A noisy PC can be very distracting when you're trying to concentrate. We look at different ways you can try to make your computer run as quietly as possible
If you have ever paused to wait for inspiration when working on a computer, you have probably realised that it is actually rather loud. Although we think of computers being purely electronic devices, there are plenty of mechanical components to be found inside. Hard disks whirr, DVD discs rattle as they spin and the fans buzz continuously to keep everything cool.
Once you have noticed this din, it can be very distracting. But the good news is that you can reduce or eliminate some of these sources of noise.
In this article we’ll explain what makes the most noise and how these problems can be fixed. Some ideas involve opening the computer’s case, but there are a few simple tricks that can reduce the amount of noise made by your PC.
What’s causing the noise?
Understanding noise levels is a little tricky. Sound levels are measured in decibels (dB) but the dB noise scale isn’t easy to follow. A rise of around 3dB, for example, represents a doubling in noise – but is also considered to be the smallest rise that can be perceived.
There are also different kinds of measurement. The most common is called A-weighting for average noise levels rather than C-weighting, which measures sudden peaks such as a clap.
However, it is fair to say that the higher the dB figure, the louder the noise. The noise level of a hushed library, for instance, is likely to be around 20dB, a normal conversation around 50dB and a loud radio will notch up 70dB. The noise levels produced by computers vary wildly, obviously, but a typical desktop PC might emit between 40 and 45dB.
Even so, decibels don’t tell the whole story as the pitch of the noise can be just as disruptive. A high-performance hard disk spinning at 10,000 revolutions per minute (rpm), for example, will make a higher-pitched noise compared to a 7,200rpm drive, say. The pitch change is likely to be more annoying than the slight decibel rise might suggest.
It is also worth knowing that laptops are often noisier than desktop computers because their fans have to be smaller and so spin faster to achieve the same amount of cooling. The fans will adjust their speed depending on how much heat is being produced. An easy way to experience this is to start running a full virus scan; very soon the fans will start making more noise.
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