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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [10.10.02]
Parts by: Thermaltake, Zalman, Seagate

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UPDATE - Since this article was written 3 years ago, a lot of the information found within is somewhat dated. For information on the latest in Silent PC Hardware, please visit our affiliate site, How To Build a Silent PC.


Taking it All The Way

I know this isn't the first time you've seen a 'Build a Silent PC' article, but I want to go a step further here.  In the tradition of 'extreme overclocking' articles, I am going to take you through the steps on building a completely silent PC (or as close as we can get).  I'm not talking about a Pentium 3 with a Voodoo2 video card either... Here's what we're going to build our silent PC with:

CPU: Pentium 4 2.80 GHz
Mobo: Intel D850EMV2
RAM: 512MB Samsung PC800 RDRAM
Video Card: GeForce 4 Ti4200 (overclocked, of course)

That's right, not only are we taking the fastest CPU available right now, but we're pairing it up with one of the hottest video chipsets around, overclocked to the max.

What Makes The Noise?

In designing a silent rig, you must first determine what exactly is making the noise you are trying to get rid of.  Listed below are the main factors of a noisy PC:

  • CPU Cooler
  • Case Fans
  • Video Card Cooler
  • Power Supply
  • Hard Drive

If you focus entirely on these particular parts, you should be able to attain your goals of building a PC you can have running in your bedroom full time.

The Solutions

Several companies are opting not to go the "extreme performance, LOUD operation" route, and are going for more of a sophisticated "sufficient performance, silent operation" approach.  Thermaltake has been doing this for quite some time now, with temperature-based fan speeds and whatnot.  Thermaltake does not make entirely passive heatsinks however, and remember that we are going for a DEAD SILENT PC here.

There are few companies brave enough to market passive heatsinks for high end setups, but Zalman, and recently OCZ Technology both have Pentium 4 solutions.  We went with the Zalman unit, because as of press time the OCZ product was not yet available (although it has been announced and should be shipping any day now).

Zalman also has some video card solutions, and today we'll look at one of them for a passive video card heatsink solution.  That's right, a passive heatsink on a highly overclocked GF4.

Thermaltake does offer a silent PSU, and that's what we're putting to the test today to take care of that usually noisy component.

Very few hard drive manufacturers market themselves as having a high end silent solution, but you'll find that not all drives are created equal.  You won't normally notice the noise of a hard drive, but when you quiet everything else down, you wouldn't believe the noise that comes from a drive spinning constantly at 7200 RPM.

Keeping the case cool is going to be the trickiest part of our mission here.. Let's see what we can do about that...

We're going to tackle these parts one by one, and in the end see if we can come up with a COMPLETELY silent HIGH END rig.

Let's start off with the CPU cooler!

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