It's probably a long way from quiet by the standards of many of you, but with the valuable advice to be found here, my system is now much, much quieter than it was before. The main hardware consists of:
- Cooler Master Praetorian
- X-Pro MPT460P 460W PSU
- A64 3400+
- DFI LANPARTY UT nF3 250Gb
- 2x1GB KingMax DDR400
- Geforce 6800GT
- Yamaha SW1000XG soundcard
- AudioTrak Prodigy 7.1 LT soundcard
- Leadtek VC100XP video capture card
- Hitachi 7K250 160GB (SATA)
- Seagate Barracuda 120GB (ATA133)
- Maxtor DM10 200GB (SATA)
- LG GSA-4120B DVD-RAM drive
Of the two main offenders for noise, the first was the CPU fan which was some 70mm Foxconn thing. To replace that I purchased an Arctic Cooling Freezer 64 Pro, which was the best cooler I could find that would fit inside my narrow case. Fortunately it turned out to be better than I had expected, with the temperature controlled fan being off almost all the time, and only reaching ~600rpm in the worst case (it is a cold winter here at the moment though). It is therefore effectively silent relative to all the other noise sources.
The other culprit was the 6800GT which really screamed
. After studying all the reviews I could find, there was little doubt that I could do no better than the Thermalright V1 Ultra, which I duly purchased. Unfortunately, my dimwitted self didn't think to look at its dimensions first, and I now can't fit the side of my case on properly due to the heatpipes sticking out a few mm too far. I will have to cut a hole in the side to fix it, but that's ok since I was going to cut decorative holes in it a some point anyway. The important thing is that it does cool well with the fan at 7V, with a maximum load temp of 72C. Like the AC Freezer, this fan is also effectively silent at that voltage (it cooled a lot better at 12V, but was also rather loud).
To finish it off I replaced the four stock 80mm case fans with Sharkoon Silent Eagle LED fans. These were a bit of a disappointment, with a noticeable buzzing from the motor at 12V where the stock Cooler Master fans emitted only the white noise of turbulent air. At lower voltages this disappears, fortunately. The two front fans run at 7V, the top exhaust at 5V and the rear exhaust is temperature controlled, usually running at ~1100rpm.
The difference with those changes is remarkable - it was previously audible from other nearby rooms, but now it is unintrusive even within the same room.
After all that text you probably want some images to relieve the tedium (click for fullsize images):
That thing in the 3.5" bay is an IR transceiver which I haven't used for years, but you never know when it might come in handy.
Inside it is one of the most compact mid-tower cases. The narrowness would have prevented me from purchasing it personally, but it was free so I can't complain. Otherwise it is a fantastically well made case, with very thick aluminium panels, lots of rigid u-channel and all the bolts screw into inset steel nuts, so there is no risk of stripping out the thread.
A closer view, in the dark. I expect that none of you would dream of making the inside of the case look pretty like that at the possible expense of noise, but I can't have it looking ugly as I sit in front of it for long periods. The blue LEDs look really overpowering in the photos, but they are subdued in real life, giving a calming blue aura to the surrounding area.
One improvement I was considering was removing the fan from the V1 Ultra and ducting it directly to the rear exhaust fan, and doing the same for the CPU to the top exhaust, but I don't think the PSU fan would give sufficient airflow to cool all the other components.