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"Silent audio computer", ...how to build a pc for music listening
NumLOCK
post Feb 24 2003, 09:57
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Hi all,

What about sharing our personal experiences with building silent, flexible home audio/entertainment devices? wink.gif
This was my first time - and the choice of components was not easy ! Very often, you can't have both speed and silence. Here's what I did.

I've just built a PC on a following basis:
- ABIT KD7-E mainboard (VIA KT333 chipset / allows cpu multiplier setting / voltage lowering in BIOS / down to 1.1V in 0.025V increments).
- AMD Thoroughbred 2000+ 1.65V cpu (multiplier is unlocked out-of-the-box).
- flower CPU heatsink -- it rocks: depending on cpu voltage, there's no need for a fan !!
- 256MB of cheap PC266 ddr sdram
- nice black midi-tower case without PSU.
- special, ultra-quiet 300W PSU
- 7200RPM, 80GB WD HDD
- ATI Radeon 9000pro with VGA, DVI- and TV-out

The following components were modified:
- cpu was underclocked and heavily under-volted (running as 1500+ @ 1.2V). Can also run ~1200MHz @ 1.1V.
- Radeon 9000 pro was modified for passive cooling
- northbridge fan of the motherboard was replaced with passive cooling solution.
- HDD was put in silent 5 1/4'' acoustic armor.
- the case was stuffed with custom acoustic damping material.

The special components were mostly Zalman stuff, found on:
- http://www.quietpc.com/cpucool2.php (CPU flower cooler)
- http://www.quietpc.com/psu.html (silent PSU)
- http://www.quietpc.com/silentdrive.html (HDD armor)
- http://www.quietpc.com/vgamb.php (VGA and M/B heatsinks).

Results:
- there are two fans in the system (PSU & CPU), one of which can be deactivated.
- runs smoothly at 1500+, 1.2V, ~40 Celsius with big, silent 600RPM fan to blow some air into the case (no fan is fine also: ~42-55 Celsius depending on cpu voltage).
- pc is near-silent (just about "undetectable" from 30cm distance).

Additional thoughts:
- I'll add a soundcard and a LAN card (no fans, so no problem)
- I'm still hesitating about what DVD-rom drive I'll put in there.
- I've put the 7200RPM HDD because that's all I had.. but maybe I'll replace it with a 5400RPM (or lower) one.
- operating system not chosen yet.

Epilogue / What I learned:
- I'm VERY satisfied with this silent PC.
- In the future I'll be careful about the noise when buying components for other pc's.
- There's no way I'd buy a GeForce FX (think noise..)
- Silent machines need more expensive cooling components, but I think it's really worth it !

This post has been edited by NumLOCK: Feb 24 2003, 11:01


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Hanky
post Feb 24 2003, 10:05
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Sorry but I have no knowledge at all on this, but how about water cooling?
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NumLOCK
post Feb 24 2003, 10:12
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I haven't tried water cooling, it should be fine but I guess it's more expensive and maybe less reliable...
Using a proper heatsink, one won't need a fan at all biggrin.gif


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rc55
post Feb 24 2003, 10:28
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@Hanky:
I don't meant to be rude, but if you don't have anything useful to say, say nothing at all.

@Numlock:
I'm currently working on silencing my 1.6Ghz AthlonXP setup. For this, I will be using:

* A Zalman flower CPU heatsink, but my CPU will be clocked as normal.
* A Papst 8cm suspended fan to assist the flower with cooling.
* Foam surrouding for my hard drive. This is found to be cheap and effective.
* Use Nero DriveSpeed (in Nero Burning Rom) to lock the drive speed to 12x for near silent operation.
* Mod the PSU fan to facilitate a switch between standard flow and variable resistor.

I highly recommend http://www.silentpcreview.com as an excellent starter point, and the quietpc.com equipment has only ever received good reviews.

My opinion on watercooling is that it can be highly effective, but after comparing the sound output of a watercooled rig and a Zalman/QuietPC.com rig - there is very little in it.

Ruairi


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wdekler
post Feb 24 2003, 10:38
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@Numlock You can get your money PSU back if you want! smile.gif

There are PSU units which are more silent because they use no fan at all!

http://www.siliconacoustics.com/tkpow300wfan.html (not really ATX form factor, but others exist who are).

