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Looking for best way to cool down my HTPC+ system in Silverstone LC17

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November 11, 2009 5:18:45 AM

I have a mid-range HTPC that I built about 2 years ago. I've been slowly adding HDD to the machine, and am starting to run into heat problems. Additionally, the stock vent fans that came with the unit are dying (possibly from constant use at 100%?) and are on being replaced this week. However, after poking around inside my system yet again for a few hours, I was once again reminded with how frustratingly little space I have to work with. I've decided that I need to either replace my video card with something smaller and possibly cooler, or replace the whole motherboard with a HTPC centric MB that will work with the rest of my existing hardware.

Purchase Timeframe: next few weeks (possibly a Black Friday special if anyone knows of the right gear)

System Usage: 1) Media Center - I usually do playback from HDD, .avi, .mkv and occasionally DVR. 2) File Server - System is usually on 24/7...serving files to my 2 laptops and 1 desktop. 3) XviD Encoding - VOB or DVR-MS files down to .avi. Machine is usually on 24/7.

Hardware in place:
Silverstone LC17 case, w/ PC Power and Cooling S61EPS PSU, (2x80mm SilenX IXP-54-14 fans are on their way to replace the OEM Silverstone fans that are dying)
aBit IP35 Pro, Intel E8400, G.Skill 2x2GB DDR2 800 RAM w/ ARCTIC COOLING FREEZER 7 Pro v2
XFX 7900 GT Video, Avermedia AVerTV Combo PCIe (1x) Dual tuner card
DVD: Lite-On IDE
HDD: 1xWD 36GB Raptor, 2xSeagate 750GB 720RPM, 2xSeagate 500GB 7200RPM, 1xSeagate 160GB 5400RPM
Both the paired drives are in Hardware RAID0, the Raptor is the System drive and the 160 is a temp/swap drive

I think that covers about everything. The first thing I noticed was a fan getting noisy, and finally failing to report to the aBit uGuru software. Then I noticed heat problems on the Raptor and the E8400. For those of you familiar with the case, the HDD enclosures in the front push right up against the motherboard, and the aBit IP35 Pro has the 6 SATA connectors facing outward...its always a pain to get the enclosures in and out..I have to be extremely careful not the break terminals on the HDD or the MB. The Raptor was getting up to 55 and the processor was reaching 76-77 during things like full virus scans. I think I caught it early enough to keep wear/damage to a minimum. I know the tuner card also runs hot...but I'm not sure if it produces much heat since I don't use it that often (1-2x a week for 1hr show). I don't know how to tell if heat issues are affecting the tuner card..or if the tuner card is a major culprit in heat production. Lastly, I'm running Win7 64-bit. I just installed it after the release, but I'm hoping the proximity with my problems is coincidental. With aBit out of business, I suppose its possible that a driver issue might come up. So far, everything seems to run smoothly, I get minimal gripes in Event Viewer and nothing needs my attention in device manager.

I'm hoping the fans will help bring the proper flow to the case, but I decided that a better MB and/or HTPC MB w/ onboard video might help reduce the heat issues further. If one of these doesn't solve the problems, then I will look into high-end fans or case mods. (I suppose an SSD might also really help with the HDD heat issue) 6 SATA ports at a minimum, but would like 7 or 8 so I can finally swap in a SATA CD-Rom and rid myself of the floppy IDE cable. 1 eSATA port at a minimum. I probably won't do Blue-Ray until the drives come down under $50. My amp uses the SPDIF and plays back w/ Dolby Direct, etc for 7.1 surround...so in theory the Video card or MB solution should be able to handle Blue-Ray when the time comes. The TV is 720P, and will probably stay that way for awhile...but 1080 ready would be nice.


So, to recap, I'm looking for a video card, MB, or HTPC MB which will reduce heat and improve flow and HDD connections. I'd like to keep the existing Proc, RAM & PSU. Those familiar with the case would be especially helpful in identifying a MB which would work well when the HDD enclosures are completely full. I would love to put vent fans in front of the HDD (which is possible with this case), but currently cannot move the HDD forward 1 screw hole in the enclosures because I would never be able to plug into the MB SATA ports. I suppose a microATX MB might also work, but then I would probably need an SATA controller card..and it seems like the decent ones cost as much as a MB to get reliable RAID0.

I hope that covers everything. Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.

Edit: Added OS info.
a b B Homebuilt system
November 11, 2009 6:54:41 AM

Do you care about noise from your case fans? Because if not, the first thing I'd try is slapping a couple of Thermaltake Smart Case Fans on, turning them all the way up and seeing if that does the job.

Until you've experienced it firsthand, it's really hard to convey how incredible a pair of these things are at clearing out heat from your system, regardless of what's inside. They can pretty much just blast all the hot air out by brute force if you feel like turning them all the way up. I had a quad core system that was overheating because the case was really not helpful in terms of air flow, but these things just overpowered the problem and I've never had trouble since.

