Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

SILENT (&small) PC recommendations?

Hi all!!

I am looking for a (small) and silent PC. Some time ago I found some info on small ("brick" or "sup-desktop") PCs that were "windows compatible" and small-sized, but I can't find the info now. And, besides, I'd like to know if any of those present have any experience with similar systems.

The objective: I want to have a PC I can leave on 24&7, hooked on to my DSL line. My "main" work PC is an 1 Ghz Athlon (yes, it's showing its age), and the SCSI drives and all the rest make quite a lot of noise. I am looking for a small, not-too-underpowered PC where I could install Linux / W2KSrv, control remotely and use it as web / mail / proxy server, etc. etc.

I know I could get a generic PC and "slim it down" (underclok it, power down the fan, etc), but space is also an important factor. Ideally, I'd like it to be small enough to be sitting besides my DSL modem, and not take up much more space.

Any helps / pointers / hints will be more than appreciated.

Javier Jarava
Thursday, May 8, 2003

All things quiet:
btw --- if you search for "silent pc"  you will get a number of good hits.

If you are trying to silence an existing PC:
has some good pointers.

The bottom line on all of this is that if you have a PC (non-laptop), and you want it quiet, it is going to cost you something.  The biggest issues is finding the noise.  Is it the hard drive, the cpu, the case fans, what?  Each machine is different.  In your case you are buying new, so I suggest Tom's page as a start.

In the end, the cheapest solution may be to put it into a closet or cabinet.  To which I add: "DANGER, WILL ROBINSON, DANGER!!"  Most new CPUs, including graphics card CPUs hate heat.  They will heat a closet or cabinet to 110+ degrees in about 60 minutes and then start to act up as it has no place to put the heat.  If you plan to put it next to your TV, in a cabinet, you may need to vent it.

Good luck, I would be interested in what you decide on.

Mike Gamerland
Thursday, May 8, 2003

Search Goggle for "Hush PC".  It is a specific brand name, has a very small motherboard, custom heatsink, and no fan, all in a tiny box.

Mitch & Murray (from downtown)
Thursday, May 8, 2003

I'm quite impressed with the performance, size, and quietness of my Shuttle Mini-PC. Fast enough with a Pentium 4 and an AGP video card that it can tackle most any gamer's needs, but very small and nice looking. The main fan on the back is temperature controlled, and so almost always running slowly enough to be inaudible (except when gaming, of course).
(I have the SS51G)

Brad Wilson (
Thursday, May 8, 2003

For the "Hush PC" mentioned above, the manufacturer's web site is:

Philip Dickerson
Thursday, May 8, 2003

You can also find some mini PCs on
I don't have any experience with them, but ThinkGeek also sells their stuff, so it shouldn't be too bad.

Thursday, May 8, 2003

Thanks for all the links / pointers :)

The HUSH PC certainly looks promising (even if a bit pricey ;), and it's more or less on the line of what I am looking for. Will certainly have a more detailed look at it. One thing I forgot to add is that having two NICs is a _must_ (to function as server / firewall ;)

It's true that I have (or could "hack together") a spare PC and try to "quieten" it, but space is a consideration, too. I have to place it on my "work-area" at home, and there is only so much shelf space left...

As for "raw power", it's not a deciding factor. My (aging) Athlon 1 Ghz will be replaced sooner or later, but for main workstation I tend to prefer full blown ones (specially as I have 4/5 HDs, 1 DVD, 1 CDRW, and SCSI tape drive, etc...)

I seem to remember reading about a fanless "brick" PC that had all the conectors on front, like an "applicance". Will try to dig the info out, and will keep the forum posted as to any info I find on the matter...

Again, thanks to all for the prompt response...

Javier Jarava
Thursday, May 8, 2003

2 nics etc. Never owned one, just read about them.

Thursday, May 8, 2003

One problem with small pc's is making them silent.  Heat builds up more quickly in a small pc, thus requiring more air movement to cool things down, thus causing more noise.

The neat Shuttle pc's were originally terrible noise offenders, but have apparently gotten somewhat better by incorporating tubing to remove heat directly.  When combined with the Via C3 processor I believe they can operate in a fanless, totally silent mode.  Otherwise they may have problems.

Here's a recent review of 3 small silent pc's:

And here's a link to Via's C3 page with some info and links about building small silent pc's with C3 processors.  I looked into it but decided against it, since the C3's are pretty slow.  Although their clock speeds don't look absolutely terrible, their real world performance is apparently comparable to a PIII running at about half the C3's speed.  So the C3 will be okay for some uses, not for others.

I ended up building a regular PC with silent power supply and cpu fan, and nVidia NForce mb with integrated video that doesn't require a fan.  It works pretty well.  To be honest, I'd say that the PC's sold by Dell are just as quiet, though, if you don't have anything against going with Dell.

