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Building a Silent, Air-Cooled System 392

Posted by Hemos
from the the-sounds-of-silence dept.
A reader:"Tired of those whining fans? Want some piece and quiet when working on your PC? Water cooling can be too expensive and too complicated to install, why not just stick to air cooling? This article describes how you can remove PC noise without turning the inside of your PC case into a small oven. Follow the road to silence while keeping an eye on the system temperature."
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Building a Silent, Air-Cooled System

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  • by bigtallmofo (695287) on Friday March 11, 2005 @01:15PM (#11912350)
    I know that they're selling some lower-end models now, but every Seagate Barracuda hard drive I've ever purchased is far quieter than comparable hard drives. I have been using them exclusively for a few years now and really enjoy the PEACE and quiet.

    • That's interesting because I have a Barracuda and it's probably the loudest drive that I've ever owned...
      • by Anonymous Coward
        You need one with the liquid bearing thingies to be quiet. Mine are very quiet but an older SCSI one I have is really loud.
      • I have a couple of the samsung 160s. Cheap and silent.

        As for reliability, don't know. Haven't died on me yet...

        *knocks on wood*

        I'm hoping the low noise and low heat implies that they won't wear out too quickly.
      • by badasscat (563442) <basscadet75@y a h o o . c om> on Friday March 11, 2005 @04:03PM (#11914194)
        That's interesting because I have a Barracuda and it's probably the loudest drive that I've ever owned...

        It depends on the model. I have a 7100.7 (or whatever it's called) and it does not support acoustic management. It has noticeable seek noise. The versions that became famous for quietness (the IV and V) were the previous versions to mine - these did support AM.

        Meanwhile, all other manufacturers have started using FDB motors just like Seagate does, so the whine is gone, and if your drive supports acoustic management (almost all do, though you may need to download a utility to access it), then it very likely can be virtually silent too. There is no inherent advantage that the Barracuda models have in acoustics.

        In addition to my Barracuda, I also have two Maxtor Diamondmax Plus 9's and a Western Digital Performer 40 (this came with my TiVo but has been repurposed in my PC - you can't buy this drive separately). All three of these drives are quieter than my Barracuda with acoustic management set to "quiet" - in fact, one of the Maxtors is dead silent, and the other is so quiet I have to put my ear right up next to it to hear seeks. (There is a slight variation between the two units, even though they are the same model and capacity.)

        I will say that one of my Maxtors was ear-splittingly loud when I first purchased it - ironically (or maybe not), it was the retail version. My other Maxtor was OEM. The retail drive was set to "performance" out of the box, whereas the OEM drive was already set to "quiet". Maybe this is by design, as Maxtor is obviously positioning these drives for different markets, but it has obviously led to a different reputation for Maxtor than Seagate has, despite Maxtor's drives being capable (like almost everybody else) of total silence.

        The loudest part of most PC's other than the hard drive (which doesn't need to be loud at all) is the power supply. I've gone through a half dozen PSU's looking for a quiet one that's also beefy enough for my systems - I finally ordered an ironically-named Seasonic Super Tornado 350 [silentpcreview.com] today. Most people don't consider the PSU as a major source of noise - or if they do, they don't think they can do anything about it - but having swapped out enough of these things for one reason or another, I can vouch for the fact that not only is there a significant variation between PSU's in the volume of noise, they also can significantly affect the quality of noise from your PC. Right now I am using an Enermax PSU in one system and an Antec in another - both highly-rated PSU's from a power and build quality standpoint - but they both sound awful. They are not particularly loud (though they're louder than any other component I have), but they both emit sort of a low-pitched "buzzing" noise (it's not case vibration - I've checked - it's just the sound of the fans they're using), which I find extremely annoying. If you're looking to silence your PC, I'd recommend starting with the PSU.

        Of course, most hardcore PC users really go overboard with fans too - I admit to having six case fans in one of my PC's (mainly for show, they're LED fans), but they're almost always turned down to minimum with a fan controller. Not silent, but not loud either. In my HTPC, I have three 80mm fans, one of which is disconnected, the others turned down to minimum using built-in manual fan controls. I have no stability or temperature problems with this machine at all, and except for the PSU (that's being replaced), it's very quiet.
    • Yeah, me too. They are the quietest 3.5" drives out there. There are quieter 2.5" drives, but they lack space and performance.

