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5 Simple Steps to a Quieter PC 430

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the do-you-hear-what-i-hear dept.
~*77*~ writes "Silencing a computer can be a costly endeavor, but taking a few relatively inexpensive steps can have a drastic impact on the noise produced by the common computer system. Before starting on any sound reduction upgrades, analyzing a system to pinpoint the areas in need of the most attention will help determine the best course of action and the best way to spend any money."
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5 Simple Steps to a Quieter PC

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  • by CactusInvasion (838662) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @10:32AM (#11728353) Journal
    You'd think he'd reference the guys who are diehard fanatics instead of the some guy who has 5 ideas. This [silentpcreview.com] is the place to find all the info, comparisons, and information for people who want more than just "you should think about changing out some parts in your system".
  • Silent PC Sites (Score:5, Informative)

    by mparaz (31980) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @10:33AM (#11728356) Homepage
    The article is just a simple summary... check out Silent PC Review [silentpcreview.com] for really in-depth coverage.

    Some hardware review sites are dedicated to cooling equipment. One of them is Pimp My Rig [pimp-my-rig.com].

    Personally, I replaced my Intel stock fan with the Thermalright XP-90 + Panaflo 92mm L1A. [paraz.com]
  • by zeth (452280) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @10:34AM (#11728363) Homepage Journal
    I am fed up with the noise from my comuter, so I did the following.

    1. Installed the BeQuiet sound elimination kit for Chieftec [www.gtek.se]
    2. Got a better CPU fan [www.gtek.se]
    3. Installed four Zalman 12dB(A) fans [www.gtek.se] in the chassi.
    4. Enjoy the sound of nothing.
  • by bigtallmofo (695287) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @10:34AM (#11728364)
    The Seagate Barracuda line of hard drives is definitely the quietest mainstream hard drive out there. It's specifically engineered to be quiet. I find that the street prices are about $20-$30 more than for the cheapest hard drive of the same size, but to me, it's worth it!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 20, 2005 @10:36AM (#11728377)
    This "article" is just one big advert. All the links point to geeks.com, and no doubt BigBruin.com picks up a commission on all clicks/sales.
  • Re:Cool, but... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @10:37AM (#11728382)
    Ouch. That's probably the 60-cycle noice of the first transformer, and it's a bear to deal with after the hardware was designed.

    Try plugging something in constant use into it that draws a little bit of current, like your nearby clock or lava lamp.
  • by Skuto (171945) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @10:40AM (#11728389) Homepage
    Current Seagate 7200.7 and Seagate 7200.8 are quite a bit louder than comparable models from Maxtor and Samsung.

    What you say might have been true for the very old Barracudas, but it's sadly no longer the case.
  • Re:Shuttle... (Score:3, Informative)

    by isecore (132059) <isecoreNO@SPAMisecore.net> on Sunday February 20, 2005 @10:42AM (#11728400) Homepage
    Shuttles are very noisy IMHO. Two friends of mine has them, but they make more noise than my fulltower. Probably because they have high-RPM fans to push out the heat while my fulltower uses lazy 120mm fans that make hardly any noise while being more efficient.
  • Re:Step 1: Buy a Mac (Score:5, Informative)

    by grahamlee (522375) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `geelmai'> on Sunday February 20, 2005 @10:51AM (#11728440) Homepage Journal
    I have to disagree here - I've got a pair of dual G5 towers, a 20" G5 iMac, a 17" G5 iMac and a dual G5 XServe - only the XServe makes a noticable hum. Now, the Sun E450 - THAT is loud :-)
  • by afaiktoit (831835) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @11:04AM (#11728489)
    If you're lucky enough to have a motherboard that can do it this program controls the fan speed based on temperature. http://www.almico.com/speedfan.php [almico.com]
  • by fontkick (788075) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @11:04AM (#11728490)
    The Samsung Spinpoint drives are also designed to be quiet - they call it NoiseGuard and SilentSeek, whatever that means. Basically they are really quiet. Every drive I've had starts out quiet and gets louder as the bearings wear out. My WD and Maxtors developed ear-piercing whines. And the new Seagates are not as quiet as the older models, but they are better than Maxtor or WD.
  • Re:Shuttle... (Score:3, Informative)

    by justforaday (560408) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @11:04AM (#11728491)
    I have to agree. I bought a shuttle box years ago after every review site seemed to rave about how quiet they were. I got the thing home, put it together and was annoyed by the sound the thing made. My midtower box that I consider noisy as hell was just a whisper next to the shuttle. Naturally, it succumbed to the bad capacitor problem that many of them died from. I hear that the latest generation of shuttles are fairly quiet though. Not sure I trust that, considering it's coming fromt he same sources who said that the one I got was supposedly quiet...
  • by Freggy (825249) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @11:08AM (#11728509)
    For very complete and more practical information, reviews and good advise for silencing your computer I can really recommend SilentPCReview [silentpcreview.com].
  • by DreadfulGrape (398188) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @11:09AM (#11728516)
    (from article) Fanless power supplies are now available that generate zero noise, but none have found their way to the shelves at Geeks.com. These fanless power supplies don't follow the guidelines of typical design...

