A desk fan is usually a fan that is small in size and portable so it can be easily moved around and placed on top of a desk without being unwieldy or taking up too much space. Desk fans are frequently seen in offices and schools during hot months, providing an easy cooling source without the expense of air conditioning. Some desk fans are stationary, while others have a swiveling head or a rotating grille that creates an oscillation effect, similar to that of most larger floor fans but in a much smaller package. Several variations in size, power source, and functionality typically make a desk fan a feasible solution for most office or school situations.
Some features that make a desk fan more portable are a long cord, a light weight, and carrying options. Often, larger fans have shorter cords, necessitating that the product be placed next to a wall socket. Long cords make it possible to place the desk fan on a desk or table top and still be able to plug it into a socket on a nearby wall. Typically, desk fans are made of plastic, which makes them much lighter than some of the heavier metal floor fans. Also, desk fans are often outfitted with a handle, cord, or even bag that makes the fan easier to carry.
Many types of desk fan are capable of blowing a light mist through the fan blades to offer an even better cooling effect. These may not be an option in some locations because of the added moisture, but some mist fan users insist that the added cooling effect is worth it. The mist option is also usually removable or able to be deactivated so the user does not get wet. This is a common feature that is also found in personal hand-held fans. Some desk fans have a winter mode that blows warm air instead of cold, and acts as a sort of portable heater.
Some kinds of desk fan may also run off of alternate power sources to make office use more convenient. Alternate power usage may include computer-powered or battery-powered fans. A desk fan that runs off of computer power has a plug that fits into a computer port instead of into a wall socket. Battery-powered fans are typically very small and are not as powerful, but they are extremely portable and they may be less expensive. These tiny fans are also more likely to be acceptable in school classrooms.