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Cooling a PC inside a cabinet

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June 18, 2012 10:05:10 PM

Hi all,

I'm not sure whether I'm asking this question in the correct forum, as I won't be overclocking my new chip, but since this is a cooling forum, I will give it a shot. :) 

I'm upgrading my processor, mobo, case and cooling tomorrow, once the remainder of the parts are delivered. I went with an i7 3770k, a MSI Z77MA-G45 mobo, Arctic Silver paste, Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo heatsink, 7 case fans and a Corsair Carbide 400R case. I'm planning to place 2 intake fans on the front and 2 on the side, then 2 exaust fans on the top (in addition to the exhaust fan on the back.)

Despite the fact that I'm not overclocking, I'm an avid daily gamer, so I do have some degree of concern about PC temps. With my current desk, I've always kept my case, which is a mini-tower case without side or top fans, inside the desk cabinet with the door closed. Please note that the back of the cabinet is completely open. This seems to have worked decently, plus it really keeps our home office looking sharp and clean.

Well, today about half of my Newegg order arrived, including the case. The 400R is a mid-tower case, so it's substantially larger than my old case. While it does fit in my cabinet, it only leaves about an inch clearance between the top of the cabinet and the bottom of the drawer above the cabinet, where I'll have two exhaust fans. This means that those two fans will be blowing directly onto the bottom of a drawer. To remedy this, I was considering taking the bottom of the drawer out (which, due to the way the desk is assembled, is pretty easy) thus making the drawer space part of the cabinet. This will give around six inches of extra clearance for the top exhaust fans. The back is still fully open, and the rear exhaust fan will be about six inches from the wall. The tower will be slid all the way to the right side of the cabinet so that the left side intake fans will have a good amount of open space. The cabinet stays closed most of the time, though, so the front intake fans will be pulling mostly from inside the cabinet, I guess.

So I guess that my question is whether this is an acceptable setup? Will the top exhaust fans need the extra space that I am planning on giving them? Will the PC be alright inside the cabinet, even with the door closed? If it is completely necessary, I can place the tower beside the desk; however, I would much prefer to keep it in the cabinet, should that not cause any heat issues.

Thanks so much for any advice!

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a c 100 K Overclocking
June 18, 2012 10:37:58 PM

Well, it will definitely be warmer than not being in a cabinet.

The biggest issue I see is that the only place air can get into the case is from the back, where all the warm air goes. I'm sure there's some openings around the cabinet door, so there would be some cool air coming in there, but mostly it will have a lot of trouble getting cooler air.

Is that a problem? Probably not.

Possible remedy? Cut/drill out holes in the cabinet, near the side intake and near the front (if not on the door itself, on the side but close to the front).

As for the exhaust fans, the drawer will reduce cooling efficiency but it can probably stay.
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June 18, 2012 11:07:04 PM

Thanks so much!

I mentioned this to my husband, who wasn't too hot on the idea of drilling holes into the side nor the cabinet of the brand new desks that he just spent forever assembling. (They are similar in design to our old desks in terms of the PC cabinet, except that the old desks did not have a drawer above the cabinet.) I also mentioned that we could just take the door off the cabinet altogether, which would eliminate the need to set the tower on the floor next to the desk, but he didn't care for that idea either.

I guess that all I can do is to try it inside the cabinet, and monitor temps. I'll have to do some research to figure out what a reasonably cool (good) temp is for a 3770k and a GeForce 560 Ti--unless anyone knows?

If the cabinet gets too hot, I suppose I'll have no choice but to place it beside the desk. My hope is that without overclocking I won't need to, though I'm not sure how it will work out.
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a c 324 K Overclocking
June 19, 2012 2:45:35 PM

I think you'll be fine as long as the rear of the cabinet remains completely open; removing the top drawer as you mentioned will help with the top exhaust fans as well. (Just built a 400R for my brother, very nice case). Yes, the front/intake fans will be pulling from inside the cabinet but you should be OK. One thing you could consider is buying a cheap desk fan to blow into the back of the cabinet to help circulate the warm air out and push cooler air in. The back of the case being open will definitely help and adding a $10 desk fan (or even one of those ones with the spring clip mount) would be enough to assist with the rest of the cabinet being closed.
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a c 324 K Overclocking
June 19, 2012 8:34:56 PM

Nice find, wolfram! I forgot about this section @ FrozenCPU...
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June 19, 2012 11:48:28 PM

If you do decide to cut a hole in the cabinet, maybe you should add a variable speed USB fan to exhaust the hot air. I did this with a very expensive desk where I added a grill to the outside and installed the fan inside the desk at the top. It has effectively cool my server to around 37C, which is 3 degrees higher than out side the case.

Here is the one I used: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


Ceara said:
Thanks so much!

I mentioned this to my husband, who wasn't too hot on the idea of drilling holes into the side nor the cabinet of the brand new desks that he just spent forever assembling. (They are similar in design to our old desks in terms of the PC cabinet, except that the old desks did not have a drawer above the cabinet.) I also mentioned that we could just take the door off the cabinet altogether, which would eliminate the need to set the tower on the floor next to the desk, but he didn't care for that idea either.

I guess that all I can do is to try it inside the cabinet, and monitor temps. I'll have to do some research to figure out what a reasonably cool (good) temp is for a 3770k and a GeForce 560 Ti--unless anyone knows?

If the cabinet gets too hot, I suppose I'll have no choice but to place it beside the desk. My hope is that without overclocking I won't need to, though I'm not sure how it will work out.


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June 30, 2012 8:31:27 PM

Hi all!

You were all so helpful that I'm having a hard time selecting a best answer. Every reply had great advice in it, so thanks to each of you for that!

After some persuading, I found a compromise that was good for both of us. I cut a hole in the door using a jigsaw, then used some laminate molding that I found at Home Depot to frame it (since the cut edges of the door were a little uneven, and also unfinished looking due to seeing the particleboard underneath the laminate). The laminate on the molding doesn't match the desk, but since we only had a hacksaw and a mitre box to cut the molding, we went with the flimsy laminate vs. real wood. It also saved some work in staining. In spite of not matching, it turned out decent!

I just used some leftover screen from our patio for the door. Currently, it's just stuck to the back of the door with painter's tape, but what I'd like to do soon is to make a track on the backside of the door and get a sturdier piece of screen to slide down into the track. That way, I can take it out and wash it when it gets dusty.

While it's certainly not perfect, but it DOES get cool air into the cabinet, so I am very happy about that! With the front cut-out and the completely open back, it's not too bad at all. The temp is fairly similar to what I was getting with the door off. This particular CPU runs a little warm to begin with, but that's a different story altogether.

(Also, I finally realized that I had been brain farting and mis-typing the case model for who-knows-how-long. It's actually a 300r, but you get the idea!)

Here is a pic (from a cell phone, so please excuse the poor quality). Note that the bottom of the drawer above the cabinet has been removed, so the entire vertical space up to the desk surface belongs to the PC.


...now if only I could make a convincing argument for cutting a vent in the left side of the cabinet, where there are additional intakes, lol! Then again, I should probably just leave it alone. ;) 
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June 30, 2012 8:34:40 PM

Best answer selected by Ceara.
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a c 100 K Overclocking
July 1, 2012 12:55:40 AM

That looks really awesome! Good job.
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