The Silent PC

The Silent PC
IT Noise
ISO 9296
Noise Labels
Intelligent PCs
Site Info

Noise Labels
Last modified January 1, 2022


The Meeting Point

The Silent PC web site focuses on the possibility to reduce distracting information technology (IT) noise emissions; in particular personal computer (PC) noise emissions. The main focus remains here, but the thoughts at this page can also be applied on any kind of technology where a low level of unwanted sound is a product differentiator. The page abstract:


The notion decibel, dB, is a relative one. For to be able to use dB as valuable information we need to know how its figures has been obtained and declared. Much of today's rare use of dB figures represents deliberate customer misleading, sanctioned by corrupted thinking.


Noise labels and acoustical noise declarations according to international standards can help interested purchasers to identify products with optimized acoustic characteristics; which is especially valuable for product groups where there are no other means to compare before buying.


Manufacturers' and sellers' lack of use of standardized noise labels and acoustical noise declarations are included in a viscious circle, maintaining purchaser unawareness on the possibility to make buying decissions according to products' acoustic aspects; which in turn deprives industry and sellers an important incentive to compete and profit on these same aspects.


The World industry has the power to reform the acoustic comfort market place: A simple to use universal product noise declaration and labeling standard that also includes sound quality metrics awaits its invention.


Who Pays for Low Noise Levels?

Low levels of unwanted sound are closely associated with the notions comfort, luxury, wealth and quality. Wealthy people tend to live in quiet areas, to work in quiet environments, and to purchase products and services with optimized acoustic comfort. The World's mightiest decission makers tend to prefer noiseless interiors and exteriors.

Wealthy as well as less wealthy people, mighty as well as less mighty decission makers, nontheless, have in common that they often make their decissions regarding products' and services' acoustic aspects unconsciously, and that they now often meet difficulties to judge acoustic aspects before buying.

The Gotland class submarines utilize an extremely quiet Stirling AIP engine

The Gotland is the world's first submarine class in operation with a Stirling air independent propulsion system - technology known to be extremely quiet. Here low levels of unwanted sound aren't primarily intended for comfort, but for maintenance of peace. Image courtesy and © Kockums AB


Technology Doesn't Have to Make Noise

In the following the IT equipment product group is used as an example: Industry can today with rather little effort produce quiet and sometimes even silent PCs and other kinds of information technology equipment, but the costs for improving products acoustic aspects must be worth working for: Purchasers must be willing to pay the extra it costs to optimize IT equipment acoustics.

At the same time this above is stated, can we now see more and more people becoming aware of their demands also regarding the acoustic aspects of information technology ergonomics and comfort. They have started asking themselves: "Do I really have to stand this uninteresting continuous sound?" and "How much of my brain's energy does it cost to handle this useless continuous acoustic information?". They think: "It's not that I can't stand it, but do I have to?" Second to this have they started asking for ways to make their computers run quieter, and/or where to buy a quiet PC, quiet PC parts, or other kinds of low-noise IT equipment. We can at this point also see an every day increasing number of IT magazines, consumer organizations magazines, other papers, and even economic oriented papers and Web sites writing on the subject. The most well known IT hardware web sites today on a regular basis include the noise emission aspect in their product reviews, and as shown in the Introduction and Solutions sections of this site can we see that many foresighted IT companies now show interest in acoustic comfort.

Maturing technology naturally develops towards higher quality. The acoustic aspect is one such important quality parameter, which already has become a product differentiator for the automotive, air-conditioning and domestic equipment industries.


Buying the Pig in a Poke

Even if there is an increasing awareness regarding the IT noise issue, will still most IT equipment and IT part purchasers be buying these products without knowing anything on their acoustic aspects; until they start using them. Most purchasers don't even think on this aspect before buying, at least when buying their first piece of information technology equipment.

One of the problems here is that there are no "listening rooms" for information technology equipment, like there are for HiFi equipment. In an oposite direction are most places where information technology equipment is sold so loud that it's impossible to sort out any noise from the product one is thinking on buying.

Listening rooms for to make it easier for customers to make buying decissions also according to the acoustic aspect of information technology equipment ergonomics, and comfort, seem easy to become a little too expensive for its manufacturers and sellers. The name of the alternative now spells ISO 9296; which means a way to present standardized, comparable and verifiable figures for IT noise emissions.


Industry Knows

Standardized comparable verifiable noise figures provided IT customers is not a new idea: Important IT manufacturers like Intel®, Microsoft® and Hewlett-Packard® - used to talk about or promote it in the late 1990s. They are cited at the introduction page. In the What is an Acoustical Noise Declaration? IBM® explains the benefits of noise declarations, and in the article Web-Based Product Noise Declarations IBM acoustic specialists provide some of recent year's most interesting reading related to this page's subject.

Not only IT equipment purchasers, however, face difficulties when wanting to make buying decissions according to products' acoustic aspects. Here are two other product groups, whose industries have understood the benefits of standardized declarations for unintentional distracting sound:

The air-conditioning industry

"..What is new, however, is the need for a standardized “labeling” procedure to be followed when determining a sound rating number for a product that can be designed, tested and manufactured any place in the world. Without an ARI “labeling” Procedure in International HVAC Sound Standards, the sound rating information provided to the end user will not be in a comparable form between different manufacturers or locations."

Source: Technical Committee on Sound White Paper: Product Labeling and International Standards - Implications and Benefits of an ARI "Labeling" Procedure. A document by The Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute, ARI, the US national trade association representing manufacturers of more than 90 percent of North American produced central air-conditioning and commercial refrigeration equipment.

The domestic equipment industry

"Whenever noise emission values for appliances under the scope of CECED are announced by a manufacturer, the values have to be measured in accordance with the latest version of the relevant standard (i.e. IEC 60704-1, IEC 60704-2-1, IEC 60704-2-8 and IEC 60704-2-11) and have to be declared in compliance with the latest version of EN 60704-3."

Source: Agreement on a common basis for noise declaration. A document by CECED, the European Committee of Manufacturers of Domestic Equipment.


