August 22, 2006
When the first version of Windows Media Center was released in summer 2003, I decided it was time to build my first home theater PC. After I placed it in the living room, I realized I had made a terrible mistake: I had to turn the volume up to 11 just to drown out the noise of the HTPC! I couldn't believe how loud it was! For the next few months, I immersed myself in the world of silent PC enthusiasts. I must have reconfigured that system a dozen times to reduce the noise.
Now every PC I build is optimized for performance and low noise from the very beginning.
Anyone can build a high-powered rig that sounds like a jet taking off. Building a high-powered rig that's so quiet your wife can't tell when it's turned on or off-- now that's an accomplishment! It's a bona-fide engineering challenge.
In the process, I've learned quite a few things about building quiet PCs. I'd like to share them with you, so you can avoid making the mistakes I did.
- The easiest way to build a quiet PC is to start with components that run cool. It's as fundamental as the first law of thermodynamics: heat has to be exhausted from the system; more heat equals more noise. If you truly want a quiet system, start with cool running components. The three components that generate the most heat in your system are..
- video card
- power supply
.. in that order. Select these items very carefully, because they will account for 90 percent of the heat and noise generated inside your computer. Research how many watts of power each will draw when idle; when normally loaded; and when fully loaded.
And don't underestimate the importance of the power supply; it's the heart of your system, and it can be the source of serious stability, noise, and heat woes if you pick a clunker. The very best power supplies are only about 85% efficient, which means they're still dumping 15% of the total power draw back into your case as waste heat.
Minimize the number of fans in your system. Every fan is a source of noise. Remove fans unless they're absolutely necessary. If a fan is necessary, use the largest possible model. All other things being equal, large fans are quieter than small fans. That's why 120mm fans are now commonplace in PC cases.
One of the most useful noise diagnostics is to stop every fan in the system, one by one, using your Mark I finger. Repeat this a few times, listening closely to hear the difference with each fan stopped. Then try to eliminate or slow down the noisiest fan. Don't forget to test your video cards and motherboard fans while you're at it; these tend to be particularly noisy due to their small size. And remember, kids, always stop fans by touching them in the center, not in those whirling blades!
Control the speed of your fans. Fans running at full speed are almost never quiet. Some modern motherboards allow you to control the speed of the fans connected via the 3-pin motherboard headers, either in the BIOS or in software. Set an absolute speed, or even better, use dynamic fan speeds based on a temperature sensor; spin faster when it gets hot, and slow down when things cool off. There are also devices like the Zalman Fanmate that allow you to retrofit a fan speed control on any 3-pin fan.
The Zalman 56 Ohm resistor is a less expensive option if you don't need precise speed control.
Consider aftermarket cooling solutions. Aftermarket coolers for CPUs and video cards are typically far more efficient than the stock models manufacturers include. You might be able to get away with inefficient stock coolers for basic systems, but if you want high-end performance, a super-efficient cooler can literally be the difference between a quiet system and a loud system.
Note that aftermarket coolers tend to be quite a bit larger than stock coolers; measure to make sure they'll fit in your system before buying.
Dampen your hard drive. Hard drive manufacturers have made huge strides in noise reduction in the last few years. You still need to be a bit careful in selecting a drive, but most new hard drives are relatively quiet. That's the good news. The bad news is that hard drives are still giant hunks of metal spinning at 7,200 or 10,000 RPM.
As such, the first order of business here is to dampen the drives -- make absolutely sure there is a soft material of some kind between the hard drive and your PC's case. Some people improvise bungee suspension slings, some people use foam or sorbothane, some people put them in dampening enclosures. Whatever you do, always avoid metal-to-metal contact between a hard drive and the case.
The truly hardcore use 2.5" laptop hard drives, which are even quieter, but they also have significant performance and price penalties over standard 3.5" desktop drives.
Use noise-reduction materials. If you've ever worked in a recording studio where the walls are covered with noise-reduction materials, you've probably heard first-hand how effective they can be. However, noise reduction materials are strictly a second line of defense. They treat the symptom and not the source; ideally you want to quiet the thing that is making noise-- not hide it behind a layer of dampening material.
That said, noise reduction materials can help take the edge off the last remaining bit of noise in a system. For PC builds, I like pax.mate and generic eggcrate foam. You can see pictures of both materials in action in this SilentPCReview thread documenting a LAN party system I built in summer 2004. But they should always be a final, finishing step.
