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 Post subject: Quiet is in the details
PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2004 1:24 am 
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Joined: Fri Dec 05, 2003 11:03 am
Posts: 96
Location: Seattle, Washington, United States
goal: ultra fast, ultra quiet system

primary source of information: SCPR Forums. Thank you to all who have gone before me, and bothered to take the time to write about it. There are a few new tricks and mods I came up with in building my system that I hope are worth sharing, but mostly it was just a process of incorporating the best ideas I found here in the forums.

This is a brand new system built from scratch. Incremental testing showed stability at 10% overclocked. After running it through it's paces for several days (and allowing enough burn in time for the Arctic Silver 5 to at least start setting up), so far I've found my hard drives maintain a cap of 40C at highest load, my VGA card peaks out around 58C after an hour of playing Deus Ex, temps inside my PSU hit 47C, and my CPU never gets above 52C running CPUburn. I find all those temperatures comfortable for now, with the exception of the video card. If that doesn’t cool a bit as things break in I will remove the fan controller and let it run at a full 12v. Then I will be completely ready for the release of Half Life 2!

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Case:
Antec Sonata
mods:
opened bottom front panel bezel
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opened internal front panel bezel
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removed internal hard drive bays
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opened up the front case intake, and based on Katana Man's excellent report on grills, filters, and air flow, I removed the front filter altogether. This cutout is just large enough for a 92mm fan to be slipped into the opening if I should need to provide more cooling for my hard drives.
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Performix PlastiDip rubber paint.

AcoustiPack Deluxe acoustic dampening material. I went with the Deluxe pack rather than the precut because I wanted the thicker material for the door, and because I wanted to cut my foam in much closer and in more places than the precut kit allows. When finished I had a small pile of a dozen or so pieces of the foam left, none more than an about 1" x ½" big. When you really start looking it's amazing how many places you can put that foam. Around the PSU and around the case fan were natural areas since so much noise and vibration starts there.
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Notice on the removable side door I did not completely cut out the dampening sheet for the support bar. Instead I removed just enough of the thickness to allow the door to close properly with a touch of pressure. This way there is one completely unbroken sheet of dampening covering that somewhat thin door panel. Next time I would have undercut the sheet over the door handle and left foam in one piece on the surface. I didn't think of it in time, so I undercut and re-applied the foam to that handle area. (that handle moves very little on the inside - no reason most of it needs to be exposed.)
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1 3/4" Tall Case Feet

You will see custom grills on the back and inside on the PSU, held off from the case to reduce interference. Yes I am aware there would be better airflow with these removed, and if I would leave the grills off I could use my E.A.R. grommets to mount the fans, but looks are just too important to me. Life is about balance and I like to be surrounded by attractive things.
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Front blue LED's removed (those were NOT attractive things).

Motherboard:
ASUS P4C800-E Deluxe

CPU:
Pentium 4 Extreme Edition(3.20GHz, L2:512KB, L3:2MB 800MHz, Socket 478)
mods: Zalman CNPS7000-ALCu cooler heatsink attached with Arctic Silver 5, running 7v through Zalman Fan Mate.
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RAM:
1024 Meg DDR550Mhz Dual Channel, Corsair XMS440 tested and matched Twin Pair with heatsinks.

Graphics:
nvidia GeForce FX 5950 Ultra 256MB 8x AGP
mods: ZM80C Zalman Quiet Video Card Heatpipe, ZM-OP1 (Quiet Fan for ZM80C-HP) running 7v through Zalman Fan Mate. Closed cell foam neoprene rubber placed between fan and heatsinks.
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HD:
1-120GB Seagate 7200.7 SATA Hard Drive
1-160GB Samsung SP1604N IDE Hard Drive
mods: SmartDrive 2002 enclosures
The SmartDrive enclosures were isolated from the case, and stacked using ½" 40 durometer Sorbothane blocks. Additional ramsink memory heatsinks were attached to front of each enclosure to directly catch the incoming air.
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PSU:
Enermax Noisetaker EG425P-VE(SFMA) 420W SATA Intel ATX+12V Ver 1.3
mods: silicone gasket mounting to case, custom paint, custom grills.
Both stock fans were removed, the intake fan was removed permanently. The exhaust fan was replaced with Enermax Ultra-Cool UC-001B-TC (required soldering since they use a non-standard pin order on their non-standard fan connectors inside). Notice the strips of thin closed cell foam neoprene rubber sheets on the two metal lips where the PSU rests. It seems important to isolate these shelves from the PSU.
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Case exhaust fan: - 120mm
Papst Ultra-Quiet 4412 FGL
Since there is so much variety in everyone's favorite 120mm fan, I tested four fan options. Mounted against silicone gasket, rubber grommets on both sides of the screw.
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Drives:
Samsung Noise Reduction CD-RW
Samsung 1.4MB Floppy
Iomega 250MB ZipDrive

