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Entries tagged 'cat:Case Modding'

Fred - Part 2 - The Case Lid And Cooling

This entry is a reply to or continuation of the entry 'Fred - Part 1 - Modding The Quiet Into A Server Rack Case'.

In this entry I'll describe how Fred's components are air cooled.

So, after removing the fan wall and unplugging the two fans in the back of the case there was no active cooling left. That's good for reducing noise, but not enough cooling for the hard drives, the CPU and the SAS controller cards. Since the case is not mounted in a rack and nothing is placed on top of it, I decided to use the space in the case lid to place larger fans.

The CPU

My idea was to replace the CPU cooler with a larger one that just fits into the case and have a fan above it suck out its hot air (also pulling in ait from the RAM modules next to the CPU socket). I fount a heat sink from Scythe called Iori (SCIOR-1000). Mounted on the socket there would be just enough space for a 15 mm fan above it. As it turns out though, the heat sink is large enough to cool the CPU passively and the RAM doesn't need any additional cooling, too. So the fan above it is not even plugged in.

The Extension Cards

Since the HBA and the RAID card that I'm using are designed for servers with a proper airflow, they need at least some additional cooling. Their heat sinks are quite small for the amount of heat they produce. But there was enough room above them to place a fan that sucks the hot ait directly from the extension card area out of the case. I was told these cards usually don't have any problems getting extremely hot. But I rather don't want to have them do their things for hours or days streight without any active cooling. Replacing their heat sinks with larger ones would only be a sufficiant option if there was room for much much larger heat sinks.

The Hard Drives

I don't want to have have hard drives run continuesly without any active cooling, especially when they are sitting in enclosures that don't allow for any aitflow without some amount of pressure. There is just no-where for the heat to go on its own in these tight drawers. I decided for three 140 mm fans that would neatly in a row behind the hard drive compartment and backplane. Since the motherboard isn't that large, there was nothing but a few cables in that area of the case. I've mounted an aluminium bar that I had lying around and tucked two pieces of flat plastic between this bar and the bar that originally held the fan wall at the bottom. That way, the air that is pressed in from above gets directed only into the hard drive compartment where it has no way to escape without passing the hard drives.

Unfortunately the room around the hard drives is so small that quite a lot of air preassure is needed to cool them as much as I wanted to. Running the fans at full speed all the time is hardly enough to keep them at a temperature that I deem acceptable. I tried to increase the cooling effect by sealing all the edges and other tiny spaces where some air could escape without cooling the hard drives. But this didn't lead to a measurable difference. I ended up taking out two of the 16 hard drives to increase the size of the duct. I chose two drives in the centre so that there now is a large surface where the air cools the remaining drives. That lowered the temperatures of the surrounding drives a lot. The temperature of the drives at the edges was of course hardly effected. But those weren't the problem anyway.

I'll probably continue about the rest of the case mod in a followup entry.

