Friday, January 08, 2010

Beat the Hell Outta Fans Week

A couple of pointless stories this week. Not that I often have a point.

A few nights ago my computer begins whining, as though perhaps a disk is failing. That would make the second one in as many months. I unplug it and the next morning try to track down the noise via process of elimination. Unplug a disk, turn it on … whine persists. Turn it off, plug it back in, unplug another one, turn it on … whine persists. Repeat.

Some glorious day we will all have hotplug.

In a few minutes, it's clearly not a disk causing the problem. That's good, because I recently bought one and I don't want to replace another. I try the CD-ROM too, just be paranoid … whine persists.

So it must be a fan. It's not the case fan; that has a handy little switch to play with the speed, and twiddling the switch doesn't change the noise.

I have to dismantle the innards to get to the CPU fan. This bizarre case has plastic vent hood held in by three thumbscrews, plus one not-thumb screw you have to remove and one more you only have to loosen. Who came up with this? And why did I buy it? Unplug the processor fan, turn it on … whine persists.

What's left? The power supply fan. Can't unplug it and test it at the same time. It doesn't even appear to be spinning. The next day I'm off to Fry's for a new one. Same vendor to maximize the chance it'll fit in the old case (hadn't bothered to measure). Kinda pricey, but supposedly it's all green and stuff. Unplug everything. Out with the old; in with the new; fits perfectly. Plug it in, turn it on …

Whine persists. Now I'm whining along with it.

A little more digging turns up a stupid little SATA enclosure with a tiny, whiny fan. The thing doesn't even have a disk in it, so I hadn't bothered to unplug it. Next time, no extraneous moving parts (and no need for a screwdriver just to install a disk).

Now … page two. Or three, since I don't care if you buy this crap. At some point I might upload this as a review on Amazon where it could do some good.

For ultimately no good reason I ordered an air purifier. It works, I suppose. But when I turned it on, the fan was lopsided and caused the entire enclosure to rattle. At high speed, the wobble mostly averaged itself out, but the air rushing made lots of noise. At low speed, the air was quiet, but the wobble worsened and made the rattle loud and quite annoying. Noise is pollution too. And one of the selling points of this thing was "peace and tranquility."

As with the Roomba, I had two choices: Send it back, at significant cost and inconvenience; or take the screwdriver to it.

My first attempt was an outright failure. I took off the back cover and fiddled with the fan motor a little. By the time I was done, the fan was hideously scraping against the case. I stewed for a while and tried again the next day.

The designers of this contraption were exceptionally considerate (or perhaps exceptionally unimaginative, exceptionally lazy, or some exceptional combination thereof), because all of the screws are identical, so I don't need to remember which goes where. (The three that attach the floor stand are probably different, but they don't need to be taken off.) All of the electronic components sit on a single plastic frame, and it and the fan cleanly detach from the input power with excitingly chunky headers. The headers are even keyed so I can't put them back on the wrong way.

A couple of spare washers on the spindle added enough clearance to keep the fan from scraping, and tightening the nut kept it from wobbling. Good as (or better than) new.

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