My New HTPC - Three 3.5" Hard Drive Locations and an SSD in a Mini-ITX Build - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 125 Old 07-07-2011, 07:01 PM - Thread Starter
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I posted this in my sticky thread but wanted to make sure to share in case anyone else wants to attempt a similar build.

Definitely not for the faint of heart or beginner...

Assassin's Assassin HTPC - Potential for 9TB (or 12TB!!!) in a Mini-ITX Case

Just completed the finishing touches on a new HTPC for my own personal use. I wanted to move from a micro-ATX HTPC to a mini-ITX. What started as an experiment on what these case and parts can do turned into something pretty remarkable, imo.

Time of Build: 6+ hours over multiple days this past week due to trying different configurations
Difficulty of Build: 9.5. One of the most demanding builds I have ever done in the Mini-ITX form factor. Precision cable management is key for this build in this case.

The Stats:
CPU: Intel i3 2100 with stock Intel CPU cooler
Motherboard: ASRock Mini-ITX
SSD: Corsair SSD 64GB
Hard Drive 1: WD EARS 2TB Green
Hard Drive 2: Samsung F4 2TB Green
Hard Drive 3: Empty for now (Yes! I figured a way to get 3 hard drives in this tiny case!)
PSU: Seasonic SFX12V 350 watt 80 plus
Case Fan 1: Scythe 120mm 800 RPM (outflow)
Case Fan 2: Nexus 80mm Real Silent Case Fan (inflow)
Bluray Drive: Moved to external case and connected via eSATA
Case: Apex MI-008 Mini-ITX

The build:

There is actually quite a lot going on in this picture. First you can see the bottom 2TB hard drive. It is mounted in the native 3.5" bay in this case. Second, you can see the 2nd 2TB hard drive mounted in the 5.25" bay using a 5.25" to 3.5" adapter. Take special note of the "channels" to the right and the left of this hard drive. I will make use of those later. Finally you can see the SSD drive which I velcroed directly to the 2nd hard drive. I have increasingly become a HUGE fan of velcro and SSD as it allows you to put them just about anywhere and not take up room for something else - like an additional hard drive.

I used 2 chassis/case fans in this build and bought a splitter which allowed me to split the case fan power from the motherboard to each of my 2 fans. I could have done this as well with a molex splitter but this allows me to control the speed of the fans with the motherboard.

Here you can see the Seasonic PSU that I used instead of the stock PSU. The stock PSU is fine but I chose this PSU for a few reasons. First, I wanted to see if this build could be done with the stock Intel 2100 CPU cooler. As you can see in later pics the CPU cooler sits directly under (and actually touches) the bottom of the PSU. The Seasonic PSU vents to the back of the case unlike the stock CPU cooler which vents directly into the CPU cooler. If you want to build using this case and the stock PSU then something like the 2100t CPU cooler which is lower profile is almost a must have, imo. Also note that the Seasonic is deeper than the stock PSU which makes using an optical drive with the Seasonic almost impossible as there simply isn't enough room from front to back in the case to accompany both.

Here you can see some of my cable management. I had to get everything pulled back and away from the side of the case because this is where my 120mm Scythe case fan will go as you will soon see.

Here you can see my SATA connections. 1 for the SSD and 1 each for the 2 hard drives. I still have one left for something.... if only I could still fit yet another a hard drive. Well guess what? I can as you will soon see!!!

Here is the 120mm Scythe case fan installed. I chose to let this bigger fan be the exhaust fan. Notice the cabling to the left and right. There is cable management behind it as well since I didn't want the cable to get into the fan. It was extremely tight.

This is the 80mm Nexus fan installed to the inside of the cover of the case using included rubber adapters.

Remember those channels I mentioned before? They made a great location to tuck away extra cords and extra length of cords from the PSU.

Here is a look at the CPU fan and the cabling from the other side of the case. You can see the issue with the PSU and the cooler in this picture.

Look at this bare spot in the front of the case under the stack of hard drives! I can definitely get another 3.5" hard drive in there using velcro or rubber grommets in the future. Run one of the power cables to it and connect that 4th SATA port to it and I could easily house 3 hard drives in this tiny case. So this case could easily house an SSD and 3 3TB hard drives for a total of 9TB in a Mini-ITX case. Pretty incredible, imo. As it stands I have 4 TB with plans to add another 2-3TB drive in the future.

