DIY 100% silent Linux server

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DIY 100% silent Linux server

Postposted on Wed Aug 29, 2012 4:32 pm

I would like to set up a small Linux server at home, which would be working 24/7.

But I need it to be completely silent, unaudible at 2 ft., or at night. Prefferably without moving parts, so that it doesn't choke on the dust after a year or so, and which is very cheap to build. Also it has to be safe enough so that it could be left unattended at home, and it wouldn't short or anything.

Has anyone done something similar? What kind of hardware I should be looking at? Price range?
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Re: DIY 100% silent Linux server

Postposted on Wed Aug 29, 2012 4:40 pm

Well... how much performance do you want out of this server? I have an Atom box where the only moving parts are the fan in the power supply and the motors in the hard drives (RAID 5 storage server). If I ripped out the mechanical drives and used an SSD and used a fanless power supply then I'd have a system that meets your requirements...but it might cost more than you'd like, mostly due to SSD and fanless power supply.

I also have a Raspberry Pi that is nowhere near as fast as the Atom box (the Atom is ~4x faster at single threaded tasks and the Atom has 2 cores). Of course, the Raspberry Pi has exactly zero moving parts, runs Linux, and is $35 + S&H, so there you go. Some more information would be helpful in guiding you in the right direction.
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Re: DIY 100% silent Linux server

Postposted on Wed Aug 29, 2012 4:54 pm

chuckula wrote:Well... how much performance do you want out of this server? I have an Atom box where the only moving parts are the fan in the power supply and the motors in the hard drives (RAID 5 storage server). If I ripped out the mechanical drives and used an SSD and used a fanless power supply then I'd have a system that meets your requirements...but it might cost more than you'd like, mostly due to SSD and fanless power supply.

I also have a Raspberry Pi that is nowhere near as fast as the Atom box (the Atom is ~4x faster at single threaded tasks and the Atom has 2 cores). Of course, the Raspberry Pi has exactly zero moving parts, runs Linux, and is $35 + S&H, so there you go. Some more information would be helpful in guiding you in the right direction.


It has to be able to work as an SSH server, maybe a host for VPN, has to be able to accomodate normal Linux install. I need no storage on it per se, but I also have a spare Intel SSD which I could use. I'm thinking about NAS with wake on LAN to work as a storage PC. Although, as I understand, HDDs shut down if they're idle?

I found one silent PSU so far - http://www.seasonicusa.com/NEW_X-series_Fanless.htm But it's quite expensive for a dumb low performance server :(

EDIT: So basically I could use something like this - http://www.amazon.com/Intel-Dual-Core-M ... ef=sr_1_16 + fanless PSU, and it would work?
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Re: DIY 100% silent Linux server

Postposted on Wed Aug 29, 2012 5:21 pm

Thanks for telling me more about what you want to do. I will say this: Outside of the storage server/NAS configuration, the Raspberry Pi can do everything you mentioned, but it might not be a speed demon at doing it [BTW: I just ran some benchmarks and my Atom is actually about 5x faster than the Ras Pi at single-threaded tasks]

1. Linux Distro: I'd recommend the Debian images distributed from the Rasbperry Pi site. In particular, the Raspbian Wheezy image is pretty good. You are getting real Debian with this, including just about all the packages you'd want to run a server being an apt-get away. I actually run Arch on most of my other machines and the Arch image is OK too, but the Raspbian setup has been optimized for performance on the RasPi.

2. SSH: Built in to the Ras Pi Linux images and I normally access my Pi through SSH.
3. VPN: You have your choice. SSH itself can be used to setup VPNs, and I highly recommend OpenVPN, which is cross-platform and has packages for the Raspberry Pi.
3. The rest: You can even get a graphical desktop setup on there if you want (I'll warn you that it's slow though).


If you want something higher-end than Raspberry Pi but still want 100% silent and no moving parts, then I'd recommend either a Beagle Board (http://beagleboard.org/) or Panda Board (http://pandaboard.org/) with the Panda board being the most powerful (approaching the speed of my Atom).
Unfortunately, neither one has real SATA or eSATA capabilities (you may need to go x86 to get that). They do have USB (2.0 only) if that would meet your needs for low-speed disk storage in an external enclosure.
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Re: DIY 100% silent Linux server

Postposted on Wed Aug 29, 2012 6:04 pm

The Pi apparently has troublesome USB, which thanks to its design leads to troublesome Ethernet. I wouldn't use this generation of RP for this purpose.
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Re: DIY 100% silent Linux server

Postposted on Wed Aug 29, 2012 6:26 pm

bthylafh wrote:The Pi apparently has troublesome USB, which thanks to its design leads to troublesome Ethernet. I wouldn't use this generation of RP for this purpose.