Today's IT ISO Noise Declaration

The measurement standard (ISO 7779) is intelligently enough included in the noise declaration standard for IT equipment, and therefore doesn't have to be mentioned: Thus the at this point most precise way to show that IT noise figures have been obtained and declared according to their international standards [1] is to state:

Product: (The name of the product)
Declared noise emissions in accordance with ISO 9296:





x.x B

x.x B

x.x B

If you want to learn more on noise declaration for information technology equipment you can check the ISO 9296 page, where you also will find a unique list of sound power level values in bels (B) for some common sound sources and IT equipment.


The Actual Cost

Is it too costly for the information technology industry, or any other industry, to measure and declare their products' noise emissions? Is cost a reason for not doing these measurements and providing these figures? To answer these questions one example is used:

SP, The Swedish National Testing and Research Institute is in possession of an accredited acoustic laboratory doing high-quality measurements of information technology noise emissions. Here are their aproximate prices. If there is an increase in demand for these measurements are they likely to lower their prices.

1:st measurement of a PC system unit according to ISO 7779

600 US$

Following measurements of PC system units according to ISO 7779

170 US$

1:st measurement of a hard disk according to ISO 7779

600 US$

Following measurements of hard disks according to ISO 7779

170 US$

1:st measurement of any projector according to ISO 7779

< 600 US$

Following measurements of projectors according to ISO 7779

< 170 US$

Note that ISO 7779 is the IT noise measurement standard, while ISO 9296 is the IT noise declaration standard, ie the interface where IT manufacturers and buyers can meet. ISO 9296 states to report mathematically-statistically adjusted figures based on ISO 7779 raw data.


Home-Made or Professional Measurements?

In compensation for the lack of standardized noise measurements and declarations for information technology equipment by its manufacturers, can we at this point see an increasing use of "home-made" noise measurements by PC hardware reviewing Web sites and magazines. These noise measurements are of course a lot less accurate than the more expensive ones done by accredited acoustic laboratories according to universal standards. Nontheless can they be valuable for buyers if each product measurement is done in exactly the same way; but one has to understand that figures obtained by using non-standardized measurements never can be used to compare noise emissions from different PC hardware reviewers.

It is understandable that the PC hardware reviewing Web sites and magazines can't afford measurements and declarations of IT equipment noise emissions according to its ISO standards, but it seems most probable that the IT Industry can, if its customers are prepared to pay a little extra for it.

Today's high price for ISO 9296 declaration depends on its rare utilization, which results in low competition between acoustic facilities.


The International Noise Declaration Standards

There are now three different international noise declaration standards covering all existing product groups:

  • ISO 4871:1996 (E) "Acoustics -- Declaration and verification of noise emission values of machinery and equipment"

    Comment: ISO 4871 is a heavily criticized standard because it confusingly includes two different ways to declare noise emissions, and because one of these ways makes it easier to confuse purchasers and government authorities to believe that products are quieter than they actually are.

  • ISO 9296:1988 (E) "Acoustics -- Declared noise emission values of computer and business equipment"

    Comment: ISO 9296 is the World's most intelligent noise declaration standard, and is described in detail at the ISO 9296 page.

  • IEC 60704-3 (1992-06) - Test code for the determination of airborne acoustical noise emitted by household and similar electrical appliances - Part 3: Procedure for determining and verifying declared noise emission values.

    Comment: IEC 60704-3 use the dBA notion for to declare sound power level values, which makes them too easy to confuse with sound pressure level figures: The latter ones are the ones less valuable for product comparisons and buying decisions.



    A Future Universal Noise Declaration & Labeling Standard

    The World's acoustic standardization committees seem to have developed great standards for to measure the physical aspect of products' noise emissions, but there are two things that that remain to be invented:

  • Product noise measurement standards that include sound quality metrics.
  • An easy to use and understand simplified universal declaration and marking standard to use for all kinds of products to state that noise figures have been obtained and declared according to these international standards.


    Sound Quality Standards still Lack

    ISO 9296 unfortunately yet doesn't cover all main aspects on how humans perceive sound: ISO 9296 mainly declares the physical aspects of noise. Two computers with extacly the same sound power level figures per ISO 9296 may still sound very different. This because of difference in their sound quality aspects. Out of this come that many IT suppliers that have adopted and mastered the use of ISO 7779 and ISO 9296 for measurement and declaration, realize that while this addresses the regulatory compliance issues, they still end up with PC's that annoy their users:

    Invented in the 1930s, the A-weighting filter strange enough still represents the only commonly used little effort in the direction to include sound quality metrics as a parameter in noise declarations: Sound quality metrics are only rudimentary covered with A-weighting.

    An approximation is that with ISO 9296 we only reach about three quarters the distance to make it easier for purchasers to in figures make buying decissions according to degree of annoyance caused by unintentionally emitted product sounds.

    ISO 9296 states that manufacturers also optionally can provide extra information on the character of the noise: if it contains prominent discrete tones or whether the noise is considered to be impulsive. ISO 9296 also explains that there today isn't any international consensus on objective methods for rating of these subjective characteristics of noise. [1,2].

    Important aspects of sound quality are loudness, roughness, pitch, sharpness, spectral balance, tonalness (tonality), impulsiveness and fluctuation strength.

    How come we still lack noise measurement, declaration and labeling standards that reflect how average humans commonly perceive different kinds of machine and equipment sounds?

    How can it be that regulatory compliance for low-intensity machine and equipment noise, ie noise that doesn't cause auditory health effects, still not completely address its main adverse effect: Distraction?

    Related link

    "Measurements and Judgments of Sound in relation to Human Sound Perception" is a most interesting report by Danish DELTA related to the subject.


    The Universal Noise Marking standard

    Note that the universal noise label standard outlined below will be made a lot better by the World's leading acousticians: It is just to be seen as a suggestion, that can be much further improved.

