Replacing Power Supply Fans

January 6, 2009

For some time now whenever I would turn on my computer the fans would make that classic “I’m going to die soon” sound which is never a good thing. I didn’t really want to throw down the money to replace an otherwise working power supply so I decided that I would simply replace the fans. This was a fairly simple project, but not worth breaking your warranty over. The power supply I was working on was a 5 year old Antec 480Watt power supply, nothing special. The basic tools you would need for this project are:

  • 2 Philips head screw drivers a smallish one and a mediumish one
  • Basic soldering skills
  • Soldering supplies (solder gun, solder, flux… etc)
  • Wire Cutters
  • Wire Stripers
  • New case fans that are the same size as the ones already installed
  • Heat shrink or some electrical tape

Before I continue on I want to issue this general disclaimer: Working with electricity or devices that use electricity can be dangerous. By following any of the instructions in the rest of this post you acknowledge that you will not hold wordpress.com, this blog, or writer of this blog responsible for anything that happens as a result of what you read/did as a result of reading this article.

Honestly I didn’t want to have to place such a disclaimer on my blog, but I feel it is necessary. This job is simple and can be safe as long as you are careful! It’s not my fault if you start poking your screw driver around and get zapped!

One last thing before I get started. That is a note on fan selection. I had to take mine apart once to figure out what size fans I needed. In my case I had two fans: an 80mm and 92mm fan. I ordered two of these: http://www.xoxide.com/80vanstealfa.html (not two of those exact ones, but two Ventec Stealth Fans). You can order any old 12 volt case fan as long as you think it will move enough air to cool your power supply. If you are concerned that your power supply uses some fancy non-standard fan then just follow the guide up until the part where you have to cut the fan wires and you can see for yourself. Anyway, I choose these fans because they were supposed to be quiet (around 20dB). Apparently they also move enough air, or I wouldn’t be writing this post right now ^_^;

The first step in all of this is to remove the power supply from your computer. You should unplug the power supply before you start removing it. The actual removal differs from computer to computer and if you are concerned you won’t remember where everything plugs back in then take a picture or take some time to label things.Typically the power supply is screwed in to the back of the case with 4 screws. It’s easy to locate because it’s where you plug in that monster power cable that your computer needs to operate.

Once you have safely removed the power supply from the computer set it down on a flat surface and pull out your smallish screwdriver. Most power supplies I have taken apart (about 6 or 7) have four tiny screws on the top. I circled two of them in the picture below.

Power supply case screws highlighted

Power supply case screws highlighted

The other two screws are simply on the other side. Also, notice that the screw on the right was originally covered with a sticker.

Warranty Sticker

Warranty Sticker

That sticker says something about violating the warranty and I imagine that by defacing it I voided my warranty (which had long expired). If you care about your warranty stop now and put down the screw driver. If not continue on by taking the top part of the case off. I had to be careful when taking mine off because, if you didn’t notice, there is a fan attached to the top of mine. That fan has two wires that run down to the main board and there’s slack in them, but I could easily seen them being yanked out by an overzealous tug. Here is when you can figure out what size fans you want to order. Simply measure any given side of the fan (it’s a square… all sides have the same length) in millimetres and this will tell you what size it is. I had an 80mm and 92mm fan in mine. They come in standard sizes (yes… 92mm is a standard size for some reason) so they won’t be hard to find.

Here is the inside of the power supply case

Here is the inside of the power supply case

Notice that, as promised, I have two fans I need to replace. Only one of them was making funny noises, but I figured if I was going to open everything up I may as well replace both of them.

Quick Note: If you look at the picture just below I have circled the main reason playing with your power supply does include risk of electricity.

Don't let these guys zap ya!

Don't let these guys zap ya!

Those bad boys are 200 volt capacitors. If you didn’t already know a capacitor is a magic device that can store electricity. It’s doubtful that a fully charged 200 volt capacitor would kill you, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend testing that theory out. Just don’t touch it, either with a screw driver, or with your body and there is nothing to worry about πŸ™‚ .

The next step is to detach both of the fans from the power supply case. These are standard case fans and detach with four screws each. They should be on the outside of the case as shown in the picture below.

Just to give you an idea of what to look for

Just to give you an idea of what to look for

Yes, this picture was taken with the case still screwed together, but that is because I forgot to take it with the case apart πŸ™‚ . In any case hopefully you get the idea… you have to unscrew all the fans to remove them.

Here is a fan unscrewed from the case

Here is a fan unscrewed from the case

Now we are tasked with detaching the fan from the main board. On my power supply they are plugged in with tiny plastic plugs as you can (sort of) see in the picture below.

Remove this if you feel up for a fight...

Remove this if you feel up for a fight...

