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Building Quieter Computers

Hemos posted more than 12 years ago | from the trying-to-quiet-my-home-office dept.

Hardware 398

So, as I suspect many of you have, I've got a home office that I probably work from for 2/3s of my working time, as I'm often working in the non-trad. office hours as well. It's nice having this space in my home, but the fans from the desktops are so loud, I feel as if I'm standing in the middle of O'Hare's runways. Anyone out there know of power supplies with quiet fans? CPU fans that are extra smooth?

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398 comments

Quiet PSU (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#178040)

Check out http://www.quietpc.com/ - they advertise low-noise PC PSUs, case fans, CPU coolers etc. Haven't tried their stuff out yet but will do as soon as I can spare the cash.

Re:Obvious answer. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#178041)

The towers are kind of loud. iMacs and G4 Cubes are very quiet though. ..just so you know not all of Apple's boxes are easy on the ears, I guess.

Re:Big slow fans, not small fast fans. (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#178043)

> Hook +5V to the GND wire on the fan, and +12V to the +12V wire on the fan

No, don't do this. When the fan breaks it allows +12V to flow directly into sensitive +5V components. This destroys at least the motherboard and most likely some of the expansion cards. I am not kidding!

Power Mac (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 12 years ago | (#178047)

If you want quiet, get a Power Mac G4 and run OS X, OS X Server, SUSE for PPC or Yellow Dog Linux.

If you want *really* quiet, get an iMac or a G4 Cube and run any of the OSes listed above.

Since every Mac comes with Firewire now, you've got unlimited drive expandability even with the closed cases of the iMac or Cube. The Cube can take a Radeon card if you are in to gaming. The Cube and iMac can also take a gigabyte of RAM.

If you want really, really, really quiet, get a PowerBook G4 and slap a 19 or 21 inch CRT on it. I like the Mitsubishi 91

http://www.apple.com/powermac/
http://www.apple.com/imac/
http://www.apple.com/powermaccube/
http://www.apple.com/powerbook/

Re:Obvious answer. (1)

red_dragon (1761) | more than 12 years ago | (#178052)

Just in case any of you believe that all G4 Cubes are fanless, if you have a built-to-order Cube with an ATI Radeon card, it WILL have a fan. It is still a lot quieter than the average PC case fan, though.

serious suggestion (2)

dangermouse (2242) | more than 12 years ago | (#178054)

Build or buy a box that you can put the machines in. A glass-fronted cabinet would work pretty well.

I'm thinking of doing so for my machines... I have a Playstation 2, and it has a loud-as-hell fan. So when I went looking for a TV stand, I got one that had sliding glass doors on the front, and put the PS2 in that. That cut the noise level to almost nil... when you slide the door open, you definitely notice the difference.

Buy a quiet power supply (1)

Watts (3033) | more than 12 years ago | (#178055)

While they're quite a bit more expensive, PC Power and Cooling [pcpowercooling.com] has some power supplies that are much quieter than the norm.

As for case fans, you can often buy quieter fans that have nicer bearings and the like.

PC Power & Cooling (1)

Oloryn (3236) | more than 12 years ago | (#178056)

For fairly quiet power supplies, take a look at PC Power & Cooling [pcpowercooling.com]. Their power supplies cost a bit more, but they're quieter and longer-lasting than the typical cheapie power supply. They've been around since 1985. If you want power supplies or fans that are likely to last, this is the place to get them.

Re:Fans are only part of the problem (3)

larien (5608) | more than 12 years ago | (#178062)

You really don't want to spin down all disks, as that can cause extra wear & tear, reducing the drive's lifetime. Well, certainly, you don't want to have disks starting and stopping constantly.

As for getting a solid state disk, why? You'd be best off just buying more RAM for probable less money and better performance. These days, you don't need swap space unless you want crash dump analysis. Ideally, you should never swap, with everything being held in RAM.
--

Re:Is no one going to answer the question? (2)

Spoke (6112) | more than 12 years ago | (#178064)

Yep, www.pcpowercooling.com [pcpowercooling.com] has good stuff for quieting your computer down.

I love their silencer cooling fans ($9 each), open up your power supply and swap this fan in place of it, works great. A lot cheaper than the ~$100 for a new PSU.

Throw this fan in the front of your case too, to get extra airflow lost when moving to this quiet fan.

Their CPU coolers also work well and are very quiet.

After switching my K6-2 450 to their 275W silencer power supply, a silencer fan in the front, their CPU fan, the loudest thing in my case was the hard-drive.

Modern 5400 RPM drives are a LOT quieter than 7200 RPM and older 5400/7200 RPM drives. Pick up one of the new inexpensive Seagate, Fujitsu or Quantum drives, they run just about silent.

After all these changes, I can finally sleep in peace (only a very slight whirring left) with my PC on all the time.

If you have a faster CPU, the CPU coolers that PC power and cooling sells aren't up to the job IMO. In that case, you'll want to look at water cooling your CPU. Cheap, and a lot quieter than most CPU fans, since this one [safeshopper.com] uses a 120mm fan spinning slowly at ~2K RPM instead of the normal 60mm fan spinning at 5-8K RPM.

