Tag Archives: system build

Cooler Master HAF32 Case

System Build: Home Server

When I started looking at a Home Server replacement back in October the plan was to get some new hardware and transition to it when Vail was released. Then Vail was gutted when when Microsoft removed drive extender and it became just another OS with nothing unique, at least not for me. Luckily this system build is flexible and I have options. In it short life it’s already run Windows Home Server Vail and Ubuntu 10.04.1.

The Parts List

Case: COOLER MASTER HAF 932 RC-932-KKN1-GP $130 (although it’s currently on sale with an additional rebate). I talk about the case here.

Power Supply: Corsair Professional Series Gold High Performance 850-Watt Power Supply CMPSU-850AX for $180 which I wrote about here.

Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-P55-USB3 LGA $103.50 (currently down to $95)

CPU: Intel Core i3-530 $114 (now down to $100)

RAM: Two sets of G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600) Model F3-10600CL8D-4GBHK for a total of 8GB at $160 (and now way down to $90)

I wrote about the motherboard/cpu/ram choice here.

Drive Cages: I write about by trials and tribulations looking for a drive cage, preferably one that was hot swappable. I ended up going with the Cooler Master 4 in 3 cage at $20.

To hold the two 2.5” drives in one 3.5” bay I went with a Connectland CL-HD-MRDU25S Removable Enclosure 3.5-Inch for Two 2.5-Inch SATA Hard Disks for $32. This is open above the drives to it the drives can breath a little more than my first choice which wrapped the drive in metal.

Hard Drives: Most of the hard drives would be ones I already had, but I did but two Western Digital Scorpio Black WD3200BEKT 320GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache 2.5″ SATA 3.0Gb/s Internal Notebook Hard Drive -Bare Drive at $60 each. I’d be using these mirrored for the operating system.

Video: The motherboard doesn’t have onboard video. The spare card I have has a noisy fan, so I picked up the cheapest fan less video card I could find on Newegg which was MSI N8400GS-D512H GeForce 8400 GS which was $30. Eventually the server would be headless, but I decided I would have the video connected for awhile while I was testing, a didn’t want the noise from the card I usually use. So far I haven’t needed to use anything but the built-in Windows and Linux drives.

NIC: Intel PWLA8391GT 10/ 100/ 1000Mbps PCI PRO/1000 GT Desktop Adapter at $30. I generally dislike on-board NICs and find the Intel’s to be rock-solid.

Fans: The CoolerMaster case has a lot of fans. But with all the hard drives in there I decided to replace the top 230mm fan with three Scythe S-FLEX SFF21F 120mm Case Fans at $15 each. The intent here is to pull more heat out the top of the case.

Fan Controller: I picked the Scythe KM02-BK 5.25″ Bay Fan Controller to handle 4 of the 7 fans. Motherboard connections could handle the rest.

SATA Controller: The hardest decision was to spend $325 on the 3ware 9650SE-4LPML 256MB PCI Express to SATA II RAID Controller for the additional SATA ports I needed. Rather than go low cost to add 4 ports I decided to go with a quality controller that can do real RAID, even though Windows Home Server does it’s own file duplication. This should also give me many years of use.

This wasn’t exactly a budget build, costing me over $1,200. (Not including the drives I already had) A quarter of that was the added RAID controller which was the biggest single opportunity to save. But I looked for quality parts that would server me for a long time and into future builds or years of upgrades.

The Build

The build was fairly straightforward except for the problems with finding drive cages. The end result was the lowest cost, simplest solution. Since the internal drives wouldn’t be hot swappable I not concerned about that loss. Replacing drives in the 4-in-3 is a pain, needing to remove the entire cage to get at the drives.

This was my first build using a full size case and it was great. No problems with space or getting at the components. Also plenty of room to run cables and keep them out of the air flow.

The only BIOS settings I needed to change was to enable AHCI for all drives (really only needed for the OS mirror which are hot swappable but I use it exclusively now) and to set the memory timings since they weren’t standard.

