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 Post subject: Quiet, Overclocked, Aluminium Cased XP2500 now with PSU duct
PostPosted: Thu Oct 21, 2004 5:20 pm 
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Hi all, I thought I’d share with you my journey to a quiet computer and through a big upgrade and subsequent efforts to return to very quiet.
(You are here by forewarned that I’ve rambled on at great length but there are quite a few pictures if you want a quick overview.)
(I've resized all pictures to maximum of 800 wide and/or 600 high to keep the number of KBs down and prevent horizontal scrolling.)
I started with a PIII 650 overclocked to 866MHz on an Aopen AX6BC Intel BX based motherboard. It had 512MB PC133 RAM, 80GB Barracuda ATA IV hard disc and ATI All in Wonder 128 PCI video card. The Coolermaster ATCS 201C case came with four 80mm Coolermaster fans and no PSU. I bought it because I saw one in the flesh (so to speak) and thought it looked stunning. At that time I wasn’t giving any thought to the cases part in silencing. For the PSU I choose a Q Technologies (not to be confused with the inferior Q tec brand) 300w item as it was advertised as very quiet and I hadn’t discovered SPCR. For the case fans I connected only the rear one and only at 5V. At this point the retail H/S on the CPU became the loudest item so I “acquired” a large OEM one with a 50mm fan. The fan was very tolerable at 5V and provided enough cooling. I had to drill the retail heatsink/fan off, which was nerve racking. I also painted the drives with model paint, only cost £1 including the brush!
As is normal with silencing this brought the HDD noise to my attention, it was hard mounted in the drive bays behind the front intake grill and fans. The seek noise was loud but the idle was noticeable as well. I tried wrapping the drive in carpet, which helped a little with the idle noise but not the seek noise as it was still screwed to the case. It didn’t overheat at all, I assume the large aluminium drive bays were acting as a heatsink. I got a little carried away and decided to buy a LEY FEK Pro and a set of Panaflo 80mm L1As, (from Dorothy who gave excellent service) which brings us to this point .
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I’ve removed the rear fan in order to swap an L1A in and custom made a bracket to hold another L1A over the CPU's heatsink. The CPU temps were fine but the HDD ran 35-45°C. With two L1As at 5V, the ‘cuda in an enclosure and a quiet PSU my PC was very very quiet.
And I was happy.
For a while.
Until it just wasn’t powerful enough.
Cue big upgrade.
I looked seriously at P4 2.4C with ideas of OC 3.0GHz or more. When I looked at the AMD alternative I was won over by the £100 price difference, so I bought:
Asus A78X Deluxe, Barton 2500+, 2x 256MB Kingston Value DDR400, Radeon 9600 pro, Liteon 16x DVD and 8x DVD-RW.
Silencing parts Zalman 7000A Cu, AC VGA Silencer, Zalman Fan controller, Arctic Silver 5.
I put it all together with out the silencing parts as they didn’t come till some time after. I used a generic 80x60mm H/S I had handy with an 80mm fan screwed to it. I upped the rear fan to 12V and set the front 2 intakes to 5V, I didn’t use the blowhole as it vibrated badly at any speed. This produced reasonable temps at stock speeds but was noisy, especially the fan on the 9600pro. I quickly got fed up with it and tried feeding it 7V from a Molex plug, which helped a lot but overall the system was noisy.
Eventually the rest of the parts came, but the Zalman was the AlCu version. I opted to keep it and get a refund on the price difference, as I couldn’t bear to wait any more!
I wanted to reduce the HDD temps and feed the PSU cool air and I decided to do it by using the blowhole as an intake. I replaced the Coolermaster fan with an L1A that I put in upside down, to make it an intake, and used rubber bands round the mounting screws to damp the vibrations. I then made a duct from cardboard to take the air to the PSU intake and HDD. It looked like this
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You can see I’ve fitted the Zalman fan controller in to the case’s faceplate. The original blue plastic one comes off easily by undoing the screws. I used it as a template to drill holes in the case faceplate and simply screwed on to the fan controller in place of the plastic one. This was inspired by this article. As the case faceplate has sides that have holes to screw it to the case I used them to hold it all in place, rather than cut them off, and left out the original Zalman mounting brackets. I think this is an easier method.
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I fitted the VGA Silencer to the Radeon 9600pro.
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When I tried to fit it in the motherboard the bottom of the Silencer came down on the adjacent PCI slot and stopped me from inserting the card properly. I Should have listened when I was told it wasn’t compatible. I solved the problem by cutting the lip off the bottom of it. You can see the step just above the wire on the left of the picture. After doing this I discovered this thread that explains it more clearly.
After I got it all put together and performed a little cablegami (they are flat on the bottom side of the case) it looked like this:
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and this:
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(The front of the case is actually smooth polished aluminium but looks blotchy due to finger prints :oops: )
The noise level was now much improved and I was happy again. The CPU temp seamed to depend on the rear case fan speed as much as the Zalman 7000's speed but settling for 55-60°C CPU diode temp meant a quiet balance could be had. This was with the CPU overclocked to XP3200 (2.2GHz) speed and running D2OL 24/7. (distributed computing project with 100% CPU usage) This is OK but not over impressive as it was winter and the ambient temp would have been 10-15°C. The HDD temps remained in the upper 30s/low 40s and didn’t seam affected by the speed of the blowhole fan from which I concluded it was a nice idea but not actually effective. :roll:
The Zalman 7000 is connected to a fanmate, on maximum, and then to the fan controller. This reduces the minimum speed but doesn't seam to affect the maximum :?: Without the fanmate the minimum speed is about 1400rpm. With it the minimum is slightly below what I can get the motherboard to register, the lowest I've seen it say is 1014rpm. Any less and MBM gives figures between 14,000 and 22,000! The fan is also partially decoupled, I've put thin rubber strips between it and the clip and between the clip and the screw heads. Same idea as this thread but thinner.
The VGA Silencer was (just) audible on low setting so I connected it’s power supply to the 12V/5V toggle on the Zalman fan controller. With the high/low switch on the back this give 3 settings:
12V high------------Loud.
12V low/5V high---These middle two are very similar and faintly audible.
5V low---------------The fan spins very slowly, won’t start on this setting, inaudible.
As the 9600 is a very cooling running card I’m not worried about the possible lack of cooling.

