Making A High Performance Silent PC

If you're reading this, you're sitting at, or near a PC. Do me a favor and pause your mp3's or CD for a second, to sit and listen. Can you hear the buzz from your PC? If you can, it's too loud.

That's just my opinion though, as I'm a noise freak. When I start to play a playlist on my PC, I like to actually hear it clearly, and not have it tainted by the shrill noise of case fans emitting from the PC below me. Unfortunately, with today's multi-gigahertz PC's, it's getting harder and harder to find the right components to make up a quiet PC system. Many manufacturers now are throwing noise level concern out the door in return for good cooling performance. This may be OK for some people, but not for me.

And hey, It's not just me that's sick and tired of blaringly loud CPU coolers and case fans, there are lots of you out there who can't handle your computer's high pitched screams anymore. More often we're seeing people looking for alternatives to their noisy PC's, whether it be as simple as unplugging some fans to buying entirely new low-noise components.

Alas, there is hope for us noise-conscious PC users out there. It's still very possible with a little effort to pick out the correct components needed for a silent PC.

As I've always said, if Apple can make a decent-performing PC with zero noise, us PC users can do one better. Using some of the techniques in the next few pages, I was able to convert my home box from an annoyingly loud PC to a 2.2 GHz / GeForce3 powered monster, absolutely silent in all areas.

The Basics

The basics of having a quiet, yet high performing system are quite simple actually. It just takes some common sense. Find all the noise sources and isolate them, but either replacing the noisy component or finding ways of surrounding and muffling it.

Obviously, the number one noisemaker in a modern PC is the whir of fans, whether they are in the power supply, on the CPU, or strapped onto the video card. These components are usually loud due to low quality fans being used by the manufacturers to save money. Instead of going with a high-quality heatsink and low-speed fan, most manufacturers will opt to go with a cheap heatsink and high-speed fan, which will deliver the same performance, and save them a few bucks on each card.

In order to make a quiet, but yet high performance PC, you have to be methodical. You have to go through each noise-making component, remove it, and replace it with a lower-noise product that will give you similar performance. Here's a run-down of the most common noisy system components in a modern PC.

The Joy Of Heatsinks

Many of these noise making components can be replaced rather easily with oversized heatsinks. As long as you have a decent heatsink with a solid connection to the hot surface, plain old passive heatsinks can be very effective in a modern PC environment. The best part is, of course, no noise!

If the individual component runs too hot to run off a heatsink alone, with a good oversized heatsink most of these components can be run with slower, low noise fans in turn. CPU's, graphics cards, power supplies, it all applies.