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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Ive just put into sevice my first scratch built HTPC. I've previously used Dell desktop units around 1GHZ with ok results. So far am thrilled with the abilites and speed of my new PC except for the Jet engine loud noises eminating from it. I made sure to get a quiet power supply and a fanless video card, but I'm using the stock Intel processor fan. My components are as follows: A cooler master 620 HTPC case, 3.2 Intel processor, Sapphire 9600 Vid card, Dual Western Digital 250G hard drives. The main noise sources at this time are the processor fan and hard drives. I've looked at the Zalman low noise processor fans but im doubtful it will fit in this tightly laid out case. I wondering if anyone has tried this: I'm considering mounting a large low noise exhaust fan on the back of the case (the cooler master will not accept a large fan internally) and ducting the intake side to draw through the processor heatsink and possibly splitting the intake to pull some air across the vid card as well. I'm thinking that the flow into the processor and vid card will move air through the case and cool the processor and card simultaneously. The duct will be mocked up with foam or balsa and then fiberglassed or vacuum formed from the plug. Imagine something similar to a car airconditioning duct mounted inside the PC. I'm thinking something in the range of a 120mm nexus fan. Any input? Alternately, if the fan cant pull enough pressure or volume to use in that way, I was also considering using a piece of 2" PVC fished down the wall, to an inwall vacuum port with a piece of flex hose connected to the back of the PC In the attic i would use a bathroom fan to suck on the end of the PVC. A 12V relay would trigger the fan to run when the PC turns on. If either of these plans pans out, I'd still be left with hard drive noise. The Western Digital drives are quite loud, and this case does not have enough 5" bays to use the drive enclosures I've seen online. Any recommendations on a quiet large Hard Drive? Thanks, Joe
 

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I just got mine together and it is also really loud when the cpu and video

card fans ramp up. HTPC cases are terrible at cooling so I have to leave the top

off which doesn't exactly help with the noise. I'm thinking about going with

a water cooling solution.
 

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wd 320 gig drive is the quetest of all large drives (or small for that matter). I had a wd 250 a while back and they are noisy and nothing like the 320. Some reccomend the Samsung Spinpoints too, but again it depends on the model. Seagates are no longer quiet either btw.


Troy
 

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Western Digital quiet? They must've changed tremendously since I've never owned a quiet WD drive.


Well, even so, Seagate Barracudas are very quiet. Do you have the option of putting the other drives in a server and accessing the files remotely (just put a single quiet drive in the HTPC)?


As far as the fans being quiet, remember that placement of fans is just as important. Use intake fans as well as exhaust fans, and round cables neatly managed, etc. Bigger fans that run slower. Heck, I have a 12" oscillating fan behind my rack/TV stand that I lock in place and put on low, and it keeps everything nice and cool (okay, not cool, but at least not hot). Using the stud space is possible, but probably more work than it's worth.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I've already got network capabilities, but im dividing storage up between the 3 PC's with a total of about a terabyte of storage. Until I built this latest PC, the ablites of the 1GHZ desktops I own couldnt move data fast enough to allow smooth DVD playback between units. I think overhead for the player and network limited the performance. The addition of the new 3.2GHZ unit allows simultaneous movie play back in the HTPC as well as smooth playback through the network on the other two units. I believe if I was going to do a true server, it would require another new fast PC which would be out of my budget at the moment. I was thinking of just adding the Seagate drives to the 3.2 unit, any other input on which large hard drives are quiet?
 

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Yes the wd320 is a completely new breed of western digital. It has been discussed here before and is also one of the coolest running and still fast. Check all the reviews out there if you don't believe me. Seagate's are no longer the quiet drives they used to be, they have changed also. (Something about a lawsuit over their use of a patented quiet technology)


Troy
 

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Just a hint... it's a good idea to use a motherboard whose fan speeds can be controlled by the speedfan utility based on temps.
 

