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Building the Quiet PC 171

An anonymous reader sent us a great little article on building a silent PC. Utilizing low noise power supplies, cases with good ventilation, and noise enclosures for hard drives, you can actually here you stereo over your PC again. I've been looking at undertaking such a project myself real soon, so I'm glad this one came along.
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Building the Quiet PC

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...are silent
  • by Anonymous Coward
    But "Hear" is. Come on, proofread this shit, it only takes a second.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    You bunch of sissy geeks and their quiet PC.

    My computer is powered by a big and noisy Harley Davidson motor engine. When I power on my computer, the entire neighbourhood can hear the iron spinning and screaming. You can't help but feel the ethernet to the bone.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Combine two AT power supplies:

    Make an air plenum (duct) to reduce noise: enum_ordeal.htm

    My absolue favorite tip from an OC site about cooling:

    use duct tape to seal all the little openings which let air leak out. Duh, that's why fans have to run so hard. A fan in the front of the case can't exhaust air from the back if it's actually pulling air from all over. Hmm...sounds similar to why people round cables.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Omg.. retards. You DO know that there's a power button on the top of it right? You do realize that you TOLD it to go to sleep right?

    It's that little light.. It's touch sensitive? I just had the laugh of my life.. Thanks!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Two big options:

    First is to get a temp controlled fan to start with. A lot of big fan companies make them, but they're usually sold OEM style. I picked up some nice Nidec 92mm ones from All Electronics []. They only spin at about half speed until the temp gets to 70F, and they ramp up from there. Nice, quiet units, but a touch sensitive to dirty power (IE. for some reason, they refuse to run off 12V (car...) batery chargers. +)

    Your other easy option would be to get something like a digidoc, which monitors temps, and can switch fans...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    When you "swipe" your hand across the top vent you are activating the power switch's sensor with your fingers. My cube has introduced me to the bliss of silent computing. I could never go back sharing space with all the racket the typical beige box makes.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 01, 2001 @02:19PM (#115357)
    Macintosh systems are notoriously quite. The Cube had an external supply like a notebook (which also are very quiet). Even with the HD seeking big time, the Cube only makes a whisper of the noise. Other Mac systems like my Dual 500 G4, have a little fan noise but not that much, you don't have to cool them as much as a x86 box.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 01, 2001 @02:32PM (#115358)
    A monoton sound (same range of frequency) during a long time can damage your hearing even if it's not a loud sound. It's better to listen to music, birds or anything else. I don't want to get into details but it has to do with the fact that there are receptors in your ear that capture different frequencies. If you push them to hard they get damaged.
  • I prefer to there my stereo, actually, since it's over in the corner there.


  • Not sure about the C-64, but I used to have heating problems with my VIC-20. Had to place a fan on top of it if I was going to use it for a long period of hard core 6502 programming.
  • Or better yet a KVM swith with long cables.

    Either way the PC can be as powerfull (and consequently noisy) as you would like without affecting you.

    I.e. If 5 fans and 4 hard drives spin in another soundproff room where you can't here it do they make a sound?
  • First of all, if this is a media machine like mine, nothing terrible will happen if you have some data errors, so there is no reason not to try underclocking. Second, if you buy the slowest CPU you can find you are essentially underclocking. They all come off the same production line, once faster ones come out they just mark some slower and sell them for less. I stuck a P-II/400 in a box, disconnected the fan, got a notebook drive and adapter, and I've been running smoothly and silently for a year.
  • by dattaway ( 3088 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @02:12PM (#115363) Homepage Journal
    Fans. How about low power pc's? That would get rid of the noise problem.
  • If you put air filters over the computer case fans (on the outside) it helps to reduce the fan noise. The main problem of noise is mostly to do with the gaps and holes on a computer case. Covering all the expansion slot backpane helps. Having a case with plastic cover instead of sheetmetal helps. Vibrations noises can usually be eliminated with blu-tack. Putting the case under the desk instead of on it definitely helps :)
  • ... is my NeXT Cube.

    It's got this old, clunky, 5" 400Meg drive that makes you feel it's based on some V8 engine.

    Meanwhile, it's fan is big and blows a lor of hair through the machine's thin air intake and exit vents.

    When I shut this machine down, it feels like the house's thermopump shuts down.

    It's been said before, but I'll reiterate, because you'll never realize how much this is true until it's the only machine running in your house. Those iMacs are REALLY silent.

    Karma karma karma karma karmeleon: it comes and goes, it comes and goes.

  • Have you guys gone to that site - - ?

    I used my old laptop trying to get to the site, it crashed my opera browser, then my old netscape browser came up with bunch of java script.

    So... I had to go back to the office and use the office Windoze machine, power up the M$-IE, and the page load successfully.

    Sometimes, I hope that Slashdot will STOP advertise sites that comes with TONS AND TONS of JAVA shits.

    What's the use of Java when it crashes browsers?

  • "There are room for two 60mm fans..."

    If I were you I wouldn't expect much from these guys in the way of well-coded English.

  • I'm an idiot? I'm not the one who designed a computer case to look like a kitchen appliance.
  • by unitron ( 5733 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @06:31PM (#115369) Homepage Journal
    Does the Cube have a little trap door in the bottom so that you can clean out the bread crumbs?
  • All you're doing is turning off the fans, and covering the vents, neither of these is a very good idea.

