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Thread: Quietening a deafening case

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    daft ideas inc. scottyman's Avatar
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    Quietening a deafening case

    Hi guys - I've got a couple of rack mounted machines with heavy duty 120mm fans which we are replacing with slightly more quiet models, but they are still pretty loud and make demos a chore.
    We had a few returned from customers as upgrades, and since they have large square Supermicro dual-xeon boards decided they would be ideal for streaming servers at home - so the same issue applies - noisy, bulky appliances with drives in bays at the front.

    I'd like some thoughts on cooling - I was looking at putting strips of this: https://www.mwave.com.au/product/com...adener-aa01359 over the top panel, and inside along the left hand wall, then lining top and bottom of the drive bays leaving enough airflow for the case.

    I've added rubber grommets to my machine at home for the fan and drive mounts, but it's made no difference - the fans are still very loud, and I've got 3 sizes - a very fast 20mm fan on the northbridge, 2x 60mm CPU fans, then the three 120mm fans behind the drive bays.
    Getting a replacement chassis is hard down here in Aus, as only the largest Fractal case (at ~220AUD) will take the board and even then you have to use a large number of extension cables to be able to route the wires to the right locations.

    If I can make the existing cases significantly quieter, then I'll be much happier as currently the machines sound like angry ghosts on speed.

    This isn't the exact model, but the chassis is the same, it's just a slightly different CPU and RAM layout but there's plenty of space for acoustic dampening material
    Interior



    Front


    Lid


    It's all sheet steel, so that in itself might be causing more noise to be generated?
    What say you all?

    Cheers
    Scott
    Last edited by scottyman; 06-04-2017 at 02:05 AM. Reason: Resolved - have a plan.

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    root Member DanceswithUnix's Avatar
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    Re: Quietening a deafening case

    It is better to not generate the noise in the first place rather than try and dampen it once generated, which is why rack server systems where noise isn't a design issue are a right pain to make suitable for home use.

    You want bigger fans to run them at lower RPM, you want fan controllers that don't just run everything flat out which the server motherboard probably will, and you want energy saving features enabled which again might not be the case on a server board if it is intended to never have a light load.

    I take it the bar in the middle of the case has three big fans on it to make the design a wind tunnel inside?

    Is that a RAID controller at the back left?

    Ten drives together is likely to make a lot of noise on their own, specially if the machine comes equipped with enterprise grade drives where longevity is an issue and again noise is not. Some are noisier than others, I have some Seagates in the garage that scream like they are in agony but even the really good HGST drives are far from quiet and a ten of them is a lot of noise.

    Packing ten consumer drives together runs the risk of them being shaken to early failure by each other's vibrations.

    You can use advanced insulation materials like: http://uk.rs-online.com/web/p/soundproofing/8814557/ but that is thermally insulating as well as acoustically which can open a whole new set of problems.

    You could try and find a consumer motherboard that will go into your metalwork and take one of the two Xeon cpus in there. That would get you lower heat generation, consumer fan control, ability to use small form factor low profile CPU cooler.

    My mum's home computer uses a quad core Xeon from a server like that, plugged into an Asrock motherboard, but in that case I basically salvaged the CPU and RAM and built consumer components around it so it is a nice quiet system.

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    daft ideas inc. scottyman's Avatar
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    Re: Quietening a deafening case

    Thanks - that's really helpful. The only way I can tweak fan speeds is by logging into the management layer console so a separate fan controller is a better bet as you say.
    I've removed the raid card, fibre hba and video I/o cards to give better airflow. I've got 5 7200 rpm drives in there which won't be helping - but even the ones in the office (which run 5x 15k rpm drives plus SSD for OS) make a similar amount of noise which suggests the drives themselves are contributing less noise than they could.
    I mght take one of the units down to the single ssd and see what difference that makes.
    I will check out that RS link - our office regularly gets up to mid 30's for months of the year so anything that works on both an acoustic and thermal level would be welcome!
    Thanks very much for the swift response!
    Scott

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    root Member DanceswithUnix's Avatar
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    Re: Quietening a deafening case

    Quote Originally Posted by scottyman View Post
    I will check out that RS link - our office regularly gets up to mid 30's for months of the year so anything that works on both an acoustic and thermal level would be welcome!
    I was thinking more that trapping the heat along with the noise in might be a problem, making it hard to use. Server cases are designed to be wind tunnels, with plenty of air moving fast so it isn't a problem if one of the fans fails. That means whining from the fast spinning fans and a hissing noise from the fast moving turbulent air. Home computers avoid generating any of that noise to start with.

