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Re: T420s to fanless server project - cooling sorted, I think

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rogerdean
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Re: T420s to fanless server project - cooling sorted, I think

#1 Post by rogerdean » Fri Jul 20, 2018 5:20 am

Hi everyone

I have finally retired my trusty (but heavy and noisy) T420s. My old Plex server is on its way out so I'm going to try to make a small non-portable fanless server from the mainboard, similar to (but probably not nearly as slick as) this -

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oo4TIc_oZ4k
and probably using this
https://smile.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07CZZZ4D ... _lig_dp_it

I plan to use my 128GB M2 as a Linux boot drive, and my 1TB 2.5" SATA as the mass storage. And I'm doing it on the cheap, as much as I can. If anyone's interested I'd be happy to report back, successful or otherwise... but first I know I'll need some advice (and if anyone knows of a more appropriate forum for this kind of think, any pointers appreciated)

1. To make the case compact I'll need to try to re-position the sticking-out SATA sub-board above the mainboard. This is what it looks like now https://photos.app.goo.gl/Nb8XMWQ3k8D7h7SC9
There's a white male-female connector joining it to the mainboard - does anyone know if this is proprietary or might it be a standard connector? If so, might there be a male-female cable I can slot in the middle?
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1nHKob7 ... p=drivesdk

2. I will then have the same problem with the power sub-board https://drive.google.com/file/d/1geDGJR ... p=drivesdk https://photos.app.goo.gl/KPat4m3rsKncVnJJA so might the be a male-female ribbon cable or something? Any ideas appreciated

With both these sub-boards, if I fail then the case just has to be bigger. No crisis. But hopefully someone out there can advise... Many thanks in advance
Roger
Last edited by rogerdean on Sat Aug 11, 2018 1:59 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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axur-delmeria
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Re: T420s to fanless server project - sub-board connectors

#2 Post by axur-delmeria » Fri Jul 20, 2018 5:58 am

Try looking for the schematics of the T420s. Sometimes, the schematics mention the part number of the connectors.

Also, have you found a way to power up the board without a keyboard?
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Re: T420s to fanless server project - sub-board connectors

#3 Post by rogerdean » Fri Jul 20, 2018 10:32 am

Hey, thanks for that! It could well be that the connectors answer lies somewhere in these 100+ pages...

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6IqcV ... lFVHc/view

...but I'm afraid it's beyond me to understand. Will keep searching.

As for the power button, you've anticipated my follow-up post! I'm not sure how to do that yet. Found some options here viewtopic.php?t=117684
1) Mount laptop to port replicator or docking station and use the power button on that piece of hardware
2) Hack the keyboard connector like this: http://forum.thinkpads.com/viewtopic.php?f=45&t=115525
3) Hack the docking port connector; you will need to find the correct pins to short together and/or ground

Any thoughts?

Cheers
R
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Re: T420s to fanless server project - sub-board connectors

#4 Post by rogerdean » Fri Jul 20, 2018 1:18 pm

So it looks like pulling apart a docking station for the connector is my best bet, both for the power button and to give me internal usb ports to take the mass storage device, so 2 probs solved in one

Just the power sub-board issue to figure out then

R
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Re: T420s to fanless server project - bypassing fan test on boot

#5 Post by rogerdean » Sun Jul 22, 2018 10:24 am

So far so good - i.e. it still boots up! https://photos.app.goo.gl/VmZZuEiX4Ckx33MR7

But it does need the fan to be connected. I'd like to bypass that test - would it just be a case of shorting out two of the four wires on the fan connector? Does anyone know which ones?

Many thanks again!
R
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Re: T420s to fanless server project - bypassing fan test on boot

#6 Post by axur-delmeria » Sun Jul 22, 2018 10:54 am

You probably need a circuit that generates a fake RPM signal so the Thinkpad is fooled into thinking that a fan is connected.
Daily driver: X220 4291-C91 i7-2620M

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Re: T420s to fanless server project - bypassing fan test on boot

#7 Post by rogerdean » Sun Jul 22, 2018 11:46 am

Hmm yes. So, in the spirit of bodging, what I'll probably do is keep the fan in the case somewhere and hope that, with the heatsink keeping things cool, it never spins up (except on boot). If it does I'll try something like ThinkFan
https://medium.com/@mirul/setting-up-th ... ec5108f75f

Thanks axur-delmeria for helping me understand I need to keep it simple! More to follow when various bits and pieces arrive in the post