Sound:
Sound Blaster Audigy2 ZS Platinum Pro

Wire Management:
FLEXO PET Sleeving
Spiral cable wrap
Black stage tape

Keyboard:
Logitec UltraX Quiet

Bling Bling:
Red LED's mounted inside PSU, at GPU, HDD, and RAM
Hand silk-screened Chinese Border Paper outside case for accent
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General:
Silicone gasket isolation, Silicon noise isolation strips, closed cell foam neoprene rubber sheets, or simple rubber washers were used between every possible metal part (fans, optical drives, power supply, etc.)
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Heat Monitoring:
Digital Doc 5+
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Performance:
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Sound evaluation:
I like it. Most of the time I can't hear it at all. At full load you can hear a slight rush of air out the back if you are close enough. It is a deep low sound that is not the least bit annoying. There is no noticeable case vibration.

Lessons Learned:
1. If you use the Digital Doc 5+, be very careful with those temp sensors. If one gets pinched, all eight temp displays fail. Using a screw on the side of a GPU heatsink to clamp the end of the lead down to the aluminum block WILL cause the sensor to fail. Trust me on this one. I also found on my unit it would only function in the upright position so I had to stand my case up when I was checking it. Their tech support said this monitor does not work well if it's in contact with other metal so perhaps that is the reason.

2. Before you go too far, be sure your fan controllers are wired in correctly. Test things at every step of the way. On my case fan I inadvertently sequenced it Power-Fan-Fanmate so while it did run, I could not dial down the voltage. It was in the middle of a complex wiring string and it LOOKED right, lol. To fix it I ended up having to go all the way back to removing my CPU heatsink just so I could get to it. Re-applying the thermal compound taught me my lesson on this one.

3. Removing the second fan from my PSU may have been a mistake. It's rock solid and runs cool enough, but the sole 80mm fan gets kicked up to full speed a little too often for my listening comfort.

4. Don't put the AcoustiPack material too close to the inside of the front bezel at the rotating door for your external ports. If you don't keep it back 1/8" or so from the edge the quarter circle door drags really bad when you try to rotate it open.

5. The standard size "QuietFeet" get squished down almost flat on the motherboard side of the case. My guess is the larger size would not necessarily hold up any better since they are made of the same material. I still used my foot extension posted to this site to raise the case off the ground, but I changed my feet ends back to the rubber discs that came with the case. They are much more solid.

6. If you want great looking cable management, hire Ralf to come over to your house and do it. If that is not an option, you may want to select a PSU other than that new Enermax Noisetaker that I used. It has two separate feeds or "rails" as they call it. Which means you have two large bundled cables coming out the back instead of the normal one. Each one's diameter is nearly the size of the single one in my previous PSU, and these cables are LONG. This makes them very difficult to hide or even wrap into a controlled look unless you have Ralf's mastery of cablegami (which I do not).

Image


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2004 4:16 am 
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Posts: 1283
Location: Charlotte, NC, USA
Holy crap you're hardcore. Just one thing you might want to do... Consider taking the front bezel off, then taping shut every extra opening you have.... It might have a slight impact at turbulance noise at the front, and will force more airflow through the bottom of the case, where you cut out the fan grill, possibly helping in temperatures slightly.

Oh, and get some of the Verax rubber sticks from Directron. Like the ear isolators, they allow complete decoupling of the fan from the case. Unlike the EARs, they have rubber knobs that allow you to place a fan grill on them.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2004 6:15 am 
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Oh my! That's schweeet!!

Very nice and an "A+" for the bezel/HDD cage mods.

Too bad it'll be waay oboslete before HL2 ever gets released. :)

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2004 6:40 am 
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Wow... Nice!

One thing though: What's with the LEDs? They don't show up much when You close the side?

BTW, are all temps from DigiDoc?

Cheers,

Jan

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2004 8:34 am 
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Location: Seattle, Washington, United States
Thanks for the comments and suggestions, they are all appreciated since I'm sure I will be tweaking this computer for some time to come.

Air turbulence at the front bezel is fortunately not much of a problem. The air movement sound is almost completely focused at the back of the case with the fans. That little 80mm in the PSU is moving a ton of air.

I picked up a set of those rubber sticks but hesitated to mount my 120mm and a fairly heavy steel grill with them because of their combined weight. The Verax sticks are soft to do the job intended, I was afraid of hanging that much moving weight from them. Anyone else tried them with a 120mm heavy cut steel grill?

Ralf - you can help dampen my case any day, but you are NOT going to dampen my spirits about Half-Life 2. :) APRIL! ARRIL! APRIL!