I didn’t feel like fussing with the connector to try and remove it so I just cut the wires. At the end of the day you are going to have to solder anyway πŸ™‚ . I decided where to cut based on the next step which talks about cutting the wires on the fan. I tried to keep the final wire length the same as what it was originally, but to make soldering easier you want to have enough slack on each wire that they will cooperate nicely with you. Below is a picture of the cut wires. At the end of the day you just need to use your judgement. Remember: measure twice, cut once!

Here is a picture of the wires I cut

Here is a picture of the wires I cut

There are a few things you need to know about modern case fans. Any case fan I could find typically came with a 3 pin connector (for a motherboard) and an adapter to so you could hook it right in to your power supply. My power supply fans only used the red and black wires which are for power and ground respectively. The extra wire, usually colored yellow, is so the motherboard knows what speed the fans are spinning at. If your power supply happens to support that then solder that sucker in. Mine does not so I just cut the wire really short and figured nothing else would touch it.

Now that everything is ready, solder it all up. I am assuming you know how to solder and chances are you solder better than me. Once you have soldered you will end up with something that looks at least as good as this:

The fans all soldered in to place

The fans all soldered in to place

I would have used heat shrink, but I didn’t have any and really needed my computer to be running again. Before you reassemble everything I would suggest that you hook up your power supply just enough to get the fans spinning. This means you’ll want to hook up main board power, hard drive power, and video card (if needed). Press the power button, see if they spin, and they pull the plug so you don’t overheat anything. You want to make sure the fans will spin before you put it all back together. The last thing you want is for it to overheat without you knowing!

After you test and they work… you are done! Enjoy your new fans πŸ™‚ .


Computer Work on the Horizon

December 30, 2008

For almost a year now there has been a bad fan in my PSU, which is not terribly disappointing because I have had it for around 5 years now. Since it seems to be getting worse and worse I need to replace the fan which is going bad (or get an entirely new PSU). I took some time today to dismantle my setup, which is a bit painful because I have SO many wires in there, which I took time to organize about 2 years ago, but that’s the way it goes I guess πŸ™‚ .

Now, I found out that my PSU has two fans, a 92mm and a 80mm fan, so I need to order some new ones on newegg.com and replace them. I figure I may as well replace both while I’m in there because I certainly don’t want to open it all up again! When I get the new fans in I’ll probably do a little write up of how I did it. This is just going to be a standard replacement as I won’t be adding speed controls are anything fancy. The only tricky part is that the new fans will not just plug in nice and easy. I’ll have to do a smidge of soldering, but that will be very basic. This is 100% for functionality πŸ™‚ .


Uninstalling Programs in Windows — Annoying?

December 26, 2008

I suppose this post could be filed under ‘Windows rant’ because I don’t have much good to say about it these days. I received a new computer game for Christmas so it was once again time to boot my computer to the dark side. While I was in Windows I decided that I would clean up my installation as it had probably been close to a year since I actually booted it. This consisted of crawling through the file system looking for orphaned folders from programs that were long gone, emptying the recycling bin, cleaning my downloads folder, and finally going through “Add/Remove Programs” and getting rid of stuff I didn’t care about.

The most frustrating thing about all of this was that some of the programs I had installed would automatically restart the dang machine without even asking first! I don’t think any Windows installer/uninstaller should ever do this. First of all, I don’t think half the programs that “require a restart” actually need a restart. Secondly, if they do, they should ask you for a confirmation. After all, the user is supposed to be “in control” of the computer and not the other way around.

While I’m on the subject of difficult uninstallations lets talk about Norton Anti-virus. I was recently asked to clean up a new laptop before it was being gifted to someone. The first thing I wanted to do was uninstall all the rubbish-ware that comes on a standard HP or Dell laptop. There is a nifty program called The PC-Decrapifier(PCD) which helps automate this task quite nicely. Basically, it calls all of the different uninstallers for you instead of making you click all of them from the Add/Remove Programs dialog. Now, when the PCD made its way to Norton the Norton uninstaller must have taken at least 15 minutes!! That is WAY to long for an uninstalltion. All you have to do is remove any running processes, and delete all the files. It’s like the Norton uninstaller takes a coffee break part way through. I think the Service Pack 3 installer took less time to run than the uninstaller for Norton anti-virus — ridiculous!

Back before I ran Linux I would accept most of these things as the only way, but when I uninstall software on a Gentoo or Ubuntu machine it rarely takes more than 10 seconds. Also, none of it requires me to reboot (with the exception of kernel related things). All around it is experiences like these which help me appreciate Linux even more so I suppose Windows irritating me from time to time isn’t all bad πŸ™‚ .