    It seems possible to establish a simplified way to show that for example ones IT acoustic noise measurement and declaration conform with the ISO 9296 standard (wich include the use of ISO 7779 for measurement):

  • Two different kinds of values on noise emissions, sound power level and sound pressure level, is one too much for to be simple to use and understand, and six different figures (the ones describing the operating conditions) clearly becomes impossible to use in marketing and marking contexts.
  • Stating "Declared noise emissions in accordance with ISO 9296:" seems to be a way too long sentence for to be used for easy labeling and marketing of low noise emissions; especially in advertizing where the message must be short but still accurate.
  • The figures 9296 will by the human thought too easy be mixed up with the B and dB figures; which have to stand on their own as figures for to be as easy as possible to apprehend.
  • It is a common agreement that sound power level, LWA, in bels or decibels is the most reliable measure for to compare noise emissions between products: This since LWA values don't depend on distance or user position [1,2,3,4,5,7]. Declared single-number noise emission value, Ld, is the sum of a measured noise emission value and the associated uncertainty, rounded to the nearest decibel [9].

    Declared A-weighted sound power level, LWAd, in bels or decibels thus represents the easiest to understand way to label products' noise emissions when intended to make it possible for purchasers to make a buying decission according to level of noise emissions; this since it provides a single-number noise emission sound power level value in bels or decibels. A suggestion is therefore that LWAd will become universally accepted as the measure to use for a future simplified marking of acoustic noise emissions according to any product's specific International noise declaration standard for declaration of noise emissions when in typical operation. The resulting marking could look as easy to use and understand as this:

    xx dB ISO


    xx dB IEC

    IEC stands for The International Electrotechnical Commission. The acoustic committees of IEC and ISO represent the World's two most important acoustic standardization organizations. In the example above the thought is that dB ISO or dB IEC regarding information technology would stand for A-weighted decibel values expressing declared sound power level and declaration according to ISO 9296 when in typical operation: The latter because we are talking on information technology equipment, where ISO 9296 is used for declaration (and include the measurement standard to use).

    The computer industry have intelligently choosen to use the unit bel for to express sound power level values to avoid confusion between decibels for sound power level and decibels for sound pressure level. However, today the computer industry is the only product group that uses sound power in bels, and if the idea of using dB ISO or dB IEC will come true will they find themselves using decibel (dB) instead of bel (B) values for sound power level as intended in their precious standards. Thus an other maybe better option would be to choose to use "bels ISO", "B ISO", "bels IEC" or "B IEC" for a simplified marking standard: This for to increase the pressure on manufacturers and help purchasers not to mix-up sound power level and sound pressure level. That could look like this:

    x.x B ISO


    x.x B IEC


    The same noise marking for any technology

    Not only information technology acoustic noise emissions can be labeled this way, but all kinds of technology where noise emissions might be a possible problem. A specific lawn-mower can then for example be labeled 8.6 B ISO (or 8.6 B IEC), a dishwasher 4.0 B ISO, a shawer 3.3 B ISO and a PC intended for home use 1.8 B ISO. Since everyone knows that a lawn-mower is a lawn-mower, a dishwasher a dishwasher, a shawer a shawer and a PC a PC; and the ISO and IEC standards aren't competing with each other, will the simple words B ISO or B IEC tell that declared values have been obtained according to the product-specific standards for measurement and declaration when in typical operation.

    Industry can also aggree upon a quality-label that informs when products are noise declared according to their necessary international standards. This label can include the single value as said above, but would also show that the product is completely noise declared in its documentation.

    To include sound quality parameters

    For the moment humanity hasn't invented a noise declaration standard that includes sound quality aspects, but when this issue is solved, would the sound quality aspect of course also have to be included in a simple to use manner. An idea is to add one to three plus-marks on the right hand side of the noise figures. Three plus-marks would stand for the best sound quality aspects. That could look like this:

    xx dB +++ ISO


    xx dB +++ IEC

    Since there are many different sound quality aspects, an other, maybe even more clever idea would be to use an "A, B, C, D-scale" for them. Here "A" could mean maximal comfort for this particular aspect of sound quality. It could look like this for a product with superb acoustic comfort:

    xx dB AAAAA ISO


    xx dB AAAAA IEC


    A possible objection to simplify product noise labeling this far could be that all standards are updated regularly, and that one could feel insecure about what manufacturers are stating with the words dB ISO, B ISO, B IEC or bels IEC, but the thought is not that this new notion would make more precise noise declarations reduntant: These shortings should just be seen as a complementary addition for to simplify noise marking of products and for to use in advertisments for products, making it easier for customers to compare products in this aspect; and make a buying decission also according to level of noise emissions. Manufacturers using dB ISO, B ISO, dB IEC or B IEC could still be asked to enclose their full noise declaration with their products, and it is belived that they would want to, because the cost for a complete measurement and declaration would be the same for the simplified as for the complete declaration. Lastly the society awareness that a simplified noise marking would generate would work for complete noise declarations.

    If the use of a simplified universal product noise labeling standard is established would the World's governments and the Industry have to agree upon to only permit use of the words ISO or IEC like in dB ISO, B ISO, dB IEC or B IEC if it is for to declare a product's acoustic noise emissions according to the established product-specific noise declaration standards; where the declaration standard should state that if dB ISO, B ISO, dB IEC or B IEC is used for simplified noise marking should it stand for the use of LwAd acording to the product specific declaration standard when in typical use.

    A historical objection regarding declaration of noise emissions stating only sound power level measures is that customers desire sound pressure level measures [1,2]. It isn't known what customers desire for sound pressure levels, but it seems quite possible that they fast will learn to use sound power levels as soon as they are informed that they can benefit of them.

    ISO and the consumer

    dB ISO or B ISO could fit in well in an ISO statement on the consumer:

    "In today's increasingly global manufacturing and trading environment, consumers expect to benefit from access to a wider choice of goods and services, lower prices and more information on which to base their choices."

    Standardization - not obligation

    It is worth noting that establishing a product marking standard isn't the same as obligation to use it. It has nothing to do with government regulations and directives. An easy to understand marking standard for unwanted acoustic emissions only makes it easier for the manufacturers interested in this issue to reach their customers; thus providing the basis for open competition on minimizing technology acoustic noise emissions. It will then, as in all open competition, be up to the market to decide whether it is interested in low noise emissions or not. Establishment of a standardized easy to understand marking of technology noise emissions provides freedom, and may at the same time help the experts now trying to find out what is an acceptable level of low-intensity acoustic noise emissions to reach consensus.