      What I hate about all drives, even the Seagate's, is they every few minutes they go into some self check mode or something. I have no idea what the drive is doing, but it gets louder. This is not disk access, it's like when the drive has been mostly idle for several minutes it starts doing something (internal checks or something?). It's annoyingly loud though.
      • What I hate about all drives, even the Seagate's, is they every few minutes they go into some self check mode or something. I have no idea what the drive is doing, but it gets louder. This is not disk access, it's like when the drive has been mostly idle for several minutes it starts doing something (internal checks or something?). It's annoyingly loud though.

        Sounds like the Sleep Time for IDE access is set too low. Hard drive access doesn't have to happen to wake up the drive, any IDE access could tri

      • I remember reading something about something called "thermal calibration" that most (all?) modern HDs do...as they heat/cool, the platters expand/contract, and by checking the location of a few known patterns on the disk, it can esitmate head position better, making seeks faster...

        That's what I've always thought those noises were...
    • by Electronik (821589) on Friday March 11, 2005 @01:28PM (#11912535)
      Seagate make the quietest, most reliable drives I know of. I specify them in all my audio (recording studio) computers. Not one (touch wood) failure in 6 years.

      If your computer is scanning the drives, make sure you have fast search turned OFF in XP, it will try to index your HDD everytime it 'thinks' you aren't needing to access the drive. Also check for spyware and all the usual nonsense running in the background.

      Finaly, you can suspend your HDD or use sleeves to stop the drive transmitting the vibrations to the case. The case can act a little like a guitar body and amplify the grinding sounds.
      • Finaly, you can suspend your HDD or use sleeves to stop the drive transmitting the vibrations to the case. The case can act a little like a guitar body and amplify the grinding sounds.

        You can get a new antec case, specifically the sonata, which comes with rubber shock mounts for the hard drives. Also has a 120mm fan for quiet operation.

        Now only if there were a decent LPGA775 quiet aftermarket fan...

      • I took apart an ancient (but still perfectly functional, but small) seagate apart recently. The things are built like tanks, and extremely precicely it seems as well.

        Good quality drives.
    • I agree (Score:2, Informative)

      by toadlife (301863)
      I had use Maxtors and they sounded like turbojets when they were powered up. After hearing of Maxtor's idiotic decision to integrate Quantum technology into their products, it was time for me to choose a different brand. At work the systems we have been buying come with Seagate drives, and I have noticed that they are extremely quiet - and pretty reliable to boot.

      I just bought three Seagates and now I can hear my fans instead of my drives when I fire up my computer.
    • The Barracudas must have changed. I have an old SCSI at home that sounds like an F16 on takeoff.
      • Silly people (Score:5, Informative)

        by nurd68 (235535) on Friday March 11, 2005 @01:55PM (#11912869) Homepage
        Yes, the Barracuda's changed.

        - Seagate invented this "Fluid Dyamic Bearing" technology. As I understand it, rather than standard roller/ball bearings, an oil-like fluid is used so that the rotating shaft builds up pressure within a containing sleeve, similar to what happens with various drivetrain components in cars.

        - The Seagate Barracuda IV drives pioneered using this technology about 4 years ago.

        - Seagate licensed this technology to Maxtor.

        - Other people may use it now, not sure.

        - Just about all Seagate and Maxtor drives in the past 5 years use this technology.

        - Yes, Seagate drives are typically more expensive, but they have a reputation for extensive testing and high reliability. (I'm not saying it's accurate or inaccurate, just that this is the rep - substantiated by the fact that most non-IBM servers used Seagate drives, though this has changed in recent years.)

        - I run a mixture of Maxtor and Seagate drives, all with this technology, and have never had an issue with them.
    • by steeef (98372) <steeef@@@gmail...com> on Friday March 11, 2005 @01:57PM (#11912899)
      I suggest you take a look at Samsung's SpinPoint drives [samsung.com]. They're all the rage with Quiet PC enthusiasts (such as those at Silent PC Review [silentpcreview.com]). Barracuda's are quiet (I've got two V's right now), but they're certainly still audible, especially as they get older and the bearings wear. Apparently SpinPoints are quieter than Barracudas (at least initially).
      • At our shop we use nothing but Samsung and Seagate drives, and in my experience, the Samsungs are almost always quieter. The Seagates are certainly near-silent in comparison to Maxtors, or worse still, WD, but there's still some occassional seek noise.

