Keeping my low-power server cool

6.30am, sometime over the Christmas holidays and, after being woken by one of our sons, my wife informs me that there’s a strange noise coming from one of the computers in the office… bleary-eyed, I stumble to my desk and shut down the machine, before returning to my slumber.

Thankfully, it was just a noisy fan, not (yet) another hard disk failure but it did require attention, which involved me learning a little bit more than I should need to about the innards of a PC… so I’m blogging the key points for future reference.

Hardcore gamers need serious cooling for their PCs. Thankfully mine is the “low-power server” that I built a few years ago and the requirements are a lot lower – indeed this machine only has two 40mm fans – one on the case and one on the main board.

I initially swapped the case fan for one I picked up from Maplin (I could get cheaper online, but not once I’d taken into account shipping for such a small item) but found it was the one on the Intel D945GCLF2 board that was making most of the noise.  So I put the Maplin unit there instead (it’s not the CPU that needs cooling, but the inefficient Northbridge/GPU that accounts for most of the power consumption on this board – the Atom 330 is only using about 8W and is passively cooled.

Unfortunately the screws that fixed the OEM fan to the heatsink wouldn’t fit the replacement, so I used a piece of plastic-coated wire instead to poke through the holes and twist tight – it’s functional at least.

With the case fan also making a racket now, I found that it only did so when sucking air into the case (the fan seems to brush on the case when attached).  I’d assumed that a fan on the bottom of a case should bring in cold air and with hot air rising to the holes on the top of the case. So I flipped the fan over (I’m not sure which way it was originally pointed) so it’s now blowing air out of the bottom (it’s the only place to fix a fan). Fingers crossed, it’s doing something… monitoring with Open Hardware Monitor tells me my CPU is fine but SpeedFan suggests something else is running a little warm!


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