Fanless PC Advice

upstatemike

Senior Member
After following some of the discussions on HTPCs and thinking about a future PC strategy in general, I have decided that going forward I want to use fanless PCs for everything, not just A/V applications.

I have 3 servers and 2 workstations that run 24/7 and I want to eliminate any noise from them. (I know that solid state drives are still too expensive so I'll have to live with HD noise for a while yet). Even though the servers are down in the basement computer room where noise is not so critical, I noticed the other day that they have drawn in a lot of dust and I would like to reduce the maintenance requirement by going fanless and therefore (hopefully) dustless.

I found this case that is fanless and was wondering if anybody has used it or something similiar? I would also like to hear from anyone who has purchased a complete fanless system. I would probably prefer to by a pre-built system with a warranty rather than building my own system into a fanless case.
 

Mike

Senior Member
Another option to check before rebuilding everything:

http://www.heatsinkfactory.com/Vantec-Stea...an-p-16261.html

I replaced the case fans with these and was quite happy with the results.

Your next option is to go water cooled (well another option) and Thermaltake has a packaged option as do a few others. They are a little harder to put together though. I have not felt the need to go this route personally.

Hope this helps. It doesn't necessarily cover your fanless requirement directly but something to consider.
 

Quixote

Member
Going fanless is more of a chore than you realize. It's also way more expensive because you'll find that there are more and more little things that you'll need to buy as you go along, and often things don't work out the way you would expect. I recently put together a system that I originally planned to be fanless, but as it turns out you can only really do that with systems that aren't very powerful. I'm running an AMD 64 X2 4400+ with an Antec Phantom and a Geforce 7900 512 GTX OC, and my system reaches almost 60 degrees sometimes. My emergency fan often turns on. I have taken every precaution and paid attention to every detail, and yet it appears that I will still need to make some modifications and install another fan. I'm using the HFX Mcubed Chassis. The best thing that I can suggest is that you get a case designed to be fanless and then replace the cooling solution on the graphics card and CPU for Arctic Cooling fans. They are almost completely silent and are the closest thing to total peace and quiet while remaining confident that you won't fry your system. Also use lots of Arctic Silver Compound. As far as I'm concerned, the only way you can have a truly passively cooled system is if you are doing nothing but playing music and surfing the web -- but you can create a really nice combination with some passive cooling solutions and extremely quiet fans. I would try to keep the noise level below 1 Sone.
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
Sonds like more good reasons to get a pre-built system (with a warranty) where all the little engineering issues have already been solved. Maybe buy a fanless HTPC and just use it as a normal PC?
 

Quixote

Member
I like gaming, so that wasn't really an option for me. I needed a performance system, but I was tired of listening to the jet-turbine-like noise in my living-room. I've achieved near silence. In fact, the first time I turned on my system (after spending like 4 grand and a month and a half modding it) I nearly crapped my pants because I thought that it wasn't working. That's how quiet it usually is.
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
Quixote said:
I like gaming, so that wasn't really an option for me. I needed a performance system...
I thought the fanless Zalman case in the link in my original post was supposed to be able to handle a high performance system. Are you saying that it probably can't really do that?
 

BraveSirRobbin

Moderator
upstatemike, I know you desire an pre-built system, but there are some cool retrofits to existing cases that are already dubbed "quiet".

For instance I have four Antec Sonata cases and the main reason I like this brand is they have rubber mounted fans, large rubber bases, and rubber mounted hard drive bins to keep the noise down.

Now there are after market products to reduce the noise even further. For instance you can purchase pre-cut foam insulation pads for this case HERE.

The main noise factor is of course the CPU fan. I was always wondering how one of the large Zalman or Thermaltake heat pipe technology units would work with a Sonata case.

Anyway, I'm getting off topic...

EDIT: Hey, check THIS deal out.

Anyway, that Zalman case does seem pretty cool, but at a pretty hefty price tag. Also there appears to be two models as shown HERE.

HERE is a review of one of those models.

Another EDIT: Woa, check out the new P180B case from Antec!
 

Quixote

Member
upstatemike said:
Quixote said:
I like gaming, so that wasn't really an option for me. I needed a performance system...
I thought the fanless Zalman case in the link in my original post was supposed to be able to handle a high performance system. Are you saying that it probably can't really do that?
I'm not familiar with that case. All I'm saying is, be prepared to have to do a little modding and investing a little more money than just the buying the case. AFAIK, totally fanless high performance systems are still a mythological creature.

BraveSirRobbin was right when he said that there are solutions to make your existing systems more quiet, and unless you have lots of cash to blow, that would probably be the smartest way to go. If I could go back and start over on my new system, I would probably not have bought the case that I did, though I love the way it looks.
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
Quixote said:
BraveSirRobbin was right when he said that there are solutions to make your existing systems more quiet, and unless you have lots of cash to blow, that would probably be the smartest way to go.
I'm not sure any of BSR's solutions would be more effective than my current one. I put a hole through the wall of my office and put the PC in the next room with just the monitor, keyboard, speaker, and mouse wires intruding into my personal space.

I am really serious about fan noise to the same extreme that some people here get upset when the LEDs on their keypads are too bright (except I am rational and they are insane). So "more quiet" probably isn't going to cut it; I need silent.

Maybe I should go to fanless terminal servers with the actual workstations down in the server room?
 

DavidL

Senior Member
Mike, I have looked at the case you mention before and it is more out of the box suited for total fanless and quiet than typical HTPC (including MCubed) offerings. It has the luxury of not having to be pretty sitting on a shelf. It is intended for a "working" environment under the desk, or in a closet.
It has heat pipes integral with it's design and tremendous surface area for radiation, which is missing from the HTPC case size. True, cases like MCubed strive towards this, but the physical size makes this borderline. Look at the Dennali Nirvis HTPC - tons of heat sinks for truly quiet operation at full cpu clip. But, costly. ($6k or so).
If you are putting this PC other than in an equipment rack, go for it. Zalman makes some very nicely machined parts. I use their Reservator water cooling on my HTPC.
 

Paul

Active Member
ln2 is just so inconvenient though. sadly I looked at that immersion site and kinda wanna do that now.
 

Ripper99

Active Member
upstatemike said:
These are nice but I have my heart set on a liquid nitrogen cooled fanless case.
Have you ever seen Koolance systems Mike?

http://www.koolance.com/

I have one of the Koolance EXOS systems like this
http://www.hardocp.com/article.html?art=Mzc2

I have everything in a customized Coolermaster Wavemaster case and the EXOS thing sits on top, their are 3 small fans on top and then 2 hoses exit from behind it and plug into a card slot thing..from their you connect to your processor, vid card etc..can cool hard drives also.


I have a pentium 3.4 extreme processor and 2 drives and it is very silent, no fans at all except for on the top of the koolance unit and they are small and have 3 speed settings.

Koolance now sells cases with the system integrated into them for 600-$675

Very low maintenance, I have *never* had any sort of leaks and about all I've done over the past 2 years is add more antifreeze into a small chamber on the top of the unit..reliable and quiet!
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
Can you add more hose and put the cooling unit remote from the PC to make it even more quiet? Maybe even out a window in the winter to take advantage of the sub-zero temps to dissipate the heat faster?
 
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