Hard Drives

Hard drives can be loud. Multiple hard drives are louder. Multiple high-RPM hard drives can get downright annoying. While the screeching sound of a hard drive reading data has become an "accepted" noise for the PC, many disk manufacturers are now putting out drives with acoustics in mind.

Most of these "low-noise" drives have started off at the relatively low spindle speed of 5,400 RPM, which unfortunately, is unacceptable for most performance PC's. Thankfully, some of the brand new drives hitting the market now are combining the acoustic tweaks found in the lower-speed drives, but now come with a nice and speedy 7,200 RPM spindle speed.

One of the key features in quiet hard drives are fluid bearings, which are featured in many new drives. The addition of fluid bearings makes a very pleasant acoustical difference when it comes to idle disk operation, where no data is bring accessed. Some of these include IBM's Deskstar 60GXP, Seagate's Barracuda IV, and Maxtor's DiamondMax Plus 740DX, to name a few.

Personally, I've fallen in love with Seagate's new Barracuda IV hard drives. They're absolutely dead silent, and pretty quick to boot. These drives even have a layer of acoustic foam integrated right into the bottom of the hard drive, which muffles any little sound that the drives do make during seeks. Unfortunately, these drives do run a little warmer than most of the other "silent" drives, but there is something you can do about it.

CoolDrive - Cooling / Noise Reduction

Surround and Muffle It: One of the keys to silencing the hard drive is getting a stable surrounding to minimize vibrations created by the hard drives. The higher the spindle speed of the hard drive (7,200 to 15,000 RPM), the more vibrations you receive in turn. Putting hard drives in a strong enclosure can help minimize vibrations, but in turn, also raises drive temperatures as the drives cannot breathe.

One popular way of cooling hot hard drives is to surround them in an aluminum bezel, and cool them with one or more fans, bringing in air from the outside. There are many of these available on the market now, but the most prominent are from the two aluminum case makers, Coolermaster, and Lian Li. Coolermaster's Cooldrive seems to be the better made of the two, and does a fantastic job of brining heat off the hard drive and onto the aluminum heatsink/bezel around the drive.

Unfortunately, many of these hard drive-cooling units (including Coolermaster's) have obsessively noisy fans in the front. While we would recommend keeping the fan active for drives with spindle speeds above 10,000 RPM, at speeds below 10,000 RPM, active fan cooling really isn't needed. For a truly quiet PC, you can place the hard drive inside one of these aluminum hard drive coolers and disable the fans. The hard drive enclosure will muffle the hard drive noise, and you'll still get decent cooling from the external aluminum heatsink. Win, win situation!