Buy a PC processor (CPU) that generates
as little heat as possible. Then you might be able to cool the chip only
by using a heat sink, instead of both a heat sink and a fan. You will at least be able to cool the processor with a slower running and more quiet fan if it generates less heat. The web page
Electrical Specifications" by Chris Hare makes your cpu decision easier.
Temperatures is an other page with similar information. CPUHeat & CPUMSR
projects homepage is yet an other source. Athlon 64 for Quiet Power is a valuable SilentPCReview article concerning the CPU temperature relation to noise.
If you need
an active cooling solution for your processor you can buy a temperature
regulated fan, or buy a motherboard that is capable of adjusting fan speed
according to need. A cpu for a quiet PC should have a built-in temperature sensor. You can read more on temperature aware PCs here.
The term underclocking might sound strange to the people talking on the solely good of high frequency processors and overclocking of them, but today as more and more ordinary people find themselves spending their days, evenings and weekends by overcapacity personal computers making distracting noise, underclocing might actually be a solution. Making the processor run at a slower clock frequency can lower its heat emission, which in turn can make it possible to reduce noise by slowing down fans intended for cooling. In some cases it might even be possible to replace the underclocked processor's cooling fan with a good heatsink. Here is a recent SilentPCReview article on underclocking, and here some experiences shared by Terry Gray - My Quest for Quiet and here by Leo Velikovich in an other SilentPCReview article. You can also read more on the subject on, or post questions to the Silent PC e-mailing list.
The Intel® Pentium® M processor series, although its manufacturer has marketed the Pentium M exclusively as a mobile product, is regarded Intel's best one for building also a quiet stationary PC: This because of its high performance to power consumption ratio. There are a few mainboards and adapters that make it possible to use the mobile CPU Pentium M in stationary PCs.
The AMD® Athlon 64 processor series is regraded the best for building high performing quiet PCs.
The VIA C3 processor can also be a good choice for building of a quiet PC. This since it doesn't require a fan for cooling, a good heatsink should be enough. Dan's Data has reviewed it and concludes: "If you want to build yourself a "Quiet PC", or if you're an assembler who wants to build thousands of the things, and you don't need top-flight performance, the C3 is a fine choice." The VIA C3 CPU is pin to pin compatible with common Intel Pentium III and Celeron CPUs, and as so it can be used with both recent and older socket 370 motherboards. Here VIA writes on noiseless PCs and suggest configurations for silent systems. A disadvantage with todays C3 processors, although featuring a built-in temperature sensor and a solution to make them cut out if they run too hot, is that they don't provide thermal data - making it less obvious how healthy they are regarding temperature in your systems. VIA could change this in future C3 versions, then being better able to attract even the most conscious users, and become compatible with the idea of "the PC autonomic nervous system".
Transmeta Crusoe is a very cool running processor. It features a built-in temperature sensor. Transmeta is working hard in the energy efficient direction of PC technology. They have been rewarded for this by EPA Energy Star.
Intel and Pentium are registered trademarks of Intel Corporation in the United States and other countries. AMD is a trademark and AMD Athlon a mark of Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. VIA and VIA C3 are trademarks of VIA Technologies, Inc. Transmeta is a trademark of Transmeta corporation.
Hard disks can be declared according to the ISO 9296 standard. An extra sign of quality is that the manufacturer also states its discs sound quality characteristics, how much it vibrates and its power dissipation. The connection between the moving and the not moving parts of a hard drive is critical. Here some kind of bearings are used to minimize friction and vibration. The most quiet bearings now are the fluid ones.
2.5" drives, earlier almost only used in notebooks, are commonly much quieter and cool running than the 3.5" ones used in ordinary desktop computers, but mostly at the expence of performance. In the article "IS the Silent PC Future 2.5-inches wide?" discusses this subject and here Tom's Hardware Guide teaches how to use quiet 2.5" drives in Raid configuration in an ordinary desktop machine for noise reduction purpose: "The benchmark results are quite clear: only two 2.5" drives are able to outperform a modern desktop drive in terms of transfer performance - and without the high temperatures and obnoxious noise!"
The Seagate® Barracuda ATA IV series, now discontinued, used to be the World's quietest high-performing hard disks. In a recent SilentPCReview (April 10, 2004) the Samsung SP1614N and Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 disks are compared: "The Samsung SP1614N clearly beats the Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 (ST3160023A) in both performance and acoustics. It is a far quieter drive, and faster, too!" Editor Mike Chin adds a note: "As both the Seagate Barracuda IV and V appear to be discontinued, the Samsung SP series are the current 3.5" quiet hard drive champs."
If possible choose a hard disk with built in temperature sensor and a software solution (most often is this named S.M.A.R.T) for monitoring of temperature. Then you will be safer that your disk doesn't overheat if you put it in a noise dampening enclosure.
