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.
Now you're probably wondering what kind of case I put build the Silent PC in... You saw the kind of heat generated by the CPU and Video Card, and you know we're going for a totally silent PC here, so that means no more fans than absolutely necessary.
In this case, we're going to have to be very mindful of air flow and space. This way we don't have all the hot components baking one another, and building up heat in a tiny confined space. To do this, we recruited the awesome Thermaltake Xaser II A6000A.
We even have a temp monitor built in to see exactly how hot things are getting!
I chose the Xaser II because it was the biggest case available to me at the time - you can use any full size tower you want, provided it has a lot of room inside to let air pass over our passive heatsinks and out the back via the Power Supply fans.
As you can see, we have plenty of room here (these pics were taken before I ripped all the fans out), and if we use some rounded IDE cables from CableStore.us, we can really keep things open inside.
Now I don't expect everyone to go as far as I did in building a Silent PC. My goal was to build one that is absolutely dead silent, and (extremely quiet PSU notwithstanding), I have accomplished my goal.
If the idea of running a GF4 at 70 degrees C makes you nervous, you can consider managing noise, rather than completely eliminating it.
As you can see in our Xaser case above, there is a window fan installed directly over the video card. Using the Hardcano included with the case, you could have that fan blowing over your video card at low speed during quiet times, and when things start to heat up, turn it up a bit (your gaming will drown out the noise anyway).
So what exactly will all these silent parts cost?
For the CPU and Video Cooler we're comparing the Zalman units to stock of course, so that would cost nothing at all.
If you're wondering why I didn't mention the Mobo Northbridge, it's because I simply forgot. All Intel based chipsets use a passive heatsink, even those with onboard video. If you have a chipset heatsink with a fan, many heatsink manufacturers make large passive heatsinks for chipsets, including Zalman. These cost less than $10.
I hope this article gives you some ideas on building a Silent PC. While you may not want to go as far as I did in completely eliminating nearly every fan from your PC, you can certainly take some of these ideas and go as far as your situation allows.
Whether you decide to go with a FDB-based hard drive by Seagate and a new silent power supply, or go all the way with passive heatsinks on everything, I promise that you will appreciate every bit of noise eliminated from your PC. Now you can run distributed computing programs overnight while you sleep right next to your beloved Rig!
To give you a final sound level number, I built a 'regular' test rig, with the exact same specs as the one used for our Dead Silent PC. The same CPU and video card were used, and we replaced the Seagate with a Maxtor (the one that didn't die on me).
I used the regular stock Intel fan for the CPU, and the MSI fan for the video card. I also installed the based 2 case fan setup most people use (intake on the front, output on the back). For a PSU, I just used the cheap ass Chinese PSU I had laying around. I situated the dB Meter right above the PSU again, to emphasize any noise created by our Silent Power Supply.
Now how's that for a Dead Silent PC? At ear level the only discernable noise being made is from the whisper-quiet Thermaltake PSU, thanks to the Seagate HDD we're using. It is pretty incredible walking into a room and knowing a P4 2.80 with a GF4 OC'd to the max is running, and you can't even tell until you turn the monitor on :)
Update: Since the article was originally published, we had some people questioning whether 40 dB is truly silent. Well I will admit that our sound level testing may have been flawed in this case. I should not have put the sound meter right up to the power supply like that, but rather 2 or 3 feet away from the PC, as in normal operation.
I tried this originally, but I didn't think I was picking up a reading! That's right, this PC was TOO SILENT, and it threw me off (the sound it put out was not above ambient noise levels, so I couldn't pick it up).
So please take my word for it - this rig is absolutely DEAD SILENT.
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