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    Not a good person scaryjim's Avatar
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    Re: Quietening a deafening case

    Does anything sit/rack on top of the server, and what's the vertical depth available under the top cover?

    As DwU says, most rack servers are designed for high density installations in custom built rooms where the air is divided into hot and cold channels - so your racks sit back to back with hot air being pushed into a hot channel between racks then ducted out, and cool air being circulated into the rest of the room to maintain a constant cycle.

    If you don't need high density so you can keep the top of the rack case free from obstructions, it gives you a *huge* surface area for mounting several large but slow-spinning fans. It'll take some modding (you'll have to cut fan holes in the top panel) and you'll need to pick & place your fans careful to make sure they don't catch on anything or get fouled by cables (which is a horrid noise), but it's your best chance for switching from many high speed fan to a lower number of slower fans...

    EDIT: just had a second thought: if you've got clear space above the rack and don't mind it looking a bit odd you could mount the fans on the outside of the top cover, which means the space inside the case isn't so important...

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    Senior Member Xlucine's Avatar
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    Re: Quietening a deafening case

    Separate fan controller is good, this is cheaper option:
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/5fn/Compu...ter/B00880S6KA
    I'm sure a local seller can provide a similar thingy. It's just a pass-through for your fan cables with a resistor, so less voltage gets to the motor giving lower speed. Hard part would be getting one to suit the fan connectors used in that server, and of course you can't change the speed reduction without opening the case and unplugging things

    Quote Originally Posted by DanceswithUnix View Post
    You can use advanced insulation materials like: http://uk.rs-online.com/web/p/soundproofing/8814557/ but that is thermally insulating as well as acoustically which can open a whole new set of problems.
    Some thin foam sheeting on the inside of the panels shouldn't do any harm - heat conduction through the panels will be negligible under normal computer operation, the only way it would cause an issue if is it was blocking the air flow. Arguably it'd cause a bit more skin friction with the inside of the panels, as foam is rougher than sheet metal, but the difference in airflow to the components would be tiny
    Last edited by Xlucine; 27-03-2017 at 05:11 PM.

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    Re: Quietening a deafening case

    Replace the delta fans with some nice quiet noctua ones. I shoved my rack server in the cupboard under the stairs, that shut it up. It is going up the loft soon.
    I also got a 2nd hand POE 28 port switch that has 3 little screamers in it, I found some old noctua fan speed reducers that worked wonders on that, fan fail lights on but it still works

    Capitalization is the difference between helping your Uncle Jack
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    Oh Crumbs.... Biscuit's Avatar
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    Re: Quietening a deafening case

    Personally I would look to replacing all the fans and if possible CPU HSF before I looked at an expensive fan controller. You might find the built in controller is actually fine once the fans that are in it are actually designed around quiet operation rather than balls to the walls performance. I have a supermicro dual CPU server (socket 1356) and the built in fan controller works fine, I just had to make sure the fans don't have a really low idle as they detect it as a fault and spin everything up to max again.

    The case looks like it has decent size to it, perhaps aftermarket chipset coolers could take some of the really small whiney fans out entirely?

    this kind of thing
    http://www.frozencpu.com/products/55...l=g40c16#blank

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    bored out of my tiny mind malfunction's Avatar
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    Re: Quietening a deafening case

    Do you know what the motherboard model is?

    If:

    • It's socket 1366 the chances are the CPU heatsink mounting points are standard (though there may be a fixed back plate).
    • It's socket 2011 they might be standard but are more likely to be use the non-standard (vs desktop) narrow mounting points which is more of a PITA to get something compatible with (that's also big and quiet), but not impossible.
    • You can sort out the heatsinks and the board uses standard ATX power connectors and it's a standard form factor then you could always transplant the motherboard into another case or use something like the Aerocool Dreambox (though it's expensive for what it is and a massive PITA to work with).

    Also be weary of swapping out only some fans (especially if you can't swap to a standard PSU) as you'll likely find even one of the original fans is loud enough to make it nasty for home use (unless you stick it out in the garage?)

