Silent mac mini

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by canhaz, Oct 26, 2013.

  1. canhaz macrumors regular

    Jan 17, 2012
    hey folks

    I'm desperately looking to run OS X reliably without fan noise. Is this possible on any of the Mac Mini models?

    Obviously under normal load the mac mini is fine, but I want something that is quiet no matter how much load is placed on it, and without any annoying thermal throttling on the GPU or CPU.

    Is this possible. or should I be going hackintosh?

    mucho thanks.
  2. blanka macrumors 68000

    Jul 30, 2012
  3. Gav2k macrumors G3


    Jul 24, 2009
    Remove the base and stand it on its side it'll be quieter
  4. mfram macrumors 65816

    Jan 23, 2010
    San Diego, CA USA
    No you can't have your cake and eat it too. Processors generate heat. The heat must go somewhere. A Hackintosh isn't going to change the laws of physics either.
  5. opinio macrumors 65816

    Mar 23, 2013
    Those are pretty big somewhat unrealistic demands. :eek: As noted, you're requesting something that breaches the very laws of physics. There are not too many computers around (anywhere) that run full load on a high end CPU while maintaining no audible noise from cooling fans.

    You'll need to go water cooled in a Hackintosh if you want max load on the CPU with no fan noise.

    Or you could do what this guy did:

    I don't think it would tick the 'quiet' box for you but may give you some ideas. It's actually a bit misleading because it is not even a Mac mini. He just bought the unibody shell. The rest is PC gear.

    Alternately you could buy some Bose noise cancelling headphones. They work exceptionally well with fan noise.
  6. blanka macrumors 68000

    Jul 30, 2012
    Seriously, the Mini is audible at full load, but it really depends on the distance/stuff in between. If you put it under a table or use a long DVI/USB cable, it will become inaudible because of distance.
  7. ioannis2005gr macrumors 6502


    Aug 10, 2013
    There is another one way to make it inaudible....listen louder your lovely music...
  8. covertash macrumors member

    Dec 26, 2012
    Maybe I am getting old, but at the stock fan speeds, the fan noise is imperceptible to my ears. Perhaps my environment (apartment) has too much existing white noise from other machines and neighbors. Even the Ivy Bridge CPU's in the current Mini now draw so little power that very little heat is generated as a result. But besides that, there are tools that can also be used to control the fan speed as well, at the expense of increased temps of course, depending on your adjustments.

    If you happen to have an Apple store nearby, you shouldn't have a problem picking up a new Mini and trying it out for yourself at home, and returning it if it is not to your liking.

    As others have mentioned, you could build a Hackintosh with watercooling, but caution must be used to pick the right fan(s) to use on your radiator, along with a good fan controller (unless you can put the machine far away from you). I used to be an avid watercooler, but with how power efficient parts are these days, it makes little sense to do it if noise control is the ultimate goal. On the flip side, you could build a passive setup, provided you pick the right heatsinks and good low speed fan(s).
  9. propower macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2010
    The stock minis fans will be at full before long before one reaches half load. The noise level when that happens is like 50dBA. That is quite loud!

    Solution 1: Build a well constructed box with cooling to put the mini in and use sound damping materials to reduce noise by at least 20dB, maybe 40 if you are very good at it.

    Solution 2: Put Mini in a closet far enough away not to hear it

    Solution 3: Take the mini apart and repackage it with a killer heat sink on the processor and large very slow spinning fan for cooling (I always wanted to try this).

    Solution 4: By a machine designed to run quiet under load - MAc Pro - even imac (this is what I did!)
  10. martinm0 macrumors 6502a

    Feb 27, 2010
    I also would like a quieter mini, which I know is pretty much impossible. What I'm most surprised with now is that the Mini can be updated to Haswell pretty easily by Apple, yet we didn't see any mention or silent updates during the latest event. Any chance the mini is being altered in other ways that warrant longer delays?

    To the original OP, I built a hackintosh in the end due to a number of issues with image retention in the late 2012 iMacs. Its damn powerful, has Thunderbolt ports and boots OSX, Windows and anything else I want to throw at it and is more quiet than the mini at full load. Granted, its a beast and uses a ton of power in comparison, but it converts digital video very well and can still multi-task a ton of other apps and programs. However, I would give it all up for a mini that could just be more quiet and still convert HD video at fair speed while sitting on my desk two feet from me. If the next mini is notably more quiet at full load, I'll jump.
  11. iWeekend macrumors regular

    Nov 28, 2012
  12. mvmanolov macrumors 6502a

    Aug 27, 2013
    yeah right! 3k its twice as much as completely tricked out mini!!! (with less ram at that if i may!!!) for a system that for most of us who actually want a mini is total overkill!!! as in:

    swatting, slapping, stabbing, slicing, sawing, carving, shooting, fuming, blasting, bombing, and finally nuking your homegrown fruit fly just to get rid of the noise they make flying around….

    I'd love a Pro the things look amazing and i'm sure it will last me for 8-10 years for what i need but i'd rather buy a new mini in 4 years and still have some $$$ to spare….