R
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Re: T420s to fanless server project - bypassing fan test on boot

#8 Post by axur-delmeria » Mon Jul 23, 2018 1:47 am

You're starting to give me ideas on what to do with some half-working laptops I've got here. :D

Got a first-generation Acer Aspire One (A110) with a bad LCD cable (crushed the poor thing during the last disassembly) a SATA port that needs resoldering (it was a hack-job of a mod I did long ago), and a missing-but-probably-just-buried-somewhere keyboard. :lol:
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Re: T420s to fanless server project - bypassing fan test on boot

#9 Post by mkopec » Mon Jul 23, 2018 5:49 am

Perhaps you could try building and flashing Coreboot, I doubt it does any sort of fan checks. I could try booting my corebooted T430 board without a fan connected when I come back home.

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Re: T420s to fanless server project - bypassing fan test on boot

#10 Post by axur-delmeria » Mon Jul 23, 2018 6:09 am

mkopec wrote:
Mon Jul 23, 2018 5:49 am
Perhaps you could try building and flashing Coreboot, I doubt it does any sort of fan checks. I could try booting my corebooted T430 board without a fan connected when I come back home.
Coreboot is a greater hassle since it means he has to get an SPI flasher, SOIC clip, etc.
Daily driver: X220 4291-C91 i7-2620M

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Re: T420s to fanless server project - bypassing fan test on boot

#11 Post by rogerdean » Thu Jul 26, 2018 1:06 am

Hi mkopec, that's a good offer. I don't think I'll be able to go that way, but if you're curious and do it anyway please do let us know what you find
Best
R
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Re: T420s to fanless server project - bypassing fan test on boot

#12 Post by rogerdean » Thu Jul 26, 2018 8:07 am

Hi all. Progress...

https://photos.app.goo.gl/RXmdUUaNQoRvYgXB7

So my docking station arrived, I stripped it down, and it's (almost) all good news. It's a board and not, as I expected, a socket and a bunch of wires, but when in place...
1. By some miracle the bit above the CPU (which will need to be clear for the heatsink) doesn't seem to do anything and can be cut away. I've ordered a 3x3x5cm piece of aluminium to sit between the CPU and the heatsink and raise it up outside the case, hope this is sound
2. I have a working power button!
3. I have a more robust power socket, and so the case does not need to be so long
However...
1. The case now needs to be deeper and taller (no big deal)

More to follow. Thanks again for all the help
R
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Re: T420s to fanless server project - bypassing fan test on boot

#13 Post by SeanSkiVT » Mon Jul 30, 2018 10:33 am

Cool project! I'd be afraid that the processor would be heavily throttling at all times in a fanless config. I'd love to see the results of the finished product.
T430s | A475

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Re: T420s to fanless server project - bypassing fan test on boot

#14 Post by axur-delmeria » Mon Jul 30, 2018 2:17 pm

SeanSkiVT wrote:
Mon Jul 30, 2018 10:33 am
Cool project! I'd be afraid that the processor would be heavily throttling at all times in a fanless config.
It depends on how good the contact between the CPU and heatsink, as well as the total surface area of the heatsink itself.
There have been fanless setups using desktop CPUs and managed to avoid throttling.
Daily driver: X220 4291-C91 i7-2620M

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Re: T420s to fanless server project - cooling concerns

#15 Post by rogerdean » Tue Jul 31, 2018 3:05 am

axur-delmeria wrote:
Mon Jul 30, 2018 2:17 pm
SeanSkiVT wrote:
Mon Jul 30, 2018 10:33 am
Cool project! I'd be afraid that the processor would be heavily throttling at all times in a fanless config.
It depends on how good the contact between the CPU and heatsink, as well as the total surface area of the heatsink itself.
There have been fanless setups using desktop CPUs and managed to avoid throttling.
That's right, that'll make or break it! And honestly, I have no idea until I fire it up. On the upside, the CPU in my T420s has a 35W TDP, and the heatsink I bought is rated to 47W (but really that means 'ideal for 35W'). On the downside, in order to fit the heatsink above the RAM, the docking station connector, and now the docking station board too, I need to fit a 'raiser' between the CPU and the heatsink. That means two pasted connections instead of one, and that 3x3x5cm aluminium block, sitting upright I expect. I guess I give that a 40% chance of success - we will see! Two questions for today -

1. I have Arctic Silver 5 paste and also some blue silicon heatsink pad material https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/UK-100mmx100 ... 2365437863? Which (or what combination) of those would be best?
2. How would you like me to benchmark performance when it's up and running? Linux point-and-click tools preferred :-)

Cheers
R
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Re: T420s to fanless server project - bypassing fan test on boot

#16 Post by axur-delmeria » Tue Jul 31, 2018 3:33 am

1. Use thermal paste on the CPU. If the CPU and chipset are of the same height (you can check using the aluminium block) you can use thermal paste on both, though it's more likely that the chipset is a bit shorter, in which case you need a bit of thermal pad.

