Langa Letter: Cool And Quiet: Warm-Weather Follow-Up

After detailing multiple approaches to keep your PC cool and quiet, <B>Fred Langa</B> goes a step further, testing a water-cooling system and seeking to address warm weather and high-stress applications with a thermostatic power supply.

Fred Langa, Contributor

June 3, 2004

3 Min Read

New Thermal Tests Results
My system now has no factory-installed fans whatsoever. The Seasonic power supply provides cooling for itself and for the case as a whole. The CPU is cooled with a Zalman CNPS7000A-Cu, a very large, all-copper heat sink with petal-shaped fins surrounding an oversized--92 mm--centrally mounted, low-speed fan. I have this permanently set to spin at its lowest-possible speed. A Zalman ZM80C-HP video cooler, also set to its lowest-possible speed, keeps my graphics card temperatures under control. And a basic case fan, reduced from 12v to 5v, spins slowly to keep the hard drive cooled.

As I type this, I can barely hear the PC under my desk. Task Manager reports that I have 14 top-level applications and 51 processes running right now, but the CPU, case, and hard-drive temperatures are just 91 degrees F, 86 degrees F, and 87 degrees F, respectively (33 degrees C, 30 degrees C, and 31 degrees C), at a room temperature of 70 degrees F/21 degrees C.

That's about the normal temperature I see. Higher temperatures happen during extended heavy use, and during warmer weather.

Once, during a stretch of premature summerlike weather here in New Hampshire, I closed up my office and opened the shades fully to let in as much sun as possible. Then I fired up BurnMax, the same tool I used to thermally stress the system in the earlier "Cool and Quiet" articles. After a half hour of full-bore CPU activity (imposing a 100% load on the CPU), the CPU temperature had stabilized at 129 degrees F/54 degrees C, impressively far away from the 158 degrees F/70 degrees C maximum safe temperature for the P4 chip in question.

On a more normal day, with room temperatures around 70 degrees F/21 degrees C, I also tried a long-duration test, running the CPU at a 100% BurnMax load for over four full hours:

At 253 minutes into the test, the main case temperature was completely stable at 100 degrees F/38 degrees C; the CPU was stable at 127 degrees F/53 degrees C; a second case location, near the CPU heat sink, was 109 degrees F/43 degrees C; and the hard drive was 84 degrees F/29 degrees C. These are all excellent temperatures, with plenty of safety margin left to spare. So, even in this very unrealistic, worst-case test--over four solid hours of maximum use--the system still wasn't thermally stressed! And, after ending the test, the system cooled to near-normal temperatures within four minutes, and the Seasonic fan spun down to its slowest and quietest speed.

This is truly outstanding performance, both acoustically and thermally. Of course, I use my PC literally every day; and on most days, it's for many hours. For me, this degree of outstanding cooling with library-class quietude was well worth the $124 investment required.

But we also saw earlier how you don't have to spend much--possibly as little as $10 or so--to make your PC noticeably quieter. And you can work incrementally, identifying the worst noise sources in your PC and remediating them one by one until you're reached whatever balance between cost and benefit that's right for you.

And if you go all out, you'll end up with a PC that will stay cool under just about any conditions, while remaining quite literally whisper quiet in normal use.

Give it a try: It's easier than you think!

But what have you done, or what do you plan to do, to your PC? What tools do you use to keep track of what's going on inside your PC? What fans, heat sinks, or other devices have you used to keep your PC cool--and quiet? And just how important is noise control to you? Join in the discussion!

To discuss this column with other readers, please visit Fred Langa's forum on the Listening Post.

To find out more about Fred Langa, please visit his page on the Listening Post.

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