    Like ISO 9296 will also a dB ISO, dB IEC, B ISO or B IEC standard comply with the "One Standard - One Test, Supplier's Declaration of Conformity" (1-1SDoC or 11SDoC) concept [6]; something all involved participants - governments, manufacturers and their customers - benefits of.


  • With a simplified universal product noise marking standard will the World for the first time in history have provided itself with an easy understandable but still accurate possibility to label acoustic noise emissions for any kind of technology product group.
  • A voluntary universal easy to understand marking standard for products' acoustic noise emissions, paired with marketing of its existense, would represent a sustainable effort of the modern free society to provide acoustic comfort not only to the wealthiest and/or the most technically interested, but to all people prepared to pay for it.
  • Making it easier for anyone to make buying decissions according to all products' acoustic aspects will most possible make acoustic comfort an even more profitable product differentiator.


    Food Content & Unwanted Sound

    A parable of making it possible for interested manufacturers and purchasers to meet utilizing a universal simple to use, but still accurate product marking standard for levels of unintentional and distracting sound, can be the fact that most people also regard it natural to be able to find the ingredients, calories, fat and protein content, and country of origin labeled on their food and drinking before buying. People capable of reading are here free to choose what food and drinking they regard tasty and healthy.


    The United States of America

    The United States of America's noise policy
    EPA, United States Environment Protection Agency, did in 1979 establish a noise label program. At their history pages you can read this:

    "EPA Establishes New Noise Label Program

    A program designed to provide consumers with information about the noise characteristics of new products through a labeling system has been established by the Environmental Protection Agency.

    EPA Administrator Douglas M. Costle has approved a new regulation which will require manufacturers to affix labels to products that produce noise capable of adversely affecting public health or welfare and products that are sold to reduce noise."

    The EPA noise label program was based on the US Noise Control Act of 1972:

    "The Congress declares that it is the policy of the United States to promote an environment for all Americans free from noise that jeopardizes their health or welfare. To that end, it is the purpose of this Act to establish a means for effective coordination of Federal research and activities in noise control, to authorize the establishment of Federal noise emission standards for products distributed in commerce, and to provide information to the public respecting the noise emission and noise reduction characteristics of such products."

    The Reagan administration closed the United States Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Noise Abatement and Control in 1982. The U.S. Congress has not rescinded the Noise Control Act of 1972: It has been left intact but without authorization to carry out any new activities or funding for any old activities.

    The Acoustical Society of America has undertaken an initiative to write and publish an American National Standard concerning "Declaration and Verification of Noise Emission Values of Machinery and Equipment." In the first drafts of this comming ANSI version of ISO 4871 [9] they included "relative noisiness" as a new most interesting and simple to use metric intended for consumer product labeling. The relative noisiness metric will, however, due to negative comments be left out in the next drafts of this standard. For the moment it isn't known what these negative comments where, and from where they came.

    The primary difference between ISO 4871 and this comming US standard is that it attempts to avoid confusing purchasers of products by specifying the use of one metric (declared maximum noise emission values), whereas, ISO 4871 permits the use of two metrics (either declared maximum noise emission values or average noise emission values and an uncertainty). In addition, this standard provides more guidance to manufacturers in determining declared noise emission values than ISO 4871 does. Manufacturers following the procedures and guidelines contained in this standard will be able to meet the requirements of ISO 4871.

    Here are two references for those of you who want to learn more on the relative noisiness metric:

  • Schomer, Paul D., "The Case for a Simple Metric for Consumer Product Labeling", Noise/News International, p. 57-58, June, 2000.
  • Schomer, Paul D., "The use of a simple metric for consumer product labeling", 144th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, Newport Beach, California, December, 2000.
  • ANSI S12.61-200X "Declaration and Verification of Noise Emission Values of Machinery and Equipment" is the name of the comming American version of ISO 4871. It is now named BSR S12.61. Anyone that is interested in obtaining a copy of the current draft can e-mail Standards Manager Susan B. Blaeser, ASA (ASC S1), Acoustical Society of America Standards Secretariat.

    Comment: A major part (about 34%) of the visitors to The Silent PC web site come from the US. The US manifests its thoughts on freedom, freedom of choice and freedom of competition regarding products' acoustic aspects, in that some of its most important IT manufacturers now provide comparable data according to ISO 9296 for their products. It is hoped that ISO 4871 soon will be updated to include the intelligent decissions found in the drafts for The United States of America's ANSI S12.61-200X.

    Related Links

    Product Noise Labeling Standards - Draft - Background Document for Product Noise Labeling General Provisions - A document from the EPA Office of Noise Abatement and Control.

    ARI, The Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute - Technical Committee on Sound White Paper: Product Labeling and International Standards - Implications and Benefits of an ARI "Labeling" Procedure

    Noise Labeling and the Acoustical Consultant - The Importance of Standardization

    TABD: "The Transatlantic Business Dialogue offers an effective framework for enhanced cooperation between the transatlantic business community and the governments of the European Union (EU) and United States (US)."

    United States Occupational Safety & Health Administration

    Public Citizen - " Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded by Ralph Nader in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts."


    The European Union

    The European Union flag
    The European Union has an active policy on minimizing acoustic noise emissions: The European Commission views noise in the environment as one of the main, local environmental problems in Europe.

    Below follow important examples on EU's efforts to solve the noise problem:

    Directive on airborne noise emitted by household appliances

    The European Union's Council Directive 86/594/EEC of 1 December 1986 on airborne noise emitted by household appliances is a community legislation in force regarding measurement and declaration of noise emissions from household appliances such as freezers, dishwashers and refrigerators.

    In the oposite to most of today's labeling schemes do the EU household appliances noise directive exercise its power without any noise limits: all household appliance manufacturers in the European market compete on low noise emissions using an objective language; a standard that states how to measure and declare acoustic noise emissions so that they can be compared. This have yelded the europeans at the least half as noisy household appliances as before the directive.

    Noise directive on outdoor equipment

    The Noise Emission Directive 2000/14/EC relating to the noise emission in the environment by equipment for use outdoors was applied from January 3rd, 2002.
    The World's first standardized easy to understand noise label
    One of the aims with the Directive is to provide the public with information on the noise emitted by such equipment by labeling the specified products intended for use outdoors with their guaranteed sound-power levels.

