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Langa Letter: Cool and Quiet, Part III

Fred Langa wraps up his exploration of the causes--and cures--of noisy PCs. His step-by-step process, including successes and failures, ensures you won't make mistakes as you work to make your PC cool and quiet.
After 10 minutes, the rate of temperature increase had noticeably slowed: The CPU was at 123 degrees F/55 degrees C, and the two motherboard sensors were at 107 degrees F/42 degrees C (near the CPU) and 98 degrees F/37 degrees C at a location a short distance away. The hard drive--idle during this CPU test--remained at 87 degrees F/31 degrees C.

After about 20 minutes, the temperatures seemed to stabilize, with no further change, but I left everything cooking (with the CPU at 100% output and all fans spinning at their slowest settings) for another 10 minutes, just to be sure. After a full 30 minutes of 100% output, the CPU was at 125 degrees F/52 degrees C, the motherboard sensors at 109 degrees F/43 degrees C and 98 degrees F/37 degrees C; and the hard drive still at 87 degrees F/31 degrees C.

So my newly quieted system was actually better-cooled than it had been in its factory configuration: Even at steady, full, 100% output for an extended period, the system ran cooler than it previously had under some normal, everyday operations that were far less stressful than the artificial test.

So: The system was now quiet and cool--truly the best of both.

More, If You Want It
The only thing that gives me pause in my new setup is that my office isn't air-conditioned. All the above tests were performed during winter, with the room's heat controlled to about 68 degrees F/20 degrees C or so. In the summer, the afternoon temperatures in my office can sometimes exceed 90 degrees F/32 degrees C.

Adding 20 degrees F/12 degrees C to the temperatures I've currently measured still would be OK for the CPU and hard drive, but I don't know if the system's thermal performance will be that linear. So it's something I'll have to watch.

Adding thermostatic control might help: letting the fans spin up as the case temperature climbs is an obvious way to increase cooling capacity at the cost of a little extra noise during the warmest times. But (1) I don't want to go back to the constant clicking noises that started this whole experiment; and (2) I'd rather not add a lot of complexity to the setup.

One option I'm thinking about is replacing the current power supply with one designed for thermostatic cooling. For example, Seasonic makes power supplies with numerous cooling-oriented features, including an enormous 120mm slow-speed fan that's thermostatically controlled. At normal temperatures, the fan is extremely quiet, but will speed up as needed to keep the case well ventilated. And with a fan that size in my PC, I could probably remove one or more of the other fans without affecting overall cooling. Once again, I might be able to end up with even better cooling with still less noise.

And, as an interesting aside: The Seasonic power supplies also are designed with high-efficiency components that generate less heat in the first place, and that has the added benefit of saving electrical power. (Less energy is lost as heat.) Seasonic claims that one of their power supplies can pay for itself in energy savings alone in a year or so, and I see no reason to dispute the claim. Cooler, quieter, and less expensive--now there's a trifecta!

If I go that route, I'll report on it in a future article. For now, please join in my discussion forum on the Listening Post. You've seen how you don't have to spend much--possibly as little as $10 or so--to make your PC noticeably quieter. And you've seen how a few tens of dollars can make your PC quite literally whisper quiet--emitting a tiny fraction of the noise it probably does now. And you've seen what I've done, so far, to my PC.

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