biztos 5 months ago

Am I the only one who thinks of smartphones and tablets as silent computers?

Granted, they can't do what this person's high-spec workstation can do, but they do most of the computing tasks most people use (used) noisy fanned computers with clacking disks for and in many cases do those tasks better.

And unless I'm just losing my hearing, my smartphone is completely silent as long as I don't accidentally press the Golem Invoker, er, Siri button.

  • aphextron 5 months ago

    There are plenty of silent/fanless Coffee Lake based industrial NUCs, too.

    https://ark.intel.com/products/series/129705/Intel-NUC-Kit-w...

    • linsomniac 5 months ago

      I was kind of excited about this build but then I saw your comment and remembered that was a much better option.

      4-6 months ago I built a new workstation for work. I had used one of those Corsair closed loop water coolers with the prior build, so I set one up on this guy. A month or so later my workstation was running really sluggishly, and I realized it was drastically throttling the CPU because of heat. I installed some software to spin up the fans on the cooler to keep it down under 100C, but now it'll get kind of loud when I run much heavy CPU.

      Now, this is a pretty heavy duty workstation, 64GB of RAM and 3 displays. But, if I were doing a new machine for home to be quiet, I think it'd be a NUC. Then I'll put the box that has the 6 drive ZFS array in a closet and call it good.

      • aidenn0 5 months ago

        If you want something slightly more modifiable, Compulab makes passively-cooled screwdriver-openable boxes at basically all levels that it makes sense.

        Their highest end is available with ECC ram and a discrete graphics card: https://fit-iot.com/web/product/airtop2-build-to-order/

        And the lowest end fitlet2 can be configured with an atom in a reasonable configuration for around $300 (it's $130-$200 for case/cpu/motherboard depending on which CPU you configure).

      • jankotek 5 months ago

        I bet water circulation is broken. Check pump. You may have some air in pipes, turn your PC upside down and back (no joke).

      • linsomniac 5 months ago

        I had looked at the NUCs a few months ago, and just remembered how hard it is in their product page to find something that will support 3 monitors. Looks like only the highest end models will do. I'd be tempted to build my own again, especially for my home office where I can put it in a closet next to my desk. The NUC product page lets you select requirements and then seems to give you a list of products that don't match.

        Gigabyte also has their BRIX products, which are similar to the NUC.

        I was at a hotel this weekend and at check-in they had a monitor with a "ThinkVantage slotted in the back of the monitor, that might be a nice setup.

    • TheCapeGreek 5 months ago

      Ha, the entire team at my previous job were using NUCs. Nifty little buggers. In the summer it would heat up quite a lot (not yet to the point of damage I suppose) and I couldn't even turn it off without burning myself if the PC froze.

      Eventually I just bought a cheap USB desktop fan and ran it facing the NUC.

    • uglycoyote 5 months ago

      I'm using a NUC for a quiet home PC that I do mostly browsing but also some light web development on. Although it's mostly silent, I haven't been too impressed with the performance of it. It was one of the top of the line models in 2015, an i7-5557U. I was surprised to find it's quite a bit slower than my 2013 Macbook Pro 2.4 Ghz i5. On the Geekbench profile the MBP got almost 3x the single-core score of the NUC and 1.7x for multi-core. Real world performance of the older macbook is noticably faster.

      It has made me think that instead of getting a NUC, for a quiet desktop system I should have just gotten a second used MBP and ran it permanently docked in clamshell mode with the monitors and keyboard attached. (with the added benefit of being able to go portable when I want to)

      Neither the NUC nor my MBP is completely silent but for my purposes I find that I seldom tax either of them enough to where the fans become audible enough to be annoying. Still, I do find the difference in performance between them to be apparent just in things like iteration time on web development and IDE responsiveness.

    • burfog 5 months ago

      Without ECC, that isn't a very industrial PC.

      • aidenn0 5 months ago

        FWIW, most industrial PCs I've seen do not use ECC. In many case they use CPUs that do not support it anyways.

  • nsxwolf 5 months ago

    My iPhone 7 Plus has some crazy coil whine. In a quiet room you can hear it. I can hear incoming notifications being processed before the alert goes off!

    • krrrh 5 months ago

      Is this only when it’s plugged in? Could be a bad cable or charger. I had an iPhone 5 that had a super touch digitizer when plugged in, and I finally narrowed it down to cheap third party cables. Otherwise I think I would be doing a sit-in at the nearest Apple Store until they replaced it, that would drive me nuts.

      • cptskippy 5 months ago

        The transceiver powering up is actually noisy. I had a Nokia 2100 series in the late 90s that generated enough emi to distort a CRT if it was sitting next to it.

        You could hear the whine from across the room a few seconds before a call would ring through.

        • lscharen 5 months ago

          Heh. Back in the 90’s in college I would keep my phone on top of the monitor I was sitting at exactly so I would see the monitor juke just before the phone connected.

          People always asked how I managed to answer the phone so fast. Electromagnetic Supplementary Perception, of course.

        • bigiain 5 months ago

          Heh - same sort of timeframe - probably a Nokia 8210 though - I could reliably have my Apple hockey puck mouse "crash" if my phone got an incoming call while it was sitting on my desk in a loop of the usb cable for the mouse. It'd just stop working, and need unplugging/replugging to get it working again.

          It was clearly electromagnetically "noisy", but I do't recall ever having heard any on my phones make any unexpected audio noise... (My old-and-abused rock concert and motorcycle weary ears probably can't get up as high as inverter whine any more though...)

          • Moru 5 months ago

            We had four computers on a LAN-party that didn't have the shielding on the computer. On phonecalls, all four computers got bluescreens.

        • hvidgaard 5 months ago

          Pretty much all cellphones would do that to CTRs. They would also go directly into the audio circuits of cheap amplifiers, to the point where you could "hear" a text or call incoming before the phone made any kind of notification.

        • Cthulhu_ 5 months ago

          You know, that reminds me on how we don't really hear any speakers making odd noises when there's an incoming call anymore. Probably because phones operate on different frequencies nowadays.

          • lb1lf 5 months ago

            -I presume transmit power has been lowered significantly as coverage has improved, too; your cell always transmits at the lowest level it can get a reliable connection with to preserve battery life. This should reduce interference considerably.

            Also, GSM phones used TDMA (keying the transmitter on and off to occupy one of -hm- eight, I believe - time slots on a given channel.)

            This is practically asking for EMC issues.

            LTE, on the other hand, transmits continously (I believe - I do not work in RF engineering anymore, but try to read up on new tech every now and then.:) - much less interference-causing than the constant on/off of TDMA.

            • scott00 5 months ago

              I thought LTE worked on a timeslice schedule as well. I remember hearing that was one of the problems with carrier plans to start running LTE on unlicensed spectrum, because it doesn't play nice with listen-before-talk wifi.

          • 5ive 5 months ago

            I still hear speakers make noises when there is an incoming call, I assume it varies by country.

        • joncrane 5 months ago

          In college I bought one of those antennas that lights up whenever I got a call or a text. Didn't those lights work on the same principle?

      • Baeocystin 5 months ago

        I'd say a good half of the smartphones I've owned over the years have had audible something, even when not plugged in and supposedly silent.

        Some were barely noticeable, while one in particular (a Droid Turbo) was so loud I could hear it getting ready to receive a call from another room. This was regardless of whether they were plugged in or not, although charger whine was its own separate issue.

        Thankfully it does seem to be getting better over time- my current S8 is, as far as I can tell, genuinely silent.

        • mozumder 5 months ago

          This happened on TDMA systems like on T-Mobile and AT&T. (Verizon & Spring were CDMA).

          There's a TDMA modulation frequency at 217Hz and this interferes with all sorts of nearby audio devices. CDMA and WCDMA phones have a much broader interference spectrum, which is why you don't hear it much anymore.

      • nsxwolf 5 months ago

        No, this is all the time. It is only quiet when the phone is idle.

        I considered returning it, but I find it charming. I miss the days when you could tell exactly what your PC was doing by all the sounds it was making, and I find dead silent electronics to be elegant but a little sad.

    • TheKarateKid 5 months ago

      It could also be the earpiece/speaker turning on and having static noise right before the notification sound is made.

      The easiest way to experience this is to plug in headphones and hear the clicking before/after a sound is made.

      • nsxwolf 5 months ago

        The sound is loudest if I hold it up to my ear right behind where the SoC is. It generates a unique pattern of sound based on activity, such as running your finger over the touch screen. It's not just when sound events are about to play.

  • pmcollins 5 months ago

    The MacBook is (at least in theory) noiseless as well. It has an SSD and no fans.

    • wilsonnb 5 months ago

      A few Chromebooks fit this description as well, at least they used to.

      My Samsung Chromebook from 2012 has an ARM processor, solid state storage, and no fans. It is pretty slow by today's standards though.

      I think several companies make cases for the Intel NUC boards that radiate the heat away and have no fans, too.

      • sehugg 5 months ago

        Many of them are still fanless: https://chromebookdb.com/search.php?fanless

        My Samsung Chromebook 3 gets a touch warm but never uncomfortably so like my 2012 Retina MacBook, which lets you really feel it when your code is inefficient. (Granted, the Chromebook is a lot less powerful)

    • ckastner 5 months ago

      Funnily enough, my MacBook Air 2013 produces a buzzing sound on SSD access. It's barely audible, but it's there.

      • hobofan 5 months ago

        My MacBook Air 2013 is routinely the loudest machine in the room when it's compiling or similar.

        • makapuf 5 months ago

          Does it have fans? If not, what kind of noise is this ?

          • kkylin 5 months ago

            MBAs have fans, the 12" MacBook doesn't.

          • analog31 5 months ago

            Possibly inductors vibrating.

          • SmellyGeekBoy 5 months ago

            "Coil whine".

            • hobofan 5 months ago

              No, the sound comes mostly from the fans, which when at their maximum start to get loud.

      • tigershark 5 months ago

        Oh...it’s not just me then.. Every couple of months I check my 2015 MacBook Pro system info because I’m utterly convinced that it has an hard drive because of the SSD noise. It’s quite frustrating actually..

        • cptskippy 5 months ago

          Imagine being a kid in the 80s or 90s at school and hearing the distinctive 20k tone of a CRT Television humming and wondering if you were going to be watching TV in one of your classes that day. It was like a dog whistle for kids.

          • hunter2_ 5 months ago

            If you're in the US or anywhere else with NTSC, the horizontal scan rate (and thus the whine of the flyback transformer) is 15.75 kHz :)

            525 lines / 2 for interlacing * 60 fields per second = 15750

            • burfog 5 months ago

              times 1000/1001 ever since color was introduced, so about 15734 Hz

          • toomanybeersies 5 months ago

            For me that was a thing until the late 2000's.

            They were still using CRT TVs in 2012 when I finished high school. I wouldn't be surprised if there were still plenty of schools with CRT TVs and VCRs for educational material.

        • pcarmichael 5 months ago

          Back around 2001 I took my desktop build (Celerin 300A oveeclocked to 450MHz), installed a giant passive heat sink on the CPU and PSU, put in an 8MB IDE flash drive, and network booted off a server in my laundry room. I thought I was finally noiseless. But the end result was worse. I had coil whine out of my power supply any time CPU usage ramped up. If I was in the same room, I could tell whenever my email pinged the server or if a cron job ran. It was both instructional (why is my cpu ramping and I’m not even logged in?) and really annoying.

          • dvtv75 5 months ago

            I had one of those, I think it may have overclocked to 550MHz, I can't remember for sure. The cooling fan was audible outside of my house!

        • techdragon 5 months ago

          I’m routinely annoyed by what I am reasonably sure is the sound of my MacBook Pro’s heat pipes and other warm components expanding and contracting, making creaking noises shortly after starting it up on a winter day. Then there’s the gentle gaseous hissing I would swear is the heat pipes condensing and evaporating (based on workload and laptop temperature concurrent with the noise) if I could think of a practical reason for them to be audible.

        • jpindar 5 months ago

          No, it's not just you. I can hear the SSDs in two of my laptops.

      • 1ris 5 months ago

        So does my Kingston SSD. And the switching of my switching power supply sometimes (rarely) is the loudest thing in my desktop pc.

    • fredsted 5 months ago

      Can confirm the 12" MacBook is totally noiseless. It's a neat little thing.

    • RachelF 5 months ago

      The Dell XPS 13 should also be noiseless when the fan is not on, but many models also suffer from coil whine.

      I find coil whine a worse background sound than the lower frequency fan hum.

    • _sdegutis 5 months ago

      When I go to editfight.com on my rMBP the fans go crazy and it gets super hot. When I visit it on my iPhone it stays the same temperature and is silent. Kind of an extreme example but the principle is the same. Phones are better for sites like this.

      • kccqzy 5 months ago

        The rMBP is very different from the MacBook.

        • _sdegutis 5 months ago

          Oh I didn't know that. I thought Apple recently shifted the MacBook so that it was more "pro" and the MacBook Pro so that it was less "pro", making them a lot closer to each other, almost identical. I thought I remembered a lot of criticism over that move too, here on HN.

    • ficklepickle 5 months ago

      I bought an Asus "zenbook" ux305 for this reason. It uses an Intel core M processor, which idle around 800mHz but turbo boost to around 2gHz, which I believe have been discontinued.

      I was worried about performance, but it has been very acceptable. It depends what you need it for, but I can run 2 monitors, a Linux VM and atom all while streaming HD video. Or I can do light web browsing for 10 hours on battery[1]. I love it.

      On the rare occasions I need more power, I spin up a spot instance.

      [1] If you use Linux on a laptop, install "tlp". It optimizes battery life without a noticeable reduction of performance.

    • sokoloff 5 months ago

      MacBook Air and Pro both have fans. I don’t know the entire Apple line of all time by heart, so there might have been another MacBook that had no fans.

      • wilsonnb 5 months ago

        Its the super thin 12 inch MacBook they currently sell, which is just called "MacBook".

        • sokoloff 5 months ago

          My bad. Thanks for the info!

      • ahtu123 5 months ago

        The Pro better not go fanless! Oh my CPU melted while compiling and running a few VMs.

    • mcv 5 months ago

      The Macbook? My Macbook's fans are incredibly noisy. I've already replaced them once, hoping that would fix the issue, but it didn't. Macbook fans are just noisy. At least the 2011 unibody ones.

      • codyd51 5 months ago

        It sounds like you’re talking about a MacBook Air as a generic MacBook, whereas in fact the MacBook is it’s own distinct line of computer, debuted in 2015. It indeed does not contain fans.

        • mcv 5 months ago

          Macbook debuted in 2015? Macbooks were first released in 2006. Mine is a Macbook Pro.

          Obviously newer models are different from older models, and Air models probably don't have the fans that Pro models do, but the claim that Macbooks don't have fans is a bit too broad to be true.

      • heartbreak 5 months ago

        The Macbook didn't exist in 2011. You're thinking of the Macbook Air or Macbook Pro. The Macbook with no fans was released in mid-2015.

        • FabHK 5 months ago

          First line of the pertinent Wikipedia article: "The MacBook is a brand of notebook computers manufactured by Apple Inc. from May 2006 to February 2012, and relaunched in 2015."

          In Jobs' 2x2 matrix, the portable half was initially populated by iBook and PowerBook, later by MacBook and MacBook Pro.

          • heartbreak 5 months ago

            And yet, in a post referencing a fan-less "Macbook" it's almost certain that the "Macbook" in question is the only fan-less laptop Apple produces, which is coincidentally called simply "Macbook."