Yes all the posted temps are from Digital Doc. From time to time I also run Dtemp, MBM, and Asus Probe to see how they compare. It's been surprisingly consistent.

Jan Kivar wrote:
What's with the LEDs?

That is eye candy just for me. Yes the door stays closed unless I'm working on something, but it seems I get into my computer cases an awful lot. So when I crawl down there and open this one up, I get instantly rewarded! Life is filled with little pleasures.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2004 9:04 am 
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Location: Charlotte, NC, USA
I currently have a 120mm Aluminum Evercool fan mounted at the back of my case using the Verax sticks. I cut the case grill out, and hung a 120mm fan guard on the Verax sticks. I've had no problems with anything falling off.

The memory card for my digital camera needs to be replaced, or I would upload a picture.

Just make sure you pull the fan into position snuggly, when I installed it, it hung too loose. When you get it right, it's definetly NOT going to fall off.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2004 11:38 am 
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Douglas Bailey wrote:

Ralf - you can help dampen my case any day, but you are NOT going to dampen my spirits about Half-Life 2. :) APRIL! ARRIL! APRIL!


Yeah, it's looking like April of 2005 is a reasonably, kinda-sorta firm-ish date. :)

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2004 1:29 pm 
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Douglas Bailey, BEE-YOO-TEE-FUL! Excellent workmanship. :D

About those stacked SmartDrive enclosures: Are they just sitting loose inside the computer case? Or if not, what method did you use to firmly secure them inside there?

8)

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2004 1:56 pm 
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Location: Seattle, Washington, United States
Thank you again everyone for the compliments. You are being kind.

SmartDrive enclosures are "glued" together with the sorbothane ½" x ½" strips between them, then the entire assembly is set freestanding on the AcoustiPack covered deck. Bungee cords were planned to strap them down, but space got so tight I decided it was not worth the hassle. I've already tipped the case on the side a couple of times to work on things since it was set up - I slipped a piece of packing foam between the back of the enclosures and the back of the case. The drives didn't move an inch.

I'm not too concerned about them moving around since it's not a lan party case. Shoot, I guess that means I won't get that huge sponsorship check from Corsair or Zalman!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Feb 06, 2004 9:03 am 
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Location: NYC, NY, USA
Great work! It's very inspiring! What did you use for the feet of the case? and where can I get it too?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Feb 07, 2004 12:49 am 
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If you are asking about the overall feet themselves I linked to my mod in this posting at: 1 3/4" Tall Case Feet
If your question was about where I got the "QuietFeet" that were attached to the bottom of the feet mod they came from QuietPC.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Feb 07, 2004 8:18 am 
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Douglas Bailey wrote:
If you are asking about the overall feet themselves I linked to my mod in this posting at: 1 3/4" Tall Case Feet
If your question was about where I got the "QuietFeet" that were attached to the bottom of the feet mod they came from QuietPC.


Ah thank you, I had failed to see the link to your tall case feet. I like that idea a lot. I think I'll go check out Home Depot today and see if I can get some big rubber feets or blocks.

Thanks!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Feb 13, 2004 3:32 pm 
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Very nice job.

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Old stuff - Chenbro 611 - Titan 120mm intake, Evercool 120m (M version) exhaust


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Feb 16, 2004 12:35 pm 
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Looks fantastic! :D
Wish I had the sufficient funds to do something like that... :cry:


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2004 1:15 pm 
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wow you actually bought a P4-EE? :P $_$

very cool stuff though, its very 'polished' like the sonata ;)

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Computer is almost whisper quiet...


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Feb 24, 2004 6:52 am 
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kickass pc and great summary

opening the bottom front panel bezel is something i'll try when i get time

how much did the whole project cost?

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2004 5:48 pm 
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Thank you again for all the kind words. This was a fun system to build, and continues to be fun to play with.

To answer the questions, using the bargain hunting capacity of pricewatch, this entire system ran just under $2,900. Yes that's a lot, but considering what I ended up with it was worth it. It is all about quality of life right?

Update on the VGA cooling. As I pushed the system more I found my VGA card was hitting 60c at peak load (we're talking serious gaming here). That was an uncomfortable temperature, although within recommended operating degrees. So I did one more mod:

One of those PCI card slot blowers that ducts air in from outside the back of the case was modified - I cut the small internal fan out of it, and mounted a quiet 80mm Enermax Ultra-Cool. It now ducts fresh outside air directly onto the nvidia card. This fan was connected to the Digital Doc monitoring system, so only turns on when the VGA temp hits 50c, and shuts down when it's dropped to 45c. It works wonders, since no matter how hard I try I can not push the VGA temp above 50c now, this set up pulls the temp back down quick. Yes that is one more fan I did not want to have in the system, but since it is a quiet fan, and it only spins when I'm shooting up bad guys I never hear it.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2004 1:22 am 
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Very nice work Douglas! I've got a Sonata too, and partially thanks to you, I've already ordered the Deluxe pack :wink: . If I receive that, I'll have about everything to 'mod' my case. I'll use a lot of other tricks I found on this forum too, so I'll try to make a nice article with pics to describe everything :) .


