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Tips on making my PC quieter

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a b B Homebuilt system
October 8, 2011 10:50:06 PM

Hey guys,

As the title suggests i have recently been trying to make my PC as quiet as possible. I am mostly bothered about idle noise, I am looking for complete silence at idle but when gaming I don't mind it getting noisier so long as it doesn't get ridiculous. No budget as such but my current plan should cost around £500 over a few months.

First month I want to buy another GTX 460 so I can run Skyrim and BF3. I realise that SLI setups aren't exactly known for low noise but they should at least be quiet at idle which is fine. To make sure that stays cool I am thinking of buying 4 Fractal Design fans; one 120mm front intake, two 140mm top exhausts and a 140mm bottom intake. The 140mm fans are only 9db when full on and the 120mm ones are like 16db or something so I'll hook the 120mm ones up to a fan controller and leave them on low. Think I'll try and remove one of my HDD cages too so i can free up some space for my front fans.

Next month I'll buy the Corsair AX-750 or Seasonic X-760 to replace my noisy as hell XFX Core 750W. These things don't even spin their fans unless under like 400W load or if they are getting hot so they should be nice and quiet. The high efficiency and modular cables is going to be nice too, shame they're so expensive. Worth it though I think :) 

Third month (Christmas? :o ) I'm gonna buy a Crucial M4 128GB I think. This is mainly for the performance obviously but the fact that it's much quieter than a HDD too is very nice.

Can anyone think of any better/additional ideas to get this PC to stay as quiet as possible while maintaining safe temps?

More about : tips making quieter

a b B Homebuilt system
October 9, 2011 5:53:58 AM

Turn off a CPU core, and sell your 460 for a 560ti instead of SLI'ing (AMD has even lower TDP cards if you are not brand loyal)
a c 122 B Homebuilt system
October 9, 2011 6:17:13 AM

Adding fans will not help. Replacing them may.

etk is right . If you are truly concerned with noise, SLI is not a solution. A single more powerful video card is.
Related resources
October 9, 2011 6:23:54 AM

Cry Baby.,Cry. Makes you're Mother sigh. Old enought to know better......
a b B Homebuilt system
October 9, 2011 6:45:53 AM

With 2 GPUs and so many system fans there is simply no way to make the system 'quiet', much less 'silent'. I run a very quiet machine. I have 2 120mm fans, disabled the fan in my power supply (not a problem with my airflow setup), bought a passive heatsink for my 9800GT, and a large low RPM fan for my Core2Duo. The system is still hardly what I would consider silent, but it is nice and quiet, and it stays quiet and cool even when gaming and editing.

A few tips I would try;
Water cool the GPUs. The CPU can remain air cooled if it is not severely OC'd.
Rubber grommits for the fan mounts DO make a difference! As do rubber washers for the HDD mounts (obviously not a concern with SSDs).
Tower placement is important, it must be well ventilated, but air must move away from you as air moving towards you is always louder. Physical barriers (like the desk or a cabinet) will also make a greater difference in sound than any amount of fan replacement.

As a side note, both AMD and nVidia will be releasing products relatively soon with a good bump to GPU performance, and an approximate 1/3rd less power usage. This means the next gen AMD cards (Q4?), and nVidia cards (2012) will have much better cooling potential, while still pushing major frame rates.

Personally I have my eyes on an Ivy bridge and 670GTX combo in the spring. But I suppose it will depend on AMD's offerings at the time as well. If all goes according to plan it will be my first true performance build (video editing/games), and as I am addicted to a quiet environment for editing, it may end up being my first water cooling experience. Current hardware is simply too hot to run silent without extreme measures, which is the main reason to postpone my upgrade.
a b B Homebuilt system
October 9, 2011 12:35:21 PM

Hey guys thanks for the replies.

Firstly turning off a CPU core isn't going to make a difference, the heatsink on my CPU would be fine even without a fan on it so I'm not concerned about that. I even took off the Noctua fans because they are just a little bit too noisy. This is because they seem to be at full on all the time whether I turn them down or not. I replaced them with this really quiet fan and the temps are fine.

I do realise that an SLI setup isn't exactly ideal for low noise but it seems a shame to do such a small upgrade from a GTX 460 to a GTX 560Ti. GTX 460 SLI usually performs around the same as a GTX 580, the 580 is just slightly better because of the higher memory. I do want a quiet system however so I may just stick with the GTX 460 for a few months then get one of the next generation cards, thanks for bringing me to my senses :) 

With the fans, yes I was planning to replace some of the ones I have. I won't go into massive detail but the total proposed fans were this:

2 x 120mm Front Intakes
2 x 140mm Top Exhausts
1 x 120mm Rear Exhaust
1 x 140mm Bottom Intake

All of those are the Fractal Design Silent Series so the 140mm fans are 9db maximum, I can just leave them at max. The 120mm ones however can be a bit noisy so i can hook up my fan controller to them and leave them at low. Each fan should then be at around 9-10db.

