Sounds of Silencers Are Loud and Clear: PCs Are Too Noisy

Discussion in 'HP' started by MrPepper11, Jun 2, 2005.

  1. MrPepper11

    MrPepper11 Guest

    June 2, 2005
    Sounds of Silencers Are Loud and Clear: PCs Are Too Noisy
    Hobbyists Hear a Whisper And Improvise a Damper; A Computer Oil Bath
    Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

    Carl Bohne has a half-dozen computers in his St. Louis home, in various
    stages of disassembly. He's hard at work putting together a shrunk-down
    machine the size of a toaster.

    Mr. Bohne isn't trying to soup up computers for added power. He wants
    to quiet them down. Bothered by a noisy PC a few years ago, he took it
    apart to figure out what was causing the clamor.

    Now, building quiet machines is his chief hobby. His computers are
    packed with foam insulation, noise-damping filters and custom-sculpted
    hunks of copper that divert heat from the microcircuitry so the
    built-in fans won't have to work so hard.

    Long an afterthought in the performance-obsessed world of technology,
    computer hum is topic A for a growing "quiet computing" movement.
    Although the noise from a standard desktop registers only about 30 to
    35 decibels -- roughly the level of a whisper -- for some, it is a
    cacophony that must be muffled.

    "When I go visit other people, it drives me nuts," says Isaac Kuo, a
    computer programmer in Baton Rouge, La. "I can always tell where the
    computer is unless it is turned off." But he keeps it to himself. "I've
    long since discovered not to even bring it up with any friends, because
    they just don't care," he says.

    Tomas Risberg, a Stockholm neurologist, calls computer noise "a freedom
    issue." Why "should I have to listen to something I don't want to
    listen to?" demands Dr. Risberg, who helped persuade the Swedish
    government to adopt computer-noise standards.

    Quiet computing isn't just being practiced on the fringes. More
    mainstream manufacturers are seeing value in quieter PCs. Some of
    Lenovo Group Ltd.'s new IBM-brand desktops have a cooling system
    engineered to reduce noise. Apple Computer Inc. markets its new Mac
    mini as "whisper-quiet." Dell Inc. maintains several acoustics labs
    with echo-free test chambers, in part to ensure that its machines meet
    the various noise guidelines employed in Sweden and around Europe.

    Designers say noise is becoming more of an issue as PCs rev up and push
    their way into the living room to play digital music, video and games.
    A computer's mechanical parts -- including cooling fans and spinning
    disk-drives -- generally work harder as a PC takes on more tasks. And
    noise barely noticed amid the buzz of the workplace can be less welcome
    at home.

    The sounds the silencers are trying to vanquish can be very small. A
    fast, loud gaming PC can hit some 55 decibels, measured from three feet
    away -- about equivalent to the background noise in a mall. Nirvana for
    silencers generally comes below 20 decibels, which is a sound all but
    inaudible, even close by.

    Mr. Bohne, who makes his living as an auto mechanic, ekes out the most
    cooling from the fewest fans by cramming the insides of his PCs with a
    carefully engineered system of ducts that direct cool air to hot spots.
    He uses whatever is handy -- a plastic cookie jar, a clothes-dryer
    exhaust hose -- and picks up bits and pieces at the hardware store.

    Serious silencers post pictures and swap tips on sites such as
    SilentPCReview.com1. One popular tweak described on the site:
    suspending disk drives on a hammock made of elastic bands to reduce
    vibrations transferred to the computer's shell.

    For insulation, silencers buy up sheets of Sorbothane, an elastic
    polyurethane valued for its damping properties that is used in the
    insoles of sneakers and in shotgun recoil pads. They also turn to a
    cottage industry of online retailers selling special, quieting parts,
    including flower-shaped copper "heatsinks" (about $45) that draw heat
    away from a chip more efficiently than the aluminum that comes standard
    in many PCs. founder Mike Chin, a music lover who plays piano and
    guitar, has set up a studio in a converted kitchen of his Vancouver,
    British Columbia, home. Equipped with a digital microphone and a
    sensitive sound meter, he records computers and parts in action, then
    posts the recordings to the site, where the discriminating audiophile
    can evaluate their "sound signature" for various annoyance factors.

