut itself down.

account3r2 (author)trebuchet032010-08-27

I have a laptop that i took apart (took off the keyboard and stuff) and it was running while i was putting on the heat shield (not a smart thing to do) and it sparked a few times, big white and blue sparks, then it shut down. i dont know if that has a connection to that, but thats what happened.

balconio (author)trebuchet032009-04-29

From what I understand damage to the USB port and/or the device could result from overloading the voltage. I made a similar setup for a desktop fountain that ran on 2 "AA" batteries and used an LM317 adjustable regulator to drop the voltage from 5 to 3VDC. There are online calculators to figure out what resistances you need to run for a given output... Here's a link to some general info

Redgerr (author)balconio2010-06-24

btw: no damage done at all

Redgerr (author)balconio2010-06-24

well today actually i shorted otu several usb ports by mistake when i was trying to do some usb fans without the proper materials and nothing happened.. windows poped up and said unplug the devise and press reset and that was it... happened about 15 times lol.... had to test it and stuff :)

TooShort4 (author)2007-04-06

Scared me to death. Did that but with a clock and it kept sparking until i unplugged it.

lukkbox (author)TooShort42009-03-12

lol you know there is a clock on your computer already .... right? thanks for the laugh bro! x x x x

Sk8erCk4Life (author)2008-10-31

If you have like a ten or fifteen foot cord added on to it would you have to add a resistor or would there wouldn't be enough voltage to go through it?

litobro (author)2008-06-22

good tutorial, i tried it with a dollar store flashlight but i think i burnt it out... now how am i supposed to look at my computer hardware?

jian (author)2008-02-22

hhhmmm... chip and the motor is much stronger than ordinary usb fan, but the problem is, this motor has a brush , the current is flowing from the brush to commutator so when you always use it the brush will worn out some of this motor uses carbon brush for longer life span, the real usb fan motor is brushless this called induction motor, same as the electric fan, the one you use is conduction motor.

TID-dimond (author)2008-01-28

u hooked up the usb cable the wrong war m8 cos you put the red onto the black which conects to the motor _____________________________________________________

r0ck3t3r (author)2007-12-29

i made a usb powered radio I got from dollar tree. Total cost was 2 dollars and I just twisted the wires together like I do with telecom stuff and it worked just fine. I added some electrical tape to keep it from shorting and now I have a nice little radio to listen to on my laptop. I am thinking about integrating it with the laptop. That would be fun.

popit (author)2007-12-17

Now I have a USB powered fan..... I was trying to get it to work. I went to this instructable and realized that I need the red and black wires... :D

MadBeaver (author)2006-08-15

this is very cool. I wonder if you could attach the wires to a light bulb to make a flashlight thing?

leevonk (author)MadBeaver2006-09-05

definately not a lightbulb, they take a lot more than 100mA of current. You could attach an LED with a resistor (to limit the current) though.

altaria1993 (author)leevonk2007-04-21

thet would be nice :) and then put it in a nice case too :P or you could make a flashlight ocnnected to a usb-pots (a LED one)

bmlbytes (author)MadBeaver2006-11-04

If you had a small enough lightbulb (like the ones in flashlights) then yes you could. It would be even eaiser to attach an LED to it.

insanesquirle (author)2006-09-23

Oh, and btw, to convert ohms to voltage.. heres your formula..
V = I x R
jk i wont make it that hard. this will do it for u

insanesquirle (author)2006-09-23

*goes and looks for his box fan and 24 usb cables*

LordV (author)2006-08-28

You would have to convert Ohms to voltage, cause resistors are in Ohms.

boocat (author)2006-08-25

Yeah; ya have to tell me which resistor to use!

techhappy (author)2006-08-19

Howdy, thanks for the project info. I went ahead and built a usb fan and it seemed to work, until the motor burned out. On the last note in the last instruction, you mentioned using a resistor to bring the voltage down from 5volts usb to 3 volts for the fan. I am ready to give it another shot and wondered if you could share with us what resistor you used and where we could pick one up. I looked up info on resistors and got lost quickly. Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

bicostp (author)2006-08-13

Ah, the dollar store. The perfect place to get cheap things to take apart. In this case, a motor, some plastic, battery contacts, LEDs and 2 cheap batteries that could run a watch for all of 10 minutes... all for a buck. I've gotta go there this week! (Not today, since it's the Mass Sales Tax Free weekend... all the Rhode Islanders swarm the state... jonesman: USB puts out 5 volts DC.

jonesman (author)2006-07-30

is the volts AC or DC? I tried to do this with a fan meant for a desktop computer but it was VDC, so what type of voltage comes from the USB?

funanimalguy (author)2006-06-16

Sounds good. I'd be interested in seeing the pics since I am a visual learner. :-)

Murf (author)funanimalguy2006-06-26

There ya go finanimalguy ... to help oyu learn :P (sorry it took so long, had to go and buy a soldering iron as I am new to DIY projects)

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