Silence your desktop PC for under US$45

A couple of days ago I decided I would finally try to completely silence my PC once and for all. The background noise of the fans in my desktop computer was quite irritating, especially those from my noisy stock processor and graphics card fans. Rather than attempting modding the fans to quiet them, I thought the easiest way to quieten down my PC was to buy new components.

Now I’m not the richest of guys, so I tried to find the quietest possible equipment for the lowest price. It’s surprisingly easy and relatively cheap, so I’ll share what I found with anyone who wishes to make their computer whisper quiet as well.

US$15 Arctic Cooling Alpine 11 Pro Rev. 2. This is a relatively small CPU cooler that follows a similar design to the Intel stock fan, but comes in at a much quieter ~19 dBA at full speed. It fits on most modern Intel sockets, and the equivalent AMD cooler is Alpine 64 PRO Rev. 2 which again comes in at ~19 dBA.

US$19 Arctic Cooling Accelero L2 Pro. This is another product from Arctic that will cool your GPU at the cost of just ~19 dBA of noise at full speed. My Accelero L2 Pro is effectively silent and it was very cheap with somewhat simple installation. Stock coolers on graphics cards can be very noisy, and while this cooler is large it works well for the purpose.

US$8 CoolerMaster SickleFlow 120. These are standalone fans that you most likely have in your case. You can either remove them (silent!), or if you’re worried about airflow I would recommend that you install just one of these fans. For just $9 you get a 120mm fan with 19 dBA of sound for a good deal of airflow. If you have only 80mm fan slots, I would recommend the US$6 Antec TriCool 80, which on the lowest setting produces 18 dBA.

The final component that may be noisy will be your power supply. Fortunately mine was whisper quiet, but if you are looking for a new one it won’t exactly be cheap. I have an Antec PSU in my desktop and a Thermaltake in my media PC, both with super-silent 120mm fans and I believe they start at around US$50 (depending on what power output you desire).

However, for those looking for a quiet PC, you can buy a new CPU and GPU coolers along with a case fan for just $43, each which deliver a whisper quiet 19 dBA of noise. From my experience with these products you get a PC that is more than half as quiet as with stock equipment for a very reasonable price. My system beforehand produced at least 35 dBA idle and at load went higher than that (mostly due to a poor GPU cooler).

This comparison chart may make it easier for you to determine just how quiet at <20 dB PC will be. It's seriously quiet.

Now these products don’t really deliver enthusiast-grade cooling; only dropping temperatures by 5 or so degrees. They do, however, provide a system which won’t irritate you anymore by a hum and are simple enough to install. If you are annoyed by a noisy desktop, I would highly recommend the above.

A hardware-related article on Neowin!? How strange... Let me know if you want more like this in the future. All prices were correct as of December 2011.

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With my home server box (which is in the main living area) I use a variable speed fan controller unit.

If you set the fans going at a reasonable level that is constant, you quickly filter it out. If you've got a box where the fan speeds change frequently then it comes to your attention much more.

Can vouch for the Accelero GPU coolers. Have a S2 and it barely hums even while on load, although the fans spin at a constant RPM regardless of load conditions.

I too built a "Quiet" PC many years ago. I used fanless heatsinks, bought a fanless video card, and a PC case designed to let air "flow" naturally from bottom to top to keep it cool. Then I realised that I could STILL hear my DVD and HDD whirring and clicking away... so waste of efffort. Even in my current PC using the supposedly "loud" stock intel heatsinks, the loudest things in my PC are once again.. HDD and DVD drive's.

I replaced my stock CPU fan with a Zaleman Orb, my stock PSU with a fanless PSU, and I still need to get a quieter case fan, but I don't mind it so much anymore. A little extra heat for near 0 noise is well worth it in my book.

You want quiet? Build a water-cooled machine. It's AMAZING! I can shut off every fan in the box, and it still stays around 50C when fully maxed out running Prime95. Love it.

Fezmid said,
You want quiet? Build a water-cooled machine. It's AMAZING! I can shut off every fan in the box, and it still stays around 50C when fully maxed out running Prime95. Love it.

A water cooled system is one of the louder computer one can get. The water pump is horribly noisy.

Mouettus said,

A water cooled system is one of the louder computer one can get. The water pump is horribly noisy.


not if you coat your hardware with silicone and put it basically in a aquarium =D

Mouettus said,

A water cooled system is one of the louder computer one can get. The water pump is horribly noisy.

I wouldn't say so. I have a Corsair Hydro and it's completely silent with the exception of the fan on the radiator. And the radiator fan can easily be swapped out for a silent one. I agree that watercooling is the best way to minimize the case noise.

ROFL that 19db quoted for the CM R4 (sickle flow) is total Bull Sh@t you do realise that when a fan is factory tested for noise it's placed in open air nothing against the front or back to impede airflow or cause turbulence..... As soon as you put the fan in a case with an grill in front of it you can basically double the db rating of a fan so lets see that 19db magically becomes 38db.......

