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Shhh! Constructing A Truly Quiet Gaming PC 397

Over the last few months, I've had a number of AskSlashdot questions about quiet computers, what hardware to get, and other items for assembling a mega-machine that won't knock the roof off. I've put the finishing touches on my own mega machine -- if you're looking at doing the same thing, or are just curious about the hardware involved, you can find out about what I built.

My first priority was the speed and scale of the machine. I knew that I wanted to build a machine that would be able to play games very well, and look nice, but since I didn't want to totally break the bank on doing it, I decided to go with some lower-cost components in part. So, without further ado:

  • The Case: This was the easiest decision to make. Thinkgeek has by far the the cooler and easiest case around to get. I went with the precut window, and put in the window, as well as ordered the blue neon light to put inside of the machine. This case frickin' rocks. Thumbscrews for everything, the drive bays, motherboard array and everything else slides out intelligently - this is the first case I've ever had where I'm *happy* to be working on the internals of the machine. However, I did replace the fans.

  • The Fans: Rather then use the stock fans, I ordered the Silencer Fan from PC Power and Cooling. Three of them to be exact -- and they are as quiet as the Stereophile comment implies. Very very quiet (20 Db), and does a great job of keeping the internals cool. The fans are the standard size for an ATX case, so swapping was a breeze.
  • Power Supply: In keeping with the keep-it-quiet theme, I went with the Ultraquiet 400 ATX. It's got ample power, and is incredibly quiet. Very, very nicely done.
  • The Processor: Being that I was trying to be at least somewhat budget conscious, I went with the AMD Athlon. I got the 1.2 Ghz variety, as the cost difference, at the time, between that and the 1.4 were considerable, for what I saw to be very little extra additional speed. It was also at this point that I made the choice to go with a single processor machine, rather then a dual. Since I was going to be a lot of gaming on here this machine, in addition to work, and the gaming would be in a Windows 98 environment (Diablo 2, Baldur's Gate II:Throne of Bhaal, The Sims) there was very little reason to go with a dual processor machine. So, with that in mind, I ordered my single Athlon 1.2 Ghz.

  • Processor Heatsink/Fan: I replaced the stock processor heatsink, and went with the ultraquiet one from PC Power and Cooling -- replacing it was no problem, and while when the case is closed, the noise difference is inaudible; when the case is open, you can definitely hear the difference between the two fans. Plus, on average, the new fan keeps the processor an average of 4 degrees Celsius cooler - from 69 C to 65 C, when running full tilt - e.g. Baldur's Gate II:Throne of Bhaal, and my little contribution to Team Slashdot, that's the temp. Running with just the OS is about 58 C. I just used the heat-sink compound that came along with the new fan to wipe down the CPU.
  • The Motherboard: Originally, I was planning on going with the MSI-6380 motherboard. Tom's Hardware recommend it -- but what I quickly found out was that there was a nationwide shortage on those boards -- or at least that's what multiple vendors told me. Luckily, the folks at Teacco, who I had ended up ordering through recommend the Asus A7A266. This uses the ALi Magik 1 chipset, versus the Via KT266 Pro chipset, which the MSI board used. My assumption is that the Via chipset was in short supply. I still think the MSI was a better board, but sometimes you have to deal with shortfalls - and frankly, the Asus supported the 266 FSB, and the RAM that I wanted to use. Availability won -- and I've veen happy with the A7A266.
  • The DDR RAM: Obviously, if speed is the goal, you want to get good, and a goodly amount, of RAM. Having talked the various RAM manufacturers over with ChrisD, I finally settled on the Corsair Micro CM73SD256R-2100. It had a 266 Mhz bus, and Corsair makes a good RAM chip.
  • Hard Drive: My last machine had two hard drives, one SCSI and one IDE. Since the motherboard I had purchased had two ATA-100 boards onboard, I decided that rather then go through and purchase a SCSI controller, and get a SCSI drive, I would just get a ATA-100 IDE hard drive. Also based on past experiences, and knowing other people who had the same problem, I decided to go with a 5400 RPM drive, rather then 7200. Most of the 7200 RPM drives I've had, or others have had, regardless of manufacturer, or type of drive, have died after nine month or so. I also wanted to get a drive that was quiet, and reliable -- and I had been very happy with my last IBM drive, so I got the Deskstar 40GV. Heh -- good thing I didn't get the 75 GXP. With ATA 100, I'm getting around the same practical throughput as SCSI, without having an additional controller. Also, with the Deskstar, I can use my SilentDrive sleeves. More on that in a moment. But, with 40 gigs, I was making a choice not to have this be a MP3 box or anything. That's alright, because the other machine has a crapload of space, and can handle that role, easily.

  • The Silent Drive: In sticking with my goal of trying to be as fast and quiet as possible, I picked up some Silent Drives from New England Digital Computer. The SilentDrive is made by Molex; it's pretty cheap, and really cuts down on hard drive noise -- and since I've used them in my other machine, I don't have much concern about them cutting the drive's life. Besides, the aim of this machine is not to be a server, but more of a gamebox, so I'm willing to live with a slight risk anyhow.
  • CD-RW: Obviously, a machine is going to need some sort of CD/DVD format input device. I had already decided to forgo a floppy drive, because the motherboard will support booting from CD-ROM, and I wanted to see if it can be done. Yes, it can be done, easily. Moving files around is much easier with scp than with floppies anyway. *grin* I debated between the DVD or CD-RW, but decided to go with the latter, because I'm going to hold out for a while, and then purchase a DVD-RW for the machine. No sense in getting a DVD Drive and decoder board now, when the DVD-RW is only a few months away. I also wanted to be able to burn and rip CDs fairly fast, so I went with the Yamaha CRW2100EZ. It's a very nice, very fast drive, but has a major problem for the quiet machine: it's loud. When it's got a drive it's working on, this thing makes a huge ton of noise. So, my solution is that I don't have disks in there, and when I'm doing something with it, I just put up with the noise. Nonetheless, in the long run, this will be replaced with the DVD-RW, and thus, I'm not too concerned about it.
  • Cabling: With all of these parts coming in, I had to start wiring it all up, right? The rounded EIDE cables were great. I've got two, and am happy as a clam.
  • Video Card: Since this rig was being designed for gaming, my choice was pretty simple on this one -- the The GeForce 3. For all the hype out there about this card, this thing is totally worth it. I got the AGP version, of course, but one nice thing about the change in motherboards was that the Asus can handle AGP Pro, so when a good AGP Pro videocard comes out, I'll switch over, and eBay my old video card.
  • Sound card: As above, with gaming in mind, as well ultimately hoping to do some home movie editing for burning to the yet-unpurchased DVD-RW drive, I went with the consumer top of the line sound card, the Creative Labs Soundblaster Platinum. This thing was a SOB to get installed, because you have to not only insert the normal sound card into the PCI slot, but also fit into the 5 & .25" drive slot the external control slot. It's pretty cool, because it comes along with a remote so that you can use the computer as a movie watching system, if you want. The front slot is also where you can a lot more inputs and outputs, versus the normal 4 inputs on the soundcard. It even has an optical in and optical out, so that you can do some PS2 gaming on the computer if you want. Very very impressive -- but getting the cable running from the external control slot to the sound card wasn't very fine, because: 1. I had a hard time getting the cables fitting together and 2. The flat grey ribbon cable ruined my esthetic of the black EDIE rounded cable. I know, an artistic argument, but dammit, this is my mega system.
  • The Network Card: Nothing really exciting here -- I reused a Intel EEpro 100. Good network card; I don't use any of the remote management stuff, but it sends and receives packets. That's enough for me.
  • The Mouse: CowboyNeal had been singing the praises of the Logitech Mouseman Wireless. system for a while, and I decided to take the leap. It's a remote system, but probably the first remote system that I've used that truly works. The latency between mouse and display is remarkably low, and that latency has been my major complaint of other remote keyboards/mice. I'm not sure that the mouse is appropriate for a FPS or other instant-reaction game which might expose problems at the finest levels, but it does just fine for games like BG2/The Sims. Slightly sluggish for Diablo II, but not lethally so. I recommend it, with the above reservation about FPS/faster paced games.
  • Keyboard: This was one of two instances that I simply reused components from before. The keyboard that I'm using is the Microsoft Internet Keyboard. Yeah, yeah -- it's a M$ product. Whatever. The reality is that the keyboard has a good tactile feedback, comes with two built-in USB ports on the keyboard itself, supports PS/2 and USB for output, and is a full keyboard. Oh, I got it free through some promotion at CDW.
  • Monitor: This is the second instance of reusing old components. In this case, I had purchased the Sony Trinitron G400 about eighteen months ago, for use on my first gaming machine. It's a great monitor -- 19", so it fits into almost any desk space, has a flat screen, and great color depth. It's been a very dependable monitor, and while other monitors have come out, I saw no reason to spend the several hundred dollars on getting a new monitor. So, I've decided to just stick with this. Maybe if flat screens or something get really cheap over the next year, I'll upgrade, but for right now, I see no compelling reason to do so.
  • UPS System: We wouldn't want to be crashing in the midst of our gaming or working, now would we? I actually set up two UPS systems -- the system is on a APC BackOffice UPS, and the monitor is on a USB. I've used the BackOffice UPS's output to plug into COM2 on the system. Powerchute is APC's software hook-in. I've got the Windows version that came along with the software, and am also playing with getting the Linux version working, although it seems to be compiled against RH -- at least the version I have is.