    Your computer was designed with fans for a reason. You're taking a stupid risk by defeating them.
  • we built a very silent ( not quiet -but ultra silent) How do you build a 'very silent' machine? Silence is the absence of noise. How do you have nothing and then a lot of nothing?

    Second, how can something not be quiet (little or no noise) but be ultra silent (again, not just the absence of noise, but an ultra absence of noise)?.

  • except the fact that the keyboards sucked - they wore out too quickly. however, i must admit - i loved my zx81.
  • "If I were you I wouldn't expect much from these guys in the way of well-coded English."

    Including the part where he says but is not limited to this? can actually here you stereo over your PC again

    At least he didn't say "you're PC again." I hate it when people do that. It brings the voices back again.
  • It's the default. The only time that you would NOT want to hit the button to score +1 would be when you are making a particularly useless comment. This is NOT the norm, because if it was, the button would ADD the +1 score.

    Obviously, because the +1 score is the default, the vast majority of articles should be posted at +1 unless there's a REALLY GOOD REASON.

    This is so obvious I am amazed that I actually have to explain the wisdom of this approach to someone.

    (can you tell this is some sarchasm? I'd like to see Taco change the default to post at 1 all the time, and only at 2 if you check the button.)

    P.S. I'm posting this one at 2, as a protest against something or other.
  • It was silly too, because they could have used some thermal gel to reduce the vibration of the drive against the plates and some rubber washers between the plates and the bays to reduce the vibration being passed through to the case.

    I also can't believe they bought a case you could see through only to insulate it at the end.


  • I have a Sharp Actius 150 ultralight portable. It has no fan. The only noise you get from it is a tiny little sound when the hard drive's spinning (about equal to the sound of my VCR recording, maybe quieter). When that powers down it goes silent.

    It does have a bit of a heat problem. In warm weather, if the air isn't moving, a few hours of 100% CPU usage will overheat it, but when the days get warm I shut down D.Net and turn on CPUidle.


  • Unfortunately, most of the noise isn't from pulsed explosions that can be reflected around to cancel themselves out or dampened through a matting. If most of the noise in your machine is from fans, a muffler might help some, but you'd have to use something like a Flowmaster [] to actually allow you to get decent airflow with quiet...

    I like the idea of a double-insulated case with liquid cooling, though. :)

  • The last ones I used were the MXII series or something to that effect. The ones that were marketed as "MXII/300" and ran at 266MHz (why the 300, then?). They were supposed to be competitors to the Pentium Pro processors, but ran a lot slower than my PPro 233 even at a higher clock speed. I'm using that cyrix chip in my mobile mp3 player, and had to downclock it to 166 so it wouldn't burn me when I used a cheap heatsink/fan (and mounted the MB under the dash in my car). They may well have gotten better, but I thought they went under not long after those massively bad chips (and National Semi bought them out). I must've been thinking of IDT. I sit corrected. :)
  • by cloudmaster ( 10662 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @03:03PM (#115379) Homepage Journal

    You can build some very silent PC's with Cyrix processors

    Nothing like a slower, hotter processor to quiet your machine down... I heat my house with Cyrix processors, 'cause they don't waste a lot of power doing actual computing and they put out gobs of heat. At least, that's true of the ones that I've used.

  • This is cool reaching for the silent pc, My I-opener is noisy as heck because of that fan I installed having to suck through RF cage and the plastic case. The great part of the iopener is that it uses 15 watts of power running. I leave it on all the time and never turn it off. (My main workstation draws 500watts+the 19 inch monitor and sever other power hungry prephrials... you can see the meter spin significantly faster with it on.) here's a delimma... I have a super cool audiotron, along with my iopener and other barely enough power to do the job computing devices.. How can I make a server that doesn't use gobs of power? I know laptop harddrives are probably a start, but what would be the absolute minimum in Processor power to serve SMB,DHCP,HTTPD,FTP,NFS, and a few other protocols for only about 5-9 machines? and in power I mean electricity used, I would love to have a 8 processor Xeon 1.2Ghz server sitting there using only 30 watts but that is impossible.... What is the highest processing power platform that uses the lowest electrical power out there? Note: there's a requirement that it exists in a motherboard+processor form (PC104 is acceptable!)

    I strongly believe there is a real need for a home server, one that costs as little as possible to keep plugged in and running.... and silent. Unless you banish it to the utility room, then it can be as loud as a truck)
  • I should analyze a sample of the sound to be certain, but most of the fan noise I hear sounds like white noise to me, which is not monotone at all, so I think we're safe as long as it's not loud.
  • by haffi ( 21074 )
    Saw a box/mb marked NLX once, VERY small, only room for 1 hard disk, and a laptop dvd/cdrom.
    Onboard audio and ethernet, a really sweet box.

  • My Ricoh IDE CD-RW drive (24/6/4) is quite quiet. Other Ricoh models are likely the same.
  • Another source for quiet PC equipment is (Mostly in German).

    In addition to the stuff you can get on they sell hard drive "enclosures" which hold the drives in rubber bands rather than actually enclosing them. (Probably doesn't help as much for noise, no cooling problem, some drives don't like being in a non-stiff environment.)

    I have one of the tower cases as well. The case kit includes cork board cut to dampen the noise. The best part is the sliding door which lets you keep the CD-ROM behind cork but provides quick access when you need it.

    If I had to do it again I would buy a heavier case and cut the cork board myself though.
  • AS others have reported before on this site I have found the Dell Optiplex systems to be the Quietest PC systems I've ever come across.

