I have a single server rack (31 of the 42U occupied) in a small (about 10'x10') basement room in a building that is seeing some light renovation... nothing huge, but some non-load-bearing-walls going up in what used to be a cafeteria to create a hallway and rooms, with associated drywall, dropped ceiling, and new floor tile work. Specifically, there will be a mudding/sanding crew coming fairly soon for finish work on the drywall. I can't move or disconnect the equipment in the rack. What can I do to protect my switches and servers from the resulting dust?

Specifics on the room: there is a dedicated air conditioner just for the server room, but it's not by any stretch a clean room. Workers will not have access to the server room, and there is no drywall work in the room itself. I already have a small home air purifier in the room that is getting a new filter prior to the work, and I'm planning some extra down time in late May when I can open up individual machines for cleaning (think PC vacuum and canned air). Is there anything else I can or should do to protect the equipment from dust? I'm most worried about it getting in the bearings of cooling and power supply fans.


In this situation, I'd tend to go the cheap/easy route - head to your local home improvement store and pickup a couple cheapo furnace filters. Then fasten them somehow (bungee cords?) to the front of your server rack. If you're unable to get a good "seal" between the filters or around the edges, just seal it up with packaging tape.

The filters will restrict airflow a bit, but it shouldn't be so much as to cause a problem.

(I have to credit Alton Brown's Beef Jerky recipe for the inspiration to use furnace filters in an unconventional way)

  • At first the edit almost made me go "WTH does that recipe have to do with this?" Very nice... – TheCleaner Mar 7 '14 at 22:38
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    @TheCleaner :) I've made that recipe several times, and have had good luck. It's a cheap/quick hack if you don't have a real dehydrator. – EEAA Mar 7 '14 at 22:39
  • Hah, I just presented AB's furnace filter dehydrator in a curing/smoking class I'm running :) – squillman Mar 7 '14 at 22:42
  • @squillman Sounds like an amazing class. I've been smoking for many years (WSM and as of two mos. ago, a BGE), but have only recently tried my hand at curing. Made a pastrami from scratch, which turned out really well. – EEAA Mar 7 '14 at 22:44
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    Good Eats for the win! ;-P – SnakeDoc Mar 8 '14 at 22:46

Make sure plastic sheeting is put up around all the doorways where the work is being done.

Make sure the server room door stays shut as much as possible. If there is a large gap under or around the door install some weatherproofing trim (which is good for keeping the AC in anyways).

Assuming the room has a drop ceiling make sure all the tiles are fully seated and seal up any holes with plastic sheeting and tape.

Have a vacuum handy to suck up the dust carried around on people's shoes, so it doesn't get tracked into the room.

Is the AC recirculating air or sucking it in from outside? If it sucks air from outside put the fan on max to try to increase the air pressure in the room a little. Make sure it doesn't suck air in from inside the building where it might pull in drywall dust.

  • The AC does pull air from in the building, but it's in a separate (adjacent) room. – Joel Coel Mar 8 '14 at 1:58
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    In that case, be sure to protect BOTH of those rooms from dust as much as you can. Drywall dust is very fine and some will come through the ac filters. – Grant Mar 8 '14 at 2:41
  • Sadly, that room is not considered secure. The hallway just outside it is getting new drywall and the room is getting a new door, but in the meantime it's just gaping open. I'll be sure there's at least some plastic hanging across the opening. There will be no need for anyone to enter the room, so I should be able to close it off fairly tight. – Joel Coel Mar 8 '14 at 2:52
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    Have another air purifier in that room and if possible put extra filters over the ac air intake. If the AC can be switched to circulate air instead, do so. If they are doing the door and drywall just outside it, that room WILL be filled with dust no matter how many plastic sheets there are (seriously...drywall dust manages to get everywhere no matter how careful the workers are at cleaning up) – Grant Mar 8 '14 at 2:57

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