HTPC Silent Cooling Options - Advise Needed

Discussion in 'Computers' started by bill_slenter, May 12, 2003.

  1. bill_slenter

    bill_slenter Auditioning

    Jan 3, 2003
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    I've just built my first HTPC, and it works great, but the fans are too loud. At first the PC was WAY too loud, but I went to my local Fry's Electronics and purchased the quietest case and processor fans I could find. Also lined the case with Compusa sound absorbing material. Much better now, but at times still too loud. Maybe it's time to look into water cooling (YIKES). Or perhaps I should sit tight and wait for passive heat pipe technology to go mainstream.

    Anyway, I'd appreciate any suggestions/experiences people have with this issue.

    My System:
    -Athlon 1700XP
    -ASUS N78X mobo
    -Creative Audigy2 sound card
    -Creative Megaworks 550 THX 5.1 speakers
    -Geforce2Pro graphics
    -Belkin 54g wireless LAN
    -Gyration wireless keyboard/mouse
    -mini-tower case
    -40 GB HDD
    -DVD-Rom drive
    -480P VGA out to a Zenith C27V22 4:3 HD monitor.

    The computer is sitting inside a TV stand/cabinet that has a door, so that helps muffle the sound, but it still gets out the back, which I had to cut a big opening into to allow air circulation.

    Also, anyone know why my Zenith shuts off and will not turn back on if my PC is plugged into the RGB port but turned off? PC must be on, or cable disconnected, to turn on the TV. Weird...
  2. Evan.G

    Evan.G Extra

    May 12, 2003
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    You never stated what your quiet case / power supply was. I bought an antec sonata ($130) a couple of months ago. It cut down on noise significantly, but it still is not much quieter than a new Dell (in different rooms, so it is a bad test).
    I plan on getting a zalman flower cooler for the cpu (My previous noise test involved stopping the cpu fan manually).

    The power supply on the sonata blew after 6 weeks of use. Another one has supposedly been shipped to me.

    Has anyone noticed the air flow guide that the Dells have? It is like right angle piece from a drier exhaust hose. One side fits over the cpu and the other fits by a big case fan.
  3. Rob Gillespie

    Rob Gillespie Producer

    Aug 17, 1998
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    Bill, the main thing I notice about your list is that you're not mentioning brand names much, which can be very important if you want a quiet machine. You make no mention of which power supply you have sitting in the case. Cheaper supplies that come with cases are usually louder than the more expensive models and this is usually the single biggest noise pollutant in a system.

    Have a search around on the web for the Nexus NX-3000 300watt model. I've got one and it's quieter tha the two QuietPC PSUs I have in my other machines. These in themselves are very, very quiet indeed but the Nexus really surprised me. Great unit. There are passively-cooled PSUs out there which use huge heatsinks on the back of the unit, but they don't seem to be particularly easy to get hold of and are expensive.

    Also - what hard drive have you got? If you want it quiet then a Seagate Barracuda IV or V is a must (the newly released 7200.7 series are a tad louder by all accounts). There are no quieter drives - end of story.

    CPU fan - liquid cooling is expensive and tends to be used by those using higher spec chips and/or overclocking - don't bother until you've got the rest of the system as quiet as you can get it. Take a look at the Zalman Flower Cooler (copper version). It's a big-ish heatsink with a weird 'flower' fin design that dissipates heat very well. Supplied with it is a 92mm ultra-quiet fan which bolts to the inside of the case and is silent when your case is closed. It's very easy to fit and cheaper than some of the more exotic coolers out there and is good for all Athlon XPs up to the 2600+. I have one running in my second machine on top the same Athlon you have (same motherboard too). It would probably be my first choice if I needed another.

    The graphics card - does it have an onboard fan? There are replacement passive coolers available which will cut out another source of noise.

    Cases fans - there's quiet fans and there's quiet fans. I use Papst models in mine which cost a silly amount of money but they're pretty good. There's a lot of choice though - too much perhaps, so keep an eye on the specified db level. If it's 25db or over, it aint quiet, believe me. 10db-20db is more like it.

    A word of warning though, even to get your PC down to quiet levels (as opposed to extemely quiet or even silent) will cost money. The components aren't cheap and manufacturers have learnt they can make a whole load of money from this new area of the market.

    There's a great site which reviews and talks about all this kind of stuff:

    Also, have a look at They sell all sorts of low-noise PC components.
  4. BlakeN

    BlakeN Stunt Coordinator

    Sep 15, 2002
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    Heat pipes are great but they will never be passive for a home machine. The only thing a heat pipe does is move heat from one place to another it doesnt actualy help cool anything. A heatsink and fan are still needed it just lets you move the heat to a different location so a larger heatsink and slower fan may be used.

    The best way in my opinion to get that pc quite is to water cool. There are quite a few comercialy available kits as well as cases with the cooling rig already installed. Expect to pay $200-$300 for a good watercooling rig. As long as you get a kit that includes an eheim pump and super quite 120mm fans your computer will be quite as a mouse.

    I like the kits at myself. Its a small company with high quality product at a good price.

    Some of you others in the market might want to check out the new zalman power supplies.

    This site also sells quite pc gear
  5. Scott L

    Scott L Producer

    Feb 29, 2000
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    With my last 2 systems (a PIII 800 and currently a P4 2.4b) I took out the case fans, leaving only the HSF, the PSU fans, and I just bought the Zalman ZM-80A fanless Heatpipe cooler for my GF4 4200. If you don't OC much taking out the case fans for modern systems is perfectly fine

    The SilentX Power Supplies have been getting good reviews. Plus checking the specs they have very good ratings on the 3.3V and 5V rails, not to mention they are made by Fortron. I have the silent 400W Q-Tech PSU from, not only has the price raised but it's lower quality and louder than the 400W SilentX.

    Personally if I had the extra money lying around I'd go water cooling in a heartbeat. Fans gather dust and make noise no matter which way you look at it.
  6. Shiva Singh

    Shiva Singh Extra

    Nov 27, 2001
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    I have built a quiet pc recently with great results. The key is to replace all fans with quiet models.

    I have a Thermaltake SK-7 with a panaflow ultra quiet 80mm fan. Replaced the fan in my power supply with another panaflow. I also use a fanless video card. There is no fan noise audible from more then a foot away from the psu. The heatsink keeps my XP1800+ very cool even when under full load for several hours.

    My motherboard had a chipset fan, but it was very noisy so I unpluged it. Ran with no problems since.

    After replacing the fans, the harddrive was the only audible component. If you look at you can read about the various ways to quiet a harddrive.

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