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Silencing a Hard Drive Using Household Items 275

Posted by kdawson
from the bread-olives-and-silence dept.
Reader Justblair recommends his blog entry detailing how he made a hard drive silencer for a pittance. "This article demonstrates a very easy-to-make hard drive silencer that not only outperforms most commercially available devices, but is cheaper to implement as well. Requiring very little in fabrication skills, it is an ideal addition to a media PC or HTPC. It may even suit you if your head is aching after many hours of being whined at by your hard drive."
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Silencing a Hard Drive Using Household Items

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  • by bcmm (768152) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @06:26AM (#25601451)
    Does it involve bludgeoning with any number of common household items?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 02, 2008 @06:30AM (#25601465)

      Does it involve bludgeoning with any number of common household items?

      Only if you use reiserfs on the disk.

    • Re:Haven't read TFA (Score:5, Informative)

      by jimdread (1089853) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @06:30AM (#25601469)
      No, he put the hard drive in a big aluminium case, with those gel cooling bags surrounding the drive. Sorry, I just spoiled the whole thing. That's pretty much all it says.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Gel cooling bags?! Pfft. Real men use socks.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by TeXMaster (593524)
        I still think the hammer was a better idea.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by dotancohen (1015143)

        No, he put the hard drive in a big aluminium case, with those gel cooling bags surrounding the drive. Sorry, I just spoiled the whole thing. That's pretty much all it says.

        This is what it said to me:

        Forbidden

        You don't have permission to access /hdsilence.html on this server.
        Apache/2 Server at www.justblair.co.uk Port 80

        Seems JustBlair /.ed himself.

  • by wjh31 (1372867) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @06:30AM (#25601463) Homepage
    the fans are the noisiest part of my computer, and always have been on any computer ive ever had. However i do occationally hear the click-click of the head moving, but never the whine of the platters, will this sort that out too?

    ive seen another hard drive silencing technique elsewhere that's even cheaper, although possibly not quite as effective, which is simply to mount it with rubber bands in a 5.25" bay rather than screws.
    http://www.spodesabode.com/archive/content/article/hddnoise [spodesabode.com]
    • by tsjaikdus (940791) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @06:58AM (#25601531)

      Well, sulky, then apply this technology to your fans. Put them in a box, pour in a lot of cooling gel and voila.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Most of the time I can't hear the fans in my media box as it's running cool enough not to spin them up very fast (high load in the middle of summer is an exception).

      But I get a high-pitched whine from the HD's spinning vibrating the entire case (which acts like an amplifier of sorts). If you're old enough I spose you wouldn't hear it. But being the spring chicken I am, I can hear it. By decoupling the HD from the case by suspending it in elastic it completely silences the box.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Cylix (55374)

        The loose rubber grommets which attach my drives serve the same purpose. The screw inserts directly through, but it only has enough turns to keep the disk from falling out.

        I can't remember which case it is, but it should be difficult to spot from would be myth box builders.

        • by urbanriot (924981) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @10:22AM (#25602319)
          I second your suggestion to use rubber grommets. Even the loudest 10k raptor drives are silenced by long screws in rubber grommets. Antec knows this, that's why they include them with almost every single one of their chassis. Chenbro uses some screws with rubber pads on them as well.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by FractalZone (950570)

          The loose rubber grommets which attach my drives serve the same purpose. The screw inserts directly through, but it only has enough turns to keep the disk from falling out.

          I can't remember which case it is, but it should be difficult to spot from would be myth box builders.

          As someone pointed out above, it is the direct metal to metal connection from the noisy drive to the case that transfers most of the sound and the case often works as sort of an acoustic amplifier, much the way the horn on an old gramophone does, especially if some part of the case (usually one of the side panels) resonates at some (sub)harmonic of the frequency at which one of the drives is vibrating.

          In the past, I've actually solved drive vibration noise problems by the simple expedient of taking a 3.5

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pipatron (966506)

      the fans are the noisiest part of my computer

      Now see what happens when you silence the fan, like you would in any silent computer that this article is meant to be used for

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by lysergic.acid (845423)

        i've got a 4-year-old Dell Dimension desktop. it's not a silent computer per se, but it was extremely quiet when i first got it. however, perhaps due to being frequently moved around, shipped from Chicago to LA, or bumped into too much, the system is now extremely loud and annoying.

        at first i mistook the noise for drive thrashing, so i thought that one of my hard drives was just dying on me (it was an old hard drive, and i was having a lot of disk problems). but after replacing the drive with a brand new on

    • Agreed. No one complains about their DVR hard drives because hard drives themselves aren't that loud.