Here is a picture of the case from the outside. Notice the rubber mounts for the 80mm fan on the left.

Outside case closer pics of the 80mm and 120mm fans, respectively.


My temps were about 50-55C before I changed the PSU and added the case fans. What an improvement!


Edit:
One more thing that I want to point out...

If you used a low profile cooler or the 2100t you could likely get rip of the 120mm exhaust fan, flip the 80mm fan around to use it as an exhaust fan, and put a 4th hard drive in the area where the 120mm fan was located.

The case comes with 2 rails to do this and it would be easy to do.

So potentially that gives you 4 hard drives for a total of potentially 12TB as well as an SSD in this tiny case. You would need to use a motherboard with 5 SATA ports to accomplish this.

Pretty impressive.

Edit 2:
Popped the case open to re-position the 120mm fan so I thought I would take a few more pictures...

"Bare Floor" space under the hard drive stack: about 1.75 inches. Enough for 1 2-3TB hard drive but not enough for 2.


Here's this little beast at idle with the Windows desktop showing. Not too bad.


Here's wattage while Battle Los Angeles 1080p MKV is playing inside Mediabrowser. I am extremely impressed at how low wattage this build is.


EDIT (8/27/2011) - Pico PSU Installation
Another update on this build.

I have been wanting to experiment with a PICO psu and thought this would be a good build to test. So I removed the Seasonic PSU and replaced it with a 120 watt PICO PSU.

In this shot you can see my HTPC before the PICO.



Here you can see the PICO on the left and the "old" PSU on the right.



Here is the inside compared to before. Quite a remarkable difference. Cable management followed.



This is a custom backplate for the PICO Psu made by Stardog Champion. He does some great work and I have used his plates on multiple builds now.



All in all I am very happy. I will report back if there are any issues.

EDIT: 9/9/2011 - Installation of new CPU Cooler

Today I received my CoolerMaster Hyper 101 and I was able to continue my experiment. I think I can safely say that there is no one else on earth that has a HTPC quite like mine.

The first thing I did of course was remove the stock Intel 2100 CPU cooler and compare it to my new cooler. Here you can see the old and the new.





Here is a shot of the CPU all cleaned up and ready for its new cooler.



Here you can see the major problem that I ran into. The copper pegs of the CPU cooler were too tall. If I could remove these it would fit perfectly.




After uninstalling the CPU cooler from the motherboard and taking a hacksaw to it I was able to make a new custom cooler. Do not try this at home! Please also note that this likely destroys your heatpipe and possibly can damage your CPU. As I am not afraid to experiment I thought I would give this a try.




Now you can see how well this fits in the case. Not much wiggle room and the support bar from the case applies pressure to the fan ever so slightly but not enough to really stress the motherboard. I wish there was just a little bit of room between the cooler and the case cover.





A few more view of everything installed.





A now some Kill-a-Watt readings with the PICO PSU and my new CPU cooler in place.

At idle on Windows Desktop (27 watts!!!)


While playing 1080p Wall-E non-compressed Bluray MKV (33 watts)


While sleeping (2 watts)


Temps have been in the 40-45 C range. I started playing Wall-E and left it going while typing this and the temperature is now around 50 C. I think these will drop a few degrees once the Arctic Silver settles in.

Also as you probably noticed I am using a Noctua 80mm fan on the Hyper 101 CPU cooler. I am using the Low Noise adapter and running the fan at 1300RPM although I can't hear the damn thing at all and I am thinking about running it at the stock 1800RPM to decrease the temps a few degrees.

This thing is quiet. I think my experiment is almost done. And I still have room for TWO more hard drives!!!!!!!!

EDIT (9/10/2011): Reinstallation of Intel CPU Cooler

Well, that experiment was a failure. The only way to get that CPU cooler into the case despite the manufacturer saying it was 4.5" tall (it wasn't. It was more like 5" tall) was to cut the ends of the heatpipes. This made them completely worthless and the temps rose to 60C before I shut down the HTPC.

So the Intel Cooler went back in and idle temps are now back at 35C.

That was a fun experiment though. I will keep seeing what other things I can try with this build.

Edit: 9/27/2011: Installation of aftermarket Silverstone Cooler

Wanted to try out another aftermarket cooler. Pretty impressed with this one so far.