File Attachments

Making the holes for the fans was easier than I expected_ I marked the borders with a pencil by following the outlines of the actual fans, cut the rough holes with an angle grinder with a cutting disk, then did the finishing with a rotary tool (a not Dremel)_
Making the holes for the fans was easier than I expected. I marked the borders with a pencil by following the outlines of the actual fans, cut the rough holes with an angle grinder with a cutting disk, then did the finishing with a rotary tool (a not Dremel).
I used up several cheap grinding bits for the finishing_ The remaining borders between the fas are only a few millimeters wide_ But the ~2 mm thick steel holds up surprisingly well_ They don't make regular home computer cases from that material_
I used up several cheap grinding bits for the finishing. The remaining borders between the fas are only a few millimeters wide. But the ~2 mm thick steel holds up surprisingly well. They don't make regular home computer cases from that material.
First coat: primer, second coat: matte black, thirdly added sparkly sprinkles_ In the picture I started taping the sides for what comes next_
First coat: primer, second coat: matte black, thirdly added sparkly sprinkles. In the picture I started taping the sides for what comes next.
Then I painted the middle part pink_ After the tape was removed I noticed the paint came off in one spot_ Well, that's how it goes if you don't do it right_ I can just cover this with a sticker_ For now I just added a matte clearcoat_
Then I painted the middle part pink. After the tape was removed I noticed the paint came off in one spot. Well, that's how it goes if you don't do it right. I can just cover this with a sticker. For now I just added a matte clearcoat.
In between cooling systems_ I tested the modded lid as it was in the picture but closed_ It did do something and it was better than the open case with scattered fans in the next picture, but not by much_
In between cooling systems. I tested the modded lid as it was in the picture but closed. It did do something and it was better than the open case with scattered fans in the next picture, but not by much.
That's how it looked for a day while I used the NAS before finishing the new cooling system_ Notice the large space in the middle_ That will be used in the next pictures_
That's how it looked for a day while I used the NAS before finishing the new cooling system. Notice the large space in the middle. That will be used in the next pictures.
This is how the case looked inside now_ (I'll write about the power supply in the next entry_)
This is how the case looked inside now. (I'll write about the power supply in the next entry.)
And from the outside_ The fan on the bottom right cools the RAID card and the HBA_ I don't know if it's cooling it enough because I don't know what the cards/processors are made to withstand_ But they still ran a few years after that picture was taken_ The CPU fan is off because it stays cool enough during a hours-long burn test_
And from the outside. The fan on the bottom right cools the RAID card and the HBA. I don't know if it's cooling it enough because I don't know what the cards/processors are made to withstand. But they still ran a few years after that picture was taken. The CPU fan is off because it stays cool enough during a hours-long burn test.
The cooler mount wasn't made for that socket_ I think it was for an AMD socket_ The bracket was really strong and tight and eventually broke in two_ The CPU lid didn't take any damage though and I simply used a few zipties to hold the cooler in place without much preasure on the CPU_ That still was enough to cool the CPU passively and the machine ran three quarters of a year that way_
The cooler mount wasn't made for that socket. I think it was for an AMD socket. The bracket was really strong and tight and eventually broke in two. The CPU lid didn't take any damage though and I simply used a few zipties to hold the cooler in place without much preasure on the CPU. That still was enough to cool the CPU passively and the machine ran three quarters of a year that way.
Eventually I made my own bracket (not in the picture) and now that is held down by zipties_ It's quite sturdy_
Eventually I made my own bracket (not in the picture) and now that is held down by zipties. It's quite sturdy.
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Fred - Part 1 - Modding The Quiet Into A Server Rack Case

Fred is an old Supermicro rack server that I got as an attempt at building a NAS that replaces all the smaller NASs that I already had. But I like to collect stuff and it's never going to be enough. So it ended up being just another extension of my home network.

Overview

It's an old 3U Supermicro server case with 16 3.5" hard drive drawers, a good but not too bulky Asus motherboard and a nice low-power Intel CPU. I kept the motherboard, CPU and 32 GB ECC RAM. It's more than enough.

I wanted to do some mods on the case though to make it more comparible to my home and my visual taste in computer cases. In short, what I did was: Switch the PSU to a quieter one, build fans into the lid for quieter drive and card cooling, painted the case, switched the CPU cooler for passive cooling, added two HBA cards and 14 8 TB hard drives (two drawers left intentionally free).

I will tell about/may document these mods in more detail in separate entries.

File Attachments

The case before I started (but not before I added some stickers)
The case before I started (but not before I added some stickers)
The pretty much finished case
The pretty much finished case
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NES Case Mod "NES2020" - Overhall of my childhood Nintendo Enternainment System

Not much to say about this one, really. See the pictures. If you can't, I don't think describing the mod would be of any use.

The display isn't really useful. I just wanted to have a small LCD in there. So I made it display for how long the NES has been on. Any other ideas?

Please don't try to analyse the board. I can't play chess. But the Chessmaster cartridge looks good through the window I cut in the top of the NES. Maybe I'll make another post with a picture from the top.

The texture of the "stone" spray paint is really rough. Maybe if the plastic was colder than the air around it it could almost fool somebody into believing it's some kind of stone at first.

Now I just need games to play on it. I finally gave back a rented game after 20 years of forgetting it, now I only have The Chessmaster, which I don't care for very much and Super Mario Bros. 3 - my favourite - which started to have an unbearable graphical glitch a day after I finished the NES case mod. (Yes, it's the cartridge that's damaged, not the console.)

