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Low-Noise PCs
Continuum
post Jun 14 2002, 14:28
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In another thread some board members showed their interest in reducing the noise-volume of their PC. As I'm interested in this myself, I thought it would be a good idea to start a thread where everyone can share his thoughts about this topic and the tricks he applied to achieve a more silent PC.

My CPU is a Duron 700. I removed the (very loud) fan, and got the following temperatures (measured with Motherboard Monitor (freeware, "must-have"):
Idle: ca. 50C
Web-surfing, low activity: 53-60C
full activity: >75C

To prevent overheating of the processor I installed VCool. This program can throttle down the CPU, when a specified temperature is exceeded. With VCool the temperature doesn't go above (e.g.) 70C, thus avoiding risk for the CPU. (Of course, performance of e.g. MP3-coding is very low)
You can keep your fan but reduce its speed with the following program: SpeedFan (not tested myself)

Another thing is the CD-rom: most newer drives are extremely loud, although this is not necessary in most (audio-related) cases. I found a program named CD-Bremse (CD-brake, download), that reduces the turning speed of most drives. (especially handy combined with CD-Reader for Winamp)

Next are Harddisks: They are a lot louder than one would believe. Although there are programs which can reduce the noise made while reading and writing (like HDD Acoustic Manager 1.1.4), I have found no other way to reduce their overall volume than to turn them off. Windows (or the BIOS) can do this automatically after a specified amount of time in the power management options. Of course, no data can be read from disk then. (I use this, when I am listening to music from CD or over my LAN-network; or watching a DVD)

I have a graphic card without fan (Geforce 2 MX), so the only components still making noise are the power supply fan (a temperature controlled Papst-model) and - you wouldn't believe it - the monitor.

More links:
www.virtual-silence.com
Diskless Windows 98 (not reachable at the time of writing)

I hope this is of help to others and that some members will post their ideas as well.

Continuum
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Gabriel
post Jun 14 2002, 14:52
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For the cd rom, there is also Nero DriveSpeed which can reduce the speed (free tool), but unfortunately some drives don't allow speed reduction. As an example my laptop teac dvd-cdrw recorder allows this, my HP cdrw recorder allows this, but my pionneer dvd doesn't.

For the hard drive, I'm very satisfied by my seagate barracuda IV. It's very silent, specially when mounted in an extractible rack.

Q-technologies is making some nice low-sounding (not silencious) power supplies.
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kritip
post Jun 14 2002, 15:16
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Water cooling ensure completly silent operation apart from the hard disk, or can greatly reduce noise if you only do a bit of water cooling.

Silent Fan Zone

Digital Explosion

Hexus

and a good, mainly English based forum for overclocking

Overclockers


All these site have info on silencing your PC by fan modding, 7 Volting, watercooling, et cetera.

Give them a browse and you'll get yourself a literally silent PC!!!


Kristian
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Halcyon
post Jun 14 2002, 15:25
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You can find a WEALTH of information related to silencing PCs through following links:

The Silent PC - problems, solution, companies, tricks
http://home.swipnet.se/tr/silence.html

How to Quiet the Thing - sources and dampers of noise
http://www.7volts.com/quiet.htm

Silent PC Guide
http://fredrik.hubbe.net/silence/hd.html

Example Silent PC construction using low noise components
http://www.kuro5hin.org/?op=displaystory;sid=2002/4/7/115215/9735

Some computer noise control components reviewed
http://www.mikhailtech.com/articles/cooling/coolingguide02q/

Of course, for totally silent construction you not only need to select the most silent components, you probably need fluid cooling as well (unless you want moderately low performance system by modern standards).

Personally I've found the combination of modern decently fast components, very good damping, isolation and water cooling to be a decent compromise to get into the below 20 dB ballpark.

cheers,
Halcyon
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CiTay
post Jun 14 2002, 15:43
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I have taken a few measures to silence my system, some more and some less effective.

