SHUT UP PC

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When my old Pentium 3 500 Mhz with a TNT2 graphics card couldn’t handle most new games anymore, I decided to buy a new computer.

Not having enough money to buy a Dell which I had before, I wanted to just get a new motherboard, CPU and a graphics card (first of all).
So I bought an MSI motherboard, an Athlon XP 1900+, DDR Ram and a Geforce 2.
Never having built a computer before and not having much know-how, I realised I needed another case and PSU cause Dell doesn’t use the ATX standard.

So I bought a very cheap case with a PSU. After installing everything, I was very surprised because

  • It was working and everything runs,
  • How fast it all was, and
  • How LOUD is was.

Well after some more upgrades and a new case, my computer was complete. Having spent a lot of money (my first year’s student loan, which I did not need because I lived at home) I had this PC:

  • ABIT AT7-MAX2
  • Athlon XP 1900
  • 512 MB 333DDR CAS 2-2-5
  • MSI Geforce 4600
  • Creative SoundBlaster Audigy Player
  • 2* IBM 80 GB HD
  • Plextor 40*12*40 CDR
  • Thermaltake XaserII Case
  • 19″ Trinitron Monitor (Dell branded)

“SHUT UP PC” Mod

Now the noise has become unbearable and I wanted to do something about it. Most of the things I purchased, I bought over a period of time, but for this article I will just pretend I got them all at once:

  • Zalman Flower Copper cooler, which runs at 20 dBA in silent mode. Very good cooler, but you need a wide case, otherwise you will have restricted airflow. This made a big noise difference.
  • Zalman Passive Northbridge Cooler which cools better than many active cooler. This heatsink for the Northbridge cools any VIA board – it is a very cheap mod. Did make a little noise difference, but worth the money.
  • Fan Mate to adjust the speed of the fans. They only work with 3 pin fans – a MUST buy.
  • 2 silent 80 mm case fans (21 dBA), which are a replacement fans for the fans which come with the Thermaltake Case.
  • ThermalTake Geforce 4 cooler. I bought this because the MSI cooler is louder then the ThermalTake one and I wanted a replacement. This was also very cheap and I found it made a noise difference compared to my standard MSI cooler, which made a high pitched humming noise. This mod obviously did not make a big noise difference (I do not recommend passive cooling for Graphics card).
  • 2 Silent Hard Drive Enclosures from Quietpc.com. Please check the link; I found after using these, I could not hear my hard drives any more – a MUST buy.
  • 1 Pack of AcoustiPackTM Deluxe’. This is probably the most expensive “part” I bought. Basically, you cover the inside of you case with this stuff and it dampens the sound. This is amazing – I thought it would not make a big difference, but I was surprised how much difference it made – a MUST buy.
  • Enermax PSU with fan speed controller. A good PSU which is very quiet. Any good PSU will do. Noise difference: Compared to cheap PSU, there is a difference, but most good PSU nowadays are barley audible.

Now I have all my parts, which cost quite a lot – roughly $200. Now don’t stop reading this article yet! I will promise you after this, your PC will much quieter then before.

First, I put my hard drives into the Silent Drive Enclosures. Please note since they are enclosed temperatures will increase, but the enclosures do have some cooling effect. Please see the website as linked above. I then tested how hot my hard drives have become.

I run the SiSoftware Sandra hard drive benchmark burn in wizard for 40 minutes. Results = 50C, which is acceptable. To monitor the hard Drives’ temperature, I used Speedfan, which has S.M.A.R.T reading capability which can read the on board temperature sensor on the Hard Drive. You might also want to try this IBM Feature Tool to make your hard drives run silently. The tool should work on all newer hard drives.
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Julian Wiegmann

I then installed the Zalman passive Northbridge cooler and the Flower Heatsink. I positioned the fan so that it cools the passive Northbridge as well. I used the Fan Mate controller to make the 90cm Fan run very quietly.

I also installed the PSU and the Geforce 4 cooler, which was very straightforward.

I then took out all the fans which came with the case, which are rated at 22 dBA, and replaced them with 21 dBA ones. This sounds stupid, but I could not find a fan speed controller for 4 pin case fans and that’s the only reason why I bought new fans. The 3 pin fans allow me to use the Fan Mate speed controller.

You might have noticed that my case has 3 intake fans – two at the front, one at the side and 2 fans blowing out. I have never used more then 1 intake fan and 1 exhaust at the back because I hardly noticed any temperature difference. The rear fan runs at 100% speed and the front one roughly at 70%, which I can hardly hear.

I then installed the acoustic material. In the guide, they put this stuff in before installing anything in the case, but I did it the other way around, which I would recommend.

I obviously covered all the main areas (side of case and top and bottom) and some other areas:

As you can see in my picture (unfortunately I don’t have a digital camera or scanner), I placed some of the material on the inside side of the Hard Drive cage where the fan is located. I did not obstruct airflow, but I covered all the metal areas so the sound can not easily escape the case.

I also covered the bottom front and rear fan holes which I do not use and all the bare areas on the front and back of the case.

I also placed some sound absorbing foam on top of my sound card. The foam is fire proof, non conductive and the sound card is cold. I found that this made quite a difference, since the sound of the Geforce 4 fan was muffled by the foam.

I also stuffed some foam in front of the hard drive enclosures – not that this made any difference I could hear.

I also built a little foam box which I placed at the back of the case, which does not cover the exhaust fans of the case and the PSU (never cover fan holes), but encloses it from all sides. The box is only 7 inches long, but it made a massive difference in sound output, since the sounds could not spread out and was muffled by the foam. I would not make the box any longer, otherwise the airflow will be too restricted.

Conclusion

The computer sounds pretty much like my old Pentium 3 now. When I walk around in the carpeted room 3 feet away from the computer, I can hardly hear it. When sitting next to it (it’s underneath my table to the left of me), it makes a nice, low, humming sound, which is far better then a high pitched one.

The whole computer is near whisper quiet and I can easily fall asleep next to it. Not completely silent, but a great achievement for running the set up below:

  • ABIT AT7-MAX2
  • Athlon XP 1900 @ 138 FSB
  • 512MB 333 DDR CAS 2-2-5
  • MSI Geforce 4600 with ThermalTake GF3 cooler
  • Creative SoundBlaster Audigy Player
  • 2* IBM 80 GB HD
  • Plextor 40*12*40 CDR
  • Thermaltake XaserII Case
  • 19″ Trinitron Monitor (Dell branded)
  • Microsoft IntelliPoint Explorer (v3) Mouse
  • Microsoft Office Keyboard
  • Ratpadz Mousepad 😉
  • Zalman Flower CPU Cooler (Copper)
  • 2* Quiet PC Harddrive Enclosures
  • Enermax 350W Fan Speed Adjustable PSU
  • Windows XP Home Edition

You will all be interested in the temps, so here you go (under load):

  • CPU core: 66C
  • CPU surface: 49C
  • System: 55C¹
  • HD0: 43C
  • HD1: 40C

No crashes, system always on for over 16 hours, running Folding@Home over night.

¹This has to do with the motherboard, ABIT put the sensor quote “next to a warm thing” and the readings are inaccurate. E-mail ABIT if you don’t believe me.

Julian Wiegmann

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