The overwhelming joy and anticipation I felt when I was unpacking my new Dell Alienware Aurora R4 computer was tarnished by the surprise I got when I first booted it up. Although all six cores of the i7-3930K worked perfectly, the rig sounded like an A-380 on takeoff. This noise was seriously troubling given that my previous system was custom-built to provide blessed silence. There is a clear correlation between a computer’s noise level and productivity: The greater the noise, the less the productivity as the user is going to get fed up and leave the room. If you’ve been subjected to the clatterwheels of noisy PCs long enough there are steps you can take to restore peace and quiet.

Replacing fans is the best strategy

The very first aspect to consider when you want to tell your computer to finally shut the heck up is the fans. Computers generate heat and fans are used to dissipate that heat. Unfortunately there is no better way to push air through a box than a spinning wheel with blades and it is therefore physically impossible to render fans 100% silent. However, you can get close enough that the noise they create becomes effectively imperceptible. When you’re ready to implement your noise control strategy you should start by taking an inventory of all the fans in your system. Most desktop cases have four fans, one on the CPU cooler, a second in the case, usually mounted on a grill in the back, the third in the power supply (PSU), and a fourth on the discrete video card (GPU). The first two fans are usually very easily replaceable and inexpensive to boot (if you’ll excuse the pun). Although there are many scores of fans out there in the catalogs of the tech etailers which claim to be silent, extensive tests have shown that the best ones are:

  • Nexus Basic
  • Noiseblocker NB-BlackSilent and NB-Multiframe
  • Scythe Gentle Typhoon and S-FLEX
  • Thermalright TR-FDB

Each of these fans retail for anywhere between $15-$25 and all are equally proficient in lowering the decibel level of even the most cacophonous PC. Replacing these fans is literally child’s play, just unplug your PC, wait five minutes, attach your static wrist strap to a ground, pop the side cover, and you’ll find that most fans are attached by four easy to remove screws. The replacements should fit right in and then you’re ready to reverse the process and boot up your much quieter desktop.

Fanless PSUs are 100% silent

If you’re really serious about noise reduction you have to replace your entire PSU with a silent fan-free model. My previous system had a Seasonic X-650 which is a midrange fanless PSU and after nearly two years of use, I have nothing but great things to say about it. It’s completely silent as it has no moving parts, and as long as your case has sufficient openings to the outside, the X-650 is going to stay cool, effective, and 100% quiet. Yes, if you’re extremely adventurous you can open up a conventional PSU and replace its fan but you’re voiding the warranty and running the chance of blowing up the PSU and your computer along with it.

Go fanless in GPUs

When it comes to the GPU your options are even more limited. It is not generally feasible to replace the fan which came with the video card, so you really have no choice but to replace the entire unit with a fanless model. In my super-silent former system the Gigabyte AMD Radeon HD-6770 Fanless was a perfect selection as again with no spinning parts it did its job admirably and I never saw its core temperature rise above 55C. Don’t fall into the trap of overbuying your GPU to get the fastest available. Unless you’re a rabid gamer who lives and dies by getting an extra FPS or two in Skyrim or Crysis the HD-6770 is more than capable enough to take care of any video processing task an average user will throw at it.

Don’t put up with excess noise, quiet your desktop computer today. You’ll love the serene aural tranquility!