| Benjamin Krueger |
Berlin (dpa) – There’s a lot of background noise one has to put up with in modern society.
But if your desktop machine is adding to the cacophony, well, that’s one source of sound irritation you can control.
Everyone has their own tolerance level for PC noise.
Germany’s Environment Mi-nistry has set 30 decibels as a normal noise level in a quiet room.
Anything louder is likely to disrupt the workflow.
If a machine reaches 50 decibels, it’s the same volume as a conversation and officially a nuisance. If it gets to that, it’s time to seek help.
There are three potential sources of noise on any computer: Fans, optical drives, and hard drives. Basically, anything that rotates has the potential to eventually cause noise.
Fans are the worst, says Christoph Schmidt of German computer magazine Chip.
“Noticeably bad fans create a stream of air that is too loud. Older fans can be blocked or damaged.”
The number of fans is also a factor.
Powerful PCs will have at least three: Part of the power adapter; in the processor; and in the graphics card.
The problem is that there’s no way around the fans. Running a PC generates heat. If it gets too hot, it will affect the chips and cause overheating. That means fans and that means noise. Using water for cooling is one option. Since there’s no flow of air, it’s quieter.
But Christoph Windeck, of German computer magazine c’t, says he can’t recommend water coolers.
“The airflow of a fan is easy to guide. If you’re using water cooling, there are some components that are hard to reach, especially if it’s supposed to replace a system with multiple fans.
That means there’s almost always going to be the drone of a fan when running a high-powered gaming PC.
But if it’s so loud it proves distracting, especially during normal usage, then something is wrong.
Schmidt says the problem can sometimes start with software.
If the fan gets faulty instructions, it can start spinning faster than it should.
If a brand new computer is louder than it should be, he advises against experimenting. Head to a repair shop or demand an exchange.
If the noise problem is with an older computer, then it’s time to see if you can solve the problem yourself.
Squeaking and scraping might mean the fan is about to fail and needs to be replaced quickly.
Usually though, it’s just dust that has accumulated over the years causing the noise. That prevents the computer from getting properly cooled, meaning the fan tries to work harder to do its job. A simple cleaning with a vacuum cleaner can do a lot to solve this problem.
But some caution is necessary. Before starting, make sure the computer is shut off and unplugged.
Make sure the computer’s components aren’t touched, either by your hand or by the vacuum cleaner.
Make sure the fan blades are set so there’s no chance of damaging the motor or the ball bearings.
Make sure the vacuum cleaner is at its lowest setting and that there’s a thin towel in front of the suction tube, to make sure no loose pieces get sucked up.
An alternative is to use compressed air, which can be purchased in spray cans, for cleaning.
If the noise remains after a cleaning, the fan needs to be replaced.
That’s an easy task when it’s the fan in the housing or the adapter.
But it can be more challenging for fans in processors and graphics cards. Doing so usually means replacing heat transfer paste. It’s a difficult job.
Windeck recommends a visit your local computer shop.
Noise problems can also stem from a drive, usually because of some kind of abrasion. There’s no way to clean this problem away.
Experts suggest one way of fixing the problem is to replace an old drive with a solid state version. These have no moving parts, making them quieter. They’re also much faster. Unfortunately, this makes them more expensive.
However, most modern drives make very little noise. Most manufacturers clearly state what decibel levels their devices reach. They shouldn’t exceed 30 decibels or 0.4 sones.
There’s a smartphone app that will help you test a device’s volume levels. The results aren’t precise, but provide good general guidance.
In the end, just rely on your own ear. You’ll know if the noise levels are disruptive.
Windeck says buying a new machine should be your last option.