      The best way to silence a computer would be to find a way to cool it without fans and remove the DVD drive.
    • by Cylix (55374) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @08:21AM (#25601781) Homepage Journal

      Larger slower fans are pretty much the key for noise to displacement ratio.

      I've been fairly happy with my antec case which even incluedes a very very large fan at the top of the case.

      My only complaint is these fans are managed via switch attached to each fan. Sure, I never have to turn them up, but let the board regulate the flow would be better.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by digitalhermit (113459)

      One thing that may or may not be a factor... At least on my cases if I touch the mounting bracket it's usually quite warm. In other words, it seems that mounting the drives normally plays a part in cooling down the drive itself.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by dayton967 (647640)
      One problem with Elastic Bands, is that they dry out and become brittle over time, the vibration could in itself cause them to break. To prevent this, it would require going in on a regular basis and replacing the elastic bands, or adding moisture to them.
    • by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Sunday November 02, 2008 @09:54AM (#25602189) Homepage

      Same here. Hard drive noise is a non-issue for me, despite having a dozen under my desk. Now, older hard drives had an annoying whine, but today's gear is near-silent.

      Take any consumer drive from the last 2-3 years, mount it sanely, either via grommets or elastic suspension as the parent suggested, and the only time you might hear something is when it is spinning up at power-on. Once it reaches normal operating revs, that thing should be noiseless.

      I just built a bunch of office machines, simple little things really. Core-2 Duo, WD 500gb drive, Antec chassis... Those cheap little things are perfectly noiseless, I shit you not. You could stick your ear right up to the hard drive and barely hear the modest clicking of the heads seeking around. In fact, the Antec 120mm fan, even at 800rpm, is easily the loudest component. Now, Antec doesn't make the quietest fans, but they're certainly in the Top 5.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Rubber bands will eventually dry out and then your HDD goes for an unexpected drop inside the case. No thanks!

    • by Gyga (873992)
      I'd recommend something other than elastic bands. Maybe a type of leather strap with enough slack so it can move a little.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Slugster (635830)
      Yea but what happens when the rubber-bands break?

      Someone else way down in the comments mentioned using foam pipe insulation to fit a 3.5 drive into a 5.25 bay. That's quick, cheap and easy to do, but doesn't really work nearly as well as it could. Most types of flexible plastic and rubber do very little to dampen vibration.

      The better material to use here is Sorbothane. In the US, McMaster-Carr is one place that sells small pieces online/mail order. (also be warned--Sorbothane is tacky and tends to sti
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by b4upoo (166390)

      The speed of a drive is highly related to the noise that it makes. With 10,000 rpm and even 15,000 rpm hard drives in the wild things can get noisy.
                    However, ideas like suspending it with rubber bands may well have a serious flaw. We don't know to what degree physical contact with the metal in the drive bay acts as a heat transfer medium. A drive suspended in air might suffer a melt down or early death.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by that IT girl (864406)
      Just take the fans out, then there won't be any fan noise. As for the flashing and crackling noise of the subsequent flames...well, I can't help you there.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rs79 (71822)

      Rubber bads age, harden and break. Nonetheless this is the way milspec drives are isolated.

      Try using rubber muffler mounts from a 126 chassis Mercedes. Any dealer has them stupid cheap. You need two, just cut them in half. Use thick braided wire in looks to secire the frame to the rubber and rubber to the drive.

      There. That cost your military 5 million dollars 20 years ago to learn that. Isn't it great what you can find on the net for free?

  • But Hard-drive noise never seemed to bother me.

    It's usually a nice feedback as to when my computer is using the hardrive... lets me know if something is wrong, or if something's going on that i'm not expecting.

    Usually, it's also active for short bursts and then you the heads stop moving and it becomes quiet again. Never stopped me from sleeping in the same room with a computer...

    the actual rotation of the plate? i can really barely hear that anyway.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 02, 2008 @07:10AM (#25601567)
      Generally, people who can hear the high-pitched whine of a TV or the whine of transformers can also hear hard drives whine and find all the whining noise annoying. People going deaf won't know what the hell I am talking about.
      • by Whiteox (919863)

        Eh? What did you say???