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USB/Serial PWM Fan Controller Using an Arduino

I wanted to be able to control the speed of the fans in my big NAS, Fred, individually. Even though the mainboard in use has five PWM fan connectors, the chipset can only control the speed of all fans together. There are probably good fan controllers commercially available that solve this problem better than I did. But they seemed overpriced and it seemed like a fun learning project for me.

The fan controller that I made uses an Arduino Nano clone that listens to it's serial port, waiting for a command to change the speed of a fan. When a command is recognised the continuous PWM signal for that fan is changed accordingly. It's possible to control up to six fans this way with an Arduino Nano. I'm only using three though since I only have three fan groups that need to be controlled separately.

The Arduino sketch/C code for the Arduino Nano that I used is as follows.




//fan speed sensor wire attached to digital pin 2 with a 10kohm pullup resistor
//fan PWM control wire attached directly to digital pin 9

#include <PWM.h> //include PWM library http://forum.arduino.cc/index.php?topic=117425.0

volatile int half_revolutions1; //allow half_revolutioins to be accesed in intterupt
volatile int half_revolutions2; //allow half_revolutioins to be accesed in intterupt
int rpm1; //set rpm as an integer
int rpm2; //set rpm as an integer
int pwm=255;
const byte numChars = 5;
char receivedChars[numChars];

boolean newData = false;

void setup()
{
  InitTimersSafe(); //not sure what this is for, but I think i need it for PWM control?
  bool success = SetPinFrequencySafe(9, 25000); //set frequency to 25kHz
  pwmWrite(9, 51); // 51=20% duty cycle, 255=100% duty cycle

  pinMode(5, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(6, OUTPUT);
  analogWrite(5, 170);
  analogWrite(6, 255);
  pinMode(2,INPUT_PULLUP); //set RPM pin to digital input
  pinMode(3,INPUT_PULLUP); //set RPM pin to digital input
  half_revolutions1 = 0;
  rpm1 = 0;
  half_revolutions2 = 0;
  rpm2 = 0;

  Serial.begin(9600);
}



void loop()
{
  sei(); //enable intterupts
  attachInterrupt(0, fan_rpm1, RISING); //record pulses as they rise
  delay(1000);
  detachInterrupt(0);
  attachInterrupt(1, fan_rpm2, RISING); //record pulses as they rise
  delay(1000);
  detachInterrupt(1);
  cli(); //disable intterupts

  rpm1 = (half_revolutions1/2)*60;

  Serial.print("1");
  Serial.println(rpm1);

  rpm2 = (half_revolutions2/2)*60;

  Serial.print("2");
  Serial.println(rpm2);

  rpm1 = 0;
  half_revolutions1 = 0;

  rpm2 = 0;
  half_revolutions2 = 0;

  pwm = 255;
  recvWithStartEndMarkers();
  processCommand();
}

void fan_rpm1()
{
  ++half_revolutions1; //increment before returning value
}


void fan_rpm2()
{
  ++half_revolutions2; //increment before returning value
}


void recvWithStartEndMarkers() {
    static boolean recvInProgress = false;
    static byte ndx = 0;
    char startMarker = 's';
    char endMarker = '\n';
    char rc;
 
    while (Serial.available() > 0 && newData == false) {
        rc = Serial.read();

        if (recvInProgress == true) {
            if (rc != endMarker) {
                receivedChars[ndx] = rc;
                ndx++;
                if (ndx >= numChars) {
                    ndx = numChars - 1;
                }
            }
            else {
                receivedChars[ndx] = '\0'; // terminate the string
                recvInProgress = false;
                ndx = 0;
                newData = true;
            }
        }

        else if (rc == startMarker) {
            recvInProgress = true;
        }
    }
}

void processCommand() {
    if (newData == true) {
        Serial.print("s");
        Serial.println(receivedChars);
        switch (receivedChars[0])
        {
            case '1':
                receivedChars[0] = '0';
                sscanf(receivedChars, "%d", &pwm);
                analogWrite(5, pwm);
                break;
            case '2':
                receivedChars[0] = '0';
                sscanf(receivedChars, "%d", &pwm);
                analogWrite(6, pwm);
                break;
            case '3':
                receivedChars[0] = '0';
                sscanf(receivedChars, "%d", &pwm);
                
                break;
//            default:
//                Serial.println("I don't know what that means.");
        }
        newData = false;
    }
}

Well, how should I put it? It works, usually.

(tbc?)

