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 Post subject: Highly vented (9 fans) yet relatively low noise PC
PostPosted: Sun Jan 21, 2007 6:49 am 

Joined: Wed Jul 27, 2005 3:16 pm
Posts: 187
Location: Travelling worldwide
It has been quite I while since I started thinking about posting a small article here about my own PC. Hopefully an interesting result of fruitful hours of browsing through the articles and forums here at SPCR, and a good way to bounce a few ideas around.
I am interested in all kinds comments of course. Though I don't believe I will change too much to it : mainly because it is now very homogeneous in noise amongst all components.

But enough beating around the bush, and let's get started with the specs :
- Chiefec LCX-01B-B-SL mid-tower EATX enclosure
- Asus A7V600-X motherboard
- Athlon XP 2000+ T-Bred (0.13µ)
- Zalman CNPS 7000 AlCu
- 2 x 512 Mo RAM with added heat-sinks (Kingston / Infineon)
- Promise Ultra 133 TX2 HD controller
- HDs : 400 Mo Samsung, 250Mo Seagate, 200Mo Hitachi
- Samsung DVD burner
- Cooler master 4 in 1 module for 2 of the hard drives,
- Enermax 370W Noisetaker PSU
- 2 x 1Gb LAN cards
- Matrox G200 video card
- 9 fans :
-> 2 (9cm and 8cm) in the Noisetaker PSU (speed adjustable with a knob) : very silent at mean speed.
Although I run it a bit higher that that (at a level in line with the overall system noise) and it does not ramp up that much anyway,
-> 9 cm of the Zalman CPU rad with fan-mate (runs close to min),
-> 12 cm intake in the 4 in 1 module : very very silent by default,
-> 9 cm Enemax in the HD cage with a potentiometer to adjust the speed,
-> 9 cm Chieftec supplied with the enclosure in the HD cage,
-> 9 cm Zalman on the door,
-> 12 cm Noiseblocker SX2 as case fan.
-> noname PCI slot blower in front of the video card.

The reason for all those fans is that I want it to run real cool and especially the HDs. (Probably a bit of an overkill though).
Indeed, this relatively modest specs PC serves as a home fileserver. Basically, I use it to backup all my data. Just found it much safer and convenient than burning DVDs.
All the data is in Raid 1 arrays for data safety. (and also cost efficient BTW)
The usage of the drives is :
- 200Go raid 1 out of the 200 Go Hitachi and the 400Go Samsung,
- remaining space on the Samsung and the corresponding space on the 250Go Seagate in a second raid 1 array
- remaining space on the Seagate (about 50Go) for the system and a TMP folder.
It runs Linux (Mandrake 10.1) and is set-up as FTP and Samba server so I can access the files from my other PCs (chiefly my laptop).

Typical T=temps when working :
- 30-32°C for the CPU,
- heat rise minimal on HDs : less than +5°C over ambient.

Yet it is relatively silent. Even comparing with previous other PCs.
Mainly, because it has a few tricks up its sleeves, many of them I got from SPCR : thanks !
And hopefully a couple of innovative ones. But I'll come to that with the pictures.

For the very low noise and everyday usage, I am just using a dual boot on my office laptop at the moment.
Another high perf. / very low noise PC planned but although I have a fairly good idea of what it will be, I won't put it together in the near future.

Now some pictures

An overall view to start with :

Of course with that many fans and HDs the cabling gets a bit tricky. Manage to get something relatively neat though :
- Bear in mind that the cables in front (PSU fan speed monitoring connector and cable for the rear 12 cm fan) are actually lined alongside the left door. The same applies to the PATA cables on the bottom.
- The PATA cables on the top are neatly folded and stock behind the mobo at mid height.
- Fan blower cable and all others cable run at the bottom of the case.
- Front audio cable (yellow) even runs behind the PCI cards (you can see a bit of it below the blower).
- Note the fan-mate for the CPU rad fixed with double side tape on the right side of the case.