Vail Install

The Vail installation went fine. The two 2.5” drives were configured for RAID in the BIOS (using the Gigabyte controller that had only two SATA ports) so Vail just saw the drive. I’ve never really trusted the RAID provided by motherboards but this seemed to work find for the time I ran Vail. Performance was fine. I’d break the RAID by removing a disk or pulling a cable and the rebuild went without a hitch. I was also able to boot using just one of the drives and rebuild the mirror.

Ubuntu 10.04 Server Install

Since Vail has a questionable future in my house I decided to install Ubuntu server on the box to see if I could use it as my home server. Some research shows Linux is sketchy with the fake RAID provided by motherboards (or cheap controllers) I went entirely with the software RAID provided by Ubuntu. The two 2.5” drives still have the OS mirrored. Mixing controllers in a RAID scares me so I did RAID 5 for the 6 drives on the Intel controller and another RAID 5 array for the 3Ware controller drives.

Ubuntu Server 10.04.1 x64 had all the drivers I needed cooked into the install DVD. I didn’t need to download or add any drivers. I’m not using a GUI, just the console so video is simple. The on-board and 3ware drive controllers were seen just fine and seem to be performing well. Copying from my PC to the new server is faster than copying to the old Windows Home Server but I haven’t done any benchmarking.

All the drives are 2 TB drives but I do have a mixture of manufacturers. The 4 drives on the 3Ware are all the same since I had 4 Hitachi’s. Although I noticed one had a different BIOS. The Intel has two each of Hitachi, Samsung and Western Digital.

I’ve only been running Ubuntu a few hours but so far it’s going well.

Conclusion

I’m really happy with the build, which is a problem since I’m impatient. Performance has been considerably better than my current Windows Home Servers, both for Vail and for Samba on Ubuntu.

My plan was to wait until Vail and use that time to research some home media solutions while I waited. I had already started using Vail for my easier to move shares because it worked so well. Ubuntu also seems to be working well but I’m not far enough along to know it’s my permanent solution.

I could move Windows Home Server v1 over to the box but if I do that there will be another big move in a year or so since WHS v1 end-of-life’s in January 2013. It’s easiest enough to copy files from one box to another. But if I need to replace/upgrade my production home server I’d need to find storage for all those files and that could be a problem.

So we’ll see. I liking the hardware so I foresee the move starting in the next few days (I have several days vacation so it’s a good time). If I was smart I’d install Windows Home Server v1 and use that for the next year. I’m probably not that smart and will keep Ubuntu and move it in to replace my current Windows Home Server. In theory a Linux box is more flexible, but that flexibility comes at the cost of complexity.

So, do you think Ubuntu would be a good home server choice or will I crash and burn, reverting back to Windows Home Server V1?

Links: PC Monitoring, Benchmarking & Testing

Having just built a new Windows Home Server and doing some PC upgrades I’ve updated and refreshed my PC monitoring utilities and resources. These are links for tools and sites I find useful.

CoreTemp – Displays information about the CPU, down to the per core level in most cases. As the name implies, it’s primary purpose is to display and monitor the CPU temperature. Can display a notification or shut down the machine if the CPU reaches a predefined temperature. Check the Add Ons page for a Windows gadget and more.

AMD Utilities – System utilities and drives for AMD cpu’s and gpu’s.

ATTO Disk Benchmark Utility – I like this for benchmarking hard drives.

CPUID – makes of CPU-Z (cpu/memory/graphics info and more), HW Monitor (displays temp, power and other hardware info), PCWizard (more system information), PerfMonitor and TMonitor.

CPU-Tweaker and MemSet – two utilities for changing CPU or memory settings. I haven’t used these yet but have put them aside for future explorations.

GLINT – System activity monitor. I’m not a fan of the interface but there’s no installation required.

GPU-Z – Video Card/GPU information utility

HDTune – Hard Disk for benchmarking and monitoring. I use the free version (which is different than the trial for HD Tune Pro).

Hitachi Hard Drive Utilities – If you have a Hitachi hard drive you’ll probably want at least one download from this page.