Then summer came. Keeping temperatures down meant turning fans up and more noise. Also the HDD temperature was rising with the increasing ambient temperature.
I decided more work was in order. (You’re never satisfied for long :) )
I removed one of the front intake fans and moved the HDD
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In the next picture you can see the HDD is now on its side and wedged in with foam. It’s wedged in tight enough that it doesn’t fall or move when turning the computer on its side. I doubt any vibrations are transmitted though. I also decoupled the fan, the white stuff is door sealing strip foam. It’s about 5mm thick and pretty soft, it’s attached to the fan and case with ordinary super glue. It’s been glued in place for about 6 weeks now and hasn’t fallen off but I think a determined pull would shift it if I ever want to. The fan blows over the HDD keeping it cool. (It looks like the foam is partially blocking the fan but this is just an illusion)
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I then tackled the other problem, getting enough air out of the case. A 120mm fan PSU might very well have done but they are £60 and up. After some checking I decided two 80mm fans would fit on the back panel of the case.
As indeed they do:
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This is how the original single fan looked.
I made quite a mess of the cutting; I wish I’d done a better job of it. :( What ever the ideal tool for the job was I didn’t have it so I did what I could. It looks bad, but nobody ever sees it and it works fine.
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The fans are glued together so they can’t vibrate against each other and glued to the case with more door strip foam so they can’t pass vibrations into it. I also remounted the top blowhole fan with strips of foam to fully decouple it from the case as well.
All the exhaust points, PSU fan, case fans and VGA Silencer:
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The finished product inside:
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and outside:
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My objectives where achieved. The HDD temp is now in low 30s even under load and not up to 50°C any more! The CPU temp can also be kept down more quietly too.
Maximum fans is with all the fans turned up on the fan controller, probably ~11V.
Minimum fan would be with the front and blowhole intakes at minimum ~5V and the rear exhaust just above ~6V:
Image
On maximum it’s loud by SPCR standards but the noise is benign in character, mostly whoosh and some low frequency whine.
On minimum it’s very quiet, I can just hear it from about 6 feet away. This is late at night in a rural location with no other appreciable noise sources. HDD seeks are just above the background noise of the machine. If I’m listening for them I can hear them but I often find myself looking at the HDD light to see if it’s doing anything!
I’m happy...For now…