    A point to which I can personally attest -- I bought the Antec fanless power supply, and it failed within 30 days.

  • by UserChrisCanter4 (464072) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @11:16AM (#11728546)
    Let's hope that quieting my computer doesn't make it like these guys' server.

    Seriously, though, system noise can be reduced pretty easily.

    1) Get a heavy case. I was always surprised at the fact that my ex-girlfriend's Aluminum case was much noisier than my steel case, given that I have many more things in my case. Thicker materials (obviously) cut down on noise levels.

    2) Get a good PSU. Besides the stability and reliability increase, it pretty much stands to reason that Random-Taiwan-Tech isn't going to be terribly concerned with the sound levels on a $35 PSU if it adds to the cost at all. Antec produces some cool thermal-sensing PSUs that will throttle PSU fan speed based on thermal levles. They also have special fan-only molexes that allow them to do the same thing to any other fans in the case.

    3) Switch to the biggest fans you can. It takes fewer RPMs on an 80mm or 120mm fan for it to move the same amount of air as a 60mm fan. This goes for case fans AND CPU fans. Zalman makes some intriguing CPU cooling solutions that separate the fan from the heatsink, and thus use huge, slow, quiet fans. If you want to get fancy, rewire the fans so they operate on 7V or 5V input.

    4) Never ever buy a mainboard with a fan on the northbridge. I absolutely hate this design concept. For one, the fans are very small and thus usually noisy. But most importantly, these things are the cheapest designs available, as the mobo manufacturers aren't looking to add major costs to their product. Consequently, they fail much more quickly than many other things. If you're lucky, they'll just up and stop spinning. If you're unlucky, they'll continue spinning, but with a strange squeek or hum as they march toward death. The counterpart to this is your videocard. If you're not planning on gaming, look at one of the lower-end videocards that use a heatsink only.

    5) Cut down on vibration. Hard drives are kind of noisy, yes. In my experience, though, it's really the vibrations that contribute to the noise levels. Try to wedge some thin rubber washers between the HDD and the case when you're screwing it in. Some newer case designs actually use a system like this by default, and the noise level reduction is quite impressive.

    Outside of these five is when you start getting into specialty areas: Putting noise-absorbing material in the case, using large heat-pipe coolers in place of fans on your video card, moving the computer to a closet and running long cables, etc. Honestly, though, if you follow the above recommendations, you should get something quiet enough that you don't need to worry.
  • Re:Step 1: Buy a Mac (Score:5, Informative)

    by jdwest (760759) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @11:35AM (#11728630)
    My 2x2.0 G5 tower is next to silent (except with the 10.3.8 update and I had to switch proc performance from "automatic" to "highest" to keep them from become overly excited executing even the simplest of tasks).

    I finally received my XServe (2x2.3) and set it up Friday. It is dead quiet. So quiet, in fact, that I had to temporarily shut down the Dell PowerEdge 4600 just to hear it. Still not satisfied, I slid off the top panel for visible proof the fans were running. I spotted only three fans, but the software reports 8 up and running within normal ranges.

    For now, I'll trust the blowers tab on Apple's Server Monitor software.
  • by Cylix (55374) * on Sunday February 20, 2005 @11:36AM (#11728636) Homepage Journal
    Exactly what I was thinking...

    Especially since he smoked one when he first put it in.

    Go ahead and run over to this place. [extremeoverclocking.com] It's a good guide for testing your PSU.

    If you don't have a multi-meter go get one. If you are going to use it only rarely don't worry about spending any real cash. (Though chances are if you start using it you may never stop.... it's addictive)
  • buy a Dell Optiplex (Score:1, Informative)

    by NimNar (744239) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @11:39AM (#11728643)
    After years wanting a quiet PC I found a really easy way--I bought Dell Optiplex GX 270 SD. Dell has engineered the box to be quiet. It has a proprietary heatsink assembly over a Pentium IV as well as quiet Maxtor drive. I keep it on my desk and it's almost silent.