And if you're to buy a silent HD I can recommend to take a look at Seagate which are even less noisy than the Maxtor fluid hdds. I would be carefull with isolating the HDD though, the rise in temperature can be fatal in the long run.

If you're HDD supports it, you can use the freeware tool speedfan to monitor it's temperature and control the fan speed as needed.



Wanne.
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NumLOCK
post Feb 24 2003, 10:43
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QUOTE (rc55 @ Feb 24 2003 - 10:28 AM)
@Numlock:
I'm currently working on silencing my 1.6Ghz AthlonXP setup. For this, I will be using:

* A Zalman flower CPU heatsink, but my CPU will be clocked as normal.
* A Papst 8cm suspended fan to assist the flower with cooling.
* Foam surrouding for my hard drive. This is found to be cheap and effective.
* Use Nero DriveSpeed (in Nero Burning Rom) to lock the drive speed to 12x for near silent operation.
* Mod the PSU fan to facilitate a switch between standard flow and variable resistor.

I highly recommend http://www.silentpcreview.com as an excellent starter point, and the quietpc.com equipment has only ever received good reviews.

My opinion on watercooling is that it can be highly effective, but after comparing the sound output of a watercooled rig and a Zalman/QuietPC.com rig - there is very little in it.

Ruairi

Welcome to the club !

- The Zalman flower heatsink is excellent. You'll see, even if your 8cm fan runs very slowly, the heatsink will dissipate all cpu heat properly wink.gif
- Nero CD Speed sounds fine. Personally I don't need to play cd's, but dvds. I guess I'll use a Liteon 16X dvd drive, because they slow down to 1X while playing video.
- http://www.silentpcreview.com was my starting point actually. Highly recommended indeed.
- http://www.quietpc.com has great stuff, of the highest quality. However, maybe next time I'd look elsewhere for the Zalman components, to see if it's cheaper.
- As I said, I haven't tried watercooling, but first thing to try IMHO would be heatpipes and no fans wink.gif As soon as you need a fan, I agree one should consider watercooling.

Tell me, what power supply are you planning to mod ? I mean, the 300W "Q-Tech" from QuietPC.com is almost inaudible already, isn't it ?


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NumLOCK
post Feb 24 2003, 10:58
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QUOTE (wdekler @ Feb 24 2003 - 10:38 AM)
@Numlock You can get your money PSU back if you want! smile.gif 

There are PSU units which are more silent because they use no fan at all!

http://www.siliconacoustics.com/tkpow300wfan.html (not really ATX form factor, but others exist who are).

And if you're to buy a silent HD I can recommend to take a look at Seagate which are even less noisy than the Maxtor fluid hdds.  I would be carefull with isolating the HDD though, the rise in temperature can be fatal in the long run.

If you're HDD supports it, you can use the freeware tool speedfan to monitor it's temperature and control the fan speed as needed.



Wanne.

I've heard about these. Sounds nice - maybe I'll try one of those when they are a bit easier to find. rolleyes.gif

However, the quiet fan on mine still beings an advantage: it blows the hot air out of my case, so I can use substantially higher cpu frequencies and safer temperatures for both cpu and gfx board.

TKPower Fanless PSU
Note: This product is no longer available from Silicon Acoustics. Please visit us in March when we will have available a new fanless PSU that offers ATX form factor, P4 compatibility and 350 Watts.


umm.. oki wink.gif

About the HDD: yes, I'd take a Seagate for sure, that's what I bought for my brother btw wink.gif
Still, the silent enclosure makes a huge difference (btw, thanks about the speedfan trick). Do you know if they Seagate makes 5400 RPM hdd's of the latest generation ? If they don't, I don't think that's worth it. My 7200 WD is fluid bearing and recent, too. As long as it doesn't run too hot, I have no complaint laugh.gif


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AiZ
post Feb 24 2003, 11:02
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Hello everybody,

As long as your hard drive support A.A.M. (Automatic Acoustic Management), you can use the IBM... Err, Hitachi Feature Tool to active it. You will lose some points on the seek times, but nothing on transfer rates and your hard drive will become much quieter. Or, better, take a Seagate Barracuda IV or V! :-)
http://www.hgst.com/hdd/support/download.htm

For CPU cooling, I use big Alphas (8045 for AMD & 8942 for Intel) with quiet Papst fans. I suppose that's just a matter of taste...