    Unfortunately the quietness of the 15 machines we have in our office often goes unnappreciated.

    I am a British ExPat working in Lagos, Nigeria. (largest population in Africa if you didn't know) and because of where we are we have to have powerful (2hp+) ACs on all day and because of the huge power supply problem here (almost as bad as California) we need to be running huge Backup Generators most of the time, and they sit just outside my window.

    And don't forget the 6kVA UPS unit that sits proud and unmovable (damn things heavier than me) next to my desk whirring its fans to keep the batteries cool while keeping our server running almost 24/7.

    What I need is real soundproof generator housing, a more regular mains power supply and then maybe get God to turn down the temperature a bit here so we can shut down some AC's. Then I will be happy.

    That's my two naira over with.
  • by aaron.rowe ( 40518 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @03:34PM (#115392) Homepage Journal
    I found that my old CD-ROM drive made a dreadful noise as it spun up to speed.

    What cured it was when I places a small spirit level on it and set the screws so that the drive was as level as possible and it became silent.

    It seemed to perform better too.

  • I built a temperature monitoring circuit using a kit from my local electronics pusher - it adjusts the voltage to the fan in the PSU so the temperature is kept down. Usually hardly any cooling is needed so it runs the fan at the lowest possible speed without shutting it down, but it's nice that it's able to pick up speed when my harddrives get a higher workload and become a little warm. Combined with two 75GXP HDs from IBM the circuit makes my PC very quiet without sacrificing any performance or safety at all.
  • It's a water cooler.
  • Actually the Apple Cube is an example of how not to build a computer without a fan. If you dismantle one (as I did) you'll find a mount for an 80mm fan! It seems like it was designed with a fan in mind and then someone worked out that it would run without one - or else they hoped it would work without a fan but were prepared to be disappointed. I don't think they tested it well enough before release.

    Now for the article - basically it sucked. The CPU cooler should have been a Noise Control "Silverado" - check out Tom's Hardware for a comparison showing absolutely silent operation using blower-type fans as well as excellent performance. You have to mail-order it from Germany but it is worth it. The Zalman coolers are cheaper, but very expensive for the performance they give!

    Using a SilentDrive enclosure with a 7200RPM drive is a little risky, heat-wise. You can get equivalent results by mounting the hard drives using rubber grommets. Remove the metal-to-metal contact between the drive and the case and you'll be amazed at how much noise you don't hear. I had to make a custom drive cage to fit the grommets in. The drive chassis should still be earthed to the case however, using a wire.

    Insulation does not give great improvement over a plain metal case. I went through using DynaMat Extreme for very little gain. Still, now I know.

    My experience with the unmodified G4 450MHz Cube was that on warm days (it's only San Francisco!) the Cube would sometimes mysteriously freeze. Dismantling and adding a very quiet 80mm fan solved that problem. Apple almost got it right.

    The biggest gains are to use larger diameter fans that run slower (Panaflo L1A series), unobstructed air paths (stamped fan grilles should be cut out!) and rubber-mounted drives (in that order).
  • by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @06:20PM (#115405)
    > Unfortunately, it really needs a lot of fans to move air around. I have nine fans in mine,

    Yeap, they got TONS of room. I have 3 fans inside mine.

    Two words dude: rounded-cables ! ables/ []

  • I built three relatively silent systems. One was a dual PIII/750, one was a Celeron, one was a 1GHz Athlon. The two big systems are under my desk. One has been running with the side off for the past week. Together they make about as much noise as someone blowing out the candles on a birthday cake. I can't hear either hard drive operating.

    I used Papst fans, Enermax FC power supplies, Fujitsu FDB hard drives, rubber gromets to mount the hard drives, and a few bits of sound absorbing foam. Actually, the Celeron had the noisiet parts so we glued half a dozen expired mouse pads to the inside of the case, black foamy side up. Very effective.

    It's really worth the trouble. My patience for technical writing has more than doubled since I eliminated the droning noises. I used to play Quake just to drown out the background noise.

    What bugged me about the review was the comments on the the G450. I use a G450 in the dual PIII/750 system. I had a Radeon 32MB DDR in the 1G Athlon (KT7A-RAID).

    We used to play network Quake at home. I played on the G450, my brother on the Radeon DDR. I set my system to 16 bit color, lowered the texture detail slightly (which I didn't give a damn about), and stuck to a lower screen resolution (either 800x600 or 640x480 depending on how I was feeling).

    My brother set the Radeon DDR to 32 bit color. 16 bit color on that card is very ugly and not much faster. He was probably one screen resolution up from me. His frame rate averaged about 30% faster. Did it make any difference?

    Well, we finally decided that the G450 was more playable. (I didn't have SMP enabled, so it wasn't due to CPU power.) The 16 color on the Matrox was at least as saturated as the Radeon in 32 bit color. It was hard to get a gamma curve on the Radeon which didn't cause the image to have a slightly washed color tone. You could almost get it perfect, but the dark parts would be just a bit too dark.

    On the G450 it was trivial to get excellent color and gamma.

    With tons of bots on the map, the Radeon was definitely a bit more brisk. However, the Radeon was *much* more sensitive to the complexity of the map. You'd be cruising along at 60fps or better then hit a bad part of the map and plunge down to 20 fps momentarily. The Matrox hummed along at 45 fps all day long, unless you had ten bots in the same room, then it would taper off maybe down to 30 fps.

