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I want a quiet but powerful PC

by royeo / January 23, 2010 6:50 AM PST

The next PC I get I want to be quiet. The one I have now is powerful but very noisy.

I want at least an Intel i5 6xx, running at, at least 2.6 GHz, at least 3 GB of at least DDR2 memory, at least a 500 GB SATA HD, and a discrete video card (preferably nViIDIA). I'm not a gamer so the video card doesn't need to be top of the line. I also want at least 10/100/1000 Ethernet. It can be integrated. But, and this is big but, but I also need to have all this cheap, under $800. I don't need a monitor.

I don't even know know if a PC like this can run quiet, with all the fans needed. I don't want the high price and hassle of a liquid cooled system. But I think they are working on fans that make less noise than in previous times. Can somebody please tell me if someone advertises quiet machines and if I can get a machine such as I described.


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It can be done.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / January 23, 2010 11:33 AM PST

You can google "The Silent PC" to find out how. This is a well worn area and even your noisy machine could be quieter to silent.

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Since you don't game
by Steven Haninger / January 23, 2010 7:32 PM PST

You can probably go with a passively cooled video card. That's what I did. The heat sink is rather large, however. It's a midrange based on the ATI 4850 chipset but nvidia makes equivalent. I went with 120 mm fans of better quality and with speed control. I've an i5 quad core using stock Intel fan and heat sink. Nothing is special about the case but you can go with all kinds of acoustic dampening if you wish. A big consideration will be where you want the case to sit. I prefer below my desk as it's quieter there but it will gather more dust. Good luck .

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I have one model number different from this one.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / January 23, 2010 11:26 PM PST
In reply to: Since you don't game
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I like that name....Sparkle
by Steven Haninger / January 24, 2010 7:13 AM PST

I've seen a Sparkle power supply live up to that name.

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Low noise machine
by texxasmike / January 29, 2010 9:46 AM PST

Here are some of the rules I have followed to build quiet desktop machines over the past 15 years.

Larger fans can move the same amount of air at lower speeds than smaller ones. Look for a case that supports 120mm or larger fans. I use brushless fans that have a speed control switch built in. Setting the fans on low should move enough air to keep the computer happy and lower the noise.

If you get a noisy fan take it back - try a different brand or type! Fans can resonate in one case and be quiet in another.

I have fans in the front of the case that push air into the case and fans at the back and top of the case to pull air out of the machine. This pushes the noise out the back and top of the case.

Look for rubber gasket material to place between the fan and the case mounts to minimize fan vibration noise.
I cut my gaskets from an old bike innertube and used rubber cement to stick them to the fans. (ok I am cheap)

Next look at the powersupply and the fan inside. Again a larger fan can move air at lower speeds helping lower the noise again. Again you can insulate any vibration between the powersupply and case with gasket material.

Look at the space where you will place the box. Avoid placing the case in a space where the back is enclosed - I used to keep my computer under my desk and it was loud because the noise was amplified by the location - almost like the desk was resonating the sound. I suspect placing egg crates, foam or even adding carpet might have absorbed the sound.

Your video card might add noise. If you can live without serious PC games try to find a fanless card or use the built in graphics.

Organize and route internal cables to keep them away from fans and improve airflow.

Keep the machine clean. Dust will build up on fans, in ports and vents. The dust will eventually cause the fans to go out of balance and add some noise. Be very careful when cleaning your computer case. Check the dust buildup on the CPU cooler too.

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The priorities for silencing a computer are as follows...
by grtgrfx / January 29, 2010 2:31 PM PST

#1: Find an efficient power supply. Find a power supply that is highly efficient (+75% as rated on the box. Look for 80+) which runs cooler, and has a large fan that spins slower, thus making less noise. Not coincidentally, more powerful power supplies have bigger fans and are often more efficient. If you don't play games you don't NEED more than 350 watts, but a 450-600 watt PSU will be quieter because it isn't straining to get the power to your components.

#2: The CPU fan that came with your Intel or AMD chip sucks. Why? because the fans are tiny and have to run faster to cool the processor. Get an aftermarket heat sink with a big (80mm or larger) sleeveless fan. Once again, the larger the fan, the slower it can spin to do the same amount of cooling.

#3: Big case fans. Small case fans are louder because, once again, they must spin faster to move the minimum amount of air to keep the inside of your PC cool. Unfortunately, case designs and fan sizes go can't replace small fans with larger ones because the fans must match the holes in the case. Thus, you want a case with large fan openings and large slow fans in the brackets. Many manufacturers have standardized on 120mm fans for quiet and efficiency; some fan mounts are made for 140mm fans, that's almost 6" across! Conversely, while you want maximum cooling, a case that's all perforations, mesh and vents is just going to let noise out. Get a case that has a solid front (except for maybe one fan opening) and as few side and top vents as possible, to keep noise inside where it belongs.