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2004 4:04 am 
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That's a shame you needed more cooling on the video card. I may upgrade soon and I've hoped that any after market heat sink I put on my new card would be enough to keep it cool.

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Old stuff - Chenbro 611 - Titan 120mm intake, Evercool 120m (M version) exhaust


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2004 9:09 am 
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PretzelB - before you write off the after market VGA coolers, I would look at the specifics of what you want to do. I ran a Zalman Heatpipe Cooler ZM80-HP (which is totally passive) on my GeForce 4 card for a couple of years and it ran perfectly cool.

I'm sure in different airflow situations the heatpipe would do fine to cool my FX card, but in this VERY stuffed case, with VERY little airflow, it needed a little more help. And I noticed Zalman has two new ZM55 and ZM17 heatsinks out for the hot video cards that might add another way to attack the problem. I haven't seen either of them in person yet, but it looks like they have added a ton of extra inches of cooling surface area.

Don't give up. Anything is worth getting the stock airplane blowers off those video cards.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 28, 2004 2:11 pm 
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That is a very sweet machine, congratulations. Just a couple questions:

What did you use to cut the Acoutipack material with? Was it difficult to work with? In particular, was the cut away for the rail underneath the PSU difficult? What kind of PSU is in there?

Thanks. Again..good job.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 28, 2004 5:19 pm 
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Location: Northern Border Region (Canada)
A great-looking mod and very quiet I'm sure. Now I have to learn all about the sound-dampening properties of sorbithane!


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 28, 2004 9:44 pm 
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That is beatiful if only the pcb of the motherboard was black it'd be even better.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 02, 2004 8:06 pm 
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Tsubo: Scan through my original post up above again and you'll find a paragraph with the specs on my PSU and all the mods I did to it.

To answer your other questions, AcoustiPack foam turned out to be surprisingly easy to work with. Most of my cuts I did with a good pair of household scissors. Some I used a mat knife and a metal straightedge. Both methods gave me pretty clean cuts without a lot of hassle.

I used the knife/straightedge to slice the foam on the removable panel for the case rail cutout. You can easily tell when you cut through the foam, but not into the dense backing sheet. Then I used the scissors to just follow along between the two score cuts, and cut out the foam between them.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 03, 2004 7:06 am 
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: D I was just reading an article about my computer , because I have the same damn exact case / cpu cooling (7000Cu) / vga cooling , and I love it.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 03, 2004 7:08 am 
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Oh and by the way , get a small rug under that beauty , eliminates any vibration sounds that can travel through those legs ; ).


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 03, 2004 8:16 am 
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Hey, man: You've got LINK!

"Padded Cell:
Holy cow, this case has more foam insulation than a padded room at the nut house. See what this guy did to his case, all in the name of noise reduction."

over at [H]! :D

Congratz dood; your hard work is getting you (and SPCR in general) some well deserved attention!!!

-Ed

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 03, 2004 7:12 pm 
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hi doug, i'm not new to the forum however this is my first time posting....

i started to post because i was REALLY impressed with your mod of the Sonata, me being a Sonata owner as well....
i would like to know what were the tools used to remove the HDD rack and front airflow duct...
most of all, i'd really like to know how and what you used to get the black finish for the case insides :)


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 03, 2004 8:57 pm 
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xtr4 - wow, I'm honored that my project brought you out from lurker status. Welcome to the light. :)

If you look carefully at my post above you'll see a link to another posting on the rubber spray paint called Performix PlastiDip. I used that to make everything black and give it an extra level of dampening. That post took several odd turns, but if you scan it there was a lot of good information evolved from the dialogue.

As far as tools used to cut - the front bezel and back fan grill was cut out with standard aviation snips (tin snips to us non-snip users). You will never find a better article on Modding & Cutting with Tin Snips than the one posted by crisspy here in the forums.

The HDD rack removal required one of those keyhole saws with a metal cutting blade. That allowed me to cut right up next to the edge of the case. Yes, it cost me the skin off two knuckles, but what is a little lost blood in the name of quiet computing!


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 04, 2004 3:34 pm 
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thanx doug....

but i'm still a little 'on the fence' about the HDD rack....if only it was removable like the Lian Li's...... :p

i did have an idea to use the FDD slot as an enclosure for my HDD, something like the cookie jar mod but smaller.....but i'm just afraid of the temps.....hmmm, maybe a 2.5" drive would fit nicely with adequate cooling.....what do you think?


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