For PSUs, choose the "ultra quiet" brand that you prefer but if you can afford it, take the big ones (450-500-550W). With a normal setup, their components will never get really hot, hence the "really" low fan speed.
I don't know how difficult is to get your hands on this baby (http://www.deltatronic.info/Technik/Netzteil/netzteil.html), but I think it would be nice... ;-)

Just my 0.02 euros...


Pierre
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niktheblak
post Feb 24 2003, 11:24
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The following are some of my personal experiences regarding quiet PC systems;

CPU Cooler makes by far the most noise. Especially since the heat sink functions as a "tuning fork" and thus amplifies the fan noise by resonating. This applies for the whole case, a computer case is like speaker's exterior; it amplifies the sound. So naturally eliminating direct contact between the computer case and the noise source is vitally important.

First, about CPU fans.

Most CPU heatsinks are made from hardenend aluminium which is a bad choice for noise reduction; it resonates like hell. It's important to isolate the fan from the heatsink with some vibration-absorbant material. I used thick two-sided tape on the corners of the CPU fan. Also, "noise profiling" the heatsink is very useful. Put the heatsink on a flat wooden table, or something similar, so it's noise will be greatly amplified and turn on the fan. Now you can find the "resonant spots" with your fingers; press down on a spot on the heatsink. If the noise is reduced, put a piece of duct tape on that spot. This can reduce cooling effects slightly but it also reduces noise. This is especially useful for bulk heatsinks with high-rpm 60mm fans; they tend to make an annoying high-pitched "sine-like" sound because of the heatsink's vibration.

Another simple yet effective thing is to isolate the computer case interior with sound-absorbant material. The bitum(?) mat they use in cars is perfect because it conducts at least some heat.

Also isolating the optical drives can be good. If your CD drives are attached to the case with rails, you should put a layer of thin electrical insulation tape to the rails attached to the CD drive. This eliminates the "trrrrrrrr" sound some drives tend to make.

I don't think modern 5400 rpm HDD's need to be isolated completely since they are already extremely silent. But again insulation tape is your friend; pad the edges of the HDD with it to reduce the vibrations and carve holes for the screws. You don't need additional grounding since the screws still touch the HDD.

Edit:

"Electrical tape" was not the expression I was looking for.

This post has been edited by niktheblak: Feb 24 2003, 11:54
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NumLOCK
post Feb 24 2003, 11:39
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@AiZ

At least for my HDD, the most "disturbing" noise (spindle rotation) cannot be solved by A.A.M unfortunately..
[Edit] BTW, that Deltatronic PSU sure looks impressive ! ohmy.gif wink.gif [/Edit]

@niktheblak

Thanks for this insight !

About CPU fans: in fact I'm not worried about it, because my fan is loosely attached to the case - and running slooooowly. I can even get rid of it, if I underclock (and under-volt !) the cpu just a tiny bit.

About HDD's: it's true that 5400RPM drives are much quieter, but the only way for me to get rid of the quiet high-pitched noise of an HDD, is to put it into the sealed box. If I remember right, even my brother's 5400RPM Seagate Barracuda IV would benefit from an enclosure.

Just a question, for the optical drives, what is electrical tape ? You mean thick tape ?

This post has been edited by NumLOCK: Feb 24 2003, 11:57


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Gabriel
post Feb 24 2003, 11:45
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I think that electrical tape means the IDE/floppy rubbon wires
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niktheblak
post Feb 24 2003, 11:52
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Sorry, I didn't know the exact english expression for "electrical tape".

I mean the plastic electrical insulation tape (you know, the one that you insulate bare wires with, comes in many colour options). It's like duct tape but thinner and has less glue smile.gif
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NumLOCK
post Feb 24 2003, 12:03
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I see.. it seems to be that ugly kind of red tape... laugh.gif I'll try it with the dvdrom drive, thx !

QUOTE
I think that electrical tape means the IDE/floppy rubbon wires

blink.gif blink.gif I doubt it, but.. maybe it would do the job.. why not wink.gif

By the way: be careful to get the right CPU - to my knowledge, many 2000+ Athlons are still Palomino ones (1.85V, square die, multiplier usually locked) while the Thoroughbred stepping (1.65V, rectangular die, multiplier usually unlocked) is preferred. My Thoroughbred handles 1.1V without any problem, up to approx. 1.1GHz if I'm not mistaken.