    Mr. Chin, who sometimes consults with companies, says the worst
    emanations are the "pure tones" -- or whines and hums that come from
    spinning parts or vibrating metal. Also bad are repetitive clicks from
    a shoddy fan. Less objectionable is the gentle whoosh, which tends to
    fade into the background. "It's the sound of trees, it's the sound of
    waves," Mr. Chin says.

    Michael Campbell, an engineer in Plano, Texas, said he turned to a
    quiet PC after suffering with a Hewlett-Packard Co. Pavilion model
    "just a little bit quieter than this side of a jet engine."

    Ameer Karim, an H-P executive, says the Pavilion machines have gotten
    quieter in recent years, and he says that H-P's internal acoustic
    testing shows that its machines are "equal to or, in most cases, better
    than our competitors."

    Mr. Campbell replaced the PC with an $1,800 custom quiet model from, a small Web retailer, about 18 months ago. Mr. Campbell
    says it was "worth every penny. ...You don't really know that it is
    running unless you look at the power light."

    Jon Schoenborn,'s general manager, says interest in
    quiet computing is picking up rapidly. His offerings include such items
    as a 70-pound, $1,200 computer case dubbed the "TNN," for "Totally No
    Noise." It dissipates heat, entirely without fans, by transferring it
    over copper pipes to the box's thick metal walls. The price is for the
    case alone, with no computer inside.

    Russ Kinder, an architect in Grand Rapids, Mich., turned to a more
    radical approach: computer submersion. After setting up a PC that had
    to run day and night, he didn't want any nocturnal buzzing. So, he
    says, he plunged the computer into an acrylic tank filled with mineral

    Other liquids, like tap water, would conduct electricity and fry the
    circuitry. But oil is nonconductive. Mr. Kinder says it worked fine as
    a muffler, so long as he topped off the oil occasionally to replace
    what had evaporated. He admits the oil gummed up his hard drive until
    he figured out a way to detach it from the rest of the computer and
    suspend it above the tank.

    Mr. Kuo first became concerned about noise when he hooked up a computer
    to his living-room TV set in order to watch digital movies on the big
    screen. Doing so required a faster graphics card, which came with a
    noisy fan. "It just got to be too much," he said. Whenever the movie
    got quieter, "instead of hearing quietness, you heard buzzing-buzzing
    like someone operating a power tool in the next room."

    Several modifications later -- which included replacing a few parts and
    engineering an air duct out of an empty plastic snack cup, sliced in
    half -- the setup was quiet enough to be drowned out by the ticking of
    his wall clock.

    "My wife, she thought it was perfectly fine," Mr. Kuo said. But he was
    still bugged. "This is what happens when you start getting into quiet
    computing. Your standards for how loud is too loud...get lower and
    MrPepper11, Jun 2, 2005
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  2. MrPepper11

    Monica Guest

    I know what's causing the irritating noise in my new computer :( It's the
    old WD backup hdd I installed. That's why I was hoping that disabling the
    drive would cause it to stop didn't. Enabling the drive and
    choosing to turn off HDD after (x mins/hours) powers it down and things are
    nice and quite again till I (or something seemingly unrelated) activates it
    Monica, Jun 2, 2005
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  3. MrPepper11

    Larry Bud Guest

    Now, building quiet machines is his chief hobby. His computers are
    What a waste. All one needs to do is 1) get a less noisy fan (mine is
    whisper quiet), and/or 2) just put the thing inside a compartment in
    the desk.
    Yeah, more nanny government at work. Now the price is probably $20
    higher because of all the insulation.

