Title Silent PC
Status Completed
Start Date 8-2003
End Date 12-2003

Silent PC

For a long time I had dreamt of a silent computer to use as a web server and/or normal-purpose desktop. At first, I discovered many single board computers that were very cool looking. Unfortunately they were very expensive (minimum $300) and even the more expensive ones were too weak (486 133MHz). Fortunately, around 2002, VIA came out with a new form factor motherboard; the mini-ITX. Along with this they made an x86 compatible processor that could operate without a fan. Cases were developed by other companies for this form factor that utilized fanless, external power supplies (brick/laptop style). In addition, I already owned a large compact flash card (256MB) and a couple IDE adapters for them. So here was the concept: A totally silent PC - no moving parts. Use Linux, with the entire filesystem in a compressed initial ramdisk image for two reasons: speed-if it has to be small enough to fit on a CF card, why not put it all in RAM, longevity-CF cards wear out each time they are written to, each bit has about 100,000 writes, but linux can simply read the whole image and then ignore it. This requires a lot of RAM to store an entire operating system and programs, so I went for a gigabyte of RAM. The whole system ended up costing about $250, not including the CF and adapter.

The SilentPC HOWTO