Hi all, I thought I’d share with you my journey to a quiet computer and through a big upgrade and subsequent efforts to return to very quiet.
(You are here by forewarned that I’ve rambled on at great length but there are quite a few pictures if you want a quick overview.)
(I've resized all pictures to maximum of 800 wide and/or 600 high to keep the number of KBs down and prevent horizontal scrolling.)
I started with a PIII 650 overclocked to 866MHz on an Aopen AX6BC Intel BX based motherboard. It had 512MB PC133 RAM, 80GB Barracuda ATA IV hard disc and ATI All in Wonder 128 PCI video card. The Coolermaster ATCS 201C case came with four 80mm Coolermaster fans and no PSU. I bought it because I saw one in the flesh (so to speak) and thought it looked stunning. At that time I wasn’t giving any thought to the cases part in silencing. For the PSU I choose a Q Technologies (not to be confused with the inferior Q tec brand) 300w item as it was advertised as very quiet and I hadn’t discovered SPCR. For the case fans I connected only the rear one and only at 5V. At this point the retail H/S on the CPU became the loudest item so I “acquired” a large OEM one with a 50mm fan. The fan was very tolerable at 5V and provided enough cooling. I had to drill the retail heatsink/fan off, which was nerve racking. I also painted the drives with model paint, only cost £1 including the brush!
As is normal with silencing this brought the HDD noise to my attention, it was hard mounted in the drive bays behind the front intake grill and fans. The seek noise was loud but the idle was noticeable as well. I tried wrapping the drive in carpet, which helped a little with the idle noise but not the seek noise as it was still screwed to the case. It didn’t overheat at all, I assume the large aluminium drive bays were acting as a heatsink. I got a little carried away and decided to buy a LEY FEK Pro
and a set of Panaflo 80mm L1As, (from Dorothy
who gave excellent service) which brings us to this point .
I’ve removed the rear fan in order to swap an L1A in and custom made a bracket to hold another L1A over the CPU's heatsink. The CPU temps were fine but the HDD ran 35-45°C. With two L1As at 5V, the ‘cuda in an enclosure and a quiet PSU my PC was very very quiet.
And I was happy.
For a while.
Until it just wasn’t powerful enough.
Cue big upgrade.
I looked seriously at P4 2.4C with ideas of OC 3.0GHz or more. When I looked at the AMD alternative I was won over by the £100 price difference, so I bought:
Asus A78X Deluxe, Barton 2500+, 2x 256MB Kingston Value DDR400, Radeon 9600 pro, Liteon 16x DVD and 8x DVD-RW.
Silencing parts Zalman 7000A Cu, AC VGA Silencer, Zalman Fan controller, Arctic Silver 5.
I put it all together with out the silencing parts as they didn’t come till some time after. I used a generic 80x60mm H/S I had handy with an 80mm fan screwed to it. I upped the rear fan to 12V and set the front 2 intakes to 5V, I didn’t use the blowhole as it vibrated badly at any speed. This produced reasonable temps at stock speeds but was noisy, especially the fan on the 9600pro. I quickly got fed up with it and tried feeding it 7V from a Molex plug, which helped a lot but overall the system was noisy.
Eventually the rest of the parts came, but the Zalman was the AlCu version. I opted to keep it and get a refund on the price difference, as I couldn’t bear to wait any more!
I wanted to reduce the HDD temps and feed the PSU cool air and I decided to do it by using the blowhole as an intake. I replaced the Coolermaster fan with an L1A that I put in upside down, to make it an intake, and used rubber bands round the mounting screws to damp the vibrations. I then made a duct from cardboard to take the air to the PSU intake and HDD. It looked like this
You can see I’ve fitted the Zalman fan controller in to the case’s faceplate. The original blue plastic one comes off easily by undoing the screws. I used it as a template to drill holes in the case faceplate and simply screwed on to the fan controller in place of the plastic one. This was inspired by this article
. As the case faceplate has sides that have holes to screw it to the case I used them to hold it all in place, rather than cut them off, and left out the original Zalman mounting brackets. I think this is an easier method.
I fitted the VGA Silencer to the Radeon 9600pro.