Well, since the price is not so insane, maybe I'll go with Atom dual core + silent PSU + some ATX case. That should keep it cool and have some extra power to spare. Maybe I'll even put some HDDs in later.

I'm a little bit scared of prepackaged products like RP :-?

What surprises me is that there are a lot of mITX cases, but all of them are prepackaged with PSUs which have small screamer fans... Whose idea was that? :o
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Re: DIY 100% silent Linux server

Postposted on Wed Aug 29, 2012 6:46 pm

Madman wrote:
bthylafh wrote:What surprises me is that there are a lot of mITX cases, but all of them are prepackaged with PSUs which have small screamer fans... Whose idea was that? :o


Who knows? I can recommend this case: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6811154085

Not the smallest or sleekest but it houses my Atom server and 3 HDDs + SSD nicely. The built-in power supply is nothing spectacular but it is quiet. This machine has been running practically 24/7 since 2010 (about 2.5 years now) with no complaints.
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Re: DIY 100% silent Linux server

Postposted on Wed Aug 29, 2012 7:12 pm

I would get a used Asus 1000H or similar and just take the fan out or an atom laptop with a broken screen. I've had one running for two years with a dead fan doing light duty with no issues.

There are a lot of cheap laptops with broken screens (and very low prices) and it's IMO the best bang/buck for making a cheap server. Just check craigslist and ebay.
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Re: DIY 100% silent Linux server

Postposted on Wed Aug 29, 2012 9:46 pm

I have a inaudible system that might be more your style. I'm using a Biostar uATX H67 with a 1155 Celeron. It's sitting in a Lian Li PC 351v uATX case, but I've disconnected the case fans. All the drives in the system are SSDs, and I'm using the HSF from a Core i5 2500k, but I also have a Scythe Shruiken I had in there, except I can tell the difference. Crucially, the system is so low power that the PWM fans in the power supply and HSF are never spinning fast. FYI, I'm using an 80+ Bronze 500w OCZ ModXtreme Pro.

The Seasonic X series PSUs are fantastic, but the regular fan-having X series only spin the fan above 200w or so depending on the model, so you can save a couple bucks just by getting one of those instead of the fanless versions. Either way, their fantastic PSUs, but if the system is only pulling 35w from the wall, few PSU fans are going to spin real fast.

The whole rig is basically headless and the size of a home theatre sub -- I have mine next to my TV as well, just for those occasions when I need to get into the UEFI.

My apartment's ambient noise floor is super low at night, and I can't hear it even when I'm sticking my head in the case to switch something out. You can put a system like that together super cheap and get all the modern x86 goodies too. Hell, a half way decent tower design CPU cooler wouldn't even need a fan for a low power 1155 CPU, so if you get one of those and a fanless PSU/hybrid fan design (when the fan turns off during low power consumption) you could have a completely fanless system for not a lot of money, but much faster than Atom. Fanless isn't necessary to get a nearly silent system, but you have a lot more options these days if you want to go that route.
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Re: DIY 100% silent Linux server

Postposted on Wed Aug 29, 2012 10:02 pm

I've been using a Atom netbook as a file server/NAS for about a year. I can't hear it at all and it has a mechanical drive in it. I would image that with a SSD the noise would be even lower.
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Re: DIY 100% silent Linux server

Postposted on Thu Aug 30, 2012 9:01 am

A fanless atom with an SSD will probably work since it's not going to be worked too hard, but I would also recommend using an old laptop with an SSD as the server.

It won't get you dual NICs, but it does have a built in keyboard, mouse, monitor, and battery. It's going to be a more compact setup then a desktop with all the accessories. You can run the server headless, but unless you're going to redirect the console to a serial port or have a KVM, you're going to need IO devices to see what it's doing when it gets weird.

It also, presumably, will have a better proc then the atom, which will help with the throughput if you want to run a VPN off of it.
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two mutually exclusive concepts

Postposted on Thu Aug 30, 2012 10:22 am

Madman wrote:I would like to set up a small Linux server at home, which would be working 24/7.

But I need it to be completely silent, unaudible at 2 ft., or at night. Prefferably without moving parts, so that it doesn't choke on the dust after a year or so, and which is very cheap to build. Also it has to be safe enough so that it could be left unattended at home, and it wouldn't short or anything.

Has anyone done something similar? What kind of hardware I should be looking at? Price range?


