The most important step in creating a quiet PC is without a doubt installing a silent CPU cooler.
By far the loudest component in most PC’s is the CPU fan. With higher and higher clock speeds comes the need for larger coolers, and fans that move more and more air.
The main problem with most OEM CPU coolers is this: They are designed with two things in mind: size and performance. This means that they have to be small, so they can be accommodated in the majority of users’ PC cases. They also have to perform well at the same time.
The only real solution for this is to use a small fan, usually no more than 60 or 70mm in diameter. Unfortunately, the smaller a fan is, the faster it has to spin to move enough air. The faster it spins the louder it gets.
That’s the problem, so what’s the solution? There are a few options available, depending on your needs and goals in building a silent PC. We’ll cover them separately.
Silent CPU Coolers
The quietest option is to use an entirely fanless CPU Cooler. If you’re going for a completely noiseless PC, this is the best route for you.
How does this work? Well, as I said above, OEM designers have to design with size in mind. They don’t have to consider those of use who want quiet PC’s, and will do what it takes to build a quiet PC. Therefore, Silent PC users have to forego the size consideration, and go with a HUGE cooler, sometimes with no fan at all. Something like this:
The Silent CPU Cooler for ALL CPUs
I like the phanteks ph-tc14pe for two main reasons. 1) It performs amazingly well for such a quiet cooler. It is equipped with two 14mm fans that spin as low as 700 RPM, meaning they are effectively noiseless.
Secondly, it is available in a wide variety of colors, meaning you can mix and match depending on your system’s style. Whether this matters is up to you, but I think it’s a huge bonus. On top of all that, it is a bit cheaper than similar coolers.
The fans have several technologies built into them to enhance cooling performance as well as silent operation. Most notable are the vortex boosting fins on the blades, which make for a more focused draft, with less ambient noise (the wooshing sound you hear with most fans this size).
This cooler is recommended for all CPUs, no matter how high the TDP. However if you are looking to build in a smaller enclosure (something not generally recommended but sometimes we don’t have a choice) then you will want one of these instead:
The Silent CPU Cooler for Small Enclosures
As you can see, the Noctua NH-L12 is very slim, with a height of just 66 mm. With a single 92mm fan strapped to the bottom, this cooler will fit in some of the smallest enclosures – probably everything but mITX cases. The kicker is, it also comes with an extra 120mm fan that sits on top, if you want a small but not low-profile cooler. In this config, it is 93mm tall – still very manageable.
It should be noted that it is only recommended to use the single fan mode with a 65W CPU or lower. You can get away with up to 100W, but that is pushing it. If you follow our guidelines, you won’t run into this problem – nobody interested in silent PCs is going to use a 100W or probably even 65W CPU.
So far we have suggested two of the best silent CPU coolers out there, but they aren’t exactly cheap. What if you are on a budget? Just because you have little to spend, doesn’t mean you need to settle for a loud PC. We got you covered:
The Best Budget Silent CPU Cooler
Glacialtech Igloo 5620
It may not be much to look at, but just look at the price. With a single 92mm fan that runs as low as 800 RPM, it will be almost as quiet as the Phanteks we recommended above. They even include an extra clip, so you can add your own second silent fan for better performance.
Next Step: Silent Video Cards