        My system at home has two 160GB Samsung drives in it (One PATA, one SATA and about a year and a half newer) and I can't remember *ever* hearing HD noise out of it. I'm using an Antec SLK-3700BQE case, and by far the biggest noise out of the system is my 60mm
    • by Ptur (866963) on Friday March 11, 2005 @01:58PM (#11912912)
      Don't know why this is posted here, the guys at http://www.silentpcreview.com/ [silentpcreview.com] are working on this for years!

      FYI, I'll soon be building a noiseless AMD A64-3500+ for our living room. Once you've read the articles at SilentPCReview, no problem.

      BTW, the Seagate barracuda's are no longer the quiet drives they used to be, since their acoustic managment software has been disabled (pending a lawsuit I think)

      Peter
  • by Avyakata (825132)
    If only they could silence my roommate's snoring...
  • This reminds me (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bogaboga (793279) on Friday March 11, 2005 @01:17PM (#11912370)
    This reminds me of the [old] VW Beetle http://www.edmunds.com/media/reviews/generations/v w.beetle/1955.vw.beetle.500.jpg [edmunds.com]. This machine was air cooled. I do not know whether todys beetle is air cooled too.
  • by RonUSMC (823230) <RonUSMC @ g m a il.com> on Friday March 11, 2005 @01:18PM (#11912383)
    Reducing temperature and reducing sound... Well then how will I cook eggs or drowned out the Britney Spears from the next office over.
  • LTSP works for me (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hax4bux (209237) on Friday March 11, 2005 @01:18PM (#11912390)
    I took a old PII box, removed the hard drive, bought big heat sinks and use it as a X-terminal. Boot it via LTSP, works great. Keep hot, noisy servers out in the garage. Life is good.
  • by eln (21727) on Friday March 11, 2005 @01:19PM (#11912393) Homepage
    That was a lot of words just to tell me to go out and buy a lot of expensive third party cooling systems. I was hoping for more of a hack approach, not just replacing everything with its more expensive, silent counterpart.
    • So true. To sum up the article "Some fans are quieter then others."

      There are so many things that it did not cover like slow moving 120mm fans move way more air then high rpm 80mm fans. How about using cases with minimal vents located only where air is needed to be took in or pushed out of the system. Cutting away with a pair of tin snips or a Dremel those "molded" fan guards and replacing them with super thin wire fan guards.

      Not a lot of content in this article.
    • How many words was it? The site is now dead. I guess he didn't have enough cooling in his machine to take a slashdoting ;)
      • "many words was it? The site is now dead."

        The fans failed.

        I had a stock Athlon fan fail this week. Less than 4 mos old. The chip lasted about 8 minutes. *poof*.

        Note to self: no matter how cheap you get the computer for, get a good fan.
  • Isolation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stecoop (759508) on Friday March 11, 2005 @01:19PM (#11912403) Journal
    All the money I have spent on quieting a noisy computer can be saved by accepting simple facts that moving object cause noise. Accept that and you are in the first phase on knowing what to do. You have to isolate the moving components from the room you are in.

    For me the best solution is having the cases in the desk cabinet. In the cabinet you can isolate the vibration of a blower(squirrel cage fan) and use dryer vent tubing to suck in cool air and blow out hot air from the case. The blower I got is a dismantled desktop fan from Wally World that has two squirrel cages I picked up for 10 bucks. It runs on 110v so I have to turn it on when I use it. One day I'll get fancy and have a relay to automatically turn it on and it has 3 speeds via a turn nob that I could hook up a temperature senor to automatically select the correct speed. This doesn't totally isolate the noise from the room but I can add baffling to help. And it is so cheap.
  • Old news (Score:5, Informative)

    by Electronik (821589) on Friday March 11, 2005 @01:19PM (#11912405)
    I have been modding my PC's to be quiet for years - there is no need for any computer to sound like a leaf blower. Check out Silent PC Review [silentpcreview.com] for more info!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 11, 2005 @01:20PM (#11912424)
    In Soviet Russia, the COMPUTER silently air cools YOU.
  • Wow, it's slow. (Score:3, Informative)

    by PxM (855264) on Friday March 11, 2005 @01:23PM (#11912459)
    If it does stop, here [mirrordot.org] is the mirrordot link.

    That said, what impresses me is that they pulled it off with an A64 3200.

