How to Soundproof a Server Room & Reduce Server Noise


Servers can be a major pain in the buttocks. Or ears, to be more precise.

Why do servers cause so much noise? It’s mainly because of the dozens of loud fans that are attached to them. Without these fans, the servers would get hot, break down and leave this planet for good.

The second reason can be the server room. If the server room has hollow doors and thin walls, then sound can easily pass through them.

In addition to that, many server rooms have an air conditioner of some sort as well. Air conditioners can be pretty loud, so that’s another reason why we need to focus on the server room as well, not just the server.

This is all really simple stuff, and you can do it by yourself. Otherwise I wouldn’t even mention it.

So first, let’s see what we can do to make the server quieter. After that I’ll show you how to soundproof the server room.

How to make a server quieter

1. Clean the fans

Fans collect dust over time and the dust can cause them to become louder and slower at the same time. It can also cause server overheating, which causes even more noise. Seriously, make sure your fans are clean before trying anything else.

2. Slow down the fans (WARNING: A RISKY OPTION)

If the fans are clean, and they’re still louder than tipsy uncle Joe during Thanksgiving dinner, you can try slowing the fans down. In other words, turn the fan settings from “High” to “Low”, or the equivalent regulatory options that you have.

But here’s the catch. If you do that, the fan won’t cool the server as well as it did before. So I DON’T ADVISE you to slow the fans if you’re not absolutely sure that your server can tolerate higher temperatures. Overheating can lead to hardware damage and loss of data that was stored on the server.

If it’s your own server, it might be worth trying out while keeping an eye on it. But if it’s a company server, I wouldn’t risk overheating it because it could lead to damages that you’ll have to pay for out of your own pocket.

Can you guess the correct alternative to slowing down loud fans? I’ll give you ten seconds. Okay, time is up. The correct answer is:

3. Get quieter fans

I’m super serious.

First of all, it’s the least expensive option on the table. And secondly, it takes far less time and effort to replace a few obnoxious fans than it does to soundproof the entire room, or even a single door (not that it’s too difficult, but replacing a few fans is still an easier option).

This Noctua fan (aff link to Amazon) is specifically designed to be silent like Blademaster using Windwalk, so that you can get your rejuvenating afternoon nap without any disturbances. It can be used on servers, printers and all kinds of machines.

You don’t have to believe me that it’s whisper quiet. Check out the Amazon link and see what other users have to say. Of course, despite of its slick performance, make sure that the fan is of the correct size for your server before ordering.

4. Place the server in a soundproof server rack (cabinet)

This is definitely a good option, but it requires a small explanation.

Here’s what you should know about reducing noise with boxes and enclosures of any kind: in order to soundproof anything, whether that’s a room, a dog cage, a baby’s crib or anything else, you have to seal all the gaps.

Basically, if air can travel in and out, sound can as well. Why am I saying this? Because a server rack is not air tight. And it can’t be airtight because if it were, the server would overheat.

Now, let’s look at this from a different angle. Would your room be louder if there were no walls, if you removed the door and the window and just left a large gap there instead? Despite of the air gaps that are probably present around the door and window(s) of your room, and regardless of how thin your walls might be, they still do a pretty good job at keeping the noise from coming in and out of your room.

So that’s the truth about server racks and cabinets as well. They will lessen the noise coming from the server, but they won’t soundproof the server entirely.

And let’s not forget, not all server racks are of the same quality, especially when it comes to soundproofing. You want to avoid thin metal racks, and also those that have a lot of holes in them.

What you should look for are noise-isolating server racks. The things to look for are thick material, small amount of gaps and also that it has its own fans for better cooling so that the lack of air is compensated for with better cooling.

This server cabinet fits the bill. It looks classy and I’m 100% sure that it would drastically isolate the noise. As you can see, it’s almost air tight, and it’s really thick. Unfortunately it’s also on the expensive side. But hey, if you’re willing to invest some extra cash in maintaining your sanity, it’s worth thinking about.

5. Replace the old server with a new, quieter server

This is certainly not an option for everyone. But if you’ve got an old, rumbling server that is past its due date, I recommend replacing it with a new one that is designed to be less noisy.

I’m not an expert on servers, but I’ve done a fair amount of research for this article. Dell PowerEdge T430 Tower Server is often recommended by users because it’s super quiet. And I’m not talking about random articles on the web, but regular people who don’t have a separate server room and use this tower server at home and in their offices.

How to soundproof the Server Room (FULL GUIDE)

Now we’ll take a look at how you can soundproof the walls and door(s) of your server room so that less (or zero) noise can travel through them. This is some pretty valuable stuff, because these same soundproofing methods can be used for other rooms as well.

What we’ll focus on is adding density to the door and the walls of the room.

