When people think of noisy PC components, most often the first thing
that comes to mind is CPU coolers. Thanks in part to the super-hot
running Athlon and Pentium 4 processors; the CPU cooling industry
has seen an incredible upsurge in the last few years. In addition,
the integration of over clocking features directly into most motherboards
sold nowadays make over clocking an easy task. Thus, there is now
tremendous competition in the CPU cooling market nowadays, with dozens
of companies struggling to find a balance between great cooling power
and low noise.
Unfortunately, many companies are taking the easy route. Slap a huge
chunk of copper on the CPU and attach a super-fast fan on top of it
for great cooling power. This is what we'd call the "hacked" approach.
It doesn't take a lot of engineering prowess, anyone with a CNC milling
machine and a copper block could think of this. The truly great heatsinks
are those who manage to get as good or close to the cooling power
of the hacked coolers, and have little to no noise at the same time.
These are the coolers that we should be buying.
Some tips for CPU cooling:
Under clockingng your CPU clock speed won't help temperatures drastically,
but lowering core voltage will. While it might take some time, it
may be worth your while to see how low of a voltage your CPU can run
at reliably. This may save you a few degrees and let you get away
with a slower fan.
Stay away from any CPU fan over 5,000 RPM. Beyond this, the noise
gets truly unbearable. Getting in the range of 6,000 and 7,000 RPM
fans is ridiculous. The shrill loudness of these fans will want to
make you throw your PC's out the window. Sleeve bearing CPU fans can
also be dramatically quieter compared to ball bearing fans.
Copper / Aluminum heatsink hybrid's seem to be the best for those
of us looking for quiet PC's. Attach a big slow fan, and you're in
Cooling Intel Processors
Intel's Pentium III and Pentium 4 processors are without a doubt the
best choice if you want a silent PC. While the Pentium III generates
a decent amount of heat, along with the Pentium 4, which generates
quite a bit more (doesn't that rhyme?), these processors handle the
heat much better. Most Intel-based PC's can get away with very little
active cooling, along with a decent-sized aluminum heatsink. Even
Intel's own retail coolers are bare aluminum, with a large, slow thermal
sensing fan. In most cases, the fan runs at a measly 1,500 RPM (give
or take a few hundred RPM), and still manages to keep the processor
Swiftech - The Best In Passive Cooling
For a low-cost silent PC, you can always pick up a 1 GHz Pentium III,
and a small cooler and you should be fine. For us who want a high-performance
silent PC, the Pentium 4 is our choice. Running at speeds up to 2.0
GHz, you'd think this chip would be impossible to get stable with
silent cooling, but no doubt, it is possible.
The trick with the Pentium 4 is to maximize the cooling power of the
heatsink, and minimize the fan speed of the cooler on top. In my case,
I found the combination of the Swiftech's MC462 (same as picture,
but in a Socket-423 variant) cooler and Panasonic's Panaflo L1A 80mm
cooler on top to be not only very quiet, but also performs great.
Of course, the whole setup costs about $80, and is quite a pain to
install, but it's a great combo. For those of you on a budget, pick
up a retail boxed Socket-478 Pentium 4, as the gargantuan retail cooler
does a great job, and is very low noise.
Cooling AMD Processors
Making coolers with low-noise becomes difficult when it comes to AMD,
as their Athlon / XP / MP / Duron processors create so much heat,
so quickly. Without sufficient cooling, these chips will burn themselves
out within a matter of seconds. Thanks to AMD's super-hot running
chips, I have two dead Thunderbirds to my name, as well as burn marks
on two of my fingers, from when a CPU fan died, and the heatsink was
scalding hot to the touch. Siverado - Looks Loud, Actually Isn't.
If you have a choice, Get an Athlon XP over a Thunderbird Athlon.
The Athlon XP (also MP) processors consume up to 20% less power compared
to their Thunderbird counterparts. Less power means less heat, which
means you don't need such huge coolers. Not to mention, the Athlon
XP is a fantastic performing processor, which rivals the Pentium 4
2.0 GHz in performance.
Good, quiet Athlon coolers are available from NoiseControl.de (Silverado),
Zalman (CNPS5001-CU), and Alpha (PAL6035 with default Sanyo Denki
fan). Alpha has also recently released the PAL8045, which can utilize
a larger 80mm fan. This cooler has increased surface area, which can
be combined with a slower 80mm fan, which makes this unit specifically
great for silent PC's.