    This guy should have lived in my house when I had my tropical fish tank
    going. It was like I lived next to Niagra Falls :)
    Larry Bud, Jun 2, 2005
  4. MrPepper11

    Shawn Hearn Guest

    Sounds like a fun hobby, but those who want a dead quiet machine without
    going to such trouble should consider Apple's Mac mini. That machine is
    nearly completely silent, half the size of a typical toaster, and it
    does not come with all the baggage that Windows PCs have. See for information on the Mac mini.
    Shawn Hearn, Jun 2, 2005
  5. MrPepper11

    Rod Speed Guest

    Easy to do with a Win PC.
    Mindless one eyed bigotry.
    Rod Speed, Jun 2, 2005
  6. MrPepper11

    Talkin Horse Guest

    The Dell desktops of recent years have been quite quiet. Before that, I used
    to go to extraordinary efforts to control PC noise pollution, but that
    hasn't been necessary for the current and recent Dells.
    Talkin Horse, Jun 3, 2005
  7. The DELL Dimension 3000 with 2.66GHz Celeron is really quiet. Just a
    whisper. I bought a 2.8GHz P4 for a client and it was annoyingly louder. I
    suppose the moral of this story is pay a little more and get a lot more
    noise for your money.

    I sell these systems based on how quiet they are. The customers really
    appreciate the silence. I just hope that DELL don't run out of the Celeron
    Jonathan Eales, Jun 3, 2005
  8. Like Popeye or Willy the One-Eyed Wonder Worm?
    Sparky Spartacus, Jun 3, 2005
  9. MrPepper11

    timeOday Guest

    If you have a power-hungry computer (one that is likely to be loud in
    the first place), placing it in an enclosure will make it crash in no
    time. They need good ventilation.
    I wouldn't agree with regulating the noise, but I would agree with
    requiring manufacturers to include max noise and power requirements in
    their advertising.

    Noise is part of the reason I've switched over to just using a laptop
    (with a docking station)... a laptop with good battery life is likely to
    be quiet.
    timeOday, Jun 3, 2005
  10. MrPepper11

    sunny Guest

    One out of ten was unreasonably loud: 10% quality problem??
    sunny, Jun 3, 2005
  11. MrPepper11

    Ben Myers Guest

    Dell and IBM take extra steps to make their modern desktop computers run more
    quietly. Both use rubber grommets to attach external fans to the computer
    chassis. The rubber absorbs vibration, deadening the sound of the fan. IBM has
    thermostatic controls on its motherboards to shut down cooling fans when the
    temperature is low. I've installed both for clients, and several clients are
    amazed at how quiet an IBM desktop is, right on the desk in front of them.
    Estimated manufacturing cost for doing it this way? Probably less than a dollar
    for parts and extra labor to assemble the system... Ben Myers
    Ben Myers, Jun 4, 2005
  12. MrPepper11

    TekWiz Guest

    Yeah, those Dells are really great quality, what can I tell ya. Dell
    was rated l3.83 of 10 in the past 6 months while Monarch Computer was
    rated 9.35 of 10 at

    The reason why the Dells are so QUIET is because they don't have a fan
    on the HD and mount the HD often vertically inside a sealed metal cage
    which reduces noise. The HD is the most critical part of a
    computer--that's where your data is. Everything else is
    replaceable--not your data. So Dells often have early drive failures
    due to the HD running very hot. So hot sometimes that it will burn
    your finger. Usually the HD fails right after the warrantee.

    They also skimp on everything--like putting IDE cables with only 1
    connector to save a penny, and using 40 conductor vs. 80 on the CD
    drives. Often there is no room to mount a second HD either, in case
    you need to rescue your failing HD.

    They also use the smallest power supplies--JUST enough to power the
    computer. Yeah, save every penny.

    Dell hasn't changed their case design in years. Why bother, the have a
    popular name.

    Monarch computer is like the Rolls Royce of computers--they use the
    best components and they are based in the U.S. Not like Dell tech
    support in India, where they don't even understand what you are saying
    to them...

