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Old 06-17-2010, 10:26 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Is a fan controller something with which to bother? Suggestions?

Is a fan controller with temperature readings (provided either via hardware or software) something to look into? Suggestions?

There will be very many fans in the chassis:
–front (2-3), bottom (1), and VGA (1) intakes
–top and rear exhaust (3 total)
–CPU (2 total in push-pull setup on heatsink)

The motherboard is the Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD9 and the chassis is a Cooler Master HAF X.

I have not begun putting the parts together, as not all of them have arrived.

Thanks.
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Old 06-17-2010, 10:34 PM   #2 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: Is a fan controller something with which to bother? Suggestions?

The Gigabyte motherboard should have 2 controllable channels (CPU fan and FAN2, at least that's how it is on my X58A-UD3R). The other fans are not controllable but do report the fan speed (RPM).

If you want to control the speed definitely look into a fan controller, the only thing I have to say is none of them seem appealing to me at all. I like the motherboard ones because they are software controlled, report RPM, and can be controlled by feedback software systems (speed up under heat, etc). Most of the fan controllers I've seen for sale are just knobs in the front or back that adjust the fan speed. Later this summer I plan to design a custom fan controller system that integrates a controller/feedback chip onto each fan as well as an LED controller, all connected through a low speed digital connection to a USB or serial port on the motherboard for full software control.

If you have any skill with electronics you can easily build a software controlled fan controller using a programmable microcontroller chip and a serial port.
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Old 06-17-2010, 10:54 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Is a fan controller something with which to bother? Suggestions?

Quote:
Originally Posted by CalcProgrammer1 View Post
The Gigabyte motherboard should have 2 controllable channels (CPU fan and FAN2, at least that's how it is on my X58A-UD3R). The other fans are not controllable but do report the fan speed (RPM).
My motherboard will have:
1 x CPU fan header
3 x system fan headers
1 x power fan header

Which of those are controllable and which are not?

Quote:
Originally Posted by CalcProgrammer1 View Post
If you want to control the speed definitely look into a fan controller, the only thing I have to say is none of them seem appealing to me at all. I like the motherboard ones because they are software controlled, report RPM, and can be controlled by feedback software systems (speed up under heat, etc).
None appeal to me, either. I read that the temperature the motherboard or software might not be accurate. Comments?

Quote:
Originally Posted by CalcProgrammer1 View Post
Later this summer I plan to...
If you have any skill with electronics...
I'm not sure I can express to you how cool that sounds.
*smile* Alas, I do not.

Could you take a quick look for me here and here please, and let me know if anything catches your eye?

Thank you.
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Old 06-17-2010, 11:43 PM   #4 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: Is a fan controller something with which to bother? Suggestions?

The fan controller (and fan itself) cannot monitor temperature. Fans have no hardware to measure temperature with. Your CPU, GPU, hard drive, and certain spots on the motherboard have temperature sensors built in. The BIOS (either of the PC or of the graphics card) uses these readings to adjust the built-in fans automatically. However, if the fan controller does not connect to the motherboard (either via USB or another digital connection like serial) then the controller cannot get this temperature data from the PC and instead relies on its own sensors. You may be able to place these sensors on components you want to measure, but it will only be a surface reading (the PC reading is taken inside the chip's silicon, making it much more accurate).

That said, fans do have a third wire, known as the "sensor wire" or "tachometer wire" which is used for measuring the fan's rotation speed (in RPM). It does this simply by counting the number of times the fan spins or timing the duration between rotations to calculate the rotations per minute. This can give a fairly good estimate of airflow. When you set a fan's speed, you are not setting the RPM but rather the voltage to the fan's motor. Sometimes fans do not scale linearly (so a 2000RPM fan may not necessarily run at 1000RPM at 50% power, it is usually much higher until you get to the very low percentages).

Those fan controllers look pretty nice and sort of implement software (RPM counter and temperature sensors) but I did not see one that can be controlled from the PC itself.

It's really up to you, I built my own because I wanted it to be controlled from the PC (I built one for my server, I work on it remotely a lot so controlling it remotely and monitoring RPM remotely is useful). I also built it for color changing LED's. The choice looks to be knobs or touchscreens for those panel mount controllers. I would get one that monitors RPM, this way if a fan gets stuck it will show 0 RPM, unless it is turned off this indicates a failure and you'll know to check on it.
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Old 06-18-2010, 12:20 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Is a fan controller something with which to bother? Suggestions?

Quote:
Originally Posted by CalcProgrammer1 View Post
You may be able to place these sensors on components you want to measure, but it will only be a surface reading (the PC reading is taken inside the chip's silicon, making it much more accurate).
Thank you. I was [erroneously] under the impression that the hardware reading are inaccurate.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CalcProgrammer1 View Post
Those fan controllers look pretty nice and sort of implement software (RPM counter and temperature sensors) but I did not see one that can be controlled from the PC itself.
Quote:
Originally Posted by CalcProgrammer1 View Post
I built my own because...
Again: so cool!

Quote:
Originally Posted by CalcProgrammer1 View Post
I would get one that monitors RPM, this way if a fan gets stuck it will show 0 RPM, unless it is turned off this indicates a failure and you'll know to check on it.
That's a great idea.

And if it has temperature readings displayed as well, where should the sensors be placed?

And how can I tell what components in my mobo (Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD9) will report the temperature? Oh, is this an RTFM situation? *smile*
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Old 06-18-2010, 12:28 AM   #6 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: Is a fan controller something with which to bother? Suggestions?

The hardware readings are accurate, though they may seem odd. Since a chip is such a thin, small piece of material compared to the heatsink, the chip's temperature may fluctuate greatly as usage changes (it can heat up really fast, cool down really fast, or keep heating up and cooling down. The heatsink absorbs the CPU's heat and holds it until it can be cooled by air or water, this means the heatsink's temperature is much more constant, it gradually builds up heat as the CPU runs hot and gradually cools as the fan or water cooler pushes air or water to absorb the heat. What this means is sticking a heat sensor on the heatsink will result in gradual, slow changing, delayed measurements compared to the chip's internal temperature. I would put one on the CPU, one on the northbridge, and one on the video card heatsink if it's accessible (some cards have it covered, the cover will not give you the true temperature).

You may be able to get one rigged up to an intake or exhaust fan to get an air temperature reading, but I'm not sure how well this would work.
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