            It's unfortunate that Apple has confusing brand names, but the fact remains that the Macbook indeed has no fans so the original comment who hears fan noise is obviously using a different model of laptop.

            • mcv 5 months ago

              Of course there are Macbooks without fans, but the claim that "the macbook has no fans" is a bit too broad and generic to be true. Macbook Pros are also called Macbooks. Older Macbooks are still Macbooks (they seem to be pretty durable).

              So if you say that recent Macbooks have no fans, that may well be true. But it's not true for all Macbooks.

  • ToFab123 5 months ago

    Am I the only one that wonders how anyone can thinks of comparing a phone with to a high-end desktop system and claim they can fore fill the same need?

    • jjrh 5 months ago

      I mean these days having a powerful computer on my desk is less of a benefit - that can be a machine in the closet or sitting on a rack. The machine on my desk just needs to drive a couple displays and run a browser.

      I mean it depends on what you do - but for many people it's a realistic solution.

    • eanzenberg 5 months ago

      The iphone x is getting close to mbp performance and its just a matter of time before it surpasses it

      • Xylakant 5 months ago

        Mere physics says it won’t. It’s always possible to pack more performance in a larger package, even if it’s just because you can more easily dissipate heat on a larger surface. iPhones are amazingly powerful and might just be sufficiently powerful for everyday computing soon or even right now, but they’ll never surpass anything that can accommodate a larger die.

        • davedx 5 months ago

          Physics doesn't drive CPU development, it just sets the absolute limits.

          Apple have put faster chips in their smartphones than in their laptops.

          http://bgr.com/2017/09/14/iphone-x-vs-iphone-8-a11-bionic-be...

          • Xylakant 5 months ago

            Geekbench scores are interesting, but not necessarily translate straight into real-world performance. Intel CPUs have a much richer instruction set for example. Peak performance vs sustained performance is another issue. GPU performance, disk size and speed, available RAM, battery time at a certain usage etc. are other performance factors. Apple could decide to put faster CPUs into its macbooks at the cost of less battery time.

            This is all alluded to in the article and the macrumors post that the article is based upon, here are some quotes:

            > "Sure, that doesn’t mean the A11 Bionic can do all the things a desktop CPU does."

            > "Though the iPhone X and the iPhone 8 offer impressive Geekbench scores, how that translates to real world performance remains to be seen."

            There's no question that the iPhone chips deliver amazing performance, but there's a reason people still lug Macbooks around.

            • zelos 5 months ago

              It does seem like something is missing in the comparison. High end x86 CPUs draw something like 30W idle, which would drain an iPhone X's battery in minutes. Do Apple/Arm really have some magic technology that makes their CPUs orders of magnitude more power efficient?

              Geekbench always seems like an odd benchmark - the variability between runs alone is kind of odd. If I could run a compiler on an iPhone, for example, would I really see similar performance to my MBP?

              • Xylakant 5 months ago

                The CPUs in MacBooks are mobile CPUs that certainly don’t draw 30W idle. You’d drain the battery faster than you can charge it :)

              • mrguyorama 5 months ago

                One thing to note, x86 is known for being spectacularly inefficient for mobile workloads. It's not magic that makes an ARM CPU more efficient, it's just different design considerations. For an example of this, check out the Intel Atom line of processors[0] which were mostly x86 processors but designed to be mobile and power sipping. Whether they were successful at that, or in terms of performance, I'm not sure. But they get down to single digit TDP, which is how many watts of power you can expect one to use while under load.

                [0]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_Atom

        • eanzenberg 5 months ago

          It's not about physics but about economics. Improvements go where revenue goes. For consumers that outcome is known.

        • Retric 5 months ago

          Phones have a real physical advantage in lower latency connection to RAM. You can have more processing power in larger form factors, but it's not a net win for all workloads.

      • akvadrako 5 months ago

        I don't think you can trust those Geekbench results for real-world performance. For starters, they largely ignore the much richer set of high-troughput opcodes on desktop PCs.

        It also doesn't pass the smell test. Even Atom CPUs are preferred over high-end ARM for netbooks. But a Xeon is way more powerful than any Atom.

        • nneonneo 5 months ago

          I think the Atoms are used there more for compatibility than anything - honestly, in terms of performance I think a new iPad Pro will smoke most netbooks.

  • kkylin 5 months ago

    I'm sometimes nostalgic for clacking disks. It's sometimes useful to know when the machine is swapping because some process has gone awry and used up all the memory...

    • Cthulhu_ 5 months ago

      Same, some feedback that something is happening is great. This is what annoys me the most about macbooks, they give 0 feedback when they're off. It's always a bit of a spincter squeezing moment on monday mornings when I open the macbook, sometimes it went out of power and shut down completely, but there's no indication that it's on or off or working or whatever. Black screen, and you kinda have to push the button for an arbitrary amount of time and wait for an arbitrary amount of time until there's any feedback.

      Whereas on a normal computer, a light goes on and the fans start spinning, not because it's useful but just to indicate that it's on now. It's a miracle.

    • schindlabua 5 months ago

      That's funny. My mother sometimes laments over the fact that modern washing machines are too quiet and she doesn't know when the laundry is done. This is like the IT guy equivalent!

    • samplatt 5 months ago

      I could tell what phase of booting/loading Windows my 486 was at, from the sounds of the HDD.

    • apk17 5 months ago

      Fun story: A long time ago I was on the phone with someone, and typed some commands. For some reason tab completion made ticking noises in the phone.

      Then it dawned on me: I was currently logged in on the machine on his desk.

  • nwah1 5 months ago

    Sure, but most mobile OSes don't support a full desktop experience well, and you're limited to bluetooth peripherals only. Unless you have a rare phone that comes with a docking station.

    • cestith 5 months ago

      I have an OTG USB hub with Ethernet. Mouse, keyboard, and external drive can plug in all at once, and if I have a place to plug the other end of the cable I get wired network too. It even has power input to drive the peripherals. Add something like GNURoot with the Debian chroot and it's nearly desktop Linux on a tiny screen. It's more of a pain to set up during a meeting than a dedicated docking station would be. It also doesn't currently charge the phone (although there are ways to modify it to do that). It's nice for novelty but a little unwieldy. Using an OTG cable with a keyboard with a built-in hub reduces some of the cable clutter.

      Some of the Chromebooks and such have no moving parts. I'm probably taking my Pinebook to the next conference I attend.

    • chrisper 5 months ago

      >Unless you have a rare phone that comes with a docking station.

      Can't you just use any USB-C Dockingstation?

      • snops 5 months ago

        Not all phones support all the alternate modes of USB-C, especially display port or HDMI, so display output is often a hurdle.

      • nwah1 5 months ago

        Good point. I guess few people use those since phone OSes don't scale well for desktop use.

        • svnsets 5 months ago

          The latest MacBook is essentially mobile hardware with desktop peripherals and software. Seems like the right way to go rather than bloating a smartphone with desktop software given that the amount of people who want their smartphone to be their only interface to everything is likely a very small minority.

    • flukus 5 months ago

      > Sure, but most mobile OSes don't support a full desktop experience well

      This is due to the form factor, not the capability of the devices. A high end smart phone is more than capable of producing a good desktop experience.

      • nwah1 5 months ago

        It's purely a software issue. Microsoft, Ubuntu, and others have come close to building a responsive desktop GUI.

  • TruthSHIFT 5 months ago

    A better title for the article would be "Completely Silent Gaming PC"

    • richdougherty 5 months ago

      > ...this system is not meant for gaming...

      • grimgrin 5 months ago

        It still kinda is. They didn’t skimp any more than they had to

        > Even though this system is not meant to be a gaming rig, there’s no harm in putting in the best GPU you can without blowing the thermals.

        • zingmars 5 months ago

          These days with GPGPU (and crypto) becoming increasingly popular having a good GPU does not automatically imply gaming.

          • Dylan16807 5 months ago

            0% of people do (non crypto) GPGPU at home, and the post is lamenting crypto miners for driving prices up.

            • whywhywhywhy 5 months ago

              3D artists/motion graphics/video editors do. Check out Octane Render, Redshift, Realflow, After Effects, Premier etc for use cases.

              • Dylan16807 5 months ago

                Do those reach 1% of home users with GPUs?

                • zingmars 5 months ago

                  I don't think there's a way to gather that statistic. Some people might suddenly get a project that involves software that leverages GPGPU, some might use it professionally, then there might be kids experimenting. Plus as the job market involving AIs grows, so does the GPGPU market.

                • whywhywhywhy 5 months ago

                  My point was it's not "0%"... Users exist.

                  • Dylan16807 5 months ago

                    0% is different from none. 0% means that it's a very small amount, not even enough to be 1%. The implication is that while it could be true, it's such a rarity that it is not in fact a counterargument to "GPU implies gaming".

  • saagarjha 5 months ago

    > my smartphone is completely silent as long as I don't accidentally press the Golem Invoker, er, Siri button

    You can get rid of that sound as well: just flip the switch on the left side of the phone.

  • heywire 5 months ago

    I use a Dell Latitude 7370 which is completely silent. It's not the fastest machine, but works fine for running several VMs, Visual Studio, etc.

    • gcbw2 5 months ago

      correct. which makes the top comment pointless (or missing the point?)

      Under-performant computers can and have been silent for a while. A phone falls into that category.

      The trouble is making a good performance computer silent.

      And even the case the article advertises, is pure garbage. I had the smaller ones (and the author should really have bought the black anodized one!). It works fine while underpowered. But as soon as you hit the 5h compile/rendering levels of workload, that thing cannot move heat away without airflow. period.

      • greglindahl 5 months ago

        My desktop is a terminal. A Mac mini makes a great silent terminal.

  • samstave 5 months ago

    The noisiest computer is the person constantly telling you how silent their machine is.

  • cptskippy 5 months ago

    I can hear a high pitched whine emitted from most electronics. Granted for smartphones the display or transceiver has to be powered up and it has to be a quiet room with no white noise. It's a lot better than it used to be, I knew I was getting a call or text from my old Nokia 5160 before it did just from the whine.

  • snambi 5 months ago

    Yes you are right. Cellphones and tablets are totally silent. It is the desktops and laptops that make noise, ummm waste too much energy ( heat ).

  • discordance 5 months ago

    MacBook 12" have no fans and are completely silent.

  • radicaldreamer 5 months ago

    The 12" MacBook is a silent computer as well.

  • nkkollaw 5 months ago

    No, but a smartphone is not a computer.

    Smartphones are capable of computing and are sometimes very powerful, but the analogy is totally out of wack in my opinion.

    If you can live without using an actual computer, it means you don't really need computers. You can check your email and browser the web on a Kindle, on your TV, or even your car.

    Everything is a computer, then.

    I think a computer is a productivity tool. Smartphones (and I'd definitely say tablets, too) are to consume content, not produce it. Some companies (most notably Apple I think) believe otherwise, but I think they'll have to come to realize that smartphones and tablets are horrible to produce most kinds of content.

    • bschwindHN 5 months ago

      A smartphone absolutely is a computer. It's maybe not a "productive" computer for a lot of workloads, but it still carries out operations and produces output based on the input it is fed.

      You're just making up your own definition of "computer" and then claiming a smartphone isn't one because it doesn't match your made up definition.

      • nkkollaw 5 months ago

        If the definition is so broad, my oven and fridge are computers.

        • zingmars 5 months ago

          Your oven and fridge (probably) has a computer within them, but they're not computers themselves.

          • nkkollaw 5 months ago

            According to that definition, yes.

            You have programs, you have a UI to control them, they have a CPU and memory.

            • zingmars 5 months ago

              And "that definition" is the official dictionary definition and it works. There is no need to redefine it like you tried to.

          • guhidalg 5 months ago

            Why not? They have buttons and speakers (I/O), I can program a timer on them, and there’s a little processor in there somewhere. How is that different from an iPad?

            • zingmars 5 months ago

              The computer that has those things is part of the oven, but it is not the oven itself.

    • _emacsomancer_ 5 months ago

      Certainly in the rough sense of 'Turing machine' a smartphone is clearly a computer. And, even in other senses, I can connect a keyboard to my S5, open up Termux, run ffmpeg, open up Emacs --- all on the smartphone itself, not through ssh or anything. But it's hardly as productive as a regular laptop or desktop, of course, but that's largely due to screen size, lack of keyboard (or lacklustre keyboard), and weakness of processing capacity compared to a desktop/laptop.

      • nkkollaw 5 months ago

        Totally agree. That's where the line is drawn I think.

        Otherwise everything is a computer.

    • erikpukinskis 5 months ago

      I can’t check my email on my Kindle or my car.

      Maybe cut to the chase: what specific capability is an iPhone lacking that every “real computer” has?

      • Nullabillity 5 months ago

        Do you run the SDK on the device itself, or do you have to develop somewhere else and then transfer the build output to the device?

        • icebraining 5 months ago

          On Android, you can definitively develop and compile on the device itself. See for example: http://www.android-ide.com/

          • nkkollaw 5 months ago

            What a nightmare, though.

            • icebraining 5 months ago

              Have you tried programming on the original Eee laptops? I'd take a 10" tablet with a bluetooth keyboard over that 7" screen and tiny keys any day.

              • nkkollaw 5 months ago

                I've tried touch based UIs to do actual work, and I just can't handle it.

                • icebraining 5 months ago

                  Android can be quite well driven by the keyboard. Even alt-tabbing between applications works.

                  • nkkollaw 5 months ago

                    Personally, even a touchpad compared to a mouse will slow me down significantly.

                    It's possible that I could be somewhat productive on a tablet in an emergency, but not as my main machine like Apple suggest people should do.

      • nkkollaw 5 months ago

        Why can you not check your email on your Kindle? There's a browser, you can absolutely check your email.

      • nkkollaw 5 months ago

        If a keyboard (and a decent-sized screen) can be added, definitely a mouse and a mouse-centric interface.

        I have tried using an iPad Pro for productivity, and it's living hell.

        • seandougall 5 months ago

          > definitely a mouse and a mouse-centric interface.

          Wouldn’t that mean most servers aren’t computers? Not to mention the DOS machines I grew up with, or everything made before the Xerox Alto?

          > I have tried using an iPad Pro for productivity, and it's living hell.

          Not going to disagree with you there. But that doesn’t make it not-a-computer.

          • nkkollaw 5 months ago

            Those are servers.

            If we want to classify devices, we need to group them somehow. Otherwise we call them devices and call it a day.

            • zingmars 5 months ago

              His old DOS machines certainly weren't servers. Not having a GUI does not make a machine a server and having a GUI does not make a computer not-a-server (especially since we have graphics chips inside CPUs now).

            • icebraining 5 months ago

              Servers are still computers.

              We already classify them: smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops, servers are all groups of computers.

        • annabellish 5 months ago

          I don't know about iDevices, but this is very much supported on a lot of Android phones. Samsung's lineup even has it as a bullet point feature, and they sell docks which let you connect your phone to a screen, peripherals, and switch to a mouse-oriented UI without having to do _anything_ weird.

          At that point, you're running a mouse-centric, multi-window OS with a wide array of software, that can run basically whatever you want.

          So that's a computer, definitely, right? When does it stop being a computer? If you disconnect the display? Is it using a stylus instead of a mouse? Maybe the software keyboard instead of a hardware keyboard? (But then is the MS Surface not a computer when you detach the keyboard case?)