    Note: This European Union noise label is only intended for marking of specified products for use outdoors. Image courtesy of QNET LLC.

    The label represents the World's first known easy for customers to understand noise marking of products measured and declared according to ISO standards.

    Here does Peter Tetteroo, Regulatory Compliance Expert, The Toro Company, explain the new directive, and here does Brüel & Kjær.

    EU safety and health requirements

    In the Council Directive 90/270/EEC of 29 May 1990 on the minimum safety and health requirements for work with display screen equipment this is said: "Noise emitted by equipment belonging to workstation(s) shall be taken into account when a workstation is being equipped, in particular so as not to distract attention or disturb speech."

    EU eco-labeling

    The EU "PC Ecolabelling Project" with its "A Feasibility Study of the Product Group Personal Computers in the EU Ecolabel Scheme" stems from 1997. It was heavily critiziced in an ITIC (Information Technology Industry Council) policy document: "European Union Eco-labeling Program for Personal Computers", January 23, 1998.

  • The EU in the 2005 criterias for the award of the community eco-label to personal computers states:

    "The ‘Declared A-weighted Sound Power Level’ (re l pW) of the personal computer system unit, according to paragraph 3.2.5 of ISO 9296, shall not exceed:

    – 4.0 B(A) in the idle operating mode (equivalent to 40 dB(A))

    – 4.5 B(A) when accessing a hard-disk drive (equivalent to 45 dB(A))."

  • Source: Final draft criteria (pdf ~35K) which were voted on at the Regulatory Committee meeting on 29 September 2004. These criteria have been sent for translation and should be published in the Official Journal spring 2005.

    the European Union Eco-label


  • The EU 2005 limits for personal computer noise emissions represents the first ecologic/ergonomic label scheme improvement in this field since the 1990s, and conforms well with earlier industry statements on what could be a good compromise between cost and office ergonomics.
  • Like most of today's ergonomic and environmental labeling schemes for information technology do the EU eco-label not ask manufactures to provide customers their actual noise emission data. Experts do also here try to decide what is an acceptable level of low-intensity noise emissions (for average working environments).

  • European Environment Agency

    The European environment agency states this on noise emissions:

    "Noise is a serious issue - levels over 40 Ldn dB(A) affect our well-being, while there is evidence that levels over 60 Ldn dB(A) can affect our physical and psychological health."

    Suggestion to the European Commission

    The European commission can become even more respected for its intentions to reduce noise emissions if it also chooses to work for international freedom of competion on it: This by cooperation with the World's committees working on acoustic standardization on providing a meeting-point for sound-conscious manufacturers and customers; a simplified universal noise marking standard like outlined above at this page, and when the resulting marking standard is developed, aid in marketing it.

    Related links

    ANEC - The European consumer voice in standardisation

    The European Commission's noise policy

    United States & European Union - Joint Safety and Health Page

    The Information Network of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work

    BEUC - The European Consumers' Organisation

    European Environmental Bureau

    Erkki Liikanen, member of the European Commission responsible for enterprise and information society.

    Green labels - Consumer interests and transatlantic trade tensions in eco-labelling: A Consumers International article.

    Consumers International - A worldwide non-profit federation of consumer organisations, dedicated to the protection and promotion of consumer interests.


    I-INCE on Noise Labels

    The International Institute of Noise Control Engineering (I-INCE) is a consortium of societies worldwide concerned with noise control and acoustics:

    "Noise Labels for Consumer and Industrial Products

    In many parts of the world, consumer and industrial goods are sold without any noise limitations, and frequently no indication to the purchaser how noisy the products will be when installed, either to those who operate the products or to those in the vicinity. There is much work in progress to develop international and national standards for measuring the noise characteristics of consumer and industrial products, and there are testing organizations in many countries which carry out appropriate evaluations. However, the noise data available to the typical customer is frequently limited, even in those countries where there is great concern for noise at the workplace, in the home, and in the neighborhood.

    The TSG has attempted to assemble information from the countries whose representatives are participating in the study on noise labelling methodologies. Such methodologies are intended to provide effective means for specifying the noise properties of consumer and industrial products to make it possible for the purchasers to select low-noise products. The intent is to provide information that will benefit the users of these products, and their neighbours. The ultimate goal is to make the low noise of products an important competitive factor in the sale of such products. An important aspect of this study is to develop recommendations on how and in what form labelling can be implemented to bring about people’s awareness of the effects of excessive noise, and the need to reduce noise immission levels to preserve health and provide an acceptable environment."

    The text above can be downloaded here, the name of the file is "2002 Report of TSG #2".

    The I-INCE noise labeling initiative was further discussed at INTER-NOISE 2002, the 31st International Congress and Exposition on Noise Control Engineering, August 19-21, 2002, Michigan, USA.

    BUY QUIET 2011 - Inducing "Buy Quiet" purchasing attitudes through simplified product noise ratings - An International INCE Symposium, Paris, July 5-6, 2011. You can access all slide-show presentations here.




    Dell is one of the World's most important computer systems and information technology companies; well-known for its concept to sell computer systems directly to end-customers. Among the initiated Dell is also known for some clever designed low-noise computers. That Dell is a conscious manufacturer shows in that they are one of the first IT companies presenting industry standard noise declarations according to ISO 9296 for all products easy accessible for all customers!

    "Dell voluntarily declares its product performance of environmental aspects for Dell products through Dell Environmental Data Sheets. Environmental performance data includes information on product energy consumption, acoustics emissions, materials, eco-labels and approvals, upgradeability/extendibility, and end-of-life management."

    Dell also deserves an extra compliment for leaving out customer-confusing talking about noise measurement standards in their data sheets, and for being the only known IT manufacturer showing total conformance with the requirements of ISO 9296.

    Here are all Dell Environmental Data Sheets.

    When Dell writes on product testing they state this:

    "In order to meet eco-label requirements and customer expectations, Dell systems are tested for energy consumption, acoustics, and visual ergonomics in Dell's internationally certified state-of-the-art acoustics test facility, located in Austin, Texas. The acoustics facility is an accredited acoustic test facility under the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP) administered by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and conducts testing according to widely respected ISO test guidelines."

