I do love a quiet computer. That’s one of the great appeals of the Raspberry Pi. No fans, no spinning drives. If only they had enough power to really do desktop things.

I’ve never experienced a Pi “bigger” than a Zero W version 1.1, so I don’t have enough information.

And like most people who still use “real” computers that aren’t smartphones, I do most of my computing on a laptop. And that laptop has an x86_64 (in my case Intel) processor.

So how do you run it quietly?

Using a Linux system instead of Windows is a great help. I don’t really understand Windows, except when I see it running on laptops, mine (in the past) included, the fans are often whirring like mad. And I haven’t had a lot of experience with Windows 10/11 on an SSD-equipped laptop, but my wife’s work computer is built like this, and the fans are pretty constant.

My love of Unix goes back far. I can explain in another post on another day (or find one I wrote in the distant past). But I’ve given Windows 8/10 a fair try, and I hate it. The slowness, the inability to open file managers or even create folders in an instant, the long and mysterious updates. I hate it all.

Once I had all my free-software applications and utilities set up in Windows 10, I still had the productivity-killing updates, so I moved back to Linux and stayed there.

Linux on the desktop can be very quiet. Intense web browsing always spins up the fans, but when I’m writing or coding, this laptop — a 2017 HP Envy that is now 6 years old — performs very well and is very quiet.

I replaced the 1 TB spinning drive with an NVMe SSD. First I tried a $50 HP-branded drive with 250GB. I ran Debian 10. Between the lack of updates (it’s only security and bug fixes) and the speed of the desktop (GNOME is way faster than you might think), it was an immediate and total upgrade.

When I ran out of space, I moved to a 1 TB Samsung SSD. The performance is great, and I don’t have to think about the drive at all.

Plus it’s silent. I think I hear the screen making a noise here and there. And when I have 40 browser tabs open, the CPU fan starts to blow.

But right now, writing this blog post in Gedit, it’s just the sound of me typing. What could be better?

An SSD — especially an NVMe type — is the best thing to happen to computing since WiFi. Truly fanless CPUs and motherboards are the next big thing. I don’t want to hear the hardware. It’s even better if it runs cool. Laptops should be like phones and tablets — quiet. And I give bonus points for cool.

All of this makes me think about my Debian book project and how I need to get back to it.