2. Use thermal paste on all metal-to-metal contact for the heatsink components. It's best that they are screwed, or otherwise securely fixed to each other, to minimize air gaps. All metal surfaces should be clean and free of dirt, corrosion, or other contaminants.

3. The primary heat block (the one making direct contact with the CPU and chipset) should ideally be made of copper to maximize heat capacity.
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Re: T420s to fanless server project - cooling concerns

#17 Post by rogerdean » Tue Jul 31, 2018 6:28 am

Hey axur-delmeria, thanks again v much for that

CPU and chipset - on the board, and from the old fan's copper plate, I can only see one thing needing to be cooled. Because I have integrated graphics? Or am I missing something crucial?
https://photos.app.goo.gl/94o735nVAHRvKMPN8

Thanks!
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Re: T420s to fanless server project - cooling concerns

#18 Post by Thinkpad4by3 » Tue Jul 31, 2018 9:21 am

I have this heatsink from an old Dell Core 2 Duo era server with one of those 145W Xeon chips.

https://cdn3.volusion.com/jraru.wkahj/v ... 0334-2.jpg

I think it could dissipate 35W of power easily.

Also, if this is a server, why not go with a big fan running very slowly? A huge heatsink and a small chip could probably benefit from a little bit of air going through. A 200mm fan running at a few hundred RPM will likely be almost entirely silent, nothing noticeably audible unless you stick your ear right up to the fan.
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Re: T420s to fanless server project - cooling concerns

#19 Post by axur-delmeria » Tue Jul 31, 2018 11:40 am

Thinkpad4by3 wrote:
Tue Jul 31, 2018 9:21 am
I have this heatsink from an old Dell Core 2 Duo era server with one of those 145W Xeon chips.

https://cdn3.volusion.com/jraru.wkahj/v ... 0334-2.jpg
I see a few problems with using that heatsink for this project

1. the fins are too close together, which isn't optimal for fanless operation;
2. it's too tall;
3. How to mount it securely?

Nice heatsink though. Would love to see it mounted in a regular desktop system. Make it happen! :lol:
Daily driver: X220 4291-C91 i7-2620M

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Re: T420s to fanless server project - cooling concerns

#20 Post by rogerdean » Tue Aug 07, 2018 2:00 am

Hi everyone

So it works! https://photos.app.goo.gl/unoGwcoxw6Y4zL4HA

The aluminium heatsink bridger block arrived, 3cm x 3cm x 5cm (which was the smallest piece I could find). That was too big so I had to cut it down to something like 3cm x 2cm x 3.7cm - what is ideal depends on case material thickness etc. I then trimmed the docking station board to allow the block to sit above the CPU https://photos.app.goo.gl/gTfAiLiXqaN5bZ6k6 fits perfectly, thank goodness https://photos.app.goo.gl/PRBB2q7YAEAfWpSCA I fired it up, installed Linux Mint and thinkfan https://medium.com/@mirul/setting-up-th ... ec5108f75f

Learning on the way...
1. With the T420s power/screen sub-board not present (it's vulnerable and wobbly, sticks out to the side, and there's a more robust power socket on the docking station board, so I removed it), the system assumes the laptop screen is on. That means the monitor is configured as an empty extended display. I had to right-click and start a terminal, start xfce4-desktop-settings and then blindly try to grab it from the missing primary display and drag it to the secondary display. Then I could disable the laptop display and all was well. The Alt key helps with the grabbing, as I remembered after 5 minutes of cursing. Only need to do it twice, once on live usb install environment and once on first boot.
2. With the docking station board in place, the mainboard VGA port is disabled
3. It's not all that small, partly due to the need to add the docking station board to get a power button. T420s (and thinkpads generally?) not architecturally the best base for this I guess
4. With the wifi antenna disconnected but the module present at install time, no other (usb) wifi can be enabled under Linux. I had to take the module out for the install then all fine
5. Thinkfan can be configured to only spin the fan (which is present to fool the BIOS but does not cool anything) when the temperature rises above (an academic) 32767 degrees :-) so that's how mine is set. My /etc/thinkfan.conf reads -

