This Hot Server

Just weeks after having my workstation die, I had another problem:  Heat.  My building gets hot.  It’s well insulated and there were new windows installed a few years ago.  We have also had many 90 °F days with 70 °F dewpoints.  Not fun.  During renovations to my part of the building last year, a neighbor upstairs from me told me of all the window AC’s he cooked from the sun.

An alert from my system management program, at midnight local time, tells the whole story:

2010/07/19 04:00:11(UTC)    Email(First)        CPU Temp: Reading(86.000C), Status(>= upper critical threshold)        PINKY(

86° C.


This server has a troubled history:  It was SATV’s first server, and as I related before, it was cheaply built and defective from the start.  I got it in 2002 and it has been totally gutted.  Nothing is left from its past.  It’s currently running a Tyan S3950 AMD-based server board with a dual core Opteron 1224SE, 8G of RAM, ServerWorks chipset, Intel NICs, and a HighPoint 1742 SATA RAID controller with two 1TB Western Digital drives.

Except for the time the CPU heatsink frame broke, it has been trouble free, though there are BIOS bugs that affect virtualization (I’ve never been able to use that on this board) and thermal management (no CPU throttling).  The chipset drivers were orphaned since Broadcom sold off its ServerWorks line right after I bought the board, so 64-bit support has not been what it could be.

It’s that bit about thermal management that I’ve been having problems with.  I have not actually had my server lock up from the heat but it is a constant worry.  Besides, I am conditioned, from being long in IT, to obsess over every watt of power that goes in and every watt of heat going out.  I don’t really need another space heater under my workbench.

I want to get a new server board and would love a new Chenbro case but unexpected expenses…well, I have to live with this a bit longer.

All I could reasonably do with little money was to put in more fans in the case.  My server’s case is large enough.  Unfortunately, it was designed in the mid-90’s when CPU’s didn’t get as hot as they do now.  The only cooling in the front of the machine is a small fan and an impossibly small air vent in the front.

As in many machines, the front card slot holder is used to mount the fan (and also the PC speaker, which has been taken out–the Tyan has an onboard sounder.)  There are virtually no full-length cards in use, at least I have never seen any.

It’s possible I could put a bigger fan in and remove the slot holder but I have no larger fans in stock so I’m deferring this.  But the air intake is a bigger problem.

That’s it.  That’s the air intake.

I was also having trouble with dust bunnies.  They would set up nice dust bunny condos inside my server if I let them.  It didn’t help that my house vacuum cleaner was failing for months before I noticed and got a higher-powered Hoover.  I was on MCM Electronics, trying to fill up an order to get the free shipping when I found a filter frame on clearance.

I had some more fans lying around.

They’re three-wire fans, unfortunately, the third wire is not compatible with most motherboards–it is used for the thermistor sensor, rather than the tach as in most fans so they will just be wired into the power supply without any management.

After too much work I cut this vent hole in the front bezel and mounted the filter.

And mounted two fans in back for exhaust.

I would really like to replace the front fan with one that has more airflow.  I do expect the dust bunnies will have to find another place to set up shop.

Temperatures on the system board seem to be around 55-62C since I did this project, acceptable for a machine with two hot Western Digital RAID drives in it, but there haven’t been any really hot days since the work was done.

If I get through the rest of the summer with this, it is a win.  Just so long as I can run the SBS 7 beta with it, I will be satisfied.


One Comment on “This Hot Server”

  1. […] written before (This Hot Server) about my home server, and the work I’d done to it.  The case, dating from 1998, was as […]

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