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Finding a low noise PC

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Noise Control in PCs  - Reduction of noise in PCs

Buying a quiet PC

There are basically two choices. You can either go for a lower performance PC that will probably not have all the latest features or go for no compromise PC with all the latest and most powerful processor, graphics card etc. The high performance PC will of course need a lot done to it to control the noise. Both options are described below.

Small form factor/integrated PC - compromise on performance/features: A lower performance PC generates less heat and needs less cooling so you have the minimum of fans, or no fans at all. 

There are several manufacturers of small form factor, mini-ITX, and other compact systems who integrate parts like the graphics card into the motherboard. While these machines are more than adequate for most tasks like word processing, browsing the internet, and even watching DVD movies they wouldn't be the first choice of an avid gamer and they wouldn't be up to the most demanding ray tracing or video editing tasks.

Integrated systems are cheaper to produce and should cost you substantially less than a fully fledged system. But apart from graphics performance are there any other compromises? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. These PCs tend to use lower end processors. Some of them don't even use the industry standard Intel and AMD processors, they use VIA CPUs (VIA is normally known as a manufacturer of motherboard chipsets but they do also produce some excellent budget processors that use very little power and generate very little heat). 

Other compromises involve giving up upgradeability. On one of these systems it is highly unlikely that you'll be able to upgrade the graphics card or add a PCI card like a modem, network or TV card. They just don't have the space. If they do advertise a free PCI slot you may find that it's a "low-height/low profile" slot that won't take most standard PCI cards. 

If the CPU is integrated into the motherboard you may not be able to upgrade the CPU. These machines tend not to support the larger size RAM modules. You may also find that you'll have to make do with a single optical drive and won't have the luxury of both a DVD player and a CDRW. Limited space may mean you have only one optical drive. Sure, you can have a DVD ReWriter that covers all the jobs of a standard DVD player and CDRW but it will probably have to be a laptop style "slimline" DVD RW and there isn't that much of a choice in the slim line market. If a new and faster optical drive comes out it'll come in standard size for desktop PCs first and a slimline version may or may not follow several months later. 

The upside to having one of these machines is that they tend to look good, occupy very little space and can be squeezed into your music cabinet between the VCR and the stereo. You can also get them in silver/black and in matt/gloss finish to match most hi-fi equipment. And they make little to no noise. Do a search on the internet for terms like mini-ITX and you should find links to some of these systems.

Power PCs with specialist cooling products

It's possible to not compromise on performance or features but still have a quiet PC. Fortunately there are a wide range of products available to control PC noise. Several of them are discussed in the next page. However, do bear in mind that if you are building your PC yourself you could invalidate the warranty on several parts by modifying their cooling/heat sinks/fans... or replacing those parts. 

Also, when working with some of the specialist products you will invariably have a learning curve during which time you may damage some of these products or the PC components that they are fitted to. So do read the products' manuals carefully, visit their website, and browse through their user forum if they have one, and do stick to the book when fitting and using these products. On their own they will provide limited success with controlling the noise. Our recommendation would be to have your low noise/no noise PC built by an expert, by a company that does it for a living. They'll have several trade secrets they'd apply to further quieten your PC. Some of them involve techniques of air-flow control, cable routing etc that they have developed through years of practice. They also have the advantage of being able to test various configurations and setups in proper testing environments to see which products get the best result in your chosen configuration of PC. Their experience would be invaluable not just in reducing the noise but more importantly in ensuring that cooling is not compromised and that you get the maximum possible life out of the various components in the machine. Especially if individual components warranties are being invalidated it makes sense to have one company covering all the components, including the modified ones.



Poweroid: UK quiet PC specialists, more info & prices on quiet PCs

Poweroid are specialists in the manufacture of Quiet PCs, Video Editing Workstations and Dual Processor machines


This article was first posted on April 27, 2022. Note the copyright notice at the bottom of the page. We do actively prosecute content thieves.



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Last updated: Jan, 2010