VOGONS


First post, by Robonaut

User metadata
Rank Newbie
Rank
Newbie

First time poster here, so apologies in advance for my ignorance!

I have an old Pentium III PC (a Sony VAIO PCV-RX270DS) that I use for playing some older RPGs & strategy games (Baldur's Gate, Ruins of Myth Drannor, Warhammer 40K: Chaos Gate, etc.).
I like being able to play the games on something close to period-appropriate hardware, but my more modern PCs have really spoiled me as far as noise. My current high-end gaming PC is virtually silent. My VAIO, though, frequently sounds like a jet preparing for take-off (slight exaggeration, perhaps).

I'm wondering what I can do to reduce the noise outputted by the VAIO? The graphics card it uses (NVIDIA GeForce2 MX) is fanless, so that's not contributing to it. I assume that the place to start would be replacing the power supply. But is there anything currently made that would be quiet and compatible?

Also, what about replacing the hard drive (which is probably bound to fail sometime in the near future)? What I would love to do is replace it with some sort of solid-state drive, but, again, I'm not sure that there's anything currently in production that would be compatible?

Any other advice on reducing the noise?

Reply 1 of 5, by halls_well

User metadata
Rank Newbie
Rank
Newbie

Can you open it up and start to figure out which parts are the loud ones? It could be that dust is causing overheating too, so it would definitely be advisable to look inside if you haven't yet!

Old HDD's are kind of a high pitched whine, the SSD or even a new HDD would definitely mitigate that.

The CD-ROM may be the culprit if it's occasional, you could fix that with something like ISO's and Daemon Tools, but that may be getting away from your "period hardware" intent. There may be anti-vibration pads and screws you can attach it to your case with to try to get it to shake your machine less.

What I'm about to do is replace my old 120GB IDE hard drive with a 60GB or 120GB SATA SSD. You need to get an IDE to sata converter (search Amazon or other sites, I don't want to get in trouble with linking products 😀 ), you also have to make sure your motherboard and OS can support that size of disk (a lot of "retro" hardware maxes at 128GB). You also need to be careful that you won't lose DMA when doing this, I haven't done enough research to say for sure.
You could also look at an IDE to CompactFlash setup, CompactFlash is pin compatible with IDE so there are fewer things that can go wrong.
Either way, flash memory has a limited number of read/write cycles, so if you replace your HDD you need to make sure to turn off the Windows 98 swap file and paging, I haven't gotten that far yet either but I'm sure there are pointers around here.

I'd say open the case up and move your ear around to find the culprit, you can use a paper towel tube against your ear to better isolate the noise source, bonus points for looking ridiculous.

Good luck!

Reply 2 of 5, by SirNickity

User metadata
Rank Oldbie
Rank
Oldbie

I will often (carefully!) stop a fan with my finger to see how much effect it has on the noise signature. It doesn't have to be the loudest to be the largest contributor. Pitch and tone matter. If you can put your HDD to sleep, you can easily judge its contribution too.

My technique for quieting old PCs without turning them into new PCs in an old box:

1) PSUs. Old power supplies had kinda noisy fans that ran at full speed with metal grills that were not in the least aerodynamic. I don't even bother to test old PSUs anymore when I buy a new computer or new-to-me AT supply, I just refurbish them with new caps and a new fan as a matter of course. Then test them. Note that the PSU is an active component in the airflow of an old PC. If you're going to replace the fan with a lower-speed (ergo, quieter) fan, you will probably increase the temperature of the case. Deal with this by adding additional low-speed intake and/or exhaust fans, or if the case temp is still tolerable, let it be. Note that the speed and blade configuration of a fan both contribute to its noise profile, and not all "quiet" fans respond well to being used in a PSU with typical (for the era) circular cutouts in the rear panel for the grill. The wire grills we use now are much better in this regard. Point is, you might need to try a couple of fans to find the right one, as a free-air test won't be a true indicator of its volume once installed in a PSU. And/or, cut out the entire stamped grill and install a wire grill instead.

2) CPU fans. Pentium IIIs are in a crossover period. Fans got much quieter in the P4 / Athlon XP era. They had to, because those CPUs put out a lot more heat. Old CPU fans revved up high enough to deal with that heat sounded like they belonged in a server room. They also weren't typically thermally-controlled. So, if you're still using the stock fan on a PIII, chances are replacing it with a new one will cut down the noise quite a bit. Depending on the clock speed and airflow situation, you might be able to get away with a low-speed fan on a nice copper heatsink. The down side is it's most likely going to be a 60mm fan (which is not quiet as popular, and so you have fewer options) or a 40mm fan (which has to spin faster to make up for its lack of surface area). Worst case is 50mm, which is an uncommon size -- you may get stuck with whatever you can find that fits.

3) Case fans. Get the largest, slowest ones you can find and that will fit. If you have to overcome heat, add more. More slower fans beats fewer noisy fans. Clean up the cabling as best you can to reduce impedance to air flow. If the case has stamped grills, consider modding them to wire grills. If there's copious front bezel plastic around the intake, you will be fighting wind noise. You might be able to line the back side of the front panel with something to damp the sound. Take it case-by-case, no pun intended.

4) Hard drive. Once we got to 20GB, drives started getting considerably more quiet. Fluid bearings showed up around this time, which made a dramatic difference. Some were better than others, though. (I brought home a brand new Maxtor that was twice as loud as equivalent Seagates at the time.) By the 40-60GB era, any quality drive was fairly quiet. By 80GB, better still. I'm unwilling to choose drives outside of period-correct hardware, so you won't find any 160GB drives in my PIII, nor SSDs. But if you're not as picky, that'll all but eliminate hard drive noise. Decoupling it from the case, through shock mounts or insulating hardware, will also help.

5) Video card, chipset, etc. You already mentioned your video card is passively cooled. Great! PIII chipsets won't usually have a fan either, so you're probably already done then.

Reply 3 of 5, by pentiumspeed

User metadata
Rank Oldbie
Rank
Oldbie

Buy brand names like Sanyo, San Ace, NMB, Delta etc and make PWM controller for PWM fans or make a voltage regulator card to slow them down. Finding speed adapters are hard to find these days.

Back in the day, during Athlon XP days, had to resort to design and make adjustable voltage regulator mounted to the slot bracket.

Cheers,

Great Northern aka Canada.

Reply 4 of 5, by SirNickity

User metadata
Rank Oldbie
Rank
Oldbie

You can use sites like frozencpu.com to browse fans by dimensions, then look at their speed/noise ratings. Alternatively, for PSUs and case fans, I use a Qualtek 80mm fan from Digikey. <-- They have a very good parametric search engine that can help you narrow down options. If you've never used Digikey or Mouser before, it's an electronics parts distributor, so HUGE catalog of all types of electronic components. Not PC-centric in the least, but an 80mm fan is an 80mm fan.

Reply 5 of 5, by hwh

User metadata
Rank Member
Rank
Member

OS?

Majority of the time most noise is CPU fan. I had a few terrible ones back in the day, like a Thermaltake Volcano 6 (doesn't that sound quiet??). Today you can get a much quieter one but it is a hassle to find the right choice, buy it and set it up. Be aware of that.