Iometer Project – interesting open source software that I’ve yet to explore.

MemTest86 – Stand alone memory test for x86 architecture computers.

PassMark Software sells software for benchmarking and system testing. They do have som free utilities available for download. Their website also has numerous benchmarking charts and comparisons collected from people running their software on real systems. Useful for seeing how that component I’m about to buy stacks up against it’s competitors.

Prime95 – Commonly used to stress test a system.

Process Explorer – From Microsoft but written by Mark Russinovich of SysInternals fame. Displays a multitude of information about running processes.

SpeedFan – Monitors voltages, temperatures and fan speeds in systems with the necessary sensors.

The following links are to commercial software although there are limited use trial versions available.

Lavalys Everest is a benchmarking and system analysis program. It’s not free but there is a eval version. Also see the next entry for AIDA64.

AIDA64 is a benchmarking and system analysis program I came across recently. It’s not free but there is a limited eval version that I’ll be checking out. Aida was started by some of the same people who created Everest. This software is newer than Lavalys Everest and seems better supported at this time.

SiSoftware – maker of SiSoftware Sandra – System Analyzer,  Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant.

I find the following sites useful:

AnandTech – Hardware news, test and reviews.

JohnnyGuru – I used this site primarily for power supply info, but they also review other PC components.

Thermaltake Power Supply Calculator – there are others, but this is the one I use when I need to size a power supply.

Tom’s Hardware – Hardware news, tests and reviews

Any utilities or sites that I missed or that you’d recommend? Leave a comment. I’ll also update this list if I come across any new links of interest.

Random Access - System Builds category tile

PC System Build: Does Future Proofing Matter?

Random Access - System Builds category tileAfter upgrading my hard drive to an SSD drive and seeing the performance boost I was eager to on with my next planned system upgrade and replace the video card. Unfortunately my mini-ATX motherboard wasn’t going to handle a full-size video card due to the the SATA ports being too close to the card slots. So I’d need a new motherboard before proceeding. Since I was planning some major upgrades by year end it didn’t make sense to get a motherboard for the same CPU and go through all that work for a couple of months. So it was time to accelerate the upgrades.

This got me considering designing for future proofing. I put together my current build just under 2 years ago. The core i7’s were just out and if I wanted to future proof my PC by going with the LGA 1366 socket (the 1156 was available then) I would have paid a significant premium. I also question if I’d be upgrading just the processors, assuming I future proofed the motherboard. So this time around I’ll document my thinking and look back in a couple years to see how right (or wrong) I was.

What’s the PC For?

The first thing to decide in any build is what I’ll be doing on the PC. So between what I currently use it for and what I want to use it for, this was my list:

  • General PC stuff like web surfing, some browser based apps and general office applications. Pretty much anything I get will handle this.
  • Virtual Machines: I’ve tried setting up VMs on a remote “server” but it hasn’t worked well for me. It’s not that it didn’t work technically, it just wasn’t compatible with the way I like to work. I like having them all available on the same keyboard and screen in front of me at one desk. This will probably be the most resource intensive task I run on this PC. I’ll also want to be sure the CPU supports virtualization technology within the cpu.
  • Light photo editing and management: Nothing as intensive as Photoshop. Although it’s possible this could change in the next couple of years.
  • Multiple monitors: I currently have one window’s monitor on my desk (along with a Mac monitor). It will be awhile but I do want to add a second Windows monitor to the mix. I’d be going multi-monitor rather than a large single monitor.
  • Video encoding and playback: This will also be CPU intensive, especially the encoding.
  • Most of the above could be happening at the same time with many apps or browser windows open.
  • Hardware tinkering/overclocking: This isn’t something I’ve done, sticking to stock settings for their stability. While I still want my primary PC to be stable, all my data is server based and my Dell laptop meets my basic daily needs. So I could stand to be out a PC while I do a restore or figure out a problem.
  • I’m not a gamer. I may install one or two but I don’t need the ultimate game machine.

