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Silence is golden

Hey, we're kinda getting used to this quiet PC stuff

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Review After we had a look at Quiet PC's Molex Radial Fin cooler last week, it occurred to us that it would make a refreshing change to see just how quietly, rather than how fast, we could make a PC perform.

A quick call to Quiet PC resulted in an extra quiet power supply and a SilentDrive turning up in the post.

Hard disks account for a sizeable chunk of the noise created by PCs due to both the platters in the hard drive spinning and the heads moving. Although one of the USPs of current hard drives is quiet operation, older drives may well come from a time when performance was the main aim. These drives, such as our two year old 6.5GB Maxtor 87000A8 make a fair old racket, despite only spinning at 5400rpm.

One solution to drive noise is to enclose the drive in an acoustic sleeve, but this can lead to overheating problems.

The Molex SilentDrive is a chunky plastic box lined with sound deadening foam and gets round the overheating problem by having two aluminium plates which cover both the top and the bottom of the drive and conduct excess heat into the surrounding air and chassis mountings.

Due to its size, it needs a 5.25in drive bay which shouldn't be a major problem for reasonably new PCs.

Quiet PC claims the enclosure reduces hard drive noise by over 90 per cent and can cool hard drives dissipating up to 5W of heat.

To check if your drive will be happy in the SilentDrive, Quiet PC supplies a temperature-sensitive sticker which can be affixed to the surface of the drive while it is enclosed. After running the drive up to temperature, the sticker will show the maximum temperature reached. Our Maxtor was quite happy, running at the same temperature in the SilentDrive as outside.

Fitting instructions (supplied on the Quiet PC website) are extremely clear, with good use of photographs.

In terms of noise reduction, our test 1GHz PIII (already equipped with the Molex Radial heatsink) now has the SilentDrive and a 300W extra quiet power supply with a thermally-controlled fan. It's now so quiet that if the monitor has gone to sleep, you can't tell if it's running without putting your ear to it. In fact it has already been switched off accidentally by people trying to turn it on.

So for a total outlay of £95 (£17 for the Radial cooler, £24 for the SilentDrive and £54 for the power supply), we now have an extremely restful PC. If we weren't the power-crazed loons that we are, we could have got away with the cheaper 230W PSU and saved £10.

Next on the list for improvement is our Slot 1 1GHz PIII - its dual fan heatsink sounds as if it was originally designed for use in a 1950s Soviet air conditioner. ®

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