You’ve been working for months on your PC build, constantly checking custom PC builder apps and debating part swaps. Then, when the moment of truth finally arrives, you’re relieved to find that everything works beautifully. That is, except for one thing. Your PC sounds more like a chainsaw than a computer.
PC noise is a common vexation for computer builders. What’s more, as PC components become more powerful and generate more heat, the noisy fans required to cool them will continue to proliferate. That means PC building enthusiasts have to know the tricks that will help them defeat the noise and build a quieter PC — which is exactly what we’ll show you here.
Choose a PC Case Built for Quiet Performance.
The PC case you choose can have a big impact on your PC’s volume level. Many of today’s most popular cases, such as models with mesh grilles, are designed to lower internal temperatures by maximizing airflow. However, these open-air cases can be quite noisy due to their lack of sound dampening.
On the opposite end are cases built for silence. These cases typically feature closed front designs and lots of internal padding to reduce the amount of noise that escapes the case. The trade-off is that they don’t offer the same level of airflow that open-air cases do, which often means higher temperatures inside the case.
Which is right for you? It all depends on your build. With a relatively modest set of components that you don’t plan to overclock, a quiet case might be perfect for you. Conversely, if your build includes a beefy, heat-spewing CPU, your best bet might be to get a high airflow case and use some of the other noise management solutions available.
Upgrade Your CPU’s Air Cooler and/or Case Fans.
The quality and design of your fans matters. Most CPUs and PC cases come with built-in air coolers, and the fans often aren’t as efficient as they could be. That’s why a lot of builders install aftermarket air coolers with better-designed fans and heatsinks. These fans can move the same amount of air and heat at a lower RPM, creating less noise overall.
Tons of aftermarket air cooler models are available for CPUs, and installing a new cooler generally isn’t hard. It’s usually a simple matter of removing the old cooler, replacing the thermal paste, and then attaching the new one. Upgrading case fans can also really help. It’s an inexpensive way to improve airflow through your whole system and help all of the other fans run more efficiently (and thus more quietly).
Reduce Vibration in Your Case and Components.
Sometimes, it’s not just the noise of the fans themselves, but the vibration they cause in your case. This is why it’s so important to make sure during the building process that all of your screws are properly tightened (without overtightening them, of course). One or two loose screws can vibrate surprisingly loudly, and you might drive yourself crazy looking for the source of the noise before you find them.
Adding silicone feet to your case is another way to reduce vibration. A case that sits directly on a desk or table will often create harsh rattling noises as the vibrations transfer back and forth. For $10 or less, you can pick up a set of rubber nubs that attach to the bottom of your PC case and dampen these annoying sounds.
Replace Magnetic HDDs with Solid State Drives.
One of the fastest and easiest improvements for a noisy PC is to swap out your magnetic hard disk drive for solid-state flash memory. While HDDs aren’t the main source of noise on most PCs, they can definitely contribute to the problem due to the mechanical noise of their spinning platter design. With the price of high-quality SSDs coming down all the time, it’s a great time to make the switch.
The process isn’t too hard, and you can do it either through your motherboard’s SATA interface or through the newer and faster NVME PCIe interface (depending on the drive). Either way, switching your main drive to an SSD will give your PC a substantial speed boost while reducing noise at least a little bit. That’s pretty much the definition of a win-win, and you can always keep your old HDD for backup purposes.
Experiment with Your PC’s Fan Curve.
Many of the tools to make your PC quieter are already available without any mods. The most important is the fan curve or the setting of how fast your fan spins based on the temperature of your CPU. Cooler units are often set up with an overly cautious fan curve out of the box, meaning your fan will spin faster and make more noise when you really don’t need it to.
You can adjust the fan curve in several ways, including directly through your motherboard’s BIOS utility. For a more user-friendly experience, many people use one of the many fan control software products, most of which are available for free. These allow you to monitor system temperatures and set a fan curve based on your observations. The process requires some trial and error, but the result can be a significantly quieter PC.
Consider Using a Liquid Cooling System.
If you want to push your CPU hard, liquid cooling can be an important tool for getting more power without increasing the noise level. The difference between air and water cooling systems: Rather than using big, powerful fans to cool the CPU, liquid cooling systems absorb most of the CPU heat through water in a water block on top of the CPU. Then, this heat gets dispersed to a radiator and blown away by an efficient, low-RPM fan.
All-in-one (AIO) cooling systems are the most common liquid cooling option. They’re easy to install, generally very quiet, and available in a wide variety of sizes to fit different CPUs and PC form factors. You also have the option of creating your own fully customized cooling loop. This takes a lot more work and typically requires planning from the beginning, but it can look amazingly cool and provide extremely quiet and efficient cooling power.