    DELL - 3.83 Rating

    6.14 Pricing of Products and Services
    2.98 Likelihood of Future Purchases
    4.70 Shipping and Packaging
    1.76 Customer Service
    3.41 Return or Replacement

    MONARCH COMPUTER - 9.35 Rating
    7.98 Pricing of Products and Services
    8.40 Likelihood of Future Purchases
    8.68 Shipping and Packaging
    8.47 Customer Service
    7.73 Return or Replacement
    TekWiz, Jun 5, 2005
  13. MrPepper11

    Tom Scales Guest

    You are aware that virtually every thing you said in this post is wrong?
    The drive is vertical only on their very entry level Dimension 2400/3000.
    On the 8400, it is horizontal. Virtually no name-brand machine has a hard
    drive fan. My Dell's have been running for years without a failure of the
    stock hard drive. They all came with 80-wire cables on both the CD drive
    and the hard drives with two connectors on each cable. The only exception is
    the 2400, which only allows for one hard drive, so what would you do with
    the extra connector. But at $349 delivered, I didn't expect a lot.

    Oh, and the power supplies are very conservatively rated. Most vendors
    advertise peak/burst capacity. Dell advertises sustained -- therefore a
    lower number. Who cares if they change the case -- this case works.

    Did Dell fire you? Is that your problem? or is it just that you work for

    I can't stand liars.


    Tom Scales, Jun 5, 2005
  14. MrPepper11

    TekWiz Guest

    So if it's brand name it means it's good right? People in the field
    see a major proportion of HP's, Compaqs, Dells, etc. with burned power
    supplies, blown mobos and bad drives. They are cheap machines made as
    cheap as possible to maximize profits for the corporate bosses and
    stockholders. No $$$ for an extra fan.
    So you were lucky because your drive was one of the units where all
    the components were made to full tolerance. I hope you back up.

    Oh, ok, so only on their slightly cheaper units. So it's just morally
    fine to sell these "cut edge" :) PCs to people who think they are
    getting the same build quality as the more expensive units because
    "hey, it's Dell--DUDE you are getting a DELL", but really getting
    junk. Like I said, you would use the extra connector to rescue a drive
    or you could just lay one on the bottom as well if you needed it.
    Cheapening out on a one connector cable shows the respect for the
    customer. 5 cents saved. Great!

    Why would they mount the drive vertically anyway? Puts more stress on
    the bearings... Also the horizontal one that I saw--they were so hot
    they could burn you. Sure they wanna save on a $2 fan. That's a lot
    more than 5 cents on the connector.
    Yeah, that's why it's a baby size supply rated at less than 200W. The
    vendors I'm talking about are not your $25 china supply--but quality
    supplies with ratings of 400W+. This ensures there won't be a failure
    during the life of the computer.

    Someone I know told me his computer literally exploded (with a loud
    blast), smoked and burned. His repairman changed everything except the
    power supply. A few weeks later it all blew again. At that time he
    replaced the supply.

    ALL of the bad PCs I've seen were all brand name PCs.

    Yeah, right, Dell fired me. Hehehe, they would love to have me work
    for them.

    Yeah, I'm a liar. And all the hundreds of people who voted at
    resellerratings are ALL LIARS and were fired from Dell. The 1.76
    Customer service and 2.98 likelyhood of future purchase are all lies.
    Monarch Computer's high ratings are all lies.

    Yeah I work for Monarch. Yeah I wish. They are in Georgia, I'm in NJ.
    But I am a happy customer. Their customer service is #1. You don't get
    that kinda service from DELL no matter what they claim. You get the
    same cheap PC you can get at your local staples from the likes of

    Now don't get me wrong--there are a lot of crummy off-brand PCs as
    well, so the consumer beware. But when you go to a quality company,
    you get a quality computer.

    For some people a cheaply made computer is fine--it's not so critical
    for them, but some of us like quality, not the DELL name...

    Michael Dell ain't no Steve Jobs, that's for sure...