Basic Future Proofing

This time around I wanted to stick with quality component parts that would last several years and several builds.  So the case and power supply I picked should last 10 years or until the technology changes. I got the same power supply and case as I used on my Windows Home Server build so I knew I was getting quality. Being a full tower case it not only had plenty of room to work, but also plenty of room to expand.

Picking the Brains & Nervous System

That was the easy part, the hard part was next. Picking the CPU. I started off figuring I’d pick a Intel i7 but questioned that assumption early on. I started looking at AMD alternatives as I had a couple small AMD builds picked for their low cost. AMD’s rep was still one of a budget friendly CPU.

Among the Intel vs. AMD comments I found around the web were those that indicated an AMD chip was more “future proof” than Intel since AMD maintained more socket compatibility as it released chips. While this sounds good I completely discounted it from my consideration. Even if the new i7’s were socket compatible with my motherboard I wouldn’t upgrade since there’s been to many other changes.

On the other hand if I could upgrade the motherboard with one compatible with my current CPU and I’d be able to upgrade some technology (SATA III/USB III) and still be able to upgrade the cpu at a later time. This makes a bit more sense in theory, but I see the CPU and motherboard as hooked for life. I’m more likely to move them to another PC when the time comes for an upgrade. (My current motherboard & cpu will live on as a pretty beefy test box.)

So while others may upgrade cpu’s or motherboards independently it wasn’t something I’d be likely to do. So future socket compatibility wouldn’t be a consideration for me. Well, maybe if all else was completely equal and I needed a tie breaker, but it’s unlikely.

I looked at the high-end AMD Athlon II x6. My thinking was the six cores will help with the virtual machines and provide better performance running multiple apps. A six core Intel CPU is over three times the cost so that’s not even a consideration for me. A comparably priced i7-860 or i7-870 generally get better benchmark results in the reviews I read and seems better with apps that won’t use all the cores. And these days, most apps don’t use multiple cores. The AMD is also an “Black” edition which provides more overclocking options.

I ended up going with the AMD Phenom II X6 1090T Black Editionalt. I figured the additional cores would benefit me more than benchmark scores. If I was looking for the  most power for a single app or game I’d probably be better off with an Intel. I think the AMD hexa-core will give me better performance for my needs, or at least not noticeably worse. Plus the AMD seems like it will be more fun to play with.

In theory the next gen AMD cheap is supposed to support the AM3 socket, at least in early versions. If it does and I want to upgrade the CPU (and the mobo mfg updates the BIOS to support it) then great, but it didn’t factor into my decision. My bet would be the next cpu and motherboard upgrade happen at the same time.

As for the motherboard to go with it, I’ll want at least one SATA III port for my existing SSD which is SATA II compatible. If a board has one SATA III then it has at least 2, providing some future expansion. I’ll also look for a external USB 3 port or two for when USB 3 devices start to appear. The standard for USB 3 header on the motherboard is to new for them to actually exist so that’s not a requirement.

I’ve had good luck with both Gigabyte and MSI motherboards and have liked them. That’s not guarantee these days but it’s where I started my search. I picked the MSI 890FXA-GD70 motherboardalt. It was a bit more expensive than a Gigabyte version but it has an extra PCI Express x16 slot and supports overclocking higher speed memory. I may never need the slot or overclock the memory so I may be paying for future proof insurance I’ll never use. The MSI board also seems better organized to handle longer video cards, with the SATA ports being lower on the board.

I’ve had a bit of buyer’s remorse since I clicked the buy button. But I should have them in hand soon and may feel better once I get them installed. The main thing gnawing at me is the performance. Logically I think I bought the best combo for my needs, but since I won’t be getting the Intel counterpart I’ll never really know for sure. The bottom line is benchmarks don’t matter so as long as it runs fast when I use it I’ll be happy. If I see all those cores in use at peak times I’ll have made the right decision. If I see cores still sleeping then I probably should have gone with better performance per core.

