Build a silent PC

If your computer is your tool, if you want to mount a media center or simply if you like the comfort of silence, reduce the maximum noise of your machine. Our case focuses on tips to build a silent computer. In order to understand why the changes we will advise you, you must first familiarize yourself any sort of noise: where it comes from or how far there are questions that we answer in this introduction. Then, element by element, we will give you some tips so you can make the right choice when the time comes.

But where is that noise coming from?
Before moving further, it is necessary to identify the noise generating components. Start with all the elements that are equipped with a ventilation system, graphics card, case and the heatsink of the processor. For those who would make their machines quieter and are not in order to acquire a new one, the best way to identify the most important source of noise is likely to connect the fans one after the other.

The noise may come from the vibration of the hard disk. The fast-moving trays of the storage unit or fan power spread to the structure of the housing and can produce a dull sound rather unpleasant. In the worst case, the case can even enter into resonance and the noise becomes highly inconvenient.

Airflow and fan choices
The warm air rises over cooler air. The fresh air is injected from the bottom of the tower, while the air heated by the components must be expelled at the rear of the cabinet, in its high. To create this flow of air, ventilation is necessary. Even if the manufacturers compete ingenuity to reduce the noise from the rotor of the fan, the fact remains that a movement of air creates an acoustic pressure that inevitably spreads to your ears. Hence the importance of the choice of fans.

Most manufacturers use two types of data: dB for decibels are an absolute measure that ignores the human physiognomy and in particular the sensitivity of our ears at certain frequencies. That is why the other, the most commonly made is provided in a weighted dB , built around a sound perceived at a level of 40 dB for a frequency of 1 kHz. In fact, you can sometimes read wrongly that the audible threshold for humans is 40 dB. If it is the decibels are used, be aware that additional 3 dB doubles in fact is the noise.

Two elements characterize a fan and explain the level of silence: its speed and flow, its cooling capacity in short, given CFM (1 CFM equals approximately 1.7 cubic meter per hour). Plus one fan will run faster, it generates more noise. The fans are those that have a speed relatively low and a fairly high: in general, over the fan, the greater it will be able to offer these two features. Finally, remember always that the noise generated by fans do not add up, and it is better to use two fans running at low speed only one running faster.

Reduce the speed of fans
A box specially designed for the silence is feasible, a solution is often quite expensive. Other tips are available, particularly with regard to the fans. Indeed, it is fairly simple to reduce the noise they cause simply by reducing … their speed of rotation. This means that the fans are powered by a voltage of up to 12 volts. There are adapters that allow you to sub-Volter fans (in 5 or 7 volts) to rotate more slowly.

You can also install a knob between your motherboard and the fan from which you can control the speed of many fans. Remains the connection, which is not always obvious.

Different choices depending on usage
We noted in the introduction, the choice of components and operations to be carried out may vary depending on the configuration you want to mount. Thus, the size of the case is important: it must be large and airy for a configuration or a player, which have many sources of heat, and smaller for a media center, which remains a relatively modest configuration.

Similarly, a flow of air covering all elements of a configuration of player will be required , while the air flow to focus on hard disks server or media center, with a ventilated discs, for example. 

The issue of hard drive
The storage unit is not really the element that heats the most in a computer. And it requires a minimum ventilation anyway, this is not the last to be main source of noise. Rather, the vibration of the hard disk to be wary. They derive the rotation of the platters. Plus they operate at high speed, plus the disc will cause vibrations. One solution is to obtain disks running at 5400 or 4 200 revolutions per minute. But again, performance will not be there.

Reduce transmission of vibrations
However, there are some models with both fast and relatively quiet, those who benefit from the AAM (Automatic Acoustic Management for) others. Remains to prevent vibrations from spreading to the structure of the housing. Some boxes have sophisticated systems to reduce these vibrations, we have had a good example with the case Lian-Li decorticated in our last comparative cases. But these phenomena are not obvious to predict and in the case of this case, we saw that the interest was not yet effective at all.

Rest tips cheap enough and relatively effective, as the use of elastic support as hard disks, and other slightly more expensive and not always effective, as the kits commercially available to mitigate the vibration of your disks. Some are quite powerful, especially on disks noisy and cooling capacity is sometimes astonishing.

The SSD option
Finally, there is a particularly effective with regard to the sound of hard drives: they are replaced by SSD! These storage units of a new kind do not heat, are inaudible because no mechanical parts and are therefore candidates found to enter a silent configuration. Yes but … the price per gigabyte is still much higher than for a hard disk. 

Importance of positioning in the tower
To let the sensor cool, our proposal is to isolate the supply to preserve other heat sources, or to optimize the airflow so that the block is the least subject to possible sources external heat. A manufacturer like Antec has tried this kind of tricks with a box like the P182, in which:

  • Power supply is placed at the bottom of the tower where the air is cooler,
  • it is located behind a fan which ensures a continuous arrival of air at room temperature.
  • it is finally cut off from other elements by a partition.

The orientation also plays a role
If the location of power supply is important, we must not forget either direction, especially for the blocks that have 120 mm fans (or more) in the block. In the latter case, a power supply placed in the bottom of the cabinet will benefit from sucking fresh air and thus not turn his fan to the graphics card for example.

The fanless option
Last radical solution: remove the ventilation system of power supply. Such models exist, they are fanless (fanless) and are characteristic to have a very high yield, which allows them to evacuate the small amount of heat generated via a radiator, even though it often takes dramatic. These blocks are designated to incorporate a silent setup.

The fan control software
If you do not know SpeedFan, it is urgent to download it, because this essential software especially useful in the management of noise pollution. You need only to connect to your fan connectors on your motherboard so that the program can change their speed, simply by specifying a percentage. The speed of each fan is monitored by the software, and you can observe the effects of your changes in real time.

Of course, your motherboard must be compatible with this software, but it is frequently updated and is functional on many models. Remains to have fans with connectors 3 or 4 pins and many connectors on the motherboard. 

The first conclusion to be drawn from this overview is to make or build a quiet PC, we can not dissociate the concept of silence and heat. This is the worst enemy of silence and we must constantly find a good compromise between low noise and temperature components.

This balance is difficult to achieve and will require some patience on your part, especially as conditions change and a good balance may one day become less effective the next day. The causes? Higher temperatures (at summer) or an accumulation of dust, for example. It is therefore imperative to make a good cleaning from time to time to maintain a level of performance.


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