The most annoying pc noise makers (and what you can do about them)
Do you ever have the feeling that your computer is too noisy when it is running? A high noise level can be distracting to say the least which may reduce work effectiveness or even make working impossible.
The worst effect: it could make you ill. I'm going to identify the most annoying PC noise makers and suggest ways to reduce the overall noise level of your computer.
While you could use headphones or other devices that reduce the impact of the noise an electronic device creates, that is only a temporary solution.
There are not actually that many different components in your computer that generate noise, the dominant ones are fans and mechanical devices. The article ends with three methods to reduce the noise level of your computer starting with free alternatives, fan replacements and noise reduction hardware.
But lets start with a list of the components that are known to be rather noisy.
PC Noise Makers
- Power Supply Fan
- CPU Fan
- GPU Fan
- Case Fans
- Northbridge Fan
- Hard Drives
- CD / DVD Drives
Five of the noise makers in the list are fans while the last two are mechanical devices. It is easy to distinguish between fans and mechanical devices but it becomes a little bit harder to identify the loudest fan of your system.
Open your case and start your computer. Try to identify the loudest fan by simply listening to your computer. Is it possible to identify the noise maker? If you have troubles spotting the loudest one try the following technique that helps you identify it.
Locate a fan and stop the rotation of that fan for a few seconds by pressing one of your fingers against it. Make sure you do not put your fingers inside the fan but the central area that connects all the rotating blades. If the noise level drops you identified the noise maker. The next action depends on the type of fan:
Free Methods to reduce the noise level
There are several free methods to reduce the noise level of installed fans.
Software like Speedfan or RivaTuner can control the fan speed of certain devices that support this feature. You can reduce the rotation speed of your cpu, gpu and case fans this way if it can be controlled by the software. I'm not aware that a similar product exists for power supply fans and northbridge fans.
It is furthermore possible to reduce the reading speed of your CD and DVD drives to reduce their noise level. Software exists for Linux and Windows.
Use Technology like AMDs Cool'n'Quiet to reduce the heat output of your system which could result in a lower spinning fan.
Updating the firmware of a device may result in additional functionality. I had to upgrade the firmware of my Nvidia 6600 GT card to read its temperature which I needed to control the fan speed.
It might be worth checking out if there are updates for your motherboard, graphic card and CD / DVD drives. You need to visit the website of the device's manufacturer to find out if updates are available.
I once had the problem that the high pitching noise of my hard drives would drive me crazy. I had no means of purchasing dampening devices at that time and had to find a solution that would reduce the noise. I came up with a solution that I found in a forum on the internet.
I used the foam that the hard drive shipped with and placed it on the bottom of my computer. I then connected the hard drive as usual and placed it on that foam. The noise was not there anymore. This method worked great but would pose problems if you want to transport your computer.
I know of users who have three or more case fans running at the same time thinking the more the better. This is not always the case. If your system is cool enough you could try and remove some of the fans to reduce the overall noise level.
You should only remove them if you hear them. Does not make sense to remove something that does not make that much noises.
Low Cost Solutions
It is not really that expensive to reduce the noise level of your computer. You will never get a truly silent computer but the level can be reduced so that you can barely hear the computer running which is the optimum for fan driven systems.
Larger Fans that rotate slower make less noise than smaller fans that rotate faster for the same cooling effect. It is possible to replace several fans, mainly the CPU fan, GPU fan, Northbridge fan and case fans.
Make sure you do not go out and buy the first new fan that claims to run silently. Visit websites like Silent Pc Review and read their reviews and participate in the forums. They do recommend good components which should reduce the noise level a lot.
PC magazines and websites have started to include noise information in their tests as well.
Use Dampening material to reduce the noise level. Standard sized kits exist for many computer cases but it is also possible to purchase mats that you have to cut to make them fit in your computer.
They normally consists of rubber, foam or similar noise dampening material and are glued to the inside of your case. Please note that this method may result in a temperature increase which you need to monitor after you have installed the solution to avoid overheating.
Dampening can also be used to counter the high pitching vibrations of hard drives. Low Cost solutions reduce the vibrations by placing dampening material between the hard drives and your computer case.
I'm still using the foam mats that shipped with my hard drives. I have placed them beneath my hard drives in the hard drive cages which reduced the vibration to a level where I'm not able to hear it anymore.
You can buy fan controls which are hardware solutions that allow you to adjust the rotation of fans connected to them. This could be worthwhile if you can't control the fans with a software. I do control my CPU fan this way.
It does not have to be expensive to reduce the noise level of your computer. Most users will be happy with the solutions that I have posted. Advanced users with enough money could take a look at advanced concepts such as passive cooling devices (they are fanless) or water cooling their complete system.
I would begin by evaluation the free methods and only use the low cost ones if the noise is still unbearable for you. Please let me know if you have further techniques to reduce the noise in your computer.
I’m a fan of quiet computer. Things I consider before buying a computer are:
1. PSU with biggest fan available – 12/14/15 cm
2. Graphics card with passive cooling – I never would buy a card with cooler again – I got 7600GS which is as fast as 6600GT, WoW and other games runs smoothly but there is completely no noise.
3. Motherboard – you probably wont be looking how it’s cooled, because there are more important things to consider when buying this one. But there is a really simply operation replacing original noise-making fan with passive cooling (I installed Zalman NB47 several times on mine, and my friends MBs- it cost ~5$)
4. CPU cooler – don’t waste money on Zalman here, better to buy something cheap and good like Scythe or Pentagram.
5. HDD – I don’t believe it makes noises nowadays. I got RAID with 2x250GB Seagates 7200.10 and they are silent.
I control the fan speed of my graphics card with Rivatuner making it silent in 2D mode. I regulate the speed of my cpu fan with a hardware device making it silent as well.
I have a silent Power unit, the biggest noise maker was my hard drives from Samsung which are not that loud at all. They make a high pitching noise nevertheless and I had to dampen them to get rid of this noise.
One last thing – I got CPU cooler originally with speed control – it is very great thing :) CPU cooler has to have no more than 2000rpm
My chassis has a cooling fan, it makes irritating noise. The fan is driven directly and doesn’t have any control. If my unplug the fan.. my chasi would look blank because its transparent?
Any other mechanical way to reduce noise?
Great post! Mind you, replacing old DVDR drives is both cheap and always noise reducing… :)
I bought my wife an Antec PC and it is very quiet. I wish I had one myself.