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It's hard to believe that it has been just over 4 years since we gained a lot of attention for being one of the first hardware sites to really put an emphasis on silent PC components. In an era where we saw loud, flashy, gimmicky coolers coming out every day, we were looking at products from a little-known Korean company called Zalman. Today Zalman is leading the way in the silent computing niche (we'll forget about the "Fatal1ty" products for now), and everyone from Antec to Thermaltake is jumping on the silent computing bandwagon.

We started with an article called How to Build a Dead Silent PC. The components we used then seem archaic by today's standards, but that was pretty much all there was to choose from at the time. That article was spawned into a spin-off site, Build a Silent PC.com, which helps guide you step-by-step, looking at every single component to build a silent PC with.

But what if you already have a system, and just want to swap out a couple parts to quiet things down? Should you replace that power supply? How about the case fans? Do you really need a new CPU cooler? Let's look at the 5 most critical components that can make the most difference in the amount of noise a PC makes. When considering these options, you'll want to start with #1 and work your way down. We reversed the order for dramatic effect!

#5 - The CPU

Processors have come a long way in the past couple years, in terms of power efficiency and heat generated. Intel's now-defunct Netburst architecture, with its high clock speeds and power hungry cores, was notorious for making silent computing all but impossible. There is no question that the CPU cooler is usually the most noisy component in a system, but if you're stuck using a Pentium "PresHott" or an Athlon 64 Clawhammer, you might have to look at more drastic measures as a silent solution. Perhaps it's time for an upgrade?

Many people were left scratching their heads when Apple announced that they would start using Intel processors in all their PC products. That fact alone will grab your attention, but it's the reason behind it that really surprized people; Apple went with Intel because of their power efficient, cooler processors. What? Apple knew what Intel's Core architecture was all about, and now we do too. Core 2 Duo is VERY cool, and VERY energy efficient. There's no question that if you're going to upgrade your CPU, and you care about having a silent system, Core 2 Duo is the way to go. Any model you get has a TDP of just 65W (remember that Intel and AMD TDP numbers cannot be compared to each other), so go with whatever you need. It should be noted that the E6300 is gaining fame as an excellent overclocker, and this is the rare case that I would recommend overclocking even if you DO have silence in mind.

Not to be outdone, at least on paper, AMD offers several "Energy Efficient" models of Athlon64 and X2 processors. Rated at just 65W TDP, the Energy Efficient models of the Athlon64 X2 are 24W lower than their respective standard models. However these processors are hard to come by; the only one I was able to locate in reputable stores was the 4600+ EE.

Next Page: (Power Supply; Case & Fans)