Halloween Tile

The OS Quest Trail Log #55: Scary Edition

Halloween PictureOctober comes to a close here in the States (and a few other countries) things have been moving along on the quest. There was a new OS, but after installing Ubuntu 10.10 to VirtualBox I haven’t used it very much. Instead I’ve spent most of my time working on my system builds.

Windows Hone Server Vail

I’ve done a little testing with Vail (Windows Home Server Version 2 beta), more like kicking the tires rather than full blown test drive. I’ve had a few minor issues but it seems pretty solid even though it’s beta.

I also put together most of the new Windows Home Server build this past week. As I wrote about a couple days ago, I’m struggling to find the right way to populate the drives in the 5.25” drive bays.

I got the SNT hard removable hard drive kit. Considering the low cost it actually seems pretty good. It’s mostly plastic and while I wouldn’t want to subject it to abuse, it seems able to handle normal wear and tear.  But I’ve decided not to go with these.

Instead I’ll stick with the Cooler Master 4 in 3 cagealt. It won’t allow me to remove the drives from outside the case, but my real issue was with the hassle of getting the drives out when they needed to be replaced. There’s plenty of room in the HAF 32 full size case so this is less of an issue. Yea, I’ll still have to pop out the entire cage in order to swap one drive but that’s an incentive to use quality drives. I like the way the fan blows across all the drives but even that has a negative by requiring the entire cage to be removed to clean the filter. The biggest plus is that this is a $20 item compared to at least $50 for other solutions.

I still need to get a SATA controller to handle the 4 drives that the on-board SATA ports can’t handle. It hasn’t been a big priority since the drives aren’t in the server yet. But now that I’ve got that sorted out it’s time to buy a controller.

I wrote about my case selection, cpu/motherboard RAM choice and power supply in earlier articles.

PC Upgrades

Working on the Windows Home Server build got me in the system building spirit so I went ahead and started the upgrades to my primary Windows 7 PC. My plan was to do it in stages, a little at a time.

I started by upgrading the hard drive to a SSD drive. I wanted to get a drive capable of a SATA III (6Gb/s) connection. Since I couldn’t handle that yet it also needed to be SATA II compatible. That left just the Crucial SSDs to chose from. My existing system drive was a 150GB that was less than 1/2 full without doing anything to conserve space. Despite that, I ended up getting the C300 256 GBalt as several reviews had it performing better than it’s smaller siblings. This put a significant dent it my upgrade budget but I decided to go with it. Only time will tell if it was a good decision. No doubt prices will drop but as long as it can serve as my primary drive for a couple years I’ll be happy.

Since I was going to be doing the work on the hard drive I decided to make future upgrades easier by replacing the case. I liked it so much for the WHS build that I bought another Cooler Master HAF 932 case. The one I got is at the bottom of the HAF 932 line. It has the main features of the higher models but lacks some of the refinements such as a painted interior. I found the case easy to work with so decided to stick with it.

I’m more hesitant to move a mother board from one case to another than I am to build a new system. No good reason really, just seems like tempting fate to pull apart a working system. But the move when well and the SSD drive was easy to install. Setting the SATA controller to AHCI is pretty much mandatory for SSD drives in order to get TRIM support. I already had AHCI enable so I probably could have done a backup & restore but I chose to do a complete re-install of Windows 7. It seemed like a good opportunity to get rid of all the accumulated crude.

I keep all my data on my Windows Home Server or in DropBox so there wasn’t any real data to restore. Configuring the apps was tedious but went without a hitch. As expected Windows and application startup is fast but I haven’t used the PC enough to get a feel for any improvement. I did run benchmarks before the drive swap, but I’ve yet to run them after the swap.

I probably should have avoided upgrading the case since that caused my system build addiction kicked in. My micro-ATX motherboard looked so small and lonely in the full size case. My next upgrade was to be to the video card, but in looking at my motherboard my options were limited. Not because of the slots, but because most full length video card were too big, wanting the real estate already used by the SATA ports. I didn’t want to limit my video options do to the space.