I'm ashamed to admit that I have something of an eggcrate foam fetish. In addition to wedging it inside my systems wherever it'll fit, I regularly put cardboard-mounted panels of the eggcrate foam behind my PCs to reduce the reflected noise from the rear exhaust fans. If your PC is under a desk, fitting eggcrate foam along the undersides of the desk can be surprisingly effective, too.
Passive cooling isn't worth it. If you really get bitten by the silence bug, you'll invariably be drawn to that holy grail of silent computing: completely passive cooling. Passive cooling is totally silent by definition, but also it's the equivalent of scaling the Himalayas-- not something you undertake lightly and certainly not without a few years of experience under your belt.
Although there are exotic pre-built passive solutions like Zalman's TNN-500A and TNN-300 cases, they're solidly in the "if you have to ask how much it costs, you can't afford it" category.
Passive cooling setups are an order of magnitude more difficult to cool: they require a tricky balance of careful construction, natural convective airflow, and setup tweaking. You can achieve 90 percent of the results you'd get with completely passive cooling using a few nearly-silent, slow-moving fans-- at a fraction of the effort and risk!
I can't emphasize enough that the best way to quiet your PC is to begin with the right parts. If you're really serious about silence, ensure that you have..
- CPUs and video cards that run cool
- a quiet, efficient power supply
- hard drives that run relatively quiet as shipped
Always try to deal with the source of the noise first. Beyond that, following the few tips I outlined above will eventually get you to near-complete silence-- or at least to below-ambient noise level, which is pretty much the same thing.
Posted by Jeff Atwood
My solution was way easier. I run the machine in another room, and the wires through the plasterboard. Sweet.
Great article, makes me wanna build a new PC. If I only had the money :)
If you are having 'WTF' image issues, refer to this post:
and/or email me directly, rather than cluttering up the comments with off-topic stuff. I added a link to the front page on this topic, at the bottom of the left hand column.
What about watercooling? You can get complete sets for a few hundred bucks, and they're quite easy to install.
We exchanged all desktop based PCs with notebooks in our office and machine noise reduced a lot.
At least for pure coding or office purposes (no gaming or game development) notebooks like the Dell Latitude D820 are perfect.
In combination with a docking station, keyboard/mouse and a TFT i never missed anything compared to a "real" PC. Plus the ability to take my real workstation with my while travelling is sooo sweat.
I've been through this with quiet power supplies, CPU coolers, and GPU coolers. What almost no one will mention about nearly all "quiet" (particularly passive) cooling is that it doesn't cool as well. You might be able to get by with lesser cooling if you mostly use productivity apps. However, if you are into gaming, it just won't cut it. Your GPU will likely be generating polygons full tilt (at the highest resoltion it can productively handle) for hours on end. The CPU is constantly churning to support this, and the power supply will be feeding extra power to both for the duration.
I put "quiet" adjustable fans in my rig on the power supply and case, but found that when I'm gaming I pretty much have to crank them up to max (which is actually *louder* than normal) just to keep things stable.
I also replaced a dead GPU fan with one of those mongo Zalmon GPU heat sinks once (the kind that basicly encases both sides of the card with a enourmous heat sink). The thing still overheated after a couple hours of gameplay. It really sucks to be halfway through a WoW instance and have to shut down your rig for 5 minutes to let the GPU cool.
I run the machine in another room, and the wires through the plasterboard
That's cheating. ;) My computer is under my desk at work, and I dislike crawling in under there to insert CDs or when I need to reset it.
all desktop based PCs with notebooks in our office and machine noise reduced a lot
This is a good plan for noise, but the tradeoff is that laptops are much less upgradeable than desktops. Try getting more than 2GB of memory in a laptop.. or replacing the video card.
What about watercooling?
Too many moving parts and too much complexity. High-end air solutions do 95% as well as water these days-- with less fuss.
I put "quiet" adjustable fans in my rig on the power supply and case, but found that when I'm gaming I pretty much have to crank them up to max
What video card and CPU do you have? I use the X1900XTX with the AcceleroX1, along with an Athlon X2 4800+ using a Coolermaster Hyper-6 and my system is pretty quiet under gaming load.
One thing though, these days, there is a good chance that the video card generates more heat than the CPU, at least when running demanding 3D apps, like games).
I don't know about laptops as a noise reduction solution. They are often placed much closer to your ears than a desktop PC, their hard drives can be noisy. Their fans are noisy too, and the fact that the system fan is always spooling up and down make them more intrusive than if they were to run at a constant speed.
Just one question...
