Completely Silent Computer

I’ve been trying to make my computers quieter for nearly three decades.  Custom liquid cooling loops, magnetically-stabilised fluid-dynamic bearings, acoustic dampeners, silicone shock absorbers, you name it.  Well, last week I finally managed to build a completely silent computer.  Without further ado…

DB4a

Say hello to the Streacom DB4 — a 26x26x27cm case that doesn’t have a single fan.  Indeed, it doesn’t have any moving parts at all.  It’s totally silent — 0dB.

If you strip away the top and four (13mm-thick extruded aluminium) side walls, you see a minimal chassis, and a central mounting plate for a mini-ITX motherboard (oriented with I/O pointing down through the bottom of the case).

DB4b

At the time I selected components for the system, there were only four mini-ITX motherboards for me to choose from:

  • ASUS ROG Strix B350-I Gaming
  • Gigabyte AB350N-Gaming-WiFi ITX
  • MSI B350I Pro AC
  • ASRock Fatal1ty AB350 Gaming-ITX/ac

(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.)

I ended up getting the ASRock AB350 Gaming-ITX/ac motherboard:

DB4c

Although any mini-ITX motherboard can — theoretically — be mounted in the DB4, the whole case is designed to be passively-cooled by using heat pipes to transfer the heat generated by the CPU and GPU to the side panels where it can be radiated and convected away.  Careful analysis of the routes the CPU heat pipes would need to take, and clearances required by them, revealed that certain motherboards simply wouldn’t work — components were in the way.

  • The Gigabyte has the ATX power connector at the top of the board for some reason, so that was a massive, insurmountable obstacle.
  • The Asus has a solid bank of SoC VRM caps that the heatpipes would have literally rested on.  Anyone that knows anything about capacitors and heat knows that would have been a recipe for disaster.
  • The MSI has a huge SoC VRM heatsink that would have posed an insurmountable obstacle to one (maybe even two) of the heatpipes.

The ASRock was the only motherboard that could fit the DB4 and (optional) LH6 Cooling Kit heat pipes without much in the way of drama.  All of that will probably make a lot more sense when you see the heatpipes installed:

DB4d

To fully appreciate the minute clearances involved, here it is from another angle:

DB4eYep, literally fractions of a millimetre of clearance in some places.

The DB4 comes with the hardware necessary to shift heat from the CPU to one of the side panels via four heatpipes and a single heat spreader.  In this configuration a 65W CPU can be supported.  By adding the LH6 Cooling Kit, you can connect the CPU to two side panels via six heatpipes and three heat spreaders, and support a 105W CPU.

In such a passively-cooled system, the heat dissipation figures limit the CPUs that can be installed.  For reference:

  • Ryzen 5 2400G 4C8T 3.6GHz — 46-65W
  • Ryzen 5 1600 6C12T 3.2GHz — 65W
  • Ryzen 5 1600X 6C12T 3.6GHz — 95W
  • Ryzen 7 1700 8C16T 3.0GHz — 65W
  • Ryzen 7 1700X 8C16T 3.4GHz — 95W
  • Ryzen 7 1800X 8C16T 3.6GHz — 95W

So a stock DB4 can only support up to a 2400G/1600/1700 — forget overclocking — whilst a DB4+LH6 can support even a 1600X/1700X/1800X — with a little bit of room for overclocking.

Unlike Intel — who only support their sockets for as long as it takes you to unwrap the box — AMD supports their sockets for much longer.  The AM4 will be supported until 2020.  Thus my cunning plan was to start off 2018 with a CPU that can be comfortably cooled by the DB4+LH6, overclock, stress test and monitor thermals for a couple of years, then — if the advantages would be tangible and I feel the need — throw in a more efficient CPU when the last AM4 CPUs come off the production line in 2020, then cruise for the next half-decade or so.

All of that led me to install a 65W Ryzen 5 1600.  Since I have a B350 motherboard, I have the ability to overclock the CPU to 1600X/95W levels without much of an issue.

