Silent, Cool, Green MacBook Pro

I hate noise. Especially the annoying noise coming from the two little fans inside my MacBook Pro. Most of my waking days I’m reading, thinking, and trying to write. About a month ago, I decided that I would deal with this noise no more and set out to silence my MacBook Pro.

I thought about simply taking out the two fans. It looked easy enough. But then there’s the issue of temperature. The two fans might emit an annoying sound but by pumping hot air out toward the back, they are keeping my MacBook Pro within a safe operating temperature range. Then I thought, “What if I could make the chips generate less heat?”

First I went into System Preferences → Energy Saver and changed the Graphics setting to “Better battery life.” This disengages the dedicated and powerful NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT with 512 MB of video RAM and instead makes use of the integrated but still-capable NVIDIA GeForce 9400M with 256 MB. I then went looking for a utility to do something similar to the CPU.

I googled high and low and after a good long while came across a utility called CoolBookController. This little utility developed by Magnus Lundholm allows you to change the frequency and voltage of the CPU. By doing that you can dramatically lower heat generation. Only registered users can play around with the CPU settings so I happily paid my US$10 entry fee.

My 17-inch MacBook Pro comes with a 2.8 GHz Core 2 Duo CPU. I experimented by setting the CPU at the slowest, greenest setting: 1.596 GHz under-volted to 0.9375 V. Normally the CPU runs at 2.793 GHz at 1.1875 V. The MacBook Pro was stable and normal temperature readings from CoolBookController showed around 30°C.

I should also note that I replaced the hard drive with a 50GB OWC Mercury EXTREME Pro RE SSD. Capacity was just 1/10th of what I had but this forced me to use only what I needed. Plus I wanted the five year warranty and didn’t have the money to pay for a larger one.

Storage space hasn’t been a problem at all. Normally I use about 10 GB thanks to Xslimmer, a $14.95 utility that removes unnecessary code from universal binaries drastically shrinking file sizes. I’ve also uninstalled apps I know I would never use.

Another benefit of SSD is that it doesn’t make any noise. Not having to hear the hard drive spin is golden. Also SSD’s sheer speed more than offset the reduction in CPU speed. My MacBook Pro feels and probably is much faster than before; everything happens almost instantly.

The next step was the step: removing the noisy fans. There are two and taking them out didn’t take much effort at all. While I was at it I decided to take out the SuperDrive, too. I haven’t used it all that much and I don’t see myself having to use it much at all going forward. As you can see from the photo above the inside of my MacBook Pro is void of anything that moves; it is 100% solid state. I must say it’s quite refreshing.

While blogging I have a couple of Safari windows open each with several tabs. At times I run Google’s Chrome browser when a site requires Flash. I also run a light editing program called Seashore for when I need to crop and tune some images. As you can see I don’t have many things running, which is exactly the way I like it. As I type this post, the temperature of my MacBook Pro according to CoolBookController is 45°C, well within normal operating temperatures.

Ah, how nice it feels to be free of noise. Noise from fans, hard drives, and optical drives. My MacBook Pro sips quite a bit less energy, generates considerably less heat, and runs faster than it has before. Now I can read, think and write, in silence.