I have a raspberry pi 4 and a small fan in the case. I know that the pi can run without a fan but I already have one installed so why not using it.

The problem is, that this small fan does make a little noise so I wonder if it is possible to only turn on the fan, if a specific temperature is reached.

I saw that the temp can be read with vcgencmd measure_temp | egrep -o '[0-9]*\.[0-9]*' so is it possbile to write a script that checks like every 2min if the temp is above 70°C and then turn on a 5V pin to power the fan? Would this be a good idea?


Temp data:

  • Without fan: 50°C to 60°C
  • With fan: 33°C to 40°C

The following answer addresses a Hardware and Software approach, and an Easier alternative requiring only hardware & a configuration change. This project may be of interest. The author uses a simple bash script to read the RPi CPU temperature, and turn a cooling fan on and off based on the temperature. In other words, the fan only runs when the CPU temperature rises above the value you set in the bash script that controls it.


The hardware requirement is simple enough: a 2N2222 transistor serves as a switch to turn the cooling fan on & off. The 2N2222 is driven from a GPIO pin. A ~500𝛀 resistor to bias the transistor properly, and a small diode for back emf protection completes the circuit.

The author has created a YouTube video illustrating the hardware construction. IMHO, this is more elaborate than necessary, but here's a schematic showing the essentials:


simulate this circuit – Schematic created using CircuitLab


The software is not well documented in this project. The author failed to mention that the wiringpi library must be installed to get the GPIO utility - which is the software that makes this project work. And finally, you must read this page to learn that wiringpi must be updated to work on the RPi 4B:

cd /tmp
wget https://project-downloads.drogon.net/wiringpi-latest.deb
sudo dpkg -i wiringpi-latest.deb

# verify a successful upgrade via: 

gpio -v  

gpio version: 2.52
Copyright (c) 2012-2018 Gordon Henderson
This is free software with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY.
For details type: gpio -warranty

If you've followed this so far, and have read Mr. Drogon's news, you'll know that although wiringpi still works today, sadly, it has been deprecated. The availability of his source code is unknown, but may be available.

Once you've installed & updated wiringpi as described above, you can run the bash script, also shown here for completeness:

gpio -g mode 3 out
temp=$(vcgencmd measure_temp | egrep -o '[0-9]*\.[0-9]*')
echo $temp #use BCM pin 3, as pin 2 is used for PSU control
echo $temp0

if [ $temp0 -gt $ontemp ] 
    echo greater than $ontemp fan on
    gpio -g write 3 1
    echo less than or equal to  $ontemp fan off
    gpio -g write 3 0

Copy this to your editor, save it as temp-fan.sh in your home directory, and make it executable (chmod 755 temp-fan.sh). You should test it before connecting the hardware to verify that everything is in place. If you have a voltmeter you can monitor the GPIO output voltage. Once you've verified things are working, create a cron job to run periodically to check your RPi temp and start the fan if it's temperature has exceeded your limit. To create the cron job:

crontab -e 

# editor opens; add the following to the bottom of the crontab file:

* * * * * /home/pi/temp-fan.sh >> /home/pi/temp-fan.log 2>&1 

# Save and close the editor. 

This will load your new cron job, and it will execute every minute. Any errors will be written to the file /home/pi/temp-fan.log. If once per minute is too frequent, you can change that (ref the crontab guru), for example to run once every 5 minutes:

*/5 * * * * /home/pi/temp-fan.sh >> /home/pi/temp-fan.log 2>&1

An even easier way to do this:

As mentioned in one of the other answers here, it is not necessary to install wiringpi, nor even to create this bash script & associated cron job. You may use a device tree overlay:

From /boot/overlays/README on your RPi:

Name: gpio-fan
Info: Configure a GPIO pin to control a cooling fan.
Load: dtoverlay=gpio-fan,=
gpiopin GPIO used to control the fan (default 12)
temp Temperature at which the fan switches on, in millicelcius (default 55000)

To switch the fan on at 48℃ with GPIO 17 (pin # 11 on the header) requires only the addition of the following line to your file /boot/config.txt:


IMHO, while this approach is easier, it gives up some ground in terms of learning opportunities. But there it is - your choice.

Let us know if you have questions.

  • Note that the vast majority of small fans are 3-phase BLDC motors bundled with the controller, they already have freewheeling diodes (two for each phase) inside them, so D1 is not needed. – Dmitry Grigoryev Oct 14 '20 at 12:42
  • wow nice answer. :) Any specific reason for turning on the fan at 48°C ? – sirzento Oct 14 '20 at 13:18
  • @sirzento: In my case, running a headless RPi w/ RPiOS Lite, I find the temperature hovers around 52-53 degC. If I'm going to this effort, I want to see the fan work! :) – Seamus Oct 14 '20 at 15:52

You would need a way of switching the 5V supply on and off.

The Pi GPIO are all 3V3 and can not supply enough power for a fan.

The 5V pins are NOT GPIO and are not switchable (they are powered while the Pi is powered).

Search for relays, transistors, MOSFETs, etc. to use as a switch.

  • Do you think the fan would spin a bit slower or dont spin at all if trying with 3.3V? – sirzento Oct 13 '20 at 18:37
  • 1
    DO NOT TRY WITH A GPIO (you might destroy the GPIO and the Pi). You could try with one of the two 3V3 power rail pins. pinout.xyz – joan Oct 13 '20 at 19:42

As in Joan's answer you need a switch HOWEVER you DO NOT need any software; the Raspberry Pi OS kernel includes code to control a fan - only a single line in config.sys is required. SeeFan Control


Try connecting to the 3.3V not the 5V. GPIO Layout

  • Do you know how I can turn on one of the GPIO ? – sirzento Oct 13 '20 at 18:07
  • 1
    Pin number one, two and four are power pins and are enabled. If you use pin number two or four you get 5 volts on your fan. Your fan spins faster. However, if you use pin number one you get less voltage and your fan is slower and quieter. – ohTom Oct 13 '20 at 18:23
  • @ohTom could you please edit your answer so it is not link only and include the details in your comment as an edit to the question. – Darth Vader Oct 13 '20 at 21:13
  • @sirzento As I understand, the advice is to power the fan permanently from 3.3V, which will make it much quieter, so there will be no need to switch it off. ohTom, you can edit your answer rather than reply in comments. Comments can be removed by a mod at any time. – Dmitry Grigoryev Oct 14 '20 at 12:46

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