DB4f

Note:  If you are happy sitting within the 65W thermal envelope, and are not overclocking anything, you could forego the LH6 Cooling Kit.  Because the DB4 heat pipes are shorter than the LH6 ones, and don’t go over the edge of the motherboard, pretty-much all of the component obstruction issues that eliminated the Gigabyte, Asus and MSI motherboards from consideration would no longer apply.  Something to keep in mind if you don’t need the speed but do want some of the features that one or more of those boards may have (but which the ASRock does not).

As far as memory goes, I went with a Corsair Vengeance LPX CMK32GX4M2Z2400C16 32GB (2x16GB) DDR4 kit.

cmk32gx4m2z2400c16-l

I’ve never had a problem with Corsair Vengeance LPX RAM.  This specific kit was on the QVL for the motherboard and an overclocker was able to push his kit to 3200MHz on exactly the same motherboard as I have, so I was confident that I could get a nice memory overclock with minimal effort — subject to the silicon lottery, of course.  Since this machine isn’t for gaming, and isn’t running an APU, really high memory speeds aren’t as important to me as large amounts of RAM.

DB4gDB4h

SSDs are the only totally silent storage option, and I got rid of my last HDD more than seven years ago, so this system was always going to have SSDs.  The only question was “Which ones?”

Since the motherboard has an M.2 slot on the back, I decided to go with a 1TB Samsung 960 Evo NVMe for the main drive and a 1TB Samsung 860 Evo SATA for the backup drive.

I would have preferred two NVMe drives (to cut down on cable clutter), but the ASRock motherboard only has one M.2 slot.  The Asus motherboard, on the other hand, has two slots but (as mentioned before) that is not compatible with the LH6 Cooling Kit.  Ah well — compromises of some sort often need to be made.

For what I will be doing with this computer, fast transfer rates and a life expectancy of at least seven years is what I am after from these drives.  I only really need ~600GB of space, so by over-provisioning a couple of hundred gigs I can let wear-levelling do its thing and make seven years an easy target to hit.

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.  The GPU Cooling Kit allows up to a 75W GPU to be modded and cooled via heat pipes and spreader to a single wall.  That pretty-much limits you to the GTX 1050 Ti and below if you prefer Nvidia cards — like I do.

The GPU I wanted was the MSI GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Aero ITX OC 4GB but my parts supplier ran out of them literally as I was assembling my online order.  With no idea when supplies would be restored (thanks to the cryptocurrency mining craze), I went with my second preference of an ASUS Phoenix GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB:

DB4j

Whilst both GPUs fit into the space, the MSI was a few centimetres shorter than the Asus.  None of the dual-fan 1050 Ti GPUs had even the remotest chance of fitting.

After removing the fan, shroud and heatsink I cleaned up the GPU itself, applied fresh thermal paste, then fitted the GPU Cooling Kit:

db4k.jpeg

The final step was to pop heat sinks onto each of the four VRAM chips:

DB4l

Power testing of a wide range of 1050 Ti cards reveals that they do indeed pull the full 75W when under load, so I’m at the limits of the GPU Cooling Kit and there’s no room for overclocking the GPU (even if I wanted to).

To power all this I installed a Streacom ZF240 Fanless 240W ZeroFlex PSU:

DB4i

I researched the power draws of the various components and worked out that the power budgets on all rails — except the 12V rail — had plenty of headroom.  The 12V rail can theoretically hit ~85% of the 168W max capacity if both the CPU and GPU are running at 100%.  Normally I prefer to leave myself a lot more headroom than that, but since this system is not meant for gaming, and I can’t actually think of any other scenarios where I’m likely to max out both at the same time, I’m not really concerned.  (If it does become an issue then I can install a SFX PSU with minimal effort and buy myself more headroom.)

Over the years I’ve also come to appreciate PSU efficiency curves, and recognise that ‘idling’ systems with large PSUs is a horrible waste of energy.  To get the most out of your PSU you should size it so that your typical usage falls in the 25-75% range.  The ZF240 has an efficiency rating of 93% and I think my selection of components will let it achieve such levels on a regular basis — given my historic and anticipated usage patterns.

Low power consumption is an especially important issue if you plan on going off-grid.  Since that’s a goal we have in the 2–4 year time frame, and this computer will be used much longer than that, it makes sense to aim for high efficiency and low power consumption at the same time.

