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 Post subject: Extreme Underclock & Volt
PostPosted: Wed Mar 10, 2004 10:00 pm 
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I had hoped to title this thread using the word silent, but I just couldn't get it there. I've been tinkering with my new Shuttle Zen everyday since it arrived, tried new parts only to end up trying something different. I even ordered parts that, by the time they arrived, I no longer needed. In the end, my final stratigy was to go completely fanless. And happily was successful.

I decided to see if the computer would boot if I underclocked my 3.0C to 1.5Ghz using a 100Mhz bus and undervolting it to the minimum offered in the bios, 0.8250v. Amazingly, at least to me, it booted. I immediately disconnected my fan from the housing but left it hooked up to the motherboard so I could test the voltage being sent to the fan. The fan was left completely outside of the computer and blowing away from it. At present there isn't any software available to read the cpu temp within Windows, so using the Smart Fan "ramp temp" setting in the bios along with monitoring the fan is the only way to get any idea how hot the cpu is running. This turns out to be enough, though cumbersome. After dismounting the fan I ran two instances of CPUburn for two hours without the motherboard ever ramping the fan. This means the cpu never reached 60C, the "ramp temp" I have set in the bios. I thought this is looking real good!!

Next came Prime95's torture test. This test didn't fare as well. In a little over four hours Prime95 encountered an error. Rats! Not stable. I went back to the bios and set the Vcore up one step to 0.8375v. Another shot with CPUburn revealed no fan ramp. And best of all, Prime95 ran 36 hours error free. It was stable!

There were a couple other things I learned while all this testing was going on. The first was that the case cover had to be removed. With the cover in place it turned into a little oven and ramped the dismounted fan, meaning the cpu climbed above 60C. The next thing I learned is that the hard drive that I had suspended below the floppy bay was getting cooked by the chipset heatsink and ram even with the cover off. Its temp climbed to 58C where I shut it down. I then rigged up a suspension in the 5.25" bay and the temp stablized at 45C. As a side note, even though it's posted over and over again how hot the Seagates are it slipped right past me. I learned after I installed it though. :)

So what I had learned at this point was: The Zen can be run without a fan, the cover needs to be either very well ventilated or removed, and the only place in the computer that a hard drive can be kept without a fan is in the 5.25" bay. But wait, we have a problem. That 40GB Seagate 7200.7 ain't so quite when it isn't being drowned out by a fan. Not only that, the extra heat it's dumping in the case is all the more that's going to have to find its way out passively through yet to be created case vents. So, to the delight of yet more online venders, I purchased a recently reviewed Toshiba 40GB notebook drive, a 3.5" to 2.5" drive adaptor, a Smart Drive enclosure, and some wire fan grills.

To maximize passive ventilation I decided to use the USB optical drive that I fortunately already owned and to leave the Smart Drive enclosure outside of the case. The stock IDE and power cable are long enough to reach out the PCI slot with its cover left off. I cut some holes, installed some grills, hooked up my drive, and this is what we have:

Image

There is a matching pair of wire grills on the other side of the case as well. I also placed a wire grill over the hole created when I previously cut the grill from the case that covered the ICE radiator. I did this to protect the radiator.

A picture of the wide open spaces:

Image

I used a piece of foam to secure the notebook drive in the Smart Drive. You have to actually get one of these drives in your hands to appreciate just how small and light they are.

Image

Image

Drive temps have never climbed above 31C with the Toshiba in the Smart Drive using the foam under the drive to secure it. It seems to get enough cooling just having the top in contact with the copper.

This system is exceptionally quiet. It's not silent, but with even the slightest background noise the only faintly audible part of the system, the hard drive seeks, become inaudible. It's certainly slower than it was, both because of the underclock and because of the notebook drive. It's more than suitable for most if not all of my needs. Those with intense cpu or drive demands should look the other way. :)

I'm going to post wattage demands measured with an amp meter at the PSU power cord. I've already discovered that my watt measurements don't measure well against those that the reviewers here are finding. I can't explain why, nor do I doubt the reviewers. Nor do I have any reason to distrust my amp meter. So here they are:

Idle Desktop: 28 watts
CPUburn: 38 watts

Mind you that this is the power being drawn from the wall socket. That means there is even less being delivered to the computer because of the inefficiency of the PSU. I attribute the figures above to three things: 1) The extreme underclock & volt. 2) The Toshiba that draws under 3 watts. And 3) My usb optical drive has its own power supply.

