Reykjavík DIY Quiet PC

Do-It-Yourself Systems
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June 10, 2003 -- by Áskel Löve

The author wrote a how-I-did-it project piece with good photos on the SPCR forums about the quiet PC he built. It was a natural to become a full-fledged reader-system article. Áskel, who appears to be doing his final year as an intern to become a medical doctor in Iceland, runs "an information portal for medical students (www.studmed.com)" and is "a complete sucker for computers and technology." - - Mike Chin, Editor / Publisher.

Hello all! I know that we all love to read the stories and see the pictures of other peoples project, so here is my shot at giving back to the community...

I had, like most of the people here, become really really bored with my previous PC, or more correctly my PVC (Personal Vacuum Cleaner). So after I got rid of that, the plan was to assemble a high-performance PC utilizing the latest technology that would both run cool and silent. This computer would be an all-in-one solution for my home. It would serve as a workstation for programming and rendering, a media-center for TV, video, DVD, DivX and MP3. Finally it would run a web- and FTP-server 24/7 so I had to be able to sleep with it running 4 meters away.

I did my homework, searched the internet for sources of knowledge, both practical and technical. The choice of components for the PC was made through reading tons of specs and user opinions, many of which I found here on SilentPC Review and at www.anandtech.com.

Following is the final list of components and the reasons why they were picked:

CASE
Antec Sonata Good layout, 120 mm fans, plain looks
PSU
Antec TruePower 380S Comes with the case, will replace if it turns out to be too loud.
CPU
Intel P4-2.8C Hyperthreading, heats less than non-C version and non-Intel CPUs, 800 MHz FSB
CPU-HSF
Zalman 6500B-CU Good cooling, replaceable fan if too noisy (as opposed to the 7000)
MAINBOARD
ASUS P4P800 Deluxe i865PE-based board that beats most 875s in the market while keeping the features I want such as 800 MHz FSB, SATA, RAID 0. It also has passive cooling on the northbridge unlike most of the competitors.
MEMORY
Kingston HyperX (400 MHz) Too 256MB sticks, compatible with the mainboard, aluminium cooling fins, excellent quality.
GPU
ATI Radeon 9600 Pro 128 MB First Radeon with 0,13u GPU which leads to much less heating and therefore easily passively cooled, very good card for my purposes.
GPU-HEATSINK
Zalman ZM80A-HP Replaces the GPU fan and thus reduces noise. More than enough cooling for the Radeon 9600.
TV-CARD
Hauppauge WinTV PVR-250 Hardware MPEG-2 encoder/decoder, stereo sound, nice features.
HDD
Seagate Barracuda V7200 SATA 120G x 2 Most silent SATA I could find, 7200 rpm, 120 GB, in RAID 0 (total 240 GB
CASE FANS
Papst 120 mm 26 dB x 2 Best fans there are! (no flaming please).
FAN CONTROLLER
Zalman ZM-MFC Will not make PSU or Papst fans whine or click at low voltage (5V).
CD
Samsung CD-RW/DVD 52x SM-352B COMBO drive, 52x CD-writing, very quiet compared to many other brands.
KEYBOARD / MOUSE
Microsoft Bluetooth Excellent way to reduce wire clutter, plus it enables me to control the computer from my TV room when using TV-out. Get Bluetooth reciever I can use with my PALM TungstenT.
MONITOR
Samsung SyncMaster 172T (17” 1280x1024) Best 17” LCD I could find in terms of specs and user satisfaction (steep price tag is the only drawback). Besides 1600x1200 LCD’s are EXPENSIVE!

I started by lining the case with sound-dampening materials. I had previously obtained a wide range of sound dampening materials with different qualities. The final choice of what I used depended mainly on suitability (thickness, texture, adhesiveness) but also on qualities of the materials. I ended up mainly using two of the materials:

The material used for lining insides of the outer surfaces was some sort of a very fine fiber material glued into a 3 mm thick mat with a tar-like material that neither spilled nor was smelly. It is used for extra soundproofing, mainly in cars but also in other stuff like dishwashiers. It is burn-proof and does not lose any particles from the surface. It comes in 100x100 cm sheets and is quite stiff and very heavy. It has a really thick and stong adhesive on the underside, so strong that it’s there to stay no matter what, and it also makes cutting the material hard work. Here are some pictures of this material and after I applied it (sorry I don’t have a name for the material):

This is a cutout of the material described above.

Here you can see the cut edge, close to 3 mm thickness.

Glossy glue-side... this stuff will NEVER come off again.

Shown below are the surfaces I placed this material on -- plus the inside of the door which isn't shown on this picture. Note that the case is sitting on its back. It was really tricky to get the material under the main-board tray, but I did it with a patent-pending method I won't disclose here... hehehe.

The other material I used was from Cascade Audio Engineering. It is pretty thin or close to 0.5 mm. Instead of stopping soundwaves like the material above this material is designed to eat vibration in surfaces it is glued to. If heated it will mold to almost any irregularities in the surface. It also comes in sheets, but much smaller ones (close to 20x100 cm) and has adhesive on the underside. It is mineral-loaded vinyl and therefore very heavy and has somewhat rough surface. This I used to cover the internal structures such as the disk brackets. I borrowed my wife’s hairdryer (seen in one of the pictures) to mold it to irregular surfaces. Here you see some pictures:

This is the mineral-loaded vinyl from Cascade Audio Engineering. You can see the shiny metal particles in the picture.

This material is thin, or about 0,5 mm because otherwise it would not be moldable.

This is the glue-side of the material. Not nearly as strong as the previous one, so it's removable with considerable force though.


As this material will eat up vibration as well as deflect soundwaves I used it to line the internal structures of the case such as the drive brackets. Here the moldability comes in handy, and below, you can see a glimpse of my wife's Babyliss hairdryer used to heat the material before molding!

It was about a days work to cut and paste the sound-dampening materials, mainly because of problems with getting the thicker material under the mainboard tray (which is fixed to the non-removable right side of the case with only around 3 mm between), and also because of the airflow holes in the drive-brackets that required a lot of accurately placed holes to be cut into the material.



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