Soundproof the server room door

There are 2 things you have do to soundproof a door:

  • cover any gaps between the door and the door frame
  • add thickness to the door

1. Seal the gaps

When it comes to sealing the gaps, the main gap is usually between the door and the floor. It might seem like it’s not a big deal, but it can make a big difference. This gap is usually present in interior doors. Sealing this gap is a piece of cake. Just use a simple door sweep and it’s done.

The remaining gap is the space between the door and the door frame. When you close the door you will probably notice that there is some space in between. To seal this gap, cover the door frame with a self-adhesive insulation strip.

A door gasket like this one creates an even tighter seal, and it looks better as well, but it’s more expensive than the insulation trip.

2. Hang a fiberglass blanket

Once you’ve sealed the gaps, it’s time to do something about that hollow door. While the exterior doors of your home don’t let the sound in or out very easily, the sound easily passes from one room to the next thanks to hollow and thin interior doors (and thin walls in most cases as well).

The simplest way to soundproof an interior door is to hang a thick fiberglass blanket over the door. An even better option is to hang the blanket with hooks and anchors added above the door. This way you can hang the blanket and remove it whenever you want.

It’s best to hang the blanket from the inside of the room, so that the vibration noise is absorbed by the blanket before it can reach the door. If you hang it on the outside, the hollow door usually amplifies the noise before it can be absorbed by the blanket.

3. Hang noise blocking curtains

An alternative material that you can use are noise-blocking curtains. They’re quite similar to the fiberglass blanket, and you can hang them close to the door to get a similar effect. To learn more about noise-blocking curtains and how to hang them, click here.

The other option is applying soundproof foam panels on the door. Foam panels definitely work well, and they’re more affordable than the fiberglass blanket. But I still recommend the blanket because it’s easier to hang and remove, and it’s easier to reuse it.

4. Install foam panels on the door

Basically, foam panels are applied directly to the door. You can use self-adhesive strips, so that you can remove them without damaging the door. I’ve made a really detailed article on the best soundproof foam panels and the best way to install them, so if you’re interested in this idea, here’s the link.

5. Replace the door with a thicker one

You can go to a store like Home Depot and order a custom made thick door to replace the hollow one. But it’s a bit risky, and here’s why.

You need to get your measures absolutely correct. Even a small mistake can make the door useless. The other thing is that quality, thick interior doors (and exterior ones for that matter) usually cost a couple hundreds bucks.

If you get the measurements wrong, or the door gets damaged in any way as you try to fit it in, you’re back to square one. Not to mention that it will cost you additional money to get it fixed.

However, if you’re a bit of a handyman, or have someone that can help you, it’s definitely an option. Does that mean that getting a new, thicker door is better than applying soundproof material to the old door?

Well, not necessarily. First of all, sealing of any gaps is still necessary. And also, the soundproofing material absorbs sound, instead of reverberating it. In other words, a thick door will keep the noise in, but the hard surface of the door will deflect the sound, increasing the echo in the room, just like any other door.

This reverberation might not bother you if you don’t spend much time in the room. But the sound dampening effect of materials such as fiberglass and dense foam panels is definitely a nice bonus.

Soundproof the server room walls

With the door all covered, let’s switch to the walls. There are two methods you can use to soundproof your server room walls (or any other wall, there’s no difference):

  • apply soundproof material on the outside of the wall
  • apply soundproof material on the inside of the wall

Installing soundproof foam panels on the outside of the wall is the best option, unless you’re building or reconstructing the wall. I would never tear down the wall just to add foam, mass loaded vinyl or any other material. It’s too much work and completely unnecessary.

So I advise you once more to check out my comprehensive review and guide for installing foam panels without damaging the walls. There I show you step-by-step how to soundproof any wall with foam panels. This method works for ceilings as well.

Of course, it’s not necessary to soundproof the entire room for this to work. Focus on the wall(s) that separate the server room from the room(s) in which the noise is bothering you.

If you want to stop the server racket from bothering people below the server room, here are the best ways to soundproof the floor.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many ways to make your server quieter, and to soundproof the server room as well.

Which methods should you choose out the bunch?

There’s no universal answer, because it depends on where your biggest noise issue is coming from.

Are your server fans too loud, or perhaps the server room has a really hollow door and thin walls? Whatever the case may be, I suggest attacking all of the problems you’ve identified simultaneously to get the most out of this project.

All of the methods I’ve shared with you, and especially room soundproofing ones have been proven to work really well, which is why they’ve been used for decades by recording studios, home improvement enthusiasts and many regular individuals like ourselves.

You just need to determine which areas are the most responsible for your noise problem, and to soundproof them without mercy.

I hope this article will save you a lot of time and money, and I wish you good luck with your soundproofing project!

Peter Bone

Soundproof expert and a staunch opponent of noise. This website is a free source of information on how to 'keep it down a notch'. I update the content regularly to keep up with advancements in the soundproofing industry.

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