    If i won the lottery though! Man that product Red MP is sooooooooo mine! :D
  13. canhaz thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 17, 2012
    Thanks! Some interesting suggestions. Hadn't thought of taking a mini apart.

    Quo (makers of OS agnostic machines) looks kind of neat.

    As for the comments about the laws of physics not allowing small and quiet. Well, that's certainly an obvious dismissal, though in this case probably does not stand up to additional scrutiny.

    My previous Core2Duo based Macbook Pro (often considered a feat of engineering, packing high performance into a sleek design) used to get super hot and the fans would blow hard often. "That's normal"/ "Deal with it" was the answer I used to get.

    That is, until I discovered, Coolbook. Many will remember this awesome utility which allowed CPU clock and voltage modification.

    After undervolting successfully, the "you can't put that amount of power in a small aluminum frame without noise" argument just went out the window, as I was able to run the machine at whatever load I wanted (used with smcFancontrol), without annoying fan noises (eg 3500+ RPM) or any instability issues whatsoever.

    These days the picture is more grim. Coolbook is broken on the newer generation Intel chips (i5/i7), I believe it's because Intel no longer allows voltage manipulation in software, on their mobile chips.

    So coming back to the physics argument, the power, thermal output, voltage, frequency, do not all have linear relationships (P=CV²f) and the same can be said for the Mini.

    For example, speaking hypothetically, the Mac Mini could have had 5% less performance and virtually no noise, or even the same performance, but with a larger fan, slower RPM, less DB, and the same CFM.

    Apple does not care about optimizing for low levels of noise pollution. I'm not saying they have to, because most people don't seem to mind, but it's hard to argue for this this not being the case.

    Small and powerful can be done, it's just harder to do, and some small compromises might need to be made...
  14. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    Actually you are right. a mac mini 1/2 inch taller with a bigger heatsink/fan and forced under clock would be quiet. I for one would prefer that.
  15. ad931 macrumors regular


    Sep 1, 2013
    Athens, Greece
    At the Apple event, the quietness specification target for the Mac Pro was the Mac mini... apparently its 12db
  16. propower, Oct 30, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2013

    propower macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2010
    Yes - at idle - and/or lowest fan speed.

    Under load --
    -Mac Mini i7 (i5 may be much better) fan will ramp up quickly after 25% constant load - at 4000rpm or above - think hair dryer
    -imac (late 2012/2013) will ramp up slowly after ~70% constant load
    -old mac pro - pretty much never changed

    The mini could be made to be a much quieter machine under load. That is not how it is designed - or typically used (my opinion) - hence why so many have supported its reputation for being silent...

    2012 imac is rated at 15dB --
  17. Cape Dave macrumors 68000

    Nov 16, 2012
    Solution 3 is interesting to me.
  18. opinio macrumors 65816

    Mar 23, 2013
  19. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    Beyond the obvious of using headphones to drown out noise, all computers for the most part can have fan noise. The question is more one of physics that can be remedied.

    1) stand it on its side
    2) use some sort of baffle (mount it under the table as example so the table itself cuts down noise)
    3) have it further away from you while working - distance reduces noise factor

    There are many ways to avoid noise but to ask for no noise is not realistic.
  20. janitor3 macrumors regular

    Aug 11, 2010
    Glasgow, Scotland
    I have my 2010 Mac Mini standing on it's side and hardly hear a noise from it.
  21. Miltz macrumors 6502a

    Sep 6, 2013
    New York
    Get a 11" macbook air 2013. DEAD SILENT. (even with my ear pressed to the back of the unit) You can use it in desktop mode. And when you want you have a laptop too. :cool:
  22. NMF macrumors 6502a


    Oct 27, 2011
    The 2012 mini's are practically silent at full load thanks the MagLev 2 fans. I have both a 2011 and 2012 mini running Handbrake nearly 24/7. The 2011 is unbearably loud, the 2012 is inaudible.

    Get a 2012.
  23. canhaz thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 17, 2012
    Thanks folks. Those are all good suggestions.

    @NMF are you running an i5 or i7 on the mini? I would prefer an i7 for performance, but worry that it may be a significant contributor to heat and hence noise.

    Also was disappointed that no new mini's came out, but also getting impatient so will probably go 2012 :eek:
  24. LeandrodaFL macrumors 6502a


    Apr 6, 2011
    The minis are almost imposible to here at full load. At idle/medium load they are silent. You can make it 100% silent at full load if you take these steps:

    1-Replace the HDD for SSD. SSD make no noise and less heat so the fan spins less

    2-Put the mini away from you or inside a cabinet

    3-Wear headphones

    I would like to just say one more thing. The Macmini is one of the best computers in terms of acoustics, if not the best. No hackintosh will be able to be more silent then a Macmini, cause PC parts are very noisy. In order to get a really silent PC, you gonna spend $2000, or it will be a crappy computer.
  25. propower macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2010
    Not saying your wrong but...
    This was not my experience in owning an 2012 i7 2.6 with apple SSD. Period. Above 35% load - full speed fan and clearly audible from upstairs... That fan at 6000 rpm is brutal -- again - IMO...


    Are you talking about the 2012 i5??? As far as the 2012 i7 goes - this is 100% NOT my experience. Owned it for a year...

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