DB4m

Final remarks…

The pursuit of silence can be costly and this build certainly was — ending up just shy of AU$3,000.  If cryptocurrency miners weren’t inflating prices all over the place, it probably could have come in closer to $2,400 — still a fair bit, but not eye-watering.  Nonetheless, the price is less than each of my last three systems and it manages to achieve what none of them ever did:  Complete and utter silence.

This computer makes no noise when it starts up.  It makes no noise when it shuts down.  It makes no noise when it idles.  It makes no noise when it’s under heavy load.  It makes no noise when it’s reading or writing data.  It can’t be heard in a regular room during the day.  It can’t be heard in a completely quiet house in the middle of the night.  It can’t be heard from 1m away.  It can’t be heard from 1cm away.  It can’t be heard — period.  It’s taken nearly 30 years to reach this point, but I’ve finally arrived.  The journey is over and it feels great.

If you are after a silent — not just quiet, but silent — daily driver, then I strongly recommend a passively-cooled case, heat pipes and solid state drives.  Eliminate the moving parts (e.g. fans, HDDs) and you eliminate the noise — it’s not that complicated.  It also doesn’t need to be really expensive (my system requirements were not ‘average’ so please don’t infer from this post that all DB4-based systems are as expensive).  Silence (and a perfectly respectable computer) can easily be had for half the price.

That’s about it, methinks.  If you have any questions or would like more details (about any aspect of this build) to be added to the post, fire away in the comments.

Cheerio!

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Silent Computer and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

126 Responses to Completely Silent Computer

  1. Very interesting article. I’m glad to see I’m not the only person who wants a silent computer. I’m surprised you didn’t choose ARM for its low energy consumption plus high performance.

    • Tim says:

      Good catch Miriam. I actually spent the greater part of a week researching and deliberating AMD vs ARM. My daily driver needs to get a certain amount of “serious” computational work done in restricted time windows. The Ryzen 5 1600 will give me similar performance as my current system does using about half the power. An ARM would use far less power but would take noticeably longer to complete those tasks. The restricted time windows don’t allow that. So AMD it was.

      Roughly speaking, my computational needs have been stable since 2011. I don’t need ‘the fastest’ CPUs any more. I’m happy to invest in more energy-efficient systems so long as they are equally performant. At the rate that ARM processors are currently improving, I expect them to be a superior alternative when I update or replace this system seven years hence. Unless AMD releases a compelling upgrade before they phase out the AM4 socket in 2020, the Ryzen 5 1600 is quite likely the last x86 processor I’ll ever buy.

      In the interim, I need a dedicated system for some security and automation functions. I’m looking at Arch Linux ARM for the OS. That project will give me a chance to try out Arch Linux as well as ARM processors first-hand. Then I’ll have a concrete reference point when it comes time to replace my daily driver in 2025.

  2. FanlessTech says:

    Brillant article Tim! Experiencing a truly silent workstation for the first time is really something special.

    Is it okay for me to publish one or two of your pictures as well as your final remarks? I would absolutely link to tp69 of course.

    Congrats again! 🙂

    • Tim says:

      Cheers. Yes, there’s a huge difference between ‘quiet’ and ‘silent’. Quiet was good, but silent is great. If it wasn’t for the single Power LED on the DB4 I wouldn’t even know the machine was on. It’s quite strange — but in a fabulous sort of way.

      I don’t mind you re-publishing some of the images/text. I would ask that you not hotlink the images though — take a copy and host them on your own server. I play a lot (behind the scenes) with the images on my site, so hotlinks would break in pretty short order as I tweak things and rename images. I’m also not sure about WordPress’ policy on hotlinking — so don’t want to suffer any grief on that front.

  3. Simon says:

    Sir, you are misinformed if you think that AMD CPUs are/were not affected by Spectre/Meltdown.

