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How noisy is your computer?

Zalman quiet CPU cooler.

Zalman quiet CPU cooler.

Lounge room PCs should be seen but not heard.

Last week I wrote about my efforts to reduce my home electricity bill, paying particular attention to my media centre PC. Of course noise is the other main concern with a media centre, considering it’s chugging away in your lounge room night and day.

Building a quiet PC is another one of those projects on which you can spend spare change or thousands of dollars, depending on your budget and how fussy you are. If you don’t have unlimited funds you’ll need to prioritise. Fans are a good place to start.

Fans are the key source of noise coming from most computers, but you can’t just rip them all out. They’re a necessary evil to prevent overheating and instability. Some small PCs use a fanless design to keep down the noise, but rather than buy a new computer you could try replacing your current computer’s fans with quieter alternatives.

I designed my media centre with silent computing in mind, but thankfully it’s not hard to swap out noisy fans from an existing computer. Where possible look for fans with variable speed options. The slower a fan spins the quieter it is but the less air it moves. That’s why silent fans tend to be large, so they can spin slowly but still move a lot of air.

When building my media centre, my silent computing choices included;

- Antec TriCool case fans
- Zalman CNPS7500 CPU cooler
- Seasonic S12-430 power supply
- Gigabyte GeForce 8600 GTS fanless graphics card

Most of those models have been superseded, but they’re still a good place to start when investigating silent PC options. I’ve listed the least expensive options first, as spending a few dollars to upgrade your case fans is far more cost effective than buying a new power supply or graphics card.

Another way to get more bang for your buck is to improve the airflow in your case by tying down cables. This means the fans don’t have to work as hard.

Vibration is another source of computer noise and spending a few dollars on rubber washers for your hard drives and optical drives can make a big difference. You might also consider slipping something underneath the computer’s feet to stop vibrations passing into your home entertainment cabinet, or spending a few dollars on special feet designed to dampen vibrations.

What have you done to ensure your computer is seen but not heard?

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