Posted on July 31, 2003
The CuAl, or the amPC, or the Silent Server.
My mission, should I
choose to accept it was to build a silent web server. The
reasons were simple: I didn't want to pay someone to host
a site I could host myself and
I wanted to be able to sleep without
noisy fans keeping me awake.
The server that I was using was already very quiet, the small PSU had a quiet 60mm fan and I had replaced the cpu fan with a Papst fan that one retailer described as "it literally produces no sound whatsoever". Well I am not Clark Kent, and I do not have super-hearing, and I can still hear it, even running at 7v... even now, if you listen carefully, on a moonlit night, you can still hear it wailing in my room :) So I decided that I had to have a machine without any fans and thought I would plump for the ME6000. That was until I read that the Nehemiah performance gains don't merely benefit media players, and decided that that performance gain and the challenge of building a passive heatsink were worth the extra £20. As for the case of the machine, I was at a bit of a loss. Then I had a look around our garage and found an old Cambridge Audio A4 amp that I had blown up a couple of years ago, with some nice big heatsinks and corresponding vents already in it :)
The plan was to get the CPU as close as possible to the heatsinks and then get the heat over to them somehow. I looked at heat pipes, which is what The Hush uses, but they looked a bit complicated to build, and it seemed that pre-built ones would be difficult to shape without breaking (I am still interested though, if anyone can help me with this I would love to hear from you). So the other obvious option was to cut a thick sheet of a good conductor (I hear copper is cheaper than silver :) and clamp it to the CPU and heatsinks. Looking at pictures of the motherboard showed that the CPU was, usefully, placed very close to one edge of the board. Obviously I would need to use plenty of heat transfer gunk and I'd also been advised that I would need to isolate the CPU from heatsink.
I thought I probably wouldn't use any of the buttons on the front panel, as I didn't want anyone accidentally switching off my server.
The Amp in its original, somewhat dusty, state...
...and the innards, note the lovely big aluminum heatsinks, and the empty PCB on the left, for the optional phono stage, which I thought was probably just about a perfect size for a hard disk to sit on.
The case minus the main board and heatsinks.
The case with the heatsinks.