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PC fan noise... Are you drowning too?

I am interested in hearing about other peoples fan noise experiences.



7:08 pm on Aug 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Recently, I purchased one of those brand new Dell Dimension XPS boxes with all the bells and whistles (3GHz processor, Radeon 9800Pro card etc.)

Performance - no complaints. The noise required to cool such performace? Mind numbing! The 5 cooling fans in this box, which is designed for home / office use, can only be compaired to sitting next to a raised floor server rack, or more plainly, an upright vacuume cleaner or hair dryer. It is quite apparent I will NEVER get "accustomed" to this constant noise floor, and my productivity has plummeted since purchasing this box. If noise is the penalty for performance, I'm beginning to wonder if my ol' Pentium 3 wasn't such a bad box after all.

I could understand having such noise while blowing through Grand Thief Auto Vice City or something like that, due to the processing power required. But the unbelievable noise also exists while sitting there trying to concentrate on wording of a business proposal in a word processor, or writing HTML code. How could the processor POSSIBLY need that much cooling to place letters on the screen and move the mouse cursor around! To get an idea of what I mean, turn the vacuum cleaner on, place it next to your desk, and watch your concentration flatline right before your eyes.

I can't be the only one in such a situation. Dell's discussion boards are FILLED with such complaints. Is this one of the new issues computer users will have face in the future?

[edited by: visca at 7:17 pm (utc) on Aug. 20, 2003]


7:16 pm on Aug 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I had the unfortunate expeience of dealing with the same issue with the MAC G4 "leaf blower". Apple issued a new power supply that helped a little bit, but it is way beyond "nice user experience" levels.

Fortunately for you, you probably have a stock PC chassis, I would try the overclocking sites, those guys have a lot of experience in cooling machines with a lot of goodies inside and seem to know some silencer tricks, it may be a matter of replacing some fans on the inside or you could even go so far as to go liquid cooled (silent).


7:29 pm on Aug 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Yes, you are right, the overclockers would definiltey have more of a grasp on this aspect of the computer.

My issue with that, however, is that we put up thousands and thousands of dollars for these top end OEM systems, so that someone else can research the right equipment, assemble, and test it. Only to find out in the end, that we need to go out and research how to correct their cooling system with aftermarket equipment that we then need to install ourselves and pay for, ourselves. Really defeats the purpose. They are sending me a replacement computer that supposedly will be more quiet - should be interesting to see what happens.


7:32 pm on Aug 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

You could always try some sound dampening material inside the case.

Only takes a few minutes to install and should help immensely.


7:36 pm on Aug 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

> They are sending me a replacement computer

Wow! All we got from apple was a DIY power supply replacement. Of course, when the class action hearing loss suit goes live maybe I'll get one of them new G5's. ;)


7:42 pm on Aug 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Sound deadening inside the case might help a bit if the problem is coming from a completely internal fan, like a CPU fan. It won't help much with exhaust fans mounted on the case.

Bigger, slower fans might reduce the sound levels and provide equivalent ventilation, but you are probably talking major case surgery.

Putting the entire box behind a barrier with sound deadening material might help, but be careful not to enclose it so much that it overheats.


7:49 pm on Aug 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Man, what an issue!
My first PC was terribly loud. Took me two years to realize that I had a faulty cooling fan and that it had been slowly burning out all that time. Oops!
My second one had similar noise issues-- something was loose and vibrating inside the case on and off the whole time I had it.

Now I have an iMac and while it's not real powerful, it's almost absolutely silent. I can't tell if it's on without poking it.

I feel so flaky and lightweight now... but it's nice not to have the fan be so loud.
'Cept now I can hear all the other noises in my neighborhood...


7:55 pm on Aug 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator mack is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

I once had the problem of noise from the case. I used a product designer for sound proofing car floor pans. It was a spray that you applied to the inside of the case cover. To be honest I wouldent recoment using this on a nice new computer, but for older systems it seams to work well.



7:56 pm on Aug 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

This guy took sound deadening to an extreme:


And, sorry to report, it was still TOO LOUD.


8:45 pm on Aug 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

That computer-in-a-cardboard-box is the saddest thing I've seen all day.

I've got a roll of some acoustic damping material called Dynamat that you put in door panels etc in your car to improve the sound from your stereo - it reduces resonance. Some people line their entire cars with it so they can use monster bass speakers without shaking the car apart.

I'm thinking of sticking a load of this into my computer - the noise is drivin' me crazee - but I'm a bit worried that it'll act as a thermal insulator as well and increase the temperature in the case, leading to me having to fit more fans which'll make more noise...