    The G450 is far more playable than the numbers suggest. I could see the map just as well at my curtailed settings as my brother could with more colors and more pixels.

    My playing style is somewhat Gretzky-like. I can run into a crowded room and just know where everyone else is almost all of the time. You can tell where the guy behind you is going by how the guy in front of you moves. I'm a lousy player against people who never miss. For everyone else, I'm mayhem in motion. If I want to shoot someone 90 degrees to my left I usually do a dead spin 270 degrees to my right (so I can see enough of the room to pick up my next three targets). I don't shoot at people, I shoot at places I don't want people to go. I had no trouble at all playing this style with a G450 and I even preferred it in many ways to a Radeon DDR on a faster processor, with faster memory.

    It takes a lot of gall to call the G450 a crappy card. It's kind of like an amateur golfer who decides his scores are bad because his equipment sucks.

  • My system used to drive me crazy, making tons of noise, and basically just annoying me.

    I was losing sleep, and I was losing my mind.

    Then, I discovered the secret to a quieter, less annoying system.

    Not only did I manage to silence my system, I also managed to get rid of all of the annoyance generally associated with being in front of it. My whole quality of living has changed because of one thing.

    I turned it off.

    "Everything you know is wrong. (And stupid.)"
  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @03:35PM (#115410) Homepage
    I modified one of my PCs so that all the fans run 100% silent by setting them to 5V instead of 12V. On fans that plug into the 4-prong power connectors, swap the red and yellow wires. Red=+5V, Yellow=+12V. This makes them run slower and push less air, but they are totall silent. If more cooling is needed, add an additional case fan or slot fan (be sure to set it to 5V too)

  • I remember quite a few years ago, slashdot having this almost exact same discussion of ways of making your PC quieter.

    One lad suggested running some kind of hose (think of the hose on household canister vacuums) from the power supply fan to somewhere else like under the bed or into a closet. I can't remember if anyone said whether it works or would work or not, but it seemed like a cool "thinking outside of the box" type of solution.

    Alternatively, you could drop the temperature of the ambient intake air so that less would be needed to cool the CPU and drives.

    I do this, though mainly just for keeping my CPU cooler. My room is a constant 70 degrees fahrenheit. With 9 fans total, my box is loud and I like it that way.

    Perhaps a chilled-water heat exchanger construction would suit.

    I would almost bet that something like this would actually be louder, since you have to have a pump motor of some sort. Also a fan on the "radiator" if you ever want full advantage of a water cooled system.
  • by Eil ( 82413 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @07:35PM (#115412) Homepage Journal

    While I like the idea of the Cube very much (except the fact that it's actually shaped like a cube), it had numerous flaws resulting from that design. If I were ever to have one given to me (or bought at an insanely low price), the most important modification for me would be to hack a fan into the top hole.

    Why? Well I was checking one out at CompUSA and remembered several tales about people waving their hand across the hole and watching the machine crash instantly. So I swiped my hand across the hole, watched nothing happen, and started to walk away. When I looked over my shoulder, sure enough, the thing was rebooting...
  • by gbell ( 84505 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @05:29PM (#115414)
    I haven't seen my three favorite solutions mentioned:

    1) Many Maxtor drives have "SilentStor". My DiamondMax 2160 (30G/5400 RPM) is amazing... I can't even tell the thing's on, even when its accessing.

    2) The ThermalTake Volcano II (DU0462-7) from the is really quiet. Not gimmicky like the "Orb".

    3) (Experimental) Why doesn't someone use a larger, slower spinning fan air ducted to the CPU? The main reason CPU fans are so noisy is that they have to spin faster to get the same airflow for their size.

  • by BierGuzzl ( 92635 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @03:26PM (#115416)
    Just put a keyboard, mouse, and LCD screen in front of you, with the case and whatnot in another room. Granted, it becomes prohibitively expensive and functionally impracticle if you're going to have to run it for a longer distance, but if you're just going through the wall to the next room, this solution works really well.
  • by VAXman ( 96870 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @06:14PM (#115420)
    Underclocking. If you don't need a tip-top performance PC, reducing the CPU clock speed cuts down on heat. If you underclock far enough you don't even need separate CPU cooling at all. Same goes for graphics cards and, to a lesser extent, motherboard chipsets.

    Don't do this! All modern microprocessors are designed with dynamic circuits which are very timing dependent. In general, processors cannot be underclocked reliably. The Pentium 4, for example, will not run reliably under about 1.2 GHz or will have problems with the L2 cache. It is safe if you run a particular processor at a lower speed bin, but definitely don't run it at a speed where it's not sold at. Additionally, typically not all bus ratios are validated. There might be bugs a different clock ratios, even lower ones than what is sold (changing the bus ratio radically changes timing conditions possible in the processor, and some bugs are only visible at certain ratios). Also, underclocking the bus is problematic also. High speed RAM is also timing sensitive and could cause corruption if underclocked.
  • My computer is pretty quiet. So is my wife's. Who needs quieter computers? Give me one that doesn't increase the temperature in my apartment by 10 degrees.


  • Actually the whole motherboard slides out the bottom for easy cleaning, just hose it down and pop it back in. Sriously though, it may look like a toaster, but if youre shoving bread into the CD slot, youre an idiot.