      • by billcopc (196330)

        I'd say there's a big difference between the 15.75 khz (and 47khz harmonic) whine of a TV's flyback transformer, and the 7200hz whir of hard drive spindles. They're more than an octave apart.

        Most adults can't hear the 15.75 khz noise, it simply exceeds their hearing range. Just about anyone who isn't functionally deaf can hear the 7200hz noise.

      • by jacoby (3149)

        Go to a few rock shows and you'll burn off that part of your hearing. Worked for me!

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by pcolaman (1208838)

        Generally, people who can hear the high-pitched whine of a TV or the whine of transformers can also hear hard drives whine and find all the whining noise annoying. People going deaf won't know what the hell I am talking about.

        Personally I hate it when Rodimus Prime whines. Good thing they brought back Optimus Prime to put him in his place.

    • by BronsCon (927697)

      I caught a drive failure in my HTPC literally 30sec before it died that way.

      System was working fine, video was playing, I told my fiancee` to pause it so I could fix something.

      Soon as I SSH'd in, it locked up. Never rebooted, drive was shot.

      Thing is, it made no noises that I could actually consciously hear. No clicking, no whining, no stuttering sounds. Nothing. Yet, I knew it was dying.

      Ever worse, it was the newest drive in the system. OS drive, of course. Getting that system back up means replacing the dr

  • Solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NXprime (573188) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @06:44AM (#25601497)
    Or you could just buy some newer hard drives out there with high ariel density. WD 640GB AAKS model & 1TB drives are practically dead silent. That or buy some SSD's. Really this noise issue is beginning to lose importance these days and that's the point I'm trying to make here.
    • You've apparently not been stuck with a typical desktop computer, in a quiet house or apartment. It makes it hard to hear soft sounds: music and video played by the computer itself, for example, is cluttered with the fan and drive noise. You may not notice it, because you've gotten used to it or have a noisy environment.
      • by billcopc (196330)

        You've apparently not heeded the GP's advice to buy a modern hard drive. Every single SATA drive I've owned (>100 in the last 5 years), from ex-Maxtor, Seagate and WD, have all been perfectly silent during operation.

        I should know, not only am I in the business of building and selling quiet PCs, but I'm also a musician. The last thing I want is background noise from a PC - I get enough already from the goddamned windows and the building's natural sway.

        If your apartment is so quiet that an 18db computer

    • by quenda (644621)
      Even better, buy a laptop hard-drive and a $5 cable adapter. A 2.5" drive may be a suitable compromise between 3.5" drives and SSD - for price, capacity and noise.
    • Re:Solution (Score:5, Funny)

      by novakreo (598689) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @08:36AM (#25601823) Homepage

      Or you could just buy some newer hard drives out there with high ariel density.

      So how many mermaids can they fit into a hard drive these days?

    • by Burz (138833)

      You're right and I've noticed the same thing.

      I would say almost any drive from 300GB & up should be free of the whining problem (which I hate). I have encountered only one drive above 120GB with the problem: a 200GB Western Digital which unfortunately I own now.

    • by lazarus (2879)
      I recently purchased a MacBook Pro with an SSD (my first SSD), and I noticed that when it was booting or when I was loading applications I was making the hard drive chattering sounds with my mind -- sub'ing them in where they were supposed to be.

      Odd, yes. But after 20 years of hard drive noises I *expect* them to be there. I wonder how long it will be before I find the noises on laptops with hard drives odd. "Hey, what's that sound...."

      And no, so far the hard drive noises in my mind haven't told me t

      • by Yvan256 (722131)

        Are you telling us there a market for software that checks for reads/writes and make mechanical hard drive noise accordingly?

      • by billcopc (196330)

        I hear you *rimshot*

        It used to be, the clackity-clack of seeking heads was an indicator of work getting done. The difference between a crashed PC and a swap-thrashing PC was the noise it made.

        Nowadays, I have to glance down at the HDD activity light, though my reflex is to start mashing CTRL-C as soon as the mouse skips a beat, since I can't hear anything happening :P Killed a lot of otherwise-fine processes that way...

  • Super-Heated (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Chris Rhodes (1059906) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @06:44AM (#25601499) Journal
    He's lucky his drive lasted that long. I've yet to see a maxtor or a seagate inside of one of their enclosures last that long. Having taken them apart, I saw that the seagate one was completely covered, multiple times, with no airflow.