9:16 pm on Aug 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member henry0 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

I do built mine
it has the same kind of performance as yours
in my Home-office I do not have AC
During hot Summer days I can read in the office around of 80 to 82
so my box do benefit from great fans, 5 together
usually I work with 2 or 3 machines on, the other are 3 years old Micron PC

the home built is about only 30% louder than Micron

but the level of noise you are experiencing is somehow unjustified, if you can do it yourself try an overclocker forum and pock around
or, bring it to a good shop and have a good tech experimenting with new fans
many forums provide that kind of info
I have one in mind
email me if you want the URL


9:25 pm on Aug 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Dell puts the cheapest fan(s) they can get away with in their PCs - buy better fans and you'll shave off many dBs - or just watercool it.



11:16 pm on Aug 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

How about mouse/keyboard extention cords? Put that puppy in another room.


2:02 am on Aug 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I have mine under my desk at home, with some sound proofing around it. Cuts out at least 50% of the noise (theres still some breathing gaps around the back) and didnt cost me a thing. Although I must admit, I am going to buy a quieter fans when I upgrade soon.

So in answer to your question, yes, the fan noise annoys me too


5:53 am on Aug 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

There is a product from.. Quiet pc .com ...i think
They have a great system that uses an adjustable fan and a large copper heat sink that looks like a flower.
I brought one here in new zealand through another company with great results... the PC i had was giving me migrains and this sorted it out real good
hope it helps


11:22 am on Aug 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

My favourite method to combat this particular problem is to play music at a louder volume than the fan. You can, in fact, dampen the fan noise even further by singing along at the top of your voice!


11:35 am on Aug 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

my old dell latitude laptop that made a terrible noise - just before the motherboard and hard drive failed - my new thinkpad's ok - or maybe i've just gone a bit deaf after the loud music to drown out the fan noise.


8:18 am on Aug 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I use the Loud Music technique in my car, to drown out the sound of mechanical failures.

If your exhaust pipe's dragging on the ground, just turn up the music and you can go for months without getting it fixed :)


8:37 am on Aug 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

small format XPC with liquid cooling.

you can hear a pin drop when the aircon does not sound like a airplane taking off.



9:16 am on Aug 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

visca For noise reduction in your Dell Dimension XPS you could try a Skorpion HSF with Vantec Stealth case fans. I haven't done a replacement myself but I put together a similar spec machine with these fans and although it is not silent :) the noise level is low. A friend has the Shuttle SN45G (best hardware he ever had he says) and I would estimate the fan noise to be about the same.


9:53 am on Aug 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

This is a serious issue. You may be aware of overusing PC's to the extent that your eyes start to get tired and blurry. But overtime you won't realise that loud PC's are damaging your ears.

Some PC's I've heared (new ones, such as the one you mention) would surely fail H&S tests. Ear plugs would be recommended if the same noise was being produced in a factory.

So what can you do to silent the PC?

1. Ditch the cheap fans.
To keep costs down manufacturers put in fans which cost pennies to make. At the top end you can buy Papst fans which cost about 15 / $20 each. Somewhere inbetween would be just fine such as silent(ish) YS-Tech fans. Note that there are many others - you just have to look at the amount of air it can push / the sound level, i.e. have the highest CFM per dB.

2. Mod the fans to run at a slower speed.
You can do this by "7v modding" the fan. This is a safe process where the negative black cable of the fan is cut and supplied by the 5v red cable effectively powering the fan with 7v (disclaimer: don't try this unless you know what you are doing. Read a full guide on how to do it). This method is the quickest and easiest and does result in a marked difference in noise due to the slower speed of the fan.

Buy a proper fanbay / baybus / rheostat. This is a panel which fits in a spare 5 1/4" bay and allows you to either control all the fans via variable knobs, or automatically like a digital thermostat. Devices cost about 20 / $30.

3. Use silent devices such as Zalman flowers.
These are novel looking devices for the processor, GFX, northbridge (main chips on the motherboard). Basically they are funny looking heatsinks with or without silent fans.

You can get GFX cards with silent Heat Pipes. Some system cases use this technology use it too.

4. Use hard disk silencers / coolers.
As with all moving parts (fans, PSU, disk) you can lower their ability to resonante vibrating noise around the case by mounting them with rubber washers or grommits. Some people have resorted to suspending the disks from rubber bands.