        • mc808 5 months ago

          Even though you're technically wrong (the best kind of wrong), I can see where you're coming from. Even microcontroller ICs without enough memory to store this comment are real computers and are silent, but if you say you've built a silent computer and then unveil some Arduino contraption, expect eyes to roll.

          That said, I still think smartphones qualify as computers even by your productivity definition. Newer smartphones would sit somewhere above older netbooks on a ranking of overall utility.

      • Volt 5 months ago

        >I can’t check my email on my Kindle

        I can on mine…

bertjk 5 months ago

In the past when I tried to build a silent PC, I found that even after removing / stopping all the fans, there was still often an electronic humm or buzz left over. That is when I gave up.

Later I changed desks to one that had one of those built in computer cabinets made of thick particle board. That did as much to silence a pc as all the tens of hours of effort I had put into meticulously researching and specc'ing the build before.

  • loser777 5 months ago

    This type of noise is arguably worse than that produced by a well-managed fan setup. If you have fans that spin at a constant RPM, you can fairly easily tune out the noise. Coil whine will vary depending on the load of the system (e.g., when you start/stop scrolling a web page), making it much more difficult to tune out.

    • RowanH 5 months ago

      Never heard coil whine for years and years decades infact of PC building. Until last year I got my shiny new fancy pants blast furnace, (aka GTX 1080 TI), which has near dead silent fans at idle/light loads. The minute that bad boy starts working an obnoxious screeching/whine starts.

      Super annoying compared to the rest of the build being a beast of a machine and watercooled that's so quiet I'm more likely to hear the noise floor on speakers than the PC (which is on the desk, next to said speakers).

      • corysama 5 months ago

        My 1080TI also has an obnoxious whine that precisely reflects activity on the card. On the upside, when I’m working in CUDA, I can listen to my algorithms and get a hint at how they are working :)

        • flashman 5 months ago

          Yeah I can tell by the various fans whether an application has crashed or the whole system.

      • developer2 5 months ago

        Coil whine with graphics cards is such a frustrating experience, because there is no informed consensus as to what the underlying cause truly is. Everyone has their own anecdotal reason:

        a) Maybe coil whine is an intrinsic factor in the manufacture of graphics cards, similar to dead pixels on displays. "Luck of the draw" when obtaining one is the only way to win. Cycle through RMAs until you get one with little to no coil whine.

        b) Or, it depends which company you buy from: each of Asus, EVGA, Gigabyte, MSI, Zotac et al are supposedly better or worse than the others.

        c) Or, it's not a problem with the GPU at all; rather, it's an indication of a poor quality power supply (PSU).

        I've never seen an informed analysis from an industry engineer who has a goddamn clue what they are talking about. NVIDIA could probably enlighten us all with an exact-science explanation, but that seems unlikely. My uneducated guess is that the situation is closest to option 'a' above, and that rejecting units for coil whine during quality control would drastically reduce production yield.

        • ovao 5 months ago

          Yeah, I don’t see NVIDIA or AMD drawing any attention to product flaws, particularly if the end-user solution is “RMA until you get a good one”.

          Instead, ping a few review sites and see if any of them are willing to take a crack at it.

      • jaytaylor 5 months ago

        My GTX 970 does the same thing. It is incredibly annoying.

        Fortunately it happens when at high load, which is while playing games. This doesn't help for quiet scenes, though.

        Is there a way to fix this sound in video cards? I'll have to investigate.

        • ovao 5 months ago

          Coils emit a relatively high-frequency sound, so your best bet is a case with thick panels, that’s fairly well enclosed, and has some acoustic dampening.

          Most cases made today don’t have any significant dampening material. It’s pretty trivial to add some to the panels without significantly affecting cooling capacity.

          • cellularmitosis 5 months ago

            Alternatively, if you wanted to really dig into this, you could try to find every switch-mode power supply and replace them with (much less efficient) linear power supplies. You'd need a larger water-cooling system though.

            • hatsunearu 5 months ago

              Is this a joke?

              That would require making your own GPU PCB, and maybe a year's worth of studying on electronics and power supply design.

              • cellularmitosis 5 months ago

                Not really. More likely just desoldering a couple of key components and soldering in a few wires to a dsughterboard with a linear regulator.

                A year’s worth of power supply design? Have you looked at the LM7805 datasheet? The circuit is one regulator and two capacitors...

                • magicalhippo 5 months ago

                  Have you looked at the current requirements for CPUs and GPUs? We're talking 100A or more. Even if the input was 3.3V, which it isn't, a linear regulator down to 1.1V would have to dissipate 220W or more. You'll need a bigger heatsink for the linear regulator than for the CPU...

                  And designing a 250W-capable linear regulator is not as simple as just hooking up a LM7805.

                  So with a modern CPU and GPU, your talking ~400W of power to the actual components, and nearly 500W wasted in the linear regulators. This of course also means you have to get a 1000W PSU as a bare minimum.

                  • hatsunearu 5 months ago

                    Here's the problem: not only do you have to dissipate 200W+ for your pass element, you need to drive it ultra fast with an extremely fast analog circuit that can withstand the massive magnetic fields (which pretty much means you need a PCB).

                    Yeah and good luck driving a 200W linear element (if it even exists, lol) with a few op amps--the driver which should deliver a few amps into the gate/base of the pass element, which in and of itself is a pretty difficult challenge.

                • hatsunearu 5 months ago

                  old thread but

                  LMFAO you can't be any more wrong. You need /much/ more careful design to get GPU-compliant performance. The dI/dt on modern ASICs are insane, and you need an insane regulator to deal with it.

          • lutorm 5 months ago

            I was going to say, I can hear coil whine if I stick my ear into the machine, but it doesn't make it out past the acoustic dampening panels in my case.

        • diamondo25 5 months ago

          I've had a GTX 460 and a GTX 660 Ti before, and once I upgraded to a GTX 970 i was disappointed by the coil whine. I could even see the effect of the power drain on my secondary screen when I booted up GTA 5. Guess we'll have to live with the fact that the tech cannot keep up with the demand and quality, resulting in more 'unstable' electronics.

    • gambiting 5 months ago

      My fiancee has a mouse(Logitech MX Master) which has a very-high pitched coil whine, but only when you move it. It's the most infuriating thing in the universe, but apparently she can't hear it. So yes, random coil whine is about 10000x worse than fans.

      • alirobe 5 months ago

        So her mouse squeaks? That’s adorable!

      • Hasknewbie 5 months ago

        If you google "Logitech mouse coil whine" you will see that this has affected multiple Logitech models for many, many years. They apparently have no interest in fixing this issue.

        • SmellyGeekBoy 5 months ago

          Same with the Dell XPS 9560 but talk to their customer service department and they'll deny all knowledge...

          • gambiting 5 months ago

            I've had my top-of-the-line Dell XPS serviced(motherboard fully replaced) 3 times because of the coil whine issue, and it's not going away, and Dell said they will not replace it any more. It's one of their most expensive laptops and they can't get such a basic thing right.

            • noir_lord 5 months ago

              Last year when I was deciding which laptop to buy for personal use I ruled out the XPS15 (partially) on coil whine (I'm 37 but thanks to never going to concerts and rarely listening to music beyond half volume I still have decent high frequency hearing).

              In the end I went with a Thinkpad and having seen the issues people I know have had with the XPS15 I'm pretty glad I did.

      • 0xfeba 5 months ago

        That's not the mouse, but the CPU causing coil whine when the mouses causes the kernel to up it's CPU usage as you fly across various GUI elements.

        • mohn 5 months ago

          Unless you've tested OP's fiancee's system yourself and found that to be the case, I wouldn't be so sure.

          I had a Logitech G500 with awful coil whine and the opposite problem: it would stop whining when moving and start when idle. I suspect it had to do with the power saving mode that lots of mice have, where the laser power supply ramps down to dim the laser illumination after a period of no detected motion.

        • goldenkey 5 months ago

          A lot of times I've noticed it's the USB controller. It's quite evident when you have headphone ports near USB ports.

          • sgtmas2006 5 months ago

            I can be tabbed out and hear when I get into the plane in PUBG from the increase in whine. It's quite nice actually.

        • zrobotics 5 months ago

          Not necessarily. Possible, but I had a cheap HP mouse that whined briefly when it first came out of sleep mode. Couldn't have been the computer, since it would make the same noise when the PC was turned off.

        • gambiting 5 months ago

          That is not the case - the mouse itself is whining, it does it even when the receiver is not plugged into anything.

      • Kostic 5 months ago

        Are you running the latest firmware?

  • agumonkey 5 months ago

    Some noise, depending on the texture can be even pleasuring.

    coil whine is highly unnerving while low fan sound is relaxing.

    we like stimulus, the clicky keys of my old hp48 is neat, the insertion sequence of pioneer 32x slot-in cd drive was amazingly subtle; not long ago I revived an old HP tape drive, the tape rolling and the head gear was also beautiful.

    Also, it was as cute as informative, it's a clear state change side channel. Often software notification about hardware are decoupled so much that you don't trust it; plus they're invasive, unlike a tiny led, a click, a tiny motor ramping up.

    • hinkley 5 months ago

      I still miss hard drive chatter as a proxy for machine being up to something. Sometimes the machine isn’t supposed to be doing anything and it tells me to ask questions.

      Now it’s just when the fan on my laptop starts taxiing for takeoff, which can take a lot longer.

      • themodelplumber 5 months ago

        If you miss that then you are going to love jwz's latest xscreensaver work.

        https://youtu.be/oERz1IPluYQ

        • girvo 5 months ago

          I can’t believe I used to sleep next to a computer that sounded exactly like that. It’s soothing.

    • johnchristopher 5 months ago

      > Some noise, depending on the texture can be even pleasuring.

      I like the sound HDD make when grinding (except when I don't know the reason for the grinding... looking at you svchost.exe).

      > coil whine is highly unnerving while low fan sound is relaxing.

      Which is why I have been putting off getting a new laptop for years now. Most seem to suffer from coil whines and I can't stand it (to the point I ended up using an old eeepc 1000he rather than a brand new 16 inches VAIO some years ago).

  • 0xfeba 5 months ago

    I've switched to Fractal Design cases with their heavy sound-proofing and been thoroughly impressed. I use Corsair RM750 which never powers its fan on, and I used to have a all-in-one water cooler for the CPU, but I moved to a Noctua design with a large 140mm fan. The water cooler had a 120mm fan that I replaced with a 120mm Noctua--but it was too close to the rear vent of the case, and thus noisy.

    However my graphics card (RX 480) is quite loud, and one bearing is making noises.

    But the Fractal Design case has really dampened the sound. For my home server, it's using a RM500 (which also never turns the fan on), and a low-profile Noctua CPU cooler. No other fans, but I do hear the 6 HDDs spinning and seeking when it's real quiet in the room.

    I don't hear any coil whine, except when using headphones plugged into my desktop's speakers--probably the result of the speaker system's power supply. Klipsch ProMedia, if you're curious.

    • stcredzero 5 months ago

      I have one of the Corsair budget quiet cases under my desk. I can attest that it has excellent bang for the buck, for being a basic black case with useful soundproofing/absorption.

      As far as noise reduction for CPU cooling, I'd suggest buying more air cooling than you need for a modest TDP CPU. Between that and my fanless Seasonic power supply, and SSD, the only noiseI can ever hear from my machines is from the GPU.

    • GordonS 5 months ago

      How did temperatures compare between the 140mm Noctua and the AIO water cooler?

      I'm looking at buying a new machine soon, and was actually looking at a Fractal Design case with either one of those 2 cooling systems.

      • 0xfeba 5 months ago

        Temps are higher, as is spiking, but it never surpasses 70C, where when water-cooled, would never surpass 45C or so, IIRC.

        This is a Ivy Bridge (IIRC) Core i5 at 4.0GHz.

        • GordonS 5 months ago

          Wow, that's a big difference. I would like it to be as quiet as possible, but also plan on running it nearly 24/7 for 5+ years, so I'll probably go for the AIO water cooler.

          • 0xfeba 5 months ago

            I had a Corsair H50, it lasted about 5 years or so. The pump died on it. It was actually quite annoying to track down. At idle it would run for an hour or two before shutting off. But start a game it would only last a few minutes.

            Seems obvious in hindsight, but I had no fan (pump) speed warning or anything.

  • johnchristopher 5 months ago

    The only time I achieved silence was when I moved the computer case outside the room and used a 2m VGA cable and USB chord extenders. That silence was weird though. No audio feedback at all from the computer, just the clicking of keyboard and the mouse.

    • Klathmon 5 months ago

      I did exactly that too!

      I was tired of the never-ending quest for silence, so I bought 3 50-ft dvi cables and a couple usb-3 cables of the same length and put the PC in the attic.

      It worked great, except any hardware issues resulted in a trip to the attic.

      • johnchristopher 5 months ago

        Did you leave the machine always on ?

        • Klathmon 5 months ago

          Pretty much. I've never really shut down my main machines when i'm not using them.

          I work from home, so i'm on it several hours every workday, combined with the fact that I tend to have multiple things in-progress all the time means it would be a giant pain in the ass to shut it down fully.

    • JepZ 5 months ago

      Hehe, you get used to it after a while. Sometimes I wonder where the heat is coming from when my PC has some higher load and my hand moves over it. Those are the moments when I remember the days when I couldn't hear the vacuum when the PC was compiling ;-)

    • 0xfeba 5 months ago

      Hm, almost a dumb terminal!

  • hinkley 5 months ago

    A long time ago, about the time someone tried to coin the term invisible computing, I figured out how to hook a monitor arm to my couch, and I put the tower behind it. 3 inches of padding can absorb a lot of sound.

    Still kinda miss that couch.

  • mcv 5 months ago

    The case matters a lot. I've got a Fractal Design Define C, which dampens a lot of noise. Supposedly the R5 is even better.

    This was my second silent PC. The first one still had moving disks, but I went for as few fans as possible, and had passive coolers on the internals. This time I did the opposite: lots of fans, but have them spin as slow as possible. This works very well.

    But coil whine and electronic hums are easy to overlook when you're choosing parts. It's worth looking at not just the fans and the power use (more power needs more cooling), but also the quality of the electronics.

  • zeusk 5 months ago

    That's called coil whine, often a result of shoddy power components or construction (and often in either PSU or GPU).

    • nextos 5 months ago

      Capacitors in PSUs and GPUs are often, but not always, the parts to blame.

      • zeusk 5 months ago

        Inductors, actually, are most often to blame (hence - coil whine, also why they're covered in goop in most devices).

  • JepZ 5 months ago

    I've a completely silent PC too [1] and I was lucky, as mine doesn't have any relevant electronic buzzes.

    But when I walk to the backside of my desk I can hear some electronic buzz from one of my monitors. Whats funny about it: I have that monitor since a few years now and before I built that silent PC and turned my desk to another direction, I never noticed the buzz from the monitor :D

    [1]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16224202

  • legulere 5 months ago

    It is possible to get rid of the coil whine. You can use a long paper roll like from a kitchen roll to locate it. I once saw in a forum a guy flooding a whole PSU in epoxy, to get rid of it.

  • pkaye 5 months ago

    I used to do all this in the past but now as I get older I have hearing loss/tinnitus and suddenly no longer have to worry about fan noise anymore...

    • akoncius 5 months ago

      yeah, similar for me. deaf people have their own advantages!

  • theandrewbailey 5 months ago

    Oh gosh, coil whine.

    I had a Geforce 280 that would scream like hell whenever it was at full power and its framerate went below about 10 or above about 100 FPS. I was glad when it broke some other way and got replaced under warranty.