Anyone interested in this very quiet system could tinker with the clock and voltage to see how high the system will go and still not need a fan. You can test this without cost if you have a Zen. Just remove the fan, remove the drive, remove the case cover, and get clocking! As for me, I'm tired of testing and tired of taking things apart and putting them together again. I have half my basement in my office. It's time to put everything away and enjoy the peace I have found.

My thanks go to our hosts and all the contributors of these forums. Without those contibutions the above would not have been possible. I hope that the inclusion of this recipe for quietness finds its way to help another.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Mar 10, 2004 10:34 pm 
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:shock: 8) :!:

Amazing results!

But don't you feel the least bit bugged about paying for that P4-3.0 and running it at half the speed? :lol:

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Mar 10, 2004 10:43 pm 
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Wow, that's some extreme undervolting! :) Can you hear drive seeks when you hold the Smart Drive in your hand? What if you somehow isolated the Smart Drive, for example by putting rubber feet under it? If you ever go back to tinkering with the system, you might also try using some other dampening material inside the Smart Drive, and maybe even achieve the first-ever totally inaudible system reviewed on SPCR! (Well, maybe someone's already tried to claim that title, but if a laptop HDD in a Smart Drive isn't silent, then nothing short of solid-state can really be silent, either.)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Mar 11, 2004 8:37 am 
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MikeC wrote:
But don't you feel the least bit bugged about paying for that P4-3.0 and running it at half the speed? :lol:


:)

I hear ya!

Honestly I really don't feel bothered by it. Mostly because it's reversable. And partly because using the above may well be the only way to run at 1.5 Ghz and fanless in the Zen. I wonder this because it seems that the extreme underclock is what is permitting the extreme undervolt.

One thing is for sure, if getting to 1.5 Ghz required some sort of irreversable mod to the cpu I would have had serious reservations. :)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Mar 11, 2004 8:50 am 
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Hi Warrior,

SometimesWarrior wrote:
Wow, that's some extreme undervolting! :)


No doubt!! All the credit goes to Shuttle for making such a low undervolt available on the board. And I suppose we should give credit to the 3.0C for running at such a low level too. :)

Quote:
Can you hear drive seeks when you hold the Smart Drive in your hand? What if you somehow isolated the Smart Drive, for example by putting rubber feet under it? If you ever go back to tinkering with the system, you might also try using some other dampening material inside the Smart Drive, and maybe even achieve the first-ever totally inaudible system reviewed on SPCR! (Well, maybe someone's already tried to claim that title, but if a laptop HDD in a Smart Drive isn't silent, then nothing short of solid-state can really be silent, either.)


I did set the Smart Drive on a folded up towel to isolate it from the desk but it didn't seem to make any difference. Packing foam on the top and bottom of the drive in the encloser might produce some results. But I think heat build up might be a concern, even with a notebook drive. It would be asking a lot of it. It wouldn't hurt for someone to try, though, as long as they monitored the drive temp and didn't leave it running unattended.

Perhaps one day those solid state drives will become affordable.


Last edited by Copper on Thu Mar 11, 2004 9:09 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Mar 11, 2004 9:03 am 
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Copper, much as I think you've obviously achieved an amazing level of quiet, I can't help thinking it might also have been done in a small tower case using a fanless ATX PSU (maybe even mounted externally for better cooling) and a Zen fanless heatsink.

The main benefits: the Smart Drive enclosure would have another layer of sound blocking (the case) & you could probably suspend it in the case as well, which might achieve that tantalizing target of total silence.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Mar 11, 2004 9:07 am 
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Were we thinking the same thing at the same time or what!! :)

I'm just going to take my edit out of that last post because it looks to goofy after what you just posted: the same thing. :)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Mar 11, 2004 9:23 am 
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MikeC wrote:
I can't help thinking it might also have been done in a small tower case using a fanless ATX PSU (maybe even mounted externally for better cooling) and a Zen fanless heatsink.