    TekWiz, Jun 5, 2005
  15. MrPepper11

    Talkin Horse Guest


    Dunno about Monarch; never saw one. I'd be curious if they were as wonderful
    as you say, but I hesitate to take your post too seriously because your
    negative comments about Dell don't ring true. I work with a company that
    OEMs Dells into larger systems, and their long-term reliability has been
    excellent. I'm not making any claim, positive or negative, about any other
    brands, because I haven't worked closely with non-Dells lately. For all I
    know, there are a lot of good, quiet brands out there, and I'd be curious to
    know about that. And maybe the Dells are cheap junk and we've just been very
    lucky, but I think that's unlikely. I can only testify to what I've observed
    myself, which is satisfaction with Dells and admiration for their
    engineering. Take that for what it's worth, which is one more Internet
    comment from someone who may or may not know what he's talking about.
    Talkin Horse, Jun 5, 2005
  16. MrPepper11

    TekWiz Guest sells parts and assembles in part or in whole.
    They use parts available to anyone. Their personalized customer
    service is one thing, but the reason their computers are good is
    because they use only the best quality components. PC enthusiasts only
    like the best quality components. Of course if you are unfamiliar with
    the technical aspects of PCs, you won't know the difference. One
    indicator is that many of Dell's computers have video integrated into
    the motherboard, which is inferior to a high-quality video card. The
    boards a "mini-boards" which have limited expandability and memory
    capacity. Of course their better, more expensive models are better,
    but the cost is high and not as good as buying or building a custom

    Also Dell uses some questionable marketing tactics. They don't usually
    say that the shipping is an extra $100 over any advertised
    price--that's about $60-$70 higher than expected. If you go to add
    some add-on components, like more memory or even just a floppy drive,
    which they don't include, they greatly overcharge for it. The starting
    price sounds cheap but once you add some things it's not so cheap

    Many of Dell's parts are custom--if something fails you have to get it
    from Dell, and it will be greatly overpriced. Custom-assembled
    computer use standard off-the-shelf parts--much more customer

    The case is custom--not easy to add drives or add fans, etc.

    I'm not saying that all Dells are pure junk, but that they aren't as
    good as quality, custom-made PCs, and I'm sure that a quality PC has
    less chance of failing than a Dell, or any of the mass-produced brands
    out there.

    From my own pretty limited experience, most of the failures I've seen
    were in these brand-name PCs.

    But look, I actually had a positive opinion of Dell before I saw one
    with hard drives hot as a frying pan, then another one, not even 3
    years old with a failing HD, and then another one, also not 3 years
    old with a blown HD. I got pretty frustrated with the stupidity of
    them not even having 2 connectors on the IDE cable and using a 40
    conductor cable on the CD units. I also know of someone who got a
    Dell, and the motherboard failed and even the new one was causing
    problems as well.

    Like I'm saying, with my limited experience almost every brand-name PC
    I've seen has had failures and problems which shouldn't have happened.
    I can list them one after the other. I would not use a brand-name PC.
    I don't trust the power supply, cooling and motherboard. I think they
    get the cheapest parts they can to make the most profit.

    Then, when I saw the low ratings for Dell on and
    how high they were for monarch--a company that I bought parts from in
    the past, I realized that Dell wasn't what Dell themselves were
    claiming to be. They are just another company with slick marketing
    tactics selling PCs which have a lot of "cost-reducing" measures built
    into them. The fact that they don't cool the drives is a strong
    indicator to me that they actually want the drives to fail early--why
    not? When the drive fails, the chance is good that the customer will
    buy a new computer from Dell. Why would they want these computers to
    last more than the warantee period?

    Why are Dell's consumer ratings so LOW if they are such a great
    company? Why are Monarch's ratings so HIGH? Must be that people who
    bought Dells were not too satisfied and voiced their opinion, while
    those who bought Monarch were so happy they wanted to let others know.
    Monarch must be doing something right, and Dell something wrong.

