Thanks for the replies. qiqi1021, I kind of noticed that about this Thermaltake HSF. It's not too loud under load, but at idle it's kind of buzzy and maybe no quieter than the stock Intel fan.
Zap, thanks for the bullet points. I'll respond to each (rep for both)
1) What is your budget?
Budget really is not an issue. I will probably be taking an incremental approach. Needless to say, if I need to replace the PSU, that will probably cost as much as all other parts combined. I would like to get this as quiet as I can without replacing the motherboard and CPU.
2) You need to list your other parts, such as HDDs and motherboard.
HDDs are three SpinPoints -- 2 x 1TB and a 320 GB
Motherboard is Gigabyte GA-EP45
3) You need to do some due diligence by figuring out what component in your system makes the most noise.
Trust me, I've tried. I just don't have good enough ears to tell. I've tried running without the Antec case fans. Didn't seem to help much. I really cannot unplug the graphics card or CPU fan to test either.
Other than that, here are some generic suggestions:
1) Make sure EIST is enabled in BIOS (so CPU can throttle down when idle like it is supposed to) and drop the CPU fan speed even lower. If you want to throw money at this, get a Scythe Ninja 3 heatsink. It should be able to keep your CPU cool enough (for file serving duties, not running Prime95 or Folding) with no fan on it. You will still need case fans, but you can run them at super low RPMs (600-800RPM).
The thing is, the cpu is almost always idling. I cannot move this to a different area of the house. I'm just trying to get rid of the subtle low hum from the machine. I've got some Scythe Slipstream case fans on order.
2) If the GPU has a little fan, then do one of the following:
- replace GPU with lower end model that is fanless
- replace GPU cooler with fanless heatsink like the Accelero S1 or S2 (both discontinued so good luck finding them, S2 is cheaper and sufficient)
- if motherboard has onboard video (which is why I asked for list of other parts) then use the onboard video
This is really where I'm leaning towards -- getting a lower end vid card
3) Buy a new case that is designed to be quieter. The Antec 300 is designed to be a cheap windtunnel of a gamer case. Why it is bad for "quiet" is because it supports a bunch of fans, has grills all over, doesn't dampen HDDs and uses thin metal which creates vibrational noise. Fractal Design Define R3 is a good choice but there are others. Antec Solo is really good for "quiet" but only holds 4x HDDs by default. Look for cases with doors over the front (which cuts noise), thicker metals (sometimes not listed) and some kind of grommets for HDDs to dampen them.
I've got this old case with a door on the front which I will try. It seems a bit sturdier than the 300. It was actually probably pretty nice in it's day (removeable motherboard tray, semi-tooless design). It does have a bunch of small cutouts for small fans over the HDD area and other places that I've never used, but overall, I think it's less "open" than the 300. However, if that does not help, I will check out the cases you mentioned.
4) Lower the RPM of the Antec fans if you keep the Antec 300 case, or better yet just replace them. Antec fans are not considered very quiet.
Hopefully these Scythes work out
5) Replace any 7200RPM HDD with 5400RPM HDD. Also, if you are using a bunch of smaller drives, use larger ones so you can have fewer drives. 2TB 5400RPM drives can be had on sale for as cheap as $70, and recently I picked up some 3TB 5400RPM drives from Newegg for $130. Also, if you are using any drive older than a few years, replace them. Older drives were noisier (especially from before FDB motors) and even the slowest new 5400RPM drive will outperform older 7200RPM drives.
The HDDs do not spin up very often. I'm more concerned about idle noise.
6) Yes, you can go with a fanless PSU or one that doesn't spin the fan at lower power draws. For instance the Seasonic X series will not spin the fan up at lower power draws. Your system without the HDDs probably idles around 40-50W with EIST enabled. File serving can be considered "idling." Each 5400RPM drive will add around 5W idling and 10W under load.
I've got the Seasonic X in my main rig. This will be the last thing I try, as it is the most expensive. Plus, I've got too many PSUs. I can try another, but I'm not sure if it would do any good. Besides the Corsair mentioned above, I have an OCZ 700W modular, Antec Earthwatts 650, and some old school Antec 400. I doubt there would be any difference between these and the Corsair?