Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Frustrating case woes.

I have a nice made-to-measure desk that has a fake-drawers cupboard to put a PC base unit in. Hurrah. The problem is my PC case is maybe 1cm too tall to go in the cupboard. Words can’t express how annoyed I was the day I realised that.

For the last few months, since getting the desk I’ve just soldiered on with the PC underneath it, but the noise of the thing is starting to bug me now. It’s not deafening, but it is annoying, especially once you start to notice it. Also, the noise is loud enough during playing games that I really need headphones on, or to blast out the games music, it’s *that* distracting.

I’ve experimented with various fixes but none work, and I really have a few unsatisfcatory options right now.

1) Buy a new case and transfer all the components. Make sure the case fits! The downside here is hassle. I have limited recent experience of transferring entire PC innards, and am not 100% confident on the whole ‘connecting front panel lights and sockets to the motherboard front. There is always the non-zero chance of frying the board, or having a case with 1 single wire that is not long enough, or a single motherboard socket not lining up with the case. That would just bug me big time. I used to be a PC hardware engineer, and have seen things go wrong to often. This PC is absolutely system critical to me.

2) Buy a new PC. Obviously this is overkill, as my new PC was bought in October 2010, it’s a quad core intel i7 2.80 GHZ 8gig RAM Radeon 5770. Not a dud, and able to play modern games. Next year is definitely upgrade year, but not yet. That would be a silly expense

3) train myself to just deal with it. This is cheap!

4) stuff the empty PC drive bays with acoustic foam and try other wooly solutions to prevent the noise being too bad. for the sake of £30ish, this might be worth it.

Anyone have some better ideas? Anyone used that acoustic foam stuff? I considered building a wooden box around the PC. Is that madness?

22 thoughts on Frustrating case woes.

  1. I’d reccomend looking at, and seeing about switching out the case fans, cpu fans for silent models. They give just as good performance, but are acoustically designed to be virtually silent in operation. You could also look at switching out the CPU cooler, as the stock model is usually quite loud.

    I run custom case fans, CPU cooler, and an Antec P182 case; together the machine is virtually whisper quiet, so I’ve experience with this sort of setup (As well as being a big fiddler :D). Feel free to drop me an e-mail to ask any further questions :)

  2. Can you sell you your current rig and buy one that fits? Kind of a riff on your first option.

  3. Is it a fan that is noisy? If yes, replace that with a more silent one
    Is it the HDD, use noise supressing screws and so on (decoupled from the case)
    Is it the power supply, replace it with a silent one

    I also had a noisy CPU cooler, i just replaced it with a monster (really big fan) and now i’m happy.

  4. Not directly an answer to your question, but just a quick confirmation: Is the space you want to actually fit the PC in well ventilated (both intake and exhaust)?

    I’d address the noise issues the way others have mentioned if it really bothers you with quieter fans, those are easy to install yourself and relatively cheap and keep the PC out in the open if possible for better ventilation, you really don’t want to cram it into a tight space and find it overheating 15 minutes after you fire up a game every time even if you procured a case that fits the space (unless, of course, it’s well ventilated — but if it is, won’t you still hear the noise?)

  5. If the desk is thick enough on the top, and it’s just 1 cm, I suggest taking a planar tool and simply shaving off some of the underside of the top of the desk, and then sanding it down. This should give you that extra 1cm you need to fit your case in.

  6. Option 1, just go with a case that fits the space and has noise absorption built in.

    Although I would be tempted to upgrade the cpu/gpu fan/heatsink as they will probably be making most of the noise.

    But for the ultimate in quite computing, you should have a look at a water cooling kit, just as easy as replacing fand/heat sinks but you will need room in the case/desk for a reservoir and pump.

    TBH you could also just take the PC out of the case and mount it in the space you have with noise absorption foam padding, make sure you install ‘case fans’ though.

  7. The situation is slightly complicated by it being a very old fashioned desk, not easily changed by a bit of chiseling or sandpaper :D

    The PC has 2 case fans, one on the side, on one the back, plus obviously CPU and GPU fans and heatsinks. I don’t think it gets massively hot.

    I’ve bought and installed quietPC replacement fans before, so I may try that, although annoyingly the wiring for the case fans dissapears out of view and the internals of the PC are not easily taken apart (rivets, not screws..grr…)
    I’ve already ordered some of this sound absorbing panels of material to line the case insides with, although one side is essentially a single big exposed grille, so i might just have to block part of that. I’m 90% sure the grille is to show off some blue lighting, not really needed beyond the 2 case fans.

    My next PC will definitely have volume and dimensions as a major spec requirement!