    Also, it can be had really cheap from Dell Outlet [dell.com]

    And you can send it back if it's too noisy--USA ONLY!!
  • by Cylix (55374) * on Sunday February 20, 2005 @11:48AM (#11728679) Homepage Journal
    I think he was refering to additional resist added due to bad contact with some molex connectors. A looser connection means less surface contact which translates to more resistance.

    Maybe it's not a problem.

    An easy danger sign to read occurrs when there is an active load on the system. (HD spinning up, cdrom spinning up, more processor usage) Whatever the activity, if you start using more amperage from the power supply and you can hear your static rate fans drop in speed... your PSU is probably over drawn.

    Fairly easy to spot... when the normal whir and hum sounds decidely different.
  • by thebes (663586) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @12:05PM (#11728743)
    If you have seen the latest high end Dell systems, you would have known that they employ a large fan on the back, with cowling on the inside that directs airflow between the fan, and the large heatpipe heatsink. Many professors buy these at work, and during setup, as the poster below me says, you can't even hear them.
  • Re:Better yet... (Score:3, Informative)

    by timmi (769795) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @12:07PM (#11728756)

    Actually, you can cet sound via USB, for example the Sound Blaster Extigy

    Link to newegg [newegg.com]

  • by AKnightCowboy (608632) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @12:09PM (#11728768)
    My PowerMac G5 is really no less quiet than any of the other PCs I use. In fact, once I actually start doing anything intensive with it the fans speed up and it sounds like the home gaming system (with tons of fans in it running at full speed all the time). Now, maybe an iMac is quieter, but the tower is definitely loud.
  • by AKnightCowboy (608632) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @12:12PM (#11728778)
    One more thing: I am not a Dell fanboy, but Macs are expensive.

    $3000 for a good quality high-end computer isn't that expensive. That's about how much high end systems have always cost throughout the years. Hell, a new top of the line PowerMac is probably cheaper than the IBM AT when it was first released. When you factor in the cost of the PowerMac over the 4-6 year lifespan it'll see on your desktop it's not that expensive.

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Sunday February 20, 2005 @12:16PM (#11728790) Homepage Journal
    Dynamat also sells a spray-can noise deadener called Dynashield. I used it in my car of course; I hid some 10" subs behind the plastic paneling. I sprayed some of the dynashield on the plastic, and had no vibration noise. I did however also use dynamat on the body outside the subs... The point is that the spray-on stuff can be, well, sprayed on. It would be easy to add to basically any case.
  • by Superduck-Canuck (854972) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @12:22PM (#11728809)
    EndPCNoise.com has a great selection of parts to quiet a PC. I ordered a Nexus CPU cooler, heatsinks and case fans from them. Now I can hardly hear my PC at all. They are also a great source of information on how and what to do.

    http://www.endpcnoise.com/ [endpcnoise.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 20, 2005 @12:40PM (#11728894)
    BTW, you didn't even have to RTFA, you just had to RTF summary. I can't get to the article, but the summary says the steps are inexpensive,

    how nice, dipwad. well I did RTFA and the steps add a hundred or more dollars: replacing fans, buying fan controllers...

  • by Sebastopol (189276) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @12:56PM (#11728981) Homepage
    common misconception about more == better: an open air platform has worse thermal characteristics than a properly designed chassis with the fewer # of fans. In other words, just because your chassis has big vents in it doesn't mean it will cool well. You need a well designed chassis that channels the fan's efforts to move air over the parts. UNfortunately, custom OEM chassis will always outperform generic chassis b/c they can taylor the internal plastic fittings to most efficiently move air with fewer fans.

    Case and point: (no pun intended): I have a Dell inspiron from a year or two ago that has one fan and a molded plastic insert. It is essentially silent at 2.6GHz when playing WarCraft. Just before buying the dell I spent a fortune on a silent supply, funky fans, zallman heatsink and an aluminim chasssis, and with the exact same component configuration as the dell, it is easily 5x louder (subjectively) playing the same game.

    based on this, and experience in a chipset validation lab, i think it is smarter to buy an intelligently designed OEM system if you truly want a quiet PC.

  • by angle_slam (623817) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @01:14PM (#11729061)
    Current Seagate 7200.7 and Seagate 7200.8 are quite a bit louder than comparable models from Maxtor and Samsung.

    Not according to storagereview.com [storagereview.com]. While the Samsung is quieter, I don't think 0.3 dB qualifies as "quite a bit louder". And that is the only drive quieter than the Seagate.

