Cheap way to cool down an external harddrive

This is a discussion on Cheap way to cool down an external harddrive within the Tech Board forums, part of the Community Boards category; I have an external harddrive ( http://origominds.com/imagenes%20lis...%20Premium.jpg ) that gets REAL hot (the metal USB port gets to ~65C estimated ...

  1. #1
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    Cheap way to cool down an external harddrive

    I have an external harddrive (http://origominds.com/imagenes%20lis...%20Premium.jpg) that gets REAL hot (the metal USB port gets to ~65C estimated by touch - cannot touch for more than 1/4 second, so the interior is probably at least 80C), and I am trying to find a cheap way to cool it down.

    The room temperature is about 28C (will get hotter later into the summer), with almost no air flow. The computer (and harddrive) is on 24/7. The harddrive rests on a wooden desk, which doesn't help. This is my ghetto "server room".

    Turning on the AC is not an option (too expensive to run an AC 24/7 just to cool a harddrive), and opening the window MAY be (but in summer time, it gets to about 32C outside, too).

    So what can I do to cool it down?

    I am thinking about something like a home-made heatsink (just a sheet of metal), but that doesn't increase the surface area significantly. Will adding a fan help? (I have 2 of those USB powered ones, that don't push much air at all)

    A battle of water? (high heat capacity, but I guess it will eventually reach thermal equilibrium)

    Suggestions?

  2. #2
    Woof, woof! zacs7's Avatar
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    What I would do:

    Drill wholes/slits on both sides of the enclosure, then put a fan on each side. One fan pushing, the other sucking.

    Same theory as passively cooled graphics cards :-)

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    That is a great idea!

    I never thought about actually cooling the inside. That should be a lot more effective than just cooling the case.

    Our family happens to own a business making power tools, too .

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    int x = *((int *) NULL); Cactus_Hugger's Avatar
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    How much data I/O are you doing with the device? I own a WD My Book 1TB (or so they say... it's actually 930GB) external drive. Looks just like your picture, except I have a line instead of a circle for a light. My drive is cool to the touch tough.
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    Captain Crash brewbuck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyberfish View Post
    I am thinking about something like a home-made heatsink (just a sheet of metal), but that doesn't increase the surface area significantly. Will adding a fan help? (I have 2 of those USB powered ones, that don't push much air at all)
    Yes, unless you actually increase the surface area where heat could dissipate, adding a sheet of metal is going to just further insulate the drive. I'd probably go with several CPU heatsinks, placed on top of the drive with CPU goo, with a fan pointed at it.
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    	if (a) do { f( b); } while(1);
    	else   do { f(!b); } while(1);
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    The "line" version is the newer version, which is reportedly better ventilated. The circle version I have is the older version.

    I am doing quite a bit of IO with it, running a vmware server from it.

    Yes, unless you actually increase the surface area where heat could dissipate, adding a sheet of metal is going to just further insulate the drive. I'd probably go with several CPU heatsinks, placed on top of the drive with CPU goo, with a fan pointed at it.
    Ah, that's what I feared. I don't have a spare CPU heatsink, though.

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    spurious conceit MK27's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyberfish View Post
    Ah, that's what I feared. I don't have a spare CPU heatsink, though.
    I'm no scientist, but if you get a couple of gallon milk jugs and fill them with cold water, you can place them around the chassis and it will absorb the heat. You just have to change the water every few hours.

    That method works amazingly well in conjunction with a fan. I had an old laptop that would overheat and shut down all the time during moderate use, or within about five minutes when maxed out compiling. I couldn't afford to get anyone to fix it (if it could be), so I started using it on top of a milk crate that I was using in a stack for a bookshelf. I kept a few pint size plastic bottles in the freezer, and I would place those on top of the books, inside the milk crate, directly under the intact fan on the laptop. It totally worked. As long as that bottle remained cold to the touch, it never overheated.

    Later I bought one of those bases with two fans in that you plug into a usb port, but it didn't come with an adapter. The stupid thing must have produced more heat by drawing power thru the usb, because the overheating problem became even worse that way.

    Anyway, yeah, freeze some milk jugs dude. You can almost fill them right up, they don't burst, they bulge.
    Last edited by MK27; 06-12-2009 at 06:27 PM.
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    Haha that sounds like fun.

    It would be quite a hassle to change it once every few hrs 24/7 for a few months, though.

