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 Post subject: El Cheapo PC
PostPosted: Sun Dec 04, 2005 6:26 am 
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Joined: Fri Sep 16, 2005 11:06 pm
Posts: 224
Location: Switzerland
The Concept

Well I love computers, but I still think there are quite a few better investments to make with my (limited) funds. Not to mention that most modern-day pc's are overkill for surfing, mp3 and text editing, which is what I do most. Buying a new computer is also a huge cost to the environment, they require lots of resources and energy to make, and more to recycle them... :(

SO: I made a computer from mainly spare parts.

The Components

Ok, I'm lucky enough to have good sources for this as you'll see. Here is the list of my components, and where I got them:

I got the following components from a friend when I upgraded his PC:
-Asus P2B
-P-III 700MHz (OC to 770)
-Maxtor 20GB HD
-Terratec XLerate soundcard
-128MB RAM

The next components I got from the bin behind a local computer store, they seem to "service" (i.e. throw away) many Fujitsu-Siemens computers, which have Fortron-Source PSU's (which have Yate Loon fans)...
-Crap Fujitsu-Siemens case (it looks better without the bezel)
-Fortron-Source 250W PSU
-2x32MB RAM
-Floppy drive
-Fans
-Cables

The next components I've had for a while (first-hand)
-LAN card
-Plextor 24x CD-RW

This I got when my brother upgraded the family-pc's (which is in his room, and which he always uses to play games) graphics card to a 6600GT
-Asus GeForce 4 Ti 4200 128MB

I had to buy this because I can't stand the stock fan on the gfx card:
-Arctic-Cooling NVSilencer 1 (~14Fr. == 10.50$)

The Mods

The PSU has a sticker saying "w/ noise killer" on it, which means it's supposed to have a temperature regulated fan in it. Well I tested it and out of the 3 ATX PSU's I had, it was the most silent, but not enough. There was one Micro-ATX PSU which was much more silent it was also from FSP, but I didn't want to mess with adapting it into a ATX case, it was only 145W and it's interior was an example of extremely restricted airflow. The Micro-ATX PSU had a good temperature regulation circuit, that was apparently bolted on as an after thought: it was screwed to the heatsink, had a thermistor hot-melted to the heatsink, and the fan wires going to it, and then on to the main PCB. So I quite simply put the temp-regulation circuit and the fan (Yate Loon D80BM-12) into the 250W ATX PSU (with tape, themistor circled in red):

Image

Here's an overview of this PSU, to me it seems like a rather good one, it also has the biggest heatsinks out of all of the PSU's I tested.

Image

The hard drive: I didn't have any elastic, and (as you can see in the other mods aswell) I was lazy. :P So I just jammed the hard-drive between two blocks of foam, and it already makes a big difference compared to hard mounting.

Image

The case: my Dad just bought me some Wiss tin-snips 8) , so I had to have some fun removing the front and back fan grills (which were too restrictive anyway). I also put air filters from the vacuum-cleaner in the front intakes (I tried breathing through various household materials, and these where the best), and blocked all other possible intakes with tape (I hate dust, I spent long enough cleaning all of the components already). As for the fans, I took the original fan from the ATX PSU (Yate-Loon D80SH-12) as case exhaust, and another generic (the best of my remaining fans) one on my CPU with zip-ties. I just stuffed the bare leads of the fans into the 5v molex plug and taped it all up (told you I was lazy).

Image

Image

Image

Silence

Well as you can imagine it's not perfect, I can still feel vibrations from the hard-drive on the case, and I'll always hear the motor. Also the PSU fan is still quite loud, I think that much of the heat of the CPU goes through the PSU, because of the annoying slot design. :| The noise is silent enough for me to get annoyed by a strange noise coming from my the gas-boiler of my house that's in a sealed room down the corridor, guess which warranty I'll be voiding next. :twisted:

Performance

Well I went for the full heavy GNOME install, with Evolution, OpenOffice.org, the GIMP etc... Needless to say that the RAM is maxed out, and when I open more programs the (slow) hard drive works for the swap space, and can make my mp3's skip. The processor is sufficient (at least it's not the bottleneck for the moment), the graphics card is overkill, but I needed it for dual-screens (it's really easy to get free 17" CRT screens :) ).

Future

For the silence, I might suspend the hard drive properly (I bought some elastic yesterday), and some day I might put decent fans in it (Nexus 80mm, or Panaflo's ??? - I can get both just as easily). I might some day also buy a decent case, I consider it a good investment since I can reuse it for my next pc. (unlike buying SD-RAM or an IDE hard-drive for example) For performance, I'm trying to get my Mom to upgrade her PC, so that I can get the 128MB and 64MB rams from her PC... :D

Commentary/advice is of course welcome!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Dec 04, 2005 6:48 am 
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Joined: Sat Jan 18, 2003 2:19 pm
Posts: 5316
Location: St Louis (county) Missouri USA
I also prefer a DIY cheap computer.....one of my setups uses a PIII-733 (slot one). I get by with the stock CPU fan running about 7V. No case fan at all, with the PSU re-located to the bottom, it's fan removed, the thing in a duct with one 120mm at one end blowing out, also about 7v.