Koolance URL and reviews.. (1)

Blaise (8438) | more than 12 years ago | (#178073)

it's been posted on slashdot at least once, but I've actually seen these cases, and they are the quietest yet. check out koolance's [koolance.com] website for the links to the different reviews (including one from HARDOCP)

I found quiet stuff (1)

wizkid (13692) | more than 12 years ago | (#178090)

I recently put togather a quiet system. I did some research on quiet cases, and now I have a athlon 1300 that I almost can't even hear. It raizes the room temperature 3 degrees though ;)

Ah, an area I have experience with... (4)

TBadiuk (14048) | more than 12 years ago | (#178091)

Ok, since I spent about $200 US a year ago to fix the exact same problem I thought I'd share what I learned.

#1) You need to fix ALL noise sources inside your computer. Throwing in a new CPU fan no matter how quite will not really help much. You need to get a quieter CPU FAN (the Molex radical fin someone mentioned is what I used), a new power supply with a quieter fan, AND, MOST IMPORTANT, you need to quiet down your hard disk drive(s).

Check out www.quietpc.com - I got all 3 products I needed (CPU FAN, Power Supply, and HD noise suppressors) from them.

Lastly, if running a CPU that takes a lot of juice, you need to turn down the CPU VCore to cut back on some of the juice. My Athlon 1000MHZ runs 100% stable at 1.40V. This is important because most "quiet" PS units have variable speed fans. I can hear the difference between 1.75V and 1.40V.

Also- Be sure to try and lower the power consumption of your PC as much as possible. Example- An external modem with seperate PSU will not tax your internal PSU as much hence that variable speed fan will spin slower.

Lastly, you can take more drastic measures like cutting voltage to the fans and then underclocking your CPU (say a 1.4GHZ CPU down to 1.0GHZ) to generate less heat.

Someone on /. even mentioned a while back that they got a DEAD SILENT PC by disconnecting all fans and then just running there 1G PIII at 500MHZ or so since the CPU barely gets warm....

Ted

HD Noise? (2)

SmittyTheBold (14066) | more than 12 years ago | (#178092)

I find that two of my boxes vary quite a bit in noise, and I originally thought it was fans. That is, until I moved a hard drive from one machine to the other. IT seems my Quantum Fireball is quite a noisy little piece of metal...while the IBM DeskStar 60GXP that replaced it in my main machine is nearly silent. You may want to look into hard drive noise.

Panaflo 120mm's (1)

Shoeboy (16224) | more than 12 years ago | (#178096)

Seriously quiet fans that push a lot of air.

Here's [computersdivine.com] a case with 6 (!!) of the things in it that's still reputed to be whisper quiet.

--Shoeboy

Mac+Closet PC=no noise (1)

Maktoo (16901) | more than 12 years ago | (#178099)

The PowerMac G4 are actually fairly quiet for systems with a fan... of course, Cubes and iMacs and iBooks are fanless. The PowerBook does have a fan... it's not big, but you notice it when it turns on.

Personally, I have a B&W G3 Mac Tower and a homebuilt (Duron) PC tower. I got so fed up with the noise from the dual fans in my PC that I stuck it in the closet beside my desk... it's much quieter now :) I have my Mac and PC hookup into a USB KVM box... so that's how I can get away with the extra distance. It also cleans up the rats nest under my desk a little.

And no, the PC is not any hotter than it was before beside my feet.

Re:that's a perfectly good answer. (1)

KFury (19522) | more than 12 years ago | (#178105)

For some reason, everything spork posts is rated -1, but without moderation notes. I think he has severely negative karma...

Kevin Fox
--

Obvious answer. (3)

KFury (19522) | more than 12 years ago | (#178106)

I'm assuming that you're looking for a different answer than: Get a Mac?

Kevin Fox
--

I built my computer into the wall :) (5)

abelsson (21706) | more than 12 years ago | (#178113)

Funnily enough i can post exactly the same comment twice in one day and still be on topic :)

See http://abelsson.com/tystdator [abelsson.com] . Comments are in swedish, but it's the pictures that are interesting in any case. Dont worry about not understanding the comments on that page, you're not missing much. I originally wrote it for a swedish friend of mine..

The basic idea was just that i wanted a quiet computer - and i had a spare room behind where i had my computer. So.. i just a few drilled holes in the wall and put the computer on the other side.

It works extremely well. Best part is that my box is *completely* quiet. It's exactly like having a fanless box. I've almost started to get annoyed by the noise my monitor makes. :)

It looks pretty cool too.

-henrik

Fans are only part of the problem (4)

snopes (27370) | more than 12 years ago | (#178117)

I recently picked up a new higher watt power supply and cpu fan from PC Power & Cooling [pcpowercooling.com]. Higher wattage is supposed to aid in reducing fan noise and their stuff is supposed to be high-quality ball bearings that will run quieter. Well, they definetely run quieter, but not even close to silent. And I found the bulk of my noise to be coming from an old hardrive. Well, I removed it as it wasn't really needed anymore and the nice new IBM in there still makes it's share of noise just spinning.

Best suggestions I saw the last time this came up was consider what quiet really means given your ambient noise. For me, it turns out to be nearly silent as the thing is in my bedroom. Based on my experience this is pretty tough to achieve. One issue I've yet to resolve, which you may like to look into, is how to build a *nix system where you can spin down all drives. The problem is swap disk. As for as I can tell presently, you always end up with one disk spinning (or constantly up/down) due to even the smallest swap accesses. What might be feasible, but exspensive, is a solid state disk for swap.

