Tips on building a modern *silent* desktop PC?

Tips on building a modern *silent* desktop PC?

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For many years I’ve been a happy user of completely silent desktop PCs at home. I hate noise from the fans and spinning rust aka HDDs. In fact, I think it’s a shame that most desktop computers still have mechanically moving parts. I guess the majority of users don’t care much about the noise, hence insufficient demand and lack of pressure on OEMs and manufacturers to build silent PCs. Sad, sad, sad.

Anyway, I’ve previously used Deltatronic GmbH in Germany (http://www.deltatronic.de/en) and they’re pretty good. Check out their tech at http://www.deltatronic.de/en/technology. Fanless power supplies from massive solid metal, high quality CPU heatpipes, graphic cards with passive cooling, special casing for HDDs (now a moot point – viva SSDs!) – a dream come true (well, at least for me).

The last machine I ordered from them (the one I’m using right now at home to write this blog) is from 2006, and from this date alone you can probably deduce that:

  • their boxes are quite reliable,
  • with their pricing I can’t afford upgrading all too often, and
  • I do really need a modern box (this one is a dual CPU @ 2 GHz, 2 GB RAM, 4.9 Windows Experience Index). I mean it’s been perfectly OK for checking e-mail from home, remoting into work, web browsing, and I totally love the fact that I can’t even tell whether it’s on or not by listening alone. It’s just showing it’s age.

Unfortunately at work we don’t get silent machines, but the HPs and Dells we’re getting have been pretty quiet as a rule, and so I was forced to get used to them. However at home it’s pretty quiet and I really wouldn’t want to introduce fan noise to spoil the idyll...

And now we finally come to the point of this blog post: I’ve looked at Deltatronic’s website and the prices for a modern i7 box are... a little steep (€1980 plus I’m guessing shipping it to the States won’t be free either). I’m used to paying this much for the quality and satisfaction I’m getting, but I really haven’t looked around and done any research for the past five years. I’m hopelessly out-of-date. Has there been any progress? Has anyone built or investigated recent silent configurations? Are there good reliable manufacturers in the US that I could try out? Or nobody cares about the amount of noise their machines make?

Any experience reports or advice from you, dear readers, will be greatly appreciated!

  • Dear Kirill,

    This is something that really annoys me too.

    I can't tell you about any desktop PC but let me tell you about my Mac Mini mid-2010 (I use Parallels Desktop 7 to work on Windows 8, Visual Studio 2012, etc...) and it's 1 meter away just beside me and I can't hear the fan. Apple is amazing in this point... I've used PCs and the fans were like a jet turbine. :D Sometimes I can hear the mechanical HDD on the mini (during intensive load) but it barely annoys me. Today you can get the newest model with SSD and it surely won't make any noise. This is paradise while working.

    Hope you get good PC tips.

    Leniel

  • Thanks! Jason just pointed me to http://www.silentpcreview.com - going to go study this one

  • I share your pain, Kirill & Leniel.  While my circa 2008 Lenovo laptop started out quiet, unless I blow it out every couple of weeks with 'canned air', it gets loud.  I've noticed in my corporate servitude that corporations never vacuum or filter their air at the HEPA level, much less regularly clean their computers, so they get louder and louder by the day.  Maybe they don't change the oil in their cars, either.

    Robert

    Lasting peace and happiness for *ALL* human beings.

  • Why not going for a laptop then?

    I bet the premium comparing to high-end silent PC is minimal, if not negative. And you can take it away if needs be.

  • Or you could get one of those fancy new iMacs (super thin, as a plus) and boot camp it into windows. The monitors on the iMacs are unbelievable.

  • Would you be willing to build one yourself? I assembled a PC several weeks ago, and it runs extremely quietly -- basically you have to have your ear up to the case to hear it.

    I have a Fractal R4 case (comes with dampening material on the sides), a SeaSonic x650 PSU (hybrid/fanless mode), and 3 'silent' 140mm case fans. The rest of the components are standard (stock CPU and GPU heatsinks, etc.) I am pretty happy with the build, since I was particularly looking for a silent computer; and it cost WAY less than ~2000 Euros (closer to $1000).

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