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    Oh Crumbs.... Biscuit's Avatar
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    Re: Quietening a deafening case

    Quote Originally Posted by malfunction View Post
    [*]It's socket 1366 the chances are the CPU heatsink mounting points are standard (though there may be a fixed back plate).
    [*]It's socket 2011 they might be standard but are more likely to be use the non-standard (vs desktop) narrow mounting points which is more of a PITA to get something compatible with (that's also big and quiet), but not impossible.
    Quite right!
    The 1366, 1356 and 2011 mounting (with the exception of the special narrow mounting you mention) are all the same dimensions. So whilst a CPU cooler might not explicitly state support for one specific socket, its likely its "supported" anyway.
    If there is a backplate on the motherboard (pretty typical on server motherboards) then for 1356 and 1366, the screws are M3 thread, but for 2011 the backplate is M4 thread. When I was looking for coolers for mine, i just looked at the instructions for what was included in the box and how the mounting solution worked (i.e screw through, rather than push pin) and figured I would bodge something together with different washers and screws to make it work. As it turns out, the parts in the box worked fine anyway!

    If height is an issue, the Skythe Kozuti worked for me... but it is a low TDP cooler

    edit: Arctic cooling i11 also worked
    Last edited by Biscuit; 29-03-2017 at 12:08 AM.

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    daft ideas inc. scottyman's Avatar
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    Re: Quietening a deafening case

    The mounts appear to be quite narrow, but a colleague managed to fit a pair of TX3 coolers with the use of a dremel to grind out a couple of notches to get it to fit.
    I've now replaced all the fans and it's much quieter, and really don't think cooling is too much of an issue, but think I would rather move the HDDs inside the case, as I think that's the 2nd biggest cause of noise.

    Motherboard is an X8DA6
    http://www.supermicro.com/products/m...5500/X8DA6.cfm


    Good point about the coolers and M3 rather than M4 screws - I think that's what actually tripped up my colleague.
    We used to have piles of massive coolermaster cases around our office (as that's what we migrated all the old machines into (so we could recycle the chassis for newer hardware)
    I wouldn't mind finding a decent size case in the UK, and a more efficient PSU - but we are just so limited for choice down here in Aus.

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    Re: Quietening a deafening case

    Wasn't there a few microns different between coolers with out-of-spec coolers cracking CPUs on a newer socket which were fine on older ones? Or was that just for main-stream sockets?

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    Senior Member Pob255's Avatar
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    Re: Quietening a deafening case

    One issue you may get is PSU fan, server psu's tend to run their fans fast and you'll have no control over that.
    Most new servers do have fan control, you hear the fans really scream when you first turn it on before the sound will dip down, it'll still be loud as they tend to have very high powered fans in them, you could try replacing them with desktop fans.

    Water cooling might be an option, esp if you mount the rads outside the case, a custom case in general might be a good way to go but will involve a lot of work, strip it down, cut it up and rebuild it into a bit of furniture

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    Re: Quietening a deafening case

    Quote Originally Posted by scottyman View Post
    The mounts appear to be quite narrow, but a colleague managed to fit a pair of TX3 coolers with the use of a dremel to grind out a couple of notches to get it to fit.
    I've now replaced all the fans and it's much quieter, and really don't think cooling is too much of an issue, but think I would rather move the HDDs inside the case, as I think that's the 2nd biggest cause of noise.

    Motherboard is an X8DA6
    http://www.supermicro.com/products/m...5500/X8DA6.cfm


    Good point about the coolers and M3 rather than M4 screws - I think that's what actually tripped up my colleague.
    We used to have piles of massive coolermaster cases around our office (as that's what we migrated all the old machines into (so we could recycle the chassis for newer hardware)
    I wouldn't mind finding a decent size case in the UK, and a more efficient PSU - but we are just so limited for choice down here in Aus.
    The model I have is this one: http://www.supermicro.com/products/m...0/X9DBL-iF.cfm

    I also had to get a little creative with the dremel to get the coolers to work



    Hard drives is one of those noises creators that there isnt much you can do about it, mainly because its not the hard drive directly omitting noise into the atmosphear, but causing vibrations that shake the entire case. I recently replaced 3 drives in my server with a single bigger drive and it dropped the overall disturbance coming from the cupboard considerably.

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    daft ideas inc. scottyman's Avatar
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    Re: Quietening a deafening case

    Nice Dremel work!

    I think you all are right - it's going to have to be a custom case, I think it's definitely worthwhile looking at watercooling, but moving the drives inside the case (as they are currently all in external SAS bays) will make a big difference.
    I might even see if I can make a vertical drive mount (I've got some spare cages from an old chassis) then try and mask the front of the case then will look at replacing the coolers

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