Need to quiet PC, but I don't know where to start!

New to PC silencing? Read & post your questions here. Dedicated to rosy_toes.

Moderators: NeilBlanchard, Ralf Hutter, sthayashi, Lawrence Lee

Post Reply
Posts: 10
Joined: Thu May 10, 2007 7:52 pm

Need to quiet PC, but I don't know where to start!

Post by theoneandonly » Thu May 10, 2007 8:07 pm

When I built my computer a year ago, I was a typical computer n00b, wanting to get the best performance without really caring about much else. However, after having dealt with this noisy box underneath my desk for 12 months, and now that I'm thinking about doing a massive upgrade, I need to find a way to fix this overwhelming noise.

Let's just say that the computer is clearly audible from over 12 feet away, around a corner, down a few steps, underneath a desk in a separate room.

Here are my specs:
-ABIT IC7-MAX3 Motherboard (2 built in fans, one directly under CPU and another that leads to the outside of the case above the CPU that cools the wire couplings)
-P4 CPU 3.40GHz
-Western Digital HD WD1600BB-22FTA0
-NVIDIA GeForce FX 5900XT (built-in fan)

I've tested my computers fans, stopping and starting them, etc., and I've come up with these conclusions:

1. My CPU fan must be replaced. It is the loudest fan and is contributing to most of the noise.
2. The second loudest fan is the fan mounted on the motherboard above the CPU that cools the wire couplings. I'm not sure how I'm going to remedy this, but I'm willing to try anything at this point.
3. The third loudest fan is my video card fan. I know they make heatsinks for video cards, but I'm not even sure where to begin.
4. My hard drive is not audible and neither is my power source. With just these three fans disabled, I can barely hear the computer from sitting above it.

I also have another issue. I usually run my computer all the time, usually only turning it off every few days or so for the night. Before yesterday, I've never had an issue with overheating, but yesterday, my motherboard's overheating alarm went off for the first time since I built the computer. It likely had to do with the fact that the air conditioning isn't working and it was 81 degrees in the room, but it still really got me worried. To think that all this noise isn't properly cooling my computer seems a bit pathetic.

Also, I'm in desperate need of a new case. Can anyone recommend an ATX case that looks good, is reasonably priced, and has some sort of cooling/quieting benefit?

I guess I need help just knowing where to begin. I know I have a lot of work to do, but I really need to quiet this computer for college in a few months, and I'd like to know if you can point me in the right directions of new hardware, fans, etc. to help me out.


Posts: 1201
Joined: Tue Aug 23, 2005 1:53 pm
Location: Plymouth, MI

Post by psiu » Thu May 10, 2007 9:23 pm

I'll take my usual no-specific-order stab at this.

Case: Antec cases are pretty popular, for good reason (they are, um, pretty good). Find one that looks good, check the reviews here and elsewhere on it. Newegg always has a bunch of pics too. Find one sized right for you and go for it (don't pick some half-height microatx case in other words).

That thing (the OTES cooler?) on the mobo? Check around on forums using Google and see if it's safe to rip it off completely. Should be, since 99% of motherboards don't use that system.

The Northbridge fan/heatsink (under the CPU on mobo): check out the Zalman or Thermalright coolers. Guaranteed that if it doesn't bother you now, it WILL as soon as you quiet everything else.

CPU cooler: lots of options, though you are on an older system. I'll let someone else tackle it, though I do have an affinity for the Zalman flower design coolers (7000 or 7700...if your mobo can control fan speed it would be great...and you can find them pretty cheap usually...side benefit of getting airflow over mobo components).

Graphics cooling...I would suggest the VGA sub-forum, the Artic Cooling Silencer line is okay, but do seem to be some problems with the fans 'clicking'. Luckily I haven't had that problem...yet. The Zalman VF700 and 900 are popular, check out other options though.

Posts: 525
Joined: Mon Feb 07, 2005 11:57 pm
Location: Seattle, WA

Post by dfrost » Thu May 10, 2007 11:17 pm

I'm using a similar Abit AI7 motherboard, although with a distinctly cooler-running 3.0GHz Northwoods P4 (replaced a 3Ghz Prescott, one of the better changes I made).