#4: Your video card. This is the noise source that you have the least control over since most people generally don't replace the fans on a graphics card (though I did, with a noisy ATI 9800 Pro, see below). Each manufacturer is different and you just have to read about the different brands once you have an idea of which card to buy. The more advanced the card is, the hotter it'll run, and the fans will be correspondingly louder. But even between models (let's take an ATI 4850, a midrange gaming card, for example). A Diamond Multimedia model may be quieter than a Sapphire model solely because of the maker's choice of fans. In general, the brands that are less well known spend less thought on noise, but they often cost less as well. Fact is, when you're not a gamer, video cards are much less noisy, so all the better for you. Get an inexpensive card and it may be quiet enough.

If you follow all these steps, you can still probably build a midrange PC for around $600-700, especially if you steal the drives and such from your old PC. But what if you DON'T want to build your own PC?

If you really intended for your question to be, "well I don't want to build a PC by myself; whose brand is exceptionally quiet?" then I have a weird suggestion for you. Wait for it...

Buy a Mac.

Yep, a Mac. Apple computers, for all their faults and priciness, are among the quietest computers you can buy. Each Macintosh model is designed from the ground up to be noiseless, and unless you get a loud aftermarket video card (the Apple-branded ATI 9800 Pros were really well-known for this), are virtually silent in day-to-day operation, gaming included.

If you don't want to be a switcher, the "new PC" rule to follow is, the cheaper the box, the lousier the noise abatement. Look at HPs, Dells, whichever, but if it's a low-end PC, it'll have low-end parts in it and less time spent on engineering. There's a reason people who buy better PCs are happier with them: it's because the designers went a little further to do good industrial design. And that benefits you, the user.

Good luck!

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PC Noise
by Flatworm / January 29, 2010 9:56 PM PST

Noise, generally generated by fans in your PC's case (although sometimes, as a harbinger of bad news, it can come from your hard disk), is a function largely of the design of the external case.

I would recommend one of the high-end Antec cases (model 900 and up). These are a bit pricey when compared to other cases (although still only a minor expense in the total cost of a PC), but they are very nearly completely silent and offer superior cooling with multiple fans, which gives you not only a quieter but a more reliable PC.

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Perhaps Antecs are quieter than some but
by VAPCMD / January 29, 2010 10:47 PM PST
In reply to: PC Noise

I don't sense they are materially quieter than most other cases on the market today. And if you stuff the case with noisy, CPU heatsink fan, video card with noisy coolers or a PSU with a loud fan, quiet your PC will not be.

With careful component selection and some sound absorptive materiel, suspect you can reduce at least some of the noise generate by the PC.


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Just some thoughts
by porsche10x / January 30, 2010 2:39 AM PST

I was going to recommend the Antec Sonata series, but honestly, I don't own one and may be just succumbing to their marketing hype.

I own a few old Dell GX270's. I realize that they're far from what you're looking for, but they're so quiet you can hardly tell they're on. I replaced the CPU fan on one of them with what was supposed to be an OEM replacement. Now, the machine is three times louder.

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I have two Antec 1200 cases ...big full-tower cases and
by VAPCMD / January 30, 2010 4:00 AM PST
In reply to: Just some thoughts

once you plug in the 3 front 80mm fans ... one for each drive cage and one directly below that, it starts generating noise. That along with a high- performance CPU HS FAN, two 80mm exhaust fans at the case rear, an active cooled GPU and PSU, quiet isn't the word I'd use to describe the noise level.

It's a delicate balance getting a high performance PC that's low noise, never mind silent. Another option ... wear noise canceling headphones.


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Maybe you should not use so many case fans...
by grtgrfx / January 30, 2010 8:39 AM PST

You've succumbed to the "bigger case is better" hype, and unfortunately that's colored your responses. I think that full-size cases are a total waste for 90% of the PC market because they are designed for server farms, not consumers, and have lots of flaws: too many drive bays, too many fans, too much space wasted near your work area, Most are ugly and blingy, designed for teenage gamers and too expensive to boot.

You can, of course, get somewhat quieter Antec 80mm fans, but ask yourself why you feel it's necessary to put three small fans in the front of a PC case, (probably) two in the back, plus the fans in the power supply, video card and CPU. Once you've done that, of course you have a real noise problem. Smaller cases are easier to ventilate since there's less static air inside to remove, and bigger fans are quieter since they spin slower to move the same volume of air. Dump your big case, it does you no favors.

I would always recommend a mid-tower case as a reasonable compromise between small LAN-party boxes, which are always noisy because they lack decent ventilation and full towers, the huge overblown boxes that aren't appropriate for normal people to use.

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I was merely responding to another poster's recommendation
by VAPCMD / January 30, 2010 11:13 AM PST

for Antec cases as being 'quiet'. That really depends on components.

With regard to large or medium large cases ... I will continue to use cases that suit my needs for form, fit and function. The extra space and drive bays ... room to expand and breathe, make the PCs I build cool, reliable and reasonably quiet.

Here's my latest case in the event you want a nice, well built full tower, .... CHIEFTEC Mesh CA-01B-B-SL-OP Steel ATX Full Tower.