The main benefits: the Smart Drive enclosure would have another layer of sound blocking (the case) & you could probably suspend it in the case as well, which might achieve that tantalizing target of total silence.


DON'T GIVE ME ANY FREAKIN' IDEAS. I'M NOT SPENDIN' ANYMORE MONEY! :) :) :)

Seriously though, I think that's an excellent idea, for someone else. :) Keeping the case closed up enough to keep the sound in and open enough to get the heat out would be the challenge. I noticed with mine that over enough time it was very sensitive to good passive ventilation. It just might be able to be done, though. The ICE radiator in mine is barely, and I mean just barely, above room temp to the touch while running idle, browsing the net, etc. So there's not a whole lot of heat to remove until very intense cpu-ram-chipset tasks are engaged.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Mar 11, 2004 9:40 am 
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Quote:
DON'T GIVE ME ANY FREAKIN' IDEAS. I'M NOT SPENDIN' ANYMORE MONEY!

:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

I hear ya! :wink:

You should have heard my wife after I spent a couple weeks and much $$ to build a huge mediteboard/steel PC vault with acoustically damped in/out vent tunnels... that I abandonded a few months later. :roll: (Early days)

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2004 7:14 pm 
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Hi SometimesWarrior,

I tried your suggestion to pack foam all the way around the drive within the Silent Drive, completely isolating the drive from the copper panels. It works and it's quieter. The drive is running about 33C. I'm surprised it isn't hotter. Still not silent, but very very quiet indeed. The only faintly audible portion is the loudest of the seeks obtained during system boot and defrag. Playing around on the internet, playing card games, saving files, etc, is silent!!! I'd speculate that this setup is audibly simular to the Mappit system that MikeC recently reviewed. It has the same characteristics; fanless with an enclosed notebook hard drive.

Thanks for the suggestion. Or maybe I should be mad instead because you got me tinkering with things again. :)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Mar 13, 2004 11:11 am 
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:D


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Mar 14, 2004 9:16 pm 
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Did you ever consider a SilentDrive enclosure instead of the SmartDrive? I've a Fujitsu 80GB laptop drive inside of a SilentDrive, placed in a portion of my case that has zero air circulation on top of some foam, and it idles at 31C as I sleep, hovers around 33-35C during normal usage and never exceeds 42C during extremely long, heavy, extended usage (like full defrag or massive file transfer activity). Those're absolutely, perfectly safe temperatures for a laptop drive.

I know for a fact that with my setup, the hard drive is 100% completely inaudible, even with my ear pressed against the case of the computer. The only thing you can possibly hear is the air going in my side duct and out the back, and that's with me ear against the panel or my head out behind the system. With my head in front or to the side of computer, at any distance of three feet away or more, the computer is dead silent.

-Ed

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 15, 2004 8:34 am 
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Hi Edward,

I haven't tried a Silent Drive enclosure. I've already spent more on this thing than I ever should have. :) The Smart Drive is going to have to do for now.

Have you had an opportunity to listen to the drive seeking with either the case open or the enclosure outside of the case and without any other background noise like fans and such? That would be the real comparable with how I have the Smart Drive set up. I'd be pretty confident that the drive set up I have would be completely silent set on foam and enclosed in a good case. As it is, it's barely audible during only the loudest of seeks with the Smart Drive sitting exposed on top of my desk one or two feet from my head.

If yours would be silent even under the above circumstances it would be good info to pass along.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 15, 2004 11:23 am 
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As per your request, I opened the case up and took the assembly out; then I placed it right on the wooden floor and tested audibility during idle and seek...

First to test by idle I just opened it up, put it on the floor and try to listen for it. It's dead silent. I tried it at three feet, two feet, one foot, six inches, three inches, two inches, one inch and with my ear pressed down on the enclosure itself, and not in a single case did I hear the drive.

Next I tested seek noise by loading up VoptXP and running a defrag...

