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I have a Supermicro "workstation", which is really a server branded as a workstation with two Quad-Core Intel Xeon E5335 Clovertown processors, 16 GB RAM, and a RAID 1 and RAID 5 array.

I use this to host websites at home, but the system is just too hot and loud to keep in my office any longer, so I am moving my websites to a dedicated host.

Is there any hope of using any of these parts to make a workstation that has a reasonable noise and heat level? Or do these Xeons just produce too much heat, so I need a lot of cooling (loud fans)? I am willing to buy another motherboard and a good "silent" case if that would help.

Edit:

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closed as not constructive by Journeyman Geek, Breakthrough, techie007, Dave Rook, mpy Jun 5 '13 at 21:53

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6 Answers

You might be better off "reusing" the server by selling it, say on Ebay, and then using the money to buy a different workstation. Sounds like the server is pretty decently speced and might fetch more than you need for a decent workstation.

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You could do what I did a few years ago in a similar situation (but the server/workstation wasn't as powerful as yours!)...

I just put it in another room and used a long screen cable, with PS/2 keyboard and mouse extenders.

This is not really that helpful I know - but it does work.

Changing the motherboard will not really help as the noisy components are the CPU fans. I would start by seeing if you can get any larger but quieter fans that fit the CPU's, if you can - use them, if not, you are going to have to upgrade the case.

I cannot really recommend without knowing what motherboard you have and its size, however I can say that quiet ones are not cheap.

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You can certainly reuse one or both RAID arrays. You could also reuse the RAM if you buy the right system board.

I, personally, would buy a whole new PC minus the RAM and hard drives and just cannibalize those components. Both Xeons draw 80 watts, so there's quite a bit of heat in the case if you use them both. That means either big fans or liquid cooling.

Mind you, multiple server-class hard drives (like your RAID 5 array) will also generate lots of heat. There's some benefit to the idea of just putting the system in a closet and using long cables as Wil mentioned, or just putting the whole thing in a rack in a data center somewhere and remote-controlling it from a low-power silent PC like the Acer Revo. You could keep using the same monitor and keyboard, too.

A buddy of mine is a computer consultant doing DBA work and programming, and he does most of his work by Remote Desktop on his server, using whatever PC is available, from his laptop to workstations at his customer locations.

Probably not suitable for gaming, though.

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Thanks Carl! I also RDP into this server which runs Hyper-V with a bunch of VMs on it (Webservers, Win7 clients, etc). I'm always worried to put it in a closet in case it if it is a fire hazard. I do have a closet that I could exhaust into my attic though... –  Jon Kragh Nov 3 '09 at 18:02
    
Like I (perhaps unclearly) said, I'd put it in a data center. I happen to be lucky enough to have a friend with his own rack who would host it for me free or nearly so. –  CarlF Nov 4 '09 at 6:51
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If you have an ATX motherboard, keep it.

Remove the second CPU.

Keep the RAM.

Buy a nice case (example Cooler Master Cosmos).

Get a new SATA Hard drive, motherboard should support it, ditch the RAID.

You should not have any cooling issues with a setup like this. I have a similar Xeon workstation setup with 2 processors and leave it sitting on my desk. Do you have a power supply to use?

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Why buy a new SATA drive instead of using one or two of the many Jon already has in the system? –  CarlF Nov 3 '09 at 5:34
    
Then he would have to use the raid controller. He doesn't say but I assume he has scsi hard drives. –  Mark Robinson Nov 3 '09 at 12:10
    
Thanks for the tips! - the drives are Sata II. I'm going to update the original question with more specs. I am intrigued that you have 2 Xeons setup in a usable fashion... –  Jon Kragh Nov 3 '09 at 18:06
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The first thing to do is to check the BIOS to see if you can change the cooling/noise trade-off. If the system was originally set up for a server room, it will run the cooling fans flat out and sound like a washing machine on spin. There should be other options in the BIOS - e.g. "Workstation" that will use the temperature sensors and PWM fans to adjust the fan speed to cool based on the sensor temperatures.

The second thing to try is to change to active cooling on the processors (use 4 pin PWM fans). You will still need cooling for the North/South bridge chips and the memory, but if you let the motherboard control the fan speeds you might get reasonable results.

The first option will only cost a little time, the second option needs some relatively inexpensive components. Unless you really want a very quiet machine then both of these are worth trying before giving up on the Supermicro case.

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Have your tried cleaning the case out with compressed air? We run a ton of these dual-processor dual-core Xeons and they run very quietly. The only time they don't is when they get extremely dusty, at which point they sound like 747s taking off. Extreme dust causes components to run hotter, which makes the computer raise the fan speed.

A thorough cleaning of all the fans and boards usually works wonders, making them silent again.

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