The machine came together fairly well -- by reusing a couple components, I was able to keep the price under $2000 -- and the same system should be even cheaper now, since RAM is so cheap that we should throw away hard drives and just have RAM *grin*. Of course, then you'd better hope your UPS system works.

The point of this machine was really to create a platform for gaming and it serves that "need" admirably -- it's been a pleasure to play games on. With the prices on CPUs continuing to drop, I'll probably upgrade this to a 1.4 Athlon in the next six months, and throw in another half gig of RAM, but for the time being, I've happily created a nice, fast -- and quiet machine. Really, this thing is incredibly quiet: I don't have my decibel measuring device anymore, but my old Vaio laptop's fan is louder then this machine. Louder, and with 1/4 the computing power, and 1/4 the RAM. I consider this an improvement.

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Shhh! Constructing A Truly Quiet Gaming PC

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  • by CDWert ( 450988 )
    Is my hearing bad, or what ???
    My pc's humm fairly quitly, they dont soun like chainsaw or anything, what a few hard drive clicks screws up you concentration on your game ?

    I dont get it , alot of problems with commodity pc's but noise was never one in my book....
    • I care about quiet.

      I am in a small student room, and need to be able to keep my PC running over night: its on a broadband connection and is serving web pages.

      Sleeping with 40-50 dB of background noise is really not that easy, and I've been looking at ways on cutting down the noise for a while.

      The major problem is the heat reduction vs. noise trade-off. The minor problem is my practically non-existant student budget...


      • I don't think it's that bad, actually -- I did it in school (running an AppleTalk archive rather than a web server, but the same idea) and it's sort of like white noise.

        That said, I find myself wondering if you can still find something along the lines of a case for the old IBM Aptiva S series -- drive bays on the desk, box under it. I thought that was rather cool, and a lot more practical today than it was when it came out ~5 years ago since the desktop box would essentially combine a 3.5 bay, a 5.25 bay, and hubs for USB and FireWire -- maybe $200 on top of the original system price...

      • I sleep through my alarm clock at full volume for 2 hours - then I wake up because it turned off

        The phone always wakes me up though, oddly enough.
      • I'll bet the majority of the noise is made by the power supply. Replace the Power supply and you'd be very pleasantly surprised. I recently bought this one [] for my dual PIII 1 GHz setup and it's working great.
        • by unitron ( 5733 )
          Unless you can hear well up into the range the rest of us consider untrasonic and are talking about magnetostriction*, you'll probably find that the majority of the noise comes from the power supply's fan. (and other fans)

          *The expansion and contraction of iron core coils and transformers caused by the changing magnetic field of the current running through them. This expansion and contraction vibrates the air. One example is the approx. 16kHz given off by the horizontal sweep section of a television or the various frequencies given off by computer monitor horizontal sweep sections. If you can actually hear it you've got good upper range hearing and a cheap or faulty piece of electronics. Switching power supplies pulse the transformer at a much higher, and therefore inaudible, frequency.

    • by Tiroth ( 95112 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @12:55PM (#2503037) Homepage
      It can be more of a concern if you have your PC in your bedroom or living room, and especially if you are into higher quality audio.

      A 40dB computer humming along means your noise floor is at 40dB; if your stereo can produce 110dB your usable dynamic range is only 70dB. Any improvement on that figure is helpful. (40dB is probably quite quiet for a computer; I'm fairly sure my old machine with all the extra (cheap) fans is approaching 55)

      Since a PC is generally on 24/7, every decibal less noise is less fatigue on your ears for hours each day.
    • by Anonymous Freak ( 16973 ) <> on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @01:03PM (#2503077) Journal
      Well, I do, for one. I run a Pentium 3/1G, with a couple SCSI drives, on a 400W PSU. Even in an enclosed computer cabinet, it's so loud that you can hear it in another room. I will be immediatly researching all this hardware, because I've been looking for a good quiet solution for use in my home office. (It's kind of annoying to have to speak louder on the phone because my PC is loud...)
    • by ergo98 ( 9391 )

      I'd normally say "Bah my PC isn't loud" until I had to have a telephone conversation, or anything else that requires a fairly quiet environment. It's at that point that moving to another room is an amazing display of how loud boxes really are, and of course when your boxes are louder everything else gets louder to overcome it: i.e. If I play a game where sound is important (i.e. Operation Flashpoint) I have to turn the volume up so high that it's pretty much sonically assaulting the whole house.

      Rather than spending money on quiet fans and such (my problem with them is that often they are quiet via moving slower : I don't want yet another system that might have a bad thermistor screwing up my system because it didn't ramp up the fan speed when the heat rose), I'd rather put my boxes into some sort of sound insulated box. Of course you'd have to worry about heat, but that isn't an insurmountable problem (i.e. have a deep recessed fan with a sound insulated corner). It'd be ideal if I used a digital monitor with a long digital cable so I could cluster all my boxes into one enclosure, but alas.

      • How about all these computers in one room?