    In short, PC enthusiasts stay away from all of these brand-name PCs
    because they want a quality-built, highly reliable PC that's worth the
    money--not an overpriced "cost-cut/corner-cut" PC from Dell.

    TekWiz, Jun 5, 2005
  17. I hear they have an opening for a men's room attendant in Billings, MT.
    Not a lot of $$$, but think of the prestige!

    Sparky Spartacus, Jun 5, 2005
  18. MrPepper11

    ameijers Guest

    Tek Wiz has apparently never worked with commercial-series Dells. We have a
    couple thousand at work, and the failure rate is very low. I was so
    impressed that I set all my relatives up with trailing-edge Dell Gx1s,
    purchased at auction- way cheaper than rolling my own. No, they aren't hot
    rods designed for gamers, but for what most people actually do with a
    computer, they are more than adequate, and they are durable. The 6-year old
    Gx1 I am typing on runs fine, and has never failed on me (knock on wood).
    The phone support for their commercial machines is (again?) US-based, and we
    never had any big problems.

    Now having said that, the very few consumer-grade Dells I've had to work on
    haven't impressed me very much- just another toaster, designed to hit a
    price point. No idea what their real-world reliability is. And since I'll
    never be rich enough to buy a new-in-box computer, the telephone support is
    something I'll never have to deal with on my own. If and when one dies, I'll
    grab a spare out of the stack, and keep working, and fix/reload the dead one
    at my leisure. I haven't needed hand-holding in years, and since warranty
    isn't an issue, no reason to talk to them.

    aem sends...
    ameijers, Jun 5, 2005
  19. MrPepper11

    Ben Myers Guest

    Ease up on the idea that Dells (HPs, IBMs, Gateways) use a lot of custom parts.
    Yeah, the case of a Dell is unique, and the Dell motherboards attach strangely
    to the chassis and there are often some proprietary connectors to the
    motherboards, including cooling fans, USB connectors and front panel harness
    cables. Processor ventilation is unique to each name brand, as it is to a
    custom-built white box computer.

    But look, a hard disk is a hard disk is a hard disk. (Apologies to Gertrude
    Stein) Ditto for CD and DVD devices. Ditto for memory. Ditto for CPUs.

    Non-electronic Dell spare parts are inexpensive. Yeah, they charge ridiculous
    money for their add-ons, ungrades, and electronic spare parts. So does every
    name brand manufacturer, because their primary business is sale of new systems,
    not the care and feeding of them.

    The argument about computer systems all boils down to product quality, price,
    and PERCEIVED value. Seems like everyone has his/her own ideas. How about a
    more civil discussion here?

    For the benefit of people in non-HP newsgroups, here is a repeat of my response
    regarding noise:

    Dell and IBM take extra steps to make their modern desktop computers run more
    quietly. Both use rubber grommets to attach external fans to the computer
    chassis. The rubber absorbs vibration, deadening the sound of the fan. IBM has
    thermostatic controls on its motherboards to shut down cooling fans when the
    temperature is low. I've installed both for clients, and several clients are
    amazed at how quiet an IBM desktop is, right on the desk in front of them.
    Estimated manufacturing cost for doing it this way? Probably less than a dollar
    for parts and extra labor to assemble the system. How many white-box computer
    manufacturers take the extra steps to deaden the noise with rubber grommets and
    similar approaches? ... Ben Myers
    Ben Myers, Jun 5, 2005
  20. MrPepper11

    TekWiz Guest

    Yeah, too bad that Dell has sent most of all the formerly U.S.
    well-paying jobs over to India, and all they need here is someone to
    wipe their corporate dude's butts as they fatten up on high profits
    from cheap labor.

    Lots of those jobs appear to be coming back though. As expected, not
    only do they find that Americans HATE to deal with other countries
    when they need tech support, but other countries are getting smarter
    and building their own companies, and labor ain't so cheap anymore.

    At least now we can know which companies are loyal to the U.S. and
    which are not and who not to buy from.
    TekWiz, Jun 5, 2005
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