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How to Build a Fast Air-Cooled Quiet PC

Posted: December 26th, 2001
Written by: Tuan Huynh


Since the introduction of the 486DX, processors used by the typical home user required some type of cooling device. The 486ís ran fine with a simple passive heat sink and ran quietly. With the introduction of the Pentium architecture, processors were running warmer and required a heatsink and fan to run properly without frying the processor. Pentium based systems only required a simple generic heatsink fan that was semi-quiet and was small.

When AMD released their first Athlon Thunderbird processor, users were starting to face tremendous heat problems. This was solved by adding more fans and bigger heatsinks. One problem with this is the more fans that are in a case, the louder it is which becomes irritating for some people. Also when using a larger heatsink, faster spinning fans are used to keep the temperature. Fans used on these heatsinks often times spin upwards to 7000RPM. At that speed the fans make a whirling sound which becomes extremely annoying if youíre trying to concentrate.

In this article, I will guide you through building an Air-Cooled PC that performs on-par with the fastest systems but runs virtually silent.

The Processor: Athlon XP1800+

When thinking of a quiet air cooled PC, the processors that will most likely come to mind are an Intel solution or VIA C3. Since this will also be a performance PC, the processor of choice is an AMD Athlon XP1800+. Based upon the Palomino core, the Athlon XP dissipates less heat compared to older Thunderbirdís of equal clock speed. We chose to go with the XP1800+ due to its pricing availability. Even though the Athlon XP1900+ is already out, the price increase isnít worth the 70MHz speed increase.

With this being a performance oriented PC as well as quiet, the Athlon XP was chosen over the P4 because of price/performance ratio. It offers much more performance for the price compared to an equivalent performing P4. It can be found for around $182 on Pricewatch.

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