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Annuka
post Feb 24 2003, 12:06
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I managed to silence my workstation some months ago and wrote a HOWTO based on my experiences:

http://www.fisk.dk/silence/
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n68
post Feb 24 2003, 12:16
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yup..


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yup...


i don`t belive in quieting each component..
afterall.. the noise.. is a bi-product from natural
behaviour.

i think the sulution lies in a solid cabinett/case..

once i buildt my mobo.. in a silencer-casing..
(that kind they used on old fax machines)

then i put in a copper plate.. to
montage the mainboard
(with propper slotts bearings..)
and got myself a cd tower.. to build inside..

the cabinett.. has one big 220 fan.. making minimum of noise..
but inside.. i got five fan`s.. and the pc.. used to make a hell of noise...

not anymore.. smile.gif

ph34r.gif
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dgover2
post Feb 24 2003, 12:24
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Just a couple of notes, don't know if they will be useful.

Although my PC isn't silent, I did manage to remove CPU fan noise by lowering the voltage of my Athlon XP 1600+ to 1.425v, while keeping its clock speed @ 1.4ghz and then using a Tiger Miprocool II cooler. Although this cooler uses a fan (of course) you can't hear it, at all. It's also temperature controlled. My system runs between 39C - 48C, depending mainly on outdoor temperature smile.gif

I also replaced by roaring Pioneer DVD-106S with an Asus E616. The Pioneer can be speed controlled via unofficial software but then the transfer rates become quite slow (good enough for watching a movie though). The Asus is silent when watching a movie, but quite noisy when transferring data from CD's - but this is a time you are unlikely to care.

Now i just wish I could silence my GF3Ti500, its the noisiest thing in my case at the moment, I think.

-dave
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KikeG
post Feb 24 2003, 12:58
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QUOTE (n68 @ Feb 24 2003 - 12:16 PM)
i don`t belive in quieting each component..
afterall.. the noise.. is a bi-product from natural
behaviour.

i think the sulution lies in a solid cabinett/case..

It depends... Even a good cabinet will leave some sound out. And in order to use a cabinet it must be well ventilated, and the ventilation conducts must be silenced too. Also, some may find it too uncomfortable to use.

Another very (in many cases the most) effective and simple way is to put the computer in another room and use good quality extension cables for the monitor, keyboard, mouse and soundcard. But for some this can be uncomfortable too.
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NumLOCK
post Feb 24 2003, 13:54
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QUOTE (dgover2 @ Feb 24 2003 - 12:24 PM)
Now i just wish I could silence my GF3Ti500, its the noisiest thing in my case at the moment, I think.

-dave

Hi,
You can replace your noisy fan with just a big heatsink: http://www.quietpc.com/vgamb.php


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niktheblak
post Feb 24 2003, 14:04
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QUOTE (NumLOCK @ Feb 24 2003 - 01:03 PM)
I see..  it seems to be that ugly kind of red tape... laugh.gif  I'll try it with the dvdrom drive, thx !

You can get also black, white, yellow or blue insulation tape, 3M sells a six-pack of insulation tapes with all colours. Naturally the colour coding is meant to correspond with wire colours; red for DC-positive, black for DC-negative etc.

The main purpose for this rail taping operation is to fix the drive firmly to its place. As you may have noticed, a rail-mounted drive usually isn't attached to the case very firmly at all. This will cause the drive to "tremble" against the case structures thus generating a lot of noise.

Also one thing which I forgot to mention; when insulating a machine sound-wise, temperature management usually suffers. It might occur that hot air cannot rapidly exit the case; the CPU fan will end up circulating hot air right back into the CPU heatsink.

One option is to build air ducts within the computer case. Ducts can be made from old milk cartons and aluminium tape etc. CPU-friendly approach would be building a duct from the rear fan mount directly to the CPU fan. Make the rear fan suck air into the case and blow it directly to the CPU fan intake through a ventilation duct. This ensures that the CPU will get room-temperature air at all times. Naturally this approach disturbs the general air flow within the case and thus may not be the best possible solution for all situations.

A more general flow-oriented approach would be building a duct from the front fan into the vicinity of the CPU fan. But this duct will be a lot longer, have steeper angles (disturbs air flow) and much more difficult to build. But it will blow cool air directly to the CPU and GPU fans if using an AGP graphics card and an ATX-form motherboard.