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I got sick of the noise so I moved my computer to the basement. I just ran cables through the walls. Why didn't I think of that before I bought a Zalman Reserator, 6600GT fanless, and fanless power supply? The only fans I had were 3 exhaust fans and they were loud.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by JPPadula
... Until I built this latest PC, the ablites of the 1GHZ desktops I own couldnt move data fast enough to allow smooth DVD playback between units. I think overhead for the player and network limited the performance. ...
I'm really surprised that you can't get stutter-free playback on less than a Gig processor. Im using an old Athlon 550 as additional storage and have no problems whatsoever. Heck, I've even watched a movie on my HTPC that was stored in a shared folder on a laptop and didn't see one single hitch. Maybe if it was HD content you were pushing I could understand. What else is going on in your network?


Bob

One other thought -I've heard that some Gigabit NICs actually take up a lot more CPU than their 100 meg counterparts. I guess that could manifest itself on a low-end storage PC
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I've posted on the stutter problem in the past and didnt really get a clear answer on network speed and smooth playback. My networking abilities are limet to using the windows networking wizard, so im sure im by no means optimized.
 

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One of the tendencies I see in this forum is to continually creep requirements up as technology advances. People's perceptions of what's lightning fast and what's "dog slow" continue to move adhead with these speed increases. I find that "the bare minimum" setup you will need to do anything stays at about the 60% point of the current performance range.


The true test of what you can get away with IRT a network file server (DVD Media) is to simply copy one of your dvd folders from the server to your HTPC and see how long it takes. Even on the laptop I used for example, the operation only took 15 minutes. In reality, your player only needs to get that data in the ~2hrs or so that it takes to play the movie. Granted, that would definitely have stutters, but you get my point.


That being said, there are still other things that can cause stuttering, and here are some guidelines for preventing it:


On your file server:

1. Run the bare minimum number of applications and services. Win2K and XP load tons of services that are intended to aid remote management that you won't need in this context. Disable the obvious ones. When in doubt, disable them one at a time and verify that you can still connect to the mapped drives or folders. There are also routine maintenance jobs that are set up to run either by default or by the PC vendor. "FindFast.exe" is a utility loaded with MS Office that is (or was) a common culprit, frequently searching and indexing your hard drives. Disable these scheduled jobs and run them yourself manually when you need to.


2. Disable the screen saver or revert the screen saver to "blank screen". You don't want your file server wasting cycles generating 3-D textured pipes 7x 24. I don't even have a monitor connected to mine, anyway.


3. Isolate your main HTPC and File server on the same LAN segment. Put any other PCs on different ones. If you're still using a hub, give it the toss and buy a switch.


4. Check your power-saver settings. This is a tricky one and is PC-specific. You don't want to have your drives spinning full speed 7x24x365, but you also don't want them going to sleep in the middle of a movie (not likely, but possible). Though I've heard that even some of the best drives out there can't stay awake through "The Aviator". :D


5. NIC card problems can be tough to troubleshoot, especially if "some" traffic is getting through. At todays prices, when in doubt, give the old card a toss.


6. Not that it's a likely culprit, but I thought I'd mention it. Multicast packets reduce most switches to hubs. That is, if a multicast packet makes it into your LAN, it's going to every port on the switch unless you've got IGMP routing or multicast filtering enabled. Apps like NetMeeting and some of the streaming media apps use multicast packets FWIK.


There are a thousand other network tweaks you could try to eliminate any possible interruptions in the data flow and to maximize throughput, but my guess is that you won't need them.