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    spurious conceit MK27's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyberfish View Post
    Haha that sounds like fun.

    It would be quite a hassle to change it once every few hrs 24/7 for a few months, though.
    Exercise. Or pay some half-wit to do it for you. I bet if you froze a small cooler* it would do pretty good for 6-8. Ceramic blocks would be what I would try but also:

    I did have a friend that rigged this thing with cold water in copper tubing coiled inside a 24" window fan. It was piped thru an ice filled aquarium using some kind of cheap aquarium (?) water pump. You won't think that would work at all, but in 35C weather it would lower the entire room temperature 5-10 degrees. This lasted until the guy blew up the aquarium in some other experiment extracting hydrogen from water which did his eyebrows in and leave damage on the ceiling. I heard it happen.


    *I remember they have those in T.O. Make sure you wrap it in plaid flannel and ducktape, and leave yourself some brewskis on top for in the morning Best if you can make the whole thing gas powered.
    Last edited by MK27; 06-12-2009 at 08:45 PM.
    C programming resources:
    GNU C Function and Macro Index -- glibc reference manual
    The C Book -- nice online learner guide
    Current ISO draft standard
    CCAN -- new CPAN like open source library repository
    3 (different) GNU debugger tutorials: #1 -- #2 -- #3
    cpwiki -- our wiki on sourceforge

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    I did have a friend that rigged this thing with cold water in copper tubing coiled inside a 24" window fan. It was piped thru an ice filled aquarium using some kind of cheap aquarium (?) water pump. You won't think that would work at all, but in 35C weather it would lower the entire room temperature 5-10 degrees. This lasted until the guy blew up the aquarium in some other experiment extracting hydrogen from water which did his eyebrows in and leave damage on the ceiling. I heard it happen.
    Wow. Wouldn't it be cheaper to just turn on the air conditioner, though? (but of course, where is the fun in that).

    I never knew electrolysis is THAT dangerous. Will watch out when I decide to try it out later.

    As for my harddrive...

    I decided to disassemble the case, since the warranty is long gone anyways.

    Realized we have piles (literally) of little aluminum heatsinks in our factory (why don't we own a business making heatsinks...)

    Final result - heatsink galore. They are just placed on top of the bare harddrive. I'm sure the heatsinks are doing their jobs. They are burning hot. As for whether they are sufficient... I'm not so sure.

    I'm sure the harddrive is enjoying it, though .

    I only used one of those USB fans because the other one is very reluctant to spin. And even when it does, it doesn't push much air (even less than the working one).
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    Kiss the monkey. CodeMonkey's Avatar
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    Nice. There's always dry ice. And liquid nitrogen can be cheaper than water.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by MK27 View Post
    Make sure you wrap it in plaid flannel and ducktape...
    No, that's cruel. Leave those poor ducks alone!

    Quote Originally Posted by CodeMonkey View Post
    Nice. There's always dry ice. And liquid nitrogen can be cheaper than water.
    Not in Virginia it ain't! After hurricane Isobel I tried buying some dry ice to keep my fridge cool until they fixed the power, but after the 2nd or 3rd day I gave up since 5 lbs of dry ice was costing me about $20-30 and it wasn't even keeping my fridge very cool. It was cheaper for me to just replace all the rotten stuff in my fridge than keep buying more dry ice. The one thing it was good for was cooling down a can of pop. Stick a can of pop in dry ice and it'll be almost frozen in less than a minute!
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  13. #13
    spurious conceit MK27's Avatar
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    Well, a week has passed. Just curious to know if cyberfish will fill us in on the relative success of his creative genius?*


    * ie. please post a picture of the smoking husk of your hd with little aluminum lego blocks fused together on top...
    C programming resources:
    GNU C Function and Macro Index -- glibc reference manual
    The C Book -- nice online learner guide
    Current ISO draft standard
    CCAN -- new CPAN like open source library repository
    3 (different) GNU debugger tutorials: #1 -- #2 -- #3
    cpwiki -- our wiki on sourceforge

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    Haha, it's working quite well.

    The heatsinks and the surface of the drive are almost cold to the touch. No additional bad sector since then! (I had a few last time I checked, not sure if they were caused by the heat)

    I think the fan is very important. A bunch of burning heatsinks with no airflow (other than natural convection) to carry the heat away doesn't work so well (that was my initial setup before I decided to add the fan). Not sure if fan-only would be sufficient, but I love the look of my heatsinks .

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