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Modding a 1U server to be a quiet workstation

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cyberfish

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May 23, 2008
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London, England
I recently got a dual Xeon E5-2670 1U server from eBay for cheap, and while it works very well, it sounds like a jet engine at takeoff power (I knew this beforehand), with 4 40mm fans spinning at 12000RPM at load.

Very similar to this one: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Supermicr...ual-PS-Rail-/131938488898?hash=item1eb8259242

I am thinking about modding it to be quiet so I can use it as a workstation (right now I have it hidden away in another room, and I SSH into it to run compute-heavy tasks).

Since I don't actually need it to fit in 1U space (or any U, since I don't actually have a rack), I am thinking about cutting a window out of the top panel, replace it with acrylic with a few 120mm fans blowing onto the motherboard.

Has anyone done something like this before? Or any other way to make an 1U quiet?
 

Scout

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Sep 9, 2011
To make it quiet you're going to have to change the heat sinks to get some more surface area the 1u heat sinks are such low profile and require tons of airflow. In your case 40mm screamers lol.
Just remember there still has to be airflow over the board to cool all the other components.
 
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cyberfish

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Yeah my current plan is to have one Noctua NF-P12 per CPU, blowing into the CPU heatsinks from outside, so they serve as both CPU heatsink fans and intake fans. Each of the Noctua fans at 1300 RPM have more than twice the airflow of a screamer at 12000 RPM, as well as quite a bit higher static pressure, so I'm hoping that will be enough.

If that's not enough, I'll get 2U passive heatsinks and do the same. I don't want to go to a tower heatsink precisely because I want some airflow over the VRMs. I will also keep one of the screamers running at a very low speed to cool the PCH and BMC, though that may not actually be necessary (the stock setup has no airflow over the PCH at all).
 

Scout

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Sep 9, 2011
I have always had a fascination with turning rack mount stuff into more useful rigs. Post some pics when you make the mods should be a fun little build. I would probably ditch all the 40mm fans they are useless when you can use something else.
 
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cyberfish

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May 23, 2008
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London, England
I have always had a fascination with turning rack mount stuff into more useful rigs. Post some pics when you make the mods should be a fun little build. I would probably ditch all the 40mm fans they are useless when you can use something else.

Yeah I agree in general, though the chipset doesn't require much airflow, and using 80mm would be way overkill... I will probably run the 40mm fan on 5V instead of 12V.
 

Scout

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Sep 9, 2011
My 220cfm Deltas melt whatever fan controller you try and control them with lol. They like to run wide open...
 
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cyberfish

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May 23, 2008
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London, England
It has been done.

Certainly much quieter, though cooling is apparently not quite enough.

I can use 8 cores, but it starts beeping after 30 seconds if I use all 16... Time to get more powerful fans!

IMG_20160921_223327.jpg IMG_20160921_102528.jpg IMG_20160921_214349.jpg IMG_20160921_210213.jpg IMG_20160922_005754.jpg
 

Scout

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Sep 9, 2011
Quality work, not your typical hacking ! You might need to give some more ventilation to get the hot air out. If your not entirely concerned about noise get some pwm controllable delta's.
 
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cyberfish

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Thanks. A bit easier to do quality work when you have access to a laser cutter!

Yeah I thought about that, too. I switched all the fans to exhaust, and surprisingly, that resulted in about 5C reduction. I guess with a case this thin blowing air directly at it will generate a lot of turbulence.

Still not quite enough to run all 16 cores, though :(.

Delta fans are a bit hard to find in the UK unfortunately.
 

Scout

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Sep 9, 2011
Look at the 38mm thick fans they have much more static pressure and airflow.
 
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cyberfish

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London, England
Look at the 38mm thick fans they have much more static pressure and airflow.

They do. I'll look into them once I totally give up on having a quiet machine... by some definition of "quiet".

I was playing with PWM last night, and was a bit confused that I could hear no difference at all between 600 RPM and 1300 RPM on the Noctuas.

Then I realized that there is one 40mm fan I missed - the one in the power supply! And that's the only fan I was able to hear.

It's a bit hard to replace because although I can add a duct and an adapter to cool the power supply with a larger fan, the power supply actually checks the tach signal from the fan, and won't turn on without a fan. So the new fan will have to also be powered by the power supply. I hope it doesn't doesn't check the rotation speed, since my new fan certainly won't be going at 12000 RPM!

If it does, I'll have to do some electronic hacks to fake a tach signal... pretty easy, but pretty annoying.
 
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cyberfish

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Ended up just designing a whole new case for it (haven't cut out the other panels yet).

Now it's silent!

I even got a video card for it (stripped down GTX 1060), but had to bolt it onto the base of the case because the motherboard only supports mounting video cards horizontally on a proprietary riser card.

Cost: $10 for the acrylic sheets, $5 for screws etc, $600 for 10 hours of my time at $60/hr. $615 total.

IMG_20160929_202129.jpg
IMG_20160929_215052.jpg
base.png
 

Scout

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Sep 9, 2011
Lol I see this spiraled out of control quickly, seems this will be much quieter now.
 
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cyberfish

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May 23, 2008
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It has :). It's near silent now even at maximum load (32 threads P95 Small FFT with AVX). Runs cooler, too!

The only problem I ran into was the VRM for one of the CPUs overheating. One of them came with a nice and big heatsink, but the other one wasn't heatsinked at all because it's right at the exhaust of one of the fans in the original case. It actually triggered IPMI system temp warning (with a blaring horn).

That was easily fixed by adding heatsinks and a 40mm fan pointed at it.

Now all the temperatures are much lower than before, and everything is nice and quiet :D.
 

Scout

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Sep 9, 2011
It has :). It's near silent now even at maximum load (32 threads P95 Small FFT with AVX). Runs cooler, too!

The only problem I ran into was the VRM for one of the CPUs overheating. One of them came with a nice and big heatsink, but the other one wasn't heatsinked at all because it's right at the exhaust of one of the fans in the original case. It actually triggered IPMI system temp warning (with a blaring horn).

That was easily fixed by adding heatsinks and a 40mm fan pointed at it.

Now all the temperatures are much lower than before, and everything is nice and quiet :D.


http://www.overclockers.com/forums/showthread.php/775424-Marathon-Season-V-September-HWBotPrime
Now lets see what it can do vs my dual 771 lol.
 
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cyberfish

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Looks like this benchmark doesn't scale very well.

I get 5318 using 8 threads, and 6852 using 16 threads. Some of that is due to turbo boost, but the effect should be much smaller than that.

It could be because Java doesn't understand NUMA architectures.
 

Scout

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Sep 9, 2011
Looks like this benchmark doesn't scale very well.

I get 5318 using 8 threads, and 6852 using 16 threads. Some of that is due to turbo boost, but the effect should be much smaller than that.

It could be because Java doesn't understand NUMA architectures.

Nice score it just makes me happy to stomp out the Quad cores in multi threaded benches.
 
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cyberfish

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Nice score it just makes me happy to stomp out the Quad cores in multi threaded benches.

That's always nice!

I got this mostly to run my own research code (almost 100% scalable), and it's faster than a 6900K at stock, and I got the whole machine for about half the price of that CPU alone.