    • Tim says:

      Simon, I never said that AMD CPUs weren’t affected — I didn’t even suggest it. What I did say was that my Intel CPU was rendered insecure and unsecurable. That was the last straw. Intel’s ridiculous socket obsolescence policy. The Intel Management Engine insanity. Stagnant multicore development. High prices. Poor efficiency and thermals. Then along comes Meltdown/Spectre and renders my daily driver worthless. There’s only so much a sane person can put up with. I’m not a “fanboi” so I don’t defend the indefensible. I vote with my wallet. I was forced to buy a new processor, so I bought one from a company that didn’t just cost me thousands of dollars. That’s all there was to it. Economically. Rational. Behaviour.

      Having said that, AMD is only affected by Spectre, whilst Intel is affected by both Meltdown and Spectre… so any attempt to paint them as being equally vulnerable would be disingenuous — at best.

      To be absolutely clear: I prefer to avoid getting involved in pointless Intel vs AMD arguments. If I could, I’d rather be buying Open Source Hardware from neither of them.

      • XavierTaggart says:

        Please keep in mind that AMD is not free from the Intel Management Engine craziness. They have their own version of it called AMD PSP.
        As sad as it is, I would lean towards considering all x86 produced in the past decade unsuitable for high-security personal use.

        • Tim says:

          I would lean towards considering all x86 produced in the past decade unsuitable for high-security personal use.” — Agreed. Sad but true.

  4. david babin says:

    Any chance a ryzen 7 2700x would work in your setup? I am eyeing that cpu for a completely passive build – i guess i like to live dangerously…

    • Tim says:

      The Ryzen 7 2700X has a TDP of 105W so the DB4+LH6 heat pipes would be able to cool it — providing you don’t overclock it. However, once you add 75W from the GPU to that number you end up at 180W. The ZF240 only provides 168W (14A) on the 12V rail. Potentially overdrawing the 12V rail by 12W (7.1%) definitely puts you into exciting territory. If your “workload” can peg both the CPU and the GPU — at the same time — then you’re asking for trouble.

      One solution is to upgrade to a larger SFX PSU. Another option is to downgrade the GTX 1050 Ti to something like a GT 1030 — which drops the GPU TDP from 75W to 30W and total draw on the 12V rail down to 135W (comfortably below the 168W limit).

      • david babin says:

        I won’t have a gpu. This is for a media server only so may be a workable solution.

        • Memes says:

          Choosing a 2700X for a home server is maybe not a great idea. The power draw is not insignificant when idle (which is the state of 99% of home server for 90% of the time). Just my 2 cents

          • david babin says:

            A fair assessment. Outgoing server is a 65 watt i7-3770s and there is so much cpu power available nowadays in the 65 watt power envelope (ex – 8700 and some of the higher end Ryzens (non x versions), 2700x may not be needed. I am a fan of overkill though.

        • huehuehuo says:

          Unless I’m mistaken I don’t think the 2700X has an integrated graphic chip. If you want your media server to be able to read video files, you’ll need an additional GPU.

          • david says:

            All content is streamed to devices and I access it only through Teamviewer, so I was wondering it I really needed one. Anyway, I just went ahead and had a completely fanless new media server/transcoding rig built with an i7-8700, a NoFan CR95 and a Thermaltake P1 open case so my Ryzen flirtation has come to an end. But I am still following this build and comments because I am completely fascinated by how much maximum computer horsepower can be harnessed in fanless rigs,

            • david babin says:

              So I finally got the new fanless server up and running – i7-8700, nofan cr95 passive heat sink, thermaltake p1 case Ambient temp in my equip closet is ~30c and the rig idles at 43c. I just finished 12 hour test of prime95 and it leveled off at 73c max for the basically entire test. The cr95 is a great piece of kit – gets hot to the touch but not insanely so. 15k in Passmark and Zero noise … I am loving it.

              • Tim says:

                Congrats! Yes, the CR95 sure is a nice — huge, but nice. One underrated thing about completely passive cooling solutions that doesn’t get mentioned a lot is the peace of mind that comes from knowing your cooling system is effectively bullet-proof. No moving parts, nothing to wear out or break down, nothing to clean or maintain, leak-proof, etc., etc. Truly set and forget. Great for unattended servers.

  5. ryan says:

    Do you plan on doing benchmarking results showing CPU, RAM and Graphics tests along with temperature specs? I would be curious to see what this case and your choice of hardware and configuration would show.