I'd be interested to hear other folk's experiences. I know, maybe we can have a contest to see who can get the CRAPPIEST old PC to be a reliable media server. :p


Bob
 

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Good advice in general, Bob. However, if you've got MS Office running on your file server, that's probably the first place to start... :)


I also think that segmenting your LAN is complete overkill. We're not talking hundreds or even dozens of machines receiving the broadcasted packets. The complexity and cost involved in setting up the router is probably much better spent just upgrading to gig-E. I currently am running a Win2003 server on a Celeron 1.3 w/394 MB of RAM and it works great (two gigabit NICs in it, just because I happen to have them).
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Wow, I got about 20% of that. It would be great if someone like you, knowledgable about networks could create an ABC's of how to set up an efficient HTPC network.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by miltimj
Good advice in general, Bob. However, if you've got MS Office running on your file server, that's probably the first place to start... :)


.
I agree. However, what happened in my case (and I would guess a LOT of folks cases) is that a venerable older machine that is no longer capable of running the latest and greatest (i.e.: when the kids say "Dad, this computer sucks...") gets relegated to being a file server. Kind of like putting it out to pasture. You may decide to reload the OS (great idea), or be lazy and just remove a bunch of crap and stick it out on the LAN with a bunch of big hard drives. I won't tell you which I did the first time. ;)


As for segmenting the network, I don't know who even bothers to buy hubs any more given the rediculously low price of switches. However, when you've got old unused hardware sitting around... Anyway, I've had entire networks brought to their knees because of a misbehaving NIC. And, I just returned from a job where a customer had some multicast devices on their LAN (sensors feeding a PLC) and the network storms were horrific. They were under the assumption that a typical switch would treat multicast packets the same way as all the others.


From what I've read about increased CPU usage on Gigabit NICs, it would be interesting to see if the increased theoretical bandwidth buys you any more real throughput on a really low-end CPU. Suddenly, I feel the need for a test coming on... Time to trot out that old Pentium 233 that I was planning on converting into a flower box. :D



Bob
 

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Just be sure it has PCI slots... :)


I completely understand about using an old computer as a file server -- I just found it humorous that you're talking about optimizing the server through turning off services, yet it's just an old computer that has a bunch of junk on it (e.g. Office)... :)


Regarding misbehaving NICs and/or multicast-happy apps, I guess I'd rather feel the effects of it and narrow it down to a device or app so I can get rid of it...
 

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I've spent alot of time and effort getting a really quiet PC for my main workstation but for my HTPC and LRPC (Living Room PC) I went with really noisey and really cool and put them downstairs in my rack. Not an option for everyone but the best solution for me....


Wes
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by JPPadula
I wondering if anyone has tried this: I'm considering mounting a large low noise exhaust fan on the back of the case (the cooler master will not accept a large fan internally) and ducting the intake side to draw through the processor heatsink and possibly splitting the intake to pull some air across the vid card as well. I'm thinking that the flow into the processor and vid card will move air through the case and cool the processor and card simultaneously. The duct will be mocked up with foam or balsa and then fiberglassed or vacuum formed from the plug. Imagine something similar to a car airconditioning duct mounted inside the PC. I'm thinking something in the range of a 120mm nexus fan. Any input?
I have a computer with this setup. No cpu fan, just one 80mm fan (with a remote thermal sensor) on the back of the case that is ducted over the CPU cooling fins and sucks the air out of the case. This is on an older computer (Athlon XP 2100). I just used an aluminum dryer vent for the duct. It's pretty quiet. That was my first HTPC attempt but my current HTPC is a PIII 1 gHz with a large heat sink with a 80mm fan running at 5 volts. The power supply fan also runs at 5 volts. It's much quieter (almost silent) than my Athlon system. No ducting on this one because the case was a RCA surround sound receiver in its previous life so no case fans required since the top is all vents.


Chad
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by miltimj
Well, even so, Seagate Barracudas are very quiet. Do you have the option of putting the other drives in a server and accessing the files remotely

(just put a single quiet drive in the HTPC)?
It's really just the Barracuda IVs that are ridiculously quiet. The IIIs and Vs make comparable noise as their peers from other brands. However, if noise is important and you still want a local 3.5"HDD in the machine, there is no better option than a Barracude IV. Unfortunately they are getting scarce.
 
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