I may just scrap this whole idea then. If I just have:

(All Fractal Design Fans again with 120mm ones on low, 140mm ones on high)

1 x 120mm Front Intake (Top one on the front with the HDD cage removed)
1 x 140mm Bottom Intake
1 x 140mm Side Exhaust
1 x 120mm Rear Exhaust

So I think I could go for that setup and just wait for something like a HD 7870/7950 or whatever seeing as though AMD usually have lower power consumption as previously mentioned. Then the only noise from my case would be the above fans @ ~9db each, a super quiet Seasonic X-560 or something, my super quiet CPU fan and hopefully the quietest GPU I can find. (Quiet at idle is fine.)

I would rather stay away from real water cooling because it is expensive, high maintenance and I don't trust myself to maintain it lol. If I could get one of those Corsair kits hooked up to my GPU somehow I would consider it though.

Sorry for the super long post D:
a b B Homebuilt system
October 9, 2011 1:42:01 PM

Custom water cooling.

If not that, buy big aftermarket heatsinks that stay cool without loud fans. Buy sound insulating material from a hardware store and apply to case.
a b B Homebuilt system
October 9, 2011 3:05:00 PM

Thanks for the tips but I already have the foam, my case is the Fractal Design Define R3. Also my CPU already has a beastly heat sink. I'll see how loud my GPU is when i get one and maybe consider one for that too.
a c 84 B Homebuilt system
October 9, 2011 3:46:42 PM

1) A good source for quiet computing is www.silentpcreview.com

2) Noise comes from fans. Primarily by how fast they spin, but also the quality of the sound and their efficiency.
Any low spinning fan will be quiet, but not silent. Look to noctua fans for good efficiency and low noise.

3) If you want to upgrade your graphics power, then it is better to do so with a single good card.
A single card will let you use a lower power psu; a GTX580 needs only a good 600w psu. SLI GTX470 will need more.
Look at a GTX570 or GTX580 with a direct exhaust cooler. Because the heat is sent directly out the back of the case, the load on case cooling fans is less.
Here is a EVGA GTX570 for example:http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
The evga cards can be updated with a microcode patch that reduces the minimum fan speed from 40% to 30%. That is enough to keep your card from being noticeable during normal desktop usage. My GTX580 is inside a quiet case, and is not noticeable,even with a 40% fan speed.

4) Get a gold efficiency rated psu of adequate power. If a psu operates at 50% of maximum load, that is probably where it is most efficient. A underpowered psu will have to work harder and spin up the fan to do it's job. I use a Seasonic X750 gold rated psu with a GTX580. I never hear the fan because it never comes on. Aactually Seasonic tells you not to worry if it does not spin.

5) Don't add any more fans than you need. Every fan adds noise. Let your cpu and gpu get a bit hot if necessary. They are designed to protect themselves if any heat becomes dangerous. You might want to look at something like some zalman fanmates to undervolt your fans to a more quiet level. They are cheap.
I like to keep the fans at a constant speed. It is less obtrusive to me that way. I don't like the ups and downs of changing fan speeds other than the gpu fan.

6) Realize that water cooling is still air cooling. The fans are on the radiator instead on the component. Not worth the hassel for dubious effects on quietness to me.

7) Do get a SSD, they are silent, and your pc will be much more responsive.

8) Don't forget to look at your wiring. Keep it out of the airflow for better cooling and less noise.
a b B Homebuilt system
October 9, 2011 5:43:58 PM

1) Thanks

2) Yes i know this, i do have some Noctua fans but they are not the FLX versions and don't use PWM. I also didn't get the ULN adapters so they seem to run at full on all the time so I'm going to go for Fractal design fans which are lower RPM. The 140mm one is 9db max with respectable airflow and the 120mm one is around 16db max so I'll turn them down a bit.

3) Thanks for the tip on the EVGA cards, any other manufacturers do things like this? I gave up on the GTX 460 SLI in favour of something like a HD 7870 when it's out. Also aren't the external exhaust coolers really inefficient? They have been in my experience. Although in this case i can have a 140mm bottom intake fan feeding cool air directly into it i guess.

4) Yeah I'm thinking of the Seasonic X-560 with the GTX 460 then with the HD 7870 or similar when it's released.

5) Each fan doesn't necessarily add noise, they can take the pressure off the other fans thus making the system quieter. Also means the system may stay quieter at load. I do get what you mean though which is why I think i may just stick with the 2 stock fans at low rpm plus a bottom intake for the GPU and possibly a side exhaust too. Also going to remove a front HDD cage to unblock the front intake fan.

6) I do realise that water cooling still has fans but you can have them running at a lower RPM because with water cooling you can have bigger radiators placed further from the thing you're trying to cool.

7) Yup, the plan is a Crucial M4 128GB.