    --
    Free iPod? Try a free Mac Mini [freeminimacs.com]
    Or a free Nintendo DS, GC, PS2, Xbox [freegamingsystems.com]
    Wired article as proof [wired.com]
  • Slashdotted (Score:5, Funny)

    by Adrilla (830520) on Friday March 11, 2005 @01:23PM (#11912461) Homepage
    Seems to me that they've built a silent website too.
  • Well... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by elid (672471) <eli@ipod.gmail@com> on Friday March 11, 2005 @01:23PM (#11912463)
    ...you could always try this [tomshardware.com].
    • Cooling with liquid Nitrogen: fun to do if you don't care if it fails, but I wouldn't do it with a machine I cared about. Not only do you run the risk of running out of coolant, you also run the risk of getting a catastrophic change in boiling mode on the Nitrogen.

      Ever drop water on a really hot pan and watch it skitter around instead of boiling off immediately? Transfer too much heat through that interface and the Nitrogen will start acting like that as well. The result will probably be immedate heat f
  • I sure am. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Tackhead (54550) on Friday March 11, 2005 @01:23PM (#11912467)
    > Tired of those whining fans?

    Yeah. Every freakin' day. Wake up. Kick groupie chicks out of bed. Go to Slashdot. Post something. Sign autographs. Click Reload. Select tonight's groupie chicks from my inbound mail. Recompile kernel. Refuse offer of cocaine snort from nearby pair of rackmounted systems. Touch, finger, grep, mount, fsck, reboot. No, I don't have time for your sister. Reload, and post again.

    Man, I tell ya, it's a long way to the top if you wanna rock 'n' roll.

  • by sshore (50665) on Friday March 11, 2005 @01:23PM (#11912468)
    Sigh. Same old advice. Bigger heatsinks, bigger fans, slower speeds.. Each time I see an article like this, I hope that it's actually going to be about a silent PC - passive cooling, solid state storage. But no.. it's always how to make a quieter PC. Always with the same steps. It's like these sites run these articles just to sell the banner impressions. Move along. Nothing to see here.
    • The article should have been entitled "Building a Quiet, Air-Cooled System". Running a PC always involves heat, and their must always be a mechanism for removing that heat. The more passive cooling devices you have in your machine, the more heat needs to be removed from the case quickly. Granted you could run a system that doesn't create a lot of heat, but today's high-powered PCs normally do. Water cooling can certainly be quieter than air cooling, but it still isn't completely silent (yet?).
  • MY fans ... (Score:2, Funny)

    by dcarey (321183)
    A reader:"Tired of those whining fans? Want some piece and quiet when working on your PC?

    Well *I* for one never get tired of my fans, even when they whine or ask repeatedly for autographs.

    I do however forbid them to come near my linux box, so I usually have some peace and quiet there.
  • by jeffkjo1 (663413) on Friday March 11, 2005 @01:24PM (#11912486) Homepage
    This article talks about using a fan speed controller to slow down your fans and thus, reduce noise. I accomplished the same thing, without spending any extra money.

    I converted my fans to run on 7 volts. All you have to do is switch the order of the wires around on the molex power connector. It's really easy:
    http://www.dslwebserver.com/main/fr_index.html?/ma in/5-7-adapter.html [dslwebserver.com]

    I didn't experience any increase in temperature, but the noise level in my case went down specifically.
    • The downside is that you don't have the ability to pump the fans up for an especially CPU hungry task. :(

      I personally went for the automatic fan controller (3 fan plugs + 3 temp probes) because I don't want to be bothered.

      $30 wasn't that huge an investment.
  • I'll recycle my comment from the last /. article [slashdot.org] on this subject...

    summary: use low noise/silent parts in your computer
  • Tired of those whining fans?


    I sure am!

    -- Michael Jackson

  • by G4from128k (686170) on Friday March 11, 2005 @01:25PM (#11912508)
    As much as people hated the old Mac Cube, it does illustrate that proper thermal design can provide passive cooling. A specially design PC motherboard, CPU, GPU, and PSU could be built around a heat-convecting chimney -- the more power needed, the taller the chimney. Of course, it would be hard to do this with off-the-shelf modules, but if a design-oriented company wanted a fanless PC, they could do it.
  • the summary says: Want some piece and quiet...

    But I think there is a difference between piece and peace. Maybe they meant to say: Want a piece of peace and some quiet...
  • A quiet (silent) PC (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mollog (841386)
    Big (120mm) fans, controllable CPU fan, quiet case, and Segate Barracuda hard disk drives. 7200.7 My next computer build will use a laptop processor because they run so much cooler.
  • by athakur999 (44340) on Friday March 11, 2005 @01:30PM (#11912592) Journal
    Here's a link to the printable version with all of the article on one page:

    http://www.madshrimps.be/printart.php?articID=286 [madshrimps.be]
  • by kneecarrot (646291) on Friday March 11, 2005 @01:31PM (#11912604)
    It was time for me to upgrade my home machine a few months ago so I decided to go the extra mile and reduce the noise. It was much easier than I thought to get something far more quiet than a stock machine. The key is to carefully evaluate each component you are planning on including. Go to the manufacturers websites and look for a decibel rating. It is much easier to silence a machine if the parts you select are already some of the quietest in their class. Often, several products (for example, hard drives) in same price range will have wildly different noise ratings.

    When I first plugged in my new machine I was impressed by the sound but not blown away. A few weeks later I plugged in my old machine and my mouth literally dropped open at how loud it was.

    • "The key is to carefully evaluate each component you are planning on including. Go to the manufacturers websites and look for a decibel rating."

      Then add 20dB to the manufacturer's claim to get a rough idea of the true noise level.

      And look for the small print "20dB... at 10 metres, from the side, while idle and/or underclocked. 1dB = 10.24bel. Actual formatted noise may vary."
  • 31.7db isn't silent (Score:5, Informative)

    by sjbe (173966) on Friday March 11, 2005 @01:33PM (#11912634)
    While I'm impressed that they actually bothered to measure the sound coming from their case, their final measurement of 31.7db hardly counts as silent. In fact I personally regard that as fairly noisy, though I'm perhaps pickier than most. Realistically how much noise one can tolerate is a personal thing. If it bothers you it's too loud no matter what the acoustic measurements might tell you. And what bothers me might not bother you. I have just listened carefully to my machine and whichever component made the most noise got replaced.

    The only way to have a truly silent case is to have no fans and an idle hard drive. If that isn't possible fans like Pabst 8412 NGL [plycon.com] are the next best thing. They don't move much air but they're very quiet. And a better solution IMO than the hard drive enclosures which drive up heat and reduce reliability is vibration isolators [compusa.com] combined with a naturally quiet drive like Seagates. There are some fanless and semi-fanless (doesn't run unless it gets hot) power supplies out there like the SilentMaxx Semifanless [quietpcusa.com]. And replace those stupd 60mm fans that they insist on using for CPUs and GPUs with big headsinks [thermalright.com] and/or heatpipes [zalmanusa.com]. Also install neoprene or other washers and use rubber to deaden case vibrations. Home Depot is a great source for a lot of this stuff.
    • by jmke (776334)
      the dBA meter used is not a $2000 model; but rather a $200 model. It lowest readout is 30dBA, in the test room with all PCs turned off it measures 30dBA.

      final measurement of 31dBA could not be heard; so basically at 60cm I could not hear the difference between PC on/off.

      if you look up noise levels and rating, you'll see at 30dBA is VERY low, and that 30dBA can only be accurately measured in a sound studio with high end equipment:)
  • Red October (Score:5, Funny)

    by Ibiwan (763664) on Friday March 11, 2005 @01:34PM (#11912640) Journal
    If only I could adapt the 'caterpillar' drive described in The Hunt For Red October to cool my system... totally silent, but requires a nuclear reactor for power and separate cooling for the electromagnets... (details stolen from Knick)
  • by pla (258480) on Friday March 11, 2005 @01:38PM (#11912692) Journal
    You have two approaches to making a quiet PC - Totally passive cooling, or big fans.

    Assuming you need the second choice, you only need to know three things, in (usually) decreasing order of the amount of noise they make, to have a nearly-silent machine:

    1. 120mm fans. Use them for everything except the CPU (and for that, still get the biggest you can physically mount to the heatsink... a 90mm running at 1500RPM buried inside the case won't cause too much racket, and will move more air than a 60mm running at 4000 RPM.
    2. Hard drives make noise. Pick a quiet one. Invest in a baggie of small rubber grommets and use them on every screw you use. In fact, you might want to use them on as many screws as you can, anywhere in your computer.
    3. Computers vibrate. Put nice thick felt stick-on pads (like the ones you use to protect hardwood floors from furniture) on the bottom of your case. You can even go one further and stick your PC in a sandbox (may seem like a wierd idea, but three inches of sand will totally stop vibrations from turning your desk into a great big resonant surface)... Just make sure the sand can't get into the case.