Being the impatient type, I’m poised to order the motherboard/cpu/ram upgrades for the PC along with the video card. So except for the Blu-Ray/DVD drive that won’t be replaced, it will be a new PC. Well, I’m re-using two hard drives but only as secondary storage. I’m looking to switch to AMD to get more bang for the buck. I’ll probably order them early this week so I’ll have them for next weekend.

Media Changes?

I’ve been looking for alternative methods to manage and use my video library. I currently use iTunes from both Music and Video. I’m not a big fan of the bloatware that is iTunes. In general I like that Apple makes things easy to use but I’m afraid they’ll move iTunes in directions I don’t like (Ping). I’ll keep my music in iTunes. I like iPods and my iPad which pretty much means I need to stay in iTunes to use them. Playlists are easy to use and work well with the way I listen to music so I’m happy on the music side of things.

The video side of things is a different story. While I have bought some video from the iTunes store it’s a rare occurrence. Most of the video is from my own DVD collection. I like that iTunes keeps track of what I watch and when, but that’s about all I like. I’d call the rest of it fair to annoying.

I’m looking at a HTPC or Mac Mini to connect to my TV to play video from my library. With Vail and the new server build I’ll have more disk space available, giving me more flexibility. I’m one of the few still using an old style tube TV so there’s no rush to upgrade, but I’ll want better quality videos when the TV is updated to a flat panel. So I’ve begun looking for alternatives to iTunes.

The Month Ahead

I’ll be looking to finish my PC upgrade in early November. I’m looking at hardware that’s overclocking friendly as that’s something I haven’t done a lot of, and nothing within the last few years. So I’m looking forward to doing some experimenting.

I should also get the Windows Home Server build sorted out. But then there’s the question of what to do with that new, shiny hardware. I haven’t seen any Vail related announcements. Since Windows Home Server is something Microsoft wants to sell through OEMs as an appliance I suspect it will be after CES (which is in January) before I see a final product. I was hoping (wishing) November but it’s too late for the OEMs to hype them before Christmas.

I don’t want to put my 5+ GB of data on a server running beta software. There won’t be an in place upgrade for WHS from version 1 to version 2. Version 1 is 32-bit and version 2 is 64-bit and Microsoft has never done a 32-bit to 64-bit upgrade. Windows Home Server is primarily a OEM appliance so I doubt Microsoft sees much reason to create an in place upgrade. Right now the “upgrade” for me is easy, do an over the network file copy from the old server to the new one. Everything is data so there aren’t any settings to lose. If I put Windows Home Server version 1 on my new hardware to take advantage of it I’ll have to restore from backups or first copy to another server and then copy it back after the upgrade. I expect my impatience and desire to run the new hardware will have me risk running beta software in a production environment, or install version 1 and expect a more time consuming upgrade to version 2.

That’s it for this edition of the Trail Log.

AntecEasySATA_tile

WHS System Build: Drive Cage Tribulations

Antec EasySATA dockI have most of the parts in house for my WHS System build and I started putting things together and testing Windows Home Server V2 (Vail). I talked about the the case I picked and plans to try out the EasySATA docks. The good news is I ordered the docks from Amazon and as I said in article about my case choice:

Amazon also has a better return policy (and no restocking fee) so if I open the first one and it doesn’t meet my needs I should be able to return them without a problem.

The Antec EasySataalt isn’t a bad dock. I liked it, but it wouldn’t work for me. Even though it’s a fairly open design I was still concerned about heat once 5 of these were stacked in the case. Now, I knew that when I ordered them but I didn’t go far enough to know how well they handled heat.

The bigger problem I had with them is that the drive stuck out quit a bit. To far for me to cover them with a face plate or door. And if I did rig something it might keep in the heat. So I did keep the one I opened for use in my test PC where I’ll want to swap drives. But the rest went back.

So I hit the web again to do some research. I still wanted something where the drive could be removed externally. I don’t specifically need hot-swapping for my Windows Home Server, but the reality is anything I get will at least claim to support hot swapping. So I decided to include some X in Y type cages. For example, a cage that stuff four 3.5” hard drives into three 5.25” bays (or 3 in 2 or 5 in 4).