Code: Select all

hwmon /sys/devices/platform/coretemp.0/hwmon/hwmon2/temp2_input
hwmon /sys/devices/platform/coretemp.0/hwmon/hwmon2/temp3_input
hwmon /sys/devices/platform/coretemp.0/hwmon/hwmon2/temp1_input
hwmon /sys/devices/virtual/hwmon/hwmon0/temp1_input
(0,0,32767)
i.e. fan level 0 between temp 0 and temp 32767

Still to do...
1. tidy up the power button assembly
2. fit the usb mass storage and deploy as a server

And cooling...
Well, it's not great I think. Sensor temps seem to idle around 60-70 degrees https://photos.app.goo.gl/5sKfuqLZtKBEK7AA8 but spike quickly and presumably throttle. The heatsink does get warm, which is showing some activity at least. Importantly the system has not yet shut itself off in panic and it's completely silent which was the objective, so I'm reasonably happy but want to keep improving it.
1. Can anyone advise how best to test, benchmark and detect throttling in Linux?
2. I bought an aluminium block as that's all I could find, but thermal conductivity data suggests copper would be at least 50% better. Does anyone know where I could get a custom piece of copper at a sensible price? [found it, semi-sensible, ebay obviously...]

Thanks for all the advice along the way
R
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Re: T420s to fanless server project - cooling concerns

#21 Post by axur-delmeria » Fri Aug 10, 2018 1:47 am

Keep us updated! :D

Is the aluminum block held on by just gravity and not secured to the system board with screws? That might be one reason the temps are high (though switching to copper is indeed preferable).

You are using thermal paste on the aluminum pieces right?

I'm a bit concerned with the heatsink you're using. Is it designed for fanless operation? The fins do seem a bit close together (not optimal for fanless operation).

On my end, I'm putting the headless Atom server on hold for the moment. It needs a new SATA connector (the SATA mod I originally did has failed), though on the bright side I found its keyboard.
It might end up as a headless, fanless portable computer. :lol:
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Re: T420s to fanless server project - cooling concerns

#22 Post by TPFanatic » Fri Aug 10, 2018 4:40 pm

I am a little worried that the weight of the heatsink may shatter the CPU die and on a T420s you can't replace that.

Is it concievable you could fix the original heatsink on, don't plug in the fan, then put the passive heatsink on top of the original heatsink?
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Re: T420s to fanless server project - cooling concerns

#23 Post by axur-delmeria » Fri Aug 10, 2018 11:13 pm

TPFanatic wrote:
Fri Aug 10, 2018 4:40 pm
I am a little worried that the weight of the heatsink may shatter the CPU die and on a T420s you can't replace that.
Good point, though I'm a bit skeptical about that happening. Remember the Pentium III desktop CPUs? While their heatsinks were light, the spring clips exert significant clamping force onto the silicon die, yet I rarely hear of cracked P-III's.
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Re: T420s to fanless server project - cooling concerns

#24 Post by thinkpadcollection » Sat Aug 11, 2018 1:44 pm

If you can, change the smaller block of aluminum to copper, you should able to drop about 10 to 15C this way. The thermal conductivity is poorer with aluminum over distance. The heatsink is good design by the way.

Cheers, thinkpadcollection

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Re: T420s to fanless server project - cooling sorted, I think

#25 Post by rogerdean » Sat Aug 11, 2018 2:38 pm

Right, so much better now. I've replaced the aluminium block with copper (25mm x 25mm x 35mm vertical, and I have enough off-cut for a couple more if anyone in the UK wants one) and I'm sure I've improved the connections as I don't need a heat pad in the middle any more. The heatsink (yes designed for fanless) is screwed to the lid of the box and that lid screwed down, so it's more than gravity holding it there, but it's quite gentle. Thermal paste yes.

And I am now happily running the Phoronix test suite, stress-testing it all. So far it seems to be 40 degrees at idle, 60 degrees in normal use, 77 degrees during the 'RAMspeed SMP' test (75% CPU) and 92 degrees during the 'C-Ray' test (100% CPU). Now, I don't want to get ahead of myself but I remember my old assembled T420s quite often hitting 90+ degrees in normal use (although no doubt the fan could have done with a clean). The heatsink on the top is, obviously, seriously hot and I am now more worried about it melting the PVC panel case!