Koolance (1)

booyah (28487) | more than 12 years ago | (#178121)

the prebuilt, guarenteed water cooling case reviewed here [hardocp.com] (the address is http://hardocp.com/reviews/cooling/koolance/ for the goat weary) is strongly suggested, it seems to be the best way of doing it, by getting the loudest parts of the case cooled by a simpler, quieter, cooler solution....

Diskless + QuietPC (1)

desmodromic (30262) | more than 12 years ago | (#178128)

If you're running Linux, you can setup a diskless desktop, and put your server in another room.

see www.DisklessWorkstations.com for bootable network cards. If you need to dual-boot, you can boot an nfs-root capable kernel from a local disk, and set the disk to spin down after, e.g., 1 minute.

www.quietpc.com has power supplies that are *much* quiter than PC Power & Cooling's. They're in England, but they ship quickly, and are well worth the wait. They also sell the Molex radial-fin CPU coolers, which are very quiet.

data on CPU cooler noise from Toms (1)

CBravo (35450) | more than 12 years ago | (#178135)

Toms Hardware [tomshardware.com] has the only (as far as my knowledge goes) CPU cooler review with objective noise data. Unfortunately the (there mentioned) 'Silverado' isn't available in The Netherlands :-(

As featured on /. before (1)

Kronos. (40016) | more than 12 years ago | (#178139)

You could always look in to these liquid cooled cases from koolance [koolance.com], not only are they good at cooling hardware down they also run quieter because the fans that cool the liquid don't run at full power all of the time and when they do they are quieter. A 2 for 1 deal.

the ultimate case: (1)

pcgamez (40751) | more than 12 years ago | (#178143)

Check out http://hardocp.com/reviews/cooling/koolance/

This is a watercooling case which may be a bit complicated for you (I really do not know what level of knowledge you have, so my apolagize if I insult you). It has only 3 fans which run at a low level of power at the base on the back.

This might be something you could be interisted in. It comes with a high price tag, but it may be worth it.

Re:Other cooling methods.. (1)

Cloud 9 (42467) | more than 12 years ago | (#178144)

Given that many of those cooling systems [slashdot.org] sprung massive leaks and destroyed machines [koolance.com], I don't think that would be a good idea.

Koolance, [koolance.com] the company in question, has recalled all systems, and will pay the costs to replace destroyed parts.

Get a small desk fan and use that (5)

xtal (49134) | more than 12 years ago | (#178148)

If you really want quiet, and don't care about looks, get a small desk fan. I paid about $15 for a high-quality one that is whisper quiet and flows a LOT of air. I just popped the side off the case and blow the air in, my Duron 600@900Mhz runs at 45C instead of ~60C with the stock heat sink. I had 2 exhaust and one intake fan, and disconnecting those got rid of most of the noise.

When I get around to it, I'll properly connect the fan with some ducting and reconnect the side of the case up. This works great because it cools my horribly overclocked video card and hard drives / DVD / burner as well.

Think big fan, low RPM for quiet.

Other tricks to reduce noise:

  • Use rubber washers to connect the fan to the case. Where the fan touches the case there will be some vibration and noise transferred. Putting the rubber washer in reduces that.
  • If your case just has a pattern of holes, get out the dremel and cut a big circle. Those holes introduce turbulence which can cause noise.
  • Put your fans on a switch for when you don't need mega-cooling. This works well, and my ultra-quiet desk fan has three settings. On the first one, you don't even know it's on.

Another tip: Rather than a intake in the front and an exhaust in the back, try a single, large, low RPM fan -cut in the top of the case- blowing out. Heat rises, and this works well from what a friend of mine has reported.

Peltier Cooler (1)

AnalogBoy (51094) | more than 12 years ago | (#178150)

Never used one.. but having no moving parts seems to be a big boon to keeping things silent.

Of course, there has to be some cons to this, or else everyone would have one. Someone edumacate me? :)

Big slow fans, not small fast fans. (5)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 12 years ago | (#178155)

1) Undervolt your fans. Most 12V fans can run at 7V. (Hook +5V to the GND wire on the fan, and +12V to the +12V wire on the fan).

The fan will run slower, but cooler.

2) Work on airflow near your fan blades. A fan with a great big sheet of metal with punched holes in it will be loud. The same fan with the metal grill removed will be quieter. The same fan with the metal grill and some extra space around it (because these fans typically blow air out in a cone on a 45-degree angle away from the center of the fan) will run even more quietly.

Still need finger protection? Get a real fan grill - the old-sk00l things that looked like three or four concentric circles of wire stuck together with a couple of cross-wise pieces of wire.

3) Rule of thumb - low RPM = low noise. If you don't get enough airflow (for cooling purposes) when you undervolt your 80mm case fan, carve up the case and add a big-ass 120mm fan. An undervolted 120mm fan can often move as much air as a typical 80mm fan running at +12V. If your local surplus store is well-stocked, you might even find some +24V fans that run at +12V. (But be sure to test them first ;-)

Well, there are a few ideas to start with. I'm sure others will follow up.

