Quiet PC components: Hard drives
Hard drives are being slowly replaced by silent SSDs. It’s still early days so SSD prices remain comparatively high, but increasingly we’re seeing PCs that install the OS on a small SSD (something like the Crucial 64 GB M4 - £60) and then use a hard disk for mass storage. This makes Windows feel more responsive without adding too much cost.
Quiet PC components: Cases
Although cases have no moving parts, cheaply made examples can sometimes rattle. With the vibrations that spinning drives and fans create, this can become another sonic factor as the case adds its creaks to the chorus. A badly ventilated case can also cause the internal temperature to rise - thus requiring the dreaded fans to spin up to maximum speed.
To combat these factors, noise-reducing cases tend to employ higher-quality components in the construction, add weight to the base, and (in this age of laminate flooring) even include softer feet to reduce the transference of vibrations to the ground.
A good example of a reasonably priced quiet case is the Nexus Thrio 310 (£40). The insides are lined with noise-absorbing material, various bumpers stop rattles, and you can even mount the PSU upside down to expel the hot air straight out of the case.
For those with bigger budgets the NoFan CS-70 (£180), as the name suggests, is specially designed to eschew fans and instead promote natural convection cooling. The only snag is that it will accept only MicroATX motherboards - the less attractive CS-70 (£80) will take a full-size ATX board.
Quiet PC components: CPU coolers
When choosing a new cooler be aware that some require access to the underside of the motherboard, which is a far more involved job than those that attach to the top instead. Also be careful to select a model that matches the socket type of your CPU. Models range from the cheap and cheerful Siberian Quiet £7, which is designed for small chassis machines, up to the Nofan CR-95C Icepipe £945, which is completely fanless and can handle Ivy Bridge processors.
Quiet PC components: Graphics cards
Graphics cards do some serious work and therefore need plenty of cooling, which means noise. Manufacturers such as Gigabyte offer specific quiet models such as the GeForce GTX 660Ti Windforce for around £260. You don’t have to change your card, though, as there are several options of quieter fans you can use on your existing units.
Next page: power supplies, fan controllers and how to fit a fan controller