Three feet: Dead silent.
Two feet: Dead silent.
One foot: Dead silent.
Six inches: Dead silent.
Three inches: Just barely audible.
Two inches: Slightly audible.
One inch: Audible, but very low; still lower than my SP1614N was while sitting on foam.
Ear pressed onto enclosure: Audible and discernable.

Keep in mind that the distances I listed are exactly the distance from my right ear to the enclosure, measured with a tape measure, point-to-point (man those things are sharp! :x). Also keep in mind that I did all this testing with the enclosure sitting on a bare wood floor, with no foam underneath.

-Ed

EDIT: BTW I just wanted to add that the SilentDrive is cheaper than the Smart Drive, too. 8) Granted, I'd never try to stick a hotter drive like a 7200.7 in one, though.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 15, 2004 11:57 am 
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Sounds very promising indeed, Ed.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 15, 2004 4:05 pm 
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Hi Ed,

To what would you attribute the enhanced sound deadening ability of the Silent Drive over the Smart Drive? Is it the plastic outer case?


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 15, 2004 6:40 pm 
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The fact that the SilentDrive completely envelopes the drive from all six sides in foam, without so much as leaving breathing holes, and then outside of the foam is an entire layer of plastic. I can hardly think of a better way to seal in both heat and sound. Basically, while the Smart Drive makes concessions to cool the drive while reducing noise, the SilentDrive is the virtually no-holds-barred approach.

-Ed

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 21, 2004 4:04 am 
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sounds incredible - one question though - do you think you could take a standard chip (say 2.4C, or celeron) and run it in such a configuration? seems a pitty so take such a nice (and expensive) chip and run it so slowly!

this is really giving me ideas ;)


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 21, 2004 6:25 am 
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jtippell wrote:
do you think you could take a standard chip (say 2.4C, or celeron) and run it in such a configuration? seems a pitty so take such a nice (and expensive) chip and run it so slowly!


Sure you can.

I ran my 2.4C at about 1.3V in my ST62K at default speed. You could certainly drop the bus speed on it down to 100MHz and then be able to drop the Vcore as well.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 22, 2004 7:04 pm 
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jtippell wrote:
sounds incredible - one question though - do you think you could take a standard chip (say 2.4C, or celeron) and run it in such a configuration? seems a pitty so take such a nice (and expensive) chip and run it so slowly!

this is really giving me ideas ;)


Be sure that the CPU you get has a 200mhz bus. This chart from shuttle shows some of intel's bus speeds:

http://www.shuttle.com/hq/support/faq/s ... 0(FT62V1.x)

A cpu with a 100mhz bus will not be underclockable in a Zen. It looks like some P4's dont use a 200mhz bus and all of the celerons listed use a 100mhz bus. With a 200mhz bus you have 3 underclocking options with a 2.4ghz: 1.2ghz (12x100mhz), ~1.6ghz (12x133), and ~2.0ghz (12x166). Available bus speeds in the Zen are 200, 166, 133, and 100mhz

Have fun. And remember, it's all reversable. If you don't like the underclock you need only return to the bios and reinstall your fan. But I found that for internet, text files, and light gaming the underclock isn't much af an issue.

Best of luck.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu May 13, 2004 8:57 am 
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Where can you buy SmartDrive 2002C's from in the UK? I was thinking I might have to import one from Canada. (Repeated Google UK searches revealed nothing).

I've already got a SilentDrive, but don't rate it at all. It's very crudely built, and it didn't seem to make any difference with my 3.5" Barracudas (IV and V). The cut-outs at the back (both plastic case and foam) don't match up with 3.5" IDE and power cables, and you can't snap the back cover on. The mounting holes are also in completely the wrong places, so it could only rest unsecured in my SB51G's 5.25" bay.

I couldn't use it in my Chenbro Gaming Bomb either, as it uses drive rails that aren't compatible.

I'm planning on getting a 40/60/80GB Fujitsu 4200rpm 8MB or Toshiba 5400rpm 16MB 2.5" to go in the SmartDrive, and padding around it with Akasa (or similar) acoustic foam padding.


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