        Dual Pentium III 450MHz, Inwin Q500 full tower case, 250W PS, three extra case fans, SCSI
        External SCSI enclosure, 300W PS, four extra case fans, four U2W SCSI hard drives
        AMD Duron 800MHz, Enlight 7237 tower case, 350W PS, two extra case fans, EIDE
        AMD Duron 650MHz, Superpower midtower case, 300W PS, two extra case fans, EIDE
        DEC Multia 166MHz, 80W PS, one fan, no hard drive
        External SCSI enclosure with one Seagate Barracuda (holds 4 drives)
        External SCSI hard drive, 5400 RPM, Conner
        External NEC SCSI CDROM

        Not to mention an APC SmartUPS XL, DSL modem, hub, 12 speakers altogether, and two powerful air conditioners (in the same room as the computers).

        This is my living room... I don't think it's loud... I'm too busy drooling to listen to fans.
    • I write this wearing a pair of nice bright yellow ear protectors. Seriously. I find the constant noise of a PC's fans actually becomes physically painful after an hour or so. (Plus I have a desk fan to cool my monitor - my room gets very hot.)

      It's like anything, really - different people have different tolerances. Not everyone wears sunglasses for a fashion statement. And a lot of people are wearing wooly jumpers and thick coats right now, while I've only just switched to long sleeves.

      Personally I find the article very interesting - not least because I now know where to look for quieter fans. Definitely a Good Idea. Ear protectors and glasses don't mix.
    • I do audio recording on my PC, among other things. 30 dB difference in background noise is a lot. I have a CoolerMaster aluminum case, which I formerly ran with stock fans and power supply - the thing was cold, sure, but the 5 fans and the power supply were significantly loud when recording. Recently I replaced them with Silencer fans and one of the quiet power supplies (I forget which). Also I got a Volcano cooling fan for the Athlon, which was advertised to be quieter than average. It's not exactly silent yet, but there's a noticable reduction in noise, so I can actually have the mike within a yard or two of the PC without picking up the fan drone. Also, I have no heat problems to speak of, even though I am somewhat overclocked (1100 to 1200) and my virtual synth software places a high load on the CPU.

      * * *
    • Perhaps your hearing is bad after all that noise? But seriously, test it; what's the difference between system being turned off and on. And the point really is that if you have your system up 24/7, it does make big difference. Not to mention that often PC case is close to you, and thus the noise (even if relatively low intensity one) is more irritating than from many other sources. Before you really start paying attention to the background noice of the system it's ok; but once you really notice the difference you really won't be saying "who cares" any more.
  • by phaze3000 ( 204500 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @12:38PM (#2502922) Homepage
    Instead of using powerchute with the APC UPS, you could try apcupsd [] - it's Free [] and works perfectly for me. I must have installed it on close to 50 boxen, and it's never given me any troubles yet.. unlike the closed-source stuff you get with it..
    • apcupsd is indeed nice, and I used it for awhile. A little while back, though, I switched to nut [], the Network UPS Tools. nut supports multiple types of UPSes, from many different manufacturers, provides a consistent interface to the available data, and is nicely network-aware, for shutting down multiple computers on a single UPS. There's even a windows client, so the lone NT machine at work gets to shut down properly, too.

      nut might be a little overkill for a single computer home setup on an APC UPS (as I believe apcupsd supports slightly more of APC's features), but nut is excellent for anything scaling beyond that.

      --Phil (Yes, I'm a big fan of UPSes.)
  • 65 degrees C?? (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by bluephone ( 200451 )
    That's WAY too hot. Granted my Athlon's much slower, but it's the old Slot-A Athlon at 700, which can run pretty darn hot. With 1 intake and 1 exhaust case fan, and 3 processor fans blowing over the wide Aavid heat sink, I keep mine at around 30-35 C, in summer maybe it peaks at 38 without the AC on. Right now it's 29.5 C. Maybe going ultra quiet isn't the greatest thing to do for a heat sink fan, eh?
    • by Manic Miner ( 81246 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @12:49PM (#2502983) Homepage

      Nothing wrong with 65 degrees, I have a new 1.2Ghz DDR Athlon and mine runs at 55-65 degree depending on room temp, and my machine makes so much fan noise it is insane

      I know lots of people that run new athlons and they all run at about 55-65 degrees, I also know several people that build PC's for a living and they always set there motherboard kill temp to 70 degrees.

      There has been a lot of talk about thermal death and an article I read talked about AMD tech guys shutting down an athlon when it hit 80 degress (I think it was 80, might have been 70, I can't find the article again) so whats wrong with 65 max? I think you are way too paranoid about CPU temp.

    • Re:65 degrees C?? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Xugumad ( 39311 )

      MSI motherboards, in my experience, don't get the temperature reading too accurate. Additionally, there seems to be a large increase in heat output relative to speed, in Athlons, which would explain some of the rest of this.

      On the other hand, I still wouldn't have expected it to read over 50C./P.

    • I know there are manufacturers out there that actually sell some kind of chip refrigerator -- are those worth the trouble or do they just wind up putting more strain on the power supply?

    • Re:65 degrees C?? (Score:3, Informative)

      by bill.sheehan ( 93856 )
      Sorry, that's a common misperception. 65 C is a nice comfortable temperature for a 1.2 MHz Athlon Thunderbird. The chip is rated to 95 C.

  • by AtariDatacenter ( 31657 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @12:40PM (#2502935)
    I recently went with the Iwill KA-266Plus motherboard. (An version with an early BIOS got a bit of a poo-poo from Tom's Hardware, but the latest versions rock.) Purchased a 1.3mhz Athlon with it, and 2x256mb of DDR memory.

    I have to say, I'm extremely pleased with what I have. I've managed to bump the FSB up to 147mhz, and have the system run stable. That means I'm getting 1.47ghz on the Athlon, and 294mhz on the memory. Very nice.

    I'm really surprised the Ali Magik chipset didn't get more attention that it did. It was the first to enable DDR memory with the Athlon Socket A chips.

    My configuration allows me to get the very highest 3DMark 2001 benchmark for my system, although I'm not running a Gamer's video card.

    I went with the Radeon VE. It has built in hardware optimizations for viewing DVDs, MPEGs. It also has dual-video output, so I've got a normal monitor, and my home television connected as two different screens.

    Anyhow, just wanted to say, nice choice on the ALI Magik motherboard.
    • by AA0 ( 458703 )
      actually, the AMD 760 chipset was out before the ALi chipset, performed much much better, overclocked a lot better, and had no bugs like the ALi one does. Thats your reason as to why it didn't get any attention.

      The person that put this machine together really didn't know too much about building a computer... other than the fact he had a lot of money. 68C for a CPU temp is ridiculously high, even 1.4s don't get that high. That system will be unstable, no question about it. He should have taken an epox 8k7a+ board.
      • I could have sworn that the ALi came out first. You sure?

        About the temperature, well, I do have to agree with you there. 68C is way too hot. My overclocked Athlon is running at 51C. Shutdown temperature has been set on the motherboard for 60C on the CPU (145F). But I don't think the board has much to do with the temperature of his CPU here.
  • by FortKnox ( 169099 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @12:43PM (#2502942) Homepage Journal
    (Diablo 2, Baldur's Gate II:Throne of Bhaal, The Sims)

    That is one HELL of a machine for those three games. Seeing as a 600MHz, TNT2 machine will handle them just as well. Usually, high end machines like what you have are for serious FPS afficianatos (sp?). Another note, is that serious gamers could give a rats ass about their box noise. Usually, the games produce enough sound outta their huge soundcard/soundsystem to muffle anything the box can produce.