    The Dell logo is a trademark of Dell Computer Corporation.



    Hewlett-Packard takes the acoustic aspect of IT ergonomics serious

    Hewlett-Packard May 2002 merged with Compaq Computer Corporation. The combined new HP company now constitutes the World's biggest maker of computers and printers. Hewlett-Packard shall have the credit of being the first one among the World's most important information technology manufacturers stating they are measuring information technology acoustic noise emissions according to ISO standard. As early as in 1997 did they in a white paper named "hp PCs and acoustic noise" tell this:

    "To allow reliable noise comparisons between different PCs, Hewlett-Packard hopes other manufacturers will also start to publish acoustic power values according to ISO 7779."

    The Hewlett-Packard company now manifests its thoughts on allowing reliable noise comparisons: HP now declares some of its products according to ISO 9296. These data can be found below the heading Product Environmental Profiles.

    HP, Hewlett-Packard and the HP Invent logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Hewlett-Packard Company.


    TCO Development

    the TCO'99 ergonomic and environmental certification
    TCO Development are worldwide known for the TCO ergonomic and environmental labeling of computer screens, but TCO Development also sets quality standards for PC system units, peripherals and mobile phones. In the TCO'99 certification a low computer acoustic noise emission as a mandatory requirement was introduced. The TCO'99 certification use the ISO 9296 standard for noise declaration, with the addition that sound power measurements according to ISO 7779 only have to be performed in six microphone positions (!).

    TCO Development are now carrying out deeper research regarding acoustic ergonomy for the TCO200X certification.

    A problem with the TCO'99 certification was that companies that used it didn't have to tell how quiet their products where. They only had to tell that their product where accepted according to the limits set for being approved by the certification (LwAd 4.8 bels idling, 5.5 bels operating per ISO 9296). If that will stay the same in the TCO200X certification then will it only reach half-way in making it easier for buyers to choose quiet products. One will know that the product is accepted by the certification, but not if it is the most quiet product available. An other problem with TCO'99 is the TCO Development choice to deviate from the original ISO 7779 standard. If TCO Development regard the ISO standards too demanding does it seem better if they would work for changing the ISO standards, than using them half-way; making it difficult to use obtained values for comparision of products.

    One can read some more on TCO Development on the Introduction page of this site.


    Related Associations & Organizations

    Standards are documented agreements containing technical specifications or other precise criteria to be used consistently as rules, guidelines, or definitions of characteristics, to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are fit for their purpose.
    (defined by ISO)


    ISO - International Organization for Standardization is a network of national standards institutes from 140 countries working in partnership with international organizations, governments, industry, business and consumer representatives. A bridge between public and private sectors.

    ISO and the consumer:

    "In today's increasingly global manufacturing and trading environment, consumers expect to benefit from access to a wider choice of goods and services, lower prices and more information on which to base their choices. The also expect that the services and products which they purchase will not only be consistent in quality, durability and ease of use, but also safe and ecologically friendly.

    In addressing all these areas of major concern to consumers, ISO standards help by representing a consensus on the best knowledge and experience available worldwide."

    As read above do ISO provide the World with the ISO 7779, 9295 and 9296 standards for IT acoustic noise emission measurement and declaration.


    IEC, The International Electrotechnical Commission is also involved in acoustic standards, but not for information technology equipment. One of the important acoustic IEC standards is IEC 60704-3, which is used for noise declaration of house hold appliances. IEC and ISO cooperates closely on noise standardization.

    ECMA International

    ECMA International is an International industry association founded in 1961 and dedicated to the standardization of information and communication systems.

    Members of ECMA International include major computer software and hardware manufacturers, some of them: Alcatel, Ericsson, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Compaq (now part of Hewlett-Packard), Panasonic, Sun, Apple, Fujitsu, NEC, Philips, Avaya, Netscape, Pioneer Electric, Toshiba, Canon, Hitachi, Network Appliance, Ricoh, Xerox, Siemens, Tenovis, OKI Europe Ltd, IBM, Dell, Intel, Openwave and Sony.

    The US actively participates in ECMA International.

    The Acoustical Society of America

    The Acoustical Society of America work together with the World's important standardization organisations.


    TCO Development, as said above, are worldwide known for the TCO ergonomic and environmental labeling of computer screens, but TCO Development also sets quality standards for PC system units, peripherals and mobile phones. Read above and here for more on TCO.


    ANSI, American National Standards Institute:

    "ANSI is a private, non-profit organization (501(c)3) that administers and coordinates the U.S. voluntary standardization and conformity assessment system. The Institute's mission is to enhance both the global competitiveness of U.S. business and the U.S. quality of life by promoting and facilitating voluntary consensus standards and conformity assessment systems, and safeguarding their integrity."


    The International Institute of Noise Control Engineering (I-INCE) is a consortium of societies worldwide concerned with noise control and acoustics.


    The Institute of Noise Control Engineering of the USA is a non-profit professional organization incorporated in Washington, DC. A primary purpose of the Institute is to promote engineering solutions to environmental noise problems. INCE/USA is a Member Society of the International Institute of Noise Control Engineering, an international consortium of organizations with interests in acoustics and noise control. Within INCE, there is a technical group on computer noise.


    ITI, Information Technology Industry Council, formerly CBEMA, represents the leading U.S. providers of information technology products and services.

    On IT-related environmental programs and inititaives ITI in a policy document says:

    "Programs should not be established unless they provide value to customers. To do so, programs should provide customers with meaningful, clear information about the characteristics in this area of products that are relevant to protection of the environment. This information should enable customers to make their own decisions about whether products have the specific characteristics they value."

    It has not yet been possible to find any ITI statement on ergonomics or human factors. There is at this moment no ergonomics or human factors item below ITI's heading "Issues & Policies", but there is an Environment one:

    "Although environmental considerations continue to be a minor factor in most purchases of information technology products, ITI's members remain committed to identifying and implementing innovative, market-driven approaches to addressing legitimate environmental concerns. ITI is a leading advocate of voluntary, non-discriminatory environmental initiatives, such as the Energy Star(TM); energy efficiency labeling program, which are developed in cooperation with industry, are based on sound science, and which allow for technological advancement and innovation."