Of course, a 70 CFM fan is also going to be LOUD; it'll be like you're in a server room. That's why I love these fans -- if you don't need the full 70 CFM, you can turn them down and probably end up with something that gives you the best of both worlds.

Anyway, that's a lot cheaper and less of a pain in the ass than disassembling and reassembling your whole system for a new case/mobo, and reinstalling WIndows if you get a new mobo. So a badass case fan is always what I'd always try first, purely because I'm cheap and lazy.
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November 11, 2009 4:22:03 PM

capt_taco said:
Do you care about noise from your case fans? Because if not, the first thing I'd try is slapping a couple of Thermaltake Smart Case Fans on, turning them all the way up and seeing if that does the job.


While I'm not too worried about running silent, too much noise would probably spoil the the HTPC experience. I'll keep the Thermaltake fans in mind for my desktop PC...I'm thinking about taking up some PC gaming again.


So, I found a couple of MB which might fit the bill...but am unsure if they will improve the heat situation or not:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128358

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128372

Also, there was a discount on a fanless video card, but I'm uncertain if passive cooling means I'll have more heat issues to deal with or if the card was actually manufactured to produce less heat in the first place:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814121344


I've been looking through threads, but seem to come across mostly AMD suggestions OR a great article that was written 2 years ago about equipment no longer sold :ouch: 
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November 11, 2009 5:19:07 PM




I came across this board before, but passed it over because of not enough SATA ports. However, it might be time to revisit that since a smaller board would definitely help out on the space issues and no video card would give me good access to the HDD. I'll have to research the SATA controller cards...but I'm guessing those would be cooler than video.

I've used ASUS before without problem, but I generally avoid buying products from Newegg with less than 70% 4+5 egg ratings. I'm curious if the lack of supply at 3 e-tailers means they product is winding down or flying off the shelves.


Thanks, obsidian86 :) 

Any other input from Silverstone LC17 case owners?
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a b B Homebuilt system
November 11, 2009 5:50:05 PM

Sorry, completely glossed over the home theater usage, so obviously having a hurricane-force fan isn't going to be acceptable, duh.

OK, first thing is that it looks like the middle HDD case and the graphics card are basically creating a wall right down the middle of your case blocking airflow. Your idea about a lower-profile (or just a shorter) graphics card might help that, but no telling if it'll solve everything.

Before you do that, though, try a PCI slot cooler like this one. Try installing it on the other side of the graphics card, and who knows, it could blow all the stagnant air right out of the case and magically fix the problem for $6.99. On the other hand, since you've got a backward-flowing PSU, they might just work against each other and solve nothing. First thing I'd try, though.

If you weren't using all the HDD bays, I'd say take out the middle one and that ought to do wonders to improve your airflow. But one fix could be to consolidate the riot of hard drives you've got going ... a pair of 1.5TB drives like these is cheap enough to be competitive with the cost of a new motherboard, and using just them plus the raptor would let you get rid of the middle drive bay while actually increasing your storage.

I don't think a new motherboard is going to particularly help with airflow issues, since virtually all of them are going to have the major components in the same place. It might make the SATA connections a little easier, but it's up to you whether it's worth the trouble.
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November 11, 2009 7:04:05 PM

obsidian86 said:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

something similar with more sata ports



I think that it would be perfect, except that I'm relying on the optical S/PDIF. I guess I should tweak my original post to mention that. I've never heard of Zotac..but it looks like they might have a few other boards to peruse...thanks for the suggestion.
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November 11, 2009 7:25:36 PM

capt_taco said:
Your idea about a lower-profile (or just a shorter) graphics card might help that, but no telling if it'll solve everything.

Before you do that, though, try a PCI slot cooler like this one.

If you weren't using all the HDD bays, I'd say take out the middle one and that ought to do wonders to improve your airflow. But one fix could be to consolidate the riot of hard drives you've got going ... a pair of 1.5TB drives like these is cheap enough to be competitive with the cost of a new motherboard, and using just them plus the raptor would let you get rid of the middle drive bay while actually increasing your storage.

I don't think a new motherboard is going to particularly help with airflow issues, since virtually all of them are going to have the major components in the same place. It might make the SATA connections a little easier, but it's up to you whether it's worth the trouble.


I ordered one of those PCI slot coolers with the new 80mm fans. :D  I had similar thoughts on the video card "wall" preventing good air flow. That Zotac board Obsidian pointed out was almost a perfect solution if it weren't for the lacking of optical S/PDIF.

Since I'm a glutton for storage space, I don't think I'll ever be able to use less than all 6 HDD slots. Going forward, i'll replace drives with "green" 5400RPM drives...but until something pukes....I can't justify replacing a good pair. I think that getting the fans in front of the HDDs will help the raptor out the most. Since I will need a new MB to accomplish that (SATA ports on the IP35 Pro are just in the wrong position) it seems like a replacement MB is a must. I'll try to find one with the on-board video to reduce heat even more...but barring that, I think the correct mATX or ATX board with better SATA port connections will give me the best shot at getting proper ventilation.

