This is the last thread in the series. I have already posted threads for fileserver
and 24/7 rigs
so now it's time for the final one. This is the culmination of my work and I'm very pleased with the results.
The main reason for change were 4 hard drives that were clearly the loudest component in my system and too noisy at night. So naturally HDD noise was the biggest concern as this particular box was going to be sitting on the floor right besides me, unlike fileserver and 24/7 rigs I couldn't put it in the closet. With the new mods I was hoping if I leave just one drive in my system it would be extremely quiet if not silent for my use. The goal was to make it as quiet as possible without buying new hardware (cpu/motherboard/video).
Asus P4P800 (i865PE)
P4 3.0C@3.4C + Scythe SCNJ-1000 Ninja
1Gb (2 x 512Mb) 3200DDR Geil 2.5-4-4-7
PNY 6800GT@ULTRA + AeroCool VM-101
3COM onboard 3C940 (10/100/1000Mbps)
SATA1 - Samsung 2504C 250Gb
PATA3 - Plextor Premium/BL
PATA4 - Benq DW1650
FDD Panasonic 1.44Mb
Razer Diamondback Plasma
Logitech UltraX keyboard
Dell 2405fpw + Envision EN7410
Seasonic S12-600 600W PSU
A little preview, this is how my system looked when I was transferring data from my old hard drive to new one. If you thought your cables looked messy you were wrong.
The video card is 6800GT overclocked to ultra level at 400/1100. The card is two generations behind, but it is still pretty powerful for most of the games and changing it now doesn't make any sense since it's AGP and I would have to change my motherboard/CPU as well. It also runs pretty hot and stock cooler is way too loud, even when it drops speed when not in use. An aftermarket cooler is a must. Originally I used Arctic Silencer 5, but it got louder over time and started clicking so I changed the cooler to VM-101. I already created a thread about it in video card forum some time ago so instead of repeating myself, I'd rather direct you over to the correct thread.
Since HDD noise was the primary reason for change, I paid close attention to the HDD noise and actually did a little test for myself to see how noisy hard drives are by themselves. You can read about it here. One of the conclusions was that unfortunately all undamped 3.5 hard drives are too noisy for me.
Even though 2504C which was going to be a new drive in my system was the next best thing to Barracuda IV, it was also too loud for me. I don't really care about seeks, but the idle whoosh is just too annoying.
With that I was left with several choices:
1. Use hard drive enclosure to silence 2504C. I decided against it because I value data on my disk and possible downtime resulting from loss of hard drive much higher than noise generated by them. Sad, but true.
2. Ditch 2504C and use laptop drives in enclosures. That would probably be the best option noise and performance wise, however it was too hard on my wallet. As I wrote in my hdd test thread I'd need two drives and two enclosures which could push the cost up to $400-500. Too expensive for me.
3. The third and the final option was to figure out something which would reduce hard drive noise while keeping the temperature in check.
So what I did was I created a simple semi-enclosure from soft foam that I got from hard drive RMA a while back. The enclosure is not a complete one and it only surrounds the drive on 4 sides out of 6. So essentially it resembles a tunnel. It allows for a completely uninterrupted airflow around the drive to keep it cool. There is no fan in the lower chamber. Instead I taped off rear intakes around PSU and let the PSU draw the air over the hard drive. The hard drive is raised above the surface using corners I got from Ace Hardware. I wanted to use U shaped rails which would have been more stable, and possibly provided some additional cooling for the hard drive, but as much as I searched, I couldn't find anything like that. So, if anybody knows store name and where to look for it, I'd gladly buy one since this whole construction of harddrive standing on "legs" is not exactly stable. Anyway, the foam I used was pretty thick so with legs attached the hard drive was too tall to fit into my home made enclosure. So I carved away four chunks where the hard drive legs would go, this effectively lowered the hard drive and now it's positioned exactly in the middle of the "tunnel". I also had to carve away some chunks of the foam to make sure it fits in to the lower chamber. Keep in mind that the first pic is "incomplete", after I took the pics I've realized that I needed to carve away some more foam in the middle to accommodate locking mechanism in the drive compartment. I was thinking about super-gluing the whole construction together but then I realized that there would be no good way for me to get it in place like that. Fortunately the side blocks were slightly larger than needed so they are kept nicely in place by friction alone.