Re:Fans are only part of the problem (2)

jovlinger (55075) | more than 12 years ago | (#178156)

Of course you want to swap. Swapping unused apps out alows the OS to reuse that RAM as filesystem cache, which is almost always a good idea.

Re:Obvious answer. (1)

velocityboy (56012) | more than 12 years ago | (#178158)

To be fair, the recommendation to "get a mac" was due to the fact that the Cube has no fan at all. It runs blissfully silent and quite cool.

Kitt

Sun (2)

THB (61664) | more than 12 years ago | (#178164)

If you don't mind paying the extra cash, and don't need to use windows apps, sun workstations are often made without fans. The high end ones are some of the best quality computers that you can get.

VERY QUEIT fans at... (2)

TunaPhish (81577) | more than 12 years ago | (#178177)

www.pcpowercooling.com [pcpowercooling.com] has an entire slew of quiet fans and power supplies. Last year I bought a ultra-quiet power supply from them along with a spare case fan.

The power supply I believe was slightly overpriced, but those Silencer Auxilary Fans are a steal at 9 bucks apiece. You can take one of those fans and stick it in your current power supply and you will definately notice a difference.

I'm hired out by a small recording studio that mixes with Paris, Cubase, and Gigasampler on Athlon systems, and let me tell you that nothing is more annoying than a 7 foot rack of stuff with fans on them.. ugh. Go buy some quiet fans and seal off all your equipment in another room! ;)

Koolance Cases (1)

rrhal (88665) | more than 12 years ago | (#178188)

Koolance water cooled cases. They go for about $200 but they're much quieter. The power supply and CPU fans are replaced with water blocks. There are two fans but they are large fans that turn slowly and therefore make less noise.

It's all about design. (1)

NTSwerver (92128) | more than 12 years ago | (#178192)

If PC manufacturers spent a bit more time designing their machines/enclosures they too could reduce the amount of fans necessary to keep them cool.

Apple's machines (love them or hate them) are efficient and well designed, hence some of them don't need any fans at all.

OTOH Apple have no competition in terms of hardware so they probably have a bigger R+D budget to research things like this.

----------------------------

Silent desktops (3)

Brighten (93641) | more than 12 years ago | (#178194)

The G4 Cube [apple.com] and the iMac [apple.com] are fanless and therefore very quiet. Apple's laptops are fanless too. So I guess the minitower G4's are the only Macs with fans these days. That's one of the benefits you get from those expensive Macs [slashdot.org].

Sure... (1)

neafevoc (93684) | more than 12 years ago | (#178195)

Anyone out there know of power supplies with quiet fans? CPU fans that are extra smooth?

...PC Power & Cooling, Inc. [pcpowercooling.com]

I haven't tried their power supplies yet, but I will soon. I have my eyes on their 450W ULTRA-QUIET. I did manage to buy a few of their Silencer fans. They do wonders in my full tower :)


--
Neafevoc

Re:Sun (1)

haroldK (96625) | more than 12 years ago | (#178198)

Why are there so many people that felt new machines with a different archetecture equates a quiet power supply. I'm sure this person isn't looking to shell out thousands of dollars and possibly a lot of time adapting to a new system because he wants his current machines to be quieter.

Try doing your work on a Macintosh (1)

lazylion (101229) | more than 12 years ago | (#178209)

If you get either an iMac or a G4 Cube or a Powerbook, you can run MacOS X which comes with full FreeBSD stuff. Not quite ready for prime time, but depending on your needs (Java, TCL, Perl?) it might work just fine and is perfectly quiet. Okay. Flame away!

Quiet PC (1)

net_shaman (105908) | more than 12 years ago | (#178217)

Check out http://www.directron.com They have a SilentPC section with special coolers, drive enclosures and fans as well as soundproofing case liners. I'd recommend the BEST CPU heatsink you can find, like the ALPHA PAL6035MFC, and top it off with a silent Panaflow 6cm fan. Mine is cool and silent. Then work on reducing the sound of your case fans. Lastly and most expensively you can try to sound insulate your case or HHD's. Good luck!

imacs (1)

Lord Omlette (124579) | more than 12 years ago | (#178236)

Imacs are naturally quiet because their cases are designed to cool via air flow or some such nonsense.

Maybe the actual question is, what sort of case exists for pc configs that doesn't require a fan?

If you get bored, try this [cocoon-culture.com]. It's dated 1999, I wonder how much of it is accurate today? I can't say either way since I'm still using the same comp from 1998 ^^;;

Peace,
Amit
ICQ 77863057

cheap answer (2)

ikeleib (125180) | more than 12 years ago | (#178237)

Before buying a new case or power supply, I would suggest trying this one. Go to the hardware store and pick up some carpet padding. The stuff is dirt cheap. I got enough for two cases for US$1. Use some good ol' hot glue and put the stuff inside your case. It made mine much quieter. If your fans are making lots of noise, make a muffler out of a cardboard box with lots of carpet padding inside.

Solutions (1)

R.Caley (126968) | more than 12 years ago | (#178238)

The `put the box in the next room' solution someone mantione certainly works. I know someone who has done that and other than having to run around the corner to put CDs in it's the perfect solution. an intermediate point is to put a server which can do the hard work in a cupboard somewhere and have a low spec machine with a quiet fan or maybe a laptop as your working machine.

