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How To Get Your Gaming PC Running Quietly?

simoniker posted more than 10 years ago | from the so-you-can-blare-loud-sfx dept.

Games 62

Thanks to Penny Arcade for its 'Hook Up' column discussing ways to build your gaming PC to run as quietly as possible. The author indicates: "I was able to reduce my Tiny God's noise level by over 30dB (!) measured with my RadioShack SPL meter", and goes on to list ways to silence components such as power supplies ("...the power hungry components that an elite gamer uses... can be extremely noisy") and fans of various kinds ("it's often a toss-up between your CPU fan and your PSU cooler in regards to which one is the loudest"), before pointing out: "You might have 1,000 watts of power driving your speakers, but sometimes nothing beats the sound of silence."

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Heil Hitler! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8863253)

Heil Hitler!

hint: look for the power plug (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8863287)

Look for the power plug. Pull it out of the wall. Your gaming PC is now rather silent. Still trying to think of games that can be played on it once you enable "perfect silence mode" this way.

Re:hint: look for the power plug (1)

Carnildo (712617) | more than 10 years ago | (#8863754)

Still trying to think of games that can be played on it once you enable "perfect silence mode" this way.

Target shooting?

Re:hint: look for the power plug (1)

Enrico Pulatzo (536675) | more than 10 years ago | (#8866320)

Whack-a-mole? Weight lifting is a sport so that's almost a game.

Re:hint: look for the power plug (1)

ooby (729259) | more than 10 years ago | (#8875754)

Chess, checkers, tic tac toe, or any other board game.

Alternatively... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8863350)

Just use very long cables and keep the box as far away as possible from your precious ears.

Noisy to quiet in $90 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8863451)

Step 1) Buy an Antec Sonata case
Step 2) Transfer hardware from ugly ass non-sound-dampening case to Sonata
Step 3) Get freaked out when you think you broke your comp because you can't hear anything anymore =)

Re:Noisy to quiet in $90 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8864331)

Interesting, but too expensive for my tastes.

The Hook Up (4, Insightful)

yupchagi (743389) | more than 10 years ago | (#8863478)

Good article. He points out that Dynamat isn't very good for sound absorbtion since it isn't designed for higher frequencies (white noise from fans). It also insulates heat too well, and would make your PC case dangerously hot. It's interesting that Dynamat has repackaged their product to make a "Computer Dynamat Pack" or whatever. What a bunch of corporate whores. His previous column on iPods was intriguing as well. Anyone read that?

Re:The Hook Up (1)

GoofyBoy (44399) | more than 10 years ago | (#8868396)

>His previous column on iPods was intriguing as well. Anyone read that?

Why wouldn't cellphones be a better modern-day katana? You can customize/detail them more so they are more uniquely special items. In fact, considering they give you almost instantanous communications around the world, they would be more "magical" than iPods.

Re:The Hook Up (1)

yupchagi (743389) | more than 10 years ago | (#8898768)

everybody has a cellphone. They aren't an indication of any sort of cultural/economic/social status any longer. Shit man, they are detonators for roadside bombs nowadays they are so expendable. Not very analogous to katanas.

easy way (3, Informative)

schapman (703722) | more than 10 years ago | (#8863485)

its easy to get a near silent pc: case: antec sonanta (quit psu, drives on rubber grommets, fans use rubber dealies so they dont vibrate case, and their are 2 fan only connectors to control fan speed for the 2 120mm fans you can put in.) fans: 2x vantec stealth... quiet, good airflow cpu: zalman flower gpu zalman crazy big but silent heatpipe cooler. and if you are really board... you can seal the "antec" holes that they use for psu air inflow, and widen the front intake a bit. and maybe some dynamat for the case covers. The only noise I hear out of mine now, is the hard drive click, and the cdroms when they spin up.

Re:easy way (2, Informative)

Rob Parkhill (1444) | more than 10 years ago | (#8863835)

I have the Sonata case, and the 12cm case fan it comes with is too noisy. Had to drop some cash on a quieter case fan.