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post #2 of 125 Old 07-07-2011, 07:55 PM
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What a great build! You're really making the most out of the limited space in that case. Thanks for all the great info you post on this board, it's all very helpful!
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post #3 of 125 Old 07-07-2011, 08:27 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by strahdv View Post

What a great build! You're really making the most out of the limited space in that case. Thanks for all the great info you post on this board, it's all very helpful!

Thanks for posting! Glad you liked the build. I put it through a test run tonight and it did fantastic!
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post #4 of 125 Old 07-08-2011, 12:33 AM
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could a shuriken fit in place of the stock Intel CPU cooler?
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post #5 of 125 Old 07-08-2011, 02:05 AM
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Looking good, An. How silent is that thing?

WANTED: 16:10 120Hz monitors for triple surround gaming/Google Earth browsing.

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post #6 of 125 Old 07-08-2011, 03:59 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ratbrain View Post

could a shuriken fit in place of the stock Intel CPU cooler?

No way. Not a chance.
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post #7 of 125 Old 07-08-2011, 04:00 AM - Thread Starter
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Looking good, An. How silent is that thing?

Thanks. Pretty silent. Believe it or not the seasonic is the most audible component. Just a slight hum from arms length.
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post #8 of 125 Old 07-08-2011, 05:13 AM
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Why didn't you go for a low-profile CPU cooler instead of the stock one?
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post #9 of 125 Old 07-08-2011, 05:19 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amarshonarbangla View Post

Why didn't you go for a low-profile CPU cooler instead of the stock one?

I started this as an experiment for AVS users to see if I could make the stock cooler work in this particular HTPC case.

As I state in my sticky guide I do NOT recommend this case using the stock cooler. I recommend using the 2100t to take advantage of the low profile cooler (I have used these many times over in this case and they work great).

I could have added a low profile cooler but that would have been another $30. In the end this works although it was a pita. I still stand by my original recommendation to use the 2100t or the 2100 with a low profile cooler for most builders in this case.
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post #10 of 125 Old 07-08-2011, 05:21 AM - Thread Starter
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One more thing that I want to point out...

If you used a low profile cooler or the 2100t you could likely get rip of the 120mm exhaust fan, flip the 80mm fan around to use it as an exhaust fan, and put a 4th hard drive in the area where the 120mm fan was located.

The case comes with 2 rails to do this and it would be easy to do.

So potentially that gives you 4 hard drives for a total of potentially 12TB as well as an SSD in this tiny case. You would need to use a motherboard with 5 SATA ports to accomplish this.

Pretty impressive.
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post #11 of 125 Old 07-08-2011, 05:23 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by assassin View Post

I started this as an experiment for AVS users to see if I could make the stock cooler work in this particular HTPC case.

As I state in my sticky guide I do NOT recommend this case using the stock cooler. I recommend using the 2100t to take advantage of the low profile cooler (I have used these many times over in this case and they work great).

I could have added a low profile cooler but that would have been another $30. In the end this works although it was a pita. I still stand by my original recommendation to use the 2100t or the 2100 with a low profile cooler for most builders in this case.

Gotcha. Excellent btw. Compact system and looks pretty as well.

What CPU cooler would you recommend other than the 2100t cooler to be used with this case?
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post #12 of 125 Old 07-08-2011, 05:53 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by amarshonarbangla View Post

Gotcha. Excellent btw. Compact system and looks pretty as well.

What CPU cooler would you recommend other than the 2100t cooler to be used with this case?

I'd use this Silverstone CPU cooler. Looks pretty similar to the 2100t cooler.
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post #13 of 125 Old 07-08-2011, 06:02 AM - Thread Starter
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Looking at the picture I wonder if you coulf fit 2 hard drives in the bare area in the front if the case (one on top of the other)?

This would give you 4 hard drives up front and 1 on the side.

5x3TB would give you a potential of 15TB in this mini-ITX case. You would probably need a SATA controller card to do this as I doubt any mini-ITX boards can accomodate 6 SATA devices.
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post #14 of 125 Old 07-08-2011, 06:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by assassin View Post

Looking at the picture I wonder if you coulf fit 2 hard drives in the bare area in the front if the case (one on top of the other)?

This would give you 4 hard drives up front and 1 on the side.

5x3TB would give you a potential of 15TB in this mini-ITX case. You would probably need a SATA controller card to do this as I doubt any mini-ITX boards can accomodate 6 SATA devices.