Laptops are also good. I needed to put a firewall in my living room for wireing reasons. I built it from an old laptop. Given no fans and the fact that for most of the time it doesn't touch it's disk, I only really hear it when it does it's overnight system checks (and I'm thinking of moving them to mid morning).

I've ordered some kit from quietpc [quietpc.com] and I'm going to try silencing my old PC which I keep as a guinea pig. They shipped it this morning, so I can't rally say if it works yet:-).
_O_

Re:Other cooling methods.. (1)

arindar (128302) | more than 12 years ago | (#178243)

All water cooling solutions require a fan for the radiator device. You must move air accross it. As pointed out in the other post these fans are usually larger than the norm.

Moaning Goat Meter Story (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 12 years ago | (#178249)

Ahhh, memories come rushing back... It's almost like eating the baking soda in my fridge. Perhaps you have heard the tale of the moaning goat meter?

The moaning goat meter is a piece of software which is simply a GUI system monitor with an interesting name. You can download the actual software from http://ogg.org/mgm/ if you like, but I like the story more than anything else.

Supposedly, a fan in the developer's SCSI disk enclosure was gradually dying, and as with most dying fans, it made some interesting noises. Particularly, it made quite a convincing impression of an amarous goat. The program was hence named after the infamous fan.

I must say, with all my experiences with dying fans, hard drives, tons of zip drives, floppies, and a few others, I've never heard anything that sounded like anything other than a piece of dying hardware.


---=-=-=-=-=-=---

Try these solutions (1)

hurricanej (137721) | more than 12 years ago | (#178255)

I face the same problem. Here's what I'm evaluating:

1) Water cooled case from www.koolance.com

2) Noise reducers from www.quietpc.com

3) Apple Cube (no fans!!) maxed out with ram and use VirtualPC to run my x86 stuff. Emulating x86 games would suck.

Apple would be the quietest, but don't get an add-on video card that has fans (kinda defeats the purpose). After x years the hard drive will get louder, so plan on getting a different hard drive then.

A Cube with OSX, emulating x86... probably the most elegant solution.

I dunno which one to pursue, either.

-hj

You don't need to change architecture (1)

bharath (140269) | more than 12 years ago | (#178263)

Get a Dell Precision 400 workstation. It is one of the quietest computers I have used. I have one at work and can hardly hear any noise from the computer. You can even buy them with pre-installed linux if you prefer.

I have a homemade athlon system at home and it makes a hell of a noise. The fans (especially the cpu cooler) is unbearable. Does anyone know of very quiet athlon/duron cooling systems. I don't overclock or anything.

Quiet PC Parts (3)

sportal (145003) | more than 12 years ago | (#178264)

First Start with that loud power supply.

Two best options are PC Power & Cooling http://www.pcpowercooling.com/
And Enermax http://www.enermax.com.tw

I have a PC Power & Cooling Silencer 275W ATX and have been very pleased with it. I have to listen very closely to see if it is even on.

Next is your hard drive. Do a google search for SilentDrive and pick one up. $34 might seem expensive, but it greatly reduces the noise of the drive. Also getting a quiet hard drive from the start helps, like the Fujitsu line.

Last thing is your processor. Best option is just to get a fat heatsink and remove the fan. Let the powersupply fan circulate enough air to cool the pc. Underclocking your CPU helps kepe the temps down. Get rid of all your other case fans, and you only have one fan in the powersupply and a quiet hard drive making noise. Other options are getting a specifically designed quiet CPU fan and heatsink. They also make quiet versions of case fans.

Links:
http://www.quietpc.com/faq.html
http://www.directron.com/silence.html
http://www.directron.com/quietpc.html

Enermax (3)

Agent00Wang (146185) | more than 12 years ago | (#178265)

Enermax Whisper series for the PSU. You can hardly tell it's on unless your ear is right up against it.

Use longer cables (1)

spock123 (153676) | more than 12 years ago | (#178273)

Instead of going to extrems by making your machine as quiet as possible, why not just hide the box and use long cables for your monitor, keyboard mouse etc.? Voila! End of problem.

Clean the fans (2)

rarancib (153938) | more than 12 years ago | (#178275)

I have had my computer go from being inconspicuous to sounding like a twin prop airplane a couple of times, and the problem was always dust that settled in the fan motor and causing distortion in the rotation.

Try taking them out and giving them a good cleaing . That should take care of the problem most of the time.

one note about drives... (1)

edmudama (155475) | more than 12 years ago | (#178280)

One note about drives that we ship...

Due to industry demands, virtually all drives that we ship are tuned more for decibel level than for performance, because that is what Dell etc are demanding.

High performance = more actuator movement = noisy

Retail drives will be faster than the ones included in pre-built systems, because of this distinction of priorities. I'm sure all drive manufacturers do this too, not just us.

--eric

Re:Peltier Cooler (1)

Queuetue (156269) | more than 12 years ago | (#178283)

The peltier will get the heat off the chip, but you still need a fan to get it out of the case.

Lessons learned from experience (2)

proxima (165692) | more than 12 years ago | (#178285)

If there is one rule I've learned about cooling a case after years of building computers, it's this obvious but truthful phrase:

You get what you pay for

A CPU, case fan, and power supply are not things to be budgeted down. A $5 fan is not equivalent to a $15 fan. This may seem obvious, but people like myself tend to buy the cheapest available from a discount online retailer when you can't look at and touch the various choices of fans themselves.

