There is a world of difference between a quiet computer and a truly silent one. Making a computer quiet involves using a quiet power supply, a large quiet cpu heatsink and fan, and the latest quiet hard drive. This means that almost any computer can be made very quiet with a little effort, and a few new parts.
Making a computer silent however, will mean you need a fanless powersupply, and low power cpu and no hard drive. Yes thats right, no hard drive.
A silent powersupply, means either buying a psu without a fan. No fan, means that no air is being drawn through the case, cooling the inside of the copmputer and no air is cooling the powersupply itself. There are some that have cooling fins on side of the psu and rely of passive cooling, but more commonly a fanless psu is the external brick type powersupply. Unfortunately they are not high power, delivering usually only 60 watts. This means that the rest of the computer will need to be low power as well. No having 2 hard drives, a cd-rw drive, and a dvd drive.
A low power cpu that can be passively cooled with a heatsink, or via heatpipes that transfer the heat to the computer case. A low power Intel mobile processor, or VIA C3 processor is all you will be able to use. This should provide enough computing power for most needs, such as word processing, email and web browsing, but may not have enough power to play movies unaided.
No hard drive, means either booting off of the network, using PXE or RBL network boot protocols, or using a silent compact flash card, to load an operating system into memory. The linux operating system is far better suited to network and flash booting, as it will run happily with no hard drive.
I will go into more detail about all of the above options in future weeks.
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