    Sorry to gripe, but this article is either:
    (A) A gloatfest on your new box (which I do myself)
    (B) A thinkgeek plug
    • I choose...B.
      Actually when I buy a box its always averpowered for the games at the time, but as I get olde I find building a new box once every 3-4 years suits me fine.
      I din't select A because its really not much of a box. and spent "under 2000". with a box like this you should spend "under 1500" easy.
      And finally theres nothing like saying you want to be budget consious, then buying a specialty case from thinkgeek, if there was an affiliation, id be suspicious....oh, wait.
      • this can be answered in two questions:
        1.) Why do you need the power?
        2.) Why is it *any* concern to the /. community?

        Also, have you noticed the slight pause after hitting submit? Where you can see the add, but not that you've posted yet? Somethin' fishy is going on...
  • 68 C? Ouch! (Score:5, Informative)

    by VargrX ( 104404 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @12:43PM (#2502943) Journal
    Plus, on average, the new fan keeps the processor an average of 4 degrees Celsius cooler - from 69 C to 65 C, when running full tilt - e.g. Baldur's Gate II:Throne of Bhaal, and my little contribution to Team Slashdot, that's the temp. Running with just the OS is about 58 C
    Try replacing that PC&C pos with an Alpha PAL8045 and a quiet Sunon 80mm fan. I'm running an equivalant machine, and my MAX temp under full load is 34 degree's C. The only potential problem with the 8045 is will it fit on your board.
    • Seems to me that he's quoting an average number for really high speed Athlon procs. I've got one, and it takes a DESK FAN to keep it at 53 C idling (@1.4Ghz, not overclocked). It's the craziest most insane thing I've every seen, but that's just the way it is. I've been refusing to shut the case and let it run because up 'till now I thought that was an insane temp for a proc to run at - but it's normal.
      • Re:68 C? Ouch! (Score:2, Informative)

        by leighklotz ( 192300 )

        I agree -- 64C sounds too high. Here is a good article [] on the subject from Via Hardware [].

        I recommend the following three steps to cool it down:

        1. Run H.ODA's WPCREDIT/WCPRSET [] and set the ACPI HALT cooling on, if your processor is running at under 1.33 GHz or if you're not running Win2K. This will keep your idle temperature down. See the end of the VIA Hardware article for the admonition about CPU speed and Win2K stability.
        2. Use Arctic Silver II [] thermal paste. I bought some at Fry's and it's pretty cheap. It brought the temperature down 2-3C under load.
        3. Try the NoiseControl [] Silverado fan, if it fits in your face. North Americans no longer have to buy it from Germany, as Plycon [] sells it in the US now.

        I have a 1.2GHz Athlon which I run at about 1.35GHz by upping the FSB. My IWill [] KK266 board claims that it idles at 26C, and it gets up around 41C during heavy use, and 49C in a tight loop.

        I have a shutoff at 50C, which it last reached when Outlook went into a tight loop overnight. I ran a program called MBM [] to check on it, and it recommended a program called Shutdown Now [] to shut down and power off in case of alarm. Unfortunately, I hadn't noticed that Shutdown Now was nagware, and my system was up all night at 50C, sending me pages every 5 minutes. When I got to work in the morning, there was a pop-up dialog saying to please send in $15 to them before it would shut off my computer. Talk about lame! It would have been fine to nag a boot time, not not at shutdown time! I'm just glad the program didn't fry my CPU. Anyway, I replaced it with the NT Resource Kit program called shutdown.exe [] that took a little bit of mousing around to get into MBM's configuration, but no way was I going to give money to the guy who almost fried my computer.

      • The number he's quoting is still too high. I run an Athlon 1.33 Ghz with the stock fan and heatsink, and it idles at 49-51 C, maxing out at around 58 C.
    • Argh! Slashdot ate my comments.
      Lemme try again.

      Can you be a pal and explain a few things about the PAL 8045 to me? I've been looking around for them but they're really hard to find. I finally found a store that carries them, but is out of stock. They mentioned, however, that the Alpha PAL 8045 is only a heatsink, and you buy the fan separately.

      So, are the fans you buy for it just standard case fans? Do they get power off the power supply like a case fan, or do they attach to the CPU fan header on the motherboard?

      If they're just standard case fans, are there recommended fans to use with the unit? Are there big differences in the noise and airflow in 80mm case fans?

      I'm on my quest to get the quietest, coolest PC so I can use it both to play 3d-heavy FPS games, compile kernels, and play DVD movies and music. The CPU and case cooling are my only remaining noise/cooling issues.

  • by NastyGnat ( 515785 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @12:44PM (#2502946)
    When you've got a couple hundred watts of surround sound. I hardly notice anything other than the rockets exploding around me. That's especially handy when the wife's naggin ya...

    "What did you say, I can't hear you!?"

    • That's especially handy when the wife's naggin ya...

      Dude, if you get her into the game too, there will be no nagging. My wife and I play Q3TA far too's good for our relationship (as long as we're *always* on the same team :) and lets us both play a game for hours without the other buggin'.

      Except to ocassionally scream "I've, got the flag, I'm in the valley! Help help help! HELP!!! Aaaahhhhh....damnit, where were you?!"

    • Exactly what I'm thinking. Gaming PC and Quiet PC are quite opposites, even if you only have cheap 20W speakers. If you can hear the fans while you're playing quake, you probably need to change servers.
  • Since it was mentioned that the author wanted to eventually do some Video Editing: When editing on computers with 5200 rpm drives I've had huge playback problems in Adobe Premiere and other programs, lots of skipping and so fourth.
  • I'm guessing it's somewhere in the $1000 range, since I just recently put together louder, but similarly outfitted boxes for my home.

    Seems like a lot of cash to get rid of fan hum...
  • Two suggestions (Score:3, Informative)

    by Amokscience ( 86909 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @12:51PM (#2503004) Homepage
    One: Unless you plan on putting nutty amounts of drives and video cards into a machine 400W is WAY overkill. I've got a 1.2Ghz Athlon with a CDrom drive and using a ATI Radeon and the MicroATX power supply drives everything just fine. Wattage? 120W. More wattage usually requires more fan to cool. More fan = more noise.

    On the subject of quiet CDR drives. Plextor has a kickass utility (windows) that allows you to speed limit the drives X rating. SO you can cap at 4x, 8x, 10-24x 14-32x, etc. At around 10x it's pretty much silent.
  • My box has an Athlon 600 MHz with an Asus K7M mobo. At this point, I'm trying for a quiet PC (at least as quiet as I can get it). I've already installed an Ultra Quiet power supply [] and a SilentDrive [] enclosure, and those are working well so far.

    As far as I can tell, the primary remaining source of the noise is the chipset fan (an RDJD K701 []). Looking through 2Cooltek [] (a good source for cooling products), I came across the "Alpha P7125 Athlon/SECC Cooler (no fans) []". However, does the "no fans" designation mean that the cooler comes without fans but needs them, or that it comes without fans and can operate without them? I'm thinking that if indeed it can operate without fans, then that could mean a significant sound reduction for me.

    Then again, if that one does require the fans, then I'm guessing that it's about the same loudness as my current setup :-/. In that case, are there other quiet-coolers I should try? Or, should I just go straight to the acoustical [] foam []?
  • Quiet Fans - Papst (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jamieo ( 22197 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @12:53PM (#2503017) Homepage
    I too have recently spent some time investigating how to make my machine quieter. Eventually I plan to build a *silent* mini server for home, but this is another project...

