A guide on how to silence your PC
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Why not spare your hearing with Acoustic PC’s Quiet Computer Cooling and Soundproofing
Solutions. Acoustic PC Stocks Quiet Computer Parts. Quiet PC Fans, Quiet CPU Coolers, Quiet
Power Supply, Quiet Computer Cases, PC Sound Dampening insulation, Ant-vibration Noise
Reduction materials such as Silicone Fan Mounts, Sorbothane Feet for Ultra Low noise PC's. We
also sell Silent PC Hardware components and Gaming products such as Fanless Silent Video
cards, SSD Drives, Professional Gaming peripherals for serious Gamers. Audio products & more.
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The Silent PC Guide

Sound and Noise
In order to understand how to create a silent PC, it is necessary to understand what makes a PC noisy in the first place. Let's
start with the basics. Sound is simply the vibrations that our ears or bodies sense. This vibration is carried by the air in our room
or other environmental surfaces, such as walls, floors and furniture. So, if we could remove the air from the room, it would make
for a silent working environment, but we would find breathing difficult. We could remove the air from the computer, but that would
then make cooling an issue as well as having to go to an extreme PC enclosure. You could remove the PC from your work space
and run extra long cables to your peripherals, but this isn't exactly convenient nor is it practical in most cases. No matter what
you do to eliminate PC noise, you must remember to allow for the components to keep cool and for there to be a certain degree
of accessibility depending upon your needs and usage. Some people prefer having an optical drive readily accessible for
constant music or movie playback. Others want to be able to easily hot swap hard drives. These personal requirements dictate
what components will be in your PC and how much noise you will have to deal with.

Noise is specifically sound that is unwanted or unnecessary. Noise can be benign or aggravating, depending upon its
characteristics. If the sound is constant and smooth, it can be “tuned out”, but if the noise is irregular or harsh in nature, it
becomes a nuisance and distraction. Lowering the level or volume of the noise is the easiest approach to bringing silence to
your computing. The quieter the noise is, the more benign it becomes. Still, all noise, benign or not, is still noise. Noise affects
our productivity and produces stress. By the way, I do not think you should judge computer component noise strictly by dB
(decibel) ratings. Some manufacturers don't indicate the distance from which the measurement is taken and makes the rating
irrelevant.

Generally, most quiet home environments have a background noise rating between 28 dB sound pressure level (SPL) and 30
dB SPL.  However, if the closest noise making device happens to be your PC, it doesn't need to be as loud as 28 dB to be
audible. A PC that produces less than 30 dB SPL at your ears is usually considered quiet. A computer that produces noise
around 20 dB SPL or less at your ears is, for most purposes, silent. For those who require absolute silence, a silent PC can be
built with no moving parts and utilizing all passive cooling.
                                                                             
                                                                            

A PC generates both intermittent and constant noises. All noise within PCs is caused by vibration or wind motion, which is air
vibrational disturbance. Before we can see how to stop these vibrations, we must understand what produces them. Let's look at
individual components and analyze what the problems are.










                                                                               
                                                                                     
 Sound Graph


Computer Fans
Most PCs today still require the use of fans to cool components so that they maintain proper operating temperatures. Fans
create noise in several ways. The motor creates some noise, the bearing surfaces create noise, and the fan blades moving
through air create even more noise. The motor vibrates due to the electromagnetic induction of the stator. Additionally, the
motor control circuitry affects the loudness and characteristics of the inductive noise.

Bearings are needed to allow the motor to spin. The precision of the bearing affects the amount of play in the spindle which
equates to the amount of noise created. Computer fan bearings are primarily either ball bearing or sleeve designs. Ball bearings
have small contact areas and can be very durable depending upon the quality of the parts. Sleeve bearings can be very quiet,
but not as durable as ball bearings. Once again it depends upon the quality of the parts used. Fluid dynamic or self-stabilizing
oil pressure bearings are a variation on the sleeve bearing where the plastic sleeve is replaced by oil. This oil separates the
spindle from the stator base with a thin layer of oil that is made to flow by spin action. Small grooves in the spindle force the oil
to flow and maintain enough pressure for adequate clearance between parts. The oil bearing limits friction and dampens micro
vibrations created by the fan motor, therefore providing both durability and quiet operation.