To each his/her own.

Good Luck


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Quite is in the ears of the listener
by msgale / January 30, 2010 11:26 AM PST

I am at home sitting next to two PCs as I type. I can hear neither. One is a Dell PWS 7400, two four core XEON processors, 12 GBytes of ram, one 600 GByte 15K SAS disk and two optical drives. The other is a Dell PE T410, two dual core XEON processors, 8 GBytes of ram, one 300 GByte 15K SAS disk and two optical drives. What I am trying to say, is any well designed, well built PC from a major manufacture will generally be quite. I can not say the same about home builts, for one thing they generally have way too many fans. PS I can sometime hear the optical drive when I am doing an installation.

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Good to hear....exactly where are they located and what are
by VAPCMD / January 30, 2010 12:39 PM PST

the components temps as seen in PCWizard 2009 and HD Tune ?

My full tower is upright on top of the desk just off to the right of me and just beyond the keyboard. So while the CPU is very close and I can hear it, it's not loud and all the components are cool.


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Regarding fan noise and temps...
by grtgrfx / January 30, 2010 3:25 PM PST

You might be interested to know that the Mac Pro I am currently using to play WOW is almost completely silent; in fact the wall heater in the next room is louder than the computer. Average fan speed: 500 rpm, average temp inside: 36

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not quite...
by porsche10x / February 5, 2010 6:53 AM PST

Actually, I did not recommend Antec cases as being quiet. I specifically recommended the Antec Sonata. They are specially designed with all sorts of special plastic duct work inside, special fans, etc., and marketed as "ultra quiet". In my quest for a quiet PC I was considering the Sonata III a while back, but like I said, I don't have any first hand experience with them.

A while ago I built a PC with a different Antec case; the model eludes me right now. I have to agree with grtgrfx. It was a full size tower. I really didn't realize at the time just how big it was. It wouldn't fit in any piece of computer furniture. It weighed a ton. It had lots of bays, which I wanted, but I could have gotten by with something smaller. Oh, and it was quite noisy.

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(NT) Where did I state you said that ?
by VAPCMD / February 5, 2010 8:09 AM PST
In reply to: not quite...
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Oops, sorry
by porsche10x / February 20, 2010 5:38 AM PST

Please excuse the brain-freeze. I mistakenly thought your earlier post was in reply to my sonata recommendation. I missed the earlier comments.

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The Wave of the Future
by charleswsheets / January 31, 2010 3:48 AM PST

Hi Royeo,

In my experience (28 years) fan noise usually comes from one of the following:

1. Cheap fans. You would think that a fan is a fan, but there are huge differences in the quality of fans out there. As stated in previous posts, the bigger the fan, the better, but don't go cheap. If a fan is going to be noisy, you'll know as soon as you install it. If it's too loud, take it back and find a different one. You can compare the noise level ratings on the packaging, and that will help, but the best noise measuring tool you have is your own ears. The same fan may run quiet in one computer and sound much louder in another.

2. Dirty or Worn Fans. I've worked on computers that had so much dust, dirt, grease, and gunk built up I was surprised the fans turned at all. So it's a good idea once a month to open up your case and blast it with a can of compressed air. If your computer is in a particularly dirty/dusty environment, you may want to perform this maintenance more frequently. Grease particles, second hand smoke, and particularly dusty air environments are highly detrimental to all of your computer components and should be avoided if possible. When a fan that was once quiet begins making noise, you should replace it immediately. Before you do, make sure the screws holding your fan in place are secure and dampened with rubber washers.

3. Faulty Fan Speed Setup. Many motherboard setup programs have specially designed controls that adjust the CPU fan speed automatically. You'll want to be sure that the CPU fan you've selected for your setup is compatible with receiving those instructions. If not, the fan will run at full speed all of the time. You should also take care when building your computer to properly mount the Heatsink to the CPU with quality thermal grease like Arctic Silver.

4. Overheating CPU. Obviously, one of the most frequent reasons for high levels of fan noise is high fan speed. When your CPU gets hotter, the Fan needs to run faster to help the heatsink dissipate the heat. There are some new and clever products on the market now that appear to be making great strides in low noise heat reduction without the need for complicated Water Cooling Systems. One I tried out recently is from Ultra. This system incorporates a device called a Thermo-electric Cooler (or TEC) together with a Heatsink/Fan assembly. The TEC isn't new technology, but they always had a problem when the TEC lowered the temperature to lower than room temperature, causing condensation (of water) around the CPU. This new technology only runs the TEC when CPU load exceeds a predetermined load level, and turns it off (using only the standard heatsink/fan apparatus) when the CPU load is below the predetermined level. I think it's really cool technology and has been proven effective in keeping the CPU temp down as well as the noise level.

The model I was reviewing was the Ultra ChillTEC 939/AM2/AM3/775/1366 Thermal Electric CPU Cooler.

Hope this helps. Good Luck.

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you might consider replacing the case...
by Brechan / February 5, 2010 10:18 PM PST
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