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My computer used to only have a single SSD, and to my delight it was completely silent. Now, however, I've added a pair of magnetic HDDs and the computer makes faint noise when idle. I'd like to stress that the OS and all applications are on the SSD, so I'd expect that when not accessing the secondary drives they'd be completely silent, but that is not the case - and I've just installed these, so I'd think no application would access them in the background.

Is there any way to make them completely silent as long as they are not accessed?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Turning off hard disks after an idle period as Hennes describes is covered by this question.

Windows 8 specific instructions to get to the power options are covered in this article, but to summarise:

  1. Open the Start screen and type in "Power options".
  2. Select "Settings" on the right side of the screen.
  3. Select "Power Options".

Hard disk idle period should be under "Advanced Settings" in "Change plan settings" for the currently selected Power Plan.

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I only see one option, though, how can I control which hard drives that affect? Or does it not matter because the main drive will never sleep? – Oak Oct 28 '12 at 22:41
I don't believe it's possible to control specific hard drives. I would imagine that, if it went to sleep at all, the SSD would return quickly enough that you wouldn't notice anyway. Also, this article suggests that this option doesn't affect SSDs. – tvStatic Oct 28 '12 at 23:00
Well, it works. I've set it up to shut down after X minutes and then it does indeed become completely silent again... and it takes it a few seconds to wake up when I need it. Thanks! – Oak Oct 30 '12 at 11:03

Yes, there is.

The drives are probably spinning their platters. This is needed for then to work. Depending on some settings (either on the drive or in the OS) you can tell the drives to go to sleep mode after a time. This will spin the drives down and your PC will be silent again.

There is a downside to this. If you want to read some data from the drives they will have to spin back up. This takes time. (Read: Your PC is likely to hang for about 15 seconds if you access the drives after they have spun down).

Windows might try to read from them more often than you expect. E.g. when I click on the 'my computer' icon on my desktop it shows both my OS drive (also an SSD) and my harddisks. It reads how full these are. Thus it reads from them, even if my next click is to Open my C: volume on the SSD.

Assuming you do not use windows but a Linux distribution: Same answer as for the reason. Same delay while the drives spin back up. But you can umount the drives and spin them down via hdparms. Or you can set the default timeout for the drives to go to sleep via hdparms.

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Thanks, but how can I tell the OS to do that? I'm using Windows 8 (updated the question to include that information). – Oak Oct 28 '12 at 19:07
For windows 8? No idea. Not yet anyway. (I am waiting for a few months before I try that.) – Hennes Oct 28 '12 at 19:22
don't the disk periodicly spin up and down for SMART updates? even if no OS is calling on them/ they are idle? – Carl B Oct 29 '12 at 20:42
No. The drive just keeps a log or times it has spun up, read errors encountered, reallocated sectors etc. On its own it does nothing with this data. -- If the OS want it it will have to read them explicitly. As far as I know that is only done on demand, eeither via disk management software, or at power up (POST) by some BIOS's – Hennes Oct 29 '12 at 20:47

I think your best bet would be to sound proof the case. The pair of HDDs you added are mechanical and hence will generate some amount of noise. Make sure they are fastened into their drive-seats well. Add thin foam rubber padding in places that case and component meet or get close, but be careful to preserve healthy air flow.

Which makes me think, you could set up your machine to be an oil cooled system. It looks a little messy, but that oil would be a decent insulator.

Consider this too; about the pair of HDDs you installed, their life will be maximized if the disks/motors are spinning all the time. It is the start-stop cycles that cause the most wear and tear on the devices.

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don't he disk periodicly spin up and down for SMART updates? even if no OS is calling on them/ they are idle? – Carl B Oct 28 '12 at 19:41

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