  • by ecki ( 115356 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @08:50PM (#115425)
    The power switch is located next to the top ventilation grill. It's some sort of "proximity" switch (probably capacitor-based) that is triggered if something comes near it. Most likely, you set it off by swiping your hand across the Cube's top. This would normally send the Cube to sleep, but considering the sorry state most of the display machines are, it wouldn't surprise me if they crashed instead (sleep mode is quite sensitive to currently active applications such as demos etc.)

  • /sbin/hdparm -E will set the read speed of an ATAPI (IDE interface) CD-ROM.

    Sotto la panca, la capra crepa
  • by havardi ( 122062 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @02:27PM (#115429)
    Get a sheet of "Sound Board" from any Home Depot for about 6 bucks. This material is very easily cut.. use a hot glue gun to mount the board to every wall in your case. the sheet metal is not the best sound absorber by itself.
    Next, go to your local (Fry's electronics sucked) and pick up some potentiometers. Get 5W, 50ohm. Splice these into your case fan/cput fan, only using the positive wire only. (use the middle and left OR right connection only on the pots).
    This will deaden any PC quite well.. without special equipment. I have an MC462 W/ Delta cpu fan. 80mm, and 120mm case fans. the pots let me quiet it down even more... while sacrificing a little cooling ability. (at least I can sleep at night now. . .)
  • by jeroenb ( 125404 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @02:29PM (#115430) Homepage
    Sleeping approximately 3 feet from my main workstation I've been building silent systems for a while now (about every two years for the past eight) and I've recently built a new one. What surprised me is that the IBM Deskstar 7200RPM disk is actually quite silent and getting quiet fans and power supplies is a lot easier these days too. Combined with a decent case it's pretty simple to build a silent system without modifying things.

    The only thing that irritates me is CD/DVD players. I have this 40x speed AOpen DVD player and when it's reading a disc it's really noisy. I've tried a couple of others and they're practically all the same. Anyone know of an internal DVD player that's silent?

  • by odie_q ( 130040 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @03:04PM (#115432)
    A friend of mine was able to get hold of five silencing cabinets that had been used at a library. These cabinets cost us 50 swedish crowns (~5 USD) each, and are very effective. I have one of these in my bedroom holding my open-case, twin PSU, six disk monster of a server, and the only sound that can be heard is the very soft hum of the cabinet exhaust fan, to which I have fitted a switch for lowering the speed (and thus noise level) at night.

    Now even if your not as lucky as we were, you needn't dispair. The construction is fairly simple, and should be easy enough to replicate on your own, to a much lower price than a low-noise PC. Next time you get a chance, give one of these cabinets a closer look and take a few notes.
  • I went on the quiet PC hunt about a year ago, with a few hundred dollars in hand. I had one of those really fast 10000 rpm SCSI hard drives, and it's very noisy. The simple (but expensive) solution was to get a very long cable, from these guys who make all sorts of special SCSI cables [].

    The SCSI LVD (80 Mbyte/sec) signals can be run for at least 25 meters (approx 75 feet), and you can go much farther if it's just a point-to-point (only the PC and one drive). 25 feet was plenty to get the drive into a closet. Together with a bit of foam in the walls and door in the closet, that nasty 10000 rpm noise is almost completely gone.

  • I do remember hearing stories about an old PC of some type, possibly from Xerox? which had no CPU or case fan because it was designed well.

    Turns out, people thought that meant it wasn't as powerful, so the company put a case fan in anyway to loudly blow air around the case for no real purpose other than to make noise so people would buy it.

    Anyone know what I'm talking about enough to correct the inaccuracies?


  • by Bad_CRC ( 137146 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @02:20PM (#115437)
    I remember starting out on the old slimline macs which had no fans, they were of course completely silent, when I used my first PC, I couldn't imagine why it was so loud.

    Of course, like many people, now I run my PC with 6 fans, 3 loud hard drives, and with the case cover off, so I'm more than used to a little noise.


  • by Salsaman ( 141471 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @03:04PM (#115439) Homepage
    "I've been looking at undertaking such a project myself real soon, so I'm glad this one came along."

    Why don't you try reading Slashdot []?

  • by zsazsa ( 141679 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @06:29PM (#115440) Homepage
    I've had a lot of 12V fans that won't work at 5V. Something to do instead is use the difference between the +12V and +5V lines to get 7V. Instead of swapping the red and yellow wires, swap the black ground wire that the fan uses with the red +5V line. 7V should be enough to run the fan and still bring down the RPMs enough to quiet things down a bit.

  • by starseeker ( 141897 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @03:36PM (#115441) Homepage
    But they told me the chicks go crazy for the big roar of the high powered fans cooling a majorly overclocked CPU!

    Oh, wait, that's cars, isn't it. No wonder I can't get any dates.

  • Creative Labs DVD-Encore 5x and 6x drives are both whisper silent.
  • Simmer down, buddy. Bringing the iMac into this discussion is perfectly legitimate.

    Truth is, Apple, for whatever reason, threw a lot of resources into the problem and the Kihei iMacs (and the cube as well) were what came out. If you want to know how to make a fanless computer system, you could do a lot worse than to study the construction details on an iMac.

    (Incidentally, I think having a lot of unrestricted empty space inside the case was a big part of what made it work, though I don't think that applies to the cubes...)