Thanks for all the help.

Once I get the rear vent fans in place, I'll see how bad the HDD temps get. Then I'll proceed from there. I'll keep poking around MBs in the meantime...cause I think I may always be dealing with heat issues from the HDDs until I get proper fans in front of them.
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a b B Homebuilt system
November 11, 2009 8:13:42 PM

MGHolley said:
Since I'm a glutton for storage space, I don't think I'll ever be able to use less than all 6 HDD slots. Going forward, i'll replace drives with "green" 5400RPM drives...but until something pukes....I can't justify replacing a good pair. I think that getting the fans in front of the HDDs will help the raptor out the most. Since I will need a new MB to accomplish that (SATA ports on the IP35 Pro are just in the wrong position) it seems like a replacement MB is a must. I'll try to find one with the on-board video to reduce heat even more...but barring that, I think the correct mATX or ATX board with better SATA port connections will give me the best shot at getting proper ventilation.


I don't want to sound like I'm harping on the hard drive issue ... but the way your HDD bays are, if you removed just the very bottom right hard drive, would that open up enough free space in front of the SATA plugs? If so, you could just replace one HDD with a big one and still come out ahead.

I'm just throwing these ideas out there because nothing, in my experience, is as much of a pain in the a** to replace as a motherboard is. I just don't like going through the whole mess of reinstalling the OS, and then something inevitably doesn't work for no good reason, etc... but if you're up for the challenge, then yeah, a new board is going to be better for your SATA cable headache.

Also, with the Zotac board -- don't they make (small) SPDIF output cards as well? Or is onboard a must in your case?
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November 11, 2009 10:52:43 PM

capt_taco said:
I don't want to sound like I'm harping on the hard drive issue ... but the way your HDD bays are, if you removed just the very bottom right hard drive, would that open up enough free space in front of the SATA plugs? If so, you could just replace one HDD with a big one and still come out ahead.

I'm just throwing these ideas out there because nothing, in my experience, is as much of a pain in the a** to replace as a motherboard is. I just don't like going through the whole mess of reinstalling the OS, and then something inevitably doesn't work for no good reason, etc... but if you're up for the challenge, then yeah, a new board is going to be better for your SATA cable headache.

Also, with the Zotac board -- don't they make (small) SPDIF output cards as well? Or is onboard a must in your case?


I don't think S/PDIF onboard is a requirement...I've relied on MB based sound cards for quite a few years, but I'm sure a 3rd party option is possible. Right now they look pricey if I want optical out. ($50 or more)

It's hard to explain the HDD issue. There is space under the enclosure cage, but you have to have the extra room to slide it into place. This is where the sideways facing SATA ports of the IP35 Pro become really inconvenient...because the cables have to stick out a bit to wrap around. I almost miss the ribbon cables of IDE at this point, b/c they could bend around tight spaces more easily than SATA cables. That, or figure out some way to secure the HDD w/o having the screw them into the enclosures. That way I could stop having to slide them in and out. Even better, I suppose, would be a way to rotate the HDD 90 degrees and slide down into the case.

If I lived near a Fry's, it would make it real easy to muck around with different configurations to see what would fit...but without any B&M stores around that have more than just basic accessories. I'm not an overclocker, so I haven't had to worry about temp issues before. However, I'm sure I need to do this right or I'll start losing other components besides case fans.

Many people have enjoyed the IP35 Pro board, but with aBit out of business, some part of me thinks that I will ultimately have to replace the MB in another year or so. I probably should have done a little better research on the right MB for this case in the first place, instead of looking for the best value Core2Duo board at the time.

I think I will take a few photos, so that it will be easier to explain the problem.
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November 17, 2009 8:35:28 PM

OK, got some of the case fans back in and running. By rearranging the drives, I was able to get the two busiest. (Raptor and the temp/swap drive) into the one enclosure that doesn't bump up against the MB SATA ports. I was able to get a fan into that enclosure, and I think It's really helping out.


Tested temps using CoreTemp & HD Tune. (SpeedFan won't work on my system for some reason) So far, the hottest the CPU has gotten while running Prime95 for about 1 day was 55C. The low temp at idle is 40C. The hottest the HDD have gotten was 44C for the Raptor and 41C for one of the 7200RPM drives. They Idle at 35C and 31C respectively.

The best part is, I've got the machine on a mild OC. FSB is set to 400 for a frequency of approx 3600MHz.

The better fans should be here tomorrow. They will push just a little more air and hopefully be a little quieter.

Do those sound like good temps? I'm going to get a thermometer to test calibrate inside the case tomorrow and make sure nothing is lying to me.

Thanks again for the help capt_taco and Obsidian86
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