My case has cork-rubber-mats glued on everywhere inside; the side panels, the top, the bottom, front and back. That alone doesn't help *that* much against noise, but it greatly reduces vibration. The big tower is now extremely heavy. On top of those mats, i applied two layers of aluminium foil, connected to ground. This is to improve shielding, both incoming (subwoofer next to the PC) and also emissions. On the foil, i glued on special acoustic dampening mats from the drummer store. This decreases mostly high frequencies. All in all, the noise level does go down, but you also need to take care of some other stuff i'll mention next. Temperature will rise a bit with this.

For the CPU, i chose a Pentium III 1.13 GHz (Tualatin core, 30W max). The stock Intel "In-A-Box" cooler+fan is pleasingly quiet. My graphics card, a Geforce 2 GTS, had a loud little fan on a tiny cooler. I took it off and replaced it with a cooler from an old 486, glued on with superglue and heat paste. The card does not show any signs of overheating.

My hard disks, a Seagate Barracuda IV and a Western Digital 600AB, both reside in 5 1/4" suspensions with rubber bands, so called "NoVibes". They make absolutely no audible noise now, not even on heavy seek.

I replaced the fan in my power supply with a Papst 8412 N/2GML, i lowered the voltage to about 10 Volts, with the help of some diodes. Rotation checking via mobo still works. I use 3 additional case fans, all with greatly reduced voltage, all Papst (one 120 mm, one 80 mm, one 60 mm). They don't make much noise anymore.

My case temperature is usually 30 to 34 Celsius, CPU temperature is 40 to 42C idle, 44 to 46C on full load. The HLT-order is automatically activated in Windows XP with ACPI setup.

One word about the Athlon and "CPU-Cooling" software: According to ASUS, this is bad for overall stability. I only found a german FAQ (here), i'll translate a bit: "There is an important reason for disabling HLT-cooling with Athlon-type CPUs. If this cooling is activated, power consumption of the CPU is permanently fluctuating between 5W and 60W+, in extremely short intervals. These fluctuations have to be compensated by the power supply unit. Weaker or lower-quality PSUs cannot react fast enough to these steadily changing conditions. Results can be: Freezes, Bluescreens, spontaneous reboots and "clicks" from the soundcard."
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fewtch
post Jun 14 2002, 17:04
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QUOTE
Originally posted by Continuum
My CPU is a Duron 700. I removed the (very loud) fan, and got the following temperatures (measured with Motherboard Monitor (freeware, "must-have"):
Idle: ca. 50C
Web-surfing, low activity: 53-60C
full activity: >75C

You may not care with a Duron 700 going so cheap, but at >75C your CPU isn't very far from biting the dust (many on the PC hardware forums have noticed system instability starting ~50C). You probably reduced the lifespan to a period less than a year. Bad idea, and totally non-recommended for 99% of Duron/Athlon users.

Reducing the speed of the fan (or replacing it with a lower RPM fan) is a much better idea. Many heatsink fans are designed with overclockers in mind, and will be very loud... even adding a high wattage resistor (or varistor) inline with the fan can be a way to slow it down.

It's pretty simple in electronics, heat is a component-killer. By reducing all the fan speeds, removing fans, etc. (increasing both CPU heat and general system heat) you're decreasing the MTBF of just about everything inside the box.


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KikeG
post Jun 14 2002, 17:39
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My experience with my PIII 600 MHz computer:

I got all the "silencing" stuff at QuietPC. See links at: www.silentpc.nl

Power supply: the easiest of all. I got from QuietPC a 250W silent power supply that is really silent, I can't hear it.

CPU fan: it's difficult to get a really silent one. There are some very silent according to specs, but once mounted on a motherboard, they are not so silent because they cause the motherboard to vibrate, and this causes audible noise. I have tried to solve this by soldering a potentiometer of 1KOhm in series with one of the cooling fan connectors, in order to reduce its rotating speed. At normal operation, I keep the pot at 0 Ohms to allow regular rotating speed. When I want real silent operation, I move a little bit the pot in order to reduce the fan rotating speed until it gets inaudible or almost inaudible. My computer case is permanently open at the motherboard's component's side to prevent from overheating. It is also advisable to start from an already silent and efficient cooling fan, such as the Molex ones at QuietPC.