    Those things get way too hot. My mom has a new hard drive (as of this summer) with three directories of files recovered from signatures. Nasty.

    Drives should be covered with moving air. They should also be mounted to the ground plane (which is the PC case.)
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by billcopc (196330)

      Yep this gel-mounting is disaster waiting to happen.

      Hard drives put out a staggering amount of heat. By sealing the drive inside a blob of gel, he's effectively created a pressure cooker! Now there are some exotic drive coolers that envelop the drive in a liquid-filled sleeve, but those kits actually cool the liquid via radiators and natural convection, a huge difference!

      If I see a hard drive without airflow nearby, I tense up because I know that thing's going to die prematurely. When a hard drive is run

  • cooling pads + box (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lobiusmoop (305328) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @06:48AM (#25601511) Homepage

    I'm not sure that the 'cooling pads plus box' enclosure is a good idea. It looks like it will make the drive less efficient at radiating heat away. Might lead to overheating, especially in the fanless system in the article.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by karstux (681641)

      TFA claims that the gel would transfer the heat to the aluminum enclosure where it could radiate away, but I'm not so sure of that. Doesn't it store the heat more than transfer it?

      However, I suppose you could combine this technique with a watercooling system. Just wind some copper tubing around the HDD a few times and lead it to the outside of the enclosure.

    • there is no reason for fanless systems nowadays when 140mm 500rpm fans are availiable. they are pretty much silent (the ambient noise is louder) and still they manage to move enough air to cool down a modern machine.

  • Whilst I could do without the constant whine of the drive spinning, I actually like that I can hear the heads doing their thing because you can use it as another way to monitor what my system is doing. If the hdd starts making lots of noise when I don't expect it to, I want to know whats going on.
    • by Wiseazz (267052) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @07:34AM (#25601639)

      It's a bit like a car engine - you know what your machine is supposed to sound like. When it doesn't, then you investigate.

      Unfortunately, my Xbox is apparently supposed to sound like an overloaded 747 during takeoff... (I work near a UPS hub - I can take a fresh comparison every half-hour or so during the day).

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by zippthorne (748122)

      That's a UI design issue. If there was an on-screen indication that "things are happening" or even a "magic keystroke" that overrides the normal gui and pop in and out of some kind of general system activity display in all cases where the kernel isn't frozen, then you wouldn't need to rely on design flaws of other systems to give you the necessary feedback.

      But since that doesn't really exist, at least not conveniently, I've also used the HDD noise as a valuable diagnostic tool. Now, if only I'd bought bet

  • The catch is (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @07:04AM (#25601547)
    Hard drives are designed for air cooling, not conduction. That's why those little circuit boards are exposed on the outside of the drive. (Conduction cooled circuit boards do exist, especially in military systems, where expensive machined conduction plates are bonded to the upper surface, but you won't find those in commercial electronics.) Putting a gel pack on the circuit board may cool some components adequately while leaving others uncooled.

    There is a reason why Apple uses (used to use) FEA programs to design the cooling systems of their computers, and it is not marketing. In the good old days, you often found bad engineering practices in cheap PCs - such as the hard drive being screwed wrong side down to the chassis - and it was then not unusual for them to work OK as a desktop but fail quickly if used as a server, because the HDD was now actually doing some work.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by evilviper (135110)

      Hard drives are designed for air cooling, not conduction.

      I wouldn't say that at all. HDDs aren't designed to be completely conduction cooled, but the conduction part of it is, actually, quite important. My HDD certainly saw a serious temperature increase when I suspension mounted it, even though airflow wasn't affected.

      That was fairly easy to resolve by aiming the nearest fan more directly at it, rather than only slight incidental/perpendicular airflow.

      Suspension mounting, in combination with setting acou

  • i read the title as "Slicing a Hard Drive Using Household Items"

    Now, I can image a large number of household tools to cut up a hard drive, but whether they will fulfill the criterion "outperforms most commercially available devices"?

  • The only way I would do this is if all my important data was on a server in another part of my house with all the HDD with seperate coolers, this can be as noisy as I like as it would only bother the cat.

    Then I could have a silent PC using all the data only on the server via a nice fast network, then if the local one dies you drop in another 20GBP HDD and reinstall.

    There is no way in hell I would trust important data with a system that ran the HDD hot. Absolutely no way.

