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Silent Challenge

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April 18, 2006 1:31:38 PM

I want to see tomshardware.com build a PC that is almost silent that can easily play today’s latest and greatest games. I realize that the hard drives will always make some kind of noise, but I would love to see almost everything else passively cooled. Can it be done? (Without using the Zalman TNN system (to expensive)) Will you write an article and take this challenge?
I have thought about using water cooling, but it seems like to much work to maintain.

Thanks,
and I hope someone can anwser this Challenge!

This is an edit:
one thing that i posted later, is that im useing a Shuttle SN95G5 V2 and space isn't something i have much of. makes this alittle harder now doesn't it?

More about : silent challenge

April 18, 2006 2:14:18 PM

Hi Zuboloma,

In response to your questions, here are my answers:

1) You can try to relocate the PC. I know this is far fetched and unorthodox, but it can do amazing things to the noise level. I've had friends who hid the box in a cupboard with cut outs at the back for cables and voila, no noise.

2) Ensure that you don't over do it on fans. Far too many people use so many fans in their cases. Cut down the fans to only those you really need.

3) Force the hard disk to spin down to cut down on noise. There are options for doing this in Windows XP. Check it out.

If you want to find out more about reducing noise from a PC, then read this article.
April 18, 2006 2:46:13 PM

Thanks for the info!

i have allready tryed moving my computer to a different location which played slightly, but after looking into the problem a bit more, it seems that the VGA stoke cooler is the source of most the noise. unfortanly i use a shuttle PC sn95g5 v2, and don't have the room inside the case to add a new cooler, i have been looking for an external vga cooler that isn't a water tower, a product like this doesn't seem to be out there. i was thinking about building a soundproof box around the computer, since it is so small, but i am super worryed about heat.
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April 18, 2006 3:57:07 PM

My computer is so silent I can't tell if it is working or not. Here are few hints:

-If you need a fan, mount it with rubber pins, prevents noise to get to the case.
-Water cool, take all the heat out you can with water.
-Hard disks can be shoved in a noise box that will conduct heat to the frame.
-Turn on sound management on the hard disk, if you can still hear it (with linux it's easy)
-The pump can cool itself so you can isolate it from the case and surround it with noise insulation.

I have exactly 1 fan in my whole computer, it is temperature controlled basically doesn't come up. My radiator and Power supply are also Fanless.

I most probably need to find a better water block for my North bridge, it is the only one going over 35C even when working.


I hear the next door neighbors TV and radio more than my PC.
April 18, 2006 8:44:35 PM

nice setup, but you have to understand that there a lot of us that just cannot afford with water solutions. we'll have to do our best with air coolings. recently i replaced my vga stock cooler with zalman vf700cu at low rpm setting, i could hardly hear the noise coming from the vga cooler now. next i'm planning on replacing the mobo's fan with a zalman's passive chipset heatsink. working hard towards a "silent" pc. :lol: 
April 18, 2006 9:00:38 PM

One idea I had was to use copper bars and bolt it to the case itself, placing a huge heatsink outside the case. In theory it should even work. You could go to your electronic hobby store and get massive heatsinks.
April 18, 2006 10:11:11 PM

Quote:
Can it be done?

Easy.

(1) passive CPU cooling: Scythe Ninja / Sonic Tower. If you do need to fit a fan a good 120mm won't have to run fast and so won't be audible. You could also consider undervolting.
(2) Zalman do a passive Northbridge cooler
(3) Samsung Spinpoint HD's are completely silent.
(4) quiet PSU: Seasonic S12 @ whatever power you need.
(5) quiet GPU's I don't know about - I'm not a gamer

None of this requires any significant extra expense, assuming you weren't planning on buying a $10 PSU.
April 19, 2006 2:54:14 AM

What you need is this site:
SilentPCReview.com Forums
***WARNING*** Reading the Contents found on the preceding link may cause an unhealthy obsession with ending PC noise, possibly manifesting itself in detrimental amounts of PC related spending in addition to the unnatural habit you already posses as evidenced by your membership to this forum. :wink:
a b ) Power supply
April 19, 2006 7:47:54 AM

Quote:
What you need is this site:
SilentPCReview.com Forums
***WARNING*** Reading the Contents found on the preceding link may cause an unhealthy obsession with ending PC noise, possibly manifesting itself in detrimental amounts of PC related spending in addition to the unnatural habit you already posses as evidenced by your membership to this forum. :wink:


The warning is no joke, I got sucked into SPCR last year and I'm an active poster (under a different name).

If you are building a PC with new parts the best thing to do is to select the correct hard drive:

1) Samsung's Spinpoint have a reputation for being the quietest consumer hard drives for sale. They are 1 - 2dBA quieter than their nearest competitor which is Hitatchi IIRC.

2) The capacity of the drive and the number of platters is also important. Drives with large capacities means they have more than 1 platter. More platters means more noise and more heat. More heat means internal temperatures increases, thus require fans to spin at higher RPMs to exhaust the extra heat. More platters means more heads clicking away to search for the data. The largest single platter drive is 160GM from either Hitachi or Samsung, can't remember.