The number of fan blades, their geometry, the number and shape of the struts that support the motor, and the structure of the
frame all affect the noise level and characteristics of the airflow. Since the frame of the fan secures to the PC case or
component, this will be the final determining factor in how much vibration will add noise to the system. That is, how the frame is
structured and mounted determines how much of the fan's vibrational noise is transmitted and potentially amplified.

To determine which fans are making noise, use a pencil and place it between the fan blades and the struts to temporarily stop
them from spinning. If the noise stops, that fan needs replacing. Another method is to unplug the fan from its power source. This
method allows you to stop all your fans if you choose. Before you use your PC again, don't forget to power your fans again.


Power Supply (PSU)
Any power supply will have capacitors and transformers within it, and most use at least one fan to evacuate the hot air from the
case. Capacitors of poor quality can make a high pitched whine and transformers  and chokes vibrate at a lower frequency. This
type of electronics noise is an issue with nearly all PC components. Luckily, high quality parts that are used in many computer
components will only emit very low levels of noise that are often masked by the sound of even quiet fans.

The power supply cooling fan creates motor and bearing noise as well as wind noise. Too small or too low of efficiency power
supplies will get hot during normal use and demand strong cooling from its fan. The cooling fan in a power supply can produce a
fair amount of turbulent noise when it has to spin at high rpms during high power demands. Additional air turbulence is created
by the proximity of the heat sinks and other parts within the power supply case which increases the noise problem.

Use a pencil and temporarily stop the fan on your power supply to see if it is producing noise. If you have a noisy power supply,
shop for a high efficiency design with a quality fan. Unless you're an electrician, PLEASE do NOT attempt to replace your power
supply fan! Even if it's unplugged, the power supply holds lethal voltages that can kill.


CPU cooler
CPU coolers need a heat sink to draw damaging heat away from the CPU in a quick and consistent manner.  Most PCs use a
heat sink with a fan, which means that there is noise from the fan as well as interacting wind turbulence noise between the fan
and the heat sink Further, there is the potential vibrational noise caused by the fan and heat sink contact. Stock heat sinks are
designed for minimal performance within tolerances for the CPU. The heat sink is only adequate for the task if the fan is forcing
very high airflow through it. Thus, the accompanying average quality fan (noisy fan) is required to spin at high rpms if the CPU is
to maintain adequate peak operating temperatures. This high noise level becomes apparent whenever you put a load on your
CPU.

If you have something other than a stock cooler, but it's still not quiet, you can try lowering the rpm on the fan. Try to bring the
rpms down until the fan is quiet and ensure that your CPU won't overheat under stress. If you can't adequately cool your CPU
while keeping the cooling fan quiet, you will need to replace it with a more efficient design with a quiet fan. Don't forget to try to
provide some vibration impeding material between the fan and the heat sink.


Graphics Card(GPU)
GPUs run hot enough to need large heat sinks as well. Most graphics cards use one or more fans to dissipate the heat from the
heat sink Once again, these fans create noise and there will be wind turbulence from the fan blowing air through the heat sink,
the video memory, and other components below. Also, the contact area between the fan and the heat sink is a possible
vibrational noise source. Most graphics cards use minimal performance coolers with low quality fans. Stock graphics cards will
make a lot of noise when a load is placed upon them.


Motherboard
Most modern motherboards utilize heat sinks to keep critical components within operating temperatures. Some boards still use
fans to cool heat sinks These fans are often small and run at high RPMs, creating much turbulent noise.


Optical Drives (CD, DVD, Blu-Ray)
Normally, the optical drive sits quietly and does nothing in your PC. Once you seek data on a disc, it spins up to high rpms and
produce vibrational noise and wind noise. The wind noise tends to be rather benign, but the vibrational noise can be unsettling
and disruptive at best.  The mechanism within the drive can have higher quality parts that don't create as much vibration, and a
suspension system that reduces the vibrational noise. Yes, there are quieter optical drives available.


Hard Drives (HDD) or Solid State Drives (SSD)
Hard drives have platters that spin up to high rpms and produce wind noise, as well as vibrational noise from the motor, bearing,
and the data seeking armature.  The use of high quality fluid dynamic bearings has lead to much quieter hard drives than what
was available in the past. Slower 5400 rpm hard drives can be much quieter than the faster 10,000 rpm hard drives, but data
transfer is also slower. There are some 7,200 rpm hard drives available which are capable of both high performance and quiet
operation. Even the quietest HDDs will produce noise, however, requiring acoustical and vibrational isolation methods for silence.