    Still, I applaud his free th
    • by jovetoo (629494)
      If you have any important data on your PC, you should make backups. Enclosure or not, your hard drive might fail at any time.
      • hell, yes. but I thought that was implied!

        for the curious, a RAID system with occasional offsite backup (my parents) and my "~/documents" folder will all my really important stuff is a mounted ~4GB partition that is backup up onto a blank DVD once a weeks or so or more frequently if I work any faster.

        some years ago I had the pain of a 20GB HDD (it seemed big at the time) falling over and wiping alot of my data, I backup religiously now. I have always thought that people only learn to backup this way..
  • cat hair (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 02, 2008 @07:26AM (#25601605)

    I've got about 6 years worth of cat hair coating my hard drive and it's very quiet now... also heats my feet during the winter... you get used the smell after the first year...

  • You mean like using a hammer?

  • by methano (519830)
    Since when is a "188x119x55mm Alu alloy Hammond enclosure," a common household item?
    • by crossmr (957846)

      I walked in to my grandmother's house yesterday and tripped over 3 of them. Get with the times.

  • by wehe (135130) <weheNO@SPAMtuxmobil.org> on Sunday November 02, 2008 @08:05AM (#25601723) Homepage Journal
    Here are some more do-it-yourself tutorials about hard disk drive silencing techniques [repair4harddisk.org] as well as about selfmade cooling techniques. The ideas are ranging from an acoustic cabinet, switching off the HDD when not in use to cure vibration (the main cause of noise) with some rubber and others.
  • This isn't the evening news. Unless the only goal of posting this story is to drive traffic to the site with the project, how hard would it have been to put the phrase "gel packs" into the Slashdot story?

  • by wtarreau (324106) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @08:15AM (#25601761) Homepage

    I simply cut some pipe insulation foam in halves, and rolled both parts around the disk, one near the front side, one near the rear side. I used some electric wire around the foam to hold it in place. Now my 3"5 disk fits perfectly in a 5"25 slot in front of the case's fan, and the foam's thickness prevents it from moving. I can't hear it *at all* now, eventhough it's a SCSI 15k rpm, because the noise from the motor normally conducts through the metal and the fixations only.

    It requires very little material, skills and time to do this, and the disk can be
    extracted at any moment without hassle.

    • The old 15k RPM drives that I have are pretty quiet as they are (I have 18 & 36GB ones, nothing newer), so it wouldn't be that surprising if you manage to make them sub-audible. In my experience, it's the 10k RPM drives that you need to watch out for, those are traditionally louder, with the exception of the Savvio and Velociraptor drives, which are among the quieter drives that can be bought.

  • by MadMorf (118601) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @08:33AM (#25601813) Homepage Journal

    Gun

  • by cvd6262 (180823) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @08:46AM (#25601859)

    It may even suit you if your head is aching after many hours of being whined at by your hard drive.

    Yeah, see, I was getting tired of hearing my hard drive whine, but rather than dampen the noise coming from it, I decided to drown it out: I had kids.

  • So putting them inside your computer might not be a very good idea.

    On the other hand, they are non toxic, so if they do leak, at least your computer won't be poisoned. :P

  • by houghi (78078) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @09:01AM (#25601907)

    So it seems that they just prohibit access to the drive.

  • Look like someone silenced Justblair's hard drive: the site is down...
  • Five pound ball peen hard drive silencer.

    Apply directly to the hard drive.
    Apply directly to the hard drive.
    Apply directly to the hard drive.

    Repeat until hard drive is silent.

  • I simply put my server in a closet and was done with it. 4 drives, dual CPU with god knows how many fans (probably too many) - the thing was just way too loud. So in the closet it went.

    I wonder, will it come out of the closet? Harharharhar, ahem.

  • Computers with moving parts. How quaint.

  • by MadCow42 (243108) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @11:13AM (#25602589) Homepage

    1. post story to slashdot
    2. watch server burst into flames
    3. apply fire extinguisher liberally
    4. enjoy perfectly quietened hard drive noises

    (there's no "profit" in there... I must've missed a step!)

  • by elzbal (520537) <(moc.oohay) (ta) (labzle)> on Sunday November 02, 2008 @11:20AM (#25602645) Homepage
    The story is mirrored here: Silencing a hard drive [spotlynx.com]

    (The pictures couldn't be salvaged from the original story.)

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