That said, there are many things to look for when buying fans, case or CPU. First, make sure that all fans are ball-bearing - this will generally make them quieter and make them last longer. If a fan becomes noisy after time, it MAY be possible to quiet it down with a little bit of precision oil - but sometimes it's just better to replace your fan.

Next, never underestimate cooling power. Don't go with a low power-usage fan for your CPU just because you aren't overclocking - err on the side of caution. Get a fan at least rated for the exact type of processor you have, perhaps even for a faster processor (if you have a 1 Ghz Athlon it doesn't hurt to have a fan designed to cool 1.3 Ghz Athlons).

When it comes to case fans, placement is just as important as power. The power supply fan blows out, the cpu fan blows down (on the motherboard), if you only have one case fan it probably should be oriented to blow in. Make an air path for the flow of air - it should pass over heated components like the video card and cpu. If possible, also get some fan airflow to your hard drive. This can be done easily with a 5 1/4" double/triple fan cover that just slides in the slot and hold a 3 1/2" hard drive. These aren't that expensive and may help to lengthen the life of your hard drive(s), especially if you have a warm system, a lot of hard drives, or it's functioning as a server.

Last but definately not least (this helped to fry a motherboard on me), placement of the case itself is crucial to good cooling. Cabinets in desks are bad. Make sure you have open air vents at least a half a foot square on both sides near fan intakes and outflows.

Quietness comes almost entirely from the quality of the construction. Yes, excessive air flow will cause some noise, but most of the time a noisy fan comes from mechanical problems. Don't skimp on your fans, buy quality ones from an online retailer with a good return policy - return them if they make noise after a few days.

Box it (1)

Moro vaan Ugrit (167028) | more than 12 years ago | (#178288)

Use a rack with a glass door (i.e., that kind you would use with your stereo system). Insulate the rack with sound absorbing material and build a sound trap to all ventilation holes. This is what's been done at all the radio stations that I have visited since their computers really need to be quiet.

It's not that hard engineering task. Sound proof cases have been build for much louder and hotter machinery than PC's.

Quietest I've seen (2)

jester-tx (170962) | more than 12 years ago | (#178290)

Coolermaster. Still a fan, still makes some moise, but quieter than average and extremely efficient in the air-moving department.

Re:that's a perfectly good answer. (1)

psmX (171753) | more than 12 years ago | (#178291)

Why is the post about getting a new Mac mod'd lower than the post calling a Mac a paperweight. Since when is name calling more useful than earnest commentary?

Great except... (2)

sjbe (173966) | more than 12 years ago | (#178294)

...some of us live in apartments or don't have a convenient spare room. Sure that's great solution if you can do it but it isn't very practical for most of us. Plus I doubt my employer is going to let me start drilling holes in the wall even if I could find a place to move the darn thing.

In my case (no pun intended) I simply don't have much room (again, no pun intended) so I have to put the computer right next to me. Only solution then is to make the machine itself quiet.

Hard to do (3)

sjbe (173966) | more than 12 years ago | (#178296)

I've been on a quest for a quiet computer for some time now. To date unless you buy a Mac Cube, it is hard to get a machine that is truly quiet.

I've tried PC Power and Cooling's Silencer [pcpowerandcooling.com] power supply. Quieter than most (20db) but definitely not silent.

The problem as I see it is partly fan noise and partly case design. Most machines these days have several fans for cooling, most of which seem to create around 30db of noise. Not deafening to be sure but if you have fairly sensitive ears (like I do) it is enough to wear you out after a while. The other part of the problem is reverberation (for lack of a better word) from the case. The case seems to act like a drum for all the fan noise. Really though, the noise due to the case is really just a function of the fan noise. Eliminate the fans, and you eliminate the noise.

Unfortunately it seems there hasn't been much effort put into keeping systems quiet because it requires more engineering time and effort. It's cheaper to just slap a fan in the power supply and another on the chip than it is to design the systems to not produce much heat or duct it efficiently. With commodity motherboards and assembly from components, it is very tough to design a system that will be flexible enough and still keep costs in line.

If there are any entrepreneurs out there, design a quite case and power supply and I will buy it. I would love to have a system that is silent or very close to it.

NOISY fans, Quiet fans (2)

kral (182123) | more than 12 years ago | (#178302)

I worked for two decades for one of the leading power supply manufacturers. The fans that are presently used are both noisy AND of very marginal reliability. These fans use "sleeve bearings" as opposed to more reliable ball bearings. But before you fault the power supply companies, realize that although ball bearing fans are readily available (NMB, Pabst, etc.), they cost several dollars. Your typical high quality power supply (shipping to HP, Compaq, Dell etc.) sold in high volume in the range of 10-15 dollars as of 1999 with cheap fans, probably at the low end of that range today. Adding a couple bucks for a quality fan was _always_ ruled out by the computer maker as not worth the money. There are plenty of sleeve bearing fans that are quiet, at least for the first thousand hours. The steady increase in noise is sufficiently gradual that you will always find that your new computer is much more quiet than your old piece of trash, giving you great satisfaction in your continued "upgrades" to the same level you started at. Fortunately, most of these fans are a very standard form factor and can be swapped out easily with a high quality unit. Just don't expect this to ever be "standard equipment".