Stopping the fan in the middle of it and not the blades: did your advise come from first hand experience? ;)
Great article, I'm going to start putting these ideas to work on my desktop. I especially like the egg crate foam idea. Who woulda thunk it? My concern is it's also an insulator for heat. I fully understand what you where saying about leaving it for last. Cooling methods are definitely going to have to come first.
Off the silent talk...
With an aging Tivo and wanting some capatabilties to play divx,etc I looked into the WMC idea. So I threw together a quick system to try it out.
Maybe I am to far spoiled with the nice way Tivo just works fast and easily but I found WMC to be a big pain, even http://www.team-mediaportal.com/ is better in some major ways.
I finally just decided to stick with the Tivo and get a $50 DVD that can play divx,xvid, and most of thoses other video,picture and music formats. It can read all the various CD and DVD +- RW formats and has a USB port. I can just burn any video to DVD, copy to a USB flash drive or a USB hard drive and play.
I get all the capabilities in a set of easy to access systems and don't have to worry about another system which will require constant updating for security.
Standard egg-crate foam is HIGHLY flammable, especially when it's applied to a vertical surface. I strongly recommend banishing it from your household.
Consider a semi-rigid fiberglass panel, such a Owens-Corning 703.
Someone mentioned that "quiet" cooling components don't cool as well. If you find that this is the case for you when using slower, more quiet fans, you probably don't have enough heatsink area. Go with a bigger heatsink, like the Scythe unit pictured above on the page. Whenever you decrease the airflow rate, you need to increase the surface area of your cooling solution. The other approach to this problem is simply not to care -- most CPUs can run comfortably at temperatures as high as 65 C under load with no loss of stability and no meaningful decrease in longevity. Your CPU doesn't need to be at room temperature to function, and the same goes for your GPU, northbridge, etc.
We have the old-school overclockers to thank for the modern myths surrounding PC thermal management -- you don't really need that huge heatsink and screaming fan that Thermaltake sells unless you are, in fact, running a hefty overclock. Otherwise, the stock heatsink and fan will do you just fine. And modern processors run cooler than those old Athlon Thunderbirds, to boot.
Dynamat works well for the side of your computer's case. Auralex may make some products which are flame-retardent as far as open-cell foam is concerned, since they make foam acoustic tiles for wall treatment.
Standard egg-crate foam is HIGHLY flammable, especially when it's applied to a vertical surface
I just tested this using a small fragment of eggcrate foam on our gas stove. Once the fragment was removed from the direct gas flame, it stopped burning immediately. Every time!
So I'm not sure your assertion holds true, at least not for the kind of eggcrate foam pictured above..
Otherwise, the stock heatsink and fan will do you just fine
This is typically NOT true, although there are some exceptions. Most stock coolers are pretty loud by default. Look at it from their perspective: would your rather have x percent returns due to heat failure, or make the fan run absurdly fast and lower that to x-y percent?
Feel free to try the stock coolers, but go directly to nice aftermarket coolers if the stock stuff isn't quiet.
However, acoustic foam is not really designed to stop the transmission of sound. (It used in studios to reduce reflections not reduce sound transmission)
To prevent the transmission of sound it better to do "mass loading" using something like a vinyl acoustic barrier.
I used a vinyl barrier in several low noise PC's that I have built for use in our lab. It does a great job. You might want to check it out.
Hi Jeff -
Good article - direct and to the point, very concise. I have one other suggestion to make as far as cooling is concerned, you can also check the core voltage of your CPU. I have an ASUS P5WD2P motherboard, and had all sorts of heat issues with it. I finally found out that ASUS sets their BIOS to the max voltage to juice up their motherboard performance (1.4v for a P4). Well, not only does this juice up the performance, it also DRAMATICALLY increases heat generation. The relationship between voltage/performance does not seem to be linear - at the high end, small increases in performance cause HUGE increases in heat. However, lowering the core voltage to 1.3v (a relatively small change performance-wise) basically eliminates heat issues.
Now, the drawback, obviously, is you are sacrificing performance, but I figure buying a 3.2 rather than a 3.0 ghz chip and lowering the voltage gets me to about the same performance, and allows me to have a much quieter PC. Also, you need to have a motherboard and bios that allow you to change your core voltage.
Also, one other source of heat issues I've found is the Northbridge, the chip that handles data transfer between the CPU and the GPU and RAM subsystems. Running fast memory and a decent vid card (older ATI x800 series), my Northbridge would get smokin hot, particularly with Hyperthreading enabled.
