Does your computer have to be so loud?

The short answer is no - the long answer is that it may take some effort and time to quieten it, but there is expertise, and there are materials and available techniques to do so. In the February 2004 issue of Smart Computing, there is an article on quieting your computer (entitled Peace, Quiet and Power, Too, by Kevin Savetz). The faster our computers get the hotter the components can be with the resultant need for more cooling - usually from fans. And in the computing world faster computers are "better" computers because they can deal with more complex computing needs - processing large images, recording and manipulating audio files (again usually large), accommodating the ever fancier software that is available and is provided by the developers.
The article in Smart Computing gives many good ideas, such as increasing heat sink size, purchasing quiet fans, using sound reducing enclosures and sound absorbing mats strategically placed inside the computer itself, and it provides several websites that offer information on quiet computing or specialise in it, some offering quiet computers themselves -,, and

I have been a Mac user for years and when I heard that Apple had produced a computer with no cooling fan at all (the Cube) I thought that's the one for me. Unfortunately it had other problems - no CD burner, some cracks appearing in the case in some models - and it was discontinued after about a year or so (it is still available on eBay and is basically a good computer). But, a few years earlier Apple had also produced the iMac, a very popular all-in-one computer that also has no cooling fans at all. I didn't hear about that feature of it when it first came out, but when I became aware of it I purchased one. On trying it out I realised that there was still some noise coming from the hard drive, and sounding like faint squeal from the bearings - not loud, but obviously present.

So I removed the hard drive from its bay, extended its cables, and put it in a large enough, totally enclosed, soundproof box that I mounted under the computer. Now there is no noise whatsoever (to my 67-year old ears). The only sound comes from some remnant of squeal from the monitor transformers and that stops after a few seconds once the monitor is warmed up. Then - total silence. It is wonderful. I still have access to the CD slot on the front of the computer and all the ports on its side. It looks a bit ungainly but I haven't tried to make it "pretty", and I have it sitting on the floor under a counter top about one metre from my ears, fully accessible, and connected up with a 19" external monitor. The box containing the hard drive needs to be large enough - mine is 8 x 6.5 x 6 inches inside - so that the hard drive doesn't overheat. For anyone interested, contact me at and I can send a pdf containing photos and construction details.

The CRT iMacs are also being phased out in favour of flat-panel iMacs. Sadly, they do have a cooling fan but it is small and the claim is that it is quiet. I haven't heard one of these in a quiet home environment, but others say that the fan is not obtrusive (some say it is not even apparent). Apple has addressed the noise question in their most recent tower computer - the G5 - with ducted airflow channels, which direct the air and so reduce the need for so much cooling, and fan speeds that depend on the temperature, so that for at least some of the time the fan speeds are low and thus the fans are much quieter. And that's a step in the right direction.

For the ultimate, and maybe the future, in the January 2004 issue of Smart Computing there is an article about alternative methods of computer cooling, namely, water systems, and Peltier effect panels. They are still in the hobbyist realm, but hopefully, one day they will be incorporated in ways that are safe and cost effective, as well as being acoustically efficient. In the meantime, check out the websites, and if you can, read the February article in Smart Computing.

-Blyth Hughes

Excerpts from Stillness Speaks, by Eckhart Tolle (from Common Ground, September 2003):

Do you need more knowledge? Is more information going to save the world, or faster computers, more scientific or intellectual analysis? Is it not wisdom that humanity needs most at this time? But what is wisdom and where is it to be found? Wisdom comes with the ability to be still. Just look and listen. No more is needed. Being still, looking and listening activates the non-conceptual intelligence within you. Let stillness direct your words and actions.

Right to Quiet Society Newsletter, Spring 2004
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