Fade to quiet with hardware modifications

by Matthew Gast

Related link: href="http://digitalmedia.oreilly.com/pub/a/oreilly/digitalmedia/2005/11/02/myth…

The third installment of the MythTV series is on-line. It's a bit of a detour off the path I'd intended to follow with the series. As built, the box was loud enough that I had to stop working on software configuration to do some hardware modification to improve the sound level. This installment is really about correcting a mistaken hardware specification, not so much the continuing evolution of the software.

When I first built the system, I was disappointed in the noise it made, especially when commercial flagging. Every time a program finished, the processor would ramp up to maximum speed and start generating enough heat that the CPU heat sink fan would noisily spin up. Although it was quiet for a computer, especially one with that level of computational power, it was still a bit too noisy for the living room. After changing out the AMD retail heat sink for a Zalman 7000, the system runs slightly cooler and much quieter. It is not completely silent, but it is very quiet from a few feet away.

Before starting this project, I always assumed it was difficult to build a CPU cooler to fit all the different motherboards on the market. After fitting the Zalman cooler on to my motherboard, I see nothing to dispel that assumption. The MSI motherboard that I use has its own CPU backplate glued on. I had a perverse choice about whether or not to pry the backplate off. I elected not to try, and had to find a way to tighten down the CPU cooler. Figure 5 in the article shows my solution. Rather than using the Zalman parts, I used screws that came with the motherboard to fasten on the cooler.