Silent PC with No Moving Parts

Do-It-Yourself Systems | The Silent Front
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There's really not much to say about the system other than that it is utterly silent and quick enough for the tasks we ask of it. While it is booting up, with my ear within 6" of the PSU, a faint bit of a chattering type of sound can be heard, but once in the Windows desktop, about 40 seconds after the power switch is hit, there is no noise to be heard from this PC. So there are no sound files, no spectrum analysis screenshots, no dBA tables. It runs perfectly cool under normal conditions, and never overheats. Any component is comfortable to touch by hand any time. It draws 53W AC in idle, 41W with Cool 'n' Quiet engaged, and about 80W in maximum CPU load, all of which could be lowered a bit with a PicoPSU and high efficiency power brick, but we're happy with the silence at this point. The big Silverstone PSU also gives us the flexibility of ample power for anything we want to do, including plugging in several HDDs simultaneously. Overall, the cost of the system even with all new components is modest, probably little over $500, and a dual-core 2.6 GHz 45W Athlon like a 5050e would be much more capable and yet have the same thermal envelope with only a minor increase in price.

The Scythe Orochi is huge, and it's used here only because the motherboard lies flat with the weight of the heatsink directly on top. No way we'd use it in a tower case where the heatsink has to hang off the vertical motherboard.

Here is a screenshot taken towards the end of CPU Burn testing. (Click for 1280px width image in a new window.) CPU temperature stabilized at around 61°C after nearly half an hour, in 21°C ambient. The small heatsink atop the Northbridge chip measured around 55°C at this point. All cool enough, but we'll never push the system that hard in lab use. The CPU idles at 37~39°C depending a bit on ambient room temperature.

The Samsung SSD is not only slick and small, it is very light, just 70g.

Manufacture date is 24.04.2008

Brushed aluminum casing all around, standard SATA connections.

HD Tach result on 32GB Samsung SSD.

It is possible to duplicate this noiseless system properly housed in a presentable case. The Antec NSK3480 case comes first to mind simply because it's small, yet wide enough to handle big heatsinks (although probably not the Orochi), and its top PSU chamber with ventilated cover over the PSU makes it ideal for a fanless PSU. The main question regarding thermal management without fans is which CPU, how hard you'll push it, and how often. A 45W CPU is probably the limit, which means AMD X2 45W dual cores are the most capable processors, although perhaps some of the newer Intel 65W dual cores would also work.

With a good heatsink and removal of all airflow impedances at the main case vents, the CPU will be slow to heat up even under load. Even if the CPU temperature exceeds safe levels (say 65°C), if it does so only after an hour of CPUBurn, you have to ask whether you'll ever push the system that hard for that long. Big heatsinks with widely spaced fins like the Thermalright HR01 are the only suitable ones for fanless operation. However, introducing a single quiet fan on the heatsink to run at under 500 RPM would get you 99% of the silence and much better cooling at load. The ambient noise in your room and distance between you and the PC would probably make than fan inaudible. A discrete graphics card faster than the 780G onboard is probably out of the question without a case fan... but you could try experimenting with modest, fanless cards with massive heatsinks.

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Articles about fanless and otherwise silent store-bought systems:
mCubed HFX Micro S13 system: Atom 330, Silenced
Anitec's SPCR-certified SilenT3 PC
Apple's 24" iMac: There's more to High End than Performance
Puget Custom Pentium-M Rig: A Silent WC System
Fanless Ultra Powerhouse PC (TNN 500) by EndPCNoise

DIY fanless systems:
Bill's Recycled, Fanless, Silent Woodbox Computer
Fanless Heatpipe Cooled System by FMAH

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Discuss this article in the SPCR forums.

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