    • joombaga 5 months ago

      Same thing with my 280! Unfortunately it was a BFG, and the company folded about 2 days after I submitted my warranty claim.

  • vtange 5 months ago

    But doesn't locking up your PC in a cabinet hurt its cooling performance? I doubt there is adequate airflow in there.

    • s3m4j 5 months ago

      I keep my CPU running at a confortable 50°C to 60°C.

      There are 5 fans in my tower, two on the CPU cooler, only one of those two fans is running constantly, at only 200rpm. All the others aren't running most of the time.

      I don't need my computer to run at a cool 30°C all the time. The hardware can run very hot without any issues. And when all the fans eventually kick in under load, it will always keep under 70°C anyway.

    • bertjk 5 months ago

      It does mean things run warmer, but generally moderately specc'ed pcs don't generate enough heat and have enough reliability margin that it is not a problem. If you were some game enthusiast or crypto miner running multiple flagship GPUs on an 850W power supply, then I probably would not recommend this approach.

    • 0xfeba 5 months ago

      Yes, depending on how well it seals. Usually there's a hole in the back for HID cables, and the front has rubber feet to prevent door slamming that also offsets the door. This allows heat to flow out.

  • baldfat 5 months ago

    My computer is in the closet and I have a two cables a USB type c and a mini display port that comes out under my desk through the wall. Absolutely quiet.

  • sophistication 5 months ago

    Coil whine can relatively easily be absorbed as it is easy to absorb high-frequency noise. Just seal the entire thing and let only the copper pipes with the heat sink stick out.

jiveturkey 5 months ago

> (Astute readers will notice they are all AMD (Socket AM4) motherboards. The whole Meltdown/Spectre debacle rendered my previous Intel system insecure and unsecurable so that was the final straw for me — no more Intel CPUs.)

That's a silly and extremist position to take. "insecure" is relative, not absolute. It's a certainty that the software he's running has far more quantity of vulnerabilities and a much longer history of them. I don't know his exact use case, but arguably his use case isn't one where Spectre is particularly more severe than even a userland, non-priv-escalation vuln. (eg ransomware doesn't require root access to hold all your files hostage.)

> Eliminate the moving parts (e.g. fans, HDDs) and you eliminate the noise — it’s not that complicated.

Ha! And yet it deserved a detailed blog post. I'm surprised he would say this even after the amount of effort he spent.

  • iblo66 5 months ago

    After having purchased an AMD GPU, they would have to pay me for me to buy anything from AMD ever again.

    • sliken 5 months ago

      Their CPUs are pretty good, their GPUs are pretty good, however their GPU drivers are terrible, especially under linux.

      • Improvotter 5 months ago

        > however their GPU drivers are terrible, especially under linux.

        Imo the AMD drivers are way better than Nvidia's drivers. They're included in the kernel and therefore open source. Compared to Nvidia's proprietary drivers that have horrible support with a lot of compositors and lack support for DDC/CI over DisplayPort. The Nouveau drivers are better (slower performance but better compatibility), but are unable to change the clock speed (and are set to the minimum).

        The AMD drivers "just worked". Selling my RX480 for a GTX 1070 was the worst decision I made when it came to compatibility. Now I can't even get Vsync to work with this Nvidia crap.

      • zaggynl 5 months ago

        Since Linux 4.15, AMD GPU support is in kernel, can't say the same for Nvidia. That said, Nvidia's proprietary drivers still do better than AMD's drivers.

      • zingmars 5 months ago

        Well it's a good thing nvidia is catching up on being horrible. The 367.xx driver's dkms module doesn't even compile for me on Ubuntu 16.04 anymore, and later drivers make some gstreamer-based apps stutter a bit.

        And Windows is behaving weirdly as well since I installed the latest drivers. Black bar on top of full screen programs after waking from hibernation, The HD audio driver not letting pulseaudio start (I need it to get sound from WSL) and crashes when multiple 3D accelerated VMs are open. And restarting the GPU driver (with either the shortcut or through device manager) is what solves all the issues and they only occur with the latest driver.

        And the crappiest part is that there's nobody that can help. Getting someone from nvidia to respond on their forums is basically luck, and I'm not a huge company that can get their reps to get someone to help me.

      • marcosdumay 5 months ago

        The open source drivers of slightly old GPUs are ok. Not that good, but not bad either. And they are open, so they will come well integrated with your distro.

        What puts AMD GPUs in a weird situation where you can expect them not to work very well when they are new, but to improve until you can forget about them. (The inverse of the NVidia GPUs, that work ok when new, but slowly loses compatibility with time.)

      • ubercow13 5 months ago

        People literally buy AMD GPUs specifically for the Linux driver

      • PrimHelios 5 months ago

        With a recent kernel, their hybrid driver is fantastic.

      • Laaas 5 months ago

        what? It's the exact opposite, their GPU drivers are great on Linux. I've literally never had a problem with AMDGPU.

        Also, you can't even compare NVidia's drivers to them, since they don't even support Wayland properly!

        • y4mi 5 months ago

          you're probably getting downvoted because of your 'never'.

          AMD linux support was downright abysmal pre ~2015.

baseethrowaway 5 months ago

One can make a passive build much more powerful.

NSG S0, once out, will most likely be the go-to case for such setups. Until then, an HDPLEX H5 is cool.

My desk has a H5 on it, housing an i7 8700 (non-K) and a GTX 1060. The TIM under the heatspreader is replaced with Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut and Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut is used as every other TIM that the case setup needs. The CPU is on stock clocks with a voltage offset of -30 mV. The GPU has the power target reduced to 90% and clocks increased by 130 MHz, so that it is effectively undervolted as well. The PSU is a Seasonic Ultra Prime Titanium 650. Prime95 with AVX throttles really, really fast, under a minute, perhaps, but is a very unrealistic load. Non-AVX stress tests and FurMark take a while to start throttling (20 minutes?), as the thermal capacity of the aluminum case is quite big. After hours of gaming, the GPU and CPU float around 80 C while providing full stock performance. I don't do 3D rendering (other than in-game) or video en/decoding, so have not had long, real-world, full loads to see how temperatures behave with those.

From the discussion I've had and forums I've read, I think that people are afraid of putting more power in passive cases and having their components at "high" temperatures, despite those being rated for them.

  • xxs 5 months ago

    >Prime95 with AVX throttles really, really fast, under a minute, perhaps, but is a very unrealistic load

    I suppose blender would thermal throttle the cpu as well. If you run any non-Xeon/non-Laptop Intel chip (greater than 2k series) and care about temperatures - delid the bugger. (Xeons are soldered, laptop chips don't have IHS). Intel uses something that's worse than toothpaste, plus tons of glue between the die and the IHS. If you see temperature deltas under full load more than 9-10C between the cores, the thermal paste between the die and the IHS might have missing spots or have dried out. In your case removal of the IHS altogether would provide decent results.

    You might wish to check the VRMs, they are rated at 125C but if the case is hellishly hot inside, they might not be able to dissipate the heat.

    • Misdicorl 5 months ago

      Somewhat unrelated, but maybe you can shoot me down since you seem to have some experience?

      Metal is an incredibly good conductor on its own, and the properties of thermal paste (typically) are just barely better than air. So long as your cpu and heatsink are fairly flat surfaces and mashed together physically, it seems like either forgoing or having the absolute minimum amount of paste is ideal. I've used a razor to leave an absolutely minimal layer of paste (e.g. filling in sub-millimeter surface structure) on my latest build, and cpu temperatures are well within a reasonable range. But I'm also not trying to OC the cpu or anything.

      Thoughts?

      • xxs 5 months ago

        >...and the properties of thermal paste (typically) are just barely better than air.

        I am not certain how you have managed to come to such a conclusion. Thermal conductivity of air is around 0.03W/(m·K)[0]. Good thermal, non-conductive paste is like 12.5W/(m·K)[1] (or 400 times better than air). Conductive ones are in the region of ~40-80 W/(m·K) and Aluminium is 237W/(m·K). Also air also expands pushing the cooler and CPU away.

        Normally you if choose between "too much" and "too little" paste, you pick the former. The pressure pushes out the unneeded amounts.

        [0]: https://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/thermal-conductivity-d_42... [1]: http://www.thermal-grizzly.com/en/products/16-kryonaut-en

        • Misdicorl 5 months ago

          Don't, you need to multiply the raw conductivity by the linear distance occupied by the thermal paste? I presume that distance will be at least two orders of magnitude larger than that occupied by air in a metal contact only setup.

          I would be extremely surprised if increased pressure due to air at higher temperature played any role whatsoever unless the bolts connecting the heatsink and cpu were very loose. If anything, I'd expect the increased conductivity of air at higher temperatures to dominate.

          I'd also expect there to be effects at the metal-paste and paste-metal interfaces which reduce the effective system conductivity (i.e. phonons are much more likely to reflect in this scenario than in a metal-metal interface).

      • baseethrowaway 5 months ago

        It's very impractical/expensive for mass products to make the surfaces in question so flat that no thermal paste would be needed. Many tests and reviews have been done. Even if top-of-the-line coolers came with perfectly flat surfaces, Intel's heatspreader is not -- otherwise it would cost so much more. Also, heatsinks can be applied with a lot of force, which usually pushes out the "unneeded" part of the thermal paste. In a bind, even lipstick, toothpaste, chocolate and other silly compounds work better than nothing, so I'm not surprised that you're getting ok results even with a touch of thermal paste.

        A fun thing to try is using a modern low-end CPU (latest i3s, Pentiums, Celerons) without its cooler. Not advised by Intel, of course, but you might get into your OS of choice even before it starts throttling. I'm somewhat comforted by the fact that a CPU automatically powers of once it reaches something above 100 C (103 maybe?) and throttles a few degrees before that. Those temperatures shouldn't leave the silicon damaged.

        In practice, thermal paste is a must. If you don't like those (I personally don't, they get everywhere by accident and can be tough to remove), try getting an IC Graphite Thermal Pad which is reusable and rivals really good, if not the best thermals pastes, according to the limited number of reviews I've seen. I think that its practicality beats better results in non-highest-end applications.

        • Misdicorl 5 months ago

          Its really not that hard to create flat surfaces- anyone with a lathe, a hard cutting instrument, and a bit of fine grinding material can probably get a contact bond between two pieces of metal.

      • nasredin 5 months ago

        Yes.

        Smallest ammount of TIM spread all over. NO "PEA" METHOD! All over!

        The Cool Laboratory Liquid Metal stuff is the best but hard to work with.

    • baseethrowaway 5 months ago

      Blender might throttle. Does it come with benchmarks/tests that I could use to gauge thermal performance?

      The CPU is delidded! I've got another i3 4300 delidded as well running under a NoFan CR-80EH. Delid + Conductonaut + Kryonaut made the difference between throttling vs hovering around 90 C in FurMark + Prime 95. When integrated graphics aren't used, the CPU runs cooler, of course, and didn't throttle with MX4 thermal paste and no delid.

      I do fear that VRMs are running too hot. When selecting components, I picked those that come with some heatsinks on VRMs at least. The motherboard is an AsRock Fatal1ty Z370 Gaming-ITX/ac (non ITX motherboard wouldn't fit in the case anyway with an ATX power supply). The graphics card is Gigabyte's cheapest offering and has a small sink across the VRMs. I'm hoping that undervolting will help keep the VRMs in check.

      • xxs 5 months ago

        > Blender might throttle. Does it come with benchmarks/tests that I could use to gauge thermal performance?

        There are multiple scenes to render as benchmark (I guess BMW one is the shortest/most popular). https://www.blender.org/download/demo-files/

emptybits 5 months ago

Clearly a work of passion and I appreciate OP sharing.

I enjoyed earlier days of "Silent PC" building, ten or fifteen years ago. For example, building a silent tower or desktop for a DAW or softsynth back then in a recording/studio environment required some ingenuity. SSD? Not on a hobbiest budget. I recall one build, not mine, fully immersed in a bucket of oil (mineral?) for passive heat dispersion.

Today, as a new reference point, any MacBook Pro within the last few years may qualify as truly silent for many people's everyday usage. It does for me. And when I do heat up the CPU/GPU with heavy tasks, the fans spin up but then they go away completely as soon as the hard work is done. Back to silent.

No more spinning platters or crappy fan bearings or poorly engineering airflow nowadays. :-)

There's no hacker pride in buying off-the-shelf, so the performance bar for DIY is higher. Progress!

  • tp69 5 months ago

    I'm glad you enjoyed the post. My first silencing attempt (in the early 1990s) was to seal a hard disk in what amounted to little more than a couple of oven bags, custom-make a long IDE cable, and then — literally — dangle the drive in a bucket of water that was under the desk the computer sat on. That ended poorly, with thermal cycling inducing microfractures in the bags, which resulted in leaks, a dead drive and a blown controller on the motherboard. Ah well, we live and learn. Take it easy.

  • patentatt 5 months ago

    It used to be fun trying to silence a computer. Figuring out which HDDs were single-platter, undervolting processors, finding low-rpm fans, etc. used to be a challenge, and have great rewards for those of us who care. Now, check out silentpcreview.com, hasn’t been updated this calendar year. In some ways I miss the old days, but most modern laptops and even desktops are reasonably quiet, and full silence is easy to achieve.

  • alorimer 5 months ago

    I've had the same experience with my MBP 2017. So many people don't realise that the aluminium chassis isn't just attractive, it's actually a massive heatsink, and it's the reason the machine needs barely any internal airflow.

  • cschep 5 months ago

    man, my mbp is on fire and fans spinning all the time just from xcode / ios dev.. backend dev on a remote server was the life! :D

recursive 5 months ago

This says that a completely silent computer would be 0dB. But it's a logarithmic scale, so I think it should say -Infinity dB.

This is admittedly pointless pedantry.

  • klodolph 5 months ago

    Silent means that it has no sound, but "sound" either means the sensation of perceiving vibrations, or the actual vibrations that cause the sensation. 0 dB SPL is the threshold of hearing, so it is "silent" in the first sense.

    Strictly speaking.

  • jiveturkey 5 months ago

    He’s using the term incorrectly to begin with so corrections aren’t really possible.

    Of course it can’t be completely silent. Heat generates air movement which is “sound”.

    By 0dB he means 0dB SPL which is give or take correct.

    • contravariant 5 months ago

      If the air moves at a constant speed I don't think you'd get sound. Any fluctuations probably won't be in the audible spectrum, although whether that still counts as 'silent' is more of a philosophical question.

  • armadsen 5 months ago

    Yep. 0dB is the limit of human hearing, not absolute silence. There are anechoic chambers with noise levels below 0dB.

    • Retric 5 months ago

      Yet if you sit in one you hear the blood pumping through your ears so it's reasonable to use human perception as a baseline when that's what they care about.

      • rjbwork 5 months ago

        I've been in one. Back in HS, we took a trip to the GIANT anechoic chamber at Georgia Tech. It was incredible. If someone was facing away from you and yelling as loud as they could, you could barely hear it from behind them. You're standing on basically a giant net on top of a pit of foam blocks, and every wall is wildly shaped undulating foam.

        It's really surreal and a number of people actually became nauseated at the sensation.

  • kees99 5 months ago

    Pretty sure there's going to be some coil whine. Probably above 0dB.

  • theandrewbailey 5 months ago

    I'm pretty sure that there's some measurable amount of coil whine or other noise coming from capacitors and other small components, making it more than -infinity dB, and probably more than 0dB. The sound might not even be within human detectable frequencies.