Thank you for looking, hope it was interesting, Sebastien

_________________
i7 2600k under NH-C14 w/2xTY-140PWM fans, P8P67Deluxe, 8GB RAM, GTX560Ti OC w/TwinTurbo II and BIOS fanspeed mod. 2x120GB HyperX 3K RAID 0 & 2TB EARX in Scythe QuietDrive outside case. Antec Signature 650 fan swapped. CoolerMaster 201C with 2x92 + lower 92mm fan out rear, holes-in-floor and mesh top+front intakes.


Last edited by SebRad on Mon May 02, 2005 8:06 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 30, 2004 6:28 pm 
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Joined: Sat Oct 30, 2004 5:36 pm
Posts: 41
nice! i have that same case, and while it is the best cooling case i have ever seen, the hard drive noise is awful. hard mounting is the worst design possible, and to make matters worse, the hd rack is too tight to fit any rubber grommets in there or silicone silencing material. i've been trying for months to find a solution.

it seems that you basically just have the hard drive free-standing, with some foam to silence and support it? i'm a little unclear from the pics on how you did that, or how it would work for multiple drives. if you could explain that a little more, i'd appreciate it.

nice job! 8)

p.s. for comparison, i have 1 rear panaflo L1, and 1 panaflo M on the heatsink, a thermalright AX-7 cooling an overclocked barton 2500+ at 2.4gz. temps are 32C case, 36C cpu. i tried the zalman 7000A, and the panaflo/thermalright was actually quieter! (with zalman on 3/4 to full. at about half to lowest speed the zalman is quieter. cpu temperatures go up into the 40s, though.)

for psu i have a silenx 350, which i bought before i found these forums and read some things about silenx, etc. but i will have to say, the psu is virtually silent and so far i have no real qualms with it.

the same hardware in my stock slk3700 amb (except for cut out rear grill, and using the 120 antec rear fan instead of the L1) gets 10-15C higher temps. :shock: the coolermaster is king for cooling, which is why i can't bring myself to get rid of it even with the noise. if i can't solve this hard drive problem though, it's gone, and i'm going to start heavily modding the slk. :D


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 31, 2004 2:05 am 
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Joined: Sun Nov 09, 2003 7:18 am
Posts: 1073
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Hi starcycle, thanks for your praise. The hard drive is on its side in the drive bays. In an enclosure and sitting on foam. This is the best picture of it. If you look through the fan you can see there is another piece of foam above the drive as well. Basically as the foam is packed in tight it hold the HDD in place. Its tight enough to hold it even with the case on its side but a good tug would move it/pull it out. With FEK there is only room for one drive, which is all I want. With bare drives you could do a similar thing with 2 and possible 3 as HDDs are 4" by 1". if I were doing that I would use strips between them to hold them apart. Hope this helps, will do more pics for you if that would help.
My experience with the Zalman is the better you get hot air away from it the better it works. In my case turning up the rear fans has as much or more effect that turning up the Zalman. Having said that your temps are impressive compared to mine, is your PSU a 120mm fan one? My PSU has a very low flow 80mm fan in it, in the same flow/noise range as Panaflo at 5V.
Hope you sort out your HDD(s), how many do you have? Any free 5¼ drive bays you could put them in with "no vibes" cages (or similar)?
Anything else you want to know just ask.
Thanks, Seb