    I was running a GlobalWin 802 case, with 2x Sunon 80mm case fans and a GlobalWin FOP32 heatsink and fan. This was quite noisy.

    After some research, I found out that Papst (a German company) makes just about the quietest fans you can get. You can get them as low as 12dBA. Getting hold of them is another matter - they're often expensive, reorder times when out of stock is long (many months) and most suppliers only stock a very small part of the Papst range.

    Eventually I found a local (UK) supplier and purchased 2x 80mm fans (rated about 19dBA). I put one of these as the exhaust fan for my case and the other I put on my FOP32 heat sink. I needed to get a 60mm->80mm fan adapter (most CPU heatsinks come with 60mm fans, you can get an adapter from most overclocking stores). I did away with the extra case fan.

    Overall the transformation was remarkable. The machine is now very quiet - not silent, you can still hear the fans, but very very quiet. As far as cooling goes, it's just as good as it was before. Both my board and cpu are running at the same temperature (I'm running an overclocked AMD TBird).

    One of the fans I got, the one I use for my case, has a temperature sensor built into it. This detects the airtemp and alters the spin speed of the fan accordingly. From 25oC is starts to spin faster upto a max temp of 35oC when it's running full speed. At it's lowest speed (say 25oC) it runs at 10dBA going upto 19dBA at full speed. This was more expensive than the standard Papst fan (US$30ish!!!) but seems to work.

    I'd certainly recommend looking to get Papst fans for anyone.

    An alternative (not quite as good) is Panasonic's Panaflo fans.
  • quiet fans (Score:3, Informative)

    by zerocool^ ( 112121 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @12:53PM (#2503019) Homepage Journal
    tom's hardware [] has a great Piece on cpu fans []. They rate 'em on temperature versus noise... Not surprisingly, the biggest heatsink with the largest fan caused the greatest drop in temperature and the most noise. But if you're looking for some brand ideas, its a great read.
    Also, there is the following:
    Silencer 80mm Fan [] (sold by someone else but made by PC Power&Cooling)
    24dba SECCII fan []

    I got these last few from here [], i thought slashdot had run an article linking to the tom's hardware review, but i can't seem to find it.

  • by peel ( 242881 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @12:53PM (#2503022)
    So you've eliminated all of that extrea noise that keeps you up at night only to be kept awake by the brilliance of the neon light shining from your outrageously overpriced case. I hope at least it matches the neon lights under your car.

    The Ol' Gray Mare, Ain't whut she usta be...
  • by sid_vicious ( 157798 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @12:58PM (#2503048) Homepage Journal
    The Case: I went with the precut window, and put in the window, as well as ordered the blue neon light to put inside of the machine.

    .. then later on ..

    The Processor: Being that I was trying to be at least somewhat budget conscious ..

    Buddy, if you're trying to stay on a budget, buying a $230 case and a $40 light fixture is not the way to do it.
    • I understand buying the case, those aluminum cases rock and are really worth the dough over a cheap steel case. The light, on the other hand... ;)
    • Something I've always wondered is how those aluminum cases look when you put beige plastic faced devices in them. It seems a little discongruous to me to spend all that money on a pretty case only to have some cheap CDRW face stickin out of it. Are there replacement faces for these devices?
    • There's a big difference between blowing $200 on a processor that'll cost $100 in 6 months and $230 on a case that should last several upgrades.

  • by n3r0.m4dski11z ( 447312 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @01:02PM (#2503068) Homepage Journal
    ok i know your pc your choices right? but as i build pcs for a living, i woudl just like to interject a few things.

    "Plus, on average, the new fan keeps the processor an average of 4 degrees Celsius cooler - from 69 C to 65 C, when running full tilt "

    allthough im sure ill get flamed for this, that is absurd. a cpu cant run at 65c all the time. well it can but your asking for trouble. that is far to hot. my p4 1.4 runs at a cool 38 with just a few extra fans in the case. i mean i know amds are faster but they dont last as long by far.

    "based on past experiences, and knowing other people who had the same problem, I decided to go with a 5400 RPM drive, rather then 7200. Most of the 7200 RPM drives I've had, or others have had, regardless of manufacturer, or type of drive, have died after nine month or so."

    are you insane? you went from a scsi system to a ulta ata100 5400!!!! hdd system!!! you WILL notice a decrease between 7200 and 5400. it is VERY significant and frankly i am shocked that you would go with a 5400 based on a totally flawed judgement that 7200 fail more. your amd processor will fail before that hdd i guarantee it. i have never had a 7200 in my systems fail. other peoples yes, but the rate of 7200's failing to 5400's is exactly 1:1. the speed does not make a difference. if it did, my compaq 9.1gig 10krpm would fail way before my 7200's. the way i think it works is that some hdds fail, some dont and theirs nothign you can do about it.

    "I also wanted to be able to burn and rip CDs fairly fast, so I went with the Yamaha CRW2100EZ. It's a very nice, very fast drive, but has a major problem for the quiet machine: it's loud."

    yes well you have realized somethign very commonly known in the industry. yamaha's make a TON of noise. the other thing to note about that particular drive is if you try burning those mini credit card sized cds in them, they always buffer underrun so their not the best drives to get. i would have gone with a plexwriter or a scsi yamaha (which i actually own btw).

    "I went with the consumer top of the line sound card, the Creative Labs Soundblaster Platinum. This thing was a SOB to get installed, because you have to not only insert the normal sound card into the PCI slot, but also fit into the 5 & .25" drive slot the external control slot. It's pretty cool, because it comes along with a remote so that you can use the computer as a movie watching system, if you want"

    ahhh you baught into the hype! creative cards are awful! they suck tonnes of cpu power, install all sorts of buggy programs (ie creative disc detector) and have huge drivers. a better card by far, albiet hard to find in my part of the world are turtle beach cards. also they are cheaper and dont come with all that useless software. and they dont make your system load 1/2 as fast!

    "Nothing really exciting here -- I reused a Intel EEpro 100"

    just a small note. i read somewhere (i believe toms) that those intel cards eat tonnes of cpu and us eless bandwitdh than they should. personally i would go with a 3com 3c905c. thoes people know what they are doing.

    "UPS System: We wouldn't want to be crashing in the midst of our gaming or working, now would we? I actually set up two UPS systems "

    rofl! if you have money sure! but ups's on a gaming machine.... it doesnt really serve any point except being able to play quake when the power fails, but on that hand if your routers/switches are not on the ups you will loose your connection anyways so it doesnt really matter.

    i dont mean to cut up your system because it sounds sweet (i wish i could afford a windowed case w neon tubes) but some of your dicisions strike me as odd and i figured you posted here to see what we thought of it so thats what i think!

    • :) No, he posted it here because the manufacturers are paying him to do so.

      Hmm, who is ThinkGeek affiliated with again? I don't think the actual price of HIS windowed case was all that much.
  • Anyone have any experience using sound absorbant sheeting? I'm interested in lining computer case panels with it, or possibly building a fully-enclosed rack that is lined to house noisy equipment.