When I tried to fit it in the motherboard the bottom of the Silencer came down on the adjacent PCI slot and stopped me from inserting the card properly. I Should have listened when I was told it wasn’t compatible. I solved the problem by cutting the lip off the bottom of it. You can see the step just above the wire on the left of the picture. After doing this I discovered this thread
that explains it more clearly.
After I got it all put together and performed a little cablegami (they are flat on the bottom side of the case) it looked like this:
(The front of the case is actually smooth polished aluminium but looks blotchy due to finger prints
The noise level was now much improved and I was happy again. The CPU temp seamed to depend on the rear case fan speed as much as the Zalman 7000's speed but settling for 55-60°C CPU diode temp meant a quiet balance could be had. This was with the CPU overclocked to XP3200 (2.2GHz) speed and running D2OL 24/7. (distributed computing project with 100% CPU usage) This is OK but not over impressive as it was winter and the ambient temp would have been 10-15°C. The HDD temps remained in the upper 30s/low 40s and didn’t seam affected by the speed of the blowhole fan from which I concluded it was a nice idea but not actually effective.
The Zalman 7000 is connected to a fanmate, on maximum, and then to the fan controller. This reduces the minimum speed but doesn't seam to affect the maximum
Without the fanmate the minimum speed is about 1400rpm. With it the minimum is slightly below what I can get the motherboard to register, the lowest I've seen it say is 1014rpm. Any less and MBM gives figures between 14,000 and 22,000! The fan is also partially decoupled, I've put thin rubber strips between it and the clip and between the clip and the screw heads. Same idea as this thread
The VGA Silencer was (just) audible on low setting so I connected it’s power supply to the 12V/5V toggle on the Zalman fan controller. With the high/low switch on the back this give 3 settings:
12V low/5V high---These middle two are very similar and faintly audible.
5V low---------------The fan spins very slowly, won’t start on this setting, inaudible.
As the 9600 is a very cooling running card I’m not worried about the possible lack of cooling.
Then summer came. Keeping temperatures down meant turning fans up and more noise. Also the HDD temperature was rising with the increasing ambient temperature.
I decided more work was in order. (You’re never satisfied for long
I removed one of the front intake fans and moved the HDD
In the next picture you can see the HDD is now on its side and wedged in with foam. It’s wedged in tight enough that it doesn’t fall or move when turning the computer on its side. I doubt any vibrations are transmitted though. I also decoupled the fan, the white stuff is door sealing strip foam. It’s about 5mm thick and pretty soft, it’s attached to the fan and case with ordinary super glue. It’s been glued in place for about 6 weeks now and hasn’t fallen off but I think a determined pull would shift it if I ever want to. The fan blows over the HDD keeping it cool. (It looks like the foam is partially blocking the fan but this is just an illusion)
I then tackled the other problem, getting enough air out of the case. A 120mm fan PSU might very well have done but they are £60 and up. After some checking I decided two 80mm fans would fit on the back panel of the case.
As indeed they do:
is how the original single fan looked.
I made quite a mess of the cutting; I wish I’d done a better job of it.
What ever the ideal tool for the job was I didn’t have it so I did what I could. It looks bad, but nobody ever sees it and it works fine.
The fans are glued together so they can’t vibrate against each other and glued to the case with more door strip foam so they can’t pass vibrations into it. I also remounted the top blowhole fan with strips of foam to fully decouple it from the case as well.
All the exhaust points, PSU fan, case fans and VGA Silencer:
The finished product inside:
My objectives where achieved. The HDD temp is now in low 30s even under load and not up to 50°C any more! The CPU temp can also be kept down more quietly too.
Maximum fans is with all the fans turned up on the fan controller, probably ~11V.
Minimum fan would be with the front and blowhole intakes at minimum ~5V and the rear exhaust just above ~6V:
On maximum it’s loud by SPCR standards but the noise is benign in character, mostly whoosh and some low frequency whine.
On minimum it’s very quiet, I can just hear it from about 6 feet away. This is late at night in a rural location with no other appreciable noise sources. HDD seeks are just above the background noise of the machine. If I’m listening for them I can hear them but I often find myself looking at the HDD light to see if it’s doing anything!
I’m happy...For now…
Thank you for looking, hope it was interesting, Sebastien