One other thing to consider is psychoacoustics (since this is an audio compression forum); if you cannot completely silence the machine, make it sound as pleasant as possible. Especially mid/mid-high frequencies are the most annoying since the ear is most sensitive to these frequencies. The rubber/bitum mat (or the solution Annuka described in the article) I mentioned earlier will filter out mid/high frequencies completely leaving only a low-frequency hum. You might want to make the airflow as steady and unobstructed as possible. In some low-end computer cases, the front fan mount is covered by a thin plastic grille with very small holes for the air. This will cause a lot of turbulence and thus an annoying mid/high frequency noise. One option is to drill/carve a 80mm hole into the case front and covering it with a good-looking dust filter; this will give the air an unobstructed path into the case interior. The high frequency noise will turn into a pleasant sound of a distant waterfall, or wind blowing, not to mention the improved airflow.

This post has been edited by niktheblak: Feb 24 2003, 14:12
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userXYZ
post Feb 24 2003, 14:33
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I can recommend the following components out of my own experience:


Arctic Copper Silent TC:
CPU Heatsink/Cooler with very silent FAN
recommended CPUs:
AMD Athlon -> max. Athlon XP 2900+
AMD Duron -> max. Duron 2.0 GHz
1000 - 3500 rpm
11 - 36 cfm
Noise level -> 10 - 32 dB (on my XP 1800+ the
Fan moves always so slow that you can't hear it)
temperature controlled


Case Fans:
2x Papst 8412 N/2GL
80x80x25mm
12Volt/NTC
1500 rpm
Noise level -> 12 dB
temperature controlled


HDD:
If you don't need ultimative speed than buy a 5400 rpm disk.
I recently bought a Western Digital 400EB which is very
silent. My other Western Digital 1000BB is somewhat louder
(high frequency noise :-( ), but very fast. Using one of
this 5" frames where the hdd just 'hangs' in, can help alot.

If you use Linux and have loud DVD/CD-Rom drives, you can
slow them down with the tool hdparm.

Cheers and happy silencing
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DonP
post Feb 24 2003, 14:59
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A former employer set up the training rooms with maybe 25 sun workstations and it was pretty quiet. The
trick is to put all the noisy stuff in a different room (in that case, computer closets between the class rooms)
and just have monitor, keyboard, and mouse cabled through the wall.
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NumLOCK
post Feb 24 2003, 15:09
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QUOTE (DonP @ Feb 24 2003 - 02:59 PM)
A former employer set up the training rooms with maybe 25 sun workstations and it was pretty quiet.  The
trick is to put all the noisy stuff in a different room (in that case, computer closets between the class rooms)
and just have monitor, keyboard, and mouse cabled through the wall.

The problem with that approach, is: while you gain of course in acoustic noise, you loose a lot in picture sharpness on the screens (due to the cable lengths). With cheap video board and 17'' screen, using average refresh rates, I've found that the screen becomes *very* blurry and tiring to the eyes, when the cables reach about 2.5 meters in length.


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Kim_C
post Feb 24 2003, 15:14
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Here's a review of fanless ProSilence 350 PSU.

http://www.warp2search.net/reviews.php?op=...owcontent&id=35

Interesting. Too bad that fanless PSU:s are not sold here in Finland. I'd buy one in a minute because PSU causes the most noise in my system by resonating the whole case. Damn its annoying!
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fileman
post Feb 24 2003, 15:18
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Hello everybody,

I'm using a water cooled system for quite a long time now (>1 year), and I'm fully satisfied with this solution.

My AthlonXP 1600+ runs at original speed, the cooling requires no fan, the radiator just lies on the desk. Due to RAM and Northbridge heat there are two fans built into the midi tower (one for the PSU) - both are Papst silent fans running at a very low voltage, so they are very silent (can't notice them). I've got two harddisks installed, one Fujitsu silentdrive 40gigs@7200rpm and one IBM 120gigs@7200rpm - these are very quiet, but still the loudest part of the system.

Regards, fileman.

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GeSomeone
post Feb 24 2003, 17:56
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QUOTE (AiZ @ Feb 24 2003 - 11:02 AM)
As long as your hard drive support A.A.M. (Automatic Acoustic Management), you can use the IBM... Err, Hitachi Feature Tool to active it. http://www.hgst.com/hdd/support/download.htm

For Intel 8xx chipsets you can also use their so called Application Accelerator.
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