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Build/buy a quiet PC

Hi everyone. I need a new computer. I want state of the art, quiet, and something I can tinker with and do major upgrades over time. I've ruled out dell even though they do a good job with noise because they're harder to upgrade and fix with non-dell components. So I will either build from scratch, or buy a basic pc ready made and add extra disks etc myself. Money isn't particulary an issue here. I'm looking for recommendations. Has anyone used They're attractive to me because they'll do custom builds, and they've been around a while so hopefully they know what they're doing with noise without frying the system. Anyone else built a machine recently and have suggestions? Thanks!

Angela Davis
Friday, May 7, 2004

Don't buy a power supply unit which has a multi-speed fan that switches when it gets hotter or cooler, like a laptop. It's really, nay REALLY, annoying. Also, I bought a PSU for an older system that was supposed to be silent, but it wasn't. So look out what you buy.

Oh, and by the way I lowered the noise level of that older PC by using um.. what do you call it in English - sticky gum? You know, the blue stuff that you can use to hang things on walls etc. Just put it in screw-holes and between components to reduce resonance. It really worked, and there's no danger because it's a nice insulator.

Good luck!

Friday, May 7, 2004

We build our own, it is pretty simple.

For quiet power supplies, I've always liked the units from PC Power and Cooling. More recently, I've bought several units made by StarTech that have a slow-turning large fan mounted in the base of the power supply, instead of a fast-turning small fan mounted in the back. The units from StarTech have been in practice far quieter than those from PC Power and Cooling, and the power supplies appear reasonably well built. The PC Power and Cooling power supplies are available direct from the manufacturer, the StarTech power supplies are available through the usual Internet sources.

For quiet disk drives, I've liked the Seagate Barracuda line. In general their performance has not been quite as good as some of the other drives I've seen, but the lower noise level is wonderful.

As a note, StarTech makes disk drive coolers that are essentially large heat sinks with fans. I find that the heat sink dramatically reduces the disk drive temperature, even without the fans powered.

Dan Brown
Friday, May 7, 2004

Subscribe to Maximum PC ( )

They routinely run articles and how-tos about quieting systems. One recent suggestion - put a big beefy machine in another room and run cables to your KVM.


Friday, May 7, 2004

One other good resource is the "Case and Cooling Fetish" forum at ArsTechnia's Openforums.

Do a search for 'silent' or 'quiet' and you'll get lots of good info.  Cooling is fairly closely linked to noise output, since most of the noise in a PC is generated by fans.  One easy way to reduce noise is to slow the fans down, but then you've got to make sure you're not overheating things.  Lots of other variables, too, but you should find good info on everything there.

Herbert Sitz
Friday, May 7, 2004 seems to be good about having pretty in-depth reviews of stuff.

I'd say build.  But then again, I always say build, because, at least for me, it's fun and I don't get weird crap on my system that Dell thinks I need.  That, and I think that the homebuilt quiet PCs are quieter than the commercial alternatives right now.

Flamebait Sr.
Friday, May 7, 2004

Here is a fairly detailed article:

Friday, May 7, 2004

The Antec Sonata is a nice, quiet case.  It is built just for this purpose.  You can get it and a Antec 380W power supply from NewEgg for about $90

Friday, May 7, 2004

One word: Water cooling.

Jorel on Software
Friday, May 7, 2004

If you want to go to the extreme (or should that be ***XTREME***?) Zalman makes a special case that has no fans (and provides heatsinks to attach to all the other components (CPU, video)). So the biggest noise is from your hard drive. Here's an article from THG:

And if you don't want to build it yourself, you can get one of these quiet beasts from this company:

Of course, the price premium for something like this is outrageous. But you'll finally be able to properly hear the voices in your head...

Bill Tomlinson
Friday, May 7, 2004

I never thought I would recommend buying a Compaq to anybody, but their computers have always been very, very quiet.

Stephen Jones
Friday, May 7, 2004

This a serious question here: why is quiet a major issue?

I understand if you are maybe doing audio recording, but I personally wouldn't find just having a quiet pc for the sake of quiet worth a lot of extra money.  Are there other reasons besides audio recording why you would pay top dollar for a more quiet pc?

Clay Whipkey
Friday, May 7, 2004

Becasue the noise of the fan is incredibly annoying and causes you to make more mistakes.