The whine from disks themselves can be quite annoying. Not the heads seeking, but the whine produced by 7,200 or 10,000 rpm platters. Modern disks (good quality ones) use dynamic fluid bearings which help. But again, some manufacturers use cheaper parts to make their profits. The only way to stop this noise is to either buy a new disk, or use a HD silencer / cooler. Never run a HD in some kind of padding without cooling as it will fail! Devices cost about 20 / $30 each.

5. Change the PSU.
The average PC will only have a fan on the CPU, the northbridge an 80 / 120mm Exhaust fan and a fan or two inside the PSU. Whilst the cooling for the PC would adequate and acceptable, the PSU fan may be the main source of noise. Again, cheap fans may be in use so you could either replace the fans inside them (I never recommend 7v modding a PSU), or just replace the whole PSU. Silent PSU's such as Antec or Enermax would cost anything from 30 - 70 / $40 - 100 depending on how much juice you need.

The big trade off with noise reduction is increases in temperature. Turn the fans down, and you may find your PC overheating. The CPU should be fine as it should have shutdown values in the BIOS (besides, if you reach those temperatures you have serious problems!), but the M/B and disks do not have the same safety nets and this is where problems could occur.

Even if you don't have noise problems you should always run programs such as Motherboard Monitor (MBM) or one I prefer is Speedfan.

Good temps for a well cooled system (fans full speed)

CPU 30-35 idle 35-40 load
M/B 20-25 idle 25-30 load
HD 30-40 idle 30-40 load

For a silent PC:

CPU 35-40 idle 45-55 load
M/B 25-30 idle 30-38 load
HD 30-40 idle 40-50 load

Obviously it's going to depend on your individual hardware. As long as the CPU doesn't go over 60', the M/B over 35', the disk over 50' you should be fine in the summer months without A/C.

But check the technical specs of each device from the manufacturers sites just to ensure you are not running out of spec.


10:04 am on Aug 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

This may sound daft or I may be incorrect but....

One electrical techy person told me once that the fan noise can be caused by wait for it

Too many electrical cables behind the tower!

How true that is I don't know but once I moved my PC and cleaned the wires in a nice manner with string and keeping them well away from the tower. Since then the noise stopped.

The sound only happend occassionally and was not caused by over use.

Taking the cover off and hovering the vents will also help.

Just my little thoughts :)


10:14 am on Aug 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Sure, the placement of cables can cause extra noise due to the air not having a clear path to flow.

This is why you can buy 'rounded' IDE cables. Flat ribbon cables are not easy to tuck out of the way whereas rounded cables can be re-routed and cable tied out of the way. The round cables offer less restriction to air movement too.

One other thing you can do is to mod the case to remove any swiss cheese grills for the front inlet fans. You have a front facia, and then the case chasis itself. The mounting point of the fan will have holes in it which restrict the air flow and cause noise. Using tin sheet cutters or a dremmel type device you can cut out a perfect circle where the fan blades spin to reduce noise.

Obviously you should only do this where there is something else in front of the fan to stop your toes getting trimmed. As stated, at the front of the case will be the plastic fascia so that is the safety guard.

You can do the same at the rear of the case but you will then need to install a chrome wire grill on the fan.


1:16 pm on Aug 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

And I thought it was just me that had a problem with PC fans :).

My PC is under my desk, which certainly makes a difference and reduces the noise (the box is on carpet which is better than a solid floor I think).

Lately I replaced the fans in the video card and then the mother board after the bearings in both started to wear out. If I could get to the power supply fan easily I would change that over too.


2:00 pm on Aug 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

From my experience reducing sound Frank Rizzo really summed up the effective options very well, a rheostat especially made my ears happy when I set it up. One other solution you may try disabling a fan or two, perhaps with the one or two sucking air into your case. 5 fans sounds like overkill, though the case may be so poorly designed in this repect it needs them, so keep an eye on the temperatures.


2:33 pm on Aug 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member digitalghost is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

I stopped noticing fan noise when I switched to using all water-cooled systems and started buying better fans. Water cooling allows you to efficiently cool your chips and your drives without the added consideration of more dust.

There's even a system for water-cooling the power supply. The conventional method of fan cooling for hot boxes requires an intake fan in the front of the box, a fan for the CPU, an exit fan and a power supply fan. I switched to no intake fans, a bank of three whisper quiet exit fans on top of the box and the power supply fan. All the fan speeds are adjusted through the BIOS to minimum settings. The CPU, memory sticks, chipsets and drives are all water cooled.

