Secret Tweaks

Quiet PCs: Keep Your System Cool and Quiet

Chill Your CPU, Dude

Speed breeds heat. After you've tuned up your CPU, it's especially critical that you get as much heat away from the chip as possible, or you'll end up with a smelly blackened chunk of fried silicon. Most systems come with factory-approved heat sinks and fans suitable for running the chip at stock speeds, but such standard equipment may be inadequate for overclocking, and it's usually pretty loud. A new heat sink and fan can improve your CPU cooling while keeping your system quiet. Zalman's $50 CNPS7000B CPU cooler (Figure 9

Figure 9: Zalman's $50 CNPS7000B CPU cooler.
) works with many Athlon and P4 CPUs. And Thermaltake's $40 CL-P0092 heat-pipe cooling system for P4 chips looks as cool as it works.

Heat sinks and fans are fine for most people; but at many overclocking and PC modder sites, water-cooling kits (ranging in price from about $100 to $180) are all the rage. Liquid cooling worked for Cray's supercomputers, but in that case the entire machine was immersed in inert nonconductive liquid--not exactly a practical setup for home users. Most liquid-cooling systems for PCs circulate water across a heat pad atop the CPU and then pump and dump the heat outside. This method offers incredible cooling advantages for extremely overclocked CPUs, chip sets, and graphics cards. Make sure you have enough room in your case and around the CPU before you buy, however.

Juicier and Quieter

All of your enhanced CPU overclocking and PC tweaking can kill your power supply, as the souped-up parts try to suck more juice out of this obscure, little, wire-crammed box in the corner of your PC case. You need a power supply upgrade, and you need it now. What better way to complement your tricked-out PC than a cool and quiet new power supply with enough juice to keep every chip, drive, and light-emitting source humming along?

Power doesn't always have to be as noisy as the exhaust rattle from a modified Honda Civic. A handful of vendors now offer fanless supplies, such as the $170 Antec Phantom 350-watt model (Figure 10

Figure 10: Antec's 350-watt, $170 Phantom fanless power supply.
). These units sport beefed-up internal heat sinks that provide enough cooling for the power supply without requiring you to use a noisy fan.

Pad Your PC for Quieter Operation

Now that you've shushed your power supply, it's time to do the same to your PC. You can quit shouting over fan noise and speak in your "inside voice" if you replace a few key components. Temperature-sensing, speed-adjusting fans built into some current PC models make a nice first touch--try the $6 Thermaltake A1214 if your machine needs replacements. But vibrations from fan and especially disk-drive rotation may still be enough to make you run screaming from the room.

Those large, flat-panel areas on the sides of your case can act as sounding boards for any noise inside your system. Put your ears at ease by installing vibration-dampening pads (Figure 11

Figure 11: DampTek vibration-dampening pad.
) from DampTek ($50 for a pack of three) on the inside of those panels.

Subscribe to the Best of PCWorld Newsletter