The PSU fan is variable speed, and at top speed is also rather noisy. Adding a second case fan at the front helps keep the PSU fan spinning a bit slower.

And the rubber mounts for the drives were a bit dissapointing. I don't notice any difference between the rubber mounds and plain old solid mounts.

But the case sure is shiny, and I appreciate that.

I think for the same price, you could get a Zalman PSU, a couple of nice case fans, and a decent tower case that would be quieter than the Sonata out of the box. But it wouldn't shine as much.

Re:easy way (2, Interesting)

realdpk (116490) | more than 10 years ago | (#8864295)

I have the Sonata as well. I recently put the Zalman GPU heatpipe in the case, replacing the then noisiest component with silence.

After that, the most noise was coming from the case fan. What I did with that was rewire a power plug to provide 7V (swap the fan's ground and +5V). It's much quieter now.

At this point, the noisiest thing, as far as I can tell, is the northbridge fan. Unfortunately there isn't room for Zalman's NB heatsink there because of the CPU heatsink (all copper, huge). I'm tempted to try out one of those peltier(sp) coolers for it - they sell 'em at Fry's, for 486's and the like, which is just about the right size.

Re:easy way (2, Informative)

malejko (216594) | more than 10 years ago | (#8864467)

You did plug the rear case fan into the 'fan only' power plug, right? If not, yes - the rear fan is loud. If you did, then the rear fan is pretty quiet.

The rubber mounts only do some good for hard drives and such that really vibrate. Most newer ones don't seem to have that problem anymore.

Shiny Shiny!

I am still pretty happy with my sonata - the other computers near it have needed quietening just to try and compete now.

Re:easy way (1)

Rob Parkhill (1444) | more than 10 years ago | (#8868791)

Yup, the case fan is plugged into the variable speed case fan plug. But it almost always runs at full speed because of the Athlon 2400+ and the PVR-250 in there generating stupid amounts of heat.

A quieter case fan definately helps out.

Re:easy way (1)

malejko (216594) | more than 10 years ago | (#8871645)

... and hence why I've reverted back to being an Intel fan-boy for the sheer quietness and lower heat dissapation. The rear fan on mine runs hella' slow and I quite like it. Sorry to hear that the Athlon and PVR are messing that up for you :-(

But I LIKE the noise! (4, Insightful)

FeetOfStinky (669511) | more than 10 years ago | (#8863554)

My home office is my sanctuary, in no small part due to the white noise generated by my computer. It's where I go to escape barking dogs, revving engines, and dumbasses who think I want to hear the bass from their car inside my house.

If anything, I should probably install more fans in my CPU case, and not because it needs the extra cooling.

Re:But I LIKE the noise! (0, Redundant)

bigman2003 (671309) | more than 10 years ago | (#8864068)

Damn- you must live in my neighborhood.

My office is the same way- 2 computers running all the time (mine, and my wife's Mac, which disappoints me whenever it hibernates).

Re:But I LIKE the noise! (1)

elasticwings (758452) | more than 10 years ago | (#8864808)

Oh come on now. You know you love it when I drive by your house and blast Ace of Base. I can hear you from inside your computer room everytime singing "Don't Turn Around."

Re:But I LIKE the noise! (2, Insightful)

Naffer (720686) | more than 10 years ago | (#8864888)

A few nights ago I shut down my computer before I climbed into bed. What followed was half an hour of errie silence. Needless to say I turned my computer right back on, turned off the monitor and went to bed.

Re:But I LIKE the noise! (1)

Myself (57572) | more than 10 years ago | (#8869689)

Same here! Houses are so close together and all the big trees are gone, any noise in the neighborhood comes through clear as a bell. I rely on the noise of my machine to cover it up, and it's very hard to relax without that. I had the hardest time sleeping during the power outage.

