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5 Simple Steps to a Quieter PC 430

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

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  • Cool, but... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nicc777 ( 614519 ) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @10:29AM (#11728338) Homepage Journal
    how do I silence a noisy UPS. There is this humming sound, and it's especially bad when the PC is turned off. Any ideas?
  • noisy PSUs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by iamplupp ( 728943 ) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @10:37AM (#11728380) Homepage
    In my experience the big noisemaker often is the cheap powersupply. I usually dismantle it and jack the fan to either 5V or 7V depending on the severity of the noisemaking. It pretty sure it voids the warranty though... :)
  • by arkhan_jg ( 618674 ) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @10:44AM (#11728411)
    If you're having multiple drive failures in one or two cases, I'd really recommend looking at the power supplies.

    I have a case that killed a drive every few months until I twigged and replaced the PSU with an antec 350W. If the power rails are 'dirty' with fluctuating voltage, they can slowly kill a drive. This is a known problem with cheap PSU's, and it can be cheaper to spend a bit more on a quality supply than keep swapping drives.
  • Worked for me (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @11:04AM (#11728487) Journal
    I got 3 pc's (1 linux desktop 1 linux "server" and 1 windows 2003 game machine) The noise from them is pretty bad especially the desktop wich is an old kayah or whater hp called them.

    Anyway invested in two 5 meter kvm cables and a switch and voila. INSTANT dead silence.

    Only problem is CD's but I only need them for games and nocd patches are the best.

    As for heat. It is a large closet with bare concrete walls and a high ceiling. During the peak of summer it gets uncomfortable at head lvl but the PC's are on the ground and kept cool by just having some big fans blowing directly across the motherboard.

    Frankly it is the easiest method of silencing and the most effective. Just don't do it with earlier windows versions as you will get insane from the constant hard resets. Oh and to be fair from the hard resets when you are working on a new kernel config.

  • Re:Cool, but... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by glesga_kiss ( 596639 ) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @11:08AM (#11728508)
    how do I silence a noisy UPS?

    Can you put it in another room and run a cable, maybe even install a dedicated wall plug? You could even put in a two-socket wall plug, put a blanking plate on the second and mount a serial port on it to hook up to the UPS. If you wanted to go nuts that is!

  • Damn intellitxt! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SteWhite ( 212909 ) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @11:28AM (#11728599)
    The article is on a site using IntelliTxt advertising - I hate that stuff, and block it whenever I can. If you want to block the ads on that site too, block the following with your hosts file:

    Might as well add the list of ones I already block to stop IntelliTxt - .com
    uk.intellitxt. com
  • Use a PocketPC (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @11:28AM (#11728602) Homepage Journal
    I just installed Familiar 0.8 on an old iPaq 3670. I wanted to use the iPaq to stream music in my bedroom, from a shoutcast server in my office, because it's tiny and has no fan. But WinCE couldn't decode the ethernet packets and send them to the soundcard in realtime, even at 24Kbps. It took about an hour to sort out the various install docs (hint: copy *everything* to a CF over USB while the iPaq still runs WinCE), then about half an hour to actually install it ("bootstrap": CLI/sshd only). Now that little bugger is running real Linux 2.4.19, and streaming 320Kbps MP3 via packages both in the stripped Familiar distro, and Debian/ARM packages. And used iPaqs cost $100 (+ $50 CF sleeve / ethernet).
  • by Scorpius-nl ( 827901 ) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @11:43AM (#11728660)
    Aluminum case was much noisier than my steel case, given that I have many more things in my case. Thicker materials (obviously) cut down on noise levels.
    Indeed, as said on silentpcreview, there is no reason to by aluminium, except for weight reasons: []
    The Aluminum Myth - Some favor aluminum cases, citing an ability to better cool components mounted within. This is a myth. No heat producing component benefit in any significant way from being inside an aluminum case. The only heat producing devices that are normally mounted in direct contact with a case are the drives, particularly the hard drives. The difference between aluminum and steel in this cooling fuction is insignificant.
    This does not mean aluminum cases cannot be used to make a silent computer, just that there are disadvantages with them when compared to similarly constructed steel cases. Regardless, many aluminum cases certainly look nice.

    The Aluminum Drawback - One consistent acoustic property seems unavoidable: Aluminum cases tend to pick up hard drive and fan vibrations more readily than steel cases, and make a higher pitched, more audible humming or buzzing sound. This quality is directly related to the density of aluminum: It has only about 30% of the density of the cheaper, more commonly used steel. Internally applied panel damping materials (especially the heavier kinds) appear to damp the resonance down fairly effectively, but it is sometimes difficult and an added expense to eliminate entirely.
  • by v1 ( 525388 ) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @11:45AM (#11728668) Homepage Journal
    The wind tunnel machines that a few of my friends own seem to make most of their noise from the CPU fan. It's long past time for PC CPUs to get some power management in them so they don't have to be kicking out 100w of heat while you look at your desktop. I can understand needing more cooling when busy ripping MP3s or encoding video or something like that, but running the same heat when browsing a web page is silly. That would also reduce load on the PS, which should allow for the PS fan to spin down a bit. (do any PC power supplies have variable speed fans?)
  • by jargoone ( 166102 ) * on Sunday February 20, 2005 @11:50AM (#11728686)
    My Dell 400SC has a single 120mm fan in the back. Most of the time, I can't even tell the machine is powered on. It get a little louder when it's doing something CPU intensive. It's the quietest PC I've ever owned.

    BTW, you didn't even have to RTFA, you just had to RTF summary. I can't get to the article, but the summary says the steps are inexpensive, which leads me to believe that you don't have to spend loads of money.