    INCITS, International committee for information technology standards: their mission is to produce market-driven, voluntary consensus standards in the area of information technology.


    CCIA, Computer & Communications Industry Association:

    "CCIA's mission is to further our members' business interests by being the leading industry advocate in promoting open, barrier-free competition in the offering of computer and communications products and services worldwide.


    ETSI, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute:

    "Etsi is a not for profit organization whose mission is to produce the telecommunications standards that will be used for decades to come throughout Europe and beyond."


    ICA, The International Council for Information Technology in Government Administration is a non-profit making organisation established to promote the information exchange of knowledge, ideas and experiances between Central Government IT Authorities on all aspects of the initiation, development and implementation of computer-based systems in and by Government.


    Statskontoret,The Swedish Agency for Administrative Development, whose aim is to support the Government and Ministries in their endeavors to review, raise efficiency in and exert control over state and state financed activities, has put together specifications of requirements when purchasing personal computers. In Statskontoret's Technical Standard 26:5, "Acoustical Noise Emission of Information Technology Equipment" [3] they specify how to measure and declare computer noise levels, and recommend upper limits of declared sound power/pressure values to be accepted. The technical standard 26.5 has often been cited and used around the world, since it represents a unique document.

    Comment: However, the Swedish Agency for Administrative Development was in their latest purchase of government information technology not so impressive regarding limits for acoustic noise emissions. The manufacturers were told that compliance with the noise limits was optional. Statskontoret's Technical Standard 26:5 is also a rather weak document, if intended to work in a direction for improved acoustic ergonomy. Its noise limits for equipment for use in quiet office areas are even higher set than the ones in the now old TCO'99 ergonomic labeling scheme, and even the majority of dishwashers sold in Sweden will easy qualify!


    Examples of Industrial Acoustic Awareness

    Fan Noise 2003 was held in Senlis, France September 23-25, 2003

    Internoise 2003 - The conference was held in Jeju, Korea, August 25 to 28, 2003.

    Cobalt3 - "As heat and noise have become a serious design issue in consumer electronics, Cobalt3 is currently expanding its operations by creating a diverse range of services in the design and development of thermal acoustic solutions for enterprises in the Consumer Electronic Sector. By establishing a purpose-built laboratory and combining it with the company’s range of products, Cobalt3 will be able to certify that its customer’s current or new products meet and exceed all of today’s growing thermal-acoustic requirements."

    Two editorials by Cathy Biber at the CoolingZone:

    Acoustics and the Thermal Engineer part I

    Acoustics and the Thermal Engineer part II

    The Tenth International Congress on Sound and Vibration was held at KTH in Stockholm, Sweden, 7–10 July, 2003.

    INTER-NOISE 2002, the 31st International Congress and Exposition on Noise Control Engineering was held August 19-21, 2002, Michigan, USA.

    Decibel by Decibel, Reducing the Din to a Very Dull Roar: Acoustical Society of America 1996 Science Writers Award Winner.

    Acoustic noise emission and communication systems in the next century: An ElectronicsCooling magazine article.

    ElectronicsCooling "is the premier magazine dedicated to engineers responsible for thermal management in the electronics industry. The magazine's mission is to disseminate practical information that relates to cooling of today's electronics." They comment on noise emission in relation to cooling.

    Vibro-Acoustic Sciences, Inc. "is dedicated to developing high quality software for noise and vibration design as well as providing consultant and technical support services tailored to your environment." November 15, 2001 they held a seminar in Santa Clara, CA, USA, on computer and electronic product noise in general. Almost 50 engineers, mostly in the PC/server/telecom sectors where attending.

    At the introduction page of this site can one find more examples.


    Examples of Society Acoustic Awareness

    AnandTech on small form factor systems: "A growing concern for a lot of people is the noise output of their computer(s) - "I want my computer to be quiet, not rattle the windows!" A home-grown system will often have several fans to keep it cool, and the noise levels can be very annoying to say the least. More than a few people have ended up with Dell systems simply because they are engineered to reduce the noise output - performance be damned!" - Searching for the very silent PC

    Newsweek - Gadgets: Silence Is Golden. Do you have a noisy PC?

    PCPlus reviews 10 said to be quiet PCs in no 200, March 2003, pp 46-61.

    PCW, Personal Computer World, claims to be "the world's largest computer magazine, with a readership of 6.7 million." Below the heading PC Noise Pollution PCW writes: "The Annoyance: PCs are way too loud. Their hard disks grind, their fans whine, and their cases clatter. Bothersome? Yes. Insurmountable? No way."

    Computer Noise Often Is An Overlooked Problem - by John Moran, a technology reporter / columnist for the Hartford Courant newspaper in Connecticut.

    The 8th Annual International Noise Awareness Day is April 28, 2004.

    University of BC Fan Noise & Airflow Research Project. An initiative by the SilentPCReview Web site.

    "PC Rattle and Hum Will Soon Gnaw at You Too": A the Georgia Straight column.

    c't - magazin für computertechnik, a German PC magazine, has in the print version been including noise measurements in its hard drive benchmarks for the last couple of years. Besides dB, they use a metric called 'Sone' which they claim better reflects the way humans perceive loudness. A c't article on how to build a quiet PC: "Leiser rechnen - So baut man einen leisen PC - Wer hätte nicht gerne einen flüsterleisen Hochleistungs-PC, der außerdem kompakt und flexibel ist? Leider ist eine solche Eier legende Wollmilchsau noch nicht erfunden. Daher gilt es, den individuellen Kompromiss zwischen Lärm, Leistung, Flexibilität und Preis zu finden."

    The International Commission for Acoustics (ICA)

    PCs: For Whom the Decibels Toll: a business news from Wired News article.

    Nordic Noise & NOPHER 2002: An international symposium on noise and health, October 24-27, 2002, Sweden.