XClio SS035Here’s where I made a stupid mistake. It was stupid because I knew of the problem but didn’t check for it this time. I ordered a XClio SS035 5 x 3.5″ HDD in 3 x 5.25″ Cage from Newegg. It crams five 3.5” drives into three 5.25” bays by putting the drives on their side. I arrived yesterday. It’s well made and seems solid. It’s got a fan to cool the drives (in theory). But I won’t be installing it.

The problem? My case, like many (most?) cases includes little metal brackets that stick out to support what’s in the 5.25” bay. The cage has completely smooth sides that can’t handle the bracket. I’m not willing to molest the case by removing or bending the brackets. So this isn’t suitable for my Windows Home Server. It’s clear from the pictures that it won’t fit.

So after some more searching I ordered one SNT SNT-125B Black 3.5″ SATA Hard drive to 5.25″ Bay SATA Mobile Rack Removable Hard drive kit from Newegg. It’s cheap and if it doesn’t work for me I’ll still find a use for it. If it works I’ll order 4 more. It’s got a fan which should help in cooling. Reviews are good, considering the low price. It’s currently winging it’s way from the other coast and isn’t due to arrive until next week so the jury is still out.

Cooler Master 4 in 3 drive cageI’m also reconsidering the whole hot swap/externally accessible requirement. The case is big so there’s lots of room inside. I use the Cooler Master 4 in 3 cage in my current WHS so I may move it over to this new server and use it. It holds 4 drives with a fan that ventilates from the outside, unlike other units with a fan that would be inside the case. Also, it’s one fan will probably be quieter than 5 fans if I go with the xxx. While there are certainly other multi-drive hot swap bays out there this has the benefit of not costing me any more money.

Looking inside my Cooler Master HAF 932 there appear to be plenty of room to remove drives from the internal cage without anything on the motherboard getting in the way. This eliminates my main concern with drives that can only be accessed internally. After all, I already accepted 5 internal drives since they are easy to access.

So the Xclio SS035 will go back to Newegg and I’ll have to pay the restocking fee.  Early on I had excluded some cages because of this very reason, but I got stupid at the last moment. I can’t see using this in the near future so I might as well get some of my money back.

Turn Down the Heat

iStarUSA-BPU-2535The iStarUSA BPU-2535V2 1 x 3.5″ to 2 x 2.5″ SATA I/II Hot-Swap Drive Cage I’m using to hold the two 2.5” drives seems to be working well. I’ve been testing the drives in a mirrored configuration which means that I’ve been unable to read the SMART data (at least with the software I have and the chipset combos I have on the mobo). That is until I got to a higher end controller that I wanted to test.

By the time I got the software installed and got around to checking I saw the temperature was at 61 degrees (Celsius). This was for drives with a 60 degree operating temperature ceiling. The drives had been running for a long time building the mirror so there was a reason to run warmer than idle, but not good. I closed up the case to improve airflow and the temp cam down about 7 degrees. Acceptable, but sill to warm.

I picked the Western Digital Scorpios because of their reputation of being quieter and cooler than typical laptop drives. After sitting at idle overnight with just minimal activity from the OS the temp was 40 degrees. A full 8 degrees warmer than the next warmest drive in the system but much more acceptable.

So I’m looking for a cage that includes a fan. At this point all I find are bays that allow 4 drives which would work for me. I’m still debating whether I want to go the mirrored laptop drive route for the OS, but if I do I’ll need to do something about the heat.

Lessons Learned

Ordering the Asus EasySATA wasn’t such a bad idea. It cost me a little time but no money. The Xclio was a different story. I’m out about $25 (with shipping & restocking) and nothing to show. The lesson learned here is research! research! research! and remember the caveats. I had earlier excluded cages for this very reason, yet never considered it for this one.

It’s always the simple things. All the high tech stuff was fine. The drives work, the motherboard, memory and CPU work well together. It’s the little pieces of sheet metal that got me.