  • Which just points out the idiocy of obsessing over fanlessness. I find it particularly hilarious that they tried to do this with something that was essentially intended to compete with the IBM PC, but not particularly surprising. Steve Jobs has never been very good at marketing (he's gotten much better since returning to Apple, mind you, but as marketing goes he's still a legend in his own mind), and I think he really failed to understand that there were certain things that should have taken priority.

    The fact is that the Sara project (Apple ///) was a failure for a very good reason, and the fanlessness thing was it. It's different with the iMacs -- they're essentially personal workstations designed for people who need a computer NOW. If you're an iMac person, the most you're likely to expand your system is a couple of external drives, maybe a new mouse (if you're a 2-button junkie like me -- I love the new Apple mouse but I've been using a 2-button since OS 8). If you're a Cube user, you're a poser who doesn't deserve a Real Computer anyway, so who cares what you need?

    The whole issue of silent PCs is IMHO a hack value thing, mostly of interest to those who live in studio apartments that have been reincarnated as network closets with beds (which I suspect is rather a large percentage of the /. community). It's all good.

    the moral of the story: Make sure you have a minitower case that can stand up to being dropped on its side :-)

  • You know, first time I ever heard a high-speed CD-ROM I thought the computer had some sort of turbofan in it. It was a little weird when I finally realized what it was.

    My current systems are an interesting mix -- 24x CDRW and 12x CD-ROM on my Mac, and a high-speed CD-ROM of unknown speed on my PC. It does get a little noisy. The curious thing is this: a PC I replaced recently had a 40x added aftermarket, but I could never find the correct mounting hardware for it so it was pretty much just plugged in and unanchored. Curiously, I never noticed a single case of Maytag Mode on it, though a poorly pressed MacAddict CD (readable, but visible moire patterns on the recording surface) once did a number on an older Mac CD-ROM of mine...

  • I assume you mean you want a drive that's quiet when playing DVD movies, as all drives will be noisy reading data CD/DVDs at full speed

    Reminds me of the 40x drive I used to have (I don't remember which brand it was). At low speeds, it was okay, but at full speed, it sounded like a jet taking off.

  • That's very interesting. So educate a non-hardware person: why isn't overclocking just as risky?


  • If you're going to complain, look to taco first:

    Utilizing low noise power supplies, cases with good ventilation, and noise enclosures for hard drives, you can actually here you stereo over your PC again.

    HEAR. Rob, it's spelled h e a r.

    That is all.

  • I built my own handy dandy Silent PC a while back - its just a AMD k6/2-550 with a heatsink (no fan), a 100W power-supply, a 64 MB Solid-State Disk, and 128 MB of RAM. After throwing it in a slimline case, hacking in a decent NIC, and rigging up a nice little on screen display/volume control it was handy. Runs MP3's and my moive.. umm..trailer.. collection *great* from my fileserver (located of course, in the depths of the closet).

    The days of nasty-ass loud disgusting PCs are numbered. I can't wait to see the last 30 dB monster drowned in the bath tub like an obnoxious eight-year old.
  • Everytime somebody mentions silent PC:s ppl write about how silent the Macs were but nobody seem to remember that the Amiga computers were very silent too. Sure, with the Amiga 1200, 2000, 3000 and 4000 1200 you had harddrives but thease never made much of a noice.
  • Or just buy yourself a Sunray-1 configuration from Sun Microsystems. Put the server in the closet and run all your programs completely silent.

    Too bad Sun isnt famous for their low prices :-/

  • by ( 184378 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @02:23PM (#115457) Journal
    I ran through this article (basically looked at the pictures) and everything, except the insulation installed at the end, was a commercial product. Not that I have a problem with that, but often buying a lot of commerical "silent PC" solutions can add up to a very expensive PC, money which might have otherwise been invested in a more powerful computer.

    Why this article is linked to via Slashdot, I'll never know, as I get the impression that the majority of the Slashdot crowd would rather have an extensive DIY article with links afterwords to the commercial products (for those who want to pay for the convenience of not DIY).


    I do have the Antec 1080 and it is very quiet. The case is large, though, so sound will echo if you don't add some insulation or what not. I did find the included Antec power supply was very quiet, so quiet I was surprised when I first turned the machine on. With some 80mm (the article erroneously says they fan mounts are 60mm) Panaflos you can get very good airflow with low noise. My current acoustical problems come from my old Seagate Barracuda SCSI drives, which are unavoidably loud.


    I got my case from Directron [] and the Panaflos from Teamawe [].
  • Hey, I remember those! If I remember correctly, the official procedure to remedy this, was to lift your ApleIII a couple of inches from the table, then drop it to reseat the IC.

    Kinda funny - sounds like something you'd hear from the BOFH, not Apple Helpdesk :)

  • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @02:18PM (#115465)
    ... Seagates' silent hard-drive, annouced on Slashdot very recently : 8 []

  • Just run a terminal with X over the network. No hard drive necessary. You can have a smaller (less noisy) power supply also.

    Just a thought...

  • by agentZ ( 210674 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @03:46PM (#115468)
    Are you kidding? With three voices each capable of four waveforms across several octaves, sound was one of the major features of the Commodore 64! (And I should know, I still have one. No reasonable offer refused!)
  • by willy_me ( 212994 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @03:26PM (#115470)
    The hard drive might run quietly but it won't last. I've worked on several "servers" made from cheap PC cases but upgraded to SCSI drives and they just don't last. The cases aren't built for it and they get too hot. I remember one server, after 8 months I did a hardware upgrade (added a wireless card) and the hard drive wouldn't spin up again. And that wasn't the only time I've had a hard drive refuse to spin up after under a year of use.