    A few Webshops have started offering a "listening room" for the PC fans they sell. By recording fan noise with different fans under the same conditions, and publishing that, customers can tell what level is tolerable to themselves. One of the first ones out with this is Sidewinder Computers'. An other one, at this point only in Norweigan: Microplex Norge AS.

    Råd&Rön, the Swedish consumer agency paper, writes on PC noise emissions. In nr 8 September 2001 was noise included as a parameter in their review of six PC system units. In November 2002 the main focus was on the PC noise issue, when they reviewed three PC system units intended to run quiet.

    AnandTech, a well known PC hardware Web site, includes noise emissions as a part of their evaluation of PC components. In the Socket-A Cooler Roundup: September 2001 they write: "While CPU coolers have become a lot more efficient over the past months, they have usually also become louder. Last year, the terribly annoying Delta 7000rpm fans came only optionally, with selected heatsink models targeted at hardcore overclockers. By now, they have become pretty mainstream, and are the default equipment of many coolers. We think that this is a bad development. The permissible noise exposure scale for employees is 90db(A) for 8 hours a day - none of the coolers tested here exceed this limit, but even below 90db(A) noise negatively affects your health. It can be a source of stress, high blood pressure, and it can lead to lack of concentration. Especially people who spend long hours on their PCs should carefully consider whether a few extra MHz of overclocking speed are worth the nuisance and the possible long-term health risks - we think that in most cases a quieter (though less efficient) cooler is the better choice." In an earlier socket-A & socket-370 cpu coolerstest they wrote: "Generally, noise is measured in dBA. However, how "annoying" humans perceive a certain noise depends not only on the volume, but also on the frequency. Therefore, we rather trust a subjective evaluation of the fan noise." In Mars 2001 AnandTech updated their heatsink test methodology to include more exact measurement of noise emission: "For our noise measurements, we chose to use the same testing methodology as Tom's Hardware Guide. This way our results can directly be compared to the results published there - which is convenient, since we do not always test all the models reviewed there and vice versa."

    Tom's Hardware Guide is an other well known PC hardware Web site. They have developed their own sound testing chamber. In the article "Lord Kryo Puts His Hands on 17 Coolers", Tom's Hardware write: "The noise of a cooler during operation is an important aspect."  TomsHardware in Mars 2001 tested "Extreme coolers for overclocking gourmets": "For us, the Silverado is the clear winner. Its well-planned design distinctly sets it apart from the other contestants. The contact area to the CPU consists of 50 grams of pure silver, ensuring almost optimal heat transfer. In addition, the cooler consists of two encapsulated fan propellers that operate almost devoid of any sound." When reviewing hard drives: "Finally, all users who just don't know what they want may take a look at the Western Digital drives. They are not the very fastest, but come with little CPU utilization, no annoying noises and acceptable temperatures." May, 2001 Tom's Hardware Guide tested 46 new cpu coolers: "Noise Level - Is that a Construction Site or an Office?" "The Third THG Video: Silent and Ice Cold Water cooling offers the best conditions for overclocking and a silent PC system."

    MikroDatorn is a Swedish PC magazine with a policy on, and active working for low levels of noise emissions from PCs. They manifest this by including noise emission as a parameter when evaluating PCs and PC components, and by writing on the subject itself.  In 2001 MikroDatorn built their own soundtest-laboratory.

    "Hush, little PC", by Robert Bryce, a staff writer for the Austin Chronicle, here on June 15, 2000 writes at "It's odd. Computer engineers have spent 20 years fanatically improving every aspect of the PC: figuring out how to make machines faster, smarter, better looking, better sounding and easier to use. They've done just about everything except make the damn things quiet."

    GamePC Technology Guide : Making a Silent PC, Part One
    GamePC Technology Guide : Making a Silent PC, Part Two

    Don't Lose Your Cool Over Fan Noise

    Ultra-Quiet Linux Boxes? A Slashdot discussion.

    Maximum PC: "Lab Notes: Silent Running - How to Rig Your PC for Full-On Stealth"

    PC Professionell (nr 5, 2000, p 118-) has tested the Fujitsu-Siemens Scenic xS: "In the noise tests, the machine posted by far the lowest values of all the candidates, notching up a sensationally low noise level of 25.8 dB(A) and a very good rating of 30.4 dB(A) during operation. Not only did this performance gain it the "Editor's Choice" accolade, but also meant it produced just half the sound level registered by the noisiest test candidate." (This is translated from German.)

    MacWorld in Sweden comments noise emission in their tests of computer hardware. In the Mars 2001 paper issue they present an article on acoustic ergonomy, "The Quiet Office" (pp. 34-38).

    Allt om Elektronik, a Swedish electronics magazine, has an article on the subject quieten noisy PCs. Here among other things they tell how to build an electronic cirquit for regulating fan speed according to need for cooling (nr 5, 1998, pp 42-45). You can order the paper from them.

    At the WWW page of this site one can find more examples of people aware of IT acoustic ergonomy.


    Related Links

    What is an Acoustical Noise Declaration? - IBM explains.

    Design Sounds - A Swedish exhibition about sound and design. Some most interesting pdf-documents to download there.

    WHO "Guidelines for Community Noise"

    Tyst Dator Tyst Dator - In Swedish on noiseless information technology.



    1. International Standard ISO 9296:1988 (E) "Acoustics -- Declared noise emission values of computer and business equipment"

    2. Standard ECMA-109 4th edition December 1996 - Declared Noise Emission Values of Information Technology and Telecommunications Equipment.

    3. Statskontoret's Technical Standard 26:6, "Acoustical Noise Emission of Information Technology Equipment", p 25; Declaration of acoustical noise emission values.

    4. "hp PCs and acoustic noise", p 3; How to compare noise levels between PCs.

    5. Acoustic Overview, Version 1.0, Intel Corporation, p 7, Design Goal.

    6. One Standard - One Test, Supplier’s Declaration of Conformity (11SDoC) Scorecard objectives and concept. ECMA Technical Report TR/83 June 2001.

    7. International Standard ISO 4871:1996 (E) "Acoustics -- Declaration and verification of noise emission values of machinery and equipment"

    to top to top of page of page

    new = new updated = updated
    Copyright © 1998-2022 All rights reserved
    Made in Sweden