Silence of the Ram(s)

I love my little auxiliary computer. It’s the one that runs Mandrake Linux and sits next to my main (though less powerful) Windows XP machine.

It started life as a Pentium II 300, but thanks to a ridiculous mail order sale, it is now an Athlon XP 2400+. Of course changing the motherboard demanded a new power supply… and it really needed more memory… and there was this CDRW that was only $10 after rebate. You get the idea.

I’ve got Mandrake running nicely… well, nearly nicely. I might reinstall it, again. Anyway, I’ve got it running. And I do use the machine. But there is a continuing, nagging problem. When I turn it on, it’s like standing next to a 747 as the engines get run up!

I know what the problem is. Buying the motherboard, CPU and fan on a ‘deal’ meant the components were low end. For the internal CPU cooling fan, that meant very noisy.

I had heard about Zalman cooling solutions and how they were often nearly silent. I decided to try one. I think it’s interesting that Zalman sounds like an Eastern European name – since it’s a Korean company.

I read a lot and settled on the CNPS3100-Plus. It is a two stage cooler, with a pure copper heatsink shaped like a flower, and a fan. The fan, which isn’t mounted directly atop the heatsink as most are, comes with a “noiseless fan connector.” That’s a clever way of saying a cable with resistor to drop the fan’s voltage and speed.

I went to Google’s price comparison search engine and found the best deal. “Froogle” is a good idea, but is often confused when many items are listed together. It took me a while to find the right item and price. I ordered two. One for the auxiliary and one for the main computer.

For the past week, these two hermetically sealed “Quiet CPU Cooler” kits have sat in my office. Tonight, I finally installed the first.

I removed the original heatsink, a fan attached to a honeycomb of copper. Because it was held by tension, I used a screwdriver to stretch it a little more and pull it off the CPU socket’s pins. The kit came with a tube of thermal grease, which I spread over the area where the CPU and heatsink would touch. Then I replaced the original fan and heatsink with the copper flower. I hung the new fan from the screws that hold PCI cards on the motherboard.

When I fired the computer up the first time, it swung right into action. But, when I went to close the case and try again, the computer let out with a steady tone and shut itself down.

Modern motherboards monitor the fan that cools the CPU. Maybe this one was judging the slower fan as not sufficient? I readjusted the BIOS settings so it wouldn’t monitor the fan anymore. The computer booted right up.

Amazingly, most of the racket the PC had been producing was no longer there! There was still noise from the power supply fan and the new CPU fan – but it was worlds away from the racket I had heard before. I was able to heard the chatter of the disk drives as they accessed data. Earlier, that noise was masked.

Later tonight, or maybe tomorrow, I’ll install the second cooler on my main computer. So far, I’m very impressed by what I haven’t heard.

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