A handful of modern PCs and laptops offer near-silent operation, but there are plenty more that can get extremely noisy.
The primary cause tends to be a fan, which kicks in when the CPU temperature is detected as being too high. Of course, this is in place to protect your device, but many other components can also contribute to a loud PC.
There are a whole lot of ways to reduce the noise your PC makes but before we start making changes to settings and changing the hardware around, it’s worth trying to treat the root cause of the problem before we start addressing the symptom.
Keep your PC cool to keep noise low
If your PC’s fans are making a lot of noise then it’s likely because they’re trying to keep the components in your system cool. You can find out how warm your components are by downloading Core Temp, which is a free app that allows you to see temperatures from the Windows desktop.
Below you can see that the CPU cores are sitting between 37 and 45°C which is an acceptable range – if your CPU is idling at over 60 degrees than you could have a cooling problem which could be causing your fans to work overtime. It is quite normal for the temperature to be up to 80 or 90°C when playing games or doing other intensive tasks, but these numbers will depend upon your CPU model and the effectiveness of the processor cooling heatsink and fan.
Do note that it’s best to take this reading when your machine has been ‘idling’ for a time, so not running any strenuous programs such as games, Photoshop or video editing software.
If you think your PC is running a hot, then making some changes to keep it cooler will reduce how hard the fans need to work, which will then reduce the amount of noise they make.
If you haven’t cleaned the dust out of your PC in a while, then this is a good place to start – clearing the dirt from your PC’s fans and removing any dust from inside the case shouldn’t take you too long. If the room you’re using your PC in gets warm, then taking steps to make the local atmosphere cooler will help too – finally, make sure your PC’s intake fan (which is usually at the bottom of the front panel) is clear. If your machine is resting on carpet, try putting some cardboard under it so the intake fan isn’t pulling in dust from the carpet.
Method 1: Lower fan speeds
If you’re sure that your PC is running at a reasonable temperature then you should be able to adjust the speed of your fans. This is done in the BIOS, most commonly, but your motherboard manufacturer might offer a Windows app that lets you change fan speeds from the desktop. Whichever way it's done, you'll be able to make the fans run slower which will reduce noise.
A common sight in the BIOS these days is graph-based fan control where you can set the speed based on temperature for each fan connected to the motherboard. You can then set it to allow your components to run at a higher temperature with the fans at a lower RPM, reducing the noise.
If you can't adjust fan speed in your BIOS, then consider buying a fan controller, such as this one from Amazon.
Method 2: Change your case fans
If you’re convinced your fans are making the majority of the noise then replacing them is a relatively cheap and easy way of getting a more silent system. They're usually held in by four screws and should take only a few minutes to swap out.
Both Noctua and Be Quiet! create extremely powerful and silent case fans and are two of the most respected brands in the cooling industry. Make sure you’re buying the appropriately sized fans that will fit your case, and you could even check if your case has an additional fan slot that isn’t being used and purchase another fan – just make sure your system has room for it.
Here are a couple of specific models we recommend - be sure to measure your current fan so you buy the correct size replacement:
- Noctua NF-P12 reduc-900 - 120mm. Buy from Amazon UK, Amazon US.
- Be Quiet! Silent Wings 3 - 120mm. Buy from Amazon UK, Amazon US.
Method 3: Change your CPU Cooler
The CPU cooler will be one of the fans working the hardest within your system. Most CPUs will come with a standard cooler that is usually not the most effective and so will usually be louder than an aftermarket one. If your CPU fan is making too much noise then replacing it with a larger aftermarket model is a great idea, once again Noctua and Be Quiet! are great choices here.
Again, make sure you buy the correct cooler for your CPU.
Replacing the CPU cooler gets a little bit involved because it can be difficult to access the mountings that might be on the underside of the motherboard. And you'll have to clean off the old thermal paste and replace it with new – if this is something you’re considering dong then make sure you take a look at our guide on how to apply the paste.
If you can afford it you can buy a so-called closed-loop cooler which uses water-cooling and larger, quieter fans mounted to a radiator. Check out our review of the Corsair H115i Platinum.
Method 4: Change your power supply
We’re now getting into the more expensive options but power-supplies have been known to cause a fair amount of noise within systems. Replacing your power-supply is relatively easy, but it won’t be cheap, unfortunately. Be Quiet! makes some fantastic quiet running PSUs with being Corsair's range being an ideal place to look too.
When purchasing a new power supply, make sure it will deliver enough power to run your components – the wattage shouldn’t be lower than your current PSU, and ideally should be a bit higher.
Method 5: Change your PC case
Not all PC cases are made equal, with certain makes being better designed for quiet operation. This doesn't simply mean lots of fans: air flow is also key.