For the last three years I've never paid much attention to the noise level from my PC. Last year I started dabbling in audio recording and found I needed to use the laptop because of noise level. More recently, I had it in the apartment for a couple'a weeks, and my wife complained that it's loud. It's actually quiet compared to my previous machine, but in fact it is loud, and now I hear it all the time.
It's the fans, the SATA drives are quiet enough. I installed SpeedFan 4.40 and did some research on my motherboard, an MSI P6N SLI Platinum, and found out that it doesn't control the fan speeds very well, except the CPU. (MSI's Dual Core Center utility is, as an interface... well, my grandma tells me, "If you can't say something nice about someone, don't say anything at all.") So the best approach is to use a fan controller; in fact, with a good controller this is possibly the better approach even if the mobo did vary fan speeds.
The case is a Lian-Li PC 60A Plus II, which has fans on the front, rear, side, and top. The PSU is an Enermax 600W Noisetaker II, with two fans. The CPU heat-sink fan is a Coolermaster HyperTX, and seems to do its job well and quietly. The graphics card is an eVGA e-GeForce 8800GTS. That's eight noisemakers, five of which are easily regulable. Rivatuner could control the GPU. I've lots of room to work with the CPU, system, and case—the temps of both CPU cores read at or below room temperature, and only go up to 30°C when doing some light gaming. System temp sits around 37/38°C.
I haven't been able to do much without hardware. I spent some time with the case open listening, then systematically shut down, unplugged fans and listened again. It seems the graphics-card and case fans are the noisiest—one, I think the rear fan, turns at 2500rpm. The CPU and PSU fans are fairly quiet. Nevertheless, I used the BIOS to enable reducing the CPU fan speed. It allows a min speed setting (now set at 25%) and regulates based on the max allowed temp (provisionally set to 50°C). I also replaced the 120mm front fan with a SilenX 14dBa that's been lying around. I wanted it to replace the noisier side-panel fan, but it's too thick. The result: hardly noticeable difference in the noise level when the CPU fan reduces from 1600 rpm (100%) to 567 rpm (on the 25% setting), it's of course still loud. This brings the core temp at idle up by only 6°C. According to Rivatuner, the GPU fan is set at 60% and keeps the GPU temp around 54–60°C. Probably can't do much with it when playing games, but it might be reducible for low loads.
For the time being I am not overclocking, but this will follow within the year.
The point of this post is that a fan controller could go a long way to making my PC quieter, and although I've looked at several (one, two, three), I'd love some recommendations. Here are the basic wants and needs:
Must allow for smooth regulation of at least four fan speeds; six a plus
Need not regulate the CPU fan, the mobo seems to do this well
Automatic regulation based on temperatures is big plus, as would a robust, functioning temp alarm. Because I can be forgetful.
Manual regulation could be acceptable, though it's obviously more effort, and I almost forgot—I can be forgetful. Of course, I don't mind full fan speeds during heavy gaming at all, but if the unit can take care of that for me, great.
The less light it puts out, the better. I neither need nor want bling, but accept it as collateral damage. In other words, a display is only desirable if there really is no other way for me to react to alarms. Otherwise, it should do its job without intruding on my consciousness.
Reporting of 2–3 fan speeds to the motherboard or wherever needed for an application to read it is a plus
If you can set me straight on any of these points, please do. And hard-earned tips on fan control are very welcome!
Whenever I upgrade my system, this one will probably come into the apartment, though probably not the case; if, that is, I can master the noise level. And maybe I can even record with it.
First, the cpu heatsink fan must be plugged into the cpu_fan connection on the motherboard. If it is not connected the system will not work.
The power management section in the system BIOS can be used to control the cpu heatsink fan and perhaps several case fans. The number of case fans that can be control in BIOS varies. There is no set standard for the number of fans that can be controlled.
The video card fan can be controlled with a utility that usually comes with the video card. For example, the ATI Catalyst Control Center (CCC) has fan speed settings that can be adjusted.
In my own situation the speed of the cpu heatsink fan and the exhaust fan on the rear panel are set to run in sync. The video card fan is also set to auto adjust. My Lian Li / Lancool Dragon Lord case also come with 3 low rpm, 140mm case fans. I connected them to the power supply and let them run at full speed. Due to the lower rpm the are not as noisy.
For the typical user a 1200rpm cpu heatsink fan seems to be the sweet spot. It is not necessary to install a high rpm fan unless you are a hardcore gamer into serious overclocking.
Here is a link to an excellent web site with useful information about quiet pc fans:
I've been reading reviews on a number of fan controllers, and mark_k, it's pretty clear that your experience with a fan controller depends heavily on how and how well it does the job. That's why I was hoping for recommendations. My machine isn't running hot with 8 fans nearly all full blast, so again I have room to play with and heat problems shouldn't be big (as long as I remember to crank them when gaming).
JL, recall that I "did some research on my motherboard, an MSI P6N SLI Platinum, and found out that it doesn't control the fan speeds very well, except the CPU." What I meant is that my mobo controls only the CPU fan. The BIOS reports two additional speeds, but can't control them. Otherwise, I probably wouldn't be shopping for a controller. Concerning the CPU heatsink fan, I can choose a low setting (around 800rpm or lower) and the CPU temps stay in the 30s (I haven't calibrated yet), so the mobo can already keep it quiet.
The gpu temp runs about 55°C on idle, which is set at 60% speed, so I don't plan to play with it aggressively, although a little difference might go a long way. I'll have to see.
I think some of the biggest noisemakers are my 80 mm fans on the top and side panels. As an experiment I disconnected all four of my case fans, leaving only the CPU, GPU, and the two fans in the PSU. The GPU seemed to be the biggest culprit, but the machine was far quieter. It was the first time the hard-drive noise ever started to bother me!
So it seems for normal use, even a simple fan controller will do. I'm still debating whether to get one that reports fan speeds or even has alarms. That would be potentially useful on a future machine that I overclock. I'll report back whenever I get something.
I ended up ordering the Scythe Kaze Server fan controller. Unfortunately, it won't arrive for another 2–3 weeks, but once it does I will update this thread with my impressions.
Thanks for all the good info. I'm going through exactly the same decision-making process, and I'll be interested to hear your thoughts on the Scythe Kaze Server, as I'm looking at both it and the NZXT Sentry 2.