  • calibration263 5 months ago

    To be more pedantic, it's probably safe to assume this is not even 0dB. Most people would probably consider a computer under 25dB-30dB as "silent" since most rooms background noise are around there.

    Linus did a silent PC build which even in a sound proofed case and at idle was about 14dB and broke 20dB under load: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXZrWqCT7R0

    Even the high end microphone used to record the sound level in this video produced it's own 7dB of noise.

  • ovao 5 months ago

    It may register below 0dB SPL (in an anechoic chamber, anyway) depending on the manner in which it's measured, which is a complex discipline in itself. Sound pressure dissipates over distance, for example, so the distance at which the measurement is made has bearing, as does the angle at which it's measured.

    (This is unabashed pedantry. But I'm on my lunch break, so...)

  • RachelF 5 months ago

    20 to 30dBA is probably the base noise level of most environments.

    No point in making your PC less noisy than the noise floor.

  • alorimer 5 months ago

    Also, coil whine and convection wind have potential to be more obvious once you take away fans and introduce more efficient passive components.

  • gus_massa 5 months ago

    I was just going to post this with a nitpicking warning. Anyway, it may be a joke.

dragontamer 5 months ago

So these sorts of builds are way harder than they look. You need to spend a good amount of time planning out motherboards, and willing to go back to the shop to buy another motherboard (because this motherboard might have a big honking capacitor where you expected to run a heat-pipe).

So you either need to carefully look at pictures / guestimate the location of components, or hope that someone else on the internet has figured it all out for you. Alternatively, you could just be ridiculously lucky.

But I don't really believe in luck personally. If this guy has been doing these builds for as long as he claims, he probably had a fair bit of thought go into the particulars of this build. The kinds of thoughts that don't go very well into blog posts because they're uninteresting (but very important). Like, does X combination of components fit or do I do Y instead?

------------

With respect to the build itself: I'm surprised he was able to get 60+W CPU and a 60+W GPU in there. Most silent builds I see basically use laptop parts (30W or less) to keep the heat down.

32gb of RAM will be plenty, and 8 Zen-cores is plenty strong. The GPU is a bit weak for gaming, but he should be able to play plenty of the lower-end games without much issue, even at 1080p / 60fps (probably Overwatch for example). He probably can't run Witcher3 at 4k on Ultra, but such a GPU would blow out his thermal-design completely.

  • tp69 5 months ago

    Yep, it took weeks to finalise the parts. I had to contact multiple vendors and get them to check component heights, track down motherboard layouts, compare review photos from different angles, plan heatpipe runs, resolve conflicts with VRM heatsinks and power connectors, watch assembly/review videos over and over again, scrutinise manuals, determine hardware/OS incompatibilities... probably well over 80 hours of work before I could even order the parts.

    But, like you say, even though I had done all that, there was still the possibility that I might have missed something and would need to return/replace some parts and rework the plan. My mouse hovered over the "Order" button for quite a while before I finally committed. An anxious moment.

    Virtually none of that methodical and boring research/prep work made it into the post — it's just not that interesting. Necessary, yes, but not something that the vast majority of readers would want to read.

    The setup should be able to handle a 105W CPU and 75W GPU. At this point 65 + 75W is confirmed. When I OC the 1600 I should be able to verify up to ~95 + 75W.

    The strategy was to start with a really well engineered passive case, then select components that could be pushed right up to the thermal limits. It's worked well so far. I'll keep publishing all of my test results for those that may be interested.

tsomctl 5 months ago

I'm pretty happy with my setup. My garage shares a wall with my living room, so I put the tower out there. I then ran high quality, 25' long dvi and usb cables to the desk in my living room.

Edit: I currently have two gtx1050 in it running at full power, and can't hear the fans at all.

  • saagarjha 5 months ago

    Personally, I just don't like computing at a distance. I actually like hearing things like fan noise or hard drive sounds, as long as they're not incessant, because it can serve as a subtle notification that the computer might be doing something in the background that I might not have realized otherwise.

    • welly 5 months ago

      On a slightly different but related subject, I live on a boat with a diesel engine. Being able to hear the engine run and hear the change of tone is something I couldn't live without.

      I often run the engine to heat my water and the very slightest change of tone has my ears pricking up, panicking with "I've not heard that sound before! What's up with it? Is it broken? Am I going to sink??" running through my head.

    • fipple 5 months ago

      But then a silent build wouldn’t be interesting to you at all. The garage idea is good for someone who does want Silent computing.

      • saagarjha 5 months ago

        Hmm, I guess. I think my MacBook Pro strikes a nice balance: it's silent 95% of the time, and I get some fans up when I run builds or something hangs in the background.

    • always_good 5 months ago

      Better to have usage stats always visible like iStat Menus: https://bjango.com/mac/istatmenus/

      Fans don't tell the whole story. Network traffic is super useful to see as well. Also, if your computer never gets hot enough, it can be doing plenty of unwanted background work without setting off the fans.

      • saagarjha 5 months ago

        I have that, but I'm not always watching it. Sound lets me know to glance up at my menu bar to see what's going on.

  • robotnixon 5 months ago

    I did the same but the tower is in my basement. I ran an HDMI and USB cable up thru the wall and into a keystone panel behind my TV. Other than occasionally having to manually flip the tower back on after a power outage it worked pretty flawlessly. Totally silent and no tower to hide in my living room.

    • blanderman 5 months ago

      "wake on USB" could save you from manually switching the PC back on.

      • 8xde0wcNwpslOw 5 months ago

        I haven't found such functionality in my MoBo, but a tinkerer could also use one more cord to move the power button where the rest of the controls are.

        • 0xfeba 5 months ago

          An Alexa "skill" or whatever integration would be cool: "Alexa, turn on the computer!"

        • efreak 5 months ago

          Wake on lan then?

  • gerdesj 5 months ago

    At the risk of me too! I have a Dell T420 with eight spindles in the loft above our bedroom, plus assorted UPS, APU2 based router, switches and a mini ATX based thing for MythTV.

    I screwed four lengths of 4" x 2" between two roofing joists to make two trapeziums. I then screwed a 3/4" thick sheet of chipboard to the bottom and then wrapped the top and sides in roofing felt (some protection in case of roof failure).

    The loft is lagged 200mm deep with 3/4" chipboard on top which deadens the noise nicely. The Dell was running the fans quite a lot today when I went up to check on something - 25C outside in Somerset, UK today.

  • mipmap04 5 months ago

    What sort of ambient temperature do you normally have in your garage?

    • pvg 5 months ago

      With the two GPUs running full tilt, probably good enough to easily add 'tropical plant horticulture' to one's hobbies.

      • make3 5 months ago

        unless he's in a northern country. if it's was in my garage, the machine would probably not need fans

        • pvg 5 months ago

          Someone started a fire with their cryptocurrency mining rig in an apartment somewhere near Vladivostok this past February. All it takes a little dedication!

    • tsomctl 5 months ago

      Between 50 and 70 F. It's unheated/uncooled, but I live in a temperate environment.

fhood 5 months ago

All of my raspberry pi's are completely silent.

On a more serious note, would it be possible to achieve said silence without too much compromise by some variant of water cooling, with a good sized reservoir? And use the heat to drive circulation rather than a pump?

  • bluGill 5 months ago

    Maybe, but it is tricky.

    Because there is no pump the water will flow much slower, therefore you need much bigger pipes. Think at least 3x the diameter you would think you need.

    Also because you are depending on thermo siphon you have to ensure you have to ensure the water flow works with gravity. The heat source must be at bottom, and the radiator must be at the top. You don't get any flexibility go around something that might be in the way, the pipes must always be sloped in the correct direction.

    If you are using anything other than water you need to pay attention to specific gravity (and how it changes with temperature), and viscosity. Probably something else that I'm not thinking of.

    It probably can work. I have an antique tractor that uses such a system. A 2.2L, 16hp engine, has 24L of coolant, and the pipes between the engine and radiator are noticeably bigger than my truck with a 7.3L 250HP engine. Remember that this was designed to run at just under the boiling point of water (antifreeze is too modern). You probably want your computer considerably cooler, which implies even larger systems than a similar active one.

    • fhood 5 months ago

      What kind of tractor?

      • bluGill 5 months ago

        1939 John Deere B. My Grandpa bought it in the mid 1960s, for $300, my dad drove it home. Now it is mine.

  • namibj 5 months ago

    Yes, just use a flat (i.e., no high fins) passive cooler on the CPU (this won't fit with stock parts), lay the motherboard flat and submerge about 1cm deep in a refrigerant boiling in the range (max room temp 5K) and (max healthy cpu temp -20K). Flourinert and Pentane are suitable, the former is really expensive and the latter as flammable as gasoline. If you replace the cooler with a 1mm copper plate and use a pump to archive a flowspeed across the cooler between 5 and 20m/s, you can get crazy overclocking. You might get subzero clocks without any active refrigeration. The benefit is that all your ancillary components are cooled too, and you have superior performance with a pumnp, and even performance without one. Ensure some radiator with gravity-backflow gets the vapor, e.g. just use a central heating one above and ensure liquid can't pool in the piping, and that that is not too narrow.

    • zrobotics 5 months ago

      Sounds overly-complicated (but fun). Why not just build in an aquarium and submerge it in mineral oil?

      • IronBacon 5 months ago

        From what I recall mineral oil has long term effects on the HW, or in other words, I think I've seen some pictures of mineral oil cooled MBs with degraded/melted plastics. And the oil it's a logistic mess.

        Instead the other day on Youtube I don't recall how I landed to a 3M infomercial about their Novec dielectric liquid used for immersion cooling. That stuff looked interesting, but they didn't spilled (pun ^__^;) details about cost or health issues tho.

        • namibj 5 months ago

          The difference between Novec 649/1230 (they seem to be the same) and Perflourohexane/FC72/'Flourinert (well, 'the' classical kind)' is that the former is somewhat less inert and apparently slightly toxic to the central nervous system (high doses only), and the latter is sufficiently non-toxic to be used for allowing burn victims to breathe, as it shields their lungs from damage, and is able to provide enough oxygen by dissolving it to prevent suffocation. Rats don't drown in it if submerged and if it is sufficiently aerated to contain enough oxygen. The other difference is that Novec has a Halon-style effect on fire, whereas Flourinert is at least not sold with that intention. Also FC72 decomposes slowly into a toxic, but afaik not dangerous to the elctonics, product, which has to be scrubbed.

          Both of those have a vastly higher global warming effect than 'just' using Pentane, but that is rather flammable so one would probably want to ensure the oxygen concentration in the room is too low to result in a flammable mixture. This would probably mean that a human couldn't breath without external oxygen supply, but that should not be more expensive if it is a suitably low-physical-maintenance location, i.e. the systems are installed once and at most swapped out when obsolete or in case of component failure. A human could probably make due with an oxygen tube in his nose and some way to prevent the exhaled oxygen from sticking around in the (probably low-airflow) room.

          The cost for FC72 is about 300$/kg, keep in mind the density is about 2.3 times that of water. Novec should be somewhat below, I think (otherwise there is little reason to offer it).

          • abritinthebay 5 months ago

            The latter is the stuff they used in The Abyss, right?

      • namibj 5 months ago

        The difference is that mineral oil cools by convection and my solution cools by nucleate boiling. With my solution, and a flow or iirc about 20m/s, you could cool a delidded AMD EPYC 32 core at 600W. I.e. you are not limited by cooling, you are limited by how much current the LGA pins can handle before they loose stiffness (due to resistive heating in the pin and at the contact area) and then spiral out of control due to the weak contact pressure increasing resistance and leading to the ping disconnecting. This easily goes over to the others, there are documents from iirc Intel about how this happens/works, and how to prevent it.

        I considered soldering the LGA pins to the CPU, but due to the craziness of this idea I haven't researched it further.

        The thing is, that a dual-socket 32 core/socket EPYC clocked/overvolted for full stability and an overvolting-induced lifespan of 5 years, which does not have problems with power delivery on the way between the interposer (the thing the dies are mounted to and that connects them to each other and provides LGA pads) and the wall socket, would probably be the most affordable (TCO, i.e. including electricity and maintenance) system for non-distributed compiling of reasonably parallelizable software. It would be 'the' ultimate workstation in the sub-$15k range, this would be the full system including the single-quantity amount of, in this case, Flourinert (which is not toxic; there was even research to fill the lungs with it for high-G environments, as it prevents lung collapse. There were issues circulating the liquid fast enough due to the much higher viscosity compared to air, so they dropped it.) and a custom-manufactured (from a local metal shop) containment case for the system and work from a plumber to provide suitable piping. The only non-included thing is the manufacturing and mounting of the nozzle that provides the required flow rate across the CPU to keep up with the heat.

        Short answer: mineral oil does not provide suitable cooling for high-TDP processors.

  • jdietrich 5 months ago

    It's possible using a low temperature phase-change system, but you need some absolutely immense radiators. The Calyos NSG-S0 chassis will passively cool a high-end gaming PC, but it weighs 22kg and costs €1000.

    http://fanlessfan.com/

  • akanet 5 months ago

    Probably not - you need to push water over the radiator blocks at a decent clip and I'm pretty sure you need pump. You could try a heatpipe into a big radiator that sits in a big tank of water, though.

    • gnode 5 months ago

      An alternative to this is the mineral oil PC, where you submerge the whole thing.

  • mimac 5 months ago

    There are always peltier units, but horribly inefficient...

    • gnode 5 months ago

      Peltiers are only really worth it if you need sub-ambient temperatures (i.e. extreme overclocking). You then need to carry away the heat of the Peltier in addition to that of the processor, making expelling the heat even more difficult than it was before.

chx 5 months ago

If you are interested in this topic then http://www.silentpcreview.com/ is your friend, they have been doing this since 2002 although certainly activity has been lees the last few years. The forums are also good.

  • paol 5 months ago

    Activity has ceased unfortunately. The last articles are from 2016.

    • tempestn 5 months ago

      That's a shame; they've been my go-to resource for my last three builds or so.

  • SkyMarshal 5 months ago

    These guys sell silent PCs and components too:

    https://silentpc.com/

    • badpun 5 months ago

      I bought a quiet PC from these guys: https://www.quietpc.com/

      As far as I could tell, the only noise it made was coming from the PC speaker and the DVD drive (when it was running). There were no fans inside.

blattimwind 5 months ago

IME components need to be selected for low coil whine (and the related brethren, namely electrostriction and piezoelectrics), because it easily dwarfs (both in loudness and annoyance) the air flow and fan noise of a well-built air-cooled machine.

tetha 5 months ago

Hm, this reminds me of two interesting tidbits.

One is the good old P1 125Mhz router we had like 10 - 15 years ago. The only active cooling in that system was in the PSU and that thing throttled it's fan off during normal operation. It had zero moving parts outside of the PSU. You couldn't even get fans for those CPUs. These old systems were fun :)

And beyond that, this makes me think of the computer requirements of coal mines, and I think mining in general. In a mine, a piece of compute has a defined maximum energy emission per square inch surface. If you exceed that, you risk coal dust explosions, which are rather inconvenient, loud and adverse to throughput. The stuff in the article is very similar to industrial computers in such a setup. Quite interesting.

  • kakwa_ 5 months ago

    At my college, we had a bar with a custom account management system (it managed the credit of each students).

    The thing was all text/ncurses.

    The terminal was an under-clocked PII, with all the fans removed and connected to the server using a serial cable and it was kind of necessary since the environment was quite hostile and sticky (spilled beer, some fat deposit, etc).

