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Any way to go high end but fully passive?

ranakor

Member
Aug 8, 2007
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I know that you typically have to decide between price / space / noise and performance, but i never see anything about high performance/no noise at the expense of space & price.

Is there anyway to make a fully passively cooled (no moving parts, no moving liquid) solution for high end components by giving up space / paying more without making it a completely unmaintainable custom mess? (Are there any off the shelf solution? If not where would you suggest i look at first for custom solutions?)

Edit : of note, i have no interest in "bling" or "looks", can be as bland as you want and very bulky/heavy/whatever, just wondering if it's possible to have a fully noiseless high end solution

Edit 2 : no specific parts suggestion either, should be a suggestion for an overall strategy (massive radiators large enough that fans aren't needed? Putting it in a 1m3 cube of liquid etc?), don't want to go for very narrow noiseless components that are downclocked or previous gen. Need a path to go from buying a list of top end components to converting the whole PC to noiseless. Price isn't an issue (within reason of course, no silly "build a 1 million $ datacenter and use the whole place as a cooler" suggestions)
 

UsandThem

Elite Member
Super Moderator
May 4, 2000
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Building a PC like you mention above is possible, but it will be expensive and have some limitations on the parts you can use. For example, if you want a high-end GPU, you are going to have fans on it or water cooling.

One thing I always wonder when I see people post this (there's another user here who has a client who wants a fanless PC built - I'll link the thread when I find it) is at least to me, it's not worth it.

A person can just select quiet components, like a heatsink, and use a quiet fan or run it at low RPMs where it won't be heard at all. A cooler from Be Quiet or Noctua tuned to a silent profile won't be heard at all. Most nice PSUs feature a passive mode, where the fan won't run unless the load is large, and Seasonic even has a fanless 600w PSU for $200. Then you can buy a case that is mostly closed off / has sound deadening material.

So my question would be, do you just want a PC with "no moving parts" for the challenge, or do you just want to build a silent PC and it doesn't matter if it has fans, as long as you don't hear them?
 

alcoholbob

Diamond Member
May 24, 2005
6,194
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I tried full silence but found you won't really ever achieve that and have high end gaming. I did liquid cooling for a few generations, but found the noise and reverbations too annoying (water pumps cause your case to vibrate, even tried putting in like 10lbs of dynamat in the case and it wasn't enough to dampen the noise). So my end compromise was get 90% of high end, i.e. run at stock with no OC and live with high temps:

1) Fanless 600W Platinum PSU
2) Delidded 8700K with liquid metal run at stock and Noctua L9i CPU fan at the silent RPM setting--at full load it will hit about 70C.
3) Limit my GPU (open air cooler) to 40% fan speed, and 90% power limit. This means running it a bit hot (around 83-84C) and at stock clocks only, no overclocking.

This way you can run at virtual, but not complete silence. Also it all fits into a nice little box (Sugo SG13). That said this is aiming at 4K 60 so CPU requirements aren't that high. Your temps might be worse at 1080p/1440p due to high framerates straining hardware more.
 
Last edited:

ranakor

Member
Aug 8, 2007
77
0
66
Building a PC like you mention above is possible, but it will be expensive and have some limitations on the parts you can use. For example, if you want a high-end GPU, you are going to have fans on it or water cooling.

One thing I always wonder when I see people post this (there's another user here who has a client who wants a fanless PC built - I'll link the thread when I find it) is at least to me, it's not worth it.

A person can just select quiet components, like a heatsink, and use a quiet fan or run it at low RPMs where it won't be heard at all. A cooler from Be Quiet or Noctua tuned to a silent profile won't be heard at all. Most nice PSUs feature a passive mode, where the fan won't run unless the load is large, and Seasonic even has a fanless 600w PSU for $200. Then you can buy a case that is mostly closed off / has sound deadening material.

So my question would be, do you just want a PC with "no moving parts" for the challenge, or do you just want to build a silent PC and it doesn't matter if it has fans, as long as you don't hear them?
I want fully silent, it's not "for the challenge" it's really for the quietness, price is no objection within reason but i don't want to be limited on component choices, i'd rather pay a lot more and have no limitation, i'm very sensitive to noise (as in a light noise from the fridge 3 rooms away can keep me from sleeping). I don't care if it has fans if i don't hear them, but the threesold for "i" don't hear them is much lower than for "most people" won't hear them, and i want no limitations on the actual hardware parts i can run (for example it should work just fine with non underclocked SLI 2080), i don't think simply having very slow noiseless fans would suffice there.