    And for those of you who, like myself, have a machine or two loaded with cheap noisy IDE drives to use as a poor-man's fileserver... Two words: "Spare Room". You very rarely need to actually sit at a fileserver, so why not just stuff it in a room you never use? Or even a closet, but beware of dust and heat.
    • Invest in a baggie of small rubber grommets and use them on every screw

      This part can't be stressed enough! Although, you may want to get some of the larger rubber grommets depending on your needs...
    • "Hard drives make noise. Pick a quiet one. Invest in a baggie of small rubber grommets and use them on every screw you use. In fact, you might want to use them on as many screws as you can, anywhere in your computer."

      I do not see how this would help? If the screw makes contact with the harddrive and makes direct contact with the case, having a piece of rubber around the screw will not prevent ANY transfer of energy into the case. Now if the actually use an isolator where you do not have ANY direct metal
      • If the screw makes contact with the harddrive and makes direct contact with the case, having a piece of rubber around the screw will not prevent ANY transfer of energy into the case.

        If you have a screw tightly fastened, that point of contact can't dissipate any energy. If you have it a little loose, however, simple inertia will transfer as little energy between the two points as possible. Without a gromet, though, that means the screws themselves will buzz like crazy, and possibly work their way out ev
    • Or buy an Antec case.

      The SLK3700AMB addresses all 3 of these points. It comes with 120mm fans, it includes rubber grommets, and it has soft rubber feet on the bottom (made of the same type of rubber as the grommets). It's still quite possible to make it a noisy PC, and you can introduce other components that cause heavy vibration. Here are some of the other things to look out for:

      - CD-ROM drives need grommets, but rarely have a place they will fit into. Additionally, many of them are on slide-rail systems
  • I happen to like the noise of my fan.. Infact it's gotten to the point where my room is weird and disturbing without the PC on..
  • I prefer to attach playing cards to my fans so that the sound is modified from a whir to a vroom. Very Much like my BMX when I was a boy.
  • Rip out the grill (Score:5, Informative)

    by ryanvm (247662) on Friday March 11, 2005 @01:44PM (#11912746)
    One tip that I discovered for quieting a PSU (Power Supply Unit) fan that I *never* see anywhere is removing the grill near the fan blades. It makes a huge difference.

    In a quest to silence my P166 router, I ended up doing the following:
    • Underclock the CPU and remove the fan and heatsink and replace with a large passive heatsink.
    • Add a resistor to the PSU fan to lower the voltage and slow it down.
    • Added rubber vibration dampers to the mounting points for the PSU fan. (This was worthless.)

    During these experiments I discovered that the PSU fan was almost silent when the PSU was disassembled, but quite noisy when everything was put back together. I ended up removing the ring shaped grill on the PSU with a hacksaw and the noise is now imperceptible. Of course you have to be careful when you reach your hand around to the back of the computer or you'll get a playful little bite from the plastic blades.
    • Re:Rip out the grill (Score:3, Informative)

      by mollog (841386)
      Good ideas here, and most of them free or very cheap. I, too, remove or cut off all grills. Also, adding a plenum (spacer) between the fan and the CPU's heat sink will help. You can use an old fan as a plenum by removing the inner fan and using the outer shell to put a spacer between the fan and the heat sink.
  • the maxtor diamond max is loud as fuck until you download hitachis (?????) feature tool. link http://www.hitachigst.com/hdd/support/download.htm [hitachigst.com]
  • by Tyrdium (670229) on Friday March 11, 2005 @01:59PM (#11912926) Homepage
    I built myself a new, quiet computer over the summer. It's aircooled, and the price premium (over a noisy system) was only about $50-$100. Here's how I did it (using advice from SilentPCReview [silentpcreview.com]:

    • CPU fan: Zalman CNPS7000A-AlCu (best one out at the time, around $30)
    • Case: Antec SLK3700-BQE (again, best one out at the time, around $70 including reasonably quiet PSU and quiet 120 mm fan (especially at 5V))
    • Hard drive: Samsung SP1614C (very quiet 7200 RPM, 160 GB SATA hard drive, also comes in IDE variant SP1614N, around $100)
    • GPU cooling: NV Silencer 5 (added aftermarket as soon as it was available, around $30)

    The rig has: A64 3000+, 1 GB PC3200, 160 GB HD, 6800GT. All it needs for cooling are the PSU, case, CPU, and GPU fans. By far, the loudest component is the NV Silencer 5. When I was using a passively-cooled GeForce 2 (waiting for the 6800GT to be reasonably available), the system was almost completely silent. If I had wanted to spend more, I could've made it absolutely inaudible, but it wasn't worth it to me. Building a quiet system is actually very easy and cheap, assuming you're buying all-new parts anyway.