_________________
i7 2600k under NH-C14 w/2xTY-140PWM fans, P8P67Deluxe, 8GB RAM, GTX560Ti OC w/TwinTurbo II and BIOS fanspeed mod. 2x120GB HyperX 3K RAID 0 & 2TB EARX in Scythe QuietDrive outside case. Antec Signature 650 fan swapped. CoolerMaster 201C with 2x92 + lower 92mm fan out rear, holes-in-floor and mesh top+front intakes.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 01, 2004 4:58 am 
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Joined: Sat Oct 30, 2004 5:36 pm
Posts: 41
i think i have a better idea of the HD setup now, thanks. i might eventually get one of those enclosures because the HD noise that bothers me the most is that high-pitched oscillating sine-wavey whining sound.

i also had an idea to find some screws that are the same size as hard drive screws, but which have eyelets instead of screw heads. apparently the size is "6-32" (something to do with the thread size), but they are hard to find with the eyelets. then, with elastic cord or that other stuff i saw mentioned here (stretch magic i think it is?), suspend the hard drive vertically on its side in the 3.5" bay. that way one could probably hang a couple of drives next to each other, with some foam or sorbothane in between them and on the sides for protection and more sound dampening. or if heat is not an issue, possibly "stagger them" one a little higher than the other. another option if the screws can't be found might be to use those plastic cord clamps like in Aphonos' example on this site, and string the cord through them for sideways suspension, if they are strong enough to hold the drive without tearing and won't get brittle and crack over time.

anyway, just some ideas that i hope to try soon. yesterday i made some custom sheets of cardboard to line the sides of the coolermaster case, which i affixed with strong clear packing tape. they fit perfectly within the indentation of the side panels, though you have to notch out the back end to accommodate the frame. maybe that wouldn't be necessary after the HDs are suspended, but so far it really seems to dampen some of the vibration noise. i have a digital camera on the way, so hopefully i can document the rest of the process, where i plan to puncture little holes all through the cardboard to allow sound to actually go "inside" the cardboard and get trapped in all the corrugation instead of probably what happens now, bouncing off the sides (that's the theory, anyway :P). with so many openings in the CM case, the actual benefit might be more psychological than in decibels, but at least with vibrations i really think it has helped a small amount so far. :D

thx


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PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2005 8:02 am 
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As I mentioned before I’m not usually satisfied for long so some more refinement has been in order.
The main issue had become the PSU; everything else had been quietened to the point that it was the loudest item. I think that turning the rear case fans down could actually increase the noise level as the case temp would go up and then the PSU fan would ramp up. The exhaust from the PSU was pretty warm too.
The solution I decided upon is a PSU duct, it gets recommended by MikeC and if its good enough for him its good enough for me!
My QTechnology PSU has been reviewed by SPCR and there are pictures of it in its original state. It has an 80mm fan at the rear and vents in the front and front bottom. I was already using the blowhole as an intake with a fan and a cardboard guide to send the air in the right direction. The logical thing to do was to extend the cardboard guide so the PSU was getting only outside air from the blowhole. The front bottom vent of the PSU is directly above the Zalman 7000 CPU cooler so I needed my duct to enclose that vent as well as the main rear one, this results in a non-trivial shape.
I made the duct out of card (really only thick paper) and sticky tape, not the most professional but it works and looks like this.
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As you can see it encloses the blowhole and both the main vents in the PSU.
The gap between the PSU and bracing bar of the case is only about 1” deep but its about 4” wide so there’s a reasonable air flow path to the bottom vents.
Once I started designing it I decided the fan in the blowhole wasn’t really necessary, especially if the grill on the blowhole was made less restrictive. I called on a friend who I thought might have something suitable and came away with some fine aluminium mesh.
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I also replaced the front air intake with it.
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The original covers are sheet metal with holes in, the new is a mesh made from fine aluminium wires. It’s pretty flexible and not easy to work with but it has near enough no air resistance.
I also opened up the PSU front vents
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I was getting “disc” and ATAPI errors in the system event log and the DVD drives would stop responding, usually in the middle of CD ripping or burning. I’d heard of people using Southbridge heat sinks and as the IDE busses are driven by the Southbridge I decided to make one.
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It’s a Northbridge heat sink with the fan removed and one side cut down to fit under the VGA Silencer. I fitted it with white thermal paste in the middle and small dot of super glue in each corner. I don’t know how hot the Southbridge used to get but the heat sink on it gets quiet warm now. I think it did more-or-less cure the IDE problems and may have made the system more tolerant of higher temps / quieter fan settings.

