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side panel ---> cooling disaster

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April 14, 2007 4:36:36 AM

Note: If you want to cut to the chase, start below the graph.

Hi. My name is Rev, and I have a cooling problem.

Everybody: Hi, Rev.

I guess it all started about nine months ago, but it seems like only yesterday... I was the proud new owner of a 3D Aurora chassis from Gigabyte. Ah, what a sight it was to behold! How the light danced on its smooth, black aluminium skin... How the soft blue glow of its fans beckoned even least-savvied among us to bathe in its subtle radiance... And, oh, the side panel! The beautifully transparent side panel! How it provided each witness with a glimpse into the PC's soul!

Yes, the case had it all -- it was stylish without sacrificing a shred of functionality, it was an air-moving monster with one 120mm intake fan in the front and two 120mm exhaust fans in the rear, and the plastic-windowed side panel kept fan noise in and dust out. I couldn't have been happier with my purchase.

I assembled all my components in their new home, including my D805, which was essentially a place holder until the release of the mighty Conroe. Pairing it with a Zalman 9500, I had little trouble of hitting a stable overclock of 3.75GHz.

For months, I never once concerned myself with the temperature of the chip. Perhaps I was brash, or reckless, or both. After all, I had a CPU I didn’t intend to keep for long and a case designed to keep parts cool. If everything was running stable, why should I concern myself with something so, seemingly, trifling as temperature?

Fast forward nine months… I’ve since traded in my D805 for an E6600. Since December, I’ve been satisfied with my moderate 20% overclock (2880MHz), but now I wish to push the envelope. Unlike my 805 before it, I do actually care about the lifespan of my 6600, so I recently installed Speedfan to keep track of temps.

Alarmingly, (now with a 25% OC, i.e., 3GHz), I found temperatures to be at 40C idling, and hitting 65C under load. My initial thought was, how could this be happening?! My cooler and case are much too reputable to allow a 3GHz-1.2V-65nm part to hit that range.

I thought perhaps my heatsink was not properly seated, but with the help of my fellow forumzers, I discovered, much to my dismay, that my beautiful Aurora was to blame!

The clear plastic side panel window, the one that kept fan noise from reaching my ears, dust from reaching my components, and displayed geek eye candy to the masses, was also severely restricting my airflow. You see, the 3D Aurora was originally designed with an aluminum mesh side panel window which would provide the two rear fans with plenty of cool air to suck into the case. The front intake fan alone, which is obstructed by hard drives, simply can’t meet the air demands of the case.

Here’s a shot of Speedfan’s temp graph at each stage of the game:



(Note: Though the green line is labled ‘CPU,’ the red and gray lines are the temps of each core… I have no idea what ‘CPU’ is actually measuring…)

The leftmost plateau is the temp when under 100% load with the side panel closed (approx. 65C). The next plateau is after the side panel is removed while the 100% load is maintained (approx. 51C). As you can see the change is pretty remarkable once the case innards are allowed to breathe properly. When load is removed, temps hit the floor, bottoming out at 25C. (Not bad considering ambient temp is 21C!) And finally, you see idle temps climb back up to 37C when the side panel is replaced.

Ok, so after all these months, I can finally admit I have a cooling problem. But I really do want to change! I want to get better.

I’ve decided that I can deal with a little noise and dust if it means my cpu will stay 12-14C cooler. I want to replace my gorgeous clear plastic window with an efficient, albeit less attractive, aluminum mesh panel. However, I’ve scoured the internets, including Gigabyte’s website, looking for someone who sells the mesh alone, but my efforts have been fruitless.

I guess this is a ridiculously long post considering I really only have one question… I hope you’ve stayed with me... Here it is:

Does anyone know where I can get one of these mesh windows for this case?

I guess worst case scenario I would have to try to make one myself... and, trust me, nobody wants that.