    I'd like to give an example but I can't get to the site [] that has them. The most basic form is an asphalt-based flexible sheet with adhesive that can be applied to just about any surface. They are often used in automotive stereo setups to deaden road noise (and reverberations?).
  • tips (Score:3, Informative)

    by debrain ( 29228 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @01:03PM (#2503071) Journal
    To help minimize heat and noise, consider these tips:

    Enermax has a good rep for p/s.
    Get a 4500-5k RPM CPU fan.
    Cut out those grills where the computer case fans go; they cut airflow down by up to 50%.
    Use a silver thermal transfer compound on your heat sink (wash the heat sink with acetone, then isopropyl solution, then a silk/lens cloth (no lint) before applying the compound). Use plastic to rub the compound around clockwise and counter-clockwise, then clean off excess compound with the cloth.
    Get a video card without a fan, like a Geforce2 MX. Video card fans are small and wear down faster, so you get ball bearing failures more often and faster, so they end up being the noisiest part of the machine.
    If you've got the money, get an aluminum case.
    Tie back your cabling
    Direct airflow towards the CPU.
  • by Phrogz ( 43803 ) <!> on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @01:04PM (#2503080) Homepage
    Seriously, I absolutely understand the desire/need for a quiet work machine. But gaming? What game is quiet? Unless you've got a turbo-jet fan in your machine, the sound of the game should easily drown and overpower any sound the machine is making, at even the lowest reasonable gaming volumes.

    Why is a quiet *gaming* machine even an issue?
    • While I think most of the choices made in this article are both poor and suspect, I, too, have wanted a PC that can handle FPS games well and allow me to sleep while they are on (though not playing games simultaneously, duh!). I find the fan noise from computers, especially some, somewhere between mildly grating to impossible to sleep with. I've considered replacing fan parts and such, but I rarely have the time and the energy to devote to that kind of pursuit. Virtually every pre-built PC out there that is marketed as being quiet is either sold at ridiculously high premiums or has lousy performance, especially for games.

      Because fast and quiet PCs seem to be almost mutually exclusive, it is potentially interesting to some (e.g., myself) that a fast (enough for demanding games), quiet, and reasonably priced PC can be put together with a minimum of hassle. Throwing together the parts is not that troublesome, but tracking down the best parts for the job is a pain in the butt. That said, I don't think he did a very good job of it.
  • I rebuilt my old Gateway case/Dell mobo/proc setup just recently. I didn't have much money to go on, but the PIII 500MHz, non-overclockable Dell mobo/proc was showing its processing power age, along with the fact that my HDD just farted out a month ago.

    1. First and foremost - get an AMD Duron (and cheapest proc you can find in the Duron series), and an easy-to-overclock motherboard. I cranked my Duron750 to 995MHz (very stable) using an Abit KT7A (non-RAID) motherboard. And it only took about $300 to do this since I had my old case, monitor, various PCI cards, etc. My computer isn't the top notch machine out there, but it definitely does the job. Especially when it comes to ripping mp3's for cheap, as that is a pretty CPU intensive operation.
    2. Prepare to have a noisy PC. For those of you who don't "get" what all the fuss is about fan noise, try using a powerful heatsink on a high-temp running AMD chip. It's loud! My roommate says it sounds like a small vacuum cleaner or miniature jet plane when I turn the computer on. :)

    Obviously, we're all going to debate what the 'best' computer is, but what it really comes down to at this point, is individual tastes, gaming preferences, work needs, price, etc, etc, etc. I read a lot of those computer review and mod sites on a daily basis, so I have a pretty good idea of how to build a PC for just about anyone's personal taste and budget. I'm trying to get a little shop off the ground that makes customizations/recommendations for people, so if you'd like to test my knowledge and drop me an email for some free advice, and give me feedback on how you like (or hate) what I have to say, and how it works out for you, please feel free. ;) [/shameless plug]

  • Some Bad Choices (Score:2, Interesting)

    by eAndroid ( 71215 )
    This a setup that will play games decent but it falls short of being anything great. It isn't a silent as it could be.
    1. Hard drive. Obviously he didn't do much research into quiet hard drives. First, a quick scan of hard drive reviews at Tom's Hardware suggests that Fujitsu drives are usually the most silent. However that is not the glaring mistake: missing the Seagate Barracuda IV [] is.Besides being faster than any 5,400 rpm drive it is also the quietest drive ever. You literally have to press your ear against it to hear it.
    2. Holy Case. Sure some people might think it looks cool (I think it looks about as cool as cutting a big hole in the hood of a car). But it can't be quiet. If this really was a "quiet" machine then wouldn't he have chosen a quiet case? Perhaps something with extra thick sides and few rattling parts (thumbscrews?).
    And of course he if he really did care about silence then he could have gotten a mac. But arguably that would have hindered the, "gaming" part.

    This is just a kid who wants to brag about his new half-assed machine. And, to no one's surprise, slashdot it up for that.
  • Man, salaries in USA have to be totally amazing, because spending 2000 US$ in a computer, only for gaming, seems to me like quite overkill. Damn Big Overkill (tm).

    I don't know around there, but here in Spain 2000 US$ is, more or less, 3.5-4 times what I earn each month, and almost twice of a "good but not all that special" salary. Some examples: a friend of a friend, which is teacher in a public school, earns 1300 US$ (translated from pesetas, of course :-)). And he's got a "minor degree" (3 years of study) only. He's got an Audi A4, to say it that way, while "chief executives" in private firms that earn about 2200 US$ drive in big badass BMWs.

    More examples: my MSI-6330 mobo (Pro2, I think: it has ATA100, while the "Pro" only had ATA66) and Duron 800 costed, 4-5 months ago, about 200 US$ (36000 pesetas, to be exact). The thinkgeek case that Hemos tells is a fine one, but ... well, it just costs a lot. A normal case here costs about 50 US$. The one picked by Hemos costs 230 US$.

    So, if Hemos spends 2000 bucks in a computer *for playing games* ... Hemos, man, did you buy the Ferrari yet? :-)
    • Cool, I wonder if I can keep pulling my salary here but work remotely from spain, since cars are obviously way cheaper there than here. Is that one of those right-hand-drive contries?

      Though, I do agree that $2K is in no way a "budget" computer... I built an otherwise superior 1.1GHz athalon system *with* a new flat screen monitor and 768MB RAM (don't get me started on win98's problems with more than 512MB RAM, grrr) for about $1.2K a few months ago.
  • Arrgh (Score:3, Informative)

    by OdinHuntr ( 109972 ) <ebourg@po-box.mR ... .ca minus distro> on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @01:07PM (#2503102)
    It pains me so to see people flush money down the drain.

    In my experience (and this has been verified by hardOCP, anandtech, etc benchmarks), the only uniprocessor DDR motherboards worth buying over the VIA KT133A chipset are those with the VIA KT266A or AMD 76[01]. The ALi has been shown [] to perform _worse_ than a PC133-ram solution. Bad move.

    65 degrees C? Anything over 50C is considered 'borderline'. AMD CPUs can take 90C iirc, but that's internal core temperature - the temperature that you see in the BIOS setup is an external temperature taken via a probe below the CPU socket.

    Most of us tend to research major purchasing decisions before we make the plunge.

  • Just have louder speakers! and a more powerful stereo.
    When I play Quake Arena, the whole neighborhood knows it.
  • Here's the deal-
    The case was way to expensive. >$200, and it does nothing towards the goal of a fast-quiet gaming machine.