Here is one distributor (2)

sjmurdoch (193425) | more than 12 years ago | (#178316)

Their website can be found at QuietPC.com [quietpc.com].
They are a UK company, but they may ship to the US or be able to suggest a US distributor.

--
Steven Murdoch.

Dell OptiPlex (1)

DigitalDragon (194314) | more than 12 years ago | (#178317)

I'm using Dell desktop, I'm in no ways trying to promote them or anything, but just want to state the fact: until this article I never even once noticed the humming. It is aobut half a meter away from me and I can barely hear the humming. Most of the time I work with my headphones on, but even without them it never bothers me. My desktop at home is another story - that guy is 4 years old and screaming bad.
just my .02

Noise pollution (1)

Peter Dyck (201979) | more than 12 years ago | (#178322)

I gave up using x86 PCs a year ago when I finally got sick of the noise pollution.

The main culprit is the CPU fan. The lowest noise levels for contemporary CPU fans are somewhere around 35-40 dB, but in a CPU fan review (I don't remember if it was at overclockers or tomshardware) some CPU fans screamed at 60 dB.

To be honest, this is insane and completely unnecessary. Modern architectures such as Sparc and PPC run comfortably at 500 MHz with passive cooling.

Solution (2)

Placido (209939) | more than 12 years ago | (#178330)

Search google
Click on second or third link
Ta da
Solution [zdnetindia.com]

(for the paranoid goats)
http://www.zdnetindia.com/help/howto/stories/19027 .html


Pinky: "What are we going to do tomorrow night Brain?"

Other cooling methods.. (2)

dj28 (212815) | more than 12 years ago | (#178332)

You could use the water cooled system that was mentioned here a while back. Im sure that's much quieter.

Is no one going to answer the question? (5)

2nd Post! (213333) | more than 12 years ago | (#178338)

It was for a quiet power supply! I think I've only seen one or two relevant posts so far; most of the rest are harping about computers, Macs, Suns, etc.

try this site [pcpowercooling.com], PC Power-Cooling.

My friend tells me they are really quiet (I've heard them) and swears by them, despite the slightly higher cost.

In their power supply section they have an ultra quiet section, and they even 'measure' the dB of their power supplies. The ultra quiet 275 ATX is only 34dB!

Geek dating! [bunnyhop.com]

List of option for quieter systems (2)

cheros (223479) | more than 12 years ago | (#178348)

The noise is generated by fans and drives. Fan noise can be reduced by getting a quieter model power supply like the "Enermax Whisper Quiet Dual Fan PSU" and a processor fan with a better design (see www.quietpc.com etc). Some mileage can be had by changing to watercooling, but that is quite a bit of work - depends if you overclock the CPU. The Molex cooler is quite good, and the Noise Control Silverado is quite impressive too but more difficult to get hold of outside the US. Another approach is to swap fans for temperature controlled models, these spin at low speed (i.e. less noisy) until things heat up and more airflow is needed. They fail safe so when the sensor dies it just reverts to full blast mode. Last but not least the harddisk noise. A single harddisk can be fitted inside a cooling enclosure, but for more than one this becomes too costly (and large ;-). You might want to build your own drive box with cooler - or host the data storage elsewhere and use a 100Mb network to carry data back and forth. If all of that fails, put the system in the adjacent room and drill a few holes for cables ;-). Good luck!

It already exists (1)

Anne Onymus (223599) | more than 12 years ago | (#178349)

My Power Macintosh G4 Cube is about as quiet as they come. My PowerBook G4 is also quiet most of the time -- unless the cooling fan kicks in (rare). The iMac is also silent.

Or are you only looking at generic Wintel hardware? :-)

Sparkle has some good stealth powersupplies (1)

VerbalGynt (224830) | more than 12 years ago | (#178351)

PC Power and Cooling [pcpowercooling.com] has some good very quiet power supplies. I've used the 400W stealth to power a couple of peliters in my liquid box and am quite happy with it. Very quiet.

Re:Inside the cupboards (2)

Jamie Webb (230102) | more than 12 years ago | (#178353)

Has it occurred to you that all those fans are actually for cooling your computer?
If you then go and shut it away in a nearly airtight cupboard, it'll take a little longer to heat the extra space up, but it will happen unless you open the cupboard regularly. I suppose it depends on your usage habits, and how hot your system runs anyway, but personally I think I'd rather keep some airflow.

What?! They hum like angels. (1)

Sell0ut (231418) | more than 12 years ago | (#178355)

Personally, I have a hard time falling asleep if I can't hear a half dozen fans and drives periodically spinning up.

Watercooling is the key ! (1)

tempmpi (233132) | more than 12 years ago | (#178358)

Look it this previos slashdot story [slashdot.org] for an information about commercial watercooling. Even the powersupply is watercooled. Watercooling is silent and effective.