Thanks,
Rev
April 14, 2007 4:44:19 AM

I have eleven (11) 120 mm fans in my case. Try an 80mm to 120mm fan adapter and swap out as many smaller fans as possible for the larger, more effieient 120mm fan variety.
April 14, 2007 4:46:55 AM

Thanks for the relpy, but I'm not sure what you mean as all of my case fans are 120mm. Are you suggesting I add 8 more 120mm fans? I have no idea where they would all go...
Related resources
April 14, 2007 4:48:57 AM

Quote:
First of all cut the story telling and just get straight to the point. I'm sorry but it's just too long to read through. If you want help and want some good resposes then you need to shorten the post. Just hit that little edit button and cut it down the the important stuff.


Fair enough.
April 14, 2007 4:55:26 AM

The air flow should be front intake with rear exhaust (preferably 120 mm fans). Side fan should be intake, top fan should be exhaust. The Zalman is great, be sure it blows air to the back of the case. I have used these in a pinch to cool the center of my case. This has an extension arm with a 90 mm fan which extends out to the center of your case over the CPU:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

One other thought. Your OC is high. I'm sure that has something to do with it.
April 14, 2007 5:10:29 AM

Thanks -- I do try to keep a pretty clean case. Cables stay tucked away in unused drive bays for the most part. I do feel like the 2 exhaust fans should be more than enough and my real problem is not enough cool air is coming into the case through the partially obstucted intake fan... Drilling holes in the plastic is an option, I suppose, though that would be a last resort.
April 14, 2007 5:15:44 AM

get a jig for a drill, cut a nice round hole in the side window so you can stick a 80mm fan on the inside of it then drill 4 smaller holes for screws, works a charm.
April 14, 2007 5:22:04 AM

Quote:
Thanks -- I do try to keep a pretty clean case. Cables stay tucked away in unused drive bays for the most part. I do feel like the 2 exhaust fans should be more than enough and my real problem is not enough cool air is coming into the case through the partially obstucted intake fan... Drilling holes in the plastic is an option, I suppose, though that would be a last resort.

Actually, drilling holes in the plastic panel sounds like a great idea. Just cover the panel with protective masking tape. Draw your holes pattern on it with a marker. Drill the holes and then remove the tape. Sounds like a fun project and you could design any patten you want.
April 14, 2007 7:09:38 PM

Until you get this squared away, just leave the side panel off. I'm serious. A lot of hardcore overclockers swear by having an open case, and it's true that you have to have some pretty serious side cooling to improve upon the temperatures you'll get from just taking off the side.

Also, can you move your hard drives out of the way of the intake fan? Unless they're Raptors in RAID you probably don't need them that cool.
a c 145 ) Power supply
April 14, 2007 8:34:29 PM

I once added a side fan to an Antec super-lanboy. It's easy.
Buy a 120mm fan of a suitable speed, and a fan filter kit.
1) Put masking tape over the desired area. (both sides to prevent scratching and cracks)
2) Mark the outline of a circle using a cd. It's just the right size for a 120mm fan. (double check me on this)
3) Mark where the mounting holes go.
4) Drill a 1/4 or 1/2 inch pilot hole in the center.
5) Using a sabre saw, start at the pilot hole, cut out the circle. It doesn't have to be exact or too even.
6) Drill the 4 holes for the fan.
7) Smooth out the burrs with a file, and remove the masking tape
8) Mount the 120mm fan, preferably using stainless steel nuts and bolts, and the filter holder.
9 ) Attaching the filter and holder will cover up any messy hole cutting.
10) You may need a longer fan header to reach a power point and still be able to open the side.
-------------------------------------------------------------------
Also, You might try a slot cooler below the vga card/s. My case temps dropped nicely with a 8800gts when I installed one. The idea is to get the hot air from the vga card out of the case, instead of letting it recirculate.
April 14, 2007 9:24:06 PM

The very first thing I do with EVERY new case is remove any fan guard covering the exit fans.
This is good for up to a 70% boost in exit airflow if the fan guard is ANY type of perferated metal.