(tba:photos)

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Project Idea And A Little Story: High Power PC Cooled Completely Passively With Heat Pipes And A Large Surface Aluminium Case And My First Online Post Ever

Here is another project idea that I'll probably never realise. It's not really an ingenious idea or a new concept. But there is a reason for why I can't forget about it.

In the very early 2000s, when I started to tinker with PC cases and also made my first steps in web communities, I thought about how I could reduce the noise my computers made without running chips at dangurously hight temperatures or forgoing performance. I've read about heat pipes in some case modding community. And I thought why not take it to the extreme to move heat quickly not just to a larger heat sink than the CPU sockets could safely hold (Motherboards didn't have cooler brackets back then.) but to a heat sink or several heat sinks that cover the majority of the case's surface. When the first commercial CPU coolers with heat pipes came on the market, targetet at computer tinkerers, but still nobody in the community seemed to attempt to make a case with a huge heat sink on the outside of the wall to cool even a 2 GHz Pentium 4 with its 75 Watts TDP passively, I decided to register in a small case modding web forum and present my idea to see what might be wrong with the concept. I was actually younger 20 years ago than I am now and I had never before tried to get myself out there in such a way. I thought it was a rather good idea. But I wasn't sure how much surface and aluminium mass I needed and wether it was realistic to cool a powerful CPU passively that way. Trying to cool a Pentium 4 only passively sounds like a stupid idea after all.

So I created a post on said web forum that I've never read before, presented my idea and asked for opinions. I got a few answers and everybody seemed to think it was a stupid idea. One respondant didn't seem to get my idea but still seemed to think it was stupid. One person seemed rather friendly in comparison and asked if I could explain the idea in more detail. I felt bullied by the negative answers, I felt mocked by being inline quoted (which I don't think I had seen before) and I felt that my ideas were generally worthless since I wasn't one of those hobbyistic experts that actually know stuff and are able to answer questions asked in a web forum. So rather than explaining my idea in more detail as requested, I searched for a way to delete my post, didn't find one and asked in the same thread how I could remove it.

I didn't find the post when i searched for it a few years ago. Like most small web forums it has probably gone offline with nothing or almost nothing in a web archive. But with the experiece that I have today I suspect that I didn't explain my idea very well and the other forum members didn't realise that I was a very insecure child. I also realised many years later that it wasn't a bad idea. I even saw a computer case that implemented the same idea being sold at some point. I don't know if many people bought this. But at least somebody other than me seemed to think it made sense and could even be commercialised. This redeemed my idea in my mind and I started to think about making such a case again. But I don't have the need for high-power CPUs and didn't want to invest money into another project that I wouldn't ever finish once the initial exitement would be over by buying huge heat sinks and heat pipes. So I've added it to that huge imaginary list with projects that I like to would have done but likely wouldn't finish and conclude my decades long considerations and my decision to conclude them by writing this entry.

Done.

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Fred - Part 3 - Power Supplies

This entry is a reply to or continuation of the entry 'Fred - Part 2 - The Case Lid And Cooling'.
edited:2022-09-14

After getting rid of the fan wall, the power supply was the main source of noise. The original PSU was a 3U redundant (2+1) server power supply. Noise does not matter with machines like that. I wanted to be able to have it running in my living room though, so the noise had to drop a fucking lot. Seriously, that's said so many times for people who don't work with servers like this. But people are still surprised when they hear a server fan for the first time. One of original 60 mm fans in the back is louder than my vaccum cleaner. And there were two of those, four 80 mm fans and five 40 mm fans. Three of the latter in the power supplies. Because I have no means to control the fans in software and don't need all the power the power supply can supply, I tried how much I can lower the noise by adding resistors in series to the fans. That did reduce noise a lot. But not only aren't these fans optimated for quiet operation, they are 40 mm fans. They will nver be quiet enough.

So I looked online for a power supply that

  1. fits in the case (it's not completely an ATX case)
  2. can supply enough current for everything and
  3. is trustworthy/doesn't appear to be too cheaply built

I found a Newton Power Model NPS-300AB B, which doesn't meat points 2 and 3 but fits so perfectly into the case that it was a weird feeling to accept that it is mostly coincidence. I got it for a couple of euros on ebay. Most sellers seem to think it's some piece of premium equipment because it's used in some Fujitsu servers or something. But it's really just a cheap ATX power supply in a non-standard case. But because it that non-standard case fitted so well into my non-standard server case, I got it anyway. I only had to drill the screw holes and that was it. It's hardly enough for 14 HDDs and the internet says it's really cheap and not trustworthy. But I went with it anyway in order to pay tribute to r/thingsfittinginthings.

