Quiet PC

Maybe your PC has always been noisy, or maybe it has become noisier over time. What can be done to make your computer quieter? Wrapping the case in a blanket, or surrounding it with cushions might dampen the noise but will ensure that the internal components cook themselves in no time at all.

Moving the unit to a cupboard will garner the same results unless you cut a hole in it and even then the internal temperature might still be a problem. Thankfully there are easier and less destructive ways of minimising sonic emissions, all they require are an hour or so of your time, a screwdriver, and a cup of tea (optional).

One thing to check before you begin is whether the BIOS settings on your computer allow you to control the speed of the PC's fans.

In most BIOS menus (which you can access by pressing F1 or Del during booting) you’ll see a H/W Monitor section. Look in there for an option like CPU Smart Fan Target, which allows you to select the maximum temperature that you want the CPU to reach. Anything under 60 degrees Celsius is good. Save your changes and reboot to bring the changes into effect. If that doesn’t do the trick then it’s time to go shopping.

BIOS hardware h/w monitor fan control

A quick perusal of websites such as Quiet PC's will reveal a wealth of specialised, low-noise fans, power supplies, CPU coolers, soundproofing kits and even cases, all of which can aid you in your quest for aural tranquility.

This kit offers the ability to incrementally improve your existing machine, without the need for major works. If one of your fans is particularly boisterous then you can swap it out for one that is super-quiet. Is the power supply whining like a dentist's drill? Maybe it's time for semi-fanless variety instead.

Of course you also have the option of building a new machine from scratch with purpose-designed components to make it as decibel defying as something with moving parts can be. So, for this guide we decided to make a few adjustments to our sorry old office machine, which would take very little time and, more importantly, a minimal amount of money.

Quiet kit

The first thing to determine when quietening a PC is which parts are actually making the noise. There’s a few simple tests that will enable you to identify the troublesome component(s). The basic rule is that if something has moving parts then it’s a likely suspect.

See also: How to quieten your PC for £70

Quiet PC components: Fans

Acoustifan 80mm

In many cases it’s usually the fans that can be at the heart of the problem. To see which fan (as PCs often have more than one these days) is the noisy neighbour you’ll need to power off the machine, open up the PC case, and then hold a pencil or other thin, non-metal item between the spokes of a fan to prevent it from spinning up.

Then power on the machine and wait for a minute or two to see if blocking the fan has any effect on the sound of the computer. If it does then you just need to replace that part, otherwise repeat the procedure until you find more offenders. Remember that CPU coolers, graphics cards, and power supplies usually have fans too, so don’t neglect testing them.

Bigger fans spinning slower than their smaller siblings can still move the same volume of air, so buying larger fans can have a noticeable effect on system noise. For even more noise reduction there’s the 120mm AcoustiFan Dustproof (£18), which has a sealed motor to prevent dust clogging up the mechanics and to reduce noise.

Scythe Gentle Typhoon

If you’re a gamer then you’ll want a high-performance fan such as the 120mm Scythe Gentle Typhoon (£18), with its powerful motor. Of course you won’t get silent running, but Scythe has worked on the solidity of the motor and used various vibration reduction techniques to lessen the impact. Be sure to measure the size of your fans before making a purchase, typically they’ll be either 80mm, 92mm, or 120mm (measured along each edge).

Apple recently announced, with much fanfare, its new asymmetric fan design included in the MacBook Pro. The idea is that the frequency range is increased by breaking up the regularity of the fan blades, which in theory should replace a large regular hum with a more dissipated noise. In typical fashion you can expect to see similar products from other manufacturers soon. Fans can be almost totally avoided if you go down the route of water-cooling. This gets expensive very quickly but offers one of the quietest solutions and can look impressive too.

Another option is to buy an oversized 'passive' heatsink for your CPU, and a graphics card with a similar passive cooler. However, you'll still need one or two case fans to keep air moving over these heatsinks.

Quiet PC components: Optical drives

DVDs spinning at high speed can spoil a movie. Using speed limiting software such as Nero CD-DVD Speed or CD-Bremse can aid older models, while newer high-end devices such as the LG BH10LS38 Blu-ray and DVD rewriter (£75) have onboard software that automatically adjusts the drive speed in relation to the task at hand.


Next page: hard drives, cases, CPU coolers, graphics cards