My Quest for a Near-noiseless and Cool Computer Without Watercooling

Add Your Comments

How-To – Josh

In my early years as a builder, my primary concern was
maximum airflow.
Noise wasn’t a something I cared about much, but
working from home and
having meetings via the speakerphone forced a change in
that line of
thinking.

I’m not a fan of water cooling so my quest was to find
a way to reduce the
noise of my case without sacrificing cooling but still
relying on fans to do
the job.

Running an overclocked 2.6 quad at 3.4 gets damn hot. Add
a BFG OC 8800
GTX 768MB, 2 10k drives and 2 7200 drives in there and
it’s a great place to
warm up dinner without getting up to use the microwave but
not very friendly
for the yummy and expensive components getting more than
their fair share of
heat.

I purchased a Silverstone TJ07 for the airflow and size but
the fans were
pretty loud, even with a fan controller. So, I stripped
the case down and
decided to do some research on the Overclockers Forums and
a few other
places. Of course, the main culprit in a case for noise is
vibration. I
noticed literally all my case fans were screwed right into
the metal frame,
making it a perfect tuning fork but a lousy quiet case.

My first step was to remove all the case fans and find a nice
eBayer to take
them off my hands.

Pic

Now what to replace them with. I went with Nexus fans for
their airflow
and quiet footprint. The bonus was the rubber fan mounts
designed to
separate your fans from the case to keep vibration at a
minimum. For my
case that’s four x 120mm case fans – two for the hard drives
and two on top, two 92mm
fans blowing air out the back and one 80mm for the power
supply.

Pic

The 120s and 90s all were exchanged from the old fans in
their place, but I
added one 80mm inside the case at the bottom to give the
power supply a
little relief. Thanks to the case design, the 2 120s
cooling the hard drives
and the 80mm fan cooling the power supply push the air out
the bottom away
from the motherboard and the other components.

Now, even though I’m not a fan of water cooling, heatpipe
heatsinks are the next best thing when cooling the two
hottest components on a
computer. The CPU and GPU.

Once again after careful research, I went with the
Thermalright line for
both my video chipset and CPU.

For the CPU, I chose the big bad boy Thermalright Ultra-120
eXtreme with a
Nexus 120mm fan and the HR-03 PLUS for my BFG 8800GTX with
a Nexus 90mm fan.

Pic

Pic

After the new fans were installed, the case was extremely
quiet and the
video card temperature dropped almost 20ºC from the stock
cooling!

I was a happy camper…for a while. I then started to
notice a hum coming
from the case. After a thorough search, I found the
culprit – the hard
drives. They were mounted to the case hard drive
enclosures metal on metal.
In my quest to build the quieter computer, I completely
forgot the one
component that is responsible for the most vibration in any
computer!

Pic

Now what do about it.

The cages for the drives were pretty
snug and adding
rubber spacers didn’t do much, so I decided to dump the
cages altogether and
freemount the hard drives. I purchased some plastic loops
from a local
hardware store and screwed them into the side mounting
holes of all four
drives. Then, I took cable ties and connected the drives
together so they
would hang easily. Be careful here and keep the cable ties
loose so you can
adjust the cable ties so the drives are as straight as you
can get them.

To
suspend them, I took some wood scraps from the garage,
purchased some
metal loops and mounted them to the wood. I then ran the
final cable ties
through the loops on the hard drives and voila! – the noise
disappeared.

Since the two 120mm fans cooling the four drives were designed
to mount to the
cages, I suspended them as well with some rubber tubing and
more cable
ties. See
“Josh’s Fan Fest”
for more info.

Pic

One final correction I had to make was to the Northbridge
and Southbridge
chipset. I went with an ASUS Maxiumus gaming board which
uses passive
cooling to cool those two chipsets. The problem was it
wasn’t doing its job.
The Northbridge and Southbridge were hovering around 50ºC,
which is outside my
comfort level.

I had two choices

  • Take everything out,
    including the
    motherboard, and remove the passive cooling and put some
    decent thermal paste
    on there

  • Find a tiny fan to mount to the passive heatsinks

I chose the latter because spending an hour or more tearing
everything out
just to add some thermal paste to one heatsink wasn’t
something I was
interested in.

The problem (I quickly found out) was that there is a severe lack of
small, quiet
fans. I finally went back to Nexus and found my answer –
the Nexus
Frizzbee. The Frizzbee is a 40mm fan with an extremely low
noise output – some even claim it’s inaudible. I ordered one immediately
but I soon
discovered I should have measured the area for the fan
enclosure, not just
the size of the fan. It wouldn’t fit.

So, I took it
apart piece by piece
until it was nothing more than a fan with a small plastic
backplate and the
wire for the power. After a few minutes with the glue gun,
the fan was
mounted to the chipsets and the temperature dropped down 10ºC.
Much better!

Pic

So, I now finally have the quiet case I’ve been looking
for so that when I’m on
one of those dreaded conference calls, the only thing to
give me away that
I’m at home is the TV!

Josh

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *