After the host of different "Is this a good, quiet overclocking rig?" threads i've knocked this together. It still needs a lot of work, suggestions on the back of a postcard.
Is a quiet overclocked PC possible?
It's a bit of a contradiction, overclocking generates more heat than running the parts at stock speeds. This gets even worse if you're going to overvolt the CPU or GPU, as such you will never (unless you have more money than bill gates and no girlfriend to spend it on) get as quiet a computer with overclocking. This guide is to help you make a compromise between noise and power. This doesn't include watercooling, phase cooling or anything like that, it may be added later.
There are two groups that overclock, the poor and the rich. The poor buy the nicest parts they can and overclock to get more performance, gaining joy from making a £300 CPU do the work of a £600 one. This guide is mostly for those people.
Then there's the ones with enough money to buy the top of the range gear, and want more power from the parts, for these people this guide is useless, or next to useless as watercooling becomes more and more relevant the higher your budget gets and the higher your goals become.
Overclocking will put your parts under more strain than they are supposed to have. It will reduce the lifespan, maybe even fry the chip instantly. There are also reports that it makes you impotent, but these are still unconfirmed. Overclock at your own risk, you will void your waranty 99% of the time if you do so.
I've got a 7800GT graphics card that scores higher than a stock 7800GTX, a 4400 X2 CPU that runs at 2.6Ghz stable (about the same as a 5200 if AMD doesn't change the numbers system too much). This is by no means an impressive increase, search around if you doubt this.
Proper prior planning prevents piss poor pentium purchases. If you're going to overclock heavily then plan for that from the start, otherwise you will find out that you made a stupid mistake, i did. Research the components you're thinking about, find reviews and read more than one for each part you are going to buy.
Case: In short airflow is king, however we're not here to make a Delta equiped monster that you have to chain down when the fans run at full speed.
So for a quiet overclocking case what do we look for?
1) Good airflow : Your parts will get hot, if you're relying on the PSU to exhaust the heat then you're an idiot. Quiet cases normally use low speed 120mm fans to exhaust the heat, by using these fans at higher speeds you can get excellent airflow.
2) Room for your parts: Putting an overclocked 4800 X2 and 7800GTX 512 into a shuttle PC will not work, even with delta's at full speed you just wont' manage. Also think about room for suspended drives, water cooling if you use it and how you'll install the thing.
3) Noise proof casing: There's nothing like letting other people do the work for you, so taking something like a p180 or p150 that is designed to be very quiet will help knock down the volume of those 150Gig Raptors you've got there.
A modern classic.
Even better than the p180 in some ways but a smaller case and not as pretty.
Lian Li cases in general are worth a look.
Coolermaster stackers are also good but harder to slience, better for water cooling rigs.
CPU: This is the heart of your computer, without it there is no computer. If you're going to buy a machine now then i'd buy a dual core AMD chip, the new P4s may equall the 4800, but they won't beat them. This may be altered in future days when the new P4s are released.
Dual core! But which model? The best value DC chip is the Opteron 165, it's compatible with 99%* of all 939 boards, cheaper than the 3800X2 and overclocks beautifully. However it's like gold dust, so the second option is the 3800X2. If you really must have the full cache of the 4800X2 (like me) then buy a 4400X2, however there is next to no performance increase for most tasks for the extra cache (I didn't know this, mistake 1).
Suggestions in order of (my) preference:
Single core AMD chips
Motherboard: The best overclocking board at the moment is the DFI range, however they have a chipset fan which makes quieting it a lot harder to silence, better to go for a passive design. The A8N32-SLI and A8R MVP are both passive and great overclockers, unlike the earlier editions of the A8 serries. Other good options exist, but i'm not listing them at the moment.
PSU: Power stability and noise aren't contradictory, read the reviews and recomended options. You do not (NOT) need a 600W PSU, in real terms most 450W PSUs could handle a high end overclocked SLI system. For comfort go for a 500W, if you really are buying top of the line stuff thoughout then by all means buy a 600W, but its' a waste of money imo +ime.
RAM: 2gb is the optimum these days for a new build, 1gb is more than useable, but the newer releases do start to like having more, battlefield 2 for example gets smoother if you've got more than 1gb of RAM to play with. If you're still reading then you're thinking AMD, in which case the two groups of people will seperate briefly. Those with money to burn should buy top of the line high speed RAM, check anandtech for comparative reviews. The poor should just get half decent value RAM, again check www.anandtech.com
for reviews. The difference is less than 10% for a 100% increase in costs. If 10% is worth an extra $150 then by all means go for the nice stuff.
HSF: SI-120, Scythe ninja with Nexus, Thermaltake big tower, zalman 9500, all are great heatsinks, the difference is more down to personal preference than anything else. I can't pick everything for you.
Hard Drive(S): Raptor 150Gig (enterprise) if performance is king, or the WD Caviar range if it's merely important, or spinpoints if you remember that we're on SPCR. www.storagereview.com
has comparitive reviews of almost all hard drives around and is very good at this stuff.
Graphics card: This is where you should spend the most if gaming is your thing. It's possible to overclock any card, the ATI 800s can be unlocked (sometimes) to become 850s. The 7800GTs are very very nice cards and mine overclocked beautifully when i bought it. Either buy one with a Zalman heatsink installed or buy an eVGA card, they have a waranty that covers swapping out the heatsink. XFX does good cards too, but the waranty is not as good as the eVGA one (my second mistake).
For which card in particular to buy, it's budget dependant, i may add a list of suggested cards at different values later.
Sound Card: Personal preference again, but if your speakers cost $50 then you are an idiot if you're paying $150 for a sound card and expect to hear the difference.
The short version is to decide what you want before you buy anything. If noise is your nemisis then DON'T OVERCLOCK. If you want to have a quiet PC 90% of hte time and a monster when you game then it's easily done when you know how (Rivatuner and speedfan are essential btw).
Links to case studies to be inserted here (i'll find a few threads from the systems forum that get followed through the process for people to read.)