Not a year later the PSU died. Probably overstressed it for too long. I replaced it with a better SFX unit. I had a nice and thick plate of stainless steel lying around, from which I cut an adapterplate.

I'll attach some photos below. Maybe I'll continue this series of entries on Fred some other day with experiences of dust and head and such over time.

File Attachments

The old power supply after it died_ (The unplugged fan and the missing screws do not resemble how it looked while it was in use_)
The old power supply after it died. (The unplugged fan and the missing screws do not resemble how it looked while it was in use.)
Maybe it would have lived longer if I had cooled it better_ It wasn't efficient_ It would have been too loud_
Maybe it would have lived longer if I had cooled it better. It wasn't efficient. It would have been too loud.
The new power supply_ Fits well in height and leaves more than enough room for its modular cables (even for the ones that aren't used) and airflow_
The new power supply. Fits well in height and leaves more than enough room for its modular cables (even for the ones that aren't used) and airflow.
I'm happy with the adapter plate and how it turned out, even though I originally made it for a different SFX unit and the fan cutout now seems redundant_ But it actually looks kind of professional_ That's rare enough with me_ I bet you can't tell which part I made myself_ (Or is this because the photo is so bad?)
I'm happy with the adapter plate and how it turned out, even though I originally made it for a different SFX unit and the fan cutout now seems redundant. But it actually looks kind of professional. That's rare enough with me. I bet you can't tell which part I made myself. (Or is this because the photo is so bad?)
I made my own modular cables with old molex connectors for the HDD backplane_ The unused cables in the plastic bag has its place at the back of the PSU_
I made my own modular cables with old molex connectors for the HDD backplane. The unused cables in the plastic bag has its place at the back of the PSU.
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Fujitsu Cordant Pentium II Aluminium Case Mod

I always wanted an aluminium case. A friend gave me this Pentium II he finally decided to get rid of last year. Nice PC, but even nicer in black and with newer hardware in it.

I suck at spray painting and I need to get better paint next time. But if the light comes from the right angle it looks like I imagined it.

I replaced the key lock with a large screw, got rid of the drive cages, replaced the PSU and mainboard, added a graphics card with internally pluggable VGA, replaced the external VGA port with a serial port and added a small LCD panel where the drives used to be, connected internally to the unplugged VGA port. Oh, and green LED strips. I also added two 60 mm fans in the back. I didn't want to cut a whole in any of the other sides, so 60 mm was the largest possible size. Still better than none.

And yes, I actually have a use for a RS232 port.

The main reason I put in the LCD is because I can. I liked the idea ever since I saw a build with a two-line character LCD for status messages around 2004. But nowadays there is a lot more space on the front since optical drives and diskette drives have become rare. So why not make it a regular screen that can be addressed by the OS without much custom code? The idea is to have it display CPU load, temps, notifications and stuff. But I may end up using it mainly for art, animations. I'm not sure, yet.

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80s Loudspeaker Mini-ITX Case

My old router had been case-less long enough. So I've built this mini-ITX case from an 80s speaker.

When I saw these old plastic speaker boxes in a pile of scrap on the side of the street I just had to save them. I always see things and think: Huh, I could put a computer or something in there. The same in this case. I finally found something I wanted to put this old mini-ITX machine into.

I cut away most of the inner support structure and the beams that held the back cover on, cut off part of the back cover so the PSU fits (It fits so perfectly! It's not even mounted by anything and I can really push and pull the wire as much as I want.), cut holes in what was now the new back side, fiddled a bit and wrapped the sides in matte black foil.

It was usable at that point. The back cover is held in place a bit by the mainboard hardly fitting. Then I just glued on those wooden "feet". Their main purpose is to prevent the back cover from coming off unless the wall is strained/pulled out a bit. Such a messy built, but I'm very happy with how perfectly everything sits in place now.

Added two LED strips, a power button and a switch for the light afterwards. Now I consider it done.

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