Overall assembly shot from above
How itâ€™s supposed to look inside the case
Inside the case
Inside the case complete
When it came to actual testing I was actually a little worried because the tunnel was relatively small and I thought it would have too much air impendence which would lead to higher HDD and PSU temperatures. While I was making the enclosure I had the 2504C mounted in the regular P180 drive cage, it idled at 37-38 degrees Celsius with ambient temperature of around 22-23 degrees. Subjectively the drive was warm - to - very warm, that's a little warmer than I would have liked, but was still acceptable. So as long as the temperature didn't go above 40 degrees Celsius I would have been satisfied. Surprisingly the results were against all my expectations. Instead of increasing drive temperatures the enclosure actually provided a better cooling compared to simply mounting the drive in bottom hard drive cage. With the tunnel in place the hard drive idled at 31-32 degrees, that's 5-7 degrees lower than in the P180 cage. I suppose the tunnel forced the airflow over the hard drive whereas in the hard drive cage the air simply moved around. I checked the PSU temperatures and it was fine too, I didn't notice any increase in the temperature.
So temp wise it was a complete success. Noise wise? I'd say it was a success too. 2504C has the loudest seeks after WD raptor and subjectively those were reduced by 75%. Both of my 2504C's also vibrate a lot, more than any other drive I have, enough to make my P180 vibrate all by itself (not a whole lot, but noticeable for me when I put my hand on the side panel, even if I can't hear it). And of course by completely decoupling the drive from the case all of vibrations disappeared. Idle whoosh? Well, I'm not sure about that. It did help a lot too, I don't want to be overly enthusiastic but I'd say I heard a reduction of 25-40% in idle whoosh. That's a lot in my book. This made the hard drive noise almost tolerable and approached the sound of my case fans (which are already slowed down as far as they can go).
So for those of you who are like me too afraid to put your drives in a silent box and don't have enough money for 2.5" hdd, a mod like this could prove very beneficial to the noise level. Of course if you have P180 you could probably only mount one drive that way. If you have P150 I suppose you could "sandwich" two drives in a similar manner. There is no point in not doing it if your case allows. The noise reduction is easily noticeable.
CPU block assembly and case fans
For the CPU heatsink I went Ninja which proved an excellent choice for low speed fans that I use. I previously owned Zalman 7000 and while it was very good, Ninja beats it in every respect (no surprise here). My old fan controller was good, it provided four fan headers, four adjustable temperature probes, LCD display to monitor fan RPMs and temperatures, and an alarm beeper in case one of the fans stopped or one of the temperature probes exceeded threshold. All for <$20 it was quite a bargain. I loved it, but it only went down to 7V, it also couldn't turn off fan completely. There were only two rheobuses that could go down below 7V and completely turn off a fan - zalman mfc1 and sunbeam rheobus. I went with sunbeam rheobus because I don't really like off/12V/5V switch.
Despite the looks of it I spent a lot of time on CPU/GPU block but it was worth it, the end the results are excellent. Originally I didn't even have the duct, everything ran fine without it. However two things that I have noticed is that at 7V/900RPM my yate loons were just enough to keep my rig cooled and at that speed they were actually just as noisy if not noisier than my new hard drive assembly. Yes, my hard drive semi-enclosure worked so well that I was finally able to discern fan noise in the overall pattern made by my computer. It was a low frequency rumble/whoosh, but I was able to hear it. The second thing I noticed is that my single exhaust Yate Loon fan slowed down to 900RPMs was still powerful enough to draw air through my optical drives. I knew that P180 intakes were restrictive, but I didn't expect that to be THAT much restrictive, and at that time I already had one slot below the video card removed along with one 5.25 bay cover between my optical drives for better air intake and it still drew air through my optical drives. Of course that wouldn't do as I don't want any dust in my drives.
One solution was to slow down fans, another one was to somehow introduce another air intake to reduce air drawn through hard drives. I managed to do both. First, I finally coughed up and bought two Nexus fans, something I was extremely reluctant to do. You see, long time ago, before I joined spcr I spent an obscene amount of money buying different fans from different brands trying to find the quietest. Imagine my disappointment when a $5 panaflo beat $16 papst. Amazing, but true. That's why I didn't want to spend $15 on Nexus when YL D12-SL was readily available at one fourth the price. In the end I suppose it was unavoidable so I ordered two Nexuses from jab-tech. Second I finally made a new CPU duct which drew air through the upper fan hole.
Overall pic with GPU duct already in place. Both fans are softmounted as you can see.
Shows airflow pattern. There are four main intakes: from the top vent, from the slot below video card, from the main air intake in the upper chamber and from between optical drives.
[i]Another shot from the â€œfrontâ€