    The moral of the story - the cooler you keep your hard drive the longer it will last. That's why server cases put fans over the hard drives. The Apple G3/G4 pro cases also circulate air around the hard drives. Putting your hard drive in a "quiet" case and then removing it's one source of cooling is just plain stupid. They'll learn in time..


  • by Bender Unit 22 ( 216955 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @02:41PM (#115473) Journal
    It's always a good thing to take a look at the powersupply. I have a couple of different midi sized towers. The ones that I have found to the least noisy, are the ones where the fan are placed inside the powersupply close to the CPU rather than just inside the back where you can see them from the outside of the cabinet.

  • by teknico ( 217206 ) <slashdot&tekNico,net> on Sunday July 01, 2001 @10:18PM (#115475)
    The stuff about the specialized receptors is true, but your whole statement is inaccurate.

    There are two kinds of hearing damages: physical and psychological. The second one may occur at low sound levels, but for a physical damage to occur, the sound has to cross a threshold that is situated at about 85 dB SPL. Furthermore, it takes time to damage those receptors, the time needed being inversely proportional to the SPL level.

    While it is true that the hearing habits of new generations are probably causing a partially deaf population in twenty years from now, if you have a computer emitting more than 85 dB SPL at short distance, you have other problems in addition to those hearing-related.
  • by unformed ( 225214 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @03:09PM (#115476)
    i have a stero hooked up to my soundcard, and i've got a set of mp3s constantly playing.

    with the volume set to maximum, i can't hear the computer at all.

    granted, i can't hear the phone or the doorbell either, but, hey i've gotta make sacrifices...

    on the other hand, i quietpc would be really useful to make an all-in-one audio/video component.

    for between 500-1000 you can easily make a machine that can replace a 100-disc changer (using high quality mp3s, ogg, or whatever), a video player (not only DVDs, but any movie format, as long as you have the codec), a tv recorder (using a tv-in card), a DSS satellite system (*nix hack released a few weeks ago), all without any development at all. With software development, you can make nearly anything, especially since the hardware interfaces to various other mediums have already been developed (optical audio, tv-out, infrared remotes, etc...)
  • I was lucky enough to build an audio workstation for a friend of mine. The box needed to be very quiet - but due to SCSI length limits, I could not just run a KVM switch through the wall. I'd done a little watercooling of my own for the CPU, but koolance [] gave me some great ideas for cooling off things like HDDs & power supplies. Last I checked, koolance won't sell you a PS or HHD cooler alone, but they are not too hard to build if you have access to some simple milling equipment.

    Anyhow, I got waterblocks for anything running hot and ran waterlines to another room for cooling. As long as the water is near room temp, you really don't have cond. issues...

    Water cooling is just like building a PC for the first time. Use care... once you've done it once or twice, you wonder why everyone does not do it. Happy hacking.

  • At least one UK company is selling PCs with cases designed to be really quiet - Carillon [](slow website). Their target markets are recording and radio studios, and other "audiophile" applications. For example, if you buy a PC from them with Cubase VST/32 preinstalled, they tweak Windows settings to avoid performance problems, things like cache and power management. (I have no connection with these guys, but they're getting good press in the UK right now...)

  • by Phoz ( 241367 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @04:51PM (#115485)
    Odd, I think this has been discussed quite a few times now:

    Building the Quiet PC []
    Building Quieter Computers []
    Computers And The Noise They Make []
    Quieting those Fans []
    Silent Computing? []
    Quieter Computers []
  • by sideshow-voxx ( 242126 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @02:47PM (#115486)
    Or you could get a Commodore 64. They're cheaper.
  • [] Also see the mailinglist there
  • It used to be that speed was everything in a computer. If that meant stuffing your case full of noisy fans, so be it. Now that computers are way faster than we really need them to be, people's priorities for their boxen are changing.

    I was able to buy a G4 Cube recently because I don't really NEED more than 450 mhz right now. It was more important to me that my box was small, sleek, and silent (no fans! w00t!). I think in the future we can expect a lot more computers being easier to live with rather than being performance beasts.

  • by _newwave_ ( 265061 ) <[vt.reklawluap] [ta] [todhsals]> on Sunday July 01, 2001 @02:32PM (#115494)
    Tom did an article [] awhile back comparing 46 CPU coolers w/ an emphasis on noise level.
  • I mean, really. What the hell else do people do with their multi-gig mp3 collections but LISTEN to them? :)

    Also, I'm not a geek enough yet to keep my computer in my bedroom. Sheesh.

  • by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @02:41PM (#115501)
    My Timex/Sinclair ZX81 has made zero noise since 1982. Moreover, the flat membrane keyboard makes less noise than any keyboard on the market today. It still works, too.

    Does anyone have a URL for the NetBSD port?