    • Tim says:

      Historically I’ve booted into a Windows partition to do that sort of stuff. This machine, however, will be pure Ubuntu — so I want/need to teach myself how to do that sort of monitoring and testing using native Linux software.

      Being a passively-cooled system, my main interest is (obviously) the thermals. Working out how hard I can push various components before they thermally throttle is a priority. Then I need to work out if anything unexpected happens when I do things like peg all cores of the CPU at 100% for 4–6 hours at a time — something I need to know before running unattended overnight jobs. I also need to work out how hot the exterior of the panels get, as well as how the system reacts to the top vents being covered, before the cats are allowed anywhere near it.

      So yeah — lots of testing to do, with practical tests taking priority over academic ones. I’ll post the results as they come in.

    • Tim says:

      Thanks for the link.

      Yes, the Ryzen 7 1700 IHS is soldered, but when I was speccing my system I wasn’t seriously considering Ryzen 7s — mainly because they have more cores than this computer actually needs — so I didn’t pay much attention to der8auer’s video at the time. The Ryzen 5 2400G uses TIM. The Ryzen 3 2200G also uses TIM. I (somehow) formed the opinion that solder was only used on the high-end Ryzen 7 CPUs and that the Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 3 lines used TIM. It seemed to make sense at the time. That opinion was, however, incorrect.

      As it turns out — after a bit of digging — all Summit Ridge CPUs are soldered, all Raven Ridge APUs use TIM, and all new Pinnacle Ridge CPUs are soldered (confirmed by AMD’s Robert Hallock).

      So, in essence, as of 2018-04, all Ryzen CPUs are soldered and all Ryzen APUs use TIM. Good to know.

      Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I’ll correct my post.

  6. Pingback: Does Pinnacle Ridge change anything? | tp69

  7. Michael says:

    Why 32 instead of 16GB of RAM?

    • Tim says:

      I’ve been running and tuning a simulation for several years. The hydrologic cycle, in particular, takes up a large amount of memory. Around 14–15GB of RAM is dedicated to the sim, and about 17–18GB is left over for everything else — of which I use about 12±3GB on a daily basis.

  8. Anthony says:

    Very nice build you have here. I am in the process of debugging a very similar one. I have the Black DB4, using an I7 8700k, ASRock MB, and and a Palit Kalm 1050 Ti. Same memory and drives. I have the option to overclock or use lower voltages depending on where the temperatures hit. My first NVMe drive died after 2 days, so replacing it this evening.

    • Anthony says:

      It is a booger trying to squeeze all the heat pipes into the case when putting in the motherboard. 🙂

      • Tim says:

        It sure was. I think my hands are too large — I felt like a gorilla trying to do brain surgery. I’ve a newfound respect for all the modders and system builders out there that work with/on/in small mini-ITX cases like this (which is only 17L in volume).

    • david says:

      Anthony, what sort of temps do you get at idle and with a heavy workload using the I7-8700k in the DB4 case?

      • Anthony says:

        Once I fixed my cpu heatsink (the loose copper part slid during installation and whole thing was angled), the idle temps are around 37-40. After playing an MMORPG some, I had temps up to 62. The GPU was running a little over 50. The case only felt slightly warm with the CPU cooled sides. They went down fairly quickly after turning the game off but things stayed a little warmer. I have not tried long gaming sessions yet. Once I have software settled in, I plan to run some benchmarks. I don’t expect to push things like I would if it were a larger/cooled and was anticipating possibly trying to undervolt the cpu to keep temps down, but so far I don’t think I will need to try that. Hopefully I can manage a slight overclock after I get my bearings with the Borg cube 🙂
        Recommendation: using right/left angle plugs for audio, video, usb, even power cable helps a lot.

    • Tim says:

      I’ve finished my first round of thermal testing: The system is idling at 32°C and reaches equilibrium at 58°C when under 100% CPU load.

      Full details over on Passively-cooled CPU Thermals.

