Cool, efficient basic mb and cpu when I don't need power?

The forum for non-component-related silent pc discussions.

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Cool, efficient basic mb and cpu when I don't need power?

Post by ist.martin » Mon Jan 12, 2004 8:56 pm

Hi all:

I'm new to this silent PC game, and have spent many hours reading and searching this site today. Many thanks to all the contributors - it is a very coherent site, with exceptionally civil forums.

One thing that I have noticed is that much of the emphasis is on power supplies/cooling, cpu cooling, case fans and cases.

But as I start out, the thing that I've been wondering most about is which motherboard and CPU to buy? The reason this is on my mind is that I am very aware that I DON'T NEED 95% of the power (and subsequent heat, and subsequent cooling requirements, and subsequent noise battles) in current model CPU's!

I am currently running a 5-6 year old system (probably a 266 MHz PII - I cannot even remember) with 512M ram and a cable-modem to the Internet. I use my computer about 8 hours a day, but all I do with it is open multiple web browser windows, and a little email. Sometimes the browser windows are running Java applets, but it never gets more complicated than that. I never run games or complex graphics, and I haven't even opened my CDROM drive in over 2 years :)

My current flea-powered system gives me all the performance that I require. I'm very aware that when I get a bottleneck, it is always related to my Internet connection. It seems that for my purposes, lots of RAM is the main contributor to performance. Also, I'm running NT 4.0, and my system is very reliable. Its basically been up and running 7X24 for 6 years (getting at least 50 hours a week Internet usage) without a single problem.

But I would like to upgrade to a totally silent PC - and thats my conundrum - it seems that the majority of 'silencing' solutions discussed here are dealing with CPU's and motherboards that are extreme power hogs. Is there nothing currently on the market geared towards 'joe average' like myself who can use a 286 PII and hardly ever gets more than 30% CPU usage? Doesn't anybody sell an efficient motherboard/CPU that uses 'just' the power I need, without calling for a 300W+ PS and massive heatsinks and CPU fans? (I've been reading, but I still don't quite 'get' the Via offerings - maybe they are what I'm looking for?)

Thanks a lot for any insights - they are much appreciated.



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Some thoughts, (and questions...)

Post by TrekNW » Mon Jan 12, 2004 10:15 pm

1. what is your definition of "totally silent"? Fanless? Or, is 20db acceptable.
2. what OS are you planning to use. XP is a resource hog. Linux treads lighter.

If we assume that a 20db system running XP here are some considerations:
1. DDR memory is available with no price premium over SDRAM and is driving a huge industry transition to chipsets that support it
2. Consider a Celeron processor and 845 chipset. good value for performance w/ DDR memory support. The integrated graphics are usable.
3. wait until the next price move to buy. There is a price move scheduled for 2/15 (per theinquirer).
4. get a quality motherboard from a tier 1 vendor (Asus or Intel)
5. Get a Zalman heatsink/fan, and the CPU won't be the loudest thing in your stem.


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Post by Zyzzyx » Mon Jan 12, 2004 11:28 pm

ist.martin wrote: (I've been reading, but I still don't quite 'get' the Via offerings - maybe they are what I'm looking for?)
I'd say keep reading along those lines. From your descriptions of the power levels you need, I think one of the VIA chip/mb would do you just fine. And probably save money as well. CPU is built into the m/b, no swapping there. It also has video and network onboard, no extra cards needed. And it can be run fanless on the CPU, even tho I think the faster VIA cpus have a small fan on them.

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Post by MajereXYU » Mon Jan 12, 2004 11:29 pm

Hi! Welcome to SPCR!!

©Ralf Hutter... Sorry, saw it first!

Ok... Back to Topic...

Silent and cool running aren't words often seen together in the world of Ghz Processors...

But indeed, the VIA offerings are quite interesting in the fact that they are small in size (i.e. form factor), reasonably powerful and cool running (to the point where the CPU doesn't need a fan at all!)

Maybe you could go check F.A.Q. section and online shop to get a glimpse.

If that doesn't seem to suit your needs, well you'll have to get a lower clocked Celeron, Duron, Pentium II-III or Pentium M (the CPU used in the new Centrino notebooks) and a little creativity to achieve silence...

Here is a basic check list for silence. It's based on my personal knowledge, opinions and impressions. Do not take this info as a definitive guide. In fact, there is a pretty good and comprehensive list of recommended hardware here on SPCR.

But the basics are :

-Quiet CPU heatsink/fan (good choices are offerings from Zalman and Thermalright, the latter needs to be mated to a silent 80 or 92mm fan)

-Quiet power supply such as ones from Fortron, Nexus, Seasonic etc...

-Quiet case and case fans (Antec, Panaflo, Papst, Evercool etc...)

-Quiet Hard drive : look for Fluid Dynamic Bearings-equipped drives. Good ones are Seagate Barracuda IV and also V, and Samsungs.

You have to check to make sure your graphics card
is passively (i.e. no fans) cooled.

Same applies for motherboard Northbridge.