"He said 'The streets were dark tonight, it was like another century, with dim lamps and candles lighting up the icy trees and the clouds and a covered moon.' She said 'What kind of people make a city where you can't see the sky and you can't feel the ground?'" -- Dar Williams

Re:But I LIKE the noise! (1)

JWhiton (215050) | more than 10 years ago | (#8865420)

Yeah, I have the misfortune of living in a dorm and if I didn't have a noisy PC to generate white noise, I'd probably have gone completely insane listening to all the inevitable noise that's generated from living with this many people. Whenever I see an article like this I always wonder why anyone would want a quieter PC.

Re:But I LIKE the noise! (1)

Moofie (22272) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878603)

Er, maybe because they don't need white noise to drown out the inevitable noise that's generated from living with that many people? Because they don't live in a dorm?

I mean, it's a wild ass guess, but maybe other people have priorities and desires that are different then yours. Nah, can't be it. I must have the Space Madness.

Re:But I LIKE the noise! (1)

sindarin2001 (583716) | more than 10 years ago | (#8905310)

Yeah, but sometimes even that isn't enough to drown out the worst of dorm neighbors. During my freshman year, I go the priveledge of living next to 2 football players. They were loud (and that's ignoring the stange bumping and moaning when they were both home)...but one night they came home drunk and cranked their stereo with crappy rap music. Now I don't normally mind during the day, but waking up at 2:00 in the morning to aweful "music" is just plain grating. Then they passed out. Our RA was out of town that weekend, and the substitute RA didn't have the authority to enter the room without the concent of the occupants, who were passed out drunk. Needless to say the stereo played the rest of the night. Now that I look back, I wonder if they were ever even talked to about it.

And this was the same floor that the cleaning people refused to clean for a whole month. And the same floor where a bathroom stall was kicked in, the soap dispensor ripped off the wall, and the shower curtains and rods were stolen (not just broken). Ah the joys of a college education. Boy am I glad I moved off campus :)

My solution (5, Insightful)

fluor2 (242824) | more than 10 years ago | (#8863577)

You need
1 x USB extension coord
1 x VGA-cable extension coord
1 x sound extension coord
1 x PS/2 keyboard extension coord
1 x nearby room with a door

Basically, I just moved the PC in behind a nearby door. Making the PC make it's noise in another room. You can of course also use a closet or similar.

This makes the PC go almost 100% quiet, and you do not have to invest into an expensive fan or similar stuff.

I seem not to use the cd-rom any more, but some of you that DO use cd-rom (or other hardware devices) may be prepared to walk some steps each time one has to change the cd or similar (i use nocd-cracks or daemon tools anyways).

Re:My solution (1)

elmegil (12001) | more than 10 years ago | (#8863666)

Why not get a USB hub and USB CDROM drive and keep it out there with you? Oh yeah, the CDROM does whir an awful lot, doesn't it?

Re:My solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8863721)

A closet is the obvious solution as using another room will just pollute that room.

However, closets tend to have very poor ventilation. A computer puts out a crapload of heat and would quickly heat any typical closet. So you're looking at more fans (noise) and stuff. I dunno, it just doesn't seem very attractive for the average person.

Quieting the computer seems like the better solution (except for price).

Re:My solution (2, Insightful)

Cthefuture (665326) | more than 10 years ago | (#8864158)

1 x VGA-cable extension coord

Or if you're on DVI then you can get a much better signal over a longer distance.

Re:My solution (1)

SST-206 (699646) | more than 10 years ago | (#8866784)

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought DVI cables had a maximum length of 10m and long ones cost $80. I'm sure the signal would be better preserved than with analogue VGA, but the cost is a problem.

Cheers, Malc

Re:My solution (1)

elasticwings (758452) | more than 10 years ago | (#8864840)

I'm working on a fix to the CON. At first, I thought about using my girlfriend's dog, but I wasn't quite sure it was up to the skill of the task. So then, I figured I would teach my cats to change the cd's. They've picked up the lesson quite well, but unfortunately, I forgot that cats are evil sadistic bastards. Now, they've learned they can piss me off by taking out the disc everytime I'm in the middle of watching a DVD.


Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8865728)

LOL OMG that is teh funnay

Re:My solution (1)

cybermace5 (446439) | more than 10 years ago | (#8867147) the neighborhood of $50-70 at inflated cable prices depending on desired length, assuming you have no other peripherals you want to use, but you don't have ready access to your computer, you have a lot of cables snaking across a room, and the computer is just noisy over in that other room. Doesn't a $90 quiet case seem like a decent deal now?

Re:My solution (1)

TheRoachMan (677330) | more than 10 years ago | (#8867792)

What you could do is just make 1:1 images of your cd-roms and store them on your HD, then use Alcohol 120% or some other software to mount the image on a virtual cd-rom drive instead of putting the cd-rom in your physical cd-rom drive. It would consume alot of space on your HD, but perhaps it's not a bad idea, considering that it's always good to have back-ups of your precious expensive store-bought software ;) Most if not all cd-rom checks can be cracked, and most if not all copy-protections can be circumvented using the right tools. Blind-read and blind-write are good, and so is Alcohol 120% or CloneCD.

Re:My solution (1)

Echnin (607099) | more than 10 years ago | (#8881084)

He already said he's using Daemon Tools. Daemon Tools is easier to use than Alcohol 120%.

Mini HOW-TO (5, Informative)

ll1234 (167894) | more than 10 years ago | (#8863689)

Swapping out HDs makes a big difference and is one of the less invasive upgrades towards a quieter PC. I replaced a Western Digital 60 GB drive with a Samsung (who knew they made HDs?) and the noise/whine difference is substantial. I could hear the WD spin up at startup from the next room (wwwwwwhhhhhhhEEEEEEEEE!) and it continually produced a high-pitch whine while idle. The Samsung produces imperceptible levels of noise at startup or idle and its seek chatter is very low.

Thermalright [] makes heatsinks. Or more accurately, "massive machined chunks of copper". There's a reason many of their models require bolts to install, they'd pull the socket right out of the motherboard without the additional support. The heatsinks are great besides the heft because they don't include an integrated fan, you can buy a quiet 92mm Panaflo or Pabst fan and quietly cool even top-end CPUs.

Installing a fan controller helps squeeze the last few decibels out of the case, but you might run into the problem of the controller producing a rapid clicking noise at low voltages (the Vantec NXP-201 suffers from this problem, but is dirt cheap). SpeedFan [] is a software fan controller, but I've never quite figured out its usage.

A PC with a low noise floor makes listening to music more enjoyable as the dynamic range comes through without having to crank of the volume to drown out the fans.

To hangout with the hardcore "suspending harddrives with elastic / undervolting motherboards / 0 db computer" crowd visit Silent PC Review [] .

Re:Mini HOW-TO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8863868)

That clicking noise from the technique they used to reduce the voltage, but on other fan buses that use another method there is no such clicking (or anything). A fanbus is one of the best things you can really do, I just wouldn't put my cpu fan on it (keep it on the mobo header).

Re:Mini HOW-TO (1)

Joe5678 (135227) | more than 10 years ago | (#8864219)

Samsung drives are the best. They are dead quiet, they run super cool compared to just about any other brand, they're one of the few hard drives that you can still get a 3 year warranty on, and they're built really well too (I dropped on from about 4 feet onto linoleum and it worked fine)

ROAR (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 10 years ago | (#8865595)

I crank the volume anyway, and when I don't, I'm not listening to music, and the roar of my beast of a computer comforts me.

Kind of like the internal combustion engine. Probably when we're all using super-vacuum-cooled, silent, 2 degree kelvin quantum computers, I'll record the fan noise from this baby and play it through my headphone implants.

I will be called everything from nostalgic to relic, but I won't be able to hear it over the fans.

Re:ROAR (1)

Myself (57572) | more than 10 years ago | (#8868173)

You could always play the sounds of an internal combustion engine [] through the speakers.

On a side note, has anyone considered mounting a handful of small speaker/mic pairs around the case, and doing active noise cancellation?