  9. Pingback: Passively-cooled CPU Thermals | tp69

  10. Pingback: Passively-cooled CPU Thermals (Part 2) | tp69

  11. Pingback: New top story on Hacker News: Completely Silent Computer – World Best News

  12. Pingback: Completely Silent Computer – The XBuzz

  13. Pingback: New top story on Hacker News: Completely Silent Computer – JkNews

  14. Pingback: New top story on Hacker News: Completely Silent Computer – Technical Nair

  15. Pingback: New top story on Hacker News: Completely Silent Computer – Latest news

  16. Pingback: Completely Silent Computer - newsfest

  17. Pingback: New top story on Hacker News: Completely Silent Computer – Tech + Hckr News

  18. Pingback: New top story on Hacker News: Completely Silent Computer | Do Mithay Bol

  19. Pingback: Completely Silent Computer – posted at May 15, 2018 at 08:03PM by signa11 – Startup News 2018

  20. Have you ever had to deal with coil whine? I have that issue on a Dell laptop that I recently purchased and am not sure what to do about it.

    • Tim says:

      Sure have Kerrick. Of the three AMD graphics cards I’ve ever owned, two of them had coil whine that drove me nuts. The last one that exhibited coil whine was a Sapphire Radeon HD 7970 Dual-X OC 3GB — still have that in a box somewhere around here.

      I don’t think there’s anything that can be done — by an average user — to properly and permanently fix coil whine. You just need to replace the graphics card — if you can (not sure what options you have with your laptop though).

      One thing I did notice with the HD 7970 was that the coil whine would only occur at certain resolutions and frequencies. In my case it whined at the monitor’s native resolution of 2560×1440 at 60Hz. The coil whine would go away if I dropped resolution to 1920×1080 — but then the UI on the games I played would become blurry and hard to read. Given a choice between blurry UI and coil whine I chose Option 3 and replaced the card.

      Maybe I’ve been lucky, but I’ve never had any coil whine issues with Nvidia cards, so now I just buy those.

      Try running at different resolutions and/or frequencies (if you can) whilst inquiring about warranty options with the reseller/Dell — that’s all I can suggest.

  21. Sun Kim says:

    I think your use of the case itself as a heatsink is a brilliant one. The Mac laptops sort of do this, but I’m annoyed they generate a lot of heat and lose performance whenever the CPU or GPU temps go up. My Mac Desktop Pro (the black trash can) while not quiet, performs well even under heavy load without running the fan by 800rpm.

    • Tim says:

      Yep, using the walls of the case as a heat sink is great if the computer sits on a desk — not so good if it sits on your lap. I have two Apple laptops so I know what you mean on that front — although upgrading the (circa 2012) MacBook Pro to 8GB of RAM and a 120GB SSD really, really made a big difference to both responsiveness and also how hot the machine runs (and thus how often the fans come on).

      I consider your Mac Pro to be the spiritual successor to the Power Mac G4 Cube — a computer I lusted after when it was released, but simply could not afford to buy.

  22. I lurk around says:

    Good system! One suggestion for the OS: you can consider using Qubes OS since you seem to need a security focused operating system.

    • Tim says:

      Interesting. Very interesting. I watched the video tour and Qubes OS definitely has some nice features. I use(d) Parallels for VMs on the Mac, but it’s not a bare-metal hypervisor like Xen/Qubes OS.

      Thanks for the heads-up!

  23. JW says:

    With regard to “totally silent” — I have found that even without fans, and all solid-state, some motherboards I’ve used still emanate little “eeeeee” mosquito-like sounds depending on what’s going on. I don’t know if it’s capacitors or what, and may also be related to age. Also, not-so-great on-board audio hardware can pick up interference and create little “eeee” sounds noticeable in headphones.

    Have you experienced either of those? I haven’t built a new rig in a while, so maybe those issues have gone away on modern hardware. It would just bug me if it was _mostly_ totally silent, but with those little high-pitched nuisances all the more noticeable against a quiet backdrop.

    • Tim says:

      I know the sort of sounds you’re talking about and, to be honest, I thought that I would at least be able to hear the power supply hum. That’s not the case though. I can press either ear directly against the walls of the DB4 and I hear… nothing. I can take off the top cover and shove my head in as far as I can and I hear… nothing. Neither can the wife. Neither can three friends (two of whom are musicians) who’ve stuck their heads in the case when it was under full load. I know a sample size of five isn’t definitive, but it’s not just one person’s opinion. This computer really is totally silent… even in the dead of night.