Then, if any noise remains, you have to pinpoint the components that are the cause one by one.

Silence is costly and takes time to achieve.

Good luck, and do consider the VIA options as you won't be paying for Mhz you won't be using.

It will be easier to attain silence because of the relatively low power requirements of the platform and it comes integrated with everything you need (audio, video (can be fanless),ethernet, USB, sometimes firewire etc... )

The cost for one of these motherboard with integrated CPU is between US $100 and $200. Only thing you have to add is a case (with power supply, some RAM (ordinary DDR Ram) and a hard drive.

Use your old CD-Rom drive to install Operating system and Application and you're set!

Total cost may be under $350-400 for a near silent setup! And since performance and expandability are not concerns to you, this sounds like the perfect solution...

Hope that helps you.
Good luck!

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Post by silvervarg » Tue Jan 13, 2004 2:30 am

The easiest way to get a real quiet computer at reasonable cost is defenatly the VIA C3.
Easiest is if you get max 600MHz (comparable to ~300MHz PIII). Roughly little faster than twice the speed you have now. Up to 600MHz they have just a passive heatsink mounted as stock, and it is enought to cool it down.
Once you have installed everything you need take out the optical drive and put in a mini-itx power-brick (fanless, cheap, dead silent).
You last problem is the harddrive. Look at Samsung drives and think about some kind of enclosure to dampen the last bit of noise without getting rid of too much cooling for the harddrive.

With enough RAM and mainly surfing the web you can setup a small RAM-drive for browser-cache etc and set your harddrive to spin down quickly on inactivity. You would end up with a dead-silent PC 99% of the time with nothing moving in the computer.

If you want more speed there are other solutions, but they are a lot more complex and more costly or sacrifice noise a bit.

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Post by dannybruk » Tue Jan 13, 2004 7:24 am

Just to reinforce the VIA option, I have the EPIA M10000 board, it run's a 40mm fan on the CPU (which I have replaced with a virtually silent (<20db) unit) and that is the only fan in the system.

I have 256mb RAM in it and it runs Windows 2000 Server with IIS and SMTP services 24/7 with *no* problems. (Well, no non Microsoft problems anyway!)

From your description I'd definitely go with that solution, it works brilliantly for me and I'd guess it'd satisfy your needs as well.

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Post by ist.martin » Tue Jan 13, 2004 8:37 am

silvervarg wrote:The easiest way to get a real quiet computer at reasonable cost is defenatly the VIA C3.
... You would end up with a dead-silent PC 99% of the time with nothing moving in the computer.
This is VERY intriguing. I was wondering if perhaps I could get some more specifics about the VIA option?

Where do I order the VIA motherboard/CPU from? Do they always come as a pair, or do I order them separately?
What are my case options for housing the VIA motherboard? Does the mb require a special footprint case?
Do I need case fans?

What is the upper limit to the amount of RAM the board can house?

Can I use a Seagate Barracuda 80GB ATA IV hard drive? How do you recommend silencing it? Are there hardware and/or software things that I do (eg LEY-ECD silencer)?

What are my OS choices for the board/CPU?

Thanks a lot for the info. You guys have me excited that I can put together a totally silent, cheap VIA box that will work for me 99% of the time! You've got me thinking that I can always build another system, and network them together if I need more power/software for other work. But this way would allow me to work in absolute silence for most of the day - well, except for the fact that one of my motivations for doing this is to put a really good stereo in my office :)

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theres a few EPIA/MINI-ITX links from the SPCR site

Post by tay » Tue Jan 13, 2004 8:48 am

There are a few EPIA/MINI-ITX news items/links/reviews right here on SPCR, but you should check

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Post by MajereXYU » Tue Jan 13, 2004 9:02 am

You can get more info at

Yes, they do caome in pair, the CPU being soldered to the motherboard (reducing cost by not having a ZIF socket).

As for ordering, they sell them on and many other retailers have them, either use google to search or use sites ike pricewatch.

Mini-itx cases do exist and are available at the same place as the motherboards themselves.
But if you're adventurous, you can use just about anything to house a mini-itx system.
For reference, see the article "PC in a breadbox" ... =42&page=1

That will give you an idea of what is possible...

As for case fans, you don't NEED them but it is a matter of personnal taste. The Mini-ITX platform doesn't get as hot as an Athlon or P4 platform, but it does disspiate some heat. It's up to you to decide but it can be same to run the system without any case fans.

RAM: usually, the boards only have one slot (DIMM) for RAM, so you're limited to 1GB I guess, but I'm not sure.

You can use a Barracuda IV and for silencing it, there are a many good articles right on SPCR :
Search the forums for suspending, decoupling, enclosures etc...

You can use any major OS with the Mini-ITX.
Just keep in mind that Windows XP is a ressource hog and that it will indeed run, but not at optimal speed. Your better optios are Linux and Windows 98SE (stay away from Windows ME).
That is, unless you need XP or 2000...