Stephen Jones
Friday, May 7, 2004

I just like my home office to be quiet. Some folk probably don't care, or play music to drown out background noise. At work it doesn't matter - the hvac system in the ceiling is louder than my computer. At home I'm willing to pay a little extra to have a quiet computer, just as I pay attention to road and engine noise in the cars I buy, and I would not purchase a home next to the freeway. I *love* my Bose QuietComfort 2 noise cancelling headphones. Noise pollution is a general problem everywhere these days and avoiding it is a luxury I'm willing to pay for.

Angela Davis
Friday, May 7, 2004

I second the Antec Sonata. Nice and quiet; just got one a few weeks ago. Also nice to work in -- the internal drives slide in sideways on drive rails (with the connectors facing the open side of the case).

Friday, May 7, 2004

This is how I do it.  If you do like I do, and hurt yourself or others while playing with electricity, it is not my fault (AND YOU PROBABLY DESERVED TO GET REMOVED FROM THE GENE POOL ANYWAY).

  I usually get an old switched PS, open it up, and mount anything that can get hot (read: large semiconductors) on a separate LARGE manifold outside the chassis.  Mind your fingers, and make certain that no one gets hurt.

  Next, you need to ditch your CPU fan.  Get a Zahlman copper 'flower', or roll your own passive manifold.  Make certain that you manifold is exposed to the ambient airflow.  If you don't do this properly, you will have to buy new CPU's often.

  Now the only moving (and noisy) part in your system should be the disk (case fan? what case fan?).  You can fix this in one of three ways:
a) Go diskless.
b) Get some flash ram.  Price/MB is falling.
c) Get a disk with fluid dynamic beraings.
You may want to experiment with different silencers for your disk.

Dieter Reinhart
Friday, May 7, 2004

I third the Antec Sonata.  I bought one and liked it so much, I bought another one.  It isn't totally silent, but it is much more quiet than any other PC's I have had.

As for the Zalman fanless video card heat sink, it took me hours to put on and it didn't even work:  my computer was totally crazy, freezing all over the place, lots of pink snow... until I uninstalled it.  Yeah, I probably did something wrong, but I have built many computers before, and if it is that much of a pain in the ass to install correctly, then I say "avoid this pain in the ass product".

just some guy
Friday, May 7, 2004

I put together a PC using the Antec Sonata case.  It was better than my previous P-II system, but was initially disappointing.  After some investigation, it appears that most of the noise is coming from the dinky little fan that cools the video processor on the Crucial Radeon 9100 video card.  I have a Zalman heatpipe cooler on order.  We'll just have to see how it works.  I probably should have just gotten a lower power card that doesn't need a fan.

Here is another place that has quiet PC stuff:  I just ordered the Zalman cooler from them but have no other experience.

Friday, May 7, 2004

Ditto on the Antec Sonata!  Investigate and order passive cooling to match southbridge on the MB and Video.

It is *so* nice to get home to a dead quiet office and get some work done . . .

John Murray
Friday, May 7, 2004

For those of us that don't LIKE putting together PCs, buying a laptop is a good way to get a quiet PC.

Friday, May 7, 2004

Noise bugs me, especially in my home office.

I've been looking at the mini-ITX form factor, see examples at

Commercially available products such as the HUSH-PC are totally silent (except when the drives are working), although you do pay a performance penalty.

Friday, May 7, 2004

I second the Antec recommendation. Lian-Li has a good sound insulated case too. Buy a passively cooled graphics card, an Arctic Cooling CPU cooler and a HD suspension. This setup is very quiet and not more expensive than "regular" parts.

Jonas B.
Friday, May 7, 2004

Note to Radeon user. I have an 8500, fan was far too noisy. I removed it, leaving the heatsink in place, and suspended a large quiet fan over it using some garden wire (!).

Been going fine for a year and more now. 8500 doesn't pump out that much heat, mind you, and would probably be OK-ish with nothing at all. YMMV, therefore.

Dave Hallett
Saturday, May 8, 2004

A friend just sent me recently to the web site

While the site is commercial, there's a nice white paper on the site that discussed the various options to build a quiet PC.

Monday, May 10, 2004

From someones personal point of view: (not my work).

Monday, May 10, 2004

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