    If I recall correctly before the PII, it was a VT-100 console, so even more basic than the PII.

egfx 5 months ago

A long time ago I was dreaming of a completely silent computer and bought the Antec 350 for my birthday. https://www.bjorn3d.com/2004/11/antec-phantom-350w-psu/

It cannot power a single mid-range video card today or pretty much any modern equipment. I would have loved to be able to use it.

Anybody making fanless PSU's today?

  • aesthetics1 5 months ago

    Seasonic does. They make excellent power supplies. I've used a 400w fanless in a media center PC, but they also make higher wattage units like this for example: https://seasonic.com/prime-titanium-fanless

    • polshaw 5 months ago

      A higher wattage than 400W is utterly pointless for a fanless PSU; if you need to dissipate constant loads of >400W of heat, you will need a fan somewhere (exotic options like mineral oil cooling aside).

      • vertexFarm 5 months ago

        Well you can always add absurd amounts of surface area and mass to the heat sinks to take advantage of thermal inertia, or possibly change components to simply raise your safe operating temperatures to absurd levels. But that's pretty involved. Spacecraft take care of huge temperatures with no fans or even conductive or convective cooling. But that requires enormous, sail-sized surfaces to take advantage of extremely slow radiative cooling.

        It would be an exotic option for sure. And not something you'll find pre-built.

        • jamiek88 5 months ago

          http://fanlessfan.com/

          Massive heat sink you say?

          This is cpu and gpu fully passive. Amazing. But $1000.

          • vertexFarm 5 months ago

            Wow. That thing has more surface area than a motorcycle engine. I guess it really needs it with such a relatively low temperature gradient, not to mention the absence of airflow from movement. I'd love to see how that really performs.

    • blattimwind 5 months ago

      The 2nd gen Seasonic 400 W is easily good enough to run a 1070 Ti and a 100 W CPU.

    • ranma42 5 months ago

      I have a Seasonic Platinum X-400 fanless, but I'm quite disappointed because mine suffers from quite loud coil whine noise that is more annoying to me than a fan would have been.

  • dingo_bat 5 months ago

    > Anybody making fanless PSU's today?

    There's a lot of PSUs nowadays that will work with the fans completely off up to ~75% of their rated power. Which is adequate for most situations.

  • 8xde0wcNwpslOw 5 months ago

    I considered a fanless PSU when I bought my current set-up, but at least back then I didn't find them cost-effective: for a cheaper price I could buy a higher-rated, at least as efficient model from the same manufacturer, and even though it has a fan, it is equally not making any noise in most use cases because it's not running. (I've never bothered to find out when it turns on; later on I added an external GPU to my case, and when its fans start -- not in desktop use -- you can't hear the PSU fan anyway, although I certainly wouldn't mind it running when the case temperature goes up, which it certainly does in certain use.)

    Speaking of silent computing; unfortunately my monitor is "louder" than my PC in desktop use for most brightness levels. Anyway, personally I've given up the goal of doing a solid-state PC; a single fan chosen correctly in a case is virtually silent and makes the cooling design much easier; in my experience most PSUs and GPUs produce similar amounts of noise even without fans (and with bad luck, they can be worse).

  • vertexFarm 5 months ago

    I think a good route would be to get as efficient a fan-cooled psu you could find and modify it yourself. You can always take the PCBs out of the case and add bigger heat sinks, change the TIM under those heat sinks, add water blocks if needed, desolder components and swap with higher wattage components, etc.

    Or you could just submerge the whole machine in mineral oil. That technique really sucks, though. As cool as it is to have a fully submerged computer, it's hell to clean literal liquid laxative out of a PCIe slot when it's time to upgrade the graphics card.

  • IronBacon 5 months ago

    Other than standard ATX/SFX PSU, in the small form factor (sff) scene I've seen using DC/DC PSU like the HD-Plex or PicoPSU and a beefed up external power brick.

    The most bizarre thing I've seen, when the power requirement for a single brick wasn't enough, they used two power bricks, for example the Zotac Zbox EN1080 mini PC.

  • byproxy 5 months ago

    For what it's worth, I've been using a Corsair AX760 (80+ Platinum) with a i5-6600 and a GTX 1070 in a Thermltake V31 case (stock fans) for a couple of years now and I don't think I've ever heard/seen the fan spin up, even under load while gaming in the Southern California summer heat.

weinzierl 5 months ago

Completely silent and zero time boot are the two features I still miss from my C64. The only thing that came close in the meantime was my Palm III, but it wasn't a desktop computer. To be fair I rarely boot a device (be it mobile or notebook) nowadays, but still..

Escapado 5 months ago

Nice article. About two years ago I wanted to make my pc completely silent as well. It turned out that the cheapest solution for me was to put the pc in another room that I don't sit in and put long hdmi + USB cables through the wall. I also soldered on a longer cable with a power button so I can start the pc from my room. The only downside for me is that I had to run cables along my walls through a conduit but I think in total I paid less than 40€.

  • tomaskafka 5 months ago

    "How long HDMI cable do I need to call this a cloud?" :))

monkpit 5 months ago

> The whole Meltdown/Spectre debacle rendered my previous Intel system insecure and unsecurable so that was the final straw for me — no more Intel CPUs.

Is any system honestly 100% “securable”? I would argue that any computer, regardless of cpu manufacturer, is “unsecurable”.

  • wilsonnb 5 months ago

    A computer with no input mechanism or output mechanism would be secure. Just not very useful.

    I imagine any computer that approaches maximum security also approaches minimum utility.

    Presumably the author just thinks that Intel is a little too low on security compared to the other offerings, and not that the other offerings are actually "secure".

    • saagarjha 5 months ago

      > A computer with no input mechanism or output mechanism would be secure.

      Information can be extracted from airgapped computers by measuring magnetic fluctuations, so this isn't quite true!

      • wilsonnb 5 months ago

        I suppose that would count as an output mechanism then, wouldn't it?

        Perhaps it is impossible to build a computer without an output mechanism.

        • luminiferous 5 months ago

          If you're going to count all possible side channels as output mechanisms, then I'd imagine that it is indeed impossible to build a computer without an output mechanism.

          Unless you limit your scope to say, Earth, and somehow build a computer outside of Earth's light cone. It is thus causally disconnected from Earth and has no output mechanisms that can be read from anyone on Earth.

        • trumped 5 months ago

          every computer need electricity input also

  • vertexFarm 5 months ago

    Anything that can be used can be misused, if you wanna get into the philosophy of it. And any information that is intelligible to one party can be made intelligible to another party, pending whether quantum weirdness™ pans out or not. Even if entanglement becomes a consumer-level thing, I bet eavesdropping techniques will eventually be developed, even if they only operate on the conventional side of the quantum computer.

    But this is more about security engineering philosophy. The Intel management engine relies on a lot of security-by-obscurity, which is not the best way. But I think that Intel chips are passably secure as long as you watch what you're doing.

  • inetsee 5 months ago

    If I were to try to setup a system with as much security as possible, I'd go with OpenBSD, in a Tempest Room[1], without a direct connection to the Internet. I don't recall the exact procedure, but there is a way to securely get information into and out of such a system, but it involves CDROMs, not USB memory sticks.

    [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tempest_%28codename%29

  • etherael 5 months ago

    Well no material is unbreakable, either, but some are a whole lot more breakable than others.

TwoNineA 5 months ago

There is one flaw in his setup, he doesn't seem to cool the VRMs of his video card (only memory chips). Not doing that is asking for trouble when load is put on the card.

  • thinkingemote 5 months ago

    You can fanless video cards of the same spec as in the article (1050ti) e.g at https://www.quietpc.com/palit-ne5105t018g1-1070h

    (I can personally recommend both the vendor and the card!)

    • TwoNineA 5 months ago

      For these cards the giant heatsink is connected to the VRMs so cooling is a non issue. In OP's pictures, he seems to have replaced the heatsink of his card with one from the case without cooling the VRMs.

      From personal experience, I tried to silent cool an RX 550 (50 watt vs 75 watt of 1050 ti) without VRM heatsink and the VRM temnperatures were up to 100-103C during a torture test. Adding a fan lowered the temperatures by 20C.

      • Ratiofarmings 5 months ago

        Both the hi-side and lo-side mosfets (they might be 2in1 on a card like this) are rated for their amperage at 125c and are typically capable of dissipating that through their contact with the pcb. Airflow is nice, but not required. Neither is direct contact with a heatsink. Those are for higher end cards (who also rate their mosfets at 125c for good reasons. Max tCase for mosfets is usually 150c. Beyond that they just die.

    • onli 5 months ago

      If I remember correctly that card still needs some air flow to work, normally provided from case fans. That would be problematic in a completely fanless system. A Ryzen APU might be better, as the case would cool it.

  • tp69 5 months ago

    The design of the DB4 is such that the graphics card is mounted vertically. Fresh, cool air flows in through the grille at the bottom, over the VRM area, then up and out the top of the case.

    I have more small heat sinks I could put on the mosfets, but they are relatively low profile so I'm not sure they would improve things much.

    A single, large heat sink, with long fins (that would protrude above and beyond the nearby capacitors) would seem to make more sense — but given there are no mounting points I could use to clamp it down I'd be a bit concerned about the long-term effect of torque.

    Opinions and suggestions are welcome.

  • old-gregg 5 months ago

    Correct. I did the same thing with RX 560 and it died within 2 weeks even though "GPU temp" was never above 60C (normal desktop use, I never gamed on it).

walrus01 5 months ago

Quick note for everyone who might want to build a mostly-quiet home theatre PC. There are several versions of the geforce1030 that use passive cooling/no fans. With H265 acceleration in the GPU drivers, more than fast enough for 2160p, 60fps movies in VLC. They're right around $85.

Same basic chip architecture as the much more expensive 1070/1080. Not something you'd want to run newer 3D games on, but perfect for media center use.

  • IronBacon 5 months ago

    Last time I've looked there was a passive cooled 1050 GeForce model and an equivalent (more or less) from Amd that I don't recall the name.

    • walrus01 5 months ago

      There are several passively cooled geforce1050 (not ti), but you really don't need it for any form of 4k video. My output setup is to a 70" 60Hz TV over HDMI 2.0, with a ryzen 1500X that is slightly overclocked, this setup handled 2160p60 H265 up to around 300 Mbps, at which point it CPU bottlenecks. Which is a vastly greater bitrate than any bluray or torrented 4K content.

      If you wanted a setup slightly more capable of 3D games then the 1050 would definitely be a consideration.

      • IronBacon 5 months ago

        Well, 300 Mb/s it's a lot of headspace, it's nearly nine times the bandwidth of a Bluray. ^__^

        I'm itching to stuff one of the recently release Raven Ridge APUs in a 3 liters case with a PicoPSU and have a portable, reasonably powerful desktop that I can stuff in a backpack, I'm waiting for a little more mature Linux support, at least a stable 2.4.17 kernel...

  • RachelF 5 months ago

    I have a similar system. What OS do you run on it?

    • walrus01 5 months ago

      Sadly, windows 10, better driver support for all the GPU acceleration features for very high bitrate 4k video. It pretty much just runs VLC and other "fun" things such as Google Earth.

soVeryTired 5 months ago

Stupid question from a non-hardware guy. If you wanted a completely silent computer, could you build one in a vacuum chamber and just suck all the air out?

  • ratboy666 5 months ago

    No. A vacuum doesn't transmit heat at all. The chips will get very hot. Liquids (generally) transfer heat better that air. You can completely immerse your computer in 3M Fluorinert. That will transfer the heat. Then, cooling fins to transfer the heat into the environment.

  • natosaichek 5 months ago

    The challenge is removing heat. Putting things in a vacuum chamber doesn't make them colder - vacuum is actually a pretty good insulator, so you'd need some mechanism to get the heat out of there with9out using air. If you go the other direction, some people have built computers they submerge in mineral oil or other similar media. That works pretty well for removing heat from components more effectively than air convection.

  • beckler 5 months ago

    Yeah, but without air, the heat won't dissapate.

  • brlewis 5 months ago

    That approach would not be very different from surrounding it with sound insulation, and would involve the same challenges. Things that conduct heat out tend to conduct sound out too.

  • misterman101 5 months ago

    You'd still need to get heat out. You could water cool the machine, but you'd still have fans/radiator on the outside.

  • iliis 5 months ago

    You could, but it would be thermally quite bad: The only way for parts to cool would be through radiation, which is way less effective than convection (be it forced by fans or passive, as in OP's design.)

  • Wildgoose 5 months ago

    You'd have problems with getting rid of the heat if your components were surrounded by vacuum - you'd only have radiation, no convection to carry away heat.

shurcooL 5 months ago

As someone who has used the fanless 12" Retina MacBook, I can't put in words how nice of a feeling it is to have a fully silent computer. It's hard to understand why without actually experiencing it yourself, but it was a really big deal. If not for the awful keyboard ruining the experience, I wouldn't ever give it up.

It may sound (no pun intended) like an exaggeration, but I think more powerful computers going completely silent (fanless) will be the next most noticeable breakthrough since we got Retina displays on computers in 2012.

  • tp69 5 months ago

    Yes, the feeling you get from pure silence is hard to put into words.

aembleton 5 months ago

My Xiaomi Air 12 Laptop is completely silent, fanless and uses SSD. Very happy with it and it comes like that out of the box.

https://www.gearbest.com/laptops/pp_416105.html

  • absove 5 months ago

    I got mine last week, pleasantly surprised at how good it was considering the price. The display is gorgeous and linux support is excellent. Far from usual experience with linux on laptops.

cellularmitosis 5 months ago

    It can’t be heard from 1cm away
I doubt that. A while back I removed all of the moving parts from an old 486 and netbooted it, only to find out I could actually hear the network card making very faint screeching noises whenever there was network activity. You've probably heard the same effect on a much larger scale, at much lower frequency, when you hear the 60Hz hum of a "silent" transformer.
ythn 5 months ago

Sometimes I can "hear" my processor working through my headphones. I'm not sure how, but, for example, when I scroll down a page I can hear high frequency chirping in my headphones which stops as soon as I stop scrolling.

  • woliveirajr 5 months ago

    It is caused by the increase/decrease in power consuption, as in general the audio chip isn't properly isolated from the power source of your computer. So, as more power is used (by slightly increasing the CPU speed, for example, to render the page as you scrooled it), the audio chip amplifies it.

    It is a problem of some motherboards, and one way to get ride of it is to use another audio chip (for example, a small USB device that acts like a sound card).

    • fipple 5 months ago

      The external USB sound card doesn’t always work because the USB supply voltage can vary with processor CPU. You need to use a USB headphone output with good isolation.

      • stan_rogers 5 months ago

        ...which is still a "USB sound card", no matter how you choose to look at it. It still needs to be a combined DAC and headphone amplifier in addition to being a set of 'phones.

        Personally, I use an Audioquest Dragonfly USB DAC/headphone amp, which gives me the option to use either headphones (of my choosing) or speakers. (And unlike a larger "breakout box" USB sound card, it's quite portable, being about the same size and shape as USB thumb drives used to be.) It's a good fit for me, but if you need mic input, there are other devices - or you can still use the mic in of your regular sound card/integrated audio.

  • 21 5 months ago

    I can also "hear" something when I scroll on some computers, but I hear them with my ears, no headphones required.

    On one particular susceptible computer I did a bit of testing, and scrolling white background pages made the noise, but black background ones didn't! Scrolling a completely white page also made the noise. And it depended on app, some apps were immune, it seemed to only happen on GPU-accelerated apps, like browsers.