I know what your thinking "thats not up to 70% less metal removed!"...I don't want to get into the math and dynamics of airflow but that is what it can work out to.
EDITED: It has more to do with non-exited air disrupting the flow than the size of the holes.

On cases that I can't just unscrew the guards like on a CM Stacker (TO-1)....I use a tool called a nibbler.

Your best air cooling also has to do with "proper" air flow and that is simply to move the air in ONE dirrect path in and out without any turns.
A side fan defeats this by swirling the hot air around inside the air flow...and newer GFX cards now often use up two slots so they can blow the hot air out the back dirrctly.

Un-used front slots can have the covers replaced with those made of wire mesh to aid in that "one path" concept if your case is not already made that way.

If you really want a mesh side pnl rather than plastic....visit the hardware store and spend about $4-7.
a b ) Power supply
April 14, 2007 9:59:51 PM

I agree with ZOldDude. Get all of your fans blowing in the same direction (if possible, I don't know what your case is like). I have only 1 120MM in the front (in), 1 80 MM in the side that has a duct to blow directly on the CPU fan (I have Ultra/Zalman 120MM CPU cooler that is mushroom shaped, so this works extremely well), 1 80MM in the back (out), and 1 120MM in the PSU (out). This keeps my FX-60 (OC'ed to 2.8GHz) at upper 20's idle and 45C max (both cores running full). Normal game temps are in the low-mid 30's. If you have a side fan w/o a duct or a rear fan blowing in, it merely slows/disrupts airflow. I have two hard drives infront of my 120MM front fan, and I can feel cool air from it all the way back by the graphics cards, so they shouldn't be an issue.
April 15, 2007 12:47:20 AM

I appreciate all the suggestions, but I still don't know what to do... I don't really have the means to pull off any sort of case mod. So in absence of finding a mesh side fitting for this particular case, maybe I should just consider removing the side panel during cpu-intensive tasks...
April 15, 2007 8:59:03 PM

have you given any thought to investing in a water cooling kit? one that comes with all necessary hardware? it may be a fun project if your willing to do the research and invest the time.
April 16, 2007 1:33:05 AM

I've certainly read up plenty on the all-parts-included watercooling packages from Gigabyte and Koolance and some others. In the past I've considered taking the plunge, though I always decided I wasn't quite ready to make that sort of $$$/time commitment. Plus, I feel like a cool 3.4GHz overclock should be achievable with my Zalman, given I have proper airflow.

Seems like it would be fun, though.
April 16, 2007 3:05:44 AM

Good point.
April 16, 2007 3:51:08 AM

if your not ready for the time/money/commitment to cool your cpu farther then it doesn't sound like your truly serious or concerned about it.
April 16, 2007 4:17:57 AM

Quote:
If you're not ready for the time/money/commitment to cool your cpu farther, then it doesn't sound like you're truly serious or concerned about it.


Interesting take, though I think one can be serious about finding an easy, cheap solution. We're not all made of money and spare time.

I've been running my machine with the side panel off the case ever since I discovered this problem, so, I assure you, I am concerned.

I'll reiterate that my original question was, 'does anyone know if gigabyte sells the mesh window separately, and if so, where can I find it?'
April 16, 2007 5:58:57 AM

I was going to do a post on this problem myself and possible ways of fixing it. It appears to be a vacuum effect caused by too much exhaust and too little intake. Sure it has lots of big fans, but the front intake fan is blocked by the hard drive cage and hard drives themselves, so little air enters the case to replace the air being sucked out. Its a fundamental flaw in the design of the case. It only affects the one with the perspex side panel AFAIK. I am not sure about the newer model of the case, I will have to look at its design.
April 16, 2007 5:59:49 AM

Ha... type 'gigabyte side mesh panel' and go to the first link...