For this to be an credible review you should have performed before and after noise measurements and done a graph otherwise it's only a subjective point of view

Edited by Athlonite, Dec 17 2011, 1:18pm :

Athlonite said,
ROFL that 19db quoted for the CM R4 (sickle flow) is total ******** you do realise that when a fan is factory tested for noise it's placed in open air nothing against the front or back to impede airflow or cause turbulence..... As soon as you put the fan in a case with an grill in front of it you can basically double the db rating of a fan so lets see that 19db magically becomes 38db

I have one as an exhaust fan and it's very quiet, maybe slightly louder than 19 dBA but I would say it's close. The Antec TriCools are also quiet.

There is no way it would be 38 dBA, that would be almost 4 times louder.

Athlonite said,
ROFL that 19db quoted for the CM R4 (sickle flow) is total Bull Sh@t you do realise that when a fan is factory tested for noise it's placed in open air nothing against the front or back to impede airflow or cause turbulence..... As soon as you put the fan in a case with an grill in front of it you can basically double the db rating of a fan so lets see that 19db magically becomes 38db.......

For this to be an credible review you should have performed before and after noise measurements and done a graph otherwise it's only a subjective point of view


every 5db the volume doubles.

Shadowzz said,

every 5db the volume doubles.

what I was trying to say is never rely on manufacturers measurements because once you install the fan in a case they sound louder than when out in the open

and 38db is still less than quiet talking

The noise of my desktop only bothers me if its louder than something else. Ie; Television, Music e.t.c

IF i am sat wanting some quiet, i dont really notice it.

Or - a better idea, reduce CPU speeds via speedstep or the ACPI controller options, less speed (that most people probably aren't using anyway), less heat, less cooling, less noise.

And I don't see why people bitch about the noise of fans from normal PCs? I've got a dell poweredge 2950 behind me running 24/7 and it's much louder, and sometimes the fans speed up to make a noise which I can only describe as the sound from a jet engine.

Now THAT is annoying.

Not sure what you are using for fans (or was using), but I have four fans in my PC and just like my iMac 24 they are very quiet.

Pam14160 said,
Not sure what you are using for fans (or was using), but I have four fans in my PC and just like my iMac 24 they are very quiet.

Well for starters the stock Intel coolers are awful in terms of noise

Pam14160 said,
Not sure what you are using for fans (or was using), but I have four fans in my PC and just like my iMac 24 they are very quiet.

Exactly. I never get why noise is such an issue for some people. I have like six fans in my PC (dual GPUs, PSU, stock processor fan and casing) and i never notice any background noise. But given my 5.1 will drown out even an explosion outside my room, I guess I'm not surprised

Pam14160 said,
Not sure what you are using for fans (or was using), but I have four fans in my PC and just like my iMac 24 they are very quiet.

Think some people are just more sensitive to noise, when I'm at my friends the noise from him PC drives me insane when we are trying to watch a movie but he can't hear a thing.

gzAsher said,

Exactly. I never get why noise is such an issue for some people. I have like six fans in my PC (dual GPUs, PSU, stock processor fan and casing) and i never notice any background noise. But given my 5.1 will drown out even an explosion outside my room, I guess I'm not surprised

i dont get it either, especially here on a techie website. i can understand it from the 'normals' to want a silent computer. i for one find it a bit nostalgic to hear the computer, i also miss the (horrible) sound of those pre-pentium era harddrives.
wouldnt want to not hear my computer at all, only if its very silent i hear my harddrives and i already barely hear my fans.

gzAsher said,

Exactly. I never get why noise is such an issue for some people. I have like six fans in my PC (dual GPUs, PSU, stock processor fan and casing) and i never notice any background noise. But given my 5.1 will drown out even an explosion outside my room, I guess I'm not surprised

I have too Z-5500. The problem is not while gaming or watching movies. The only time that frustrates me is when I'm just browsing/reading late at night. At least I've SSD and thus, I avoid the noise of my secondary WD Black.

Shadowzz said,

i dont get it either, especially here on a techie website. i can understand it from the 'normals' to want a silent computer. i for one find it a bit nostalgic to hear the computer, i also miss the (horrible) sound of those pre-pentium era harddrives.
wouldnt want to not hear my computer at all, only if its very silent i hear my harddrives and i already barely hear my fans.

So because people visit a tech website they want their computers to sound like a space shuttle is preparing for takeoff? Flawless logic.

Shadowzz said,

i dont get it either, especially here on a techie website. i can understand it from the 'normals' to want a silent computer [...]

I suspect it is safe to assume you are not familiar with any of the "techie" sites/blogs/forums dedicated to silent computing.

There's not much to get-it's personal preference. Some people prefer a computer's operation to be inaudible, be it HTPC, desktop pc, or laptop.