  • jandrese 5 months ago

    I used to be able to hear data going over the serial port back in the modem days. Some systems used to make a buzz when scrolling too. These days I have not heard that, but I'm not sure if it's because the frequencies have gone up (outside of my hearing range) or the parts have better isolation or I'm just going deaf as I get old.

    I don't think I've heard scrolling noise since I stopped using analog video signals.

  • sliken 5 months ago

    Likely it's your GPU or LCD panel leaking RF. Try turning your monitor off and see if scrolling is still audible.

    • blattimwind 5 months ago

      These phenomena are more typically caused by ground loops and shield currents in the computer itself. Reordering plug-in cards (e.g. moving a sound card to a different slot) or isolating/removing the slot bracket can help.

  • mixmastamyk 5 months ago

    That's generally caused by poor shielding between components, to save on cost.

  • munificent 5 months ago

    Back when I was making electronic music, I noticed that I could hear pixels. When I did things that changed a region of the screen — pulling down a menu, switching windows, etc. — an audible whine would change on my audio monitors.

    This was back in the CRT days, so I'm not sure if it's still an issue today, but it took me forever to figure out what was going on and drove me crazy when I noticed it.

  • sliken 5 months ago

    I do find that generally USB headphones do better and minimizing interference/noise. Which makes sense, having a sound card on your motherboard is pretty much a worst case scenario. With USB it's not till outside the case that you are susceptible to RF.

  • polshaw 5 months ago

    What I remember finding most annoying was when you can hear the same (IIRC, actually the inverse) through your monitor.. as in it would whine ever so slightly unless you were scrolling. (NB no speakers involved)

  • batiudrami 5 months ago

    I have noticed this on the front audio connectors, as the leads supplied with the case are not properly shielded but not on the rear, so that might be worth a shot before buying another sound card.

baus 5 months ago

I thought AMD processors were also susceptible to Meltdown/Spectre. The author mentions Intel's vulnerabilities as a reason for choosing AMD

  • sp332 5 months ago

    They weren't vulnerable to Meltdown, only Spectre. The author expands on what happened to his particular PC in the comments.

zokier 5 months ago

Kinda unfortunate timing for him that AMD released Ryzen 5 2400GE about the time as the article was written, which seems like pretty much perfect chip for silent reasonably powerful computer. Sure, it might not be quite as beefy as his 1600+1050Ti combo, but the energy efficiency should be much better. 2400GE is rated at 35W, while 1600+1050Ti is at 65W+75W=140W, or full four times more.

  • tp69 5 months ago

    Yep, you can't always wait for the perfect product to come along — sometimes circumstances force your hand.

    Not only did that processor not exist at the time, but even if it did there were going to be a bunch of compatibility issues with it on Ubuntu (like there always are when new hardware is released). I simply didn't want to have to deal with those sorts of issues for — potentially — months.

    Maybe the Ryzen 5 3400G(E) will be a compelling upgrade? We shall see.

xtrapolate 5 months ago

> "(Astute readers will notice they are all AMD (Socket AM4) motherboards. The whole Meltdown/Spectre debacle rendered my previous Intel system insecure and unsecurable so that was the final straw for me — no more Intel CPUs.)"

This is just random FUD.

(1) AMD boards are vulnerable to Spectre - https://www.amd.com/en/corporate/speculative-execution-previ....

(2) There are other vulnerabilities that affect AMD boards - https://community.amd.com/community/amd-corporate/blog/2018/...

(3) Vulnerabilities are found everywhere. That's not the first time vulnerabilities are found, and it won't be the last. How is that an argument for anything exactly?

  • diffeomorphism 5 months ago

    But not to meltdown and AMD did not try to spin it as "everbody is just as vulnerable as us, move along" like Intel did.

    Irrespective of how serious you consider these vulnerabilities, the way Intel handled them can very well be a "final straw".

KaiserPro 5 months ago

Silent Pcs are hard, however the simplest way to make your PC silent is to put it elsewhere....

I worked at a VFX company, where we did interactive client sessions (think: zoom! enhance!) which required a totally silent setup. In somecases that meant trying to silence an entire rack of disks (baselite 8,http://erwanlecloirec.typepad.fr/digital_flipbook/2000/10/ba... big glowing thing at the bottom of the page)

Obviously this is impossible, so we used DVI senders (https://www.eastwoodsoundandvision.com/blackmagic-design-mic... they are HDMI nowadays) and remote USB

This has the advantage that we can have a full bore machine with no compromises.

  • pvdebbe 5 months ago

    I just put the machine to a closet and buy long cords for all peripherals.

Abishek_Muthian 5 months ago

Congratulations tp69! The article details how miners made it difficult to procure components for the build, but the irony is that the miners might be specifically interested in this build for its power efficiency.

A decade ago, I was obsessed with fans and at one point I had more than 10 in my workstation. The noise it created kind of resonated with me, like I would be able to tell when the job was CPU intensive, HDD or GPU; I guess it felt more lively!

But after the smartphone boom, I got more adhered to power efficient, noise less systems (Smartphone/Tablet/SBC's/Chromebook) & after the meltdown spectre (pun intended) my adherence got reinforced.

Anyone looking for low-cost completely silent yet portable system in laptop form-factor can take a look at Chromebooks, now that Google has announced Linux apps support it's usefulness would tend to grow.

danboarder 5 months ago

Compulab Airtop makes a VR ready tiny gaming rig i7 gtx1060 that is similar. There are very few fanless rigs with discrete graphics for gamer and workstation use like this that I can find: http://airtop-pc.com

yAnonymous 5 months ago

High pitched electric buzzing or hard disk screeching seem to be worse than fan noise nowadays with all the great coolers available.

That being said, within a year of using Windows 10 four (!) of my hard drives have begun making loud screeching sounds. They're technically fine, but still unusable.

  • ovao 5 months ago

    I built a fanless (technically had fans, but only turned on if needed), semi-high-performance open bench-style system several years ago.

    It's really pretty nice in theory. The reality is that some components still emit a good bit of noise, and unlike fans, the noise they tend to emit isn't very pleasant. Power-hungry graphics cards are by far some of the worst offenders; without being masked by fan noise, they can be incredibly loud and irritating. An open bench PC is definitely cool, but was kind of a mistake in my case.

    Fan tech has improved to the point that I think, more often than not, you really want to have them. Otherwise it's time spent trying to eliminate other noise sources that would otherwise be conveniently and usually pleasantly masked by a little wooshing.

    • yAnonymous 5 months ago

      Completely agreed. When GPUs do this, I just declare them defective and send them back. It comes down to a lack of quality of the electrical components and simply shouldn't be a problem, especially with the current GPU prices.

thibran 5 months ago

Raspberry Pi + i3 + Chromium + Emacs = <3

100% quiet, not super fast, but fast enough.

nootropicat 5 months ago

I wanted complete silence too, but realized it's way easier to just move the PC elsewhere. I moved it into an adjacent room, made a small hole in the wall for cables (10M hdmi+usb+audio) and that was it, it worked perfectly. The price was trivial - about $40 total for cables. I already had a usb extension hub.

Sadly, that's only useful for 60Hz, as high refresh rates require a short displayport cable to work. For this reason I no longer use this solution.

If you're ok with 60Hz and have compatible room layout I recommend this. The biggest advantage is that it's completely PC agnostic, which makes upgrades way easier, as standard cooling solutions are fine.

nwah1 5 months ago

I bought an HD-Plex case to use with the 35W AMD Ryzen 5 2400GE processor w/ integrated GPU which was just launched. Looking forward to using it.

https://www.hdplex.com/

  • vidoc 5 months ago

    You wont be disappointed. I've been running a router/kodi-box machine with a low power i5 in their h1 case for almost 4 years now, it works like a charm.

Jaruzel 5 months ago

Not quite the same thing but... I'm in the middle of building a totally silent Retro DOS machine. Using an old low-spec passively cooled VIA Mini-ITX motherboard in a small case[1] with a passively cooled internal PSU. The storage is an SD card on the main IDE channel. The motherboard also has hardware Soundblaster/ADLIB support, so all the DOS games sound really great! [2]

I've just written a front end launcher for the apps/games, and I found some working USB drivers for DOS that makes transferring software over nice and easy.

I'll probably post a Show HN when I'm done.

---

[1] 22cm x 22cm x 4cm

[2] DOOM as it was meant to be heard.

  • eggsome 5 months ago

    Which model VIA mb? And what do you mean by "hardware Soundblaster/ADLIB support" - do you have to run a TSR to make it work?

    • Jaruzel 5 months ago

      EPIA 5000 Motherboard. The chipset on the Motherboard directly includes Soundblaster, ADLib, and MPU-401 support. You can enable/disable each one in the BIOS.

      And yes, you need the EPIA Soundblaster drivers for DOS, but that's not that different from normal Soundblaster cards. It was a bit of an uphill struggle getting it working, but it's quite simple once you get the right version of the drivers.

saagarjha 5 months ago

This was a major selling point of MacBook–it had no fans whatsoever, making it completely silent even under load.

jtbayly 5 months ago

I've heard noise (high-frequency whine, changing depending on load) from my laptop power supply at times, I think. I wonder if that's not a problem for some reason on desktop power supplies.

  • stefan_ 5 months ago

    It's not limited to the power supply, ceramic capacitors are on basically all complex circuit boards now, and most of them will readily sing and whine. It can be eliminated through careful design (reducing ripple) or paying nanocents more for the caps, but as far as I can tell Lenovo doesn't give a fuck.

  • onli 5 months ago

    It can be a problem, also with PC psus. Not all of them have coil whine, and it depends on the connected components, but it definitely happens.

    In my case it is the monitor that of all my components has the worst coil whine (actually the PWM brightness regulation).

    • Drdrdrq 5 months ago

      In my case also, unless I set the sound volume of built in speakers to 0. Since they are not connected anyway that solves it for me. It is still annoying that we have to put up with this though.

  • 21 5 months ago

    I have a 5V-2A phone charger which whines. So it can happen even on low-powered devices.

    • jtbayly 5 months ago

      Yes, I have one, too. I can hear it from across the room on a quiet night. My wife thinks I'm crazy because I often go to unplug it, but she can't hear it.

  • betaby 5 months ago

    It's a problem, most desktop PSU, even from recognized brands produce coil whine, especially after 3+ years.

peterjlee 5 months ago

Alternatively, you could put your computer in a tank of mineral oil.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2V06LLTNxc4

bullen 5 months ago

I made a similar build but with the Streacom FC9 Alpha case. I put a slim 1050Ti in there and replaced the GPU fans with Nuctua 1cm thick 9,2cm fan with Zalman Fan Mate 2 that I turn up when I play games. I have to run it without lid though, as any computer I have really, convection is your friend.

I also went with 32GB RAM because I make multiplayer games and I need to be able to run multiple clients at the same time which takes alot of memory.

This build is my last computer, peak moores law will make it so.

tomaskafka 5 months ago

For gaming I occasionaly rent an instance on Paperspace and play through Parsecgaming client (1440p@60fps, <10 ms lag). Totally quiet when a PC is in Amsterdam datacenter :).

matchagaucho 5 months ago

"For what I will be doing with this computer"

Would love to know what application this was built for.

As a recording studio enthusiast, I can appreciate the pursuit of silent PCs.

What other use cases?

  • tp69 5 months ago

    It's my new daily driver. I do everything on it except play games. My previous rig is now dedicated to that task.

    So we have the usual suspects: Watching videos and movies, staying abreast of current affairs, listening to music.

    Then some not so-usual suspects: Research and self-education, software development, and a simulation that I've been running and tweaking for several years.

    This computer is on for an average of about 15 hours every day of the week, and is pretty-much always doing something. It spends virtually no uptime idling.

  • voxadam 5 months ago

    The sheer challenge of the undertaking, I expect.

lmilcin 5 months ago

It is my ongoing mission to find completely silent phone and laptop chargers and PC monitor.

I have three monitors and a laptop and not one is inaudible. They all become inaudible when I set their brightness to 100% but this is not acceptable to me.

I was able to mostly fix my Dell U3011 by replacing power supply capacitors.

These were placed in worst possible spot, bathing in hot ascending air assuring shortened lifespan. One could wonder if it was done intentionally...

szemet 5 months ago

I've built a fanless desktop too last year. Because I only use it for browsing and as a media player, I've chosen a 35w i3 CPU with integrated GPU. This way I could use a cheap semi-fanless PSU - which never switches on its fan - because the system just never exceeds its consumption limit.

Because of the 35W CPU, the system was cheap and easy to build.

What I have learned from it, is that my screen has a silent buzzing sound... :)

  • PretzelFisch 5 months ago

    try turning the brightness up or down. I had the same issue with many of my monitors and this would sometimes fix it.

Nasrudith 5 months ago

I am both impressed and left wondering "Why go through such trouble?" Not in a dismissive way but an inquisitive one since it has been such a long term goal. I can see some power usage reasons given how much fans use and that noise like heat is a proxy for inefficiency whenever it isln't the direct goal but that isn't his main goal.

  • tp69 5 months ago

    Ratiofarmings is on the right track. The noise coming from the computer drowns out the subtle sounds of life all around me.

    Someone suggested in the comments that I should just wear earplugs instead. This was my response to him: "But the rest of the world doesn’t make annoying noises that I want to block out — only the computer does. I still want to hear the birds tweeting in the trees and the wind blowing past the awnings and the rain hitting the roof and the ice-cream truck driving by and my wife chuckling at something she’s watching and the cats running along the floor and the microwave oven heating a meal and the kettle finishing its boil. I’m not trying to disconnect from the rest of the world — I’m trying to reconnect to it."

    A lot of the most interesting and enjoyable sounds in life are very, very faint. It doesn't take much noise to drown them out. Even a single fan will do it. Now I can hear those noises and get 'work' done at the same time. It's really hard to describe, but 'magical' comes close.

    Thanks for asking.

  • Ratiofarmings 5 months ago

    Because it feels nice if things just happen like magic. Even "big" things like compiling, rendering or gaming. It just happens and you hear nothing but the birds outside and the cat breathing next to you.

nabla9 5 months ago

Just wait a little longer before making a judgment. Some noise from coils and capacitors might start to emerge during heavy load.

  • tp69 5 months ago

    If something starts making a noise I'll update my posts and let people know.

stcredzero 5 months ago

Hardware Canucks covers the Streacom case in the article.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxHPdoHNRDM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLuNQPiI-7E

Of interest, "Jay's Two Cents" did this clickbaity video where they daisy chain 4 radiators together. This would be one of those entertainment value only stunts, except that they discovered that they could shut off all the fans. Having only a pump running, you can passively cool both the top-end CPU and a high-end GPU. If someone can put the pump inside a nice machined aluminum case, this could be a DIY recipe for a fanless silent PC.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2SIrV_4-dM

gautamb0 5 months ago

This is a wonderful project. It looks very sharp and has pretty good components.

However, it's usually significantly better, cheaper and easier to build an "almost" silent system, just by using good heatsinks and very slow fans. A small amount of airflow is usually significantly better than none at all.

djhworld 5 months ago

I really enjoyed this post, the author seems passionate and really happy to have achieved their dream

  • tp69 5 months ago

    Thanks, and you're right — I am. :)

fipple 5 months ago

Why not just put the computer in the adjacent different room and install a DisplayPort and USB patch panel on each side of the wall? Monitor and peripherals in one room and the computer on the other side. It’s what I would do if I owned a house.

arca_vorago 5 months ago

I've had much success with fanless industrial computers for certain applications in certain environments. Seeing someone do it manually though is super cool (especially the vram chip heatsinks... why have I never thought of that before?!)

bschwindHN 5 months ago

Speaking of noisy computers and electronics, I designed a PCB with an ESP32 bluetooth/WiFi chip on it. I'm far from an expert in board design, and my board unsurprisingly emits a buzz when the Wifi/BT radio is transmitting or receiving. It's interesting though, when it's using BLE you can hear the frequency hopping as it changes channels, and then you get entirely different sounds when it stops BLE and uses just WiFi. But yeah I should probably fix that...