Yeah, google was actually my first stop ("I’ve scoured the internets, including Gigabyte’s website, looking for someone who sells the mesh alone, but my efforts have been fruitless."). What's interesting is that they seem to sell the side panel with the clear window seperately, but not the mesh window.
April 17, 2007 12:20:34 AM

There isnt much space to suck air in by default thats the problem. Thats why having the side panel only open by a few centimetres makes a huge temp drop. It happened for my dad and the OP, both with the same cpu and case and similar temps. Its a shame, coz its such a nice looking case.
April 17, 2007 7:47:47 PM

I haven't seen the Aurora 3D in person, so I am basing my advice on pictures from Newegg, caveat lector.

I think what was happening was that your Zalman 9500 was sucking its intake air through the side panel grill. Now it's trying to use the air that comes through what looks like a very restricted intake.

Here's some low tech, low tool, low cost stuff to try.

1. Pull and clean any filter on the intake fan.
2. What does that black plastic box in the drive bay do? Try rearranging your drives and cables to maximize airflow through the drive bay (unblock the fan if blocked). It looks to me like a drive in the topmost and bottommost slots would give you a nice channel through the middle.
3. Try building a cardboard air duct to direct air from the intake fan and drive bay area to your Zalman 9500.
4. You could just buy some screen door mesh from you local hardware store. That plus some sheet metal screw and you'll get out for about five bucks. You can cut the mesh with scissors so you don't have to buy shears.
5. Slightly tricky, but cheap and no new tools:
Turn one of the back side exhaust fans around so it blows on your CPU cooler. (This should be the fan that has the straightest shot at the cooler.) Turn your cooler around so it's not fighting the fan. Add a cardboard baffle between the two exhaust fans so the air doesn't take the shortcut and miss the CPU cooler.
April 18, 2007 12:21:10 AM

I don't know why I didn't try this earlier, but I simply removed the intake fan filter (after already trying cleaning it). It doesn't result in the same level of temp drops as taking the side panel off, but, man, it does make quite a difference!

Check out these temps:



These plateaus are the same as those in my original speedfan fig (i.e., from left to right, load--panel-on, load--panel-off, idle--panel-off, idle--panel-on).

About a 7C drop at load -- not bad!

So that's a step in the right direction, at least.
April 18, 2007 3:12:01 PM

Great.

Is the path through the drive bay reasonably open?

Try the cardboard duct. Some of your input air is getting heated by the other components in the chassis. Some of it is also getting stolen by the exhaust fans before it cools your CPU.

You could also get yourself an input fan with higher pressure so you can put the filter back on.
April 18, 2007 3:44:30 PM

I'll post a pic of the intake/drive bay area when I get home tonight. There is some obstruction from cables, but it's pretty unavoidable given the mobo layout.

I hesitate to try to rig some sort of duct from my intake fan directly to the cpu cooler. I realize the air is getting heated up from some of the other components before it gets to the cpu, but I also need to keep those other components reasonably cooled. In some cases, the only active cooling they receive is from that intake fan.
April 18, 2007 9:49:46 PM

Cooling your system is a matter of making sure that each component gets exactly what it needs. Extra air on the Northbridge does no good if the CPU is glowing red.

A lot of the air from your intake fan is hugging the edge of the chassis and going straight to the exhaust fans without hitting anything. The duct could just direct the toward the CPU area of the mobo.

You are not going to overheat any component with a little rational experimentation with airflow.

Other ducting experiments to try:
1. Make sure the PSU fan is not stealing air from the CPU cooler intake. Just drop a baffle from the PSU to the front of the CPU cooler.

2. Try making the exhaust fans suck all their air from the CPU cooler. (This could get a little complicated with the Zalman as it exhausts out its circumference. You would have to build a little hood around it.)

Good luck in any case.
April 19, 2007 1:44:33 AM

Whats the temp drop with fan filter out and side panel off? Just interested. Shouldnt make much more of a difference, thanks to the law of diminishing returns.
April 19, 2007 1:52:14 AM

Quote:
Whats the temp drop with fan filter out and side panel off? Just interested. Shouldnt make much more of a difference, thanks to the law of diminishing returns.