  • I put the noisy, centralized servers, with their HDs and fans, into a closet with a fan that is away from the people in my home. I put multimedia terminals (audio only for now) in places like the bedroom, library and livingroom, on silent iPaqs. They run Familiar [handhelds.org], a Debian-based distro, and make no noise - and are much more power-efficient than their less "mobile" cousins. The system will be more complete when my MythTV server is sending video to a cheap, fanless PII notebook with touchscreen.

    This seems li
  • How about when we attack some poor website who obviously does not have resources for a slashdotting... maybe some of the FP people could coralize [coralcdn.org] the link. I mean... the technology is out there. They even have plugins for Firefox and IE.

    BTW, I give mod points to whoever coralizes a link first...

    JOhn
  • Spray Cool (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mla_anderson (578539) on Friday March 11, 2005 @02:03PM (#11912980) Homepage

    Saw these guys [spraycool.com] demoing at ESC on Wednesday. It was pretty intersting. I was walking up to the AMD booth and saw a blade rack with blue LEDs and what appeared to be steam inside. That was enough to make me think, "what the hell?" Then as I walked up I could see there were three dual Athalon 64 blades in the rack, all were powered up and none had heat sinks or fans. On top of that there were nozzles spraying a fluid onto the boards and CPUs. The fluid was dripping off the boards and being collected below. They say the system can cool up to 25KW without fans or heat sinks.

    • Re:Spray Cool (Score:4, Interesting)

      by flaming-opus (8186) on Friday March 11, 2005 @03:04PM (#11913615)
      Phase-change (spray-evaporative) cooling is the best available technology for removing heat from a very hot surface. They us it in the Cray X1 supercomputer by spray an electrically non-conducting flourocarbon onto the chip surface. The fluid evaporates and is sucked out by a high speed vacume. Flourinert is not really appropriate for home use, as it can turn into phosgene gas if heated too hot (a building fire or electrical short).

      I think spraycool and cray announced a patent cross-licensing deal a couple years ago. I'm very impressed that they are selling into the blade-server space, as it indicates that they've really brought the price down. However I don't think they are likely to be quiet. There are no fans or heat sinks on the processors, but the fluid is in a closed-loop system. Thus the heat needs to go somewhere. Probably they have one large heat exchanger per rack, which feeds into the sprayers for a dozen or more blade servers. If they're selling into the server market, quiet isn't a selling point anyway.

      Spray cooling is also used in some industrial processes, though often water is used, as electrical conduictivity isn't a real big issue. (power plants for example)
      • Re:Spray Cool (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Mattintosh (758112) on Friday March 11, 2005 @05:55PM (#11915340)
        Spray cooling is used in every refrigerant-based A/C unit ever. Compress a gas into a liquid, remove as much heat as you can, then let it evaporate and enjoy the cool breeze as it removes all the heat from the surrounding air.

        Works for water too, but not as well. It's a process called "direct expansion" (or DX, in the HVAC industry), and it has many uses. Refrigerant for cooling air, refrigerant for chilled water, and if you use chilled water, you usually heat water in a separate loop, so you need a cooling tower. A cooling tower is a big basin with a spray nozzle at the top and a drain out the bottom. Most of them have fans on them these days.

        Basically, any evaporation process is going to cool the surrounding materials. And in this case, you do sweat it.
  • Would one of you people who glories in generating prices for BYO systems price their silent configuration and compare it to the cost of a Mac mini, which is damn quiet out of the box?

    Just curious...
  • He took some initial measurements in the article, and at its LOUDEST, which I assume means "best cooled", he measured his CPU at FIFTY-SEVEN degrees C. That's pretty warm - my AMD at home runs at mid-40's at full-load, with a stock heat sink. I mean, 57? Are A64's that warm?
  • by JSmooth (325583) on Friday March 11, 2005 @03:14PM (#11913730)
    I finally bit the bullet and replaced my crappy Dell with a custom built AMD. I did weeks of research to make sure I got as quiet a computer as possible. After all the reading I ending up buying a antec sonata case (no extra crap, just roomy and quiet), an AMD CPU with a Zalman Copper cooler.

