My PS3 Console
I bought the PS3 Metal Gear Solid 4 bundle back on August of 2008. It has an 80 gig HD with the media card slots, 4 USBs and software backwards compatibility.
My PS3 Noise Problem
After boot up, the console starts out pretty quiet. It's when I started playing a game, say after 15 minutes, is when the fan noise begin to pick up. At first, I did not really notice the problem because I was having so much fun with Metal Gear Solid 4. I started to become concerned that maybe it was a defect when a couple of months later I bought my first Xbox 360 and I found it to make less noise than my PS3. Everyone always said how quiet the PS3 is and how the Xbox 360 sounded like a jet taking off. I must have lucked out buying my Xbox360 later than everyone else considering mine isn't loud at all. It was nothing like what I heard on those Youtube demonstrations. Now, my PS3 dosen't sound like a jet taking off, but it is was loud in a different way.
It Wasn't Dust
People online came up with a whole bunch of other reasons why people's PS3s were loud; there's too much dust in it, the temperature sensor was defective, there is too much or too little thermapaste being used, the fans are defective, etc.
After listening to a Michael Jackson song on a SD Card and hearing the fan ramping up in matter of 15 minutes, I got extremely pissed and became active in looking for a solution to the problem. I finally solved it when I found Psyn's post on the Playstation3.com forums.
Simply put an item underneath the base of the ps3
Preferabbly hollow or metal so it doesent retain heat as well. That way the fans have more room to breath, and the vents have more cool air to pull in. I use a xbox 360 controller tin (hahah) to hold my ps3 about 5 inches off the ground and it has been working great. It has yet to go into that mode where the fans speed up, it continues to run at the original starting speed no matter how long i play it. Doing this may keep your ps3 healthier, which is important if your warranty is up. Heat of any kind is not good for any electronic, doing this little thing may keep your ps3 alive for years to come.
He posted a picture of how it looked like:
His explaination was this:
It works, the vents which are located all around base of the ps3. These vents are the sources of cool air from which keeps your ps3 cool. When it is low to the ground hot hair can be sucked back into the ps3 due to less area around the system. Doing this Allow vents to suck in cool air, in fact more air altogether. Plus it allows the fans more room to blow heated air away from the system.
I just got done playing COD4 for a little over 2 hours and never once heard the fan speed up. Before doing this my systems fans would speed up in less then 20 mins of gameplay in order to meet airflow demand to keep the system cool.
I thought to give this a try, I mean it's free. I didn't have to open my PS3 to change the fan, add thermapaste or buy a PS3 cooling fan attachment on NewEgg which I have no idea if it even worked. I looked for anything at hand I could use in my house and found two small cat food cans and propped them underneath my PS3.
Guess what, it actually worked. I played MGS4 for a hour and the fans did not kick up. Next, I logged into Sony Home and wandered around for over 30 minutes. Sony Home usually makes my fans go crazy but it never did. Next, I tried the CPU intensive Folding@Home for over 20 minutes and the fans never went to level 3, the highest fan setting. All this was done with the audio on mute so I could hear whatever noise there was.
You can use whatever is available in your house to prop your PS3; like a tuna can, a campbells can, Ensure can, you get the idea. They all come in various sizes but what is most important is that the bottom of the PS3 is lifted off the surface.
Update: I recently switched over to using Campells cans to prop my PS3 higher since I got a new AV receiver sitting right next to it with no other place to put it and I didn't want to restrict my PS3's airflow from the side. It still works all the same though. Looks kind of silly but it beats having a loud console. Here's a picture of it:
So I guess the problem was the bottom of the PS3 needed ventilation as much as the side and the back. It makes sense too if you have ever touched the bottom of your PS3 when it's horizontal, you can feel how warm it is. So there you go, a real solution that actually works.
Update 11/14/09: I'm getting feedback that this quieting solution has been working for most people. I'll post future updates if I find any other ways at quieting the PS3.
Update 12/26/09: A couple of people asked me if they should just buy a PS3 slim since it is often regarded as being more quiet but I heard that some slims have a noise issue too. You can also see in this youtube noise comparison video that the PS3 Slim sounds louder than the PS3 fat. I don't know if maybe it's just a couple of batches of PS3 slims that have this problem but I wouldn't decide on which PS3 to buy based solely on which one is more quiet.
Update 9/7/10: The PS3s that were available on launch back in 2006 made very little fan noise...the PS3s back then were equipped with a 19 blade internal fan made by Furukawa Electic in Japan. Sony later skimped on the quality and went with a 15 blade fan made in China and a growing consensus is pointing to this as the culprit as to why certain PS3s sound so loud. If you don't have a fully backwards compatible fatty PS3 then chances are your console has a 15 blade fan. The PS3 slim uses a 17 blade fan.
Here is a video of someone giving instructions on replacing a 15 blade fan with a 19 blade fan.
Here is a discussion on the PS3 message forums regarding the different fans.