Just my 2 cents.
Good basic summary, but misses out one of the most important factors, namely the location of the PC.
I took another approach to making my HTPC quiet, I put the pc on a shelf in the garage, and ran 5m of cables through the roof/wall into the lounge :)
What about the actual PC case itself?
I've been looking at PC cases, I wanted something strong and well built (what if I want to lug it around to LANs, it will need to be resilient...), and the case I decided on was Cooler Masters Ammo 533, mostly as it was the only case I could find that fitted that description.
The problem I see is, well, heres a picture: http://www.trustedreviews.com/images/article/inline/2435-1274.jpg
Won't those huge open vents just let all the sound out?
Th case design doesn't really work for me aesthetically so I'll probably be modifying it anyway... But just replacing it with something solid, well I don't want to create a poor ventilation problem. (Also what should it be filled with to reduce transmission noise?)
And also speaking of increases of heat, I was wondering wouldn't foam increase heat since it 1) stops heat being transmitted out of the case (by heating the outside of the case, and then the outside of the case getting rid of this heat because the outside of the case is cooler), and 2) I thought sound was stopped by changing the energy of the soundwaves into heat?
Should additional spaces for heat to escape be made?
And also speaking of increases of heat, I was wondering wouldn't foam increase heat since it 1) stops heat being transmitted out of the case (by heating the outside of the case, and then the outside of the case getting rid of this heat because the outside of the case is cooler),
Most heat is removed by convection (air movement), not conduction or radiation in cases, so "insulating" the case doesn't matter. You could make the case out of plastic rather than metal and get about the same amount of heat removal.
and 2) I thought sound was stopped by changing the energy of the soundwaves into heat?
Should additional spaces for heat to escape be made?
Your ears are very efficient at detecting sound energy. The amount of heat generated from sound is minimal.
stops heat being transmitted out of the case
Yes, it does. But conduction through the case accounts for much less than 1% of the heat dissipation in the average PC, so it's insignificant.
changing the energy of the soundwaves into heat
Yes. But the average PC might have about 60dB worth of sound power - this equates to a massive 0.000001 watts of heat, compared to, say 60 watts from your CPU. As Fred noted, your ears are very sensitive to sound energy. :D
foam is not really designed to stop the transmission of sound
True, but in a case with huge openings to allow for ventilation, control of reverberant noise is a significant factor, especially when you've used low-noise components. Mass-loading the case panels helps if you've got noisy components and thin case walls, but in that case mass-loading plus absorption is a better option, but still not as good as replacing with quieter components.
I understand that there are two types of sound-blocking materials:
1) dense stuff to block sound transmission
2) "eggcrate foam" to block sound reflections
The ideal sound blocking material would have both components.
However, I'm not a fan of mass-loading. I think it's quite difficult to install compared to slapping some inexpensive eggcrate foam panels in with foam tape. Plus, I don't want my computer to weigh 50 pounds. I also think Bern has a good point about this being the very last line of defense-- the best solution is to reduce the *source* of the noise, because hiding noise is always more difficult and less effective.
Been through this journey(spent so much money on
silent pc parts) then to find at my parents home a pentium 2 compaq pc running absolute silent...how did this happen? The intel
pentium cpu has heat sink rather than a fan
and the power supply has a very small wattage fan.
The only thing that makes sound was the case vibrating but putting the pc on a thick carpet totally reduced the noise. If this pc was placed inside a silent case or if the power supply was changed to quiet one you wouldnt feel anything.
My silent pc with all the silent pc parts still makes more noise than the compaq. If you get more power you get more noise. Thinking of making a thick case to cover the noise somehow...
and somehow get the hot air out...help-_-
I don't think the egg crate foam is a good idea as noise reduction in itself, but what it can do is minimalize the low level vibration in the case which of course will peg back extra noise.
We have found that concentrating on a quiet PSU and fan has the results required as these cannot be muffled.
"As such, the first order of business here is to dampen the drives --...Whatever you do, always avoid metal-to-metal contact between a hard drive and the case."
Here at http://www.zedcomputers.co.uk one of our first reasons on our list for going into business was inspecting a purchased machine to find not only metal to metal but screws missing from the back panel side!! Can you believe it?? lol
I'd love to know who makes good drive dampening kits, I'd rather just buy something than trying to think about it, but I do have a lot of hard drives I care about!
