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To Rack or Not To Rack?

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April 18, 2011 5:28:34 PM

I am building a $7k workstation this summer. I have considered the idea of utilizing a rack mount solution for my new equipment.

What I would put on the rack:

PC- ATX-Full Tower. This would need to be a tray solution since this isn't a RU form factor
UPC - 1U
8 port switch - 1U
Modem, Wireless router, External HDDs. This will also be on a tray solution, but with a 1U overhead.

Future additions:
Preamp - 1U
Wireless Mic receivers - 1U


Ok so there are a few reasons why I am considering a rack mount solution:

1 - Clear off space from my desk area. Make it look nice and clean. I'd bundle all the AV/Keyboard/Mice cables in a nice mesh tubing to my desk. So all I'd have are my monitors, keyboard, and a mouse on my desk.

2 - Dust management. This is a big one, I want to move my computer from out of under my desk, but I can't put it on my desk since I'm already putting 4 monitors up there. If I choose a rack mount solution, should I put the PC higher or lower on the stack?

3 - Air flow. Along with better dust management, I think a rack mount will provide better air flow for cooling. Is this true?

4 - Scalability. I'd like to be able to migrate my electronics all together and rack mounts are very scalable for a cheap price.

Anyways does anyone know the best way to build a rack mount cage, and maybe a not wildly expensive way.
Should I put the PC higher or lower on the cage?
Is it a better solution for air flow and dust management?

I'm completely open to any responses. This just may be a dumb idea haha.

More about : rack rack

April 18, 2011 7:37:43 PM

Everything you said makes sense, so if that is what you want, go for it. But one issue that jumps out is the amount of noise. When you try to squeeze everything that would usually be inside a larger case into a 1U chassis, heat and noise become the biggest problem (after the fact that you have fitted everything inside). The amount of heat that need to be removed from the case can only be done via VERY high-speed 40mm fans which are INCREDIBLY LOUD! Just keep that in mind.
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April 18, 2011 7:48:06 PM

onetaker said:
Everything you said makes sense, so if that is what you want, go for it. But one issue that jumps out is the amount of noise. When you try to squeeze everything that would usually be inside a larger case into a 1U chassis, heat and noise become the biggest problem (after the fact that you have fitted everything inside). The amount of heat that need to be removed from the case can only be done via VERY high-speed 40mm fans which are INCREDIBLY LOUD! Just keep that in mind.


I think you may have misread my post. I am not putting my components in a rackmount case. What I am doing is putting the case on a rack mount tray on the rack itself (like this: http://bit.ly/hxy78g). The rig I'm building won't fit in any rack mount case. (EVGA SR-2 HPTX, 7PCIe cards, 6 HDDs, 5 5.25 front slots) My unit will be water cooled, so it will actually be practically silent.
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April 19, 2011 12:23:26 AM

My bad. Didn't catch the part where you said "This would need to be a tray solution since this isn't a RU form factor". I am trying to visualize how everything will look like once it's done. Where are you planning to put this rack at? Den? Study? or a dedicated tech room?? Wouldn't think a rack mount cabinet would blend in well into a household room.
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April 19, 2011 2:07:56 AM

onetaker said:
My bad. Didn't catch the part where you said "This would need to be a tray solution since this isn't a RU form factor". I am trying to visualize how everything will look like once it's done. Where are you planning to put this rack at? Den? Study? or a dedicated tech room?? Wouldn't think a rack mount cabinet would blend in well into a household room.


I certainly wouldn't. It will be in my office, which I'm legally separating from my house for tax reasons. I'd imagine a rack mount would make it look even more official to IRS auditors haha. I have a space next to my desk were I can include a rack mount solution. My only major drawback to it is that there is a nice audio controller and a CF card reader in the front 5.25 ports. I'd ideally like to have access to those at arms' length, but 3 feet further away wouldn't be the end of the world.

Now if I could get the external 5.25 enclosure from this case separately (or build one): http://bit.ly/hE8teK and connect it with some 3 ft SATA cables, and station it on my desk. I'd have zero reservations on the rack mount solution.

Anyone know of any external enclosures that are for 5.25 drives?
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a b ) Power supply
April 19, 2011 2:12:11 AM

rip apart an old USB CD Drive...
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April 19, 2011 2:26:00 AM

shovenose said:
rip apart an old USB CD Drive...


Easier said than done, 99% of external cdrom drives aren't in casings, but rather goofy shell designs that wouldn't house a 5.25 drive in it.
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a b ) Power supply
April 19, 2011 4:59:34 AM

that works too :-)
seems you have an unlimited supply of money, so I will stop trying to help you save money :p 
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April 19, 2011 6:46:43 AM

I've read your post several times over and I don't think that you'll ultimately be pleased with this solution. Tower cases are much better suited for cooling due to their vertical nature. Rackmount computer equipment is almost always designed for being put in a noisy, NOISY datacenter and is generally overpriced. Because most of your equipment will be on shelves, you lose any stability benefit of a rackmount setup. You'll basically be buying an overpriced set of metal shelves, and piling a bunch of stuff on them that will slide around easily. Even if you find a way to mitigate that, it probably won't look all that snazzy. As far as migration/portability, once you get this all put together it'll be very heavy AND not all bolted together, so it seems unlikely that you'll be moving it around as a unit even if you get a wheeled rack.