Possibly caused by the piezoelectric effect on an SMD ceramic capacitor, making it vibrate and hit the PCB surface at an audible frequency.

hetman 5 months ago

I finally got my work desktop PC quiet enough for my liking by replacing fans, heatsinks and a passively cooled graphics card.

Now all I can hear is everyon else's PC's whining around me (there not even that close!).

kakwa_ 5 months ago

It's less powerful, but personally, I've replaced my Intel NUC case with one of these Akasa fanless chassis:

http://www.akasa.com.tw/update.php?tpl=product/product.list....

The thing is not perfect, the case can get quite hot, specially in summer, but it works reasonably well.

I use the thing as a media center (xbmc/kodi), and it's quite nice to have a fanless/zero noise setup for this usage.

  • Symbiote 5 months ago

    I have exactly the same, and I'm very pleased with it. I use it as my main home computer, which includes occasional use when I'm working from home.

    It overheated once (Linux/Ubuntu suspended automatically), my room was also 28°C or something and I'd been encoding videos non-stop for hours.

jonathanstrange 5 months ago

Interesting project. I was playing with the idea of running Linux on one of those little Chinese Qotom PCs without fan for a server, but I live in Portugal where it can get very hot in the summer and decided that the potential fire hazard is not worth it.

Overclocking, fanless PC, etc. are all fine if you can make sure that there is no problem if the ambient temperature raises to 40 C - or even higher, if the machine is accidentally exposed to sunlight. I don't trust most existing fanless solutions to work reliably under such conditions.

Drdrdrq 5 months ago

This is some seriously slick design! Congrats to OP for achieving the goal.

  • tp69 5 months ago

    Thanks, and yes — Streacom did really well on the design. It has a brutalist aesthetic to it that folks will probably love or hate.

    For those that like the looks but want moar powerrr, Streacom have an actively-cooled version on the drawing board. Do an image search for "Streacom DA4" if you're interested.

  • mark-r 5 months ago

    Anybody else think the extruded aluminum cube is a good look?

matthew-wegner 5 months ago

Real late to this thread, but for the last ~10 years I've run my desktop in the adjacent room's closet. My desk has the monitors, speakers, USB hub for peripherals, with cables running through the wall to the actual tower/UPS/etc. It's a great setup if your living space can accommodate it (the adjacent room is my bedroom, but I shut this computer down at night).

I started doing this because quiet computers just weren't available at decent horsepower. Rad to see a build like this!

circular_logic 5 months ago

I was wondering about these cases where the metal outside is directly connected to the CPU. Would this make it possible to kill your machine by touching it with a static charge?

  • baseethrowaway 5 months ago

    The CPU's heatspreader is not connected to any leads on the CPU. The case should be grounded through the power supply, therefore, it should be like touching ground with static charge.

mostlyskeptical 5 months ago

I won a silent computer 5+ years ago as a prize at a lan party. SSD drives, two of the best passively coolable gpu at the time (ATI I Believe?), passive CPU cooler, and the whole case was lined with musicians sound absorbing foam. I think it did have an optional 240mm fan but I never heard it even when I turned it on. It was so nice that I have built my newest computer in the same way (though I did put some big storage drives in it).

floatingatoll 5 months ago

Apple’s iMac is an excellent budget alternative to this approach, as long as fan noise under high load is acceptable. 99% of my usage is not under high load, so it works out to be silent effectively any time I’m not wearing headphones. Using the CPU and/or GPU and/or writing gigabytes to the SSD will wind up the fans, so this is not even remotely “always silent for power users” – but it’s always silent for general non-coder usage!

xarien 5 months ago

I've been using a fanless Steacom case for my HTPC for years now. It's a little pricy, but well worth it given that it looks like a high end DVR.

arketyp 5 months ago

I dream of a passively cool stationary machine with a heat sink case that is essentially a Menger sponge. For maximizing the surface/volume ratio.

Clubber 5 months ago

My 2009 Mac Pro is the quietest computer I have. I gave up when I installed a server cabinet in my computer room though. Those 1U units are friggin loud.

etaioinshrdlu 5 months ago

I did a similar (but much more ugly) project a few years ago, and found that the result was that one could then hear various electrical crackling sounds from inductors transformers and capacitors, especially from the power supply and motherboard. It actually sounded worse than a macbook pro which didn't make as much electrical noise.

gnode 5 months ago

I've been interested in passively cooled PCs for a while now. Particularly, I've been considering building a computer which outputs its heat into a wall using heatpipes and a metal plate heat spreader. Although I can't find any case of this being done by anyone else, so I'm not sure if it's a crazy idea or not.

  • nottorp 5 months ago

    It's been done with water cooling and a car radiator on the wall ;)

dabockster 5 months ago

So I'm guessing passive cooling like this is only obtainable at stock clocks and low voltages? How does it handle PUBG?

I'd also like to present the loudest computer I've ever seen as a counterexample.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EM2G5vLGcQQ

  • Ratiofarmings 5 months ago

    Since he described how his cpu cooling is capable of dissipating up to 105W and he uses a 65W cpu, he can overclock a little. He is also using fast memory and a 1050ti is quite capable of running pubg well. Based on that pubg should run well.

DINKDINK 5 months ago

>[it] doesn’t have a single fan. Indeed, it doesn’t have any moving parts at all. It’s totally silent — 0dB.

Things without moving parts emit sound. LED lights are a simple example. Anytime you have a wave -- be it mechanical or electrical -- you'll have some of the harmonics will 'bleed' into the acoustic spectrum.

acd 5 months ago

Built a for normal desktop use a nearly silent gaming MiniITX build, it hums from the graphics card when gaming. Fractal Design Node 304, ASUS Z170I Pro Gaming, Intel i7 6700k, Samsung M2 SSD, ASUS Strix Gaming OC Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070, Noctua NH-U12S CPU cooler, Corsair PowerSupply (PSU) CS550M. Runs Linux well.

yason 5 months ago

I don't have a desktop PC right now but if I needed one I'd just place it in the basement or a closet (with enough ventilation), and wire the screen, HIDs, and a few USB connectors to my desk. Bam, no noise. However, it's cool (indeed) to see these silent constructions, though.

hollerith 5 months ago

My Mac mini does not have a hard drive in it. It is completely silent most of the time. (A fan is running, but I cannot hear it even in the middle of the night.) When building software or playing certain videos, the fan speed increases with the result that I hear a quiet white noise.

  • cJ0th 5 months ago

    Yeah, I love my mac mini for that. For a computer this silent I even find it remarkably good value. However, there isn't much else positive I can say about mac/their eco system...

antocv 5 months ago

Samsung Evo drives have a built in hardware error, where the read speeds diminish with age.

The firmware hides the read-speed decrease, or prolongs the detection of it, by shuffling data around in the background.

Poor choice of SSDs, Id go with SanDisk Extreme Pro or any other version even Intel.

antongribok 5 months ago

My first silent system was about 17 years ago that booted Linux from a floppy drive into RAM.

This was before solid state storage options were affordable.

It was a Pentium 1 (can't remember the model) and I had disconnected the PSU fan. Ran for a long time and I used it mostly as a router.

richx 5 months ago

I have a completely silent PC from Cirrus7. I'm pretty happy with it. But it does not have dedicated GPU like the one in the article.

https://www.cirrus7.com

nullifidian 5 months ago

many components on motherboards assume at least some airflow Encasing in horizontally in a metal box could lead to premature failure due to increased temperatures, even if the cpu is relatively cool.

  • mark-r 5 months ago

    The entire outside of the case is a heat sink. If there's any convection flow whatsoever it shouldn't be too far above ambient.

zemo 5 months ago

please tell me he has a really loud mechanical keyboard to go with it

  • tp69 5 months ago

    Nope, rubber dome.

    I'm actually on the lookout for a wired, backlit, white/aluminium, chiclet, TKL keyboard. Basically something like the Apple Keyboard but sans NumKeypad, backlit and keyed for Linux/PC. Bonus points if it has a column of macro keys on the left.

    If anyone knows of one please drop me a line.

    • zemo 5 months ago

      didn't notice this comment until now.

      This is a somewhat deep rabbit hole, but what I will tell you is that you'll probably have a hard time finding what you want in a chiclet keyboard because there's not much of a market for chiclet keyboards among keyboard enthusiasts. Chiclet is both a switching mechanism and a keycap; most of the keyboard-enthusiast community is working with setups that involve separate switches and keycaps that are interchangeable.

      What you probably want in practice is the following characteristics: a specific key layout, all of the keys should be the same height, the key travel should be low (i.e., the amount of distance you have to depress the keys before registering a keystroke). No idea if you want the keys to make noise or not, or how stiff you want the springs to be, but that's customizable too. If you want chiclet keys because you want low key travel, you have a lot of options. If you want something really thin, there are way, way fewer options.

      A single left column of macro keys is not something I've ever seen, but the one keyboard I can think off of hand that has a similar layout is the Red Scarf II, which has two columns of macro keys on the left side; unfortunately it's not currently in production. Some people use an external num pad and put the num pad on the left for this purpose. https://www.massdrop.com/buy/red-scarf-ii-ver-b-custom-mecha...

      I personally use a KBD75, which is an aluminum body, tenkeyless layout with a right-hand column, and it's all programmable with QMK so you can make any key do whatever you want. For example, I have a key that, when I press it, reverses the position of the Alt and Win keys, so that I can switch between layouts for either PC or Mac and have the Alt, Command, and Windows keys always in their correct location. Images and build information here: https://imgur.com/a/5pSva2A

      you can get keycaps that have a flat profile that are interchangeable with any MX-Compatible switch. DSA Granite is a super popular flat-profile keyset like that: https://pimpmykeyboard.com/dsa-granite-keyset/

      it's pretty common to add rubber o-rings to the keys to reduce the travel. But chiclet keys are generally going to restrict the rest of your options.

      Anyway reddit.com/r/mechanicalkeyboards has a bunch of info on all this stuff.

      • tp69 5 months ago

        Agreed, it's a very deep rabbit hole. The 12" PowerBook G4 that I bought back in 2004 had the best keyboard I've ever used — I still have it and occasionally use it. But I've been trying to hunt down a desktop equivalent ever since (but with backlighting and TKL ANSI layout). Haven't succeeded so far. Still trying though.

        Although my highest priority (by far) is low noise, I do prefer short travel/registration and a soft landing as well.

        Prompted by your post, I did some more research and decided to upgrade(?) my gaming keyboard to a Logitech G Pro TKL https://www.logitechg.com/en-us/product/pro-gaming-keyboard. I haven't tried Romer-G switches so it will be interesting to see how they turn out.

        Meanwhile, now that Corsair's exclusive rights to the Cherry MX Silent (Red) have expired, I'm hoping to see a lot more keyboards with that switch make their way into the market. The Corsair Strafe RGB was tempting, but the light spill from under the caps was far too gaudy and distracting for my liking.

        Cherry MX Silent (Red) switches with landing pads and o-rings seems like a combination that would work well (for me) for gaming.

        For the DB4 and daily driver usage, though, the hunt goes on. I'll keep using the wired Apple Keyboard until someone else comes up with a TKL clone.

  • nottorp 5 months ago

    That would be me. I don't have a fully passive set up (I don't really trust those, since I tend to use both the CPU and GPU a lot) but it's silentpcreview silent.

    To make up for it, I'm using a mechanical Razer Blackwidow. It's so loud you can get distracted by the sound of your own typing :)

walrus01 5 months ago

For those interested in doing this, the case manufacturer Zalman also makes a series of atx format cases where the whole body is a radiator, with heatpipes to a cpu block.

amiga-workbench 5 months ago

My machine is almost completely silent.

Semi-passive power supply, passive GTX1050 and a noctua CPU cooler that is just barely audible when the room is silent.

The coil whine is irritating though.

kuon 5 months ago

Isn't there any liquid we could immerse the electronic in for cooling? I'm sure this must exist in high density industrial applications.

  • danlan 5 months ago

    3M make a non conductive solution for exactly this application. I remember reading about an overclocking rig using something like it pumped through a radiator submerged in liquid nitrogen. Was pretty cool but the solution ended up turning into a gel at low temps https://www.3m.com/3M/en_US/novec-us/applications/immersion-...

  • Ratiofarmings 5 months ago

    There are several. But the liquid will heat up and eventually require cooling again. Pumping it somewhere generates noise. Evaporating it creates costs and need to frequent maintenance. And a large enough tank for that not to be an issue is impractical.

  • quwert95 5 months ago

    Yes! Mineral oil cooled PCs in aquariums have long been a thing-to-do (but it's very messy).

CharlesW 5 months ago

My computer is completely silent. (It's an iPad.)

unixhero 5 months ago

How about a fanless Intel NUC, boom done.

cdelsolar 5 months ago

Why is this person going off the grid

  • tp69 5 months ago

    The Australian state I live in has the highest electricity prices in the country, and amongst the highest in the world — so there's a simple financial reason to defect from the grid. Then there are the self-sufficiency angles (produce/control your own power) and the preparedness angles (grid power always fails in bushfires) to consider as well. They are all the reasons I need.

SeanLuke 5 months ago

I'm not sure. Is it wise to be putting heat pipes that close to an electrolytic capacitor?

Gracana 5 months ago

This ought to go perfectly with my IBM Model M keyboard.

chrismorgan 5 months ago

Now I want to know whether it has a system beep. ␇

  • tp69 5 months ago

    No, it does not. :)

fiddlerwoaroof 5 months ago

Do the skull canyon NUCs have fans?

  • ridiculous_fish 5 months ago

    All NUCs have fans. The Skull Canyon is infamously loud.

    • fiddlerwoaroof 5 months ago

      Interesting, I've been looking for a small computer that would make a good HTPC, and I thought the Skull Canyon NUC might be a good choice. I sort of assumed that that form factor would always be fanless.

noja 5 months ago

I wish they made a smaller chassis.

ymgch 5 months ago

simplest solution: buy an iMac.

  • whywhywhywhy 5 months ago

    Regular iMacs are jet engine loud once you throw any CPU or GPU load at them.

    I think the iMac Pro is much better in this regard but it's not sustainable as a workstation machine.

heimji 5 months ago

Same system on silent laptop :)

  • mlok 5 months ago

    I'd love to know more about this : what "system" did you use on a silent laptop, how do you get rid of the fan ?

user15128 5 months ago

you do not hear your pc when it is located in another room/building :)

jgritty 5 months ago

Steve Jobs dream machine.

anotheryou 5 months ago

I shot a cheapish Lenovo YOGA 710 laptop. It also has no fans.

  • Ratiofarmings 5 months ago

    It also has no power ;)

    • anotheryou 5 months ago

      fine for office stuff :) but you are right, no main computer

draw_down 5 months ago

The obsessive pursuit of anything is usually interesting, but I haven't felt like noise was a real problem with any computer I've had in the last 5 or so years. They're silent nearly all the time, and they're still quiet the rest of the time.

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