Uhmm also I'm curious about external systems to house HD's, instead of a single case setup? To me a fabricated HD machine with proper airflow and designed specifically for a bunch of HD's would be more effective for silent PC's, reduce heat, vibrations and noise? Also your HD box could be placed further away from your PC.. I seem limited to how far away I can put my PC from my because of A cd access and b cable length.
Hey man.. I was wondering if you could give me advice on what I would do with a CPU that runs hot (Intel Xeons, two of them) and what sort of cases would support a server socket motherboard.
Please email me at fvercuielATgmailDOTcom
Passive cooling is the way of the future.
All those zalman and thermaltake fans and whatnot are useless compared to passsive cooling. u must get passive cooling to experience full silence. Anything less is simply intolerable.
I also have worked towards making my computer as quiet as possible and I use the Zalman Reserator as well. I used the included CPU block, and bought their VGA blocks as well. The older one came with two blocks of different sizes, so I used one on the northbridge. I bought a Seasonic S12, which was a highly recommended psu on silentpcreview. I was considering getting a harddrive enclosure, as it is noticeably the loudest component in my system, but I didn't feel like spending more money at that point. I could've run the system on only the fan in the psu, but I decided to keep one 120mm case fan (w/ a resistor to drop the voltage) and together w/ the psu fan, it's adequate to keep my HDs at 46C under load. Not too much money spent, and the system is almost silent! Oh, forgot to mention the CPU is a 2.8ghz OCed to 3.2ghz. Oh and use water wetter or something similar in your watercooling loops. It drops the temps about 2 degrees and also prevents the slime from taking over your tubes. I'm in ur toobs, gunking up ur megahurtz.
It looks like there is a "Revision B" of the Ninja that now supports AM2!
Also, on Scythe's website, there is a heatsink very much like the Ninja called the ""INFINITY", which is a bit more expensive ($58). I would assume that it is better because of the price difference, does anyone else know?
You can get a fan controller for 29$ at newegg, you can set it to go different speeds based on different the temperature in the case. I just ordered one last week and a few fans. Most of them htpc cases are pretty small. You can keep it quiet but you also cant let if fry.
I have built many silent PC's myself. The heat is the problem. If you follow the advise in this article you may end up building a very quiet system that seems to work fine, but it's life may be short. Make sure your case has good airflow. 120MM fans running slow are very quite and move a lot of air, you may have to modify the case to use them effectively. Also be careful about stuffing the case with too much foam or insulation. Air inside the case dissipates heat. The more air in the case, the better off you will be. One last thing, make sure your hard drives stay cool. Hot running hard drives will have a very short life and you could lose your data.
you forgot to mention that most pc cases are invariably flawed by design when it comes to cooling. in order to maximize cooling manufacturers are going to have to get away from the "beige box tower" design and come up with something better.
I happen to own two HP DV2000T laptops, identical except for the Nvidia Go 7200 in one and Intel GMA in the other. Even set for max energy savings the Nvidia is much louder due to additional heat from the video card.
The secret to my quiet PCs starts with the case. I went with the Antec P180B case. It is an amazing value. It puts the PSU in the bottom in a separate compartment from the MOBO. It also has space for 4 HDDs in the bottom compartment with a fan that pulls air over them before passing it to the PSU. All hard drive bays use rubber grommets to isolate the drive from the case. The case itself is a strange construction that isolates noise. I can't really describe it except to say that if you tap on one of the sides, it sounds like a dull thump instead of a metal box. Also, the case comes with fans pre-installed. Each fan is a 3-speed fan. I have all of mine on the lowest setting, which is virtually silent. No problem even playing games. BTW, my biggest rig is a Core 2 Quad with 4 GB RAM and 2 HDDs, and a XTX 8800GTX. CPU is overclocked to 3.2Ghz. No problems with cooling whatsoever. Overall, I liked the case so much, that I re-built all of my 6 tower PCs with them!
I also recommend the Scythe Ninja. It is HUGE and is a bit of a pain to install, but it works! Keeps my CPUs cooler at both idle and 100%. I do use the fan that comes with it, but it is also nearly silent.
good article. I've been doing this for a while now as well (maybe 8 months) and have gone as far as I think I can without going to stupid money levels. And, basically, my result is the PC is still too loud (i can hear it, as opposed to say a DVD player or TV set, which I can't) and it runs HOT AS HELL. maybe it's the pentium 4 HT chip I have (and I suspect it is) but this is a game you can't take on lightly - needs a lot of time, effort and money to get it right, and even then, is it worth it?
