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My primary desktop PC is due for a refresh.

I have always built my own, but I might have reached the point where it's worth the extra ~$100 to buy a pre-built machine. The biggest reason I haven't in the past is that I like my machines to run quiet – not silent, just with no rattles or high-speed fans. I ran my latest small tower with the side panel removed at all times.

I'm not an overclocker or gamer. What I had in mind was something like the following:

  • i7-6700 (seems to be the sweet spot for price-power-performance right now)
  • 16GB RAM expandable to 32GB
  • 80+ PSU
  • My current monitors are DVI, but I eventually want DP so that I can run 4k monitors. (I don't know if this is integrated in any MBs. If not then just a slot for a suitable graphics card when I decide to upgrade that side of things.)

Whatever I get I'll clean build O/S onto a SSD, and run a 7200rpm secondary drive for data.

Given the "quiet" objective, and given that I can run the case wide open as an alternative to pricey quiet cooling systems, which machine should I buy? (Or should I just build again?)

  • @ArtOfCode - Could you give me a hint? E.g., is the bold-faced question sufficiently narrow, and I just need to cut the conditional questions following it? – feetwet Jun 25 '16 at 23:16
  • I'm not entirely sure this is on-topic at all, I'm afraid... We tend to look for questions that ask for a recommendation of a single piece of hardware with specific requirements (if you want more than one bit of hardware, multiple questions is cool). General advice is off-topic, which this might be. – ArtOfCode Jun 25 '16 at 23:19
  • @ArtOfCode - so is "a quiet desktop PC with specs like this" a single piece of hardware? – feetwet Jun 25 '16 at 23:52
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Use a tower styled CPU cooler (such as the Hyper 212 Evo) with some quiet fans running at very low RPMs (I recommend the Noctua NF-F12).

Use a GPU that has the fans completely OFF when under a certain temperature (such as the ASUS Strix line). Make sure your case has good airflow to ensure the GPU fans almost never run (i.e. place quiet fans for intake at the front and exhaust at the back).

Use a power supply with the fans completely OFF when under a certain temperature (I recommend Corsair AX, TX, HX, or RM series PSUs). Similarly, you must also guarantee good airflow in your case or the fan on the PSU will start spinning. Higher efficiency PSUs will create less heat (which equals less cooling required) and all PSUs are most efficient at around 50% load.

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A Newegg tech advisor noted that Asus and Lenovo case designs tend to be pretty quiet. Rather than build I decided this time to buy a Lenovo 300-20ish on sale, which was actually cheaper than building an equivalent system. Been a while since I've bought a finished desktop, but it's a really neat little tower, and it's quieter than any other computers I use.

As Peter noted, keys to silence are, foremost, to keep fans off or slow. This system is built around a 65W CPU, and I haven't (yet) put a power-hungry GPU in there (I realized I can run 4k off the MB's HDMI). So the PSU and CPU fans aren't going crazy, I put a quiet spinning disk inside along with the primary SSD, and it's just quiet all the time! (Except, of course, when I'm using the optical drive.)

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