  • by Talisman (39902) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @01:28PM (#11729146) Homepage
    You saved the best for last :)

    Seagate has the lowest failure rate of any drive mfg I've come across. Maxtor has the highest. This is empirical evidence gathered from the repair of hundreds, possibly thousands of PCs.

    I just replaced my IBM DeathStar with a Seagate Barracuda.
  • Re:Cool, but... (Score:5, Informative)

    by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @01:47PM (#11729270) Homepage
    how do I silence a noisy UPS. There is this humming sound, and it's especially bad when the PC is turned off. Any ideas?

    If it is an APC BE725BB and the sound is a hissing sound, then it is a defect (not safety related, just annoying), and you can get it exchanged. [apc.com]

  • by IBeatUpNerds (827376) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @02:06PM (#11729365)
    My Dell 400SC has a single 120mm fan in the back. Most of the time, I can't even tell the machine is powered on. It get a little louder when it's doing something CPU intensive. It's the quietest PC I've ever owned

    I apologize for being somewhat offtopic and hope I don't get modded into oblivion. At work my desktop is a Dimension 4600c. This is the absolute loudest machine I've ever heard. I know judging this is subjective, but when I do something CPU intensive the fan goes through five phases starting at silent and ending up roaring. It sounds like a 747 throttling up for takeoff. My Inspirion 8200 laptop is quite loud. You can hear it across the room when it's warm. When it's hot, it's scary.

    Just my $.02 about Dell's and volume. They're quite loud, but I guess I'm not pretentious enough to buy a Mac ;)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 20, 2005 @02:23PM (#11729458)
    Try cleaning the bloody thing out and lubricating the fan bearings. It's amazing what a bit of dust in a bad place can do.
  • by sjbe (173966) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @02:54PM (#11729651)
    My machine was driving me nuts. So I've steadily been quieting it down. Here's what I did.

    • A Zalman Silent 400W Power Supply [thinkgeek.com] helped a lot and only emits about 20db of noise. Still not silent enough for me so I'm going to get something like a SilentMaxx Semi-Fanless 450W [quietpcusa.com] soon.
    • I replaced my case fans with Papst 8412 NGL [plycon.com] fans which only emit 12db; basically silent. I tried one of the PC Power and Cooling Silencer units and it's a fine power supply but still pretty noisy.
    • I put some new rubber feet I picked up from Home Dept (about $3 each) which are normally used for door stops to help dampen case vibrations.
    • I switched over the 7200 RPM Seagate hard drives from the 10000RPM Maxtor/IBMs I was using. The old drives were fine but rather noisy.
    • I replaced my graphics card fan with a Zalman Heat Pipe [zalmanusa.com] system which emits no noise at all.
    • I picked up these hard drive coolers with rubber shock absorbers [compusa.com] from CompUSA which further helps dampen case vibration, and helps keepd the drive quieter. My case uses drive rails and I had to drill an extra hole in the drive rails to make them compatible.
    • I also installed this Anti Noise Kit [compusa.com] from CompUSA. One caution is keep at least one screw from the case touching both the power supply and the case with no padding. Helps keep a ground between the power supply and the case.
    • I also bought some rounded cables (yes I'm aware of the crosstalk issues but they haven't been a problem) which helps cooling. I got some cable wraps and zip ties to keep the cables bundled and out of the air flow as much as possible.
    • Installed a HUGE Thermalright SLK800 [thermalright.com] heat sink with a Pabst fan (above) to keep the processor cool and silent. This actually dropped by processor temp by several degrees in addition to being quiter.
    • I installed Melamine foam from Home Depot throughout the case to dampen noise.


    End result? Nearly silent. Quieter than my thinkpad laptop which doesn't make much noise. I still want a quieter power supply fan though I'm reasonably satisfied with the one I have. Basically anything rated at over 20db is too loud by my standards. Yes, many people will tell you you can hear it and that's true if you are 10+ feet away or have damaged hearing from too much loud music. :-) Right near the unit however you can hear it just fine and case vibrations will often amplify sounds.

    Obviously if you want a machine with super high performance, you may need better cooling that I do and better cooling usually equals more noise. My machine is a linux file/print server so I'm not looking for maximal performance, though I do have a SCSI drive system in it. Make sure you keep the air pathways clear if you use the fans I recommend because they don't blow a lot of air. Don't block any ventilation though you can use air filters if you feel the need. Every so often get a can of compressed air and blow out any dust in the system which will help with the cooling.

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