Good tips there! (2)

cjmnews (672731) | more than 10 years ago | (#8863736)

It might be a good idea to use them especially for LAN parties. You forget how loud all those systems are until you make a Subway run for dinner. When you come back, the noise seems unbearable until you get back into the thick of the game.

For those of you that were going to respond: "fan noise at a LAN party? I can't hear my fan over my speakers!", we ban speakers from our LAN parties due to conflicting noises from people who get separated makes for a confusing experience. Bring headphones and keep the volume down if you have to have sound.

Wonderful (1)

empaler (130732) | more than 10 years ago | (#8864455)

- as I believe it is only sons of unwashed whores [] who use speakers at LAN parties, let alone deafening out their fans.


(-2 Troll, Offtopic)

Re:Good tips there! (1)

evil-osm (203438) | more than 10 years ago | (#8864528)

Bring headphones and keep the volume down if you have to have sound.

Woohoo! Where do you host your lan parties? From the sound of it, you guys don't like to use sound at your lan parties, but you'll tolorate those who do. Mind if I join? I promise I won't use the sound to my advantage *that* much ;)

Re:Good tips there! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8874609)

Err... Back when I played Duke Nukem 3D against my brother and sisters we had a balancing mechanism that was rather simple. The one using the 486 used headphones/no sound, the one using the pentium had to have the speakers on at a decent volume. Hearing the ambient sounds of your opponent lets you know where it is. Having sound is hardly an advantage.

Another tip (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8865537)

Be sure to get sealed headphones to isolate your ears from the environment. You wouldn't want to go deaf just because you had to turn the volume up all the way to drown out the drone from the computers.

Best site around (4, Informative)

evil-osm (203438) | more than 10 years ago | (#8863841)

These guys here [] have great products and ship all over.

Great article (1)

pyro jackelope (771283) | more than 10 years ago | (#8863967)

That is a great article. I myself have had lots of problems with noisy computers. I've tried everything from new fans to power supplies, etc. With my luck, these all broke rather quickly of course -_-. It was an old computer and I got tired of replacing parts constantly so I basically did something like this and bought a new computer. Happy days!

Re:Great article (1)

pyro jackelope (771283) | more than 10 years ago | (#8864003)

Ack, "this" was in reference to a movie. My link didn't work for some reason ^_^. Lets try again - link []

Hard Drive noise (2, Insightful)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 10 years ago | (#8864098)

The article is focused on gaming machines, and so it doesn't mention two good ways to reduce hard drive noise that might be important for machines in other settings (such as for a PVR).

One is a mounting bracket made by Zalman [] that includes rubber bumpers that fit between the bracket and the case. This prevents the transmission of noise from the drive to the case, which is much more likely to have some surface that resonates at the frequencies produced by hard drive seeks. The downside is that your case is actually a pretty good heatsink for your hard drives, and unless you get a good quiet low-flow fan to blow over the copper bars on this bracket, you can expect HD temps a few degrees celsius higher than normal.

Another way to reduce HD noise during seeks is to activate the "noise reduction" feature that a lot of modern hard drives have. This feature increases seek time in order to reduce seek noise. If you're running Linux, hdparm has a switch to adjust the NR setting for your hard drives.

Quite simple, really... (0, Troll)

Rew190 (138940) | more than 10 years ago | (#8864266)

Get a mac.

... oh wait.

A Good Place to get Quiet PC Parts (1)

Q-Mont (761460) | more than 10 years ago | (#8864309)

Try looking around here [] .

Check your GPU fan! (1)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 10 years ago | (#8864421)

Really, check your GPU fan, because mine is much noisier than my CPU, at least when idle.
PS. I don't have one of those monster GF-FX ;)

Re:Check your GPU fan! (1)

PainKilleR-CE (597083) | more than 10 years ago | (#8867629)

This is true; ever since I picked up a GF-FX Ultra, I haven't heard anything else in my PC (well, except the CDs spinning up).

Phase inversion? (2, Interesting)

Thedalek (473015) | more than 10 years ago | (#8864813)

It seems to me that it would be trivial to rig a small microphone and speaker to the CPU and play a phase-inverted version of the sound.