A massive server in that tiny case. That would be something.
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post #15 of 125 Old 07-08-2011, 07:19 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by assassin View Post

One more thing that I want to point out...

If you used a low profile cooler or the 2100t you could likely get rip of the 120mm exhaust fan, flip the 80mm fan around to use it as an exhaust fan, and put a 4th hard drive in the area where the 120mm fan was located.

The case comes with 2 rails to do this and it would be easy to do.

So potentially that gives you 4 hard drives for a total of potentially 12TB as well as an SSD in this tiny case. You would need to use a motherboard with 5 SATA ports to accomplish this.

Pretty impressive.

Very Nice!
However, I think the best way to put 4 HDDs in that case (considering you bypassed using an ODD) is to dremel out the 3.5 mount and the lower part of the ODD mount leaving only the full length supports (so as not to compromise the structural integrity of the case). Then, mount all 4 3.5" HDDs sideways stacked in the area between the MB and the front of the case (velcro to the rescue!!). BTW, I too am a huge fan of velcro mounting (always take care not to cover any of those critical vent holes you sometimes have on the tops of HDDs). PC cases don't move around much so the arcane mounting brackets still in use are terribly inefficient. Stacking the HDDs like that would leave you almost an inch of space on top of them for your SSD and room on the end for cable management.

Just thinking.

BT

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post #16 of 125 Old 07-08-2011, 07:23 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by assassin View Post

Looking at the picture I wonder if you coulf fit 2 hard drives in the bare area in the front if the case (one on top of the other)?

This would give you 4 hard drives up front and 1 on the side.

5x3TB would give you a potential of 15TB in this mini-ITX case. You would probably need a SATA controller card to do this as I doubt any mini-ITX boards can accomodate 6 SATA devices.

Case specs say that it is 5.1" tall, so if you can find 3/4" to 7/8" thick HDDs, you could fit 5. I don't know of any high capacity drives that thin though.

EDIT: All 3TB HDDs are 26.1mm (1.028") thick. 5 of them come to 5.14", so 5 will not fit stacked. You mentioned one on the side. Is there mounting space for a sideways vertical mounted drive?

BT

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post #17 of 125 Old 07-08-2011, 07:32 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bjterry62 View Post

Case specs say that it is 5.1" tall, so if you can find 3/4" to 7/8" thick HDDs, you could fit 5. I don't know of any high capacity drives that thin though.

BT

The next time I open it I will take measurements.
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post #18 of 125 Old 07-08-2011, 01:55 PM - Thread Starter
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I will try to put a kill a watt on this htpc this weekend and post the results.
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post #19 of 125 Old 07-08-2011, 07:27 PM - Thread Starter
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Popped the case open to re-position the 120mm fan so I thought I would take a few more pictures...

"Bare Floor" space under the hard drive stack: about 1.75 inches. Enough for 1 2-3TB hard drive but not enough for 2.


Here's this little beast at idle with the Windows desktop showing. Not too bad.


Here's wattage while Battle Los Angeles 1080p MKV is playing inside Mediabrowser. I am extremely impressed at how low wattage this build is.
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post #20 of 125 Old 07-08-2011, 08:36 PM
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So you have 1.75" from the floor to the bottom of the HDD bracket. Remove the HDD bracket and gain a little over 1". You will have no problem fitting 2 3.5" hdds and the ssd under the ODD bracket. That is, IF you want to mount the BR drive in the internal ODD bracket.

BT

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post #21 of 125 Old 07-08-2011, 09:04 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bjterry62 View Post

So you have 1.75" from the floor to the bottom of the HDD bracket. Remove the HDD bracket and gain a little over 1". You will have no problem fitting 2 3.5" hdds and the ssd under the ODD bracket. That is, IF you want to mount the BR drive in the internal ODD bracket.

BT

Agreed. I use the bluray so infrequently that I actually like having out as an external drive and using the space for something else.
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post #22 of 125 Old 07-08-2011, 10:49 PM
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I have a similar build but with a ASRock Zacate board and no SSD (yet). I have 5.5tb total. A 3TB, 2TB, and 500GB. 4GB of RAM and running Win7 64bit with XBMC. I'll eventually replace the 2TB and 500gb with 3TB hard drives as needed. I might also throw in a SSD. It's pretty quiet other than hard drive clicks which the SSD should take care of most of that.