      Younger human ears are better at picking up high frequencies than older human ears though, so there might be some youngsters out there that might be able to hear something. I don’t know. It’s not something that I can easily test.

      In the same vein, maybe a really expensive microphone or meter would be able to detect some sort of noise. But even if it could, it wouldn’t make any difference — if humans can’t hear any noise then it doesn’t matter. The best microphones I have only go down to about 30dB and they can’t pick up anything. I’ve enquired about super-sensitive mics but can’t justify spending “a couple of grand” on one, or “a few grand more” constructing an anechoic chamber, just to find out.

      At the end of the day this computer is in a house occupied by two specific humans — neither of whom can hear any noise coming from it day or night. I’m happy with that. Very happy. 🙂

  24. vagrantcow says:

    As a server side app dev and dba I’ve recently abandoned the ‘latest/fastest/biggest’ path I was on for the last … gosh, 30+ years. Now my workstation is an Intel NUC i5 running linux with 16GB RAM pushing two monitors and drawing about 16W. Also quiet. Best workstation I’ve ever owned. 🙂

    http://vagrantcow.com/rig

    • Tim says:

      Nice setup. Hope you don’t have any passwords written down on those post-it notes. 😉

      I can totally relate to what you say. I also ‘needed’ the fastest/latest/biggest I could afford — up until about 2011 when I realised that CPUs had become so fast I was hard-pressed to keep them busy (the i7-2600K was just plain awesome). Since then faster clocks have been pretty-much pointless (for what I do), so I started placing more of a value on cores/threads. Now that AMD sorted that out my computational needs can be met by mid-range processors and the need for overclocking has evaporated. With performance “solved” the most important thing to me — looking forward — is lower energy consumption and open-source architecture.

      Lower power consumption translates to lower cooling requirements and that opens the door for alternative cooling solutions. Passive cooling eliminates the need for fans entirely — which solves noise and dust problems at the same time. Add SSDs and M.2 NVMe form factors into the mix and we’re looking at radically different ‘computers’ than the (mid-)towers of old.

      Things really have changed in the last seven years or so. It’s great!

  25. Pingback: Completely Silent Computer – Infinity News

  26. Pingback: Completely Silent Computer – The XBuzz

  27. venk says:

    Sweet build and a very informative post! Got some ideas from here for my would be gaming rig!

    • Tim says:

      I’m not sure that passive builds are the best choice for most gaming rigs. The GPU Cooling Kit that Streacom offers bonds the GPU to a single wall of the case and can dissipate 75W max. That limits you to a GTX 1050 Ti (or equivalent). Fine for a whole stack of “e-sports” titles but if you want to play something more demanding, then you’ll need to mod it.

      I’ve seen folks buying third-party straight heat pipes, bending them so the GPU can be bonded to the back wall, and then installing more powerful graphics cards. A 1060 is a 120W TDP card so yeah, I think you probably could cool that using two walls (and maybe some extra ventilation through the top cover). Not so sure about 1070s and higher, though.

      But hey, it all depends on the type of games you plan and the graphics settings you are happy using.

  28. David Beer says:

    Well, you’ve just made me completely aware of how noisy my (quiet) desktop is…

    • Tim says:

      Ha ha hah! I feel you — I really do. 🙂 Up until now whenever I upgraded or replaced a computer I’ve just identified the most noisy component and improved that. Chattering drive heads, vibrations from HDDs spinning, fan bearing noise, turbulence and unwanted static pressure from grilles, fan blade design chopping the air — it goes on and on. Unfortunately, whenever I eliminated some source of noise, my ears seemed to get more sensitive and I’d hear something else. Not any more!

      I’m still coming to terms with the fact that my pursuit of silence has finished. It’s over. There’s no no sound left to eliminate. There’s nothing more I need to buy. This combination works. The silence is amazing — almost surreal.

      A passively-cooled case and SSDs. Do it if you can — you’ll never look back.

