A lot of your fellow readers are discovering that it’s surprisingly easy and inexpensive to achieve major— major!— reductions in PC noise. In our ongoing "Cool and Quiet" series ( http://www.informationweek.com/story/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=21401323 ), we found that it sometimes only takes a simple $10 plug-in fan replacement to make a noticeable difference. But there’s a flip side, too: Some "fixes" don’t do much. I found a couple of dead ends in my search for a quieter PC, for example. And other readers, like this one, found that, sometimes, high priced parts don’t guarantee quietness:
Fred: I read with great interest your foray into the "Silent PC" issue ( http://www.informationweek.com/story/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=21401323 ) and thought that I might share my experiences with you. I recently built my first computer from scratch and since it was designed to be a Home Theater PC (HTPC) noise was a serious issue. Unfortunately I did not know how serious at the outset. After putting the unit together, using very high performance parts, I was astonished at the amount of fan noise it created, especially since the case I used, by Coolermaster, was designed for HTPC use.
After some research I too replaced the case fan and cpu heatsink/fan with less than 20db fans. The power supply is proprietary and is not easily replaced. I did not want to risk removing the fan and heat sink from my new AIW 9800 pro card since it would void the warranty but I did consider a Zalman unit. The Asus motherboard included a program for monitoring fan performance and cpu and motherboard temperature.
Two things I also tried: first I used gel type dampeners on the case fan and power supply. Second, I contacted a supplier of architectural acoustical material and got some thin, 1/16" thick acoustical dampening sheet material generally used in wall construction and lined the case with it. This actually worked to a degree.
After all of this I realized that the placement of the PC into an open cabinet with my other equipment had some quirky acoustical resonant effects which I tried to negate with strategically placed acoustical batts. Keep in mind that after spending close to $2,000 in parts I was still bleeding cash to "fix" the noise.
The bottom line here is that a truly quiet PC should be thought out and designed from the beginning. Quiet parts, case design and layout, air flow, placement, etc must be considered. Any PC containing a fan will make some noise and the user must decide whether this is suitable for "living room" use. It is amazing how even a whisper quiet PC can be annoying in an environment that is normally supposed to be quiet.
Also, my business Dell seemed to be generating an unusual amount of noise. A simple cleaning out of the dust bunnies seemed to help that situation, at least a little. Thanks again, Michael Zuckerman
Things are about to get even more complex because we’ll soon see "active sound dampening" technology on the market for PCs: Instead of simply using quiet PC parts, this approach lets the PC make all the noise it wants to, and then tries to cancel that noise: Tiny microphones pick up the sounds, signal processing creates inverse waveforms, and tiny speakers pump the inverse waveforms back at the noise sources to cancel out the sound. (See http://snipurl.com/6wpk ) It works, but why not just use quiet fans in the first place? I suspect we’ll see a hard sell for this active sound-cancellation technology, but it really seems like overkill when simpler, quieter parts can prevent the problem in the first place.
You can avoid dead-ends and too-complicated solutions with the information in our articles: It can be easy and inexpensive to make your PC as quiet as a library whisper! Check out the details:
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