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I've recently aquired a Dell Poweredge 1850 (1U rackmount server). Spec wise, it's great for what I need it for (running VMWare with a few VMs, pfSense firewall etc). The problem is it's not going to sit in a server room / data centre and the fans in it are massively noisy!

I can handle a bit of noise, but this thing is crazy noisy. Is there any way of quietening the thing down? I'm going to update the BIOS later, and I've seen some people talking about replacing the fans. Does anyone have any experience of this? I know Dell use a proprietory connector on their fans, so a little re-wiring may be required.

Any help would be appreciated. I know I'm not going to make it whisper quiet, but shaving a few dB from it would be great!



EDIT: It's worth noting that this is an old (and FREE) server, with no support. It's not running anything of any importance, and I'm using it to play with, but would be nice to make it quieter. I'm not worried about loss of support / drop in performance (within reason) / breakage in 6 months etc. I'm also not worried about whether this should be in a data center or not. I see plenty of rack mounted servers sitting in offices. It works great for what I need it for other than the noise levels.

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Does the server have dual power supplies and are both of them plugged in? – pablo Feb 14 '11 at 10:44
they are spinning faster, and noisier, because the room is probably too hot. Changing the fans is fixing the symptom, not the cause. – coredump Feb 14 '11 at 10:54
I've seen loads of posts to say that the fans in the 1850 are amazingly noisy. If I can switch out the fan for a quieter one with better bearings, surely that helps? The fan is going to be running, regardless of the temperature of the room. The room is pretty cool, yet the fans are still noisy, even after POST. – Chris Pont Feb 14 '11 at 11:18
up vote 2 down vote accepted

I'm about to do the same with a cheap as chips 1950. It cost me a couple of hundred quid including 24Gb RAM and is ideal for some VM stuff. But, it's under my desk in the office and it's noisy as hell (although not as bad as the Compaq DL - which I never turn on as a consequence).

There's a lot of complaining in the Dell forums about acoustic performance. I have a T610 which is just as bad, if not worse. The operating temperatures are well within margins but it's loud. I'd sacrifice some performance for quieter operation but there are no options to do that in the BIOS/BMC. I'll likely do the same to the T610 once the warranty is expired (or butcher this one and keep an untouched spare). I accept the points further up about rackmounts being indented for server rooms, but tower servers by their nature are often in regular office space. The T610 is a great box, but it's offensive to sit anywhere near :-)

Anyway, for anyone else that's interested, this is very helpful on the topic of replacing the cheap and nasty OEM fans from Dell with quieter replacements (not hard to find on google, but might save someone looking)

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Although I'm sure you could find quieter fans I would be tempted not to bother messing with them. Dell have lots of engineers who spend their whole lives balancing the various physical requirements and constraints required to adequately cool the parts as laid out in their servers - messing with this cooling will almost certainly affect some of the components MTBFs and could very seriously affect the overall stability of the server as a whole. All manufacturers produce installation guides showing how and where to place any given server and I couldn't recommend going against this advice sorry, however irritating to you it is.

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I'm sure that's good advice, but I'm conscious that technology has come on since 2005 and that fans can be much quieter. Upgrades can happen and the hardware doesn't always need to be Dell. It's also worth noting that this harware isn't mission critical or anything, I just want it quieter ;-) – Chris Pont Feb 14 '11 at 11:15
Fan technology has not drastically changed since 2005! Why not just get a server that is more appropriate to the use? – JamesRyan Feb 14 '11 at 12:17

People have pointed out that there is no magical fan that you can swap out that will make less noise without a drop in cooling that will damage your server.

You don't seem to accept that so here is an alternative - get some ear defenders. :)

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rackmount servers are usually not manufactured for non-DC environments, and this is why their noise levels are not as well controlled as would a desktop system's be. If you mess with the fans, you'll end up ruining the server, and probably losing support for it in the process. You could try to check the BIOS for an "acoustic mode" - som IBM machines have it, Dell might have something similar as well, but even like this - it will not help you much.

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Thanks. It's an old server, and there is no support. It's not running anything special, and certainly nothing mission critical so I'm not too worried about a drop in performance. – Chris Pont Feb 14 '11 at 11:20
it's not about performance, it's about the host being able to operate. It has been designed to work in a datacentre, using it's fans to keep the ambient temperature at the desired levels. No noise cancellation in this equation, only operational requirements. If you want a server to run a few VMs and not make any noise, try to build a desktop machine with a VT enabled CPU - should be just as good as an old 8G PE machine – dyasny Feb 14 '11 at 11:26
Yes, but I'm trying to make the most of what I have. I don't have a spare desktop machine, I have this. The question I asked was if anyone has any experience of replacing fans. – Chris Pont Feb 14 '11 at 11:42
I've spent a year in Dell server support when PE1850 was the most popular machine, and all I say is based on that experience. I've seen servers produce a whole lot of different issues because people disconnected fans or put in incompatible fans. All I'm saying is that if you want to risk it - go ahead, it's your machine after all, but you've been warned. Fans have not changed much since 2005 btw, and a R610 makes as much noise as a 1850 as far as I can tell without a decibel meter. – dyasny Feb 14 '11 at 11:51
There arn't fans that are magically quiter for more money. The ones you see for desktop machines that are quieter either are a different size, spin slower (and cool less) or push less air with each stroke (and cool less). – JamesRyan Feb 14 '11 at 16:13

I am going to add on to what some other people have said. First Rackmounts are designed to be in a DC where sound is irrelevant. That also means that they are designed to have an ambient temp ~65-70F, your room you have it in is most likely warmer so it has to move more air to pull the heat off. Second you don't realize how much though went into airflow design I bet Dell has ~12 guys that focus on only that. That means modifying it slightly can not only affect performance but will cause failure and rightfully Dell won't warranty it. Third your forgetting some physics here:). There are 2 ways to move lots of air with fans,1 fans can be big and slow or 2 small fans high RPMs. You have a 1U server which is 1.5 IN(sorry, I'm American(3.5CM) tall so you can see that small and fast is the only option.

Also Servers have monitoring systems if you remove fans which have health checks you will get errors in BIOS and if Dell is like IBM your thermal temps for shutdown and warning will decrease drastically.

I highly suggest you get a Tower server or move this server to a dedicated cooled room. Dell makes some cheap Tower based stuff.

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Thanks for your input. The server was free. It's working for me right now. If it breaks in 6 / 9 / 12 months. No problem, it was free after all. I'm using it to host some things that don't really matter if they disappear, and also using it as a something to learn from. As such, I don't want to buy anything, I have a free server. What is a problem is the noise. If I can have it run for 6 months and be less noisy, then it breaks, great. I've had 6 months use out of something that was free. – Chris Pont Feb 14 '11 at 12:14
I'm 15 I under stand making free stuff work but your a business you need maximum uptime so when this breaks can you afford the time to buy another? Also I have a feeling life will be much shorter with any fan mods. :) – Jacob Feb 14 '11 at 12:16
There's no business use for this machine. If it breaks, then fine. – Chris Pont Feb 14 '11 at 12:17
I assumed that was what it was for a business, but if not I guess you could do it. – Jacob Feb 14 '11 at 12:21
mind telling me why you down voted me? – Jacob Feb 14 '11 at 14:18

If you are up for rewiring then just buy some more fans, what are them 60mm in the PE1850? Buy some super quiet ones and cut them into the Dell connector... that seems like the answer you want us to give you. This is an old server that isn't designed to be quiet.

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