Quietening your PC


Too loud!

How loud is your PC? Does it run with a barely audible whisper or does it sound like a jet fighter taking off? In order to keep prices down, many manufacturers use cheaper components, not geared for quiet operation. One of the biggest issues for PCs is getting rid of the heat that the internal components produce. The major culprits are the processor, power supply, graphics card and hard drive. It is the process of removing the heat these components generate, by use of spinning fans, that causes the most noise. The first issue is to discover if the noise is the result of normal operation or if there is something else at fault.

Dirty CPU fan

Clogged processor fan

Cooling the Processor

If you could remove the safety systems designed to prevent such things,  a modern processor would burn itself out very quickly if not fitted with a cooling device. This is due to the massive amounts of heat it generates as it executes millions of instructions per second. The cooling device is a combination of a heat-sink to draw the heat away from the processor, and a fan which blows cooler air over the heat-sink. The heat sink has lots of fins which greatly increase its surface area. The fins allow the drawing away of heat as the fan forces cooler air across them. Over time, however, dust gets inside the computer and eventually finds its way into the fins. The buildup starts to restrict airflow and prevents proper cooling. In the case that your processor cooler looks like the one above, a can of compressed air, available from hobbyist shops, can be used to blast the dust out (- take care not to damage the fan – hold it still while doing so). This will improve cooling efficiency and reduce noise through not needing the fan to spin up so much.

Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro

Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro

The coolers that come with retail processors  are designed to remove heat but little attention is paid to the noise level when in operation. For quietness we need to look at the after-market. Arctic Cooling is one of the big names in after-market processor cooling. For a modest amount, the Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro can reduce the running temperature of your processor and do so more quietly than the stock system. This is because it has a much larger heat-sink which allows the heat to dissipate more efficiently. Its 92mm fan can move much more air at a lower RPM and so reduce the speed the fan needs to turn at to keep the processor cool.

Installing and removing coolers is by means of push-pins. To remove the stock cooler, turn all four pins anti-clockwise and pull up. Once the pins are disengaged from the motherboard pull up gently on the heat-sink, gently wiggling it if necessary. The old thermal paste can be removed with a paper towel.

CPU with thermal paste

CPU with thermal paste

Some coolers come with thermal paste pre-applied. If not, you will need to buy a syringe of thermal paste and apply a pea-sized amount to the clean processor before installing the new cooler. Installation can be a tricky proposition as the size and shape of the heat-sink may make push-pin insertion and locking awkward. Remember, pushing and pulling the handle inserts and removes the pin which expands the locking mechanism, turning the handle locks the pin into whichever position it’s in. The trick is to use the frame of the heat-sink to push the locking mechanism into the holes on the motherboard and only then inserting the pins and locking them. The problem that occurs when using the pin handles to push the locking mechanism into place is that it expands and will not fit through the hole.

CPU Cooler Push Pin

CPU Cooler Push Pin

Once you have the new cooler is fitted and the power cable connected it’s time for testing. I use Real Temp and Prime95 (use “Setup Instructions for New Users”) to put the processor under stress and monitor the processor temperatures. If the PC runs for an hour without complaint, congratulations, the hardest part of quietening your PC is over.

In the next post I will be looking at tackling the power supply, hard drive and graphics card.

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