Phoronix test results, by the way, are -
RAMspeed SMP - 1331
C-Ray - 768 seconds

So, is that still throttling I wonder? I guess it probably is a bit... It would be AMAZING if someone could run the Phoronix test suite on Linux on a stock T420s i5 2520M (mine has 12GB RAM if that matters at all) for a benchmark. Anyone got one?

axur-delmeria, what will you use a headless fanless portable computer for??

Cheers
R
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Re: T420s to fanless server project - cooling sorted, I think

#26 Post by thinkpadcollection » Sat Aug 11, 2018 3:13 pm

Get different heatsink with wider fin pitch also fins slightly thicker too, base of the heatsink should be thick. Dell heatsink makes good heatsinks from Optiplex series used for tower.

Like this: https://www.ebay.ca/itm/Dell-OptiPlex-3 ... m570.l1313

Or this:
https://www.ebay.ca/itm/Dell-Optiplex-3 ... m570.l1313

These were to cool the 65W to 90W processors using this heatsink with low air speed. There's more, this one from P4 era and they were known to be hot, around 90W peak.

https://www.ebay.ca/itm/OEM-Dell-Dimens ... =R40&rt=nc

Cheers, Jason

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Re: T420s to fanless server project - cooling sorted, I think

#27 Post by axur-delmeria » Sun Aug 12, 2018 1:35 am

rogerdean wrote:
Sat Aug 11, 2018 2:38 pm
axur-delmeria, what will you use a headless fanless portable computer for??
TBH I don't have a need for it. It's just one of the half-working things in my shelf. If I didn't damage the LCD cable, I would have restored it as a netbook.

Can't sell it (no one would even buy it), don't wanna spend much on it, so the next best thing is to re-purpose it.
Still got a few old heatsinks, including one from a Slot 1 Pentium III Katmai. :D
But that's pretty overkill for a 2.5w TDP Atom CPU and 945GSE northbridge. :lol:
Daily driver: X220 4291-C91 i7-2620M

Backup: X220 4291-P79 i5-2520M
Toy: X60F Core Solo U1300
In pieces: two retired but working X61Ts
RIP: 760XD 9546-U9E; X61 7676-A24; and a BOE-Hydis HV121P01-100 in failed SXGA+ mod
:cry:

rogerdean
Posts: 25
Joined: Sun Nov 18, 2007 9:43 am
Location: Nethybridge, UK

Re: T420s to fanless server project - cooling sorted, I think

#28 Post by rogerdean » Sun Aug 12, 2018 3:39 am

axur-delmeria wrote:
Sun Aug 12, 2018 1:35 am
TBH I don't have a need for it. It's just one of the half-working things in my shelf. If I didn't damage the LCD cable, I would have restored it as a netbook
Fair enough, have fun!

Jason, thanks for your thoughts too. I think it's all good though, better temps than I remember with active cooling, certainly more than enough for a media server. It's kinda wild and hot and certainly not polished, but I'm pleased!
Between ThinkPads just now... enjoying a Chromebook

axur-delmeria
ThinkPadder
ThinkPadder
Posts: 1945
Joined: Mon May 28, 2012 5:49 am
Location: Metro Manila, Philippines

Re: T420s to fanless server project - cooling sorted, I think

#29 Post by axur-delmeria » Thu Aug 30, 2018 10:34 am

My fanless Atom project came to a screeching halt when I discovered that the screen and LCD cable are still OK. :o

It started working again when I put in the keyboard. I'm not sure why it did, but my best guess is that the keyboard's aluminum base acts as an RF shield of sorts (the LVDS connector on the system board is right under the keyboard and it seems that the two make contact.

All I need to do now is repair the SATA port, and find or MacGyver a replacement fan (it's already rattling)-- I think I'll go with the MacGyver route as I have a number of dead netbooks to scavenge parts from. :lol:
Daily driver: X220 4291-C91 i7-2620M

Backup: X220 4291-P79 i5-2520M
Toy: X60F Core Solo U1300
In pieces: two retired but working X61Ts
RIP: 760XD 9546-U9E; X61 7676-A24; and a BOE-Hydis HV121P01-100 in failed SXGA+ mod
:cry:

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