SSDs, on the other hand, are basically silent with no moving parts, and have extremely fast data transfer rates. Still, SSDs aren't
high capacity storage devices and aren't purpose-built for constant data overwrite.


The Computer Case
How a case is built affects airflow, noise isolation, and sympathetic vibrational amplification. The case sides can basically act as
a vibrational transducer, producing noise initiated by the moving components within. Thin case walls and loose fitting parts are
the major sources of these vibrational noises. Basically, anything that can move is a potential noise problem.



So how do we fix these annoying sound issues?

Going Silent
Now that we know where the noise is coming from, it's time to remove these sources. If you're a hardcore gamer or run other
demanding programs, it may be difficult to go silent, but it's possible to get very close. Let's tackle this one problem area at a
time.


Quiet Fans
While sleeve bearings have proven to make some very quiet fans, they still lack the durability witch is found in the loud ball
bearing fan motors. “However, thanks to liquid state technology, we now have fluid dynamic bearings (FDB), and premium
quality frictionless
self-stabilizing oil pressure (SSO) bearings, with smooth Commutation drive (SCD) like the ones found on Noctua
fans.” Liquid state bearings have been around long enough to prove the test of time. They are used in some of the quietest fans
such as Noctua. Furthermore Noctua is so confident in the durability of their cooling fans that they come with a 6 year warranty.

Low rpm fans tend to produce less noise, but they can also create less airflow. If it's possible to use a larger diameter fan for
your application, the larger fan blades can produce more airflow for a given rpm. Increasing the fin size or count on a fan can
compensate for the lower rpm, but the shape of the fin and how it cuts through the air affects efficiency and noise production.
While an aggressive blade angle of attack can provide increased air pressure (concentrated airflow), if the rpms are too high,
the blades will beat the air and produce rhythmic air turbulence. This noise can be reduced by smoothing out the trailing edges
of the blades and attempt to minimize air disturbance. Several manufacturers are now using fins, convoluted edges, dimples,
and notches to break up rhythmic air turbulence in favor of noise less perceptible to human hearing.

The shape of the frame and struts that secure the motor affect both wind noise and overall fan vibrational noise. Ideally, the
struts should provide minimal impact upon airflow by cutting perpendicular to the fan blade trailing edges. The struts have to be
stiff enough to prevent the motor from moving and fan from vibrating. The fan frame provides additional strength, stiffness and
support for the entire fan. Some fans have integrated soft mounts into their frames, while others come with soft decoupling
mounting hardware to attach them to the desired location.


Quiet Power Supplies
The power supply is your PC's backbone. Quiet power supplies need to be made of high quality parts. Use power supplies
created with performance spec or military grade components. Look for the 80 plus certification on the reliable manufacturers'
models. The ratings range from acceptable at 80 plus Bronze through 80 plus Silver, to the excellent 80 plus Gold, and 80 plus
Platinum. An 80 plus gold certified power supply with a silent fan, rated for twice the wattage that your PC components require is
ideal for a silent PC. Some power supplies are “hybrid” designs with fans that only come on when there is a demand over half its
rated output. The Seasonic X series and XP series power supplies are an example of hybrid cooled power supplies. The quietest
option is to use an 80 plus Gold or Platinum certified fanless power supply. It's best to have a power supply with modular
connections. This allows you to use the minimum wiring necessary for you purposes without cluttering your case and improves
internal airflow.


Quiet CPU coolers
An efficient heat sink is required to cool the CPU in a silent PC. The base of the heat sink should be made of copper for best
heat conduction. Nickel plating is recommended as copper oxidizes quickly and its heat conductivity will be reduced. The base
should be smoothly lapped and flat. Some manufacturers prefer convex bases to give a higher pressure fit with their firm
mounting systems. A good, firm mounting system is a necessity for the CPU cooler since the base must have complete contact
with the CPU for best performance. The base will then have several copper heat pipes soldered and secured to it. These heat
pipes can be of varying designs with different degrees of performance and may be nickel plated as well. The heat pipes have
numerous aluminum heat sink fins attached to them in a stacked array so that air can pass between each broad layer of metal.
The fins should be soldered to the heat pipes for best heat transfer. The fin stack often has uneven or notched patterns on the
open region that the fan forces air through. This is to reduce turbulence between the fan and the heat sink. A quiet fan
designed for increased pressure is best for producing adequate airflow through the heat sink fins. The fan should be soft
mounted for best vibration reduction.