8) Modular PSU ftw. Also yeah I am pretty OCD in this department anyway.
a b B Homebuilt system
October 9, 2011 5:47:44 PM

I used to have a custom water cooling system with radiators so large you didn't need fans at all when surfing the net for example :)  One 3 x 120 mm and one 2 x 120 mm. This system had a first gen AMD dual core and a 8800 GTX :D 
a b B Homebuilt system
October 9, 2011 5:57:48 PM

So should I go for the 7000 series equivalent of something like this?

http://www.aria.co.uk/Products/Components/Graphics+Card...

Do you guys think I would be able to cool that well in a Fractal R3 with the top front intake (hopefully w/o HDD cage), the rear exhaust and a bottom intake feeding air directly into it?
a c 84 B Homebuilt system
October 9, 2011 6:32:02 PM

On an open test bed, some of the oem twin fan graphics coolers do better.
But, in a case, they have a problem. The hot vga air stays around recirculating in the case, making the case fans have to deal with it.
That raises the air temperature delivered to both the cpu and vga coolers, making them run less efficiently.

Some time ago, in the hot pentium days, I found that replacing the stock vga coler with a direct exhaust type, I reduced both my vga AND cpu temps by 5c.
a b B Homebuilt system
October 9, 2011 6:35:36 PM

That does make sense on paper but in the real world I've seen better results from the dual fan type coolers.
a c 84 B Homebuilt system
October 9, 2011 6:43:11 PM

FinneousPJ said:
That does make sense on paper but in the real world I've seen better results from the dual fan type coolers.


If the case has good cooling, that would not surprise me.

But... in the end, does it really matter?
How hot do parts need to get before performance suffers, or damage occurs?
a b B Homebuilt system
October 9, 2011 6:47:45 PM

My logic was that the dual fan config should be more efficient thus produce less noise to keep the card cool.
a c 84 B Homebuilt system
October 9, 2011 6:59:55 PM

FinneousPJ said:
My logic was that the dual fan config should be more efficient thus produce less noise to keep the card cool.


Good logic, as far as it goes.
Two fans can push the same air at lower speeds as a single higher speed fan.
But, if the intake air is hotter because of poor circulation, then some of the efficiency goes away.
I agree that in a well ventilated case with high airflow, the dual fan solution might be better.
In a more restrictive quiet case like yours, I am not so certain.

If you have the budget, look at the fan solution on the EVGA GTX580 classified.
It has a larger diameter fan which will offer superb cooling:
http://www.evga.com/products/moreInfo.asp?pn=015-P3-158... 500 Series Family&sw=
a b B Homebuilt system
October 9, 2011 7:45:41 PM

So do we think the 'leaf blower' style coolers will be better for a quiet system with only one exhaust fan? I'm thinking it might be better especially if I can get one like the one you just linked because I don't have any massive 200mm exhaust fans to help exhaust the hot air dissipated into the case but I will have a bottom fan on the floor of the case next to the PSU which should feed cool air directly into the GPU fan.
a c 84 B Homebuilt system
October 9, 2011 8:00:17 PM

If you have the equivalent of two 120mm intake fans, and the equivalent area in exhaust space, they should supply enough cool intake air to cool a hot graphics card.
I think you are ok with your case.
October 9, 2011 9:29:16 PM

You can even buy some cards with closed-loop water cooling. If you want that without the hassle or risk, but I'm not sure how much quieter it really is.
The case is a great one for staying low on sound. I would be hesitant to use a side and top fan, however. By doing so you are removing some of the insulation, and having more holes for noise to come at you. But if your temperatures are too high, then there is nothing for it I suppose.
"Be quiet" makes some great low-noise parts as well by the way.
a b B Homebuilt system
October 9, 2011 9:42:55 PM

Yeah i was thinking of just adding the bottom intake and seeing what the GPU temps are like, if they're still high I'll add a side exhaust.
a c 136 B Homebuilt system
October 9, 2011 9:52:40 PM

the simplest way to make a computer quiet is to put it in another room

The DVI and USB is 5 meters [ 18 feet ] minimum but in practice its often as much as double that .

A monitor , usb hub and an external dvd drive on the desk , the rest somewhere you cant hear it
a b B Homebuilt system
October 9, 2011 11:30:45 PM

Thanks for the tip but that seems a bit extreme, I don't have another room to put it in anyway.

To be honest I am using this as a project just to see what's possible just as much as my actual desire for quiet computing if that makes sense? Just like how a lot of people get water cooling because yes they want a cooler PC but also they want to see just how far they can overclock etc.
a c 136 B Homebuilt system
October 10, 2011 1:07:08 AM

That does make sense .

I want quiet from my computers too .
The problem with buying quiet hardware is that the cost is often very high . Near silent graphics card coolers that cost $60 fitted to a graphics card you paid $150 for .. always looks like a bad economic proposition [ to me ].

Have a look at
http://silentpcreview.com/
!