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!