  29. kgr says:

    I disagree. You can hear SSD capacitors working on heavy or even any disk workload.

    • Tim says:

      I’ve owned nine SSDs since 2011 — Kingston, SanDisk, Corsair, Crucial, Samsung — none of which have ever made any noise that I have been able to hear. When I did the first rsync backup of the current system it was ~850GB in size. I specifically had the top cover open and literally put my head inside the case trying to detect any noise. Nothing.

      Maybe you’re young? Maybe you have really, really good hearing? Maybe you have noisy or defective SSDs? I don’t know. All I do know is that I move 15–20GB datasets between the Samsung 960 Evo NVMe M.2, the 860 Evo SATA and tmpfs on a daily basis and I can’t hear anything.

      I don’t have your ears or your gear, so I can’t claim to know what you are hearing. The best I can do is accurately describe what I have, try and hear. Make of it what you will. YMMV.

  30. 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.

    • Tim says:

      Thanks Abishek! Yes, I think the era of roaring dinosaurs is over as the masses move to smaller, quieter and more efficient devices. Content producers will still need large, powerful beasts, but content consumers — not so much.

      I really like the idea of the Chromebooks, and have supported them in the past, but now that we know Google is thoroughly evil… well… pass.

      For personal security we need transparency, and that means open source software and hardware.

  31. Mark Stevens says:

    My Commodore 64 was completely silent.

    • Tim says:

      The C64 was the first computer I personally owned. You need to remember the Datasette and the 1541 5.25″ floppy disk drive though — they made a fair bit of noise. Although not integral to the computer, the MPS802 dot matrix printer was a screeching banshee! Ah, good old days!

  32. V says:

    I feel for you. I hate noise too.
    But I found a better solution.
    Ear plugs. Macs ear plugs cost 5 usd for 50 pair.
    It makes the whole world silent. Not just my computer. And it Doesn’t take 3 decades to get to. It takes couple days maybe to order and delivered from amazon.
    Great work though. But next time maybe, think differently. Don’t change the world. Change yourself. It’s easier and tends to extend to other parts of your life too.

    • Tim says:

      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.

  33. Saarvi says:

    Superbly awesome. It surely gives great satisfaction building and succeeding with this!!

  34. Pingback: New top story on Hacker News: Completely Silent Computer – ÇlusterAssets Inc.,

  35. Martin says:

    Great build and write up – i would love to have an excuse to do something simalar

  36. Dimitris says:

    You can use one of these https://airtop-pc.com/ though with fixed components

    • Tim says:

      Yep, you could. An empty Airtop case costs ~US$800 though — which is double, nearly triple the DB4. And the looks… well… it is what it is — purely a personal preference, but not my cup of tea.

      Great thermals though!

  37. Pingback: Completely silent computer built | TechBlogger

  38. Pingback: En busca del PC silencioso: adiós ventiladores, hola refrigeración pasiva – Chaco Primero

  39. Pingback: En busca del PC silencioso: adiós ventiladores, hola refrigeración pasiva | JanyoBytes

  40. Pingback: adiós ventiladores, hola refrigeración pasiva | Puto Crespo

  41. Pingback: En busca del PC silencioso: adiós ventiladores, hola refrigeración pasiva | Android 3G - ¡Estamos conectados con la Tecnología Android!.

  42. Pingback: Completely silent computer built – Money24/7

  43. Pingback: En busca del PC silencioso: adiós ventiladores, hola refrigeración pasiva | Explike

  44. Pingback: adiós ventiladores, hola refrigeración pasiva

  45. Pingback: En busca del PC silencioso: adiós ventiladores, hola refrigeración pasiva | ISO Móvil

  46. Pingback: En busca del PC silencioso: adiós ventiladores, hola refrigeración pasiva – JC Computer Services

  47. Pingback: En busca del PC silencioso: adiós ventiladores, hola refrigeración pasiva – Psocial

  48. Pingback: En busca del PC silencioso: adiós ventiladores, hola refrigeración pasiva

  49. Pingback: En busca del PC silencioso: adiós ventiladores, hola refrigeración pasiva - ChatNews

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s