Let’s say you’ve built your enthusiast-grade battlestation of a PC with the most premium components. All’s well with the new system, except it sounds like a jet engine every time you run an application that’s even remotely taxing on your hardware.
While you’d assume the fans are responsible for the noise, there are other elements in the mix too, and this article will go over everything you need to know to make your PC quieter.
What generates noise in your PC
The fans mounted on your case are largely responsible for making your system excessively loud. Older fans caked with dust can generate a lot of noise. Mounting fans without noise-dampening rubber screws or using cabinet fans that lack noise-absorbing rubber pads around the screw slots can also make them considerably audible. This is because fans that lack noise-dampening provisions can transfer their vibrations to the cabinet, adding to the overall noise level of your rig. Likewise, liquid coolers can create screeching or rattling sounds for a variety of reasons, including incorrect orientation, damaged pump bearings, or clogged fans on the radiator.
If the fan speed is controlled by system temperature, you’ll notice a sharp increase in the noise level when you run graphically intensive games. This problem is not exclusive to your cabinet fans either, as most CPU and GPU fan speeds are controlled by their respective temperatures.
Old GPUs and PSUs are susceptible to coil whine or a high-pitched humming/buzzing sound. Coil whine occurs due to current flowing through the electromagnetic coils of the inductors inside the graphics card or the power supply. While it’s not uncommon to hear a faint buzzing sound on brand-new systems, it’s more noticeable in older PCs as the coils wrapped around the inductors can become loose after prolonged use.
Finally, the spinning parts of hard drives can create clicking and grinding noises whenever you read or write data to the drive. As a general rule of thumb, larger 5.25-inch hard drives are more audible than their 3.5-inch and 2.5-inch counterparts. Similarly, faster HDDs capable of hitting 7200 RPM will generate more whirring sounds than slower 5400 RPM drives. Using your hard drives in RAID configuration or performing constant read/write operations can have a noticeable impact on their noise level. Moreover, deteriorating hard drives can create abnormal grinding and scratching sounds.
There are a couple of small but noteworthy fixes that can help you reduce the noise level of your PC. First off, you’d want to clean the dust and grime off your CPU, GPU, and cabinet fans. Similarly, you should clean your AIO radiators and dust filters as too much dust can reduce the cooling capacity of your system, thereby causing your PC to hit high temperatures frequently. This, in turn, will push the fans to hit high RPMs and increase the overall noise level.
Speaking of temperature, it’s a wise idea to clear any obstructions to the airflow inside your PC cabinet. You’d also want to achieve a neutral or slightly positive airflow to maintain the lowest possible system temperatures.
How to make your fans quieter
The simplest way to reduce the noise level of your CPU, GPU, or cabinet fans involves setting up a custom fan profile through the BIOS or third-party apps like Fan Control. While reducing the noise levels is important, be sure not to go overboard when reducing their RPM if you want to avoid running into thermal throttling issues.
If your system has decent airflow, but the fans continue to spin at high speeds after you boot your PC, you either have a hardware-intensive process running at all times or a virus/malware that's hogging all your system resources. An easy fix is to head to your Task Manager and take note of the percentage utilization of the CPU, memory, and GPU. If any of these exceed 50%, you can click on their column to detect the resource-hungry process and close it. Otherwise, you should run system-wise virus scans on Windows Defender and another antivirus like MalwareBytes.
For the cabinet fans, you can add rubber pads around their screw slots or remount them with anti-vibration rubber screws to dampen their vibrations. Assuming your cabinet supports them, you can also try installing larger and quieter fans that run at lower RPMs and don’t generate a lot of noise when you use them. Sadly, you can’t do the same for GPU or CPU fans, though undervolting your graphics card and processor will reduce the amount of heat they can generate at the cost of a slight or negligible performance hit.
How to get rid of coil whine
Besides replacing the component that's producing it, there's no permanent fix for coil whine, but you can reduce it to some extent. If your PSU is being pushed to the limit, the coil whine will be noticeable every time you run hardware-intensive tasks. So, you’d want to get a new PSU with higher capacity and better efficiency.
If your graphics card is afflicted by coil whine, you’ll notice the humming gets louder when you use it for gaming. You can try to lessen the noise by removing all overclock settings, and better yet, creating an undervolt profile. You can also enable the power-saving mode in your operating system to ensure your GPU doesn’t draw too much power from the PSU.
It's also possible that the coil whine is generated by the AC power supplied to your PC, so you may continue to hear the buzzing noise even after changing the PSU. If the coil whine is less noticeable when you change the wall socket where you plug your computer, it’s a sure sign that your house wiring is responsible for the noise. In such a scenario, you can look into an external power conditioner to get rid of the electrical noise in your power supply.
How to make your storage drives quieter
Replacing your hard drives with SSDs can cut down a lot of the mechanical noise. Unfortunately, SSDs have a steep cost-per-terabyte ratio and aren’t usually as high in capacity as typical HDDs. You can stay in the middle ground by using an SSD as your boot drive and relegating hard drives only for storing data that you rarely access. Another way to dampen the noise is to get anti-vibration mounting frames and screws that can isolate the case from the vibrations caused by read/write operations.
And that's it for this article! Following most of these methods should help reduce the noise from your PC. But if your system still remains loud, you should consider switching to a noise-proof cabinet. Besides featuring thicker panels made of plastic, silent cases incorporate sound-absorbing materials into their design, making them perfect for users who require a quiet gaming environment. The only downside here is that you'll need to spend a few hours disassembling your system and remounting all your components in the new cabinet.