For those who may not have run across the concept before, the basic concept is this: For any soundwave, there is an inverse soundwave. This inverse sounds identical by itself, but when played at the same time as the original, the result is silence.

At any rate, there's probably a terribly good reason I've not heard about this concept being applied to PC-muffling, and if so, I'd love to hear it.

Re:Phase inversion? (3, Interesting)

AnotherFreakboy (730662) | more than 10 years ago | (#8865450)

Phase inverters have a small delay in them. When a noise is constant phase inverters work well, as you can predict changes in the noise and have the inverted version ready, but PC components produce more or less random noise, so a phase inverter works poorly, if at all, and may make the problem worse.

Loud piece of Hardware (2, Interesting)

elasticwings (758452) | more than 10 years ago | (#8864880)

At my work, we have on one of our machines a Nakamichi 5 cd changer. That thing is horrifically loud. And it's really nice when you do something in Windows (like open My Computer) that pulls up all the drives. Click Click 5-6 times as it goes thru every freaking disc in the changer. I hate that drive. It's like a 2-3 minute process everytime I make and accidental drive check. Even if you go to the shutdown screen and cancel.

water cooling (2, Insightful)

Lucia_Inverse (626540) | more than 10 years ago | (#8864920)

i foronce have some insight on this matter! i recently went from a case with a couple 5700 rpm 80x80x38 mm fans that sounded like a jet turbine to a watercooling system.... i also have adjustable fan nobs on just about everything in the system... i can go from insane cooling to just crazy cooling and its SOOO quiet. its a bit expensive and a tad bit umm "intresting" to install but once its in and running right its VERY quiet (i even put a bigger pump in so it could be even quieter than it currently is) well i hope that was helpful!

Re:water cooling (1)

_Neurotic (39687) | more than 10 years ago | (#8867827)

I have to agree. Watercooling is a sure way to quiet things down, especially if you're overclocking and therefore using monster fans on your CPU and GPU. I bought a Koolance Exos [] and was able to get rid of the fans on my CPU, GPU and one blowing over my overclocked memory since case temps are way down. Went from listening to an airplane to listening to my hard drives.

Re:water cooling (1)

_Neurotic (39687) | more than 10 years ago | (#8867843)

Forgot to post the obligatory [] pics. []

What I did (2, Interesting)

metalhed77 (250273) | more than 10 years ago | (#8866052)

A quiet PC is pretty simple.

The CPU:
I run an OCed Barton 2600+ (OCed to 3000+ @ 200 FSB) with an SLK947-U and a quiet fan on the heatsink. Running the fan throttled to around 65 i get decent temps AND it overclocks flawlessly.

The Disks:
2 7200 RPM hard disks sitting on the bottom of my case on top of some foam. This keeps them from vibrating the case, which amplifies the noise considerably. The samsung SP80N ( i think) really is a quiet disc AND has a 3 yr warranty!

The Graphics Card:
Just a stock powercolor radeon 9700pro, I don't really have any sound problems with it.

The Case:
I just put some old T-Shirts on the sides of the inside of my case. I have good ventillation with 2 throttled fans, one intake (filtered) one outtake. They have a somewhat audible air moving noise, but the fan motors are pretty much silent (good quality fans). Wooshing air doesn't bother me, but I could easily get rid of that were I to have my computer in a room that doesn't seem to be hotter than the temperature outside. (2, Informative)

KozmoStevnNaut (630146) | more than 10 years ago | (#8866583)

You might want to take a look at [] .

Be warned, though... They are quite obsessed, and some of them have gone to extremes in their quest for silence. But their reviews are very well-written, and the forum is a great source of help and advice.

alternatively (1)

WormholeFiend (674934) | more than 10 years ago | (#8867892)

I think it was on slashdot that I once read about this guy who built a soundproofed cabinet for his PC, which could be easily opened for access to his cd/dvd drive...

that's an option I'm looking at right now

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