I have to say I like the guy who drilled a hole in the wall - seems th best way to me as well IMHO.
I couldnt agree more. Its about the parts... and the design, and the measurement. Sorry for the blatant plug, but I've taken the time to author and publish a DVD on HOW to silence one's computer.
The video chases the theory side, then gets into the how to's. We stay away from specific endorsements since the parts market for silence is a constant flux of good and bad items.
Further, we take the theory and turn it into practice by tearing down three units, hitting with the methods the video covers, and show the results.
I'm getting ready to restock the amazon store ( which costs more ) and Ebay ( which is less ).
Via Amazon ( once I restock )
Via Ebay ( search for quiet please ) later this week. I relist on Thursdays :-)
Samples are available on YouTube:
Thanks for tolerating my plug.
There is some dandy stuff used in car stereo installation called Dynamat. I use it to line the interior of my systems cases. It dampens lots of vibration. My friends are amazed at how quiet my systems are. They cannot even hear my hard drives running...
The following cooling solution does work and may seem strange but when you think how many times you hear what one out to do about heating and noise issues this solution really isn't that odd....
First do use 2 120mm fans anf if possible by power supply that comes with the 120s so three.
Important if you have the bios or ability to have the fans spin up or slow per temps etc...
I have my latest system in the back room of the house apr etc..
and keep the computer out of cabinets settings.
My solution was to purchase some 3X3 air duct hosing and mounted one end to a square piece of plastic and cutting a hole to fit hose and mounted in place. I had to figure the footage which was about 20 feet so I could run hose along wall then change distance to run house in closet. Then I had the hose meet up with my filtered front 120mm fan. Here I can up with a padded plate holding the end of the hose meshed right over fan fent with to easy to remove hooks.
The last thing is I added dust filter mesh taken other computer parts and wrapped it around 2 plastic pvc open ended adapters. I placed adapters 5 feet from window entry and the other 5 feet from entry into computer's 120 grill.
This keeps all the outside dust and what have you's from envading the computer. By the way I hid most of the air hosing so I only see entry from window and section that is placed under my computer stand under desk.
In about 3-4 minutes after idle warm-up what your temps go down based of coarse on outside temp. Even on a hot summer night the temps are cooler outside then it will be in your hot box. Even cold winter nights when you have your heat on your computer is sipping up the cool air. The 120 fan fill suck in the air but with a breeze coming in its heaven. It works by 8 - 10 degrees and cost me $15.00 to set it up!
One can come up the ifs and buts about this method, but know one has come back and told me it doesn't improve the temps that has tried it themselves.
I clean off the 2 filters once a week and takes 2 minutes so small hassle considering all the trials and errors of peaking a smooth system. Some nights I don't hear my fans at all with the auto or Q-fan features as the air outside took over the fas work!
To me I find it a challenge seeing what I can do with a 2.0 CPU and buliding from there then to buy the biggest and bragging bad ass machine out there with nothing more to do. Below is the latest which I will sell soon and go from there onto the next one!
ATHLON 2X64 DUAL 2.4 CPU / OC'd 2.9
MEMORY 3GB BUFFALO w/WINDBOND CHIPS
AUSU A8N32-DELUXE SLI /HEAT-PIPE VERSION
2 X WD RAPTERS 74GB / 150 WERE TOO LOUD
2 X G-FORCE 7800 SLI 256MB GRAPHICS
2 X ZALMAN GRAPHIC HEATSINK-FANS / NOT SURE ON MODEL
ZALMAN 90mm CPU COOLER / CONTROL WITH Q-FAN BIOS
POWER ULTA TITANTIUM 500+ w NEWER WIRING WRAP GREAT FOR AIR FLOW
This is one of the best cases I've evered used hands down.
case always feels cold, thats a sign of a great case!
I don't normally don't comment on web sites but cooling the system
will always be the challenge when its not then what does one shoot for!
Sorry for the spelling on the comments above, seems my batts are going out on the cordless keyboard thus missed lettering, man that was bad after reading with no return to proof it!
Then there's the option of what I did, drill a little hole in the wall behind the TV to the next room and put the PC in there. I just run a little DVI, Digital Audio, and USB cable through the wall and bamn! silent as it gets.
i guess it might have been mentioned but my god man, why didnt you get a macmini? its just silent from the start.
Think outside of the box: earplugs! ;-)
My view is if you add foam to quiet a pc, you run the risk of having heat insulation. Most noise comes from the fans; but his is a small price to pay in order to have a cool system...