Herbert Sitz
Thursday, May 8, 2003

I built my wife a Shuttle SS40G a couple of months ago. I think that the Shuttles are a really good value for what you get; the video, sound and network "cards" are all integrated on the MB, and the box even has front panel firewire and USB access. This model has the 'fanless' CPU heat sink - the part that clamps to the CPU has 'heat tubs' that lead up to a heat sink that sits in back of the case fan.

The case is very small (much less than a square foot footprint and sits neatly on a small desktop), very quiet, and very fashionable with a brushed aluminum case. The CPU (according to a temp utility) runs VERY cool - about 43c with a 1700 mhz Athlon - I was initially concerned about heat buildup and stability but this PC has been rock solid so far. Yes, very quiet.

I think the Shuttle is a great compromise. You'll pay just a bit more for compactness but not a huge premium over generic mini sized cases. I bought the case, 256 mb of ram, and the CPU for $350 at Tigerdirect.

Bored Bystander
Thursday, May 8, 2003

I've got a Shuttle SS51G as well. It's been very quiet, except for one part...

I put a Sony DVD burner in there. The machine itself is quiet, but the DVD drive sounds like a helicopter taking off.

Chris Tavares
Thursday, May 8, 2003

I just bought one of these:

Completely silent, except for the hard disk, as there are no fans at all.

Not the fastest machine in the world (still faster than all my other desktop machines though), but fine for business desktop use or a server. Mine is going to serve as a Linux file server and DNS/mail server.

Andy Norman
Thursday, May 8, 2003

Lots of great links here. The name for these is "Small Form Factor" if you want to do a Google search... But if you read any of the links above you already know that,
Thursday, May 8, 2003

I recently bought a Dell 4550.  It seems silent compared to my last PC.  the Dell 8200 series is just as quiet.

My family has powered off my Dell many times thinking it was already off.

So before you spend big bucks on a super silent machine, get near a new Dell and see if it is quiet enough.

Thursday, May 8, 2003

In my SS51G, I have a Samsung combo CD-RW (32x16x32) and DVD-ROM drive. It's plenty quiet. :)

Brad Wilson (
Thursday, May 8, 2003

I bought the Sony because it doesn DVD+/- R and RW. I want to be on the winning side of the DVD format war, regardless of who wins. ;-)

Chris Tavares
Thursday, May 8, 2003

If you're searching for some kind of "Network Attached Storage" (i.e. somewhere, where you can put your MP3's, movies etc.) then try Matrian NetDrive Wireless 120 ( You get a book-sized Linux server that has no fans and use hard drives with liquid bearings, making the it almost totally silent. With a WiFi connection you can have almost instant NAS for your PC, Mac, or Linux network with 120 gigabytes of encrypted disk space for under $500! I don't know if it's possible to install some other OS than Linux or your customized version of Linux.

Enjoy the silence
Thursday, May 8, 2003

I'm surprised no has mentioned the MiniBox:

Like one of the boxes mentioned earlier, the MiniBox is based on the VIA C3 processor.

Personally, my new Shuttle box should make it to the house by Monday.

Dave Fobare
Thursday, May 8, 2003

An iMac would work. It's bigger than some of the systems mentioned above but smaller than a typical PC and you could probably get an old one cheap. Run OS X on it and you have real Unix, for your web, mail, proxy stuff.

Silent except for the hard drive.

Nate Silva
Friday, May 9, 2003

re: mini box, check out the micro pc.

mini box looks so much cooler though.
Friday, May 9, 2003

Ohhh martian wirelss... drool drool.
Friday, May 9, 2003

Do NOT buy a Shuttle SS51G!!
I have one, bought it specially due to a lot of reviews claiming it was very silent. Well, it isn't. And right after noticing it, I started to look for information on it, and found a very active board at with tons on posts on it being too loud, and a plethora of different tips and mods.

It looks lovely, but its aluminium chassis makes a great resonance box, so it is NOT silent at all. It is not too loud, but just do not buy it for the claims of it being silent, because it is not.

And being so small, you definitly will want to have it on your desk, so you will notice the humming a lot more than if you had it on the floor.

Friday, May 9, 2003

Search google for VIA EPIA.

It's a motherboard/processor combination that is Intel-compatible but DOES NOT REQUIRE A FAN. Not very speedy (533Mhz or something) but if you can live with that...

You will certainly find ready-built PCs with it. They usually also have external (laptop-type) power supplies, so no noise from that either.

The only noise source remaining is the HDD. Here you can either buy a super-silent super slow one (Fujitsu or something, 5400) or you could use a CompactFlash memory and a CompactFlash-to-IDE adapter (but watch out, you'll need to do some tricks with RAM-disk for the swap file, or you will burn your Flash very fast...)

In this way you can build a _totally_ silent PC, and it will be very small as well (VIA EPIA boards are 17x17 cm).

I think the OpenBrick mentioned above is exactly one such PC. It's EPIA-based, has a CompactFlash slot and external power. And it's rather cheap.

Friday, May 9, 2003

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home