I have a Rage 128 AIW, two hard drives, lancard, modem card, and a USB 2.O card. The SOYO board uses two 256mb Rambus chips. This setup uses an automobile air filter to keep it clean.

That CPU is plenty powerful for most uses. Why go for more if it's un-necessary? My setup runs cool enough not to worry about it.....I think you're using too many fans. :lol:

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Dec 04, 2005 7:27 am 
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Joined: Fri Sep 16, 2005 11:06 pm
Posts: 224
Location: Switzerland
Maybe I'll add a PSU duct in the next mod, and try to run the CPU passively, so then I'll also have two fans. The OC'ing was just for the fun, I agree that 700 would be fine, I just need more RAM, that's all...

EDIT: just remembered the A-C Silencer, the fact that I needed to see the picture to remember it should explain that it's pretty much insignificant in the noise of my PC, I'll see about that if I ever replace the other fans though...


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Dec 04, 2005 10:48 am 
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Joined: Sat Oct 22, 2005 10:39 am
Posts: 288
Heh thats pretty, cool i was thinking about trying to put an old comptuer together out of old bits i have lying arround and running it compleatly fanless. nice Work.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2005 10:56 am 
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Joined: Sat Aug 07, 2004 6:39 pm
Posts: 116
nice system! go el cheapo computers!

for me, i was able to run my piii 733 passive, with the psu fan sucking the hot air out, probably because i didn't have a very heat-producing video card. the cpu could even be overclocked a bit (stable), but the temps were too high for my liking.

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[ AthlonX2 4000+ | Antec P150 | Suspended WD 500GB SATA | Antec NeoHE430 | Sapphire Radeon X1900GT | Thermalright HR-03 ]

[ TBredB1800+@1.57/1.4v | TT SilentBoost w/ Arctic Cooling Fan 3 @ 5V | Foam-mounted Maxtor 200GB IDE | Enermax NoiseTaker 370W | ATI Radeon 9700 Pro ]


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2006 12:36 am 
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Joined: Wed Jan 04, 2006 11:25 pm
Posts: 23
Location: USA
I'm using a P2B, along with a 400MHz Celeron, to run a mail, web, and ftp server. It's nearly silent without any modding, which is another good reason for using older parts. I love boards based on the bx chipset, because they're all so easy and reliable.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Apr 17, 2006 5:06 am 
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Joined: Fri Sep 16, 2005 11:06 pm
Posts: 224
Location: Switzerland
Bluefront wrote:
I think you're using too many fans. :lol:

That comment provoked some sort of machist obsession with me :twisted:, not to mention that I'm always looking out to silence my pc more...

So I removed all three 8cm fans, and replaced them with one Yate-Loon D12SL-12. The only place I could put this fan was at the front of the case after some more hacking with my tin snips. I mounted it by putting a line of general purpose building silicon on the borders of the fan, and holding it in place by two cable ties at opposite ends. Building silicon is excellent stuff, the only problem is that it is messy, and permanent.

I originally put some mobo-packaging foam as a filter (inspired from MikeC's Thailand-proof PC). This worked but my pc got really hot. You could harly touch the back of the PSU, and the top of the case was clearly warm, which meant that my new Samsung DVDRW (the only component I'm planning on keeping for my next build) got unacceptably hot aswell. I actually don't care if the rest is hot because I don't need it to last too much longer...

To solve this I got inspired by the Quiet and OC Pentium D arcticle that mentioned styrene ducting - I wanted to experiment with this on my pc in order to make some more serious ducts later on. In the end I just made some simple air guides. I also removed the filter. Now the PC is ice cold. I could turn the Fanmate down to the minimum, but then the gfx card fan starts chugging - in any case I don't hear the fans.

Image
Now where has the harddrive gone???

The hard drive has always been and always will be the noisiest component in this pc. I had some spare soundproofing from soundproofing my room lying about, some double sided carpet tape, and my trusty building silicon gun... So I decided to enclose my harddrive with this stuff to silence the mother_ . I was scared that it would cook itself in one hour, so I put an old pentium pro heatsink ontop. [BAD IDEA]

Well the soundproofing did dull the sound quite a bit, but the bloody heatsink vibrates with the harddrive and makes a high-pitched ring. But the good thing is that it is very directional, so I just enclosed the harddrive area with more sound proofing... Oh yes I forgot to mention that I suspended my harddrive in the spare area under my DVDRW - that's where it went!

Well, one image is worth a thousand words:

Image

Result: the seeks are a very soft rumble, inaudible unless you're really looking for them. The idle noise continues to be the loudest part of my pc (I can't hear the fans at all), but it's much better than before - I can hear my CRT's noise almost as much as my pc now.

Also I added 128MB ram to it that I find on a pc at the dump, the performance of this pc is adequate for text editing, web browsing, listening to music, basic image editing, occasional programming, and playing HL1 :) . The problem is that I have started to use it for recoring my group's sessions, and you need to be patient to add filters, not to mention encoding music files, and I also like HL2 which is ofcourse unplayable on this pc. Still if you think of the amound of people out there not doing any games or audio encoding - I don't see why PentiumIV even caught on...

Apart from that I plan on adding a car filter to the front (Bluefront stylee) when I get hold of one, but apart from that I think that there is nothing to do to this computer short of replacing the hard drive...

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