After ~8 months of researching, planning, building, thumb-twiddling and finally re-building, my quiet home/office PC build is effectively finished. (I say nearly complete because as we all know the desire to tinker is ever-present.) The computer is very quiet, definitely more quiet than any PC I have ever owned. I am extremely happy with the "end"-result, and owe the vast majority of my success to this great forum. As a token of my gratitude, I have taken some pictures to share with you all. (The only camera I have is a webcam, so you will have to excuse the image quality...)
Here it is in its natural environment:
You doubtless recognize the Antec P183 under the desk. The monitor is an HP LP2475w; the speaker system is a cheap pair of Creative Labs speakers (Gigaworks T20); the headphones are Sennheiser PX100; a Logitech illuminated keyboard and MX620 mouse round out the peripherals.
The P183 houses the following components:
ASUS P5Q-E motherboard,
Intel E8500 processor,
Thermalright HR-01 Plus CPU heatsink,
8 gig of Corsair DDR2 RAM,
Soundblaster Audigy 2ZS sound card (an oldie but a goodie),
Gigabyte Radeon HD 4670 video card,
Arctic Cooling Accelero S1 Rev 2 VGA cooler,
WD Velociraptor 1500BLFS boot drive,
Samsung Spinpoint 1TB storage drive,
LG CH08-LS10 Blu Ray drive,
Scythe Kaze Master Ace fan controller,
Scythe Slip Stream 1200RPM case fans,
Scythe S-Flex 1200RPM PSU fan,
Corsair VX450 PSU.
Pictures of the innards:
I have three case fans installed at the moment. One each at the front and rear of the main compartment, and one attached to the CPU heatsink. The GPU is passively cooled.
I have blocked off the top fan opening, the rectangular opening at the back of the case where the Antec fan controller usually sits, and the two circular water-cooling holes at the back of the case. I have covered most of the bare metal surfaces with sound-damping material. There is also a foam block in the bottom 5.25" bay filling the space behind the fan controller.
I rigged a custom hard-drive suspension in order to decouple both hard-drives from the chassis. I used a few feet of shock cord from my local hardware store, some zip-ties, and the standard mounting screws. I mounted the smaller, quieter velociraptor in the main compartment, and the larger, louder Samsung in the bottom.
The Accelero S1 dwarfs the HD 4670. It may be overkill, but it keeps the GPU nice and cool without the need for an extra fan. I don't do very much graphics intensive computing so this card fits my needs perfectly. It is a tight fit with the sound card directly above it, however the Audidy 2 uses an old PCI slot, so my placement options were limited.
After initially building the system approximately three months ago, I was not satisfied with its acoustic properties. At the time I had installed the stock PSU, had installed a case fan in the top position, had not installed any damping material, and had not plugged any holes. Recently I removed the S-Flex from the top of my case, and used it to replace the stock ADDA fan in the PSU. While I had the PSU open I also installed a temperature probe, and connected both the fan and the probe to the fan controller (instead of the PSU board). In the picture you can see the lead wires for the fan and probe exiting the PSU, as well as the shiny screws on the top of the housing (the blasted Phillips head screws installed at the factory stripped immediately so I had to drill the screws out to get at the fan.) I initially bought a Nexus Value 430 power supply which should have been quiet enough to use without modification. However, as you may be aware, I had to return that unit as it would not work with the circuit breakers installed in my apartment.
The fan controller keeps all of the fans running at about 600RPM. The temperature probes are connected to (from left to right): RAM heatsink, Velociraptor, Spinpoint, PSU.
I can't really think of a better descriptor than "very quiet" for the acoustic properties of this computer (thanks to lack of imagination on my part...). I have fairly sensitive ears, yet what sound the computer makes I find easy to ignore while sitting at my desk. The unit sits in my bedroom/office (ahh student life...) and though I an a fairly light sleeper I can leave my computer on through the night without any disturbance (this may not sound remarkable, but is a first for me).
Having just completely reassembled the entire thing, I am not champing at the bit to make further modifications. However, when I get around to it I will probably consider either weighting the hard drives or investing in hard drive enclosures in order to further reduce seek/read/write noise. Also, having monitored temperatures for a few months I know the normal range that the MB/CPU/GPU hover around. So I may try turning off the case fans, and seeing how that impacts temperatures. However, I don't think the case fans are the loudest component at the moment (I suspect that particular honour goes to the PSU... still...). I don't know what else I can do about the PSU, but am considering attaching a muffler to the rear of my case.
Finally, two gratuitous beauty shots:
I really can't overstate how essential this forum was to this project. Thanks to all of the editors and members for creating such a valuable compendium of information on quiet computing, and thanks to everyone who responded to my queries and pleas for help.
I am happy to entertain any questions or comments you may have.