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.