You are looking to make your PC quieter but you do not know where to start. This little guide is for you.
And there was noise
Our beloved machines heat up even more than we run heavy software (games, 3D software …). To cool the whole, the most common (and economical) solution is ventilation. There are other solutions such as passive systems or watercooling, but that’s another topic and also other budget ranges. Too often, standard computer configurations focus on power and are not optimized for silence, they often make a lot of noise at full speed. If the temptation to swing your turn through the window is waiting for you, read on to save your expensive equipment, your nerves and your love affair. The more powerful a computer is, the more fans it needs. Between the processor, the graphics card, the power supply plus the case, there are at least 4 fans that rotate continuously. If one of these fans is of poor quality or is giving up the ghost, the computer becomes as discreet as a plane taking off. There are simple solutions to put in place provided you understand the basic principles of effective PC ventilation.
In order :
- Clean the computer and store the cables
- Improve the ventilation system
- Optimize other components
1. Clean up you case and store the cables
Cleaning the computer is the easiest part, yet many people still forget it. With a simple bomb dust, it’s crazy how much dirt can be removed. Less dust especially on the fans and the cooler means a much better heat dissipation.
The same goes for the cables, well-grouped and tidy cables provide better air circulation.
2. Improving the fan system
3 rules to remember before embarking on PC soundproofing :
- The bigger, the quieter. This is why the fans standards are no longer 80 mm, but 120 mm or 140mm.
- A fan has a direction : one side pull and the other push. So check the way to avoid messing up your entire ventilation system.
- Heat goes up : on a conventional tower, the fresh air is brought in from below and heat is taken out from above. The most effective is a push-pull system with a fan that draws in fresh air and exhales hot air.
Finally, a last point to remember before embarking seriously in the soundproofing experience : a completely silent PC does not exist. There will always be a small component that will generate noise. So do not be too greedy, you just risk heating your machine dangerously.
2.1 Identify the culprits
On the one hand, there are several fans in your machine but not that: we also have the hard drive (s), and the DVD player / burner that can contribute greatly to the general annoyance. Identifying the troublemaker can be tricky because the sound of a computer does not usually come from a single element but from the accumulation of several. We thus find in descending order:
The graphics card with its small fluorescent yellow fan 40-60 mm
Hard drive bad brand or end of life scratching loudly
The powerful processor fan so sound
The case fan (s) not always of quality
The fans of the diet (ah she was not expensive it’s on)
For all these elements, I advise you to start with the open case and to block or disconnect these elements to identify the wrongdoer (s). Not too long anyway, you just risk melting your installation. Sometimes it’s just old age of mounting or dirt. A small blow of air bomb to dissipate the dust can suffice to correct the nuisances for a time. In any case, it will do a lot of good to the machine.
2.2 Which fan to choose?
Once the faulty element is isolated, you can change it to a quieter model. It should be kept in mind that the most interesting fan is the one with the best noise ratio in dB / rotation speed. Do not make the same mistake as me to take a fan displaying only 14 dB, very discreet but blowing as loud as an asthmatic mouse. Also remember that a case fan blows a little, but it requires a more powerful fan extraction to chase hot air, as well as the processor. Making the PC silent is a secondary goal, the priority is to cool the machine. You can also take advantage of the change to install a larger fan so blowing better on a top surface for a noise necessarily more discreet. This is especially recommended for processors; in this case, you must buy a new cooler. Finally, if the DIY and the loss of warranty do not scare you too much, you can remove the 60 mm fan from the graphics card to attach a larger 80 mm or 92 mm with a single wire.
2.2.1 The 120 mm fans
This is the standard format of computer cases and even CPU fans.
The best : Noctua NF-S12A PWM. Noctua is one of the best references in terms of quiet fans. Among the plethora of models and submodels available is the NF-S12A in PWM version. This is simply the best ratio between the noise of 17.80 dB for a breath of 107.50.
The most powerfull : Enermax Magma Advanced Red. 20 decibels at 12 volts for an air flow of 140 m3 / hour. A record blast for a barely noticeable volume. And all for only 8 €, difficult to do more effective. It is not very beautiful and its life remains to be tested.
The cheapest: Arctic F12 PWM rev.2, which displays 22 decibels for a blast of 125 m3 / h
2.2.2 140 mm fans
Noctua NF-A14 PWM. Another reference Noctua this time in 14 cm. Delivered with different « noise reductor » cables, these fans make an excellent job either to cool the watercooling heatsinks and for the boxes.
2.3 Adjusting fans power
There are many solutions to modulate the power and therefore the volume of your fans. Many motherboards include software or options in the BIOS to drive all of your fans. If this is not the case, you can still install speedfan and then adjust it to fit your environment.
In mechanical solutions, we find for small budgets with one or two fans to adjust the potentiometers with the Zalman fanmate remains a classic.
The interesting solution when you have more than three fans to drive remains the rheobus. They fit into a 2.5 or 3.5 inch rack and can regulate fan speed and overall temperature. Some are tactile, others are manual. The budgets range from 29 to 70 € … My favorite is the Black BitFenix Recon. It manages up to 5 fans, the screen is touch, everything is configurable and it has thermal probes. And in addition it is beautiful, what more?
3. Optimizing the other components
3.1 Soundproofing the hard drive
After the fans, it is this element that can be very heavy in terms of noise, whether in writing or even just reading.
4. Alternative solutions
There are still so-called sound insulation kits. I’m skeptical, plus it looks galley to fix … The flexible rubber fasteners replacement screws, ditto, it’s very gadget. Change your fans already and see how much it costs before you get into it.
4.1 The fanless configurations
One of the musts remains the passive cooling. In this case, there are no mechanical parts in rotation, but each component is much more expensive, I’m not addressing users with already functional machines but for a new pc, why not? You may be limited in power but we find almost all passive elements whether the processor, the power supply, or the graphics card. This approach seems interesting to me for a PCHC or office, less credible for a type PC Gamer warfare.
Last orientation, which can be the subject of an article apart, is watercooling, or water cooling. Watercooling is extremely efficient, the water dissipating heat 10x faster than air, highly recommended for overcloking. There are many price-controlled kits that work very well. The irony is that fans must be used to cool the radiator, ranging from 1 to 3 fans of 120 mm. In addition, it requires high pressure fans, type of fans that can blow effectively through a radiator, just like CPU coolers.
4.3 Sound Dampening
Following a fairly serious video of guys Canuck hardware, it is clear that if the foam placed on the panels a little reduces the overall noise, it is very very limited (2Db). Really an anecdotal solution to use well after fans and other rheobus, if you have the budget.