I was thinking maybe a very large radiator (like, actual home heating radiator sized) or something similarly silly but not otherworldly in terms of costs could be custom built to fit to those parts while being fully noiseless?

Basically i'm not sure where to head, none of this is for the challenge, and i'm going to have to build a top end PC for work (won't go into details, it's irrelevant) and i'd like to make that noiseless even if it means it's 2 to 3X the cost (but not 200X).
 

ranakor

Member
Aug 8, 2007
77
0
66
I tried full silence but found you won't really ever achieve that and have high end gaming. I did liquid cooling for a few generations, but found the noise and reverbations too annoying (water pumps cause your case to vibrate, even tried putting in like 10lbs of dynamat in the case and it wasn't enough to dampen the noise). So my end compromise was get 90% of high end, i.e. run at stock with no OC and live with high temps:

1) Fanless 600W Platinum PSU
2) Delidded 8700K with liquid metal run at stock and Noctua L9i CPU fan at the silent RPM setting--at full load it will hit about 70C.
3) Limit my GPU (open air cooler) to 40% fan speed, and 90% power limit. This means running it a bit hot (around 83-84C) and at stock clocks only, no overclocking.

This way you can run at virtual, but not complete silence. Also it all fits into a nice little box (Sugo SG13). That said this is aiming at 4K 60 so CPU requirements aren't that high. Your temps might be worse at 1080p/1440p due to high framerates straining hardware more.
I'm more of looking at a general solution that can be applied to any hardware, i wouldn't be using a core processor but xeons in my case, but more of looking at alternative approaches to building "around" the components instead of restricting to certain components. No OC is fine, running hot is fine too as long as it doesn't kill the components within 3 years or so.
 

UsandThem

Elite Member
Super Moderator
May 4, 2000
14,467
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I want fully silent, it's not "for the challenge" it's really for the quietness, price is no objection within reason but i don't want to be limited on component choices, i'd rather pay a lot more and have no limitation, i'm very sensitive to noise (as in a light noise from the fridge 3 rooms away can keep me from sleeping). I don't care if it has fans if i don't hear them, but the threesold for "i" don't hear them is much lower than for "most people" won't hear them, and i want no limitations on the actual hardware parts i can run (for example it should work just fine with non underclocked SLI 2080), i don't think simply having very slow noiseless fans would suffice there.
The only fan I ever hear with my system is my when my GPU fans spin up, as my EVGA card isn't known for being silent unless I set it to be passive under 60c. I have a Be Quiet case with Silent Wings 3 fans, which at max RPM are 15.5 dBA. I have my Noctua CPU fan run around 750 RPM, but it really could be set much lower if I wanted, so something like around 400 - 500 RPM you wouldn't be able to hear it.

I think if you can find a quiet high-end GPU (either with quiet fans or water cooled), buy a fanless Seasonic PSU, and some quiet fans (like Quiet or Noctua ULN) along with a quiet case, you should be to build something you couldn't hear without breaking the bank.

Anyways, that's about the best advice I can offer you with your goal, so good luck figuring out what will work for you. :)
 

alcoholbob

Diamond Member
May 24, 2005
6,194
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Well if you don't want to restrict components, then in general you are limited to tweaking fan curves in the BIOS and trying to run the lowest voltage CPU offset your chip can handle, and reducing GPU power targets to something like 80-90% with custom fan curves.
 

ranakor

Member
Aug 8, 2007
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Well if you don't want to restrict components, then in general you are limited to tweaking fan curves in the BIOS and trying to run the lowest voltage CPU offset your chip can handle, and reducing GPU power targets to something like 80-90% with custom fan curves.
I mean i expected there would be alternative (expensive) solutions. If people managed to get water cooling working and fitted to components not made for it originally, it should be possible to do it a fully passive solution no?

Instead of custom fan curves can't you just remove the fan and attach it to a huge radiator?
 

alcoholbob

Diamond Member
May 24, 2005
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I would say if you want ABSOLUTE silence, then there is only one thing you can do:

Hide your PC--in a A/V cabinet (bad airflow), or a closet (better). The latter will require you to run some long usb cables along the wall and/or drill holes in the wall for cable/lan management, or go fully wireless with your peripherals.
 