3) Rotational speed also comes into play. Just like fans, the higher the RPMs the louder the drive will be. The fastest hard drive to consider is 7200rpms.

4) The physical size of the drive also matters. 2.5 " Notebook drives are quieter than the desktop versions, but only just came out with 7200rpm drives recently. This drives will be noiser than the typical 5400rpm notebook drives. Two other limitations of notebook drives are that they have limited capacity compared to the desktop version and they are more expensive on a per GB basis.

5) You can use hard drive enclosures that can help in both cooling and quieting 3.5" drives, like the Smart Drive 2002, or Nexus Black Drive-A-Way, but they require a 5.25" drive bay.

6) Suspending the hard drive in an Antec P150 will also help reduce drive noise by using "rubberbands".

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

But hard drives are just one of many components in a PC that produces noise. As mentioned before, fans are a major source of noise, and many people have more than they need or have the wrong (cheap) fans to begin with. Fans are used to cool down a system so the first thing to do is to choose the correct component when you want to build a quiet PC.

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

CPU:

The first step is to consider what CPU you want to build your PC around; AMD or Intel? I will just limit this to the desktop CPU since mobile CPU will make this a bit more complicated. First of AMD Athlon 64s are cooler than Pentium 4s. That is plain and simple, even a 65nm P4 is hotter than a 90nm Athlon. Here is one article about CPU Power Consumpttion, note at 100% burn a dual core Athlon 64 uses less power than a single core Pentium 4. The higher the power consumption the greater the heat dissipation. Intel's upcoming Conroe CPU should be much cooler than the current P4s, but how will they compare against the Athlon 64s? I found Conroe's teaser benchmarks intriging enough to postpone my upgrade to an Athlon 64 X2.

A cooler CPU allows for the use of only a heatsink to passively cool the CPU. The Scythe Ninja is a popular heatsink to passively cool up to an Athlon 64 X2 3800+. A few posters at SPCR even boasted that they can passively cool a X2 4600+, that's a bit too daring for me. A case with good airflow is a must.

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

Video Cards:

Video cards are also a major source of heat. For people who don't play games it doesn't really matter, but if you are a serious gamer you will want a powerful card. But powerful GPU consumes more watts, thus producing more heat. That's bad. This article gives power comsumption of some of the recent GPUs. The Geforce 7900 series is not in the article because they came out after the article was written. As can be seen Radeons consumes more power than the GeForce series. The 7900GT/GTX consumes 6 - 10 watts less than their 7800GT/GTX counterparts because of the die shrink from 110 to 90nm. The 7900 series are also more powerful than thier 7800 series counterparts. The 7900GT is slightly faster than the 7800GTX and also consumes less power. That's a good thing.

Just like CPUs, GPUs must be cooled. However, stock cooling solutions are, well how can I put this? LOUD. So spend the extra $30 - $50 to get an after market HSF to cool down this beast. An example would be the Zalman VF700Cu or VF900Cu. Get the all copper version since copper conducts heat better. ArticCooling is another popular after market HSF.

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

Motherboard:

Choosing the right motherboard is also important. Before I decided to postpone my next rig, I was considering the Asus A8N SLI Premium. I'm not such an avid gamer that I want two 7900GTs in my system, I chose that board because the chipset is passively cooled by heatpipes thus eliminating a noise source. Others simply replace the loud chipset HSF with a Zalman chipset heatsinjk, can't remember the model of the top of my head.

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

Hard Drives:

Hard drives. Well I already talked about them before I decided to expand my post.

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

Fans:

Fans. Most PCs will have an intake and exhaust fan. Bigger fans are better because they can move more air at slower RPMs. But not all fans are the same. Fans, even of the same size, have different characteristics so it's important to go by manufactures or brands, sometimes even by model numbers. 120mm fans are the ones to go for but which one? People who tend to build quiet PC buys fans from Nexus, Yate Loon, Papst, Panaflo (Panasonic), and Scythe among others. They can be expensive, but sometimes you get what you pay for. But that's not all, you need to control the RPM of the fans, because these fans will not be quiet when running on 12v. Speedfan is a free utility that can be downloaded to control fan speed, but it's not compatible with all motherboards. Another solution is a mechanical controller like Zalman's FanMate 2. Both solutions reduces fan voltage to about 5v to slow down the fan(s). Of course it isn't recommend to simply set the voltage to the lowest setting and expect the PC to run fine. Tweaking is necessary.

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

Power Supply:

Power Supplies - Unfortunately people tend to give the PSU very little respect. For a quiet or silent PC this component is one of the more researched items. Some PSUs are quieter than others. My default recommendation is the Seasonic S12 series. They are quiet, reliable (except with DFI mobos, but a revision is on the way), and efficient. They are also relatively expensive. Most people say, "I just want to spend $40 on a PSU" but they want it to run a power hungry Pentium 4 D and a Radeon X1900XTX. Does anyone see a problem here? Many people at SPCR are sticklers for highly efficient PSUs, anything that that fits the 80Plus program. 80Plus basically means that the PSU has been tested to have a minimum efficiency of 80% at any load. In general PSUs tend to be at their lowest efficiency at low loads, Seasonic S12s meets this requirement and is at their most efficient at around 55% to 90% of it's total wattage. The lower the efficiency the greater amount of heat the PSU will produce and much of that heat is dumped into the PC case. Thus, fans need to spin faster to exhaust the heat.

