Does hard drive noise in your PC color affect SQ?

I've had my system set up with a laptop running jRiver pulling my music from my server. But recently the hard drive on my laptop crashed. Because I didn't want to be without tunes I brought my server into my music room installed jRiver and started playing music. I was amazed that the former server PC sounded much better than the laptop server combo. I mean much better!!

I've looked at the Zuma design and others and I know most people think that keeping the hard drives out of the listening room a high priority.

So I've been doing some research and it is possible to buy fanless power supplies by Seasonic, fanless CPU coolers, and there are several ways to keep the hard drives from vibrating by using screws with silicone grommets, etc. I will be adding super quiet fans that will be set to only cone on if there is a temperature problem. Right now I have fans on the server power supply and they never come on. I do use a fanless CPU cooler as well. I really gave to put my ears right next to the PC to hear anything at all.

SOTM makes filters for hard drives and fans which I plan to use when I build a new PC.

In a PC system like the Zuma which has no drives, is it electrical noise one is worried about or is it the possible noise of the drives and fans themselves?

I really believe that having the drives, CPU, PSU all in one system can really be almost silent, with careful choices of hardware. I have some evidence that your PC might sound better this way then retrieving the music files from a NAS.

Has anyone else experimented and found the same results?

Thanks for reading and responding,

I have no direct experience as I am now running a laptop with HDD + external HDD for music, but I'm in the process of building a server so have been reading a lot. And I agree with you.

I believe the hesitation with rotating parts such as HDD and fans is both because of audible noise and electrical noise. While I have no direct experience, I've come to believe electrical noise is a bigger issue than audible noise when it comes to HDD. FWIW, even though I now have 2 HDD in my listening room, I can't really hear them even during quiet passages.

OTOH, Marcin from JPlay highly recommends a SSD for the OS, but says SSD for music is a marginal improvement over HDD for music as long as the power supply is independent. So we keep electrical noise from the HDD motor confined to that supply, yet the software plays from RAM so that noise doesn't affect much the rest of the system. I would extrapolate that to fans.

The server I'm building will have no fans, a SSD for OS, and an internal HDD for music, and will have a power supply for the SSD, another for the HDD, and another for the mobo.

Is your server a 64-bit machine? If so, I suggest you look into installing Windows Server 2012 and using AudioPhil's Optimizer. I'm on that path and the reports are more than encouraging. Apparently that's a larger improvement than what we do on hardware.

Not in my setup.

I use a Wifi networked player (Squeezebox Touch) that is a good distance away from computer servers and hard drives.

Wifi provides electronic isolation from any computer generated noise, and distance provides physical isolation from same. Its an ideal setup IMHO in terms of keeping computer related noise (which is a big issue normally) from affecting sound quality.
You will get more complete answers on the computer audiophile site. But to keep it short and simple

1) CA dabblers generally agree that you get best results with an SSD HD for OS because its faster, has no electrical motor noise and is affordable since an OS can be contained on a 64gb drive. Media drive sizes (>500GB) are expensive as SSD, easier to use a standard HD
2) more recent experimentation with SATA OS 2.5" drive shows that you can get further music improvement by using a separate battery or linear power supply to independently power the drive as 2.5" SATA drives only require a 5V DC supply.

Both basically reduce digital artifacts, irritants, fatigue factor
My PC is pretty "tricked out" as it is an ongoing project of mine. I have upgraded power cord, isolation devices underneath; isolation cloth lining the case inside and a magic brick on top, plugged into line conditioner. Next project is taking the power supply out, building (or buying) a new isolated, linear one and creating an umbilical to keep the power supply out of the computer.
BTW there is a split in requirements between asynch USB and UPNP streamer devotees. The asynch USB camp tends to be PC tethered at short distance from the system so values fanless PC. The UPNP camp uses hardwired Ethernet so can place the PC anywhere on the LAN, moving any fan noise out of the room. And your experience with the laptop vs desktop is typical... more CPU power, less power saving system compromises = better server performance
You can run async USB over usb-over-fibre e.g. Adnaco...
First, based on reports from a friend of mine with decades of high end experience at the reference level, the sotm sata filters do provide a nice improvement for the money.

Based on personal experience, a SSD for the operating system is preferable and provides a marginal improvement. Why I cannot say.

I use a bank of power conditioning devices called PS Audio Noise Harvesters. These gadgets have lights on them that blink when noise from the AC is being conerted into light. There are only two things I know that consistently trigger them. The first is dimmer switches. The second is any computer, laptop or otherwise, even when connected to room on a different circuit. The noise from the PC apparently gets back into the system at the circuit breaker. My point is, even if you isolate components in the computer, it isn't just noise riding on your connection from PC to stereo that is an issue. Computers pollute all your AC power. Power conditioning seems to mitigate it. Laptop, desktop, it doesn't matter. It could be the PSU, fans or video card. I got really good audible results with the Harvesters.
Blackstonejd I second that...I highly recommend the Alan Maher design AC treatment products spread out throughout the home. IME they are superior to the Harvesters. Alan M has been offering these type of products for many years and they are very effective and affordable.

I plan on going back to a Wifi Network playback system. I have never been a fan of USB technology and even more against it for Hi Res files being piped thru it.