You should be able to see that in the above pic, right?
April 19, 2007 2:02:33 AM

Oops didnt read the explanation under it, thought that was referring to just removing the fan filter. Always miss the obvious...
April 19, 2007 2:22:51 AM

Sorry, my fault -- that was a bit confusing.
April 19, 2007 2:40:49 AM

As promised, here is a pic of the internal drive bay cabling situation:



The intake fan is right behind those drives. I regret that there are cables obstructing the air flow (especially the ribbon cable going from the X-Fi to its external drive bay), unfortunately there isn't really anything I can do about it.

Here's another pic -- zoomed out a bit:



As you can see, the rest of the interior is fairly obstruction-free.
April 19, 2007 2:45:45 AM

Quote:
As promised, here is a pic of the internal drive bay cabling situation:



The intake fan is right behind those drives. I regret that there are cables obstructing the air flow (especially the ribbon cable going from the X-Fi to its external drive bay), unfortunately there isn't really anything I can do about it.

Thats the problem right there. My dad didnt have so many cables, but its more the drive bay and HDDs themselves that are the issue. Its easy to see how most of the air is blocked, causing the vacuum effect in the case.

EDIT: The fan filter doesnt help either, blocks even more air.
April 19, 2007 2:59:55 AM

Well at least the removing the fan filter experiment assured me that there is actually some air being pulled through the interior. One might think that having the side panel on would ensure air gets pulled though the interior because where else would it be able to go? For whatever reason, this isn't translating into the most effective cooling strategy.
April 19, 2007 3:02:30 AM

And yet they go on about the great cooling capabilities of the case in every review.

EDIT: And I have to say, your cable management looks real nice compare to mine (shove it anywhere strategy).
a c 145 ) Power supply
April 19, 2007 4:21:30 AM

If you replace the front fan with one of a much higher cfm rating, such as this: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
(There might also be some others out there that have even more output)
You will draw in some of that badly needed cold air, and make it do the work of two. These fans will spin at higher rpm and will be louder, so you might also want a fan controller like the Zalman fanmate to slow it down if there is too much noise.
---good luck---
April 19, 2007 5:37:55 AM

But slowing it will defeat the purpose of a higher rpm. The fan itself is not the problem, its whats in the way of the airflow thats the problem.
April 19, 2007 3:14:57 PM

OK, it's pretty clear now.

The intake fan is providing most of its (already obstructed) airflow to your two graphics cards.

Here's some easy zero cost stuff:

Move those disc drives as far as you can from the fan. They seem to be sitting right in the middle of the cage. Move them to the outer slots.

There is a little tiny gap between your graphics cards and the HDD cage. Get every wire you can out of there.

Here's something more complicated but still free:
(I've said this before, but now I very strongly recommend it.)
Take your bottom exhaust fan and turn it around so it blows in. Turn your CPU cooler around so it's not fighting the new intake. Put a piece of cardboard between the fans. It should be as deep as your case and reach all the way to the CPU cooler. This will prevent the air from taking a short cut and avoiding the cooler. You could also make a cardboard hood or baffle for the outside of the machine to prevent a short circuit or the exhaust air.

Technically speaking, you have too many goezouttas (PSU, GPU 1, GPU 2, exhaust fan 1, exhaust fan2) and not enough goezintas (front fan). Change one of the goezouttas to a goezinta.
April 19, 2007 3:35:27 PM

Quote:
Technically speaking, you have too many goezouttas (PSU, GPU 1, GPU 2, exhaust fan 1, exhaust fan2) and not enough goezintas (front fan). Change one of the goezouttas to a goezinta.


Finally, someone who puts it in language I can understand!