Good luck

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Post by jojo4u » Tue Jan 13, 2004 1:30 pm

My thoughts:
Those higher power VIA parts are not silent without modding.
When you are upgrading your PC, you will also upgrade your OS (driver!). I would propose Linux or Windows 2000.

Today's cheap but reliable hardware should be:
Pentium 845 chipset (SDR RAM) and a Celeron.
If you can't find a good 845 motherboard, choose another Intel or SIS P4 DDR-Ram chipset. Go for quality motherboard companies.

This is a little bit more difficult since you need a quality temperature controlled 80mm fan.
You can choose a cheap 80mm heatsink, mount a panaflo on it and control this with speedfan (
Or you can choose a Arctic Cooling P4 temperature controllen heatsink/fan. But the fan is not very high quality here.

I would go for a separate fanless VGA in order to get good signal quality. A Radeon 7000/9000 would be ok.

Difficult choice. What about a Seasonic SS-300 non-PFC from the recommended list?

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Post by ist.martin » Fri Jan 16, 2004 12:25 pm

dannybruk wrote:Just to reinforce the VIA option, I have the EPIA M10000 board, it run's a 40mm fan on the CPU (which I have replaced with a virtually silent (<20db) unit) and that is the only fan in the system.
What fan did you put on the mb? Which case and PS do you use that are fanless? How did you get away with no fan case - don't you have a HDD or any cards to cool?


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Post by lm » Fri Jan 16, 2004 2:08 pm

It would probably be very cheap to silence your current system.
For the slot 1 P2 get the vos32 cooler (search the board for vos32), which should be able to cool your cpu without a fan. Replace your PSU or do a fan swap, and get barracuda or spinpoint if you dont have one allready. That should be enough, i doubt you have any other fans in your system since its that old.

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Post by sparky123 » Thu Feb 26, 2004 12:58 am

Hello ist.martin,

I was intriqued by your post because until about a year ago I had a 5-6 year pc that used a pentium 233 mhz and 128 edo ram. I also had cable modem and it was really all I needed. In fact, at some point the cpu fan died so I removed it and relied on the front intake fan (80mm) which blew a steady, silent stream of air right over the cpu. No problems. Like you said, the only bottleneck is really your internet connection. And with cable you've got all the bandwidth you'll really need. The reason I had to upgrade to a faster system (cpu) was because I liked to listen to mp3s while playing games and that 233 just couldn't handle it without affecting the sound quality. I even had a dedicated sound card in that pc and it was still rough. I finally got a good deal on a Soyo barebones kit with an 850 Duron and 192 mb SDRAM. But it was hard to say goodbye to an old workhorse that was still good. To make a long story short, as long as your needs haven't really changed I'd stick with your old horse. Heck, you might even try cooling your cpu like I did, location permitting, of course. And you could even undervolt your intake fan to reduce noise even further. Hope this helps you out.

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Post by ruprag » Thu Feb 26, 2004 2:18 am

Please check out the 2 reviews of fanless boxes that mike just posted.

Scythe's e-Otonashi Fanless EPIA-M Case

Mappit A4F: A Truly Silent PC

I dare say that either of thoose solutions will be fine for you.

Using either of thoose solutions you can get a M10000 which will be a lot more powerful than what you have today and also a lot smaller :-)

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Post by trodas » Thu Feb 26, 2004 11:50 am

ist.martin - from what i read you sounds you exactly need my Win2k server what running for months now W/O any issues 8) :lol: :twisted:
It's 1200Mhz entierly unaudible (!) fanless (!) system.
Details i provided in this tread:

Pictures you can check there: ... 7&d=1&v=v2

...and after drilling the intake hole in bottom my temps are 40 degrees on iddle and hit up to 72 degrees after week of nonstop Prime95 load :twisted:
The 80G BarracudaIV drive is inaudible, when you don't screw to your case, just place it at the bottom of tha case on some foam layers like you can see on the pictures.
The build-in ALL IN ONE SiS 630ET chipset is genique, the onboard 100MB LAN is very fast and good, the graphic is more that enought and it hold 1Gby of ram, so - just perfect for you :wink: (but i don't give it to you, no way, it's too GREAT machine 8) )

PS: i expecting to get lower temps with replacing the CNPS3100-Plus for much bigger CNPS6000 :wink:

PS2: Remember, the safe shot-down temp of P4 is 135 degrees, and the VIA C3 has operation range up to 85 degrees :P (and some folks tried it w/o any heatsink (!) at all, reaching 132 degrees w/o damaging the chip, so... ) Just to say that it's operational range are up to 85 degrees so no worries about temps anymore.

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Post by Mats » Thu Feb 26, 2004 12:10 pm

When it comes to CPU & MB, why don't you just use passive cooling on your existing PC? I have an old HP vectra P2 333MHz that is passively cooled(from the factory), works perfect. Except for the PSU, there's no fans cooling the system.
Use it together with a quiet PSU and a suspended Seagate Barracuda IV. OR, change/control the fan in your existing PSU. The cheapest solution.

Why upgrade CPU if the current one is good enough?

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