It's all in the fans, so save your money on gimicks and replace them with good quality devices, NO SMALLER than 5 1/4.
I've actually tried oil based cooling solution. But while the method allows you to quiet the mobo and power supply, it completely ignores the modern HD which is ironically a mechanical, noisy device that cannot be sealed or oil cooled. It was also messy and impractical on several fronts.
My next direction was to try keeping the hardware in a server closet. Unfortunately this ran hot and it needed me to add ceiling ventilation. A further engineering challenge became the long distance KVM switching. I gave up on this. But I think ratarian may make something suitable, if not at consumer budget.
For now, I've built a pretty quiet system using mini atx type of box, a slightly older 64 bit CPU from AMD and found the nvidia 7600gs to be a pretty quiet, yet powerful 3d card.
I think the most offensive noise for myself is SMALL FANS like you might find on a video card. Larger fans actually have a more pleasant sound that isn't so grating.
You can lower the voltage in most box fans slightly with a 4 dollar voltage regulator and have a much quieter experience.
New ultraefficient CPU tech from Intel and IBM promises lower temperatures and quieter systems later this year. But we all should know by now, that the temperatures (and noise) will go right back up again when performance shoppers cause the manufactures to start over clocking these CPU's in the continual bid to be the fastest.
hello thanks for this artical but i was wondering can i replace my gpu fan and heatsink to make it quieter and if i can where can i get them? cheers
I agree with Tomas. Just get yourself a mac mini and be done with it.
Minor advantage? It uses about 10 watts, way less energy than the 75 watt new Dual Core desktop which I sent packing (to a customer who wanted one).
Leave in on and it sleeps at less than a watt. The other ran 10 watts in sleep mode. What's wrong with this picture?
Bonus? It is faster on XP than my other new desktop was on Vista.
Oh, by the way, a 65 watt computer left running full time consumes a barrel of oil (equivalent) in a year. 5,500,000 btu/barrell / 10,000 btu/kwh / 8760 hrs/year = 63 watts.
Great page, thank you. I'm wondering how to know what the BIOS on your motherboard supports, before you buy it, and set it up? How do you know if the BIOS can support throttling the fan speed based on temperature? This doesn't seem to be readily available on the packages of MBs.
Time passes, but noise remains an ever-growing problem...
•Small fans are your absolute worst enemy, they are and evil at heart!
-They are loud to start with.
-They are high-pitched, which is unpleasant and propagates easier.
-They wear down fast (due to their high rotation speed), becoming even louder or failing completely.
Watch out for them especially on motherboards or videocards, but also in hard disk boxes.
•Choice of components that run cool is indeed the first, most important step to a *new* PC being silent (the easiest problem to get rid of is the one you don't start with).
I have built an (almost) fanless home theatre PC using inexpensive parts, some of which are used or obselete items from ebay. Here is my thread at the Hauppauge forum showing my progress so far:
The secret is to have only as much performance as you need to do the task for which the PC is required. I am not going to be playing games on this machine so a 2.6 GHz Athlone CPU is not needed. Instead I am using VIA's C3 CPUs which are intended for low power applications and can be easily be passively cooled inside the case. There is a performance hit to achieve this, compared to other makes of CPUs with the same speed. I am currently using the VIA C3 933 MHz Ezra CPU which has amaximum dissapation of 12 watts. Compare this to the 45 watts maximum that typical modern CPUs put out. My entire system, excluding moniter, uses less than this.
The other important factor is to do as much video processing with hardware as possible. I am using the Sigma designs XCard to decode MPEG 1/2/4 video, with the Hauppauge PVR-350 TV card providing hardware decoding and encoding of MPEG-2. Unfortunately software decoding is still required for for watching live TV. MY system does this adequately, but to do it with the Xcard requires the home theatre program TVedia.
All I need now is a fanless PSU that will fit inside a microATX case. Any ideas someone?
Check out the VIA site for ecofriendly, silent PC solutions.
The secret to a quiet PC is to start with an Intel Pentium III from around eight years ago.
Step one: remove the cpu fan.
Step two: that's all.
Voila. Passively cooled, completely silent computer for less than the cost of a new case.
Sure, the PIII has a reputation of running fast and consuming buckets of power, but it's simply not borne out by the reality of what happens when you get a low-end early model and rip the cooling off it. I'm running at about 45 degrees, which is hot, sure, but not hot enough for it to matter with a chip that has survived for this long (my uptime is constrained only by patience - have reached a few hundred days, so, pretty rock solid).