  8. That side fan is your cool air intake (at least one of them, you might have another in the front?), if that was going to be crammed up against a wooden wall of the desk you would probably be running into heat problems, I imagine (whether the system runs very hot now or not). Air cooled setups like this count on the cool air intake (side fan) to pass over your components and having somewhere to vent that now-warm air (exhaust fan in the back).

    If you didn’t have the dedicated GPU and the i7 (which can run fairly hot) it might be as big of an issue, but with those two components alone I think you’d find it warming up beyond acceptable levels pretty rapidly under any kind of actual load.

    I really think you’re better off nixing the tight cupboard and going with quieter fans regardless, just my two cents.

  9. Sound-blocking is extremely important to my productivity (and sanity), and probably the single most important tool I’ve found:

    Combined with headphones and music, I don’t hear much from the outside world.

    Of course, if you want to be able to hear the computer’s music without headphones and at normal volume, that could be trickier :)

  10. I so feel that pain! I had the same .. challenge with my old desk. I found that most cases that were short enough were too fat to fit and the ones thin enough were too tall. Eventually I found some things – and actually trusted the measurements I found online – and transferred my parts.

    I did find that ventilation was a must though – the system would just recycle most of the heat on itself and I could feel it through the top of the desk after playing something that required gfx. The back of the desk had a hole, but it too was in the wrong place, so I used some plastic pipe joiners and cardboard to vent the P/S air directly out into my room.

    I’ve taken a slightly different tact with my current desk (which has room for computers and junk inside!) in that I mounted a 120cm fan on the back and power it using a cut USB cable. That way the circulation and ventilation fans are dedicated to specific jobs and I’ve always go fresh air coming into the desk.

  11. Can you rip the small rubbery stubs off the bottom of the case and reduce the case height that way by the necessary amount? They act as vibration insulators though so sound may begin to transfer into the desk, but it may be easier to deal with there than within the case itself, depending on the exact details of your desk of course.

  12. Hey – a surprising amount of noise is vibration from HDDs. Suspending them with heavy elastic does wonders for the low frequency noise. As do the HDD enclosures for the higher frequencies.

  13. Hey Cliff,

    Can you take the feet off the bottom of the case – Would that give you enought room ?

    Like letting the air out of the tires to get the truck under the bridge? Just a thought…

    I had a desk like yours – One thing to watch for though is ventilation / air flow to the case – I ended up taking out mine as the CPU heat warning kept going off…



  14. If this is a ‘mission critical’ machine, then of course you are probably using your work pc as a play pc also, which is really, really, really not a good idea.

    You probably already know this, but your penchant for efficiency and conservation has you doing it anyway.

    I have a friend that has his ‘work’ pc in a closet on the other side of the room, and uses extended, (like really long) cables to connect to the monitor and keyboard and mouse. Which solves the ‘noise’ issue.

    Also you need to break down and purchase a ‘play’ pc for fun and games, regardless of the cost. The simple reason is that if while you are enjoying your game and playing and the machine goes belly up, for what ever silly reason, over-heating, or lightening, or whatever, then of course you will have to replace the machine, and if the hdd is not damaged, of course you can try to re-use it, if it is damaged, of course that means either a backup from somewhere, or re-doing all the work from scratch, which really may not be a feasible or realistic idea.

    Anyway, back up you work pc and get a play pc. And tell yourself you are being even more efficient, because you are, even if a touch less conservative.



  15. Just a note that the Steam sale has Gratuitous Tank Battles for cheap today. I snagged myself a copy!

  16. I’ve used an Antec P183 case with a Corsair watercooling unit and Noctua fans. Was the most silent PC I’ve ever had. Now I’ve switched to a Corsair Graphite Series Special Edition case and while this case looks awesome it’s not well isolated with noise dampening panels like the P183 so I slightly regret it. Still using a water cooling unit and Noctua fans but the case is noticeably louder than the P183.

  17. Hope we get an update on this situation.

    I hate to say it but if your like me, nothing short of jamming that case into the desk is gonna make you happy. Get a new case. Yes it is a pain, but it is probably the only option that will actually satisfied you. On the plus side you can get high airflow, low noise fans at the same time.

    A side note, I hope there is plenty of airflow through the desk cabinet. Might be fine for a typical office machine, but I imagine yours gets quite a bit hotter then that.

  18. Indeed. the desk cupboard is fully open at the back, which should mean fairly good ventilation. I’m just going to wait until next year and a new PC, and maybe get a water-cooled one.
    If I was a hobbyist, Id have tubes going from the desk through the floor into the cellar and the well within it, which has nice cool water in it, but that sounds more like a retirement project :D

  19. I’m glad you found a solution that doesn’t involve damaging the desk. Now you can look forward to using it as intended, even if it means a short wait.

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