KDE 4.1 Font Issues Solved

December 24, 2008

Well as I mentioned in an earlier post I was having a bugger of a time getting the Helvetica font to work with the KDE 4.1 widgets, which was a substantial problem since you can’t yet change the font for them. I did everything from a system rebuild to clearing out the .kde4 directory so it would rebuild the settings. None of that was working and I was running out of ideas. Eventually I decided to make an entirely new user account to make sure it was nothing relating to individual user settings. Believe it or not that solved the problem. I am assuming there was some setting in my home directory which was causing the fonts to get messed up somehow.

I suppose I should put the solved in quotes because I wanted all the settings I had in my old user account so I still had work to do once the fonts were working. After I had the fonts working I again I made a backup of my home directory and wiped out the original. Then I copied over all the important files and everything was well again.

Now, this whole ordeal has brought several things to me attention:

  1. I don’t understand how fonts work in Linux. I suppose this is quite obvious considering all the trouble I had to go through to get KDE to see the Helvetica font again…
  2. The fact that Linux stores all the user configurations in the home directory is extremely nice. Knowing where all my settings were gave me a great deal of confidence when I cleared out my original home directory, and it also gives me confidence when I make my backups. This is something that Windows does not necessarily offer. Configuration files in Windows seem to be spread all over the place from the installation directory, to the user directory, and even in the registry.
  3. Finally, this has reminded me that it is always best to start with the easy and simple solutions than to jump to the big guns in a moment of frustration. In other words, rebuilding my whole system should have been a last ditch effort and not the third thing I tried.

At any rate I’m happy to have a working KDE 4.1 installation again and hopefully I will manage to keep it working for a while now πŸ™‚ . This is good because I can now focus my attention on other projects such as working on Spheriosity.


Complete system rebuild

December 20, 2008

Due to some poor decisions in trying to get those silly fonts back in KDE 4.1 I need to rebuild my system… This means running everyone’s favorite command: emerge -eav world .

It’s probably just as well. I have been spending quite a bit of time in front of the computer for the past several months anyway :-/ .


Gentoo, KDE 4.1, and Font Issues

December 20, 2008

Update [01/3/2009] : Eventually I was able to fix the problem πŸ™‚ .

For a few weeks now I have been running KDE 4.1 on both my laptop and desktop machines. Both run Gentoo Linux primarily and can boot Windows XP (for games). Unfortunately, when I updated Xorg on my desktop machine things got a little messy. It seems, for whatever reason, that the Helvetica font is impossible for KDE 4.1 to load. This is a problem since it’s the default font for used in virtually all the widgets. The reason I suspect this is because you are allowed to change the font on the digital clock widget and if I change to anything other than Helvetica it works great. Sadly, I can’t change any of the other fonts or I would have settled for that as a solution.

I have been trying to fix this problem for several hours now with no such luck. I can’t even seem to locate a KDE log file. The Xorg log file seems to show that all fonts are being loaded correctly. I also reinstalled all packages that I had installed from media-fonts/ and that did not correct the problem either. My next recourse is to reinstall KDE 4.1, but I really don’t want to do that because it takes a heck of a long time. The laptop and desktop have virtually the same configuration yet the laptop works and the desktop does not.Β  After spending all this time trying to fix this… I must say that it is starting to get old.

I wish I knew more about how Linux dealt with fonts, but I am finding a surprising lack of resources on the web about this. Up until this point I took fonts and how Linux did all that sort of stuff as magic…

Oh well, I guess I just have to keep at it :-/ .


The Nice Thing About GUIs…

December 7, 2008

Is that you can open more terminals at once!

Remotely working on a computer

Remotely working on a computer

I often find it funny when I am using a GUI to do things with a terminal. There is just something strangely amusing about how much system reasources you are using to do it πŸ™‚ .


Windows OneCare — An Epic Fail

November 27, 2008

Recently I have had the … “pleasure” of being able to deal with a piece of software known as Windows OneCase. Quite honestly I have never used a more ironic piece of software. Windows OneCare is supposed to be an all in one firewall/spyware/antivirus/backup system. Here is what Microsoft has to say about it:

With OneCare comes greater peace of mind, knowing your home network, computers, and vital personal data are better protected from online threatsβ€”not to mention that any children can surf in greater safety, too! (http://onecare.live.com/standard/en-us/3/saferonline.htm)

I find this to be hardly the case. First of all I think it is a conflict of interest for Microsoft to be selling antivirus software to their own flawed operating system. Are they admitting that they can’t make an operating system secure enough to project against all of the threats that are out there? It doesn’t make sense that you should have to spend extra money to keep your Windows systems working correctly.

That point aside Windows OneCare does not do at all what Microsoft promises. First of all I find that it works no better than any normal piece of antivirus software. It seems to locate your basic virus/malware and it puts it in quarantine for you. Oddly enough most of these viruses/malware came from Internet Explorer and were sitting in the IE Temporary Files I won’t even touch on the blaring issues there.