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ranakor

Member
Aug 8, 2007
77
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66
The only fan I ever hear with my system is my when my GPU fans spin up, as my EVGA card isn't known for being silent unless I set it to be passive under 60c. I have a Be Quiet case with Silent Wings 3 fans, which at max RPM are 15.5 dBA. I have my Noctua CPU fan run around 750 RPM, but it really could be set much lower if I wanted, so something like around 400 - 500 RPM you wouldn't be able to hear it.

I think if you can find a quiet high-end GPU (either with quiet fans or water cooled), buy a fanless Seasonic PSU, and some quiet fans (like Quiet or Noctua ULN) along with a quiet case, you should be to build something you couldn't hear without breaking the bank.

Anyways, that's about the best advice I can offer you with your goal, so good luck figuring out what will work for you. :)
15.5dBA is very low, definitely something i'd be happy with, however breaking the bank is really not an issue, and i'd rather not restrict myself in component choices (besides the computer even not silent will break the bank anyway so meh).
 

ranakor

Member
Aug 8, 2007
77
0
66
I would say if you want ABSOLUTE silence, then there is only one thing you can do:

Hide your PC--in a A/V cabinet (bad airflow), or a closet (better). The latter will require you to run some long usb cables along the wall, or go fully wireless with your peripherals.
That could be a solution actually, but i don't think it would work for me as my place is rather small so i'd still hear it even if i put it further. I could put it in a soundproof case but then soundproof and ventilation are pretty oposed i guess which gets me back to square one?
 

kschendel

Member
Aug 1, 2018
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I suspect that dealing with the GPU will be your limiting factor. My current machine is essentially silent even when it's working hard (excluding deliberate loads like short prime95), I can't hear it even at night when there's no traffic noise from outside. Fanless PSU, dual-fan CPU cooler with fans running at a max of 800 RPM (Mugen 5 PCGH edition), A12x25 case fans running slowly, and an Arctic fanless cooler on the GPU, but it's a low power RX 550. All in a Define R6 case. If I had to run a power hungry GPU I think I'd have a lot more trouble cooling it quietly.

I suppose you are in an extremely quiet environment? During the day, traffic noise from outside and furnace/AC fan noise on the inside completely swamp out computer noise.
 

Rifter

Lifer
Oct 9, 1999
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One thing to consider is watercooling is not silent, the pumps can be almost as,to just as loud or louder as case fans. So select your water cooling equipment carefully.
 

thecoolnessrune

Diamond Member
Jun 8, 2005
9,522
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Instead of custom fan curves can't you just remove the fan and attach it to a huge radiator?
No, because as some point you reach the physical limits of how much heat you can move out of an area. Liquid Cooling works because water has a massive heat capacitance compared to air and metal. It takes a very large number of joules to get water to meaningfully change temperature.

Metal is a very different beast. Metal has a high heat conductance. It readily conducts heat away from other sources. Much better than water. But most metals have a very low heat capacitance.

The two options are why water cooling systems look the way that they do. Lots of thin metal (water block and radiator fins) to rapidly conduct heat away from the CPU or your GPU, and then to conduct heat out of the water so that it can be transferred to the air. The water itself is used because it's very large heat capacity makes up for the huge amount of metal you'd otherwise need (you'd need roughly 3x the weight of water in your loop in copper to have the same heat capacitance for instance).

Just to cool a 250 watt GPU with no air flow, in a hot case, you'd need to figure out a way to connect a 6,000 cu.in. block of copper up to the chip, in a way that heat could be transferred with little to no resistance from the GPU.

While theoretically someone could buy several thousand dollars worth of copper and figure out where to several hundred pounds and connect everything to it, it starts far exceeding the feasibility, and is well out of the range of rational enough to find already on the shelf.

Your money would be far better spent building a giant baffled, insulated box where your PC is in the core, and where there would be little, if any ability for sound to escape. Even just the tiniest amount of airflow makes a world of difference when sizing heatsinks.
 

alcoholbob

Diamond Member
May 24, 2005
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An open bench case might work in a large A/V cabinet or closet as well. I have a friend who has a lian li open bench with a pair of Titan Xps. He replaced the stock cooler with Artic Accelero IV's, removed the fans, and blows a low rpm 360mm on over the heatsinks, and threw the entire thing in a giant A/V cabinet.



If you absolutely don't care about looks, there's ways to get complete silence. Looks, small form factor, and silence with no liquid cooling, then I don't think you can really do much better than use some very low rpm fans and run stock clocks like the system I run.
 

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