Some pics (though I haven't really done much cable management, I will when I add the 4th 3.5" hard drive):








My Home Theater/Video Gaming/HTPC/2 Channel rig (Mitsubishi, MartinLogan, Marantz, DIYMA, and others)

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post #23 of 125 Old 07-09-2011, 12:53 AM
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That's a really neat build Assassin, how much did it cost money-wise? Probably not all that much. A Mini-ITX build would be very ideal for the bedroom. Would be cool for a mini-server too....possibilities are endless here!

One question though....I saw that you cable-tied the SATA cables in one of your pics in a folded fashion....I read that you shouldn't bend the cables that way as it could affect the data transmissions in the cables. No problems with that setup so far?

My existing HTPC I might remove the Bluray drive and put another HDD in its place. I can work on getting an external enclosure for the BD drive so that way I can have 3 hard drives in the case I have. Though my primary OS/Data drive is 1TB I plan to get 2TB drives for the remaining spaces.
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post #24 of 125 Old 07-09-2011, 02:55 AM
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Nice build and very clever. The Velcro mounting idea for SSDs is ingenious, something I would have never considered. Thanks for the tip.

Rob
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post #25 of 125 Old 07-09-2011, 04:33 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AVTechMan View Post

That's a really neat build Assassin, how much did it cost money-wise? Probably not all that much. A Mini-ITX build would be very ideal for the bedroom. Would be cool for a mini-server too....possibilities are endless here!

One question though....I saw that you cable-tied the SATA cables in one of your pics in a folded fashion....I read that you shouldn't bend the cables that way as it could affect the data transmissions in the cables. No problems with that setup so far?

My existing HTPC I might remove the Bluray drive and put another HDD in its place. I can work on getting an external enclosure for the BD drive so that way I can have 3 hard drives in the case I have. Though my primary OS/Data drive is 1TB I plan to get 2TB drives for the remaining spaces.

No issues at all. Its almost a necessity on these cases to improve airflow any way possible.
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post #26 of 125 Old 07-09-2011, 07:25 AM
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Nice! A all-in-one, client+server, solution for anyone looking to have just one small package to hold/do everything.
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post #27 of 125 Old 07-09-2011, 09:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AVTechMan View Post

That's a really neat build Assassin, how much did it cost money-wise? Probably not all that much. A Mini-ITX build would be very ideal for the bedroom. Would be cool for a mini-server too....possibilities are endless here!

One question though....I saw that you cable-tied the SATA cables in one of your pics in a folded fashion....I read that you shouldn't bend the cables that way as it could affect the data transmissions in the cables. No problems with that setup so far?

My existing HTPC I might remove the Bluray drive and put another HDD in its place. I can work on getting an external enclosure for the BD drive so that way I can have 3 hard drives in the case I have. Though my primary OS/Data drive is 1TB I plan to get 2TB drives for the remaining spaces.

You could also get slim Blu-ray and mount the Blu-ray and the 3rd hard drive both in the 5.25" bay.
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post #28 of 125 Old 07-09-2011, 02:46 PM
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What about operating temps with all of those HDDs in there, An? Impressive little build.

WANTED: 16:10 120Hz monitors for triple surround gaming/Google Earth browsing.

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post #29 of 125 Old 07-09-2011, 11:42 PM
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For the larger fan, are you using anything to secure it or is it just a snug fit. I'm thinking of adding a fan to my build in the same spot but I'm worried about it vibrating against the case.

Also, I have a ceton card blocking the opposite side which I'm sure hurts airflow. In that case, would you recommend the 120mm being used as intake or exhaust?
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post #30 of 125 Old 07-10-2011, 07:13 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dnguyen826 View Post

For the larger fan, are you using anything to secure it or is it just a snug fit. I'm thinking of adding a fan to my build in the same spot but I'm worried about it vibrating against the case.

Also, I have a ceton card blocking the opposite side which I'm sure hurts airflow. In that case, would you recommend the 120mm being used as intake or exhaust?

The fan "snaps in" to that slot and it is a press fit. There are no screws needed. You have to position it just right to not have it rub on anything which can be difficult since most of the motherboard connections are directly next to the fan (well with some boards anyway).

That's an excellent question. I honestly would try it both ways and see which gave you better temps. Obviously any fan is better than no fan so I think either way will improve the temps inside the case. If you are using the stock PSU that points down into the case then I would think that using it as an exhaust would probably be a little better. But again I would try both to see the difference.
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