    I already had a 9800 radeon pro with the zalman heat sink and the sonata came with rubber mount cages for my hard drives.

    The case is NOT silent but the only sound you hear is a quiet whisper of wind. The only whine comes when A cd/dvd is burning. The Hard drives only a quiet gurgle under heavy load.

    Don't waste your time reading about this crap. Antec/Zalman/Newegg. Done.
  • by default luser (529332) on Friday March 11, 2005 @04:00PM (#11914173) Journal
    Is to start with less power. But that doesn't mean you have to give up performance.

    Winchester A64 cores as high as 3500+ have peak power usage 35w, and use 1/3 that when running Cool 'n Quiet. Pentium M cores also have low peak power usage and power management, but the price of entry is quite a bit higher.

    This is in contrast to super high-end chips like the Athlon 65 FX and the P4 EE, which can use 90w or more at peak.

    Be aware of how much a power hog your video card is. You can still play games on a quiet system, but you need to buy balanced performance. Keep in mind that the highest performance chips usually use older processes (.13 micron currently), and push 100w peak (!), while midrange chips usually push the process barrier and end up lower-power (for example, the GeForce 6600 series, or the Radeon x700 series). These cards typically peak at 50w or less, and idle at around 20-25w, not bad at all for their performance.

    I've combined the above elements in an Antec Sonata case with only the stock 120mm exhaust fan, plus a Zalman 7000A for the CPU. The video card fan is audible, just a bit, but you can make that go away if it bothers you (there are lots of good third-party video coolers out there).

    It's not THE FASTEST setup, but it's certainly no slouch. The best thing is, it doesn't cost that much, because you don't pay the premium of top-end performance parts or exotic cooling. It's affordable quiet performance computing.

    Oh, a few side notes: carpeted floors and desks you can slide the machine under are really required for completely silent aircooling. If you have a hardwood floor, you're probably going to have to live with some minimum noise level.

    Also, overclocking and mdding your case with thousands of fan holes does not mix with budget quiet computing. Then, you're talking watercooling.
  • Silent hard drive (Score:3, Interesting)

    by claes (25551) on Friday March 11, 2005 @05:23PM (#11915062)
    Do the following real early in bootup, before system logging is started at least.

    mkdir -p /dev/shm/tmp
    chmod --reference=/tmp /dev/shm/tmp
    mount --bind /dev/shm/tmp /tmp

    mkdir -p /dev/shm/var/log
    chmod --reference=/log /dev/shm/var/log
    mount --bind /dev/shm/var/log /var/log

    mkdir -p /dev/shm/var/run
    chmod --reference=/var/run /dev/shm/var/run
    mount --bind /dev/shm/var/run /var/run

    mkdir -p /dev/shm/var/spool/fcron
    chmod --reference=/var/spool/fcron /dev/shm/var/spool/fcron
    mount --bind /dev/shm/var/spool/fcron /var/spool/fcron

    #Need to create certain dirs...
    mkdir /tmp/.ICE-unix
    mkdir -p /var/run/hotplug
    mkdir -p /var/log/news
    mkdir -p /var/log/YaST2

    And the following in the end

    /sbin/hdparm -S 120 /dev/hda

  • by advid.net (595837) <.ten.divda. .ta. .todhsals.> on Friday March 11, 2005 @05:42PM (#11915224) Journal
    Buy a real fanless like the one I bought ($380):

    Neo case from lex system [lex.com.tw]

    I have 1GHz via proc, 3 eth, 2 usb (but usb 1.1), up to 512MB RAM, and sound.
    Storage: I've chosen a very silent hard disk: seagate momentus 40GB 2.5" and Linux is tuned to spin down the drive: it only runs 15s every 10mn.
    No CD/floppy drive: OS install with PXE and another PC on LAN.

    You can have a real 0db system with LAN boot or using a compact flash for storage.
    Of course network boot means another PC, noisy, but in another place ;-)

    Believe me, I'm currently posting on Slashdot using this system, I really apreciate deep silence.

    BTW, this is old news [slashdot.org].

10.0 times 0.1 is hardly ever 1.0.

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