If you really, REALLY want it all in a rack, ditch the shelf idea and get your PC a 3U or even 4U chassis so at least it's physically stable and looks proper. Then get a smallish 1U case and start drilling screw holes in the bottom so you can attach your cable modem to the inside. You can do the same with your router, but better yet get yourself a dual-nic mini-itx board, a picoPSU and a laptop HDD, and set yourself up a PFSense router on that. You should also be able to fit an 8-port gige switch inside there with the ports facing outward at the opening normally reserved for the motherboard's I/O shield. Or if you want them front-facing use the CD-ROM opening. This way you've got all your networking corralled inside one little box. Cable coax goes in, 8 routed GigE lan ports come out. This saves you the wasted cash of buying an expensive and unnecessarily bulky rackmount switch, and you never again have to deal with chintzy consumer grade routers. If you need wireless, stick your wireless router behind your monitors or some other location because it's not going to work as well buried in a metal rack. For the rack itself, try to find a wheeled rack that feels very stable and has lockable wheels.

As far as dust management, I don't think this will make much of a difference, dust is everywhere. Adding a dust filter might help but I've never owned one so I can't say. Either way that dust has to go somewhere and you're going to have to deal with it. I definitely feel what you're saying about the dust/desk space issues and I too am searching for a better solution to replace my old tower case.
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April 19, 2011 6:53:01 AM

Actually, I like my idea about the 1U modem/router/switch box so much I might build one for myself. :D 
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April 19, 2011 2:20:54 PM

Brawndo said:
I've read your post several times over and I don't think that you'll ultimately be pleased with this solution. Tower cases are much better suited for cooling due to their vertical nature. Rackmount computer equipment is almost always designed for being put in a noisy, NOISY datacenter and is generally overpriced. Because most of your equipment will be on shelves, you lose any stability benefit of a rackmount setup. You'll basically be buying an overpriced set of metal shelves, and piling a bunch of stuff on them that will slide around easily. Even if you find a way to mitigate that, it probably won't look all that snazzy. As far as migration/portability, once you get this all put together it'll be very heavy AND not all bolted together, so it seems unlikely that you'll be moving it around as a unit even if you get a wheeled rack.

If you really, REALLY want it all in a rack, ditch the shelf idea and get your PC a 3U or even 4U chassis so at least it's physically stable and looks proper. Then get a smallish 1U case and start drilling screw holes in the bottom so you can attach your cable modem to the inside. You can do the same with your router, but better yet get yourself a dual-nic mini-itx board, a picoPSU and a laptop HDD, and set yourself up a PFSense router on that. You should also be able to fit an 8-port gige switch inside there with the ports facing outward at the opening normally reserved for the motherboard's I/O shield. Or if you want them front-facing use the CD-ROM opening. This way you've got all your networking corralled inside one little box. Cable coax goes in, 8 routed GigE lan ports come out. This saves you the wasted cash of buying an expensive and unnecessarily bulky rackmount switch, and you never again have to deal with chintzy consumer grade routers. If you need wireless, stick your wireless router behind your monitors or some other location because it's not going to work as well buried in a metal rack. For the rack itself, try to find a wheeled rack that feels very stable and has lockable wheels.

As far as dust management, I don't think this will make much of a difference, dust is everywhere. Adding a dust filter might help but I've never owned one so I can't say. Either way that dust has to go somewhere and you're going to have to deal with it. I definitely feel what you're saying about the dust/desk space issues and I too am searching for a better solution to replace my old tower case.



Put your computer on a desk if you're wanting to eliminate dust. Dust settles on the ground and away from trafficed areas of a room. Which makes under your desk near a wall a terrible place to put your computer.

Like I said in my post, I don't have space for my machine on my desk and it won't fit inside a 4U case. I was talking to one of my IT guys at my office and he said elevating a computer's air intake port slightly off the ground is beneficial. I will be using a two pole solution that won't be bolted, but will have a 40lb computer and a 30 lb UPS on the lowest racks for stability. With the computer about 10-16 in off the ground. If that's not enough to keep it stable, I can just mount a couple 25lb weights on the legs.

The network box is a a pretty cool idea, but prob not for me. The idea of a rack mount is to have everything open for maximum air flow, but still close enough to each other for easy cable management. Plus I like the look of a switch open on a rack mount haha.

As far as overpriced, the shelving for a full two pole tower is like $70 at Fry's.
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April 29, 2011 5:23:39 PM

*cough*SPAMMER*cough*
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May 2, 2011 7:14:24 PM

Brawndo said:
*cough*SPAMMER*cough*


Yuhhh... haha. Plus there are only 5 cases that fit the HPTX mobo, doubt they have any new ones.
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!