    I would argue against picking up the extra special quiet power supply myself, but hey, he was going for quiet, I guess thats excuseable.

    The CDRW drive is a waste unless you really don't have a cdrecorder in any of your other machines. A 52X CD-ROM is $100 cheaper, and does what you need for a gaming rig. Especially considering he's holding out for a DVDR drive.

    Another $30 blown on rounded ide cables (if they matter THAT much to you, round the ide cables that came with the mobo while watching this weeks Enterprise)

    Then he splurged for the SBLive Platinum instead of the basic, another 50-75 down the tubes.

    Why am I whining about $320 on a "somewhat budget concience" machine because it only costs ~350$ to 375 build a box that performs almost as well as this, add $200 if you've really gotta have a gef3. The point is configuring a box like this isn't to make it quiet or a great gaming rig, at $2000 its a showy waste of money.

    (the $230-just-because-its-shiny-case really set me off)
  • I guess I am not sure what the point is here. When playing games, it seems that one would not mind a little hard drive noise/fan noise given the sound FX are going to be cranked up a bit and will probably mask any noise inherent in the machine. However, for work I really do want a quiet machine. For this the Mac Cube sitting on my desk with a 17in Flat panel is absolutely silent. No fan noise, no CRT electron beam flyback squeal, NOTHING. Its wonderful. The cube is not the greatest game machine, I expect it would be adequate for most games but hey, this is work. The real game machine is at home.
    • i use my cube for (school) work as well as for fun and games... its quiet, but the sound of the several fan on my roommates's comp kinda kills the point of it =P thats why im looking for a Titanium Powerbook to replace my cube =]
      • Graduate and get your own office. I highly recommend a private office if you have the means. It's so choice.

        Seriously though, private work space for certain tasks like writing or any situation where lots of concentration and lack of distractions are important and convenient for high throughput work
  • If you bought that machin in the last 30 days, and spent anywhere near 2000.00, see the subject.
    I have a Athlon1.4, 2 scsi 18G drives, LSI 160 dual controller, GeForce3 AGP, 768M 2100 ram, Soyo Dragon Mobo, Aluminum case,emerex PS. 1200.00 dollars.
    My only regret is the PS, its load as hell.
    He mentions cost concerns, but buys a specialty case, sheesh.
    What with that CPU temp? my Athlon 1.4 under heavy load, hits 48c Just OS 38c Playing Quake 3 or Dark Ago of Camelot, its usually around 43c. This guy needs to rethink his airflow, because I've note some heat issues with my geforce if my ambient case temp starts to climb to high.

    I worked in an enviroment where we tested IDE and SCSI regularly. Time and time again the latestes SCSI always beet the Latest IDE, even the 100.
    Note I said Latest, I always here "my IDE is nearly as fast and cheaper", but it never fails thay there comparing the latest IDE to an older SCSI card. My personal favorite, comparing a RAID IDE 100 to a non raid SCSI 40. sheesh.

  • A few years ago there was a lot of buzz around so-called "A/V hard drives", which were said to provide a more even flow of bits in/out for video applications. The theory was that it was better to have a consistent, even if a little slower, flow of data to prevent interruptions during vidoe editing, playback, etc. This was supposedly accomplished by better management of thermal recalibration cycles and similar demon tweaks.

    Does this technology still exist? Perhaps a better first question is, did it ever exist, or was it just a bunch of marketing smoke? If it did, is it still around, and if so in what products?

    It seems to me that if such a smoothing of bit flow is possible it would be advantageous for games as well as straight video.

  • it is Super quiet, cool, runs just as fast, and you can stay with OS X.1 or use Linux....what else do you need?
  • by Eric Seppanen ( 79060 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @01:25PM (#2503179)
    I'm about to pick up one or two of Seagate's Barracuda ATA IV [] drives. They put out 20db of noise, which is, according to a friend who works with them, "inaudible". Apparently the new fluid bearings are the reason.

    The 80GB ones are a little hard to find, but 40GB are available for just over a hundred bucks.

  • The first problem... (Score:2, Informative)

    by barl0w ( 516673 )
    Was that this guy used ThinkGeek!

    Who, being a real gamer uses a retail outlet that is hurting bigtime for customers to procure their "Dream Gaming PC" parts?

    He also never mentioned PriceWatch [] which is a fantastic resource for being able to determine who is offering the cheapest prices for the best hardware in the US.

    I think he way overspent on his case and fans totally, and a grand total close to $2000? Who can afford that? I got the same system that this guy did minus the expensive case and fans (I've got the same temps on CPU), purchased a flat-screen 19" monitor, and instead got Crucial 512MB RAM for a grand total of $600 less.

    Sounds like more advertising for OSDN and less thoughtfulness of $$$$ on his part.

    I'd suggest to also go to Google Groups [] and search in alt.comp.hardware.amd.thunderbird for opinions on setups, if going with an Athlon system. There are a lot of people writing their experiences there.

    -- I'm out

  • Stress levels associated with low level background sounds are shocking. It can have real physical effects on your heart etc...

    If you work in a quiet environment and you hear a humming noise constantly then PUT THE RADIO ON or something. This will drown out the lower level noise with something your brain can understand and filter out. If you don't hear anything your either deaf, or your brain is doing a good filter job.

    The scenario is roughly analagous to tinitus, though usually not as serious, where your brain is struggling to make sense of the white noise and 'strains itself'. You end up in a constant state of low level panic because you don't know what is happenning around you.

    Seriously dudes - fan noise, the new RSI!
  • Replacing the Soundblaster Platinum with a Hercules Game Theater XP yeilds more input/output options and better sound at a lower price. (minus remote control, which hardly gets used.)

    Also the case... neon light? $200+ for a case when a $30 case would have been just as good? Ugh...

    Replacing the GF3 with a Radeon would have been a good choice aswell...

    -- iCEBaLM
    • Since when do radeon's beat gf3 performance (I wont even go into driver quality). The 8500 is like a ferrari governed to 90Mph and doesn't markedly beat the gf3ti500 in any category by any value other than what should be considered negligible. Though the 8500 has far and away the best theoretical performance capability it fails to deliver like most ati graphics products. I doubt the 8500 was out when he built the machine but the better bet is still the gf3.
  • This is the first article I've ever read about bulding a gaming system where the aesthetics of the case was an important part of the system. I would think most people would rather save the extra $160 and put it into ram or a beefier processor.

    Of course, most sites that talk about building a game system don't have a stake in a company that makes pretty cases. Of course, I doubt that could be related ;)
  • by Masem ( 1171 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @01:39PM (#2503247)
    My current system is a 1.2ghz tbird on a KT7A-Raid board, as it replaced a shot 600mhz P2 & mobo in the middle of the summer. With that 600mhz, I didn't even think about system health (the few checks I made showed the CPU at no greater than 40degC ever). However, with this new system, I freaked out during the initial months with the temperature issue. Using the supplied heatsink and fan, my chip was running at ~50degC with case temperatures near 30degC (middle of summer). At that time, I was scared of burning out the tbird even knowning that the tbird die was meant to withstand much higher temperatures up to 95degC. So I loaded up my case with lots of fans; a slot fan near my nvidia card, two rear exhaust fans, and updating the power supply to a 400W on the AMD approved list. I got the temperature to notch down a few more degrees at the cost of extra parts and some extra noise; after running SETI on it for sufficiently long enough, I'm less worried about the health of that system though I still track it on a daily basis and have watchdog programs to shut down in case there's a problem.