You can get everything you need done in 700 odd MHz, right? Right?
Jeff: I've been directed to your site by a good computer savvy friend/progamer/IT-pro who found your site excellent for his needs of a HTPC and recommended it for my son to build a pc. He is a modest gamer and isn't going to do a HTPC, but would like a reasonably good desktop (i-net, word processing, flight simulator, music). Do you have a suggestion of parts for this type of application?
awesome post Jeff. The replys r good to read as well.
im building my own gaming machine b\ut it taking its time.
2GB corsiar RAM
and a big CPU with BF2 only written on it;)
i game in my lounge so noise isnt a prob for me,and i have yet to hit the heat prob yet.
i was thinkin, could u separate each component an hang em on a wall with cables hookin each component together,then have a big house fans to cool it down. Needs more thought but idea similair to the guy who pumped outside air into his PC. (thats clever by the way, a real Kiwi attitude)..
I know I'm way late commenting on this one, but oh well.
I wanted a quiet PC to replace an aging laptop that sat in the family room of my home. I agree that laptops are generally underpowered, even for everyday use, so I didn't want to go that route.
I usually build my own PCs, but after doing a little research, I bought a 20 iMac and put Windows Vista on it. It runs like a champ, even for games, and makes absolutely NO NOISE. As far as I can tell, there are no fans at all in this box. It's actually quieter than the old laptop that it replaced!
I can't really upgrade it, the way I could if I build my own box, but I guarantee this was the quietest machine I could buy and still get some level of desktop-worthy performance...
Any of you use headphones? Or ear plugs?
It is the simplest solution that I know of. =]
But it is true, you don't ALWAYS want to wear that stuff... Sometimes you want your ears to breath... Not to mention other people in the house/room prolly don't want to hear your fans. ;-]
If you take a close look at those recording studios, you will notice that they don't use generic eggcrate foam. That's because wnen generic eggcrate foam catches on fire it goes off like a bomb instantly fills the room with deadly choking fumes. Do a search of Wikipedia for "The Station nightclub fire" for a real-world example. Do yourself a favor and look into SONEX (sonex-online.com). Note: I have no relationship to them other than as a user of their products.
If you take a close look at those recording studios, you will notice that they don't use generic eggcrate foam. That's because when generic eggcrate foam catches on fire it goes off like a bomb instantly fills the room with deadly choking fumes. Search Wikipedia for "The Station nightclub fire" for a real-world example. Do yourself a favor and look into SONEX (sonex-online.com). Note: I have no relationship to them other than as a user of their products.
Thanks for this post. I think I might link to it from thegreenbutton website.
Also, I'm curious - between spcr.com and endpcnoise.com - what's the main differences between those sites?
Oh, ok. If you don't mind me asking - where do you usually end up buying parts from? Newegg?
I'm a passionate silent pc builder and an avid water cooler. I've found the Zalman Reservator system to be wonderfully silent and water cooling provides outstanding performance. I'm looking forward to their water cooled power supply which will replace the noisiest component in my PC.
"Control the speed of your fans."
You know, with a little bit of knowledge regarding electrics, you can alter the speed on three settings without buying anything additional. All you need to do is change the voltage by switching cables.
BOOM. Mind blown.
Yeah, I run a home recording studio on my PC, and even though it's supposed to be VERY quiet, with the built-in solutions you mentioned, the noise still gets through. I always end up using a noise gate to filter the noise out. But moving the computer far away does seem like a better answer;).
One thing we did at Carbon Studios in Birmingham is to put the computer on some neoprene pads which helps reduce the vibration of the machine on the surface it sits on. 5mm stuff did the trick, old mouse pads can sufffice.
Also a bit of foam to the side and rear surfaces the machine is next to to absorb the reflective machine noise, helps. Leave air gaps though. Doesn't need to be too thick as the frequencies arn't that low.
you share the good things in this blog which are use to build the quite PCs.i think now we can not mistake in this matter.i hope if we follow your instruction we can easily start building a PC with right parts.
thanks for these tips these are much helpful.
this is what i call a blog that is being supported by arguments and supporting reasons. to run the system quiet the basic phenomenon of thermodynamics is mentioned as an example of how a system could be quiet one heat is released. it was not an interesting blog at all, it was more then interesting blog and a worth reading one.
I agree with you that heavy sound barriers should be the last line of defense. There are also a lot of new materials, which get the job done, but are lighter. If you are interested in soundproofing with a barrier, this site might be helpful: MLV Site