Hard disk: I have the SilentDrive enclosure for my 5600 rpm Seagate HD. This reduces the noise, but the rotating noise is still audible. When I want really silent operation, I cover the upper part of my computer's minitower case with an old thick folded blanket, and it works very well. I guess it's a better solution to get a really silent hard disk, I've read that the Seagate Barracuda ATA IV is very silent.

When I use this tricks to get real silence, most of the noise comes from my monitor. To further improve silence, it's useful to use good quality sealed headphones. Some good models are the Sony MDR-7506 (which I own, they're a bit harsh sounding, but are great to hear compression artifacts), Sennheiser HD280, and I suppose AKG has also good isolated headphones. Many people say the Sony 7506 are the same as the Sony V6, and the later are cheaper.

The best solution of all, but not very practical in my opinion, is to use good quality extension cables for keyboard, mouse and monitor, and regular good quality shielded cable (not megabuck audiophile cable, please), and put the computer in a different room from where you are listening to the music.
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spase
post Jun 14 2002, 18:47
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QUOTE
Originally posted by CiTay
The HLT-order is automatically activated in Windows XP with ACPI setup.

I have often wondered, does this mean there is no need for programs such as cpu-idle?

also how can i ensure that i have ACPI set up?


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CiTay
post Jun 14 2002, 18:57
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QUOTE
Originally posted by spase
I have often wondered, does this mean there is no need for programs such as cpu-idle? 

also how can i ensure that i have ACPI set up?


This is true, at least for Intel processors (i didn't test this with AMD). XP doesn't need a special program to enable HLT-instructions and keep the CPU cool in idle mode. If you wanna check for ACPI, open the device manager and look under "system devices", there should be a device called "ACPI-switch" or so.

On some ASUS boards, you need to enable S3 mode in the BIOS prior to installing XP (S3 is "resume to RAM" or "sleep mode" function). Windows XP will detect this upon installation and enable the ACPI setup.
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Continuum
post Jun 14 2002, 20:55
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QUOTE
Originally posted by fewtch

You may not care with a Duron 700 going so cheap, but at >75C your CPU isn't very far from biting the dust (many on the PC hardware forums have noticed system instability starting ~50C).  You probably reduced the lifespan to a period less than a year.  Bad idea, and totally non-recommended for 99% of Duron/Athlon users.

Two things:
1. When is said ">75C", I meant it would go up that far, but I didn't let it happen: That's why I use the throttle option in Vcool, which completely stops any further heating of the processor at a certain level.
2. The CPU temperature did go up to 50C under heavy activity with fan, so I suppose my sensors might be a little more "sensitive" than most.

My setup is far away from perfect, but I achieved very low noise without any dampening materials or special accessories. If I have more time, I will consider buying special silencing equipment.

QUOTE
It's pretty simple in electronics, heat is a component-killer. By reducing all the fan speeds, removing fans, etc. (increasing both CPU heat and general system heat) you're decreasing the MTBF of just about everything inside the box.

As mentioned before, I removed only the CPU-fan, thus the case-temperature should not be affected.
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theduke
post Jun 14 2002, 21:17
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QUOTE
Originally posted by CiTay
The HLT-order is automatically activated in Windows XP with ACPI setup.

One word about the Athlon and "CPU-Cooling" software: According to ASUS, this is bad for overall stability. I only found a german FAQ (here), i'll translate a bit: "There is an important reason for disabling HLT-cooling with Athlon-type CPUs. If this cooling is activated, power consumption of the CPU is permanently fluctuating between 5W and 60W+, in extremely short intervals. These fluctuations have to be compensated by the power supply unit. Weaker or lower-quality PSUs cannot react fast enough to these steadily changing conditions. Results can be: Freezes, Bluescreens, spontaneous reboots and "clicks" from the soundcard."

Is the HLT implementation in XP safe vs. CPU-cooling SW? If not, can it be turned off?
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