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

Cases:

I mentioned the Antec P150 case before. That and the Antec P180 cases are both popular over at SPCR because they have good airflow and prevents some noise from escaping. I personally have the Cool Master Centurion 532. It's not on SPCR's recommend list, but it is a personal choice. I like it because the controls and ports are on top of the case instead of simply on the front, since it's a mid-tower standing on the floor the controls are easier to reach. More importantly the front has a mesh design with dust filters that allows are to flow into the case, but can also allow some noise to escape. It's a compromise.

From reading this long post, I hope that it has become evident that no single PC component will make a PC inherently loud or quiet. it is the combination of everything put together (and how much $$$ you spend) that will determine how loud/quiet a PC will be in the end.


====================

Edit: Minor Update to breakout into sections for easier reading.
April 19, 2006 8:37:12 AM

Mac Mini, anyone?

What about an Alienware or XPS laptop, they're pretty much silent surely?
a c 158 ) Power supply
April 19, 2006 11:59:32 AM

Excellent post with some great insights into building a quiet PC. Good job!
a b ) Power supply
April 19, 2006 2:03:39 PM

Quote:
Mac Mini, anyone?

What about an Alienware or XPS laptop, they're pretty much silent surely?


Mac Minis are not appropriate for everyone. Pure CPU power and internal expansions do not equate to Mac Minis.

You would think that laptops would be quiet, but without actually hearing one you will not really be able to tell. Lots of people complain the Dell Inspirons are loud considering that they are laptops. On the other hand people do consider Dell Latitudes to be quiet compared to the Inspirons, but these laptops are geared towards businesses.

Notebooks have their limitations when it comes to DTR (desktop replacement), they are general more expensive especially if you're looking for one who's GPU can be upgraded. Most GPUs are integrated into the motherboard so the only way to upgrade to better graphics is to buy a totally new laptop. nVidia's MXM solution offers users the ability to upgrade the GPU. However, only more expensive laptops will have the MXM feature which offers users the ability to swap out an older mobile GPU for a newer one. Running Crossfire and SLI is impossible on a laptop.

Other limits includes memory, 2GB max on notebooks as far as I know. Space for only one hard drive. Integrated audio, yuck! No overclocking is possible, that usually means adding a bigger and better HSF. Ummm... where can you fit that in a laptop?
April 19, 2006 2:08:40 PM

Quote:
Mac Minis are not appropriate for everyone. Pure CPU power and internal expansions do not equate to Mac Minis


Yup, agreed.
April 19, 2006 3:48:35 PM

Quote:
One idea I had was to use copper bars and bolt it to the case itself, placing a huge heatsink outside the case. In theory it should even work. You could go to your electronic hobby store and get massive heatsinks.


that's a pretty cool idea...excuse the pun.
a b ) Power supply
April 19, 2006 6:57:57 PM

Quote:
One idea I had was to use copper bars and bolt it to the case itself, placing a huge heatsink outside the case. In theory it should even work. You could go to your electronic hobby store and get massive heatsinks.


that's a pretty cool idea...excuse the pun.

Ever touch the PC case? Does it feel very warm or hot? The exhaust fans typically removes a lot of heat from within the case. A PC will really need to have poor circulation for the case itself to become warm. Also, heat transfer over the air (convection) is a poor way to conduct heat.

You will need to create heatpipes that connects all the heatsink inside the PC to the walls of the case. That way heat can directly transfer from the components to the sides of the case to the proposed external heatsinks.

Not a very practical solution because everytime you change a component you will need to modify the heatpipes.
April 19, 2006 7:03:39 PM

Jag-
I kind of envisioned a case that was in actuallity a huge heatsink...made of copper or something similar. heatpipes running off of the heat-producing components that lead to the case....kind of like the old air-cooled motors, where they had increased surface area.
a b ) Power supply
April 21, 2006 6:58:48 AM

Quote:
Jag-
I kind of envisioned a case that was in actuallity a huge heatsink...made of copper or something similar. heatpipes running off of the heat-producing components that lead to the case....kind of like the old air-cooled motors, where they had increased surface area.


Oh okay, kinda like the Zalman TNN. The very case the OP was trying to avoid.
April 21, 2006 7:02:39 AM

That's an ugly motherfather.
April 21, 2006 11:01:13 AM

I was hoping to use the Thai-Chi Thermaltake for the same effect. I went to water cooling way... Now the AC of the building is louder...
April 21, 2006 12:01:52 PM

Quote:
I want to see tomshardware.com build a PC that is almost silent that can easily play today’s latest and greatest games.

That would be quite easy
a b ) Power supply
April 22, 2006 8:36:07 PM

Quote:
I want to see tomshardware.com build a PC that is almost silent that can easily play today’s latest and greatest games.

That would be quite easy

Here is something close, but it only uses the ATI X800 GPU.

Quiet OC'ed Pentium D 830
!