Some details of the mobo area :

The top part

All spare cables have been either set aside on the top of the PSU, behind the mobo tray, above the optical drive or on the side of the 4 in 1 module.
You can see here already a part of the bottom cabling area (will come back to that later).

The 4 in 1 module seen from front :
Can hold 4 drives but I just have 2 there.
A very interesting piece of equipment. The provided fan runs very very quiet. The only drawback is that it has been build with a perforated plate on the front, just behind the fan. Never quite understood the rationale behind it. You can still see a part of it behind the fan in this pic. The bottom part (where my drives are installed) I have removed. It is a quite simple operation but came at the expense of a little blood.
One of the very nice trick of the 4 in 1 is that it is actually 2 cages isolated from each other by rubber grommets.
You can see them on the following picture :
It is the blue thing at the top right end of the picture. This way the internal cage is very easy to mount in a sturdy way the drives, serves as a heat sink and noise dampener while no vibration is transmitted either at the external cages (that also further isolates the noise).

Back to the inside ...
To ensure a relatively neat cabling I gathered all the cabling alongside the separation between the drive cage and the mobo area.
All cables are basically intertwined around the metal parts too keep them tightly packed alongside the metal frame. This lead me to block some of the drive rails in the drive cage. But I have been careful to leave each other rail free of any cabling. This way I can still mount 3 drives (on top of the 2 ones in the 4 in 1 module that should be more than enough) spaced from each other by an empty slot for better airflow.
Drive rails have also been used to fix the PATA cables.
There used to be more drives there but now there is only the 400 Go SpinPoint left. It is ready for an additional 2 drives though. Including the fan already set. The Chiefec case provides and plastic frame to mount the fans in the drive cage : thus none of them is directly mounted on the frame.

Here you can also see one of the simplest yet most interesting piece of equipment in the market : Zalman's multicon nector :
For those who do not know it it is basically a connector that transforms a MOLEX connector into 4 fan connectors : 2 @ 12 volts + 2 @ 5 volts.
This is a key element in quieting all those fans.
5 volts is supplied to the Chiefec fan in the drive cage, the PCI slot blower and the door fan (thanks to another doubler)
12 volts go to the Enemax in the drive cage (has it's own built-in potentiometer) and another Zalman creation : a fan-mate !
Fixed with double tape in the floppy bays, it controls the rear 12 cm fan.

Now a last trick :
This is a silicon door stopper you can find at ridiculously low price in any good hardware store.
I have used there all over the case to decouple fans and drive from the frame. It is basically a silicon piece with a glued face you can stick about anywhere.
The door fan (picture) and rear fan are both insulated from the case with those. PSU is also mounted on those.
And there are some between the HD in the drive cage and the rails.
IMHO they do quite a good job at diminishing vibrations.

Last edited by jjr on Sat Apr 28, 2007 4:06 am, edited 2 times in total.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Jan 21, 2007 7:34 am 

Joined: Sat Dec 16, 2006 11:18 am
Posts: 53
You have the same case I just bought a few weeks ago :D Hdds rattle the entire case with the default mounting system though :cry: But I realised it's really easy to suspend the hdds in this case so I did and now they are barely audible.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Jan 21, 2007 8:05 am 

Joined: Wed Jul 27, 2005 3:16 pm
Posts: 187
Location: Travelling worldwide
JaRoD wrote:
You have the same case I just bought a few weeks ago :D Hdds rattle the entire case with the default mounting system though :cry: But I realised it's really easy to suspend the hdds in this case so I did and now they are barely audible.

What kind of drives do you have ?
Mine are quite silent, especially with the rubbed grommets but I use to have a couple of 80 Go dekstar that were very loud.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Jan 21, 2007 8:09 am 

Joined: Sat Dec 16, 2006 11:18 am
Posts: 53
I have 2 samsung hdds. With them suspended I can just barely hear them when they are seeking.

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