Seagate is a registered trademark of Seagate Technology LLC.
Ramdisks, Network Booting & Thin Clients
A virtual disk of ram memory can make it possible to avoid a local hard disk, or shut down a noisy hard disk; at least for some time.
Diskless Windows 98
How to use a Ramdisk for Linux®
Netboot and Etherboot are two examples of software packages for to avoid a local hard drive. One can find other software related to this tip at the Solutions page.
An increasing number of companies and tax-paid services these days utilize thin clients with the primary goal to cut costs. A positive side-effect of thin clients is that they often can be made to run very quiet, and even silent.
The thin client device is a simple terminal or other computing device connected to powerful servers where applications and data are stored and processed. Sometimes old and cheap computers are reused as thin clients simply by adding a special software. Here their slow performance often isn't att all recognized. A disadvantage using old computers can be that they are noisier than the new thin clients manufactured for this very purpose.
Chip PC is the maker of the Xtreme PC thin clients. Their EL 4310 is one example of the low power consumption of, and thus the lack of need for active noisy cooling solutions for thin clients: It consumes 3.5W! This is about the same power dissipation as for an ordinary bicycle lamp; to be compared with the about 100W dissipated by only one component of an ordinary PC system unit, the CPU.
NCD ThinPATH PC is a software that can be used to convert old PC system units to thin clients.
Linux Terminal Server Project
PXES Universal Linux Thin Client is a micro Linux distribution allowing you to build thin clients or diskless workstations.
Citrix® is one of the most important manufacturers of software related to thin clients and their central servers.
Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds. Citrix is a registerd trademark of Citrix Systems, Inc.
DVD & CD-ROM Drives
Following the rule to keep the number of heat and noise generating components as few as possible buying a combo DVD/CDRW instead of a separate CDRW and DVD writer/reader can be a solution.
Look for a CD ROM or DVD player that is capable of having its speed
adjusted, so that it can be lowered the times when you want acoustic ergonomy
more than speed. The best ones are those capable of adjusting their speed
according to need at any given time.
Check that the CD Rom or DVD player you intend to buy doesn't run so hot so that it feature a noise generating fan for its cooling.
DigitLife here reviews DVD drives and takes acoustic ergonomy in consideration.
Engineers seems to face great challenges trying to build quiet and yet very fast CD and DVD drives. This could be due to physical facts and limits for these kinds of solutions not possible for engineers to control - a fast spinning relative loose mounted CD or DVD disc inevitable has to generate a lot unwanted vibrations, and for natural reasons built-in to a system unit these vibrations must be very problematic to handle; and prone to generate unwanted sound. The problem with fast spinning noise generating removable media can be compared to the often a lot more quiet hard drives: In a dust-free environment hard drives utilize one or more perfect balanced discs attached to the enclosure with perfect bearings, minimizing both the emergence of vibrations and their transmission to the rest of the system unit. A solution for not all the time having to stand CD and DVD reader noise can therefore be to use a program that copies the material of these storage medias to a quiet hard drive; there creating virtual discs. Such programs can be found on the Solutions page of this site.
Choose a 3D graphics card that doesn't need its own fan to keep cool,
unless you aren't an extreme game player and need the fastest of the fastest
cards: Then your only silent option is watercooling.
Nvidia - Geforce4 MX440,
ATI - Radeon 9000, ATI Radeon 9200 and Matrox - G550 are today's highest performing cards not requiring a cooling fan. Note that the ATI Radeon 9000 Pro, and probably also the 9200 Pro, is clocked higher and comes with a fan. In terms of 3D performance the Nvidia and ATI cards are approximately
equal, though the 9000 tends to score slightly higher in most benchmarks. Both cards perform at a much higher level than the G550, which isn't really marketed as a gaming card. Some Nvidia GeForce FX 5200 cards are built fanless. Lastly, the ones not interested in playing the most extreme games and intend to build a system around an Intel® CPU, can invest in an Intel motherboard featuring built in graphic capabilities: The Intel® 845GE, 845GV, 845G and 845GL chipsets feature integrated Intel® Extreme Graphics, and are not equiped with any on board fans.
Thanks to Jay Patrick Howard for these facts.
Zalman Tech in 2002 introduced a silent heat-pipe cooling solution for graphic cards, the ZM80-HP. Here is an in-depth SilentPCReview. Sapphire with their Ultimate Radeon 9700 Atlantis PRO provides a silent running high-performance card equiped with a heat-pipe cooling solution similar to or identical with the Zalman one.
Confusing Graphics is an Nordic Hardware article that tries to sort out the often too complicated and non-standardized names of graphic cards.
“Cool” and “Quiet” or Anti-Extreme Overclocking Experience - is an Xbit labs article on how to make your graphic card quieter.