Silent Mac Runs Multiple OSs (3)

Red_Winestain (243346) | more than 12 years ago | (#178364)

I have a G4 Cube, purchased because it is silent. You have a choice of OS:
  • Mac OS 9.1
  • Mac OS X
  • OpenBSD
  • Debian GNU/Linux
  • Yellow Dog Linux
  • NetBSD
  • Windows (emulated under Mac OS)

Try water cooling (1)

ryanvm (247662) | more than 12 years ago | (#178369)

I've never had the balls (or boredom) to try it, but I know that water cooling, when done properly, is extremely quiet.

Or, if you have CPU speed to spare, you could do what I did with my cable modem router - just turn off the fans completely. It's a Pentium 166 underclocked to 120 Mhz with nothing but a big-ass heatsink on it. I also opened up the power supply and clipped one of the leads to the fan. I took before and after temperature readings and although the general temp is up, it's not a showstopper.

Of course, that's my router and I don't mind the CPU slowdown nearly as much as I would on my desktop.

Sometimes its not the fan. (2)

Astrorunner (316100) | more than 12 years ago | (#178383)

Sure it is the fan that is making the noise. But sometimes it is the environment that you run your computer in. I previously had one of my computers set up in my living room and you could hardly hear it. I moved it to another room, a much much smaller one and the noise difference was very noticable. Carpeting and other sound dampeners (curtains, etc) make a difference.

Stupid fan (1)

kcelery (410487) | more than 12 years ago | (#178395)

I have four crappy computers on my desk right in front of me, three of them with lid open. Altogether there are ten fans blowing, I did not notice much noise.

Since it is your home office why not put some background music like jazz. If that doesn't work, try heavy metal.

Re:Dell OptiPlex (1)

thongngu (446241) | more than 12 years ago | (#178403)

Couldn't agree more. We have several new Dell's at work and every single one is amazingly quiet.

that's a perfectly good answer. (2)

Urban_Exist_spork (446835) | more than 12 years ago | (#178404)

As a spork of high standards, I plan on getting a new Mac sometime by the year's end. At the least, a new iBook, at best the dual G4 533 system.

Sure beats having to house my systems in a sound-proof recording booth.

166mhz with a fan? (1)

gooberguy (453295) | more than 12 years ago | (#178415)

I have a Pentium 166 acting as a web server and it only has a fan for the power supply. It's not particularly quiet, but the CPU only needs a huge heatsink. I know that even some Pentium 3's running at 500mhz don't have fans on them, but use the power supply fan to move air over the CPU and help cool it. You shouldn't need to underclock your computer to turn the fan off if it is a Pentium 166. An AMD will make a little more heat and may need to be slowed down a little, though.

D/\ Gooberguy

G4 Cube Operating Sound Level is 4 Decibels (1)

PghFox (453313) | more than 12 years ago | (#178416)

I have an Apple G4 Cube [apple.com]. It's perfectly silent. Infact, there is no audible distinction in the level of sound it makes between when it's asleep and awake. It uses convection cooling. And with OS X it's a perfectly POSIX compliant OS. Think of it as Linux or more specifically FreeBSD with a *really* clean, elegant and efficient window/desktop manager.

Hard Disk Drives are noisy (2)

mrm677 (456727) | more than 12 years ago | (#178422)

I believe that Hard Drives cause the most noise inside a computer...especially the annoying high-frequency spin noise.

Here are a couple ideas:

1) use a Pentium rather than AMD. Yes, I know that AMD gives you better bang for the buck and is the preferred processor for slashdot people. But the fact is, Pentiums dissipate much less heat than Athlons. You shouldn't need an extra high-powered CPU fan with a Pentium
2) Don't use 7200 RPM hard disk drives! They are higher-pitched!! Ok...that may be silly. But you can look at the tech-specs for many different hard drives and they will give the noise output. Use that data when you select a hard drive for your system
3) Don't mount the hard drive directly on the metal chassis. The metal acts like a soundboard. Put a piece of cardboard in between.
4) Get a case that uses only 1 fan for both the power supply and the CPU. I have a Dell 4100 that does this.
5) Forget the above and buy an iMac!!

Use a KVM Extender (1)

McClimans (457280) | more than 12 years ago | (#178425)

I have all of my noisy, overclocked, large box fan strapped on both sides computers in a shed outside. Stuck a window unit (AC) in it and ran cat5e into the house from there. Using a KVM extender+switch I control all equipment in the shed from one monitor keyboard and mouse in my office sans the noise. To get a dual headed effect I use an NCD Xterminal as my second screen using x2x to move my mouse/keyboard control back and forth. KVM extenders have gotten really nice now. USB,Serial, and Sound are now extended so you can attached devices on the extended end. The only noise I have is my printer (Xerox Laser connected to an intel print server) which I tend to turn off when not in use. -chris

Re:Koolance Cases - from someone who knows (1)

weis_23 (457286) | more than 12 years ago | (#178426)

First off, last I heard, Koolance is waiting for a new production run to solve a problem with gas forming in the reservoir and popping one of the hoses off (spraying the inside of your case). I know this because I got a prevue case and it did, indeed spray my case, although miraculously, all my components were fine.

Second of all, I don't think they're doing the water-cooled p/s anymore. But even with a fancooled p/s and the fans cooling the reservoir (which are tiny) the thing was no louder than a whisper. Definitely the solution to noise, and an awesome case, as soon as they get some that don't blow up. weishaupt I put some notes on my experience up at http://www.penismightier.com/main.php?start=1358

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