The duct did seam to help the PSU fan and the exhaust was cooler but (you knew that was coming) the duct seamed to channel the air in and the PSU fan sound out. It may also have been picking up other internal case noise and letting it out, either way I wasn’t entirely satisfied.

I decided on a two fold approach, quieten the PSU fan and damp the duct to stop noise escaping. I mod’d the PSU with the Panaflo 80mm L1A that was in the blowhole.
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It’s not clear but the fan is de-coupled from the PSU using my favourite door sealing foam. The top is using a small square over the screw holes fixed with superglue. The bottom of the fan is glued to strips that are glued to the PSU bottom, as there is not enough room either side. It’s not touching the circuit board or the casing but the gap is only about 1mm. The original fan was plugged in to a header on the circuit board, which the Panaflo’s connector fitted straight on to so no cutting / soldering was required, making the mod completely reversible.
I also lined the duct with thick carpet to keep any noise from escaping the case.
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In this before picture, with the PSU removed, you can see the shape of the duct more clearly. Note the bracing bar across the front of the PSU bay, it makes getting the duct in / out tricky, it has to be folded up.
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The duct with carpet lining. Note the slot in the sides to accommodate the bracing bar.
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The duct in place after being lined, I also glued carpet on the bracing bar for good measure.

Before putting the PSU back in I checked the fan was working, which it was.

Having got it all put back together it is definitely noticeably quieter, I think the blowhole has a good route to my ears so reducing noise coming out of it is good.
I checked the PSU fan was working by sticking something in it. It was but having stopped it it didn’t restart. I left it for a few minutes and it had then restarted. I guess the PSU temp had increased and the fan controller had increased the voltage to a point enough to start the fan. I’m hoping the PSU won’t over heat as it’s still running off it’s fan controller. My theory is if the temp gets too high the fan controller will ramp up until it’s OK. The Panaflo is rated at 1900rpm, the original Adda at 2440rpm but it’s no where near running either at full 12v so I hope it’s got some head room and it’s only getting ambient air not preheated case air.
If my theories are wrong and I’m going to cook my PSU please let me know !

Along the way the original 80GB Barracuda ATA IV hard drive has been replaced with a 300GB, 16MB, SATA Maxtor Diamondmax 10. My impressions of it are based from my experience, as you can see above it’s in an enclosure wedged in with foam so it’s pretty well de-coupled. When I first fired it up I wasn’t sure it would be quiet enough, it’s idle is significantly louder than the ‘cuda’s. I had to mod the enclosure slightly as the SATA connectors are lower on the drive than PATA ones, once I got it in and in place in the PC I don’t notice the idle noise. I don’t think the enclosure makes a lot of difference, the drive is reasonably quiet. To give an idea of absolute volume there is a 80mm Panaflo L1A mounted directly in front of the drive. With my ear to the front of the case I could easily hear the soft shhh shhh shhh of the Panaflo at 5V over the ‘cuda. With the Maxtor the fan’s noise just audible.
The seek noise of the ‘cuda was barely audible, the Maxtor is clearly audible. I tried AAM and the seek noise is removed completely but I quite like to hear it so I know when the drive is working.
The front intake is where most of the air is pulled in to the case by the rear fans and it has to pass the HDD. The temp ranges from 30°C-40°C so the fan in front of the HDD is now disconnected. Overall I’m happy with the Maxtor, it’s big, fast and quiet enough.

The only trouble now is my monitor has an annoying buzz that’s not at all masked by the PC…

_________________
i7 2600k under NH-C14 w/2xTY-140PWM fans, P8P67Deluxe, 8GB RAM, GTX560Ti OC w/TwinTurbo II and BIOS fanspeed mod. 2x120GB HyperX 3K RAID 0 & 2TB EARX in Scythe QuietDrive outside case. Antec Signature 650 fan swapped. CoolerMaster 201C with 2x92 + lower 92mm fan out rear, holes-in-floor and mesh top+front intakes.


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