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The Insider*s Guide to Creating an Astonishingly Quiet Computer

Due to the array of fans, power supplies, hard drives, and other components whirring away inside, computers can be shockingly noisy. Fortunately, help is at hand. We*ve provided ten useful tips that should help you quiet even the noisiest computer. It may seem like a bit of work, but once you experience a truly quiet computer, you*ll never go back. Trust us.

One thing to note before we start: this article intentionally does not cover water cooling. While water cooling is appropriate for some systems, we wanted to address solutions that are easily accessible to the majority of users.

1. Fan smarter, not harder

Our overhaul starts with your CPU*s cooling system. Since CPUs would melt without adequate cooling, they rely on metal heatsinks and rotating fans to keep temperatures reasonable. But since these fans are often small 每 perhaps 60 or 70 millimeters 每 they have to spin quite fast to produce enough airflow. And many of them spin at a constant high speed, even if your CPU is near idle and doesn*t need maximum cooling. All of this means more noise.

Happily, there are two simple fixes.

First, replace your existing CPU fan with a larger model such as an 80, 92, or even 120mm fan (many computers don*t have room for a 120mm CPU fan, so measure the clearances before buying one). To use a larger fan, you*ll either need to buy an adapter for your existing heatsink, or get a new heatsink that accommodates the larger fan size. The result is a slower 每 and quieter 每 fan that still does the job.

Second, your new CPU fan should feature variable-speed thermal control, which means that the fan speeds up as temperatures increase, and slows when temperatures drop. The slower it turns, the quieter it*ll be. So when your CPU is just idling, for example, you*ll be rewarded with blessed quiet.

2. How hot is your video?

We*ve quieted your howling CPU fan and now it is time to do the same for your video card. A few years back, most of us didn*t even have a separate video card. Today*s detailed games, however, demand a powerful video card for proper animation, and the chips on those cards run hot and require a noisy fan.

Or do they? Depending on your system configuration, you can usually replace your video card fan with an aftermarket heatsink that is entirely silent, one that will usually keep your video card just as cool as that noisy old fan. Keep in mind, however, that you*ll need decent air circulation inside your case for this strategy to work.

Another possibility is to add a fan to blow air from the outside directly onto the video card. If your case does not have a special graphics card air-duct with an optional fan for this purpose, there are accessories that plug into the PCI bus to do the same thing, like the Antec VCool. And while it may seem illogical at first, two fans can do the same work as one while running at half speed, thus quieting your system.

3. Power for your tower

Now let*s look at your power supply. Sure, power supplies generate significant heat, but their cooling fans do not need to run louder than turboprop aircraft. If your power supply has one of these fans, consider an upgrade. While it is possible to open your existing power supply and replace the fans, we don*t recommend it as it can be dangerous and will void the warranty.

The wiser choice is a newer, larger-capacity power supply designed for higher efficiency and ultra-quiet operation. If you*ve repeatedly upgraded your system but haven*t changed your power supply, you may be running near maximum power capacity. That*ll generate more heat, which requires even more cooling.

Newer power supplies have improved efficiency〞which also means they are quieter, since if less electricity is being turned into heat, it does not need to be cooled as much. Also look for a power supply with ball-bearing fans, a temperature-response system, and a dedicated ※Fan Only§ power connector for your case fans. These features will also slow your case fans and power supply fans as your system temperature drops.

If you can*t afford a top of the line power supply, you can certainly live without some features, like the dedicated ※Fan Only§ power connectors. Just be sure to buy a high-quality power supply from a brand that you trust.

4. Size matters

You*ve replaced your CPU fan, swapped your video card fan for a heatsink (or installed an additional fan) and upgraded your old power supply, but your computer still isn*t the quiet angel you have always dreamed of. Don*t despair, you*ve still got plenty more you can do, like quiet your case fans. Many existing cases use multiple small, high-speed fans to circulate air. Unfortunately, such fans create a lot of noise. To quiet things down, replace the two small fans with one larger, low-speed fan, and make sure your new fan adjusts its speed in response to system temperature.

5. The fast and the furious

Still with us? We*re about halfway done. As we*ve seen, speed generates noise. And one of your most critical components 每 your hard drive 每 regularly reaches speeds that would make Michael Schumacher proud. While older drives have typical speeds of 5,000 or 7,500 RPM, newer drives can reach 15,000 RPM and higher. If you want to keep that noise down, you can buy a new quieter hard drive, or quiet the one you have by installing silicone gaskets and washers in certain areas of your computer. Hard drive trays can transmit noisy vibrations throughout your case, and these gaskets and washers can really help keep it down.

6. Everybody likes curves

While you*re rummaging around inside your machine, take the time to replace your original flat ribbon cables with rounded cables. Not only do flat cables look terrible, they significantly impede your system*s airflow. Rounded cables, on the other hand, allow air to flow much more freely inside your system, which should keep temperatures down and allow your fans to run even slower.

7. Soak it up

Believe it or not, we*ve got a tip that will cost you very little. Grab a thin foam pad and put it under your computer. The foam will soak up noisy vibrations transmitted by your case to your desk.

8. A little padding where you need it most

While we*re talking about foam pads, here*s another clever trick: attach some acoustic padding to the inside of your case, without covering any case fans or air vents. The padding should muffle much of the remaining noise emanating from your case. Just be aware that your case temperatures will almost certainly rise, so keep a close eye on that temperature monitor, and remove the padding if your system temps rise too much.

9. Brand new

At this point, some of you are probably wondering just where you*re going to find the time to make all of these upgrades. And others are thinking, ※Remove my video card fan? Are they crazy?§ We understand. If you are more interested in a quick and simple way to get a dramatically quieter computer, we honestly suggest that you buy an ultra-quiet case. Find one that*s specifically designed for quiet operation, and transfer your components to your new case. You*ll be amazed.

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