With no intake fans the dust reduction has been significant and dust contributes to heat retention. The colder, denser air is drawn through the vents and out through the top of the box, pushing out the hotter, less dense air. I'll never go back to air-cooling as the sole means to cool a PC.


6:24 pm on Aug 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I work for a UK company that specialises in performance PCs built with all the latest, cutting edge parts that make ovens all over the world feel like deep freezes; parts that have fans that make enough noise to give Boeing aircraft engine fans an inferiority complex.

However, we apply various mods to reduce that noise to almost zero. I sit in front of my PC sometimes and have to check the pilot light to see if it is indeed on.

I agree with some of what Frank_Rizzo says but with some reservations, especially on "safe" temperatures quoted. Papst and Zalman fans are reputable. Generally the larger the fan the lower the rpm required to move the same cft of air. Fanbays are available from Coolermaster Aeros to Thermaltake's integrated case controls. Fans that increase in speed to adjust automatically for temperature rises and falls are obviously preferable to some of the Enermax PSUs that have a manual fan speed control on the rear (who ever uses that?! Weird). But first KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING. General temperature thresholds of 60", 35" etc are dangerous. Learn what the tolerances are for each component in YOUR machine. If you can't find the information out play it safe and don't take chances.

Another tip not so far covered is reducing the volume of air in the PC. That reduces "residence time" for air that does enter and makes a minimum of 2-3" C difference. But please don't stuff newspapers in there! And you'd be surprised at how many people don't realise that the case cover is what's generating a large part of the noise. Screw it down properly or otherwise stop the vibrations.

Don't overlook the simple things. Heat rises and "output" fans towards the top of the tower case are better than ones lower down. Leaving a tower PC on it's side isn't the best move. YOU should plan & control ALL the air and air flow in your PC. If you leave a couple of PC slots without back plates air is coming in from an unplanned input thus affecting air-flow and making your fans work harder. Oh, and do put that case cover back on, that does help :-)

The Q**** PC site mentioned earlier has links to some excellent sites for more information on keeping your PC quiet.
Peace be with you :-)


3:02 am on Aug 23, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

The noise problem with my system seems to stem more from the actual volume of air movement rather than the actual fan mechanism its self. The fans, upon inspection and research resemble server fans rather than standard desktop fans. Component quality doesnt seem to be the problem. Placing my hand behind the box almost resembles a hair dryer on low setting, which is a considerable amount of air for a personal computer, and definitely the cause of the sound. The fans do not emmit any "bearing", "brushing", "buzzing" or "vibration".

Therefore, the previous recommendations to implement sound deadening material to the interior of the box, I think, would only have negative results. They are only to add mass to surfaces to decrease their ability to transmit sound, hence their effectiveness in decreasing road noise through the cabin floor of a car. Negative issues that could occur with "filler" or "matting" sound deadener if installed, could be i)undesirable increased insulation and retention of heat, ii)obstruction of air movement and iii)a decrease in internal volume. All of which will cause the interior of the computer to heat up even more, and make the fans work even harder.

The hard drives are some of the quietest in the industry and are literally inaudiable, so they too, are not contributing to the problem.

When the computer first comes on, it is literally silent, if the screensaver blanks the screen, you would literally think its off. But once its been on for 15-20 minutes, you can hear it steadily increase and wind up its fans. Even if its just sitting there idoling on the desktop. It really seems to me that the box's temperature sensors are somewhat sensitive and overwork the multitude of fans unessesarily - and that is the real cause of the problem. If it did this during strenuous 3D games, then wound down the fans after I was done the game, it would be fine. But what I do with the box has little impact on the pending fan extravaganza I get each time..... It has actually gotten to the point where I've had to go into the other room to do phone calls. <sigh>

... patiently waiting for replacement box.


4:27 am on Aug 23, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

One solution is to put the gear in another room and use WIN Remote Desktop. Works like a charm!

I've got one machine that is a screamer. Put that in an office with an air conditioner and my ability to think and or listen to a telephone conversation goes out the window.

I put it in the basement and use RDT. Much better.

One extreme option is to use what my musician friends use in their home studios.

I think the product is called an IsoBox and it is essentially a really nice sound proof enclosure for a PC made originally to eliminate PC drive and fan noise picked up by microphones during a recording session. Yes they have cooling fans and I think newer versions have a thermostat.

they look cool but mind you, they aren't cheap.


10:37 am on Aug 23, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

visca, are they sleeve fans or bearing fans.

Have you considered changing the fans themselves or tampering with/adjusting the sensors? (Not to be undertaken lightly of course)

This 36 message thread spans 2 pages: 36

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