Other major improvements in quieting and cooling:

1. CPU Cooling - Tried a Zalman CNPS 7000 as psiu suggested, then swapped for a quieter fan (Zalman fans are not known for quiet operation). The Thermalright XP-120 with a Papst fan was a noticeable improvement over the modified Zalman with both lower temps and noise. Abit has the nice FanEQ function, which allows thermal control of fan voltage (analog variation, not PWM!). I'm using it to run that Papst at 6-11V automatically. The current SI-128is similar to the older XP-120. You'll need a good quiet fan with those. Obviously I like the Papst 4412 F/2GL (expensive), but a Globalwinor Scytheshould do just as well for less. Check out SPCR's 120mm fancomparison. Most around here love Nexus fans (me too, for the case exhaust), but I found that the P4 needed a bit more flow. My Papst normally runs around 800 rpm, but load conditions can run it up to 1300 rpm, while keeping temps below 47C.

BTW, those Intel P4 boards often benefit from some airflow over the power MOSFETs. That's why I prefer the XP/SI types over tower coolers for this board. The other remedy for me was the addition of a quiet 92mm fan (at 5V) blowing across the surface of the board near them. You can see it on edge between the PSU and optical drive in this shot, attached to wire bundles with zip-ties.

2. Replaced the northbridge fan (noisy and failure-prone on Abit boards) and heatsink with a passive Zalman heatsink. The current NBF47model should work fine and includes hooks that work with the wire loops on the motherboard. Thermalright's HR-05may cool even better (not necessarily needed) if there's room for it near your new CPU heatsink.

3. Switched to passive cooling for the graohics card. The Aerocool VM-101I'm using has been discontinued so availability is limited (and I don't know how it would do with your hotter GPU), but the Thermalright HR-03is very similar, and should work fine if you have decent case airflow Here's my setup with the unmodified VM-101 (for an admittedly cooler GPU).

4. Switched to a very quiet Seasonic S12-430PSU.

5. A very popular case recommended frequently around SPCR is the Antec Solo(black, no PSU) or equivalent P150(white, stealth covers, NE430 PSU). Both have excellent HDD suspension options. You'll want that soon, because after you take care of the major noise sources, your HDD will seem loud.

Posts: 223
Joined: Wed Apr 04, 2007 2:56 am
Location: The Netherlands

Post by Sylph-DS » Fri May 11, 2007 3:42 am

For the GPU cooling, you don't necesarily have to get a big aftermarket cooler. You'll be surprised at how much you can lower the noise by adjusting the fan control with a program like AtiTools. Factory settings of these fans are way over the top in my experience. I don't know what kind of fan is in your card, but mine has a 40mm and it used to drive me mad, whereas now it just pleases me to hear the difference between the sound before AtiTools starts up and after it starts up.. And then it starts driving me mad again, because whatever speed you run it at, it's still a 40mm fan! :(

As for the case, I can recommend the Antec Solo, but not if you're the kind of guy that whips the PC out from under his desk twice a week to mess with it's innards, the feet can't really take all the shoving and pushing (I've had the thing for like four weeks and already one of the pretty silicon feet came off, luckily it stuck right back on, but still, now it's out of position) and the piano finish is REALLY easy to scratch. The thing is practically impossible to pick up without like, opening it, it just doesn't have any places to grip it properly. Other than that it's an absolutely wonderful case, and for a great price as well. I'd advice replacing the Antec Tricool fan that comes with it though, even on the low setting it's a bit too noisy for your average SPCR reader.

Posts: 10
Joined: Thu May 10, 2007 7:52 pm

Post by theoneandonly » Fri May 11, 2007 1:52 pm

psiu wrote: The Northbridge fan/heatsink (under the CPU on mobo): check out the Zalman or Thermalright coolers. Guaranteed that if it doesn't bother you now, it WILL as soon as you quiet everything else.
This might actually be a little bit surprising, but the fan you're talking about actually doesn't run on the mobo at all. Ever since I've owned the computer, it simply doesn't spin. I haven't messed with it, since it hasn't caused any issues, and activating it would just create more noise.

Thanks for the all the help! This is going to make this task a LOT simpler.

Posts: 10
Joined: Thu May 10, 2007 7:52 pm

Post by theoneandonly » Fri May 11, 2007 2:25 pm

Also, can anyone recommend a quiet DVD drive, preferably with a black faceplate? I've been needing to replace this my old Sony for years.

Post Reply