Are you stalking me or something? :D

I just built a fanlesss heavy-duty router inside a Streamcom FC8, ivy bridge xeon with 8GB of ram, nice ITX board and lots of gigabit ports. Its still overkill because there aren't any dual core ivy yet, but encrypting at line speed is great.
http://www.streacom.com/products/fc8-fanless-chassis/

FWIW, it won't be that cheap to DIY (e.g. my case was $200 by itself) and going fanless places considerable burdens on your parts choices. (for my 45w xeon: cost more, lower base clock)
Some "fanless" components still assume an amount of airflow from the case fans/convection so your dustless concept may not pan out.
Fanless atx-style powersupply may not be an option which leaves pico-psu or boards that take DC input. (I went with the latter, common laptop power brick = win)

If you're doing light to moderate duty there are some pretty good pre-built fanless systems out there, though they are a little more embedded/industrial oriented.
I looked long and hard at these guys: (for the crypto/VPN power I would need their top end i7 models, some had month+ lead times and get pricey)
http://www.fit-pc.com/web/

For the atom/brazos models amazon has some ready to ship:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/aag/main?ie=UT ... VUK9571N8X
I really liked the design they had though, its smaller and more rugged than mine. If I was buying for a business I would've gotten one.

Keep in mind no matter what you will have to stick to SSDs as spinning platters will never be silent, so making it into a NAS is out unless you have gold bars lying around.
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Re: DIY 100% silent Linux server

Postposted on Thu Aug 30, 2012 11:09 am

First: there are mITX cases with external power bricks. That elminates the PSU fan and has plenty of power for an Atom rig.

Second: How come nobody is talking about mini-PCs? There are some without fans that will fit in a smaller profile than any do-it-yourself mITX. Add $20 of RAM and your SSD and you're set. (I'm positive there are other fanless mini-PC options out there if you look)
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Re: DIY 100% silent Linux server

Postposted on Thu Aug 30, 2012 11:17 am

Here's an unconventional solution: get a used Mac Mini and using the iFixIt guide install an SSD. Install a Linux to be your fileserver and you're done.
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Re: DIY 100% silent Linux server

Postposted on Thu Aug 30, 2012 11:31 am

I bought one of these for a project but never used it. Could work for a very low power system.
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Re: DIY 100% silent Linux server

Postposted on Thu Aug 30, 2012 11:57 am

Madman wrote:So basically I could use something like this - http://www.amazon.com/Intel-Dual-Core-M ... ef=sr_1_16 + fanless PSU, and it would work?

This board has the updated Atom D2700 and a "fuller" / more modern rear IO panel as well as USB3.0 for roughly the same price
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Re: DIY 100% silent Linux server

Postposted on Thu Aug 30, 2012 2:01 pm

Try a PicoPSU from these guys: http://www.mini-box.com/site/index.html .. and you can use whatever case you like. I have my Linux Atom based server using this, it has an SSD. I also got a minibox case http://www.mini-box.com/M300-LCD-Enclosure .. but I didn't like the lack of cooling and have moved to a Lian Li PC-Q07 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6811112227 .. with that case I can put a 120mm magnetic bearing fan (larger and quieter) than the small fans in the other case which started off quiet but then started whining.

It handles the DSL, wireless (2 ethernet + 1 miniPCIe) and network tasks like DNS, DHCPd, mail etc.
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Re: DIY 100% silent Linux server

Postposted on Thu Aug 30, 2012 2:46 pm

I will second http://www.mini-box.com/. You might also want to check out http://silentpcreview.com/. You could ask in the forums there.
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Re: DIY 100% silent Linux server

Postposted on Thu Aug 30, 2012 5:13 pm

OEM Production 2550L2D-MxPC looks pretty nice.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6856205007
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Re: DIY 100% silent Linux server

Postposted on Fri Aug 31, 2012 7:50 am

Shuttle XS35V3 w/ the Atom D2700 for $193. That's the updated version of the Shuttle XS35V2 that I linked earlier. Again no fans. Sorry, I'm done.
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Re: DIY 100% silent Linux server

Postposted on Fri Aug 31, 2012 7:57 am

I think the SFF Atom boxes above are really good, especially the Shuttle. The only caveat is that they will not have internal capacity for a large amount of storage if that is a really high priority on your list. Otherwise they look to be very quiet and power efficient.
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Re: DIY 100% silent Linux server

Postposted on Sat Sep 01, 2012 11:15 am

That is where an external RAID enclosure comes in.The OEM Productions barebones box has two USB 3.0 ports and 4 USB 2.0 ports.

StarTech S354UFER
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6817707234
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Re: DIY 100% silent Linux server

Postposted on Sat Sep 01, 2012 2:03 pm

Lots of hardware suggestions given: full pc, mini-itx, raseberry pi, and others. What space are you planning to put the case in, and what are your intended uses. That should dictate (or at least heavily influence) your decision.
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Re: DIY 100% silent Linux server

Postposted on Sat Sep 01, 2012 4:06 pm

Madman wrote:I would like to set up a small Linux server at home, which would be working 24/7.

But I need it to be completely silent, unaudible at 2