So, the new iMacs and the new Power Mac G4 Cube don't have any cooling fans in them. I must admit, that's kind of clever and neat, and I can appreciate that the PowerPC processor generates less heat than the average Intel processor, so they can make these fanless designs. Then I thought about how cool it would be to have a completely quiet computer in my office or at home.

Then I realized, after listening to lots of computers that most of the noise you hear from them is the whine and whoosh of the hard drives, and although you can hear the fan, it's probably less than half of the noise the computer makes. So these computers, while a step in the right direction, will not be completely silent as long as they have a hard drive. And we won't even mention that the CD-ROM drive is louder than everything else on your computer.

This is true in laptops especially--many laptops have no fans either, but are still noisy because of the hard drive, CD-ROM, and in some cases the screen itself. Oh, yeah, my monitor makes an annoying whine too. Yeah, a flat screen is quieter, but you can still hear something on many of them.

I support the idea of a noiseless computer (at least on the desktop--I don't think I'd trust my servers if they didn't make noise), so I hope people figure this out, and also people figure out how to keep an Intel chip cool without lots of fans.

Hard drive noise is a real bitch. In a system with no fans, it can be the most annoying thing in the world. In fact, even in a system with fans, the pitch of hard drive noise is often the most annoying thing about it.

Take, for example, the 5400 rpm 20 gig Maxtor that shipped with my G4 Cube. It isn't overly loud, but it had this high pitched idle, a sound that you really didn't notice outright until you turned the computer off. Of course, it seeked even louder, making that sort of crunching sound. It crunched a lot whenever I'd compile anything.

Take, as a counterexample, the 7200 rpm 80 gig Seagate ATA IV drive that I replaced it with. This drive is a marvel. Quiet, for starters. After listening to it start, it idles so quiet that it cannot be heard. When it seeks, it almost purrs instead of chewing and clunking its way to infamy.

Seagate managed to achieve this wonder through quiet liquid bearings and insane platter density. When you only have two platters to spin, with 20 gigs to a side, you just don't have a lot of noise.

Now, I can sleep with my head no more than 6 feet from my computer. No fans, no drive noise, no alarms and no surprises.

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