Secondly I have never seen a single piece of software slow down a computer more than Windows OneCare. Whether running on Vista or XP I have seen OneCare add MINUTES to the log in time of an average computer. This is unacceptable! A product like OneCare is supposed to make life easier… not harder. Additionally, just to open OneCare to change settings requires them to display one of those repeating “progress bars”. This is after it’s already running in the system tray! Does the configuration interface take up so much memory that they have to load it separate?

OneCare also attempts to rate the state of your system. This is one of the biggest jokes yet. I don’t think I have seen it give a system the best rating possible any time after a week or so. It seems that your system slowly slides into a dark abyss. It’s like self condemning software. Also, if it knows the state of your system is only “Fair” then why the heck doesn’t it DO something about it? Is it too lazy? I’m not sure, but I have to chuckle when it basically admits it can’t do anything to help you.

Finally we have the OneCare firewall. Doesn’t Windows already have a firewall? Is Microsoft saying that their firewall is not good enough? I’m really not sure what the point is. Now, maybe OneCare simply uses the Windows firewall as a backend, which I would hope that it does because otherwise Microsoft is yet again making implicit statements about their own product. I don’t know for sure what it uses and have tried to research it. I would certainly be interested to know.

That is just about all I have to say for Windows OneCare. I would recommend it for anyone looking to slow their system down and waste $50 in the process.


Windows …

November 25, 2008

Recently I was asked by a friend to rid his Windows XP machine of a particularly annoying virus/malware. It faked the Windows Security Center and was constantly displaying annoying pop-ups. It sat in the system tray and would not go away. It disabled your ability to change the desktop background and also disallowed you from accessing the task manager. Anytime you clicked on it the virus would open Internet Explorer and try to make you download some other virus.

I searched around the Internet for a while trying to see if people had several problems. After trying a bunch of different solutions I decided I should just investigate the problem by myself. First I checked in the usual places such as msconfig and in the Run folder in the registry to see if it had added any entries there. That didn’t turn out to be very fruitful. I loaded up TRK and ran the AVG Scanner and the BitDefender Scanner and both of them came up with some minor entries, but not the actual problem virus. Eventually, in a moment of desperation I cleared out all of the IE Temporary Folders. As it turns out the virus had installed itself in there. I imagine it was activating itself through the “Active Desktop” feature of Windows which is why they didn’t want you changing the background.

As I would find out getting rid of the virus was the “easy” part. After that was gone I spent another hour trying to make it so you could change the background again. Everything I read said it was real easy… you just click the “Web” tab under “Customize Desktop” which was under the tab for changing the desktop background. Well… this virus had removed that tab altogether. I then followed several guides to try and get the tab back. No luck >_<. Eventually I resorted to a System Restore, which I actually hate, but that ended up solving the problem. Though it rolled back my installation of Spybot S&D which was a bit of a pain, but I figured it worthwhile to reinstall it since this person said they didn’t want to use Firefox.

This sort of experience is what makes me love Linux that much more… πŸ™‚ . I have been a Gentoo user for a little over 4 years now and I will take a broken package problem over an annoying virus any day!


Reseting a Linux Password

November 22, 2008

While in the computer science lab today another student approached me with the following dilemma. They needed to do some programming over Thanksgiving break, but were not going to have Internet access to ssh into the lab machines. The student had installed Ubuntu on their laptop, but had forgotten the password because they had not used it in a while. They wanted to completely reinstall, but I said they would take quite a while when they could probably just reset the password. I offered to help and this sent me down an hour long journey to reset their password πŸ™‚ mainly because I had to keep getting more and more equipment from my dorm room.

My first attempt was simply to pop in a Linux boot CD and chroot into their existing installation. From there I figured I would be root and could simply passwd my way to victory. This failed because his CD ROM drive, which was in shambles, refused to load the boot CD. Not one to give up easily I resorted to pulling out his hard drive and hooking it up to a little device I have which converts a hard drive to a USB device. Since I have Linux on my laptop I figured I’d just chroot over to his setup and be done with it. Well… that didn’t work because he had a 64-bit machine and when the chroot tried to run his version of bash it failed miserably. This makes sense because I only have a 32-bit machine.

I wasn’t going to give up there either. The next step I took was to change the password on my system and copy the hash out of my /etc/shadow to his /etc/shadow. For those who don’t know /etc/shadow is where Linux stores it’s hashed passwords. The idea behind the hash is that it is sort ofΒ  a one way encryption. In theory it is impossible to reverse the hash and the only way to figure out what it belongs to would be to hash every possible combination of letters, numbers, punctuation, etc. This works great for passwords though because when validating a password you simply need to hash the users attempt and compare it with the hash of the real password. Since the hash for a given string always comes out the same you know it’s a match if the hashes match.

After a few attempts at typing in the hash correctly I was able to reset his password and we logged into his machine without any troubles πŸ™‚ .

I always love a good tech support challenge πŸ˜€