    This, plus all the hassles I had to do to get stability in the Nvidia card with BIOS settings (like getting the I/O voltage up from the default 3.3 to 3.6V) and some PCI issues have resolved me to investigate the custom shops (Alienware as an example) when I am looking to my next system. As I've seen in ads and reviews by Maximum PC, they know how to build temperature cool and mostly silent systems, and know how to manuever the maze of ACPI, PCI, BIOS settings, and OS configuration to make sure that the machine shipped to you is stable and ready to go. Of course, one easily pays a ~50% price tag on this on top of parts and software, but I feel that this extra cost is worth the benefit of getting a well built system, particularly in the age of dating hardware specs.

    Note that it's not that I can't put these systems together that I feel this way; the 600mhz and the tbird system were all from computer show parts. However, it's the concern and hassle of dealing with a possibly unstable system that concern me.

  • [] or something. Or maybe someone can spawn another website with that name for all the quiet PC articles.
  • I have the pioneer-305s(SCSI) DVD and the creatice labs cd-rw(SCSI), and I have to listen closley to hear them at all. I can play a movie with the DVD and not even hear the player.
  • quiet power supplies (Score:2, Informative)

    by Fastman ( 136081 )
    I recently replaced a power supply with an Enermax EG365P-VE [] and was quite impressed with the low noise level.

    Another quiet power supply to consider is Ultra Quiet Power Supply [] from

  • Quiet computing? It's called a closet. As long as you don't mind getting up to insert a CD, just stick everything but the keyboard/mouse/monitor in a closet and shut the door. Make sure there's some way air can flow into and out of the closet you should be okay!
  • I knew that I wanted to build a machine that would be able to play games very well, and look nice, but since I didn't want to totally break the bank on doing it, I decided to go with some lower-cost components in part.
    $2000 is hardly considered cheap, especially for your gaming purposes (mostly 2D games on Win98). You can easily get this system down to around $1000 if you try harder, and have equivalent noise levels.

    First of all, PC Power & Cooling is some high quality stuff, but too expensive. I've found that CPU coolers are way too expensive for what you get. Go with a nice Alpha heatsink with a 60mm Sanyo Denki fan, which is really quiet.

    PC Power & Cooling power supplies are very good, but going with a 400W is a bit much. You can probably make your own "Ultraquiet" power supply from another brand like Enermax or Sparkle, and replace the fan with a 80mm Sanyo Denki fan. A 300W should be sufficient.

    The case is definately cool, so I guess it's okay to splurge there. But $200+ is a bit much.

    Corsair memory, although one of the best, is overpriced. Get Crucial instead (even directly from their own web site), for much cheaper, and comparable quality.

    In general, IBM drives are not well-known for being quiet. I don't know about the 40GV, but many models I've seen lately were loud on access. IBM's data sheet only shows idle noise, but I know on access these drive make loud crunching sounds. I know Maxtor's DiamondMax drives are a bit quieter on accessing, and there are other brands and models that are quiet.

    GeForce3, for the games you listed? Go GeForce2 MX or something instead. Or GeForce Titanium.

    Soundblaster Live Platinum: You Spent Too Much. There are other front panel products out there.

    Yada yada yada.

  • by sdo1 ( 213835 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @02:28PM (#2503469) Journal
    By my count, you spent $441 on stuff to make the system "quieter" (between the case, power supply, fans, silent-drive, etc.). Also figure that a "standard" good quality case would probably cost (at most) $140 or less. So you're at least $300 over for the reduced noise parts.

    For $200, you could have picked up a pair of noise canceling headphones [] that would also have had other uses as well (such as traveling on planes, etc). That's $100 savings. Could have thrown that towards more memory, larger HDD, faster CPU, etc...


  • Are people bonding an external thermocouple onto their processors to measure heat? Or is there a software process to use the chip's thermocouple?
  • I've recently experimented with hdparm -S as a way to spin down hard disks after they haven't been used for a given period of time. For certain really noisy disks, this is really helpful. However- the way linux works, syslog is constantly writing to the disk, and thus keeping it from spinning down (or spinning it back up if it was already sleeping). Does anyone know of a way around this?
  • My IBM drive just finally crashed, and I was amazed at how much quieter my machine is now that I've removed it. OTOH, now I have to figure out how to wipe the drive clean before sending it to IBM for repair/replacement. Anyone know if some really big magnets will do the trick?
  • I have a Logitech optical wireless (M-RM67A) (not mman :-(

    It is often sluggish in Windows, and sometimes is unusable when the sysetm is under a load (and I have to resort to using the trackpoint).

    Under X (on Linux 2.4) it is sharp as a tack.

    I think that the windows USB driver isn't really designed for input devices. (Well, not designed for them to work without being frustrating as hell, anyway.)

    In case anyone is wondering, this mouse "just works" with Linux 2.4.12 (usb-uhci and uhci both work fine for me) with the hid driver. It is so nice to be free of the cord and the ball!

    Oh, and the wheel "just works" with the Debain unstable X packages (Xfree 4).

  • No sense in getting a DVD Drive and decoder board now, when the DVD-RW is only a few months away. I also wanted to be able to burn and rip CDs fairly fast, so I went with the Yamaha CRW2100EZ. It's a very nice, very fast drive, but has a major problem for the quiet machine: it's loud.

    Worse - these drives vibrate insanely.

    I don't trust a Yamaha 2100-series drive in any case that's got a hard drive too. I bought both of mine on spec, and while they're great drives, they can practically walk a loaded tower across the floor. I moved mine into external boxes with cushioned feet.

  • by xtal ( 49134 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @04:37PM (#2504202)

    I used to do a LOT of car audio stuff.. line your case panels with Dynamat Extreme or regular Dynamat (accept no subsitutes, if you're cheap, go get some Ice Guard material at the hardware store - but it doesn't work as well). This stuff will remove most of the high frequency sound from the case. I went with a water cooling solution and lined my case. The PC is SILENT now. (when it's put together, heh).

    I mention this because I've never seen anyone do it on any of the case modding sites, and it works well. Ask anyone with more than 500W worth of bass in their trunk :).

  • If you can afford it, and you want really pristine sounding audio, get a breakout box. I use the Echo Layla24 [], and I love it. Because the D/A converter is in an external box with its own power supply, you don't get any hum or interference from the PC. At $700, it's a bit expensive, and used mostly for home studio work, but Echo has a few cheaper models that would serve the same function, like Gina [].

    (No, I don't work for Echo, or have any stock. I just think they are a kick-ass company. Not to mention their excellent [eh-hem] Windows driver support).
  • You can see more of these examples of lights and [] case windows on PC's here.
  • I travel to LAN parties all the time and shipping a PC is EXPENSIVE. I've been looking to assemble a small form factor PC that doesn't sacrifice video. With the small size I could carry on, vs shipping. NEVER NEVER NEVER let the airlines TOUCH your PC !!!!!! I've got a flat panel because the monitor is WAY too heavy, but the mini tower won't get on a plane anymore, especially since Sept :( I've thought about a laptop w/docking station but again they seem to sacrifice video...anyone got any ideas, that don't involve gritts and Natalie Portman ?

"The pathology is to want control, not that you ever get it, because of course you never do." -- Gregory Bateson