  • by koreth ( 409849 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @02:36PM (#115502)
    That article had nothing new to say, and what's more, some of their approaches aren't state-of-the-art in silent computing. Some of the technologies and approaches they didn't touch on:
    • Liquid cooling. The Koolance [] and CALM System [] cases are the obvious examples, but for higher cooling capacity other folks have built liquid-cooling solutions that require few or no fans. (Pump noise is easier to deal with since you can enclose a pump in an airtight space.)
    • External fans. Essentially, this approach is "don't eliminate fan noise, just put it somewhere else." An air duct or tube runs to the PC, and at the other end, possibly off in some entirely different room, is the fan.
    • Fanless power supply. There are (generally fairly low-wattage) power supplies that dissipate their heat by convection. Typically you'd use one in a case where it's practical to cut or drill holes above the PS. I've seen talk, though not examples, of people putting two of these into one PC to get around the limited wattage; no idea if that'd be practical.
    • High-wattage power supply. Get a 550W power supply with a temperature-regulated fan to power your low-wattage PC. The fan will tend to run at low speed since you won't be running anywhere close to capacity.
    • Voltage reduction on fans. This works equally well for case fans, CPU fans, power supply fans, etc. The typical quick-and-dirty technique, though it's not ideal, is to splice in the 5V lead in place of the ground, effectively reducing fan voltage to 7V (assuming it was a 12V fan). The fan will spin more slowly, generating less noise.
    • Underclocking. If you don't need a tip-top performance PC, reducing the CPU clock speed cuts down on heat. If you underclock far enough you don't even need separate CPU cooling at all. Same goes for graphics cards and, to a lesser extent, motherboard chipsets.

    Just to name a few. And of course you typically want a low-RPM hard disk (though the new quiet Seagate drive sounds promising), low-rotation CD-ROM drive (use a drive with Zen's TrueX multibeam technology and you'll still have fast reads), etc.

    Apple's iMac Cube is proof that it's possible to build a computer with no fans whatsoever. Hopefully it's a harbinger of things to come.

  • by foonf ( 447461 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @04:23PM (#115504) Homepage
    Actually it isn't always fans. I built a PC recently in a smallish NLX enclosure. I use a large passive heatsink, so there isn't any CPU fan, and there aren't any case fans, so the only fan is in the power supply. Testing out the motherboard with out any drives attached, I noticed the power supply was very quiet. The source of most of the noise? The hard drive. That hard-drive noise reducer detailed on that site could be a very good solution. Too bad I don't have any free 5 1/4" drive bays.
  • They not only rate drive performance, they rate quietness. Personally, my latest drive is a Quantum Fireball 1ct which, as the site says, is incredibly quiet. Maxtor just bought out Quantum a little while back, so buy 'em while you can.

    Actually, Maxtor has been selling the excess inventory of Quantum drives as store brand drives for places like CompUSA, where I bought mine as a CompUSA branded on the outside, but Quantum 1ct on the inside, drive. Of course, you can't quite guarantee a Quantum drive will be in the box unless you can talk the store clerk into letting you take a peek, but right now it might be worth it if you want one of these near-silent drives: CompUSA has a sale on the 30GB store brand model for 50-something dollars after rebate. Always needing more backups of my mp3s and pr0n as I do, I'm heading there soon myself. :-)
  • If you want a DVD-ROM that's near-silent while playing DVDs and CDs and such, then the Pioneer 10x slot-loading DVD-ROM is the one you want. It whines like a bitch when you first insert media, I guess because it tries to determine whether it's a CD, DVD, CD-R, or CD-RW, but after the initial squeaks for a few seconds it's smooth and quiet, even during moderate seeking.

    A distinct bonus is that you can easily find upgraded firmware on the big DVD hacking sites that will disable the drive's region coding. That's true of several drives, but make sure whatever drive you get isn't region-locked unless a good hacked firmware is available; that is, if you like to import DVDs, which I personally do. Fuck, they still haven't released an anamorphic version of *True Romance* in the U.S., and they refuse to make an "uncut" version of Kubrick's love-it-or-hate-it masterpiece *Eyes Wide Shut* in America. But I digress...
  • Don't know if this has been mentioned before or not, but I've found Dynamat [] products to be excellent at sound absorption, particularly their Extremeliner [].
  • two old "developments" make a quiet PC more than just a good idea:

    Tesla-turbine fan: smooth disks rather than bladed rotors, more efficient and virtually silent.

    Pezo-thermal heat sink: no more fan on the CPU, just put a thin layer of thermal pezo-film between the CPU and the heat sink. active cooling.

    ok, the disk-drive noise is something that only shielding will take care of, but getting rid of the fan noise will do wonders.


  • Interesting, but nothing terrribly unexpected in the article.

    If one wanted to be a little more adventurous, I think it should be possible to drop the noise level with mufflers, the same way they do it with vehicles?.First cut the vibration down by double-casing the unit with shocks in between the inner and outer enclosure, then deaden the sound from the fans by putting baffles in there.

    Alternatively, you could drop the temperature of the ambient intake air so that less would be needed to cool the CPU and drives. Perhaps a chilled-water heat exchanger construction would suit.

  • by flewp ( 458359 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @02:12PM (#115514)
    I find the noise of my pc helps me to sleep when I'm laying in bed. Maybe because it might just be weird without it after all these years with it on. The noises my pc makes too sometimes help me realise it's actually doing something.
  • by Tuxinatorium ( 463682 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @02:19PM (#115517) Homepage
    Get an iMac. They are very quiet, because they don't have fans. iMacs use convective cooling.
  • Rather than a 5 Watt pot (which is going to be a bit expensive) use a zener diode. I've had very good results with zeners in the range of 7-8 volts. You can pick up 10 of them for about 3 bucks. I've modified several of the LTSP [] terminals we use where I work, and they do the job nicely. Scott

To do two things at once is to do neither. -- Publilius Syrus