We demonstrate how to upgrade a PC for super-silent, energy-efficient, ice-cool performance.
To get a silent-running system, seek out peripherals and components specifically designed for the task – some are made to run silently, while others are built for energy efficiency. The latter tend to run quietly too, as they draw less power.
Zotac’s Eco Edition cards are a good example. Overclockers sells the GeForce GTS 250 with 1GB of memory for £107. Importantly, this particularly card won’t place a massive draw on power. Zotac lowers some of the clock speeds on the card without reducing performance. It draws a lot of power from the PCI Express slot, so it only needs one connector to power up. The card is also much smaller than most graphics cards, so it won’t take up other PCI Express slots on the motherboard.
The result is a quieter, energy-efficient card that’s still capable of most tasks you can throw at it.
If the 1GB Zotac Eco Edition isn’t as powerful as you’d like, Overclockers stocks other cards in the same range that may fit the bill.
If you’re not satisfied with only upgrading the essentials, there are several other alterations you can try.
Solid-state drives (SSDs) have no moving parts, thus generating less heat and noise than traditional hard-disk drives. They are expensive, however. Read reviews of the latest SSDs.
A quiet but less pricey alternative is Samsung’s F Series ECO Green Ultra-Quiet range. These traditional hard drives are fitted with NoiseGard technology, making them incredibly quiet in operation. Prices start at £37 for a 500GB drive at QuietPC.
The PC case itself can be a significant source of rattle and hum. A noisy case could nullify your internal silencing efforts. The £135 Nexus Edge Full Tower PC Case has foam-based noise-absorption side panels, while the PSU sits on soft rubber pads to muffle resonance and vibration. Included in the case are three 14cm Real Silent fans. UK stockists include Special Tech, Scan Computers and Quiet PC.
Graphics card cooler
If you want to use a more powerful graphics card, a graphics card cooler will keep the noise police at bay. Modern cards are noisy because the small fan has to spin at an obscene rate to keep the card cool.
We recommend Arctic Cooling’s Accelero Twin Turbo Pro (£25 inc VAT). Its fans improve airflow and reduce noise.
Test your CPU temperature
Once you’ve added energy-efficient components to your computer, you’ll want to check on how cool the processor is running. You can do this by consulting the Bios. This is the first thing to boot up when you switch on the machine.
The Bios has a limited set of instructions to tell your operating system how to boot up. It also offers a set of monitoring tools that provide simple diagnostics on your hardware, including temperature readings from your processor.
Look for the ‘splash screen’ before Windows loads that tells you to press a Function key to enter the Bios – this is usually Esc, F10 or F12, but it varies from PC to PC. Likewise, the Bios used by PC vendors differs, but all will have an option to read your CPU temperature and make voltage changes that can reduce heat.
However, be warned that the Bios is not to be trifled with – it’s quite possible to kill your machine with a few simple settings alterations. We recommend carefully adjusting the temperature settings and managing heat using an excellent diagnostics tool called SpeedFan.
This program works on most Windows configurations and reads your most important system component’s temperatures, including the graphics card, the processor and the internal system temperature and core heat. SpeedFan also gives you total control over fan speeds and voltages, so you can optimise your kit for cool running.
SpeedFan can run in the Taskbar, providing an instant readout of important temperatures.
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