    One more thing: I am not a Dell fanboy, but Macs are expensive.
  • by cyclocommuter ( 762131 ) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @11:56AM (#11728709)

    1. Use a motherboard with BIOS controlled fan speed controller that controls the speed of fans based on built in temperature sensors. Example - Intel's PERL line of motherboards. Bonus is that this board controls the fans both in Linux and XP. Nice to see the fan speeds going up and down using gkrellm.

    2. Install a quiet running hard drive... such as those from Seagate or Samsung.

    3. (Optional) Use a quiet CPU heat sink fan such as the Zalman 7000 series.

  • by legirons ( 809082 ) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @02:26PM (#11729485)
    "My Dell 400SC has a single 120mm fan in the back. Most of the time, I can't even tell the machine is powered on. It get a little louder when it's doing something CPU intensive. It's the quietest PC I've ever owned."

    We have various racks of Dell desktop machines at work. When you turn the whole lot on at the power supply, it creates a gale that blows papers in adjacent rooms, as all 16 computers startup with their fans set to maximum.

    At another building, we have 16 server-style (big, lockable, etc.) dell machines. It's only marginally below the legal limits for noise that people are allowed to work in.

    Another similar installation (PCs, not Dells) was found to be "okay if you stood at least 4 meters away" in terms of harmful volume of noise.

    My home PC (zalman flower-CPU, new PSU, etc.) ranges from "annoying" (most of the time) to "people think you've left the hoover on" when it detects that it's too hot.

    So yeah, if Macs are better than that, I might get one. Dell sure as hell isn't the answer.

    Why do you say "Macs are expensive" when they supply not only the cheapest decent computer around, but the iMac which (after all the initial PC puffery) was found to be cheaper than building a similarly-specc'd PC, and the G4 which is so much cheaper than equivalent PCs that they built a cluster supercomputer out of them. And this is comparing them to the price of Dells, of all computers?!?
  • by hawk ( 1151 ) <> on Sunday February 20, 2005 @02:50PM (#11729628) Journal
    Very slowly. Try withdrawal.

    Read what you just said.

    There is *NO SUCH THING* as a "dell fanboy", for the very simple reason that noone actually *likes* dells.

    Dell is like walmart. You hate the place, but keep going back due to the lower price.

    Of course, when you compare a similarly decked out system, they aren't really cheaper than macs--especially once you factor in the longer service life of a mac.

    hawk, typing away on one of the university dells he hates
  • by raresilk ( 100418 ) <> on Sunday February 20, 2005 @03:45PM (#11729927)
    extensively over the past few years. I'm taking the trouble to rant a bit about what others have said, as well as post a summary of my own research and experimentation, because every time I read a thread anywhere about this subject, I see the same ol' same ol', most of it misinformed or plain wrong. (For background, my household has a G4 silver MAC, a parts-built PC running Windows, a parts-built PC running Linux, and a G4 Titanium powerbook.)


    1. "Silent PC" Is Not a Fetish.
    There are practical reasons why some of us demand silence from a computer. The one that drives me is the fact that I use my computer(s) to record audio. Short of building a separate room to house the computer (which causes insane problems with ventilation, video/kb/mouse cables, etc.), you simply have to get it silent for a professional-quality recording. Another reason is home theater, which I believe was mentioned in the article. I really don't understand why people who couldn't care less how much noise their computer emits (like people who run server rooms) continually post in these threads. We silent freaks are aware there are lots of people who have no reason to care about dBs. That's why it's so hard to find parts to build a truly silent PC. I don't give a flip about overclocking - do I go around posting "you overclockers are kooky" in every thread on overclocking on Ars or Tom's or Anand's? Jeez.

    2. Fans Equal Noise. Period.
    There is no way around this. If you have fans anywhere in your computer, your computer will not be silent. It may be marginally quieter with some fans than others, but fans move air around and turn on a shaft, and both of those things are impossible to silence. Quieten, yes. Silence, no. And I have tried a number of supposedly "quiet PC" fans, including CPU fans. Rheostats are commonly put forward as a solution to the noise problem. They're not, at least for me, because turning fans down with a rheostat is only feasible when the computer is not working hard. But even single-channel audio recording is processor-intensive, and when you add effects processing or additional channels, booyah! Turn down the fans to the point where they are quiet enough for audio recording and you will lock up due to heat, and I am speaking from experience here. Moreover, turned-down fans are still not silent, and quiet enough is still not professional-quality. The same would be true for a home theater installation - encoding/decoding makes heat. The same is true for mobo-automated fan turndown. It turns straight up right when the computer needs to be quiet, for the same reason. (One post mentioned that the Mac iServe has three virtually-silent fans. If this is true, I would love to get ahold of such fans without paying $4K for an iServe. But every other product I've heard described as "virtually silent" -- e.g., power supplies -- always made noise. Fan noise. Because fans equal noise. So I'm skeptical. The Mac Mini was mentioned also, but is insufficient in processing power/ram to run my studio.) Also, contrary to the article, more fans at a slower speed are not quieter. Theoretically, perhaps, but not to the real human ear.

    3. "Quiet Cases" Are Useless.
    This applies both to cases made of heavy material specifically designed to be quiet, and insulation foam that you paste inside the case. Tried em, dumped em. I should have recognized in advance that heavier and/or insulated cases substantially decrease heat dissipation through the case, which means -- that's right -- more and faster FANS, and fans equal noise. Anything you gain by putting your computer guts in an insulated fortress, you will lose by the whining RPMs tacked onto your CPU and vidcard fans, and incidentally, your kewl mobo-controlled or power-supply controlled fans will crank up to high RPMs as well. It's worse than a wash - it's actually noisier. Learned it the hard way.

    4. Most Water-cooling Is Probably Useless.
    I say "probably" because I h

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