Silence That PC

By Samir Makwana Published Date
01 - Jun - 2007
| Last Updated
01 - Jun - 2007
Silence That PC
Stop tearing your hair out because of that noisy PC - just silence it once and for all

High performance PCs generally need a lot of active cooling, and high-speed hard drives, however, also add to the ruckus your PC might makes-especially noticeable at night. Over time, the humming turns into droning, and soon. you can't take it anymore. This happened to a lot of us here at Digit, where even a graphics card fan picking up speed can be heard in our otherwise silent environment.

All we needed in our quest to silence the PCs was a screwdriver set, some tape, rubber/silicon grommets, washers, and a used toothbrush. All very easily available, and cost nothing or next to nothing.

Before: Cluttered with loose wires

After shutting down the PC, opening the cabinet, and turning it on again, we looked for the noisiest components.

Note: Opening your cabinet and changing things inside might void your warranty. Please check if this is applicable before attempting any of the following.

Case Fan(s)

We found that the case fans were the worst culprits. A lot of the cheap quality fans were the noisiest, and since they're not really expensive, we just replaced them. For those of you who don't want to buy a new fan, cleaning is the only alternative. Whenever we'd find a fan spinning at a lower rpm, we'd know it was due for replacement.

Make your case fan revolve dirt-free! 

Shaping the anti-vibration material 

Mount the case fan on the rubber washers

Interestingly, the noisiest cabinets in our office didn't have anything wrong with the fans; it was just a simple problem of a cable touching the fan-which causes a tremendous racket, and could possibly damage the offensive wire. Just make sure all wires are as far away from your cabinet fans as possible, and you shouldn't face this problem.

Cleaning the fan is simple-just unscrew it and use a  toothbrush to wipe away all the dirt. If you have a powerful vacuum or blower, it will make your job a lot easier.

Another common problem with case fans is that assemblers save on screws by using just a single screw at times to attach the fan to the cabinet. This causes it to rattle about.

All case fans have holes for four screws-use them all. Also make sure to place a washer between the plastic fan and the metal cabine. This dampens vibrations and reduces noise significantly.

We also noticed that the larger the fan, the slower it spins, and thus the less noise it makes. If you're worried about airflow, perhaps you should install one or two 120 mm fans instead of using three or four 60 or 80 mm fans to cool your cabinet. First make sure the larger fan will fit!

The CPU Fan
Be very careful when removing the CPU fan to clean it, because one wrong jerk means you could dislodge the fan to the wrong angle, and damage your CPU or motherboard. We removed the CPU fans, cleaned them, applied Arctic Silver thermal paste on to the CPU, and fixed the fan back-making sure it was seated firmly.

If you are willing to spend the extra money, you can opt for a passive colling solution for your CPU. This involves heat pipes and a lot of conducting material rather than fans. No moving parts, no noise-just a dent in your pocket and beautiful silence.

Here at Digit, the preferred brands for cooling solutions are Cooler Master, Zalman, Thermaltake, and ASUS CPU Coolers.

Suck the dirt out

Most motherboards let you adjust the speed that the CPU and system fans spin at, depending on the temperatures. If your motherboard has this option, use it. This means that when your cabinet or CPU isn't hot (normal, everyday use), the fans spin slower. Only when the temperature crosses a certain limit do the fans power up to full force-like when you're playing a game. This will mean a quieter PC during normal use.

Hard Drives And Optical Drives
We found a lot of computers here that didn't even have screws to hold disks in place, or some with just a single screw that the drive was rattling against. Since optical and hard drives both have moving parts, they tend to vibrate. We used washers and screws to fix all the drives in place, and found significant improvement in noise levels.

Place the optical drive over the rubber grommets

Less vibration-with foam or rubber grommets

Give the screws good grip

Some of us use hard drive cooling fans, if you also have those, clean tem as well. Also remember to use washers between the drive and the cooling fan to minimise vibrations.

Power Supply Units
Opening a PSU is dangerous, and voids your warranty, so make sure you do so with caution. Usually PSUs give way before their fans do, but you can change the PSU fan on your own to reduce the amount of noise it makes.

 Video/ Graphics Card Fan
 Most graphics card have active cooling (fans) and thus also make a lot of noice. Keep them clean to avoid noisy operation. if you're going out to buy a graphic card ,and noise is an issue for you, you should
Consider buying a fanless design(heat pipe cooler)

During our investigation, however, we found that most often, the noise was being generated because the PSUs had two fans and nothing between them and the cabinet to dampen the vibrations. We lined all parts of the PSU that touched the cabinet with soft foam, making sure none of the intake or out-take fan vents were blocked.

If you can spend the money, we suggest buying a fanless PSU; they're more expensive, but as silent as you'll get. Apart from this, investing in a modular PSU with a 120 mm fan is also a good idea. This allows you to only connect the number of wires you need, and thus reduces cable clutter and improves airflow inside your cabinet-which in turn reduces the speeds at which the fans need to spin.

The most popular high-end Modular PSUs available in India are from Antec, VIP, Corsair, Cooler Master, Thermaltake, and Zebronics.

Universal Solutions
Airflow and cooling is our top priority, and this generally also helps reduce the noise inside your cabinet. Make sure you clean the inside of your cabinet regularly, and clean all the fans at least once every few months. This will help keep noise levels to a minimum.

All taped well together

For those of you willing to spend some money, manufacturers are making silent cabinets. Look for brands such as Antec and VIP.
Still, we do hope you've done as we did, and reduced some of the noise!

Samir MakwanaSamir Makwana