If you can find a very high efficient heat sink with sufficient radiating surface, you may be able to cool your CPU without a fan. A
passive heat sink will eliminate noise issues with your CPU, but it must be efficient enough to prevent your CPU from overheating
in your PC. Airflow within your case should be good before you try to use passive cooling.


Quiet / Silent Graphics Cards
Most graphics cards get noisy when they're put under load. The only way to guarantee silence with a graphics card is to buy a
passive cooled model. These cards are designed to run efficiently and come with quality heat sink coolers. As with passive
cooling of CPUs, you must have sufficient airflow within the PC case.

If you have a system with integrated graphics and you don't need the power of your discrete graphics card, you could simple
uninstall the card. (You can reinstall your graphics card later should you decide you need the extra graphics power after all). If
you don't want to buy a new graphics card that runs quieter, you could buy an aftermarket heat sink cooler and install it. There
are aftermarket coolers designed to accept ultra quiet fans, that can handle most of the powerful cards. Most passive
aftermarket coolers are large and only adequate for up to entry level gaming cards. Another option for those requiring more
power than an entry level gaming card is to use two cards in crossfire X or SLI. If you run two passive cooled cards, be sure to
provide adequate air space between them. Even if the second card has to be placed in a secondary PCI-e slot, the loss in
scalability is worth the ability to cool the cards properly.


Quiet / Silent Motherboard
If your motherboard uses active cooling, it's noisy. You can switch to a passive heat sink on the part that is cooled by the fan, or
buy a motherboard with passive heat sinks If your capacitors are whistling or whining, all you can do is replace the motherboard
if you want a silent PC.


Quiet Optical Drives
There are optical drives designed for quiet service with high quality bearings and improved suspension systems. An example of
this is the ASUS QuieTrack ULTRA Quiet line of optical drives. If you don't want to replace your optical drive and you need it by
your side (in your PC), there are a couple of software “fixes” available. Otherwise, secure the drive as best you can. Look for
anywhere that your case might vibrate and tighten or add vibrational damping material of some sort. Wedge material wherever
there is a joint that doesn't interfere with the operation of the PC or the closing of the case. If you don't use an optical drive
often, you could use an external USB optical drive to eliminate one more component from your PC that causes vibrational noise.


Quiet HDDs and Silent Solid State Drives  SSDs
If your PC is chattering away while you work or play, that's your HDD making noise. Go through all the steps to reduce case
vibrations that we went through with the optical drive. If you're in a home network, you can set up another PC as your primary
storage device, and run with an SSD or multiple SSDs for silent operation. If you need an HDD in your PC, you can isolate it with
a quality enclosure designed for vibrational isolation and heat dissipation. Another effective method for reducing HDD noise is to
soft-decouple or suspend the drive. The enclosure design has the advantage of providing some airborne acoustical dissipation.
If you need performance along with plenty of memory storage in your PC, you can use an SSD for your OS and common
applications, and an HDD for data archives. This will allow you to have quiet operation until you need to make a data search.


The Quiet PC Case
The computer case is the foundation of the silent PC. It must be stable, rigid, and sturdy, with no loose parts that aren't easily
tightened. It's best if the exterior is thick walled and doesn't “ring” when you rap on it. The case side is most susceptible to
transmitting vibrations to the air so should be thick and have some acoustic treatment applied. It should have an open cell
material on the inside and provide mass damping for the case in order to reduce the transduction of vibrational noise of the
internal components. The case side should fit snugly so that it won't vibrate.

Make sure that anything that moves is tightened properly. If the side of your case jiggles, look at methods to prevent this
vibration. Rubber strips or Velcro with one-sided adhesive can be used to fill gaps in a poorly fitting case side. If your HDD cage
has some play in it, wedge some acoustic foam or rubber where it has gaps. Ensure that nothing is loose including excess
cabling. Tying loose cables down securely also can help with airflow within the case. Applying acoustic foam to the sides of the
case is very beneficial since the sides are the largest vibrational planes for carrying noise to outside. Acoustic foam for PCs has
an internal layer of open cell material that absorbs some of the airborne noise within the case, while the layer applied next to the
case material is heavier elastic material designed for mass damping and lowering vibrational energy. Using vibrational damping
materials on all fans and where your power supply rests against your case can add that final quieting touch. While you're at it,
replacing the feet on your case with softer feet will help if the PC rests on your desk or another solid surface.

In closing, if you truly desire silence, there's much that you can do for your PC.
Sound Level Graph.
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