Seriously though, thanks for the suggestions. I'll fiddle around with it some and see what improvements I can make.
April 20, 2007 1:10:04 AM

Whack in a low-speed fan on the side panel and it will help alot. You may want to get some of that fan-filter foam stuff that they use for cheap fan filters to catch dust tho.
a c 145 ) Power supply
April 20, 2007 3:22:52 PM

That is a nice looking case, you really need to find a way to make it work. The wiring looks neat also. Unfortunately, as others have said, there is not enough input air volume to match the output fan capacity. In addition to the disruption of air caused by the HDD drives, the case mounting bracket has only small vents and also disrupts air flow. This is one of the few cases I have seen that has TWO 120mm output fans on the back; that's good. Your test with the side panel off proves that air flow is the problem. What can be done?
1) As I posted earlier, try a high cfm fan to replace the input fan. It will help, and might even be acceptable, but I don't think it will adequately solve the problem.
2) You could use some of the unused external drive bays to install additional intake capacity. If the case front doors do not have ventilation capability when closed, you will just have to leave them open under heavy use. You could use the scythe KAMA bay cooler http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
or something similar.
3) The case stands on legs which would allow air to enter a bottom mounted intake fan. This case mod would be the ideal solution in the end. You should remove all components before doing this to avoid the possibility of metal shavings contaminating them. A side fan mod is much easier.
P.S. Can you tell me how to post pics like you did? I would like to post an example of a side intake mod.
April 20, 2007 4:21:44 PM

Yeah, I certainly need to boost my intake in some way or another, and thanks for the suggestions. I'd like to just swap out the front fan for a more powerful one and see what that can do, though noise levels are somewhat of a concern.

Oh, and to post pics, just hook yourself up with a free photobucket account. Upload the pics, paste the image url in your message body, and you're done.
April 20, 2007 5:03:57 PM

You are certainly free to buy a beefier input fan, but I really think you can save money and noise by rearranging the fans you have.

Turning the CPU cooler around may be more than you want to do so try this simple experiment (if it doesn't work I'll by you a beer next time I'm in Texas):

Turn the TOP exhaust fan around and add a cardboard baffle between the two fans to the CPU cooler. (This is not as good as my previous suggestion because the fan will be pushing against the Zalman exhause somewhat and the PSU intake will steal some of the air.)
April 20, 2007 5:11:56 PM

Well, I'm heading out of town this weekend, but I'll give this a shot when I get back next week. It's an interesting idea, and if it works, I'll have to come up with a more long-term and less fugly alternative to cardboard.

If it doesn't work, I'll take a Shiner Bock or a Lone Star. Looks like a win-win situation for me.
April 20, 2007 5:32:52 PM

Quote:
Well you can find some standard mesh and cut it to fit. Or go to your local hardware store and buy some vynal or aluminam mesh like what you have in you window at home and use that.

http://www.frozencpu.com/cat/l3/g1/c12/s450/list/p1/Cas...


Thats basicly what I told him to do if he really wants the side sceened. It is as simple as removing the rivets that hold the plastic in place and using 20 cents worth of nuts and bolts to hold the $4 pc of expanded metal or plastic.

In any event the exit fan covers on the case should be removed!
April 20, 2007 5:58:47 PM

Look at your photo:


Remove the exit fan grill covers (up to 70% better air flow) and replace the front bays that are INLINE with the Ram/Chipset/CPU and exit fan with meshed covers (they sell them on the net).

Test it first by just removing the front bay covers that are inline and you will see what I have been saying all this time.

I use a Coolermaster cases with the exit grill removed and Thermalright SI-120 HS and my Optron 146's with a 950Mhz OC's run only 2C over room temps.

I doubt that a costly watercooling system could drop my CPU temps any lower than proper airflow and HS.
April 20, 2007 6:05:26 PM

Sounds good -- I'll have to try that too.
April 20, 2007 6:17:59 PM

Popping open the front panel is a great idea, but the case has a door. Perhaps there is air entry under or around the door that is not apparent in the pictures.
April 20, 2007 6:29:25 PM

Quote:
Popping open the front panel is a great idea, but the case has a door. Perhaps there is air entry under or around the door that is not apparent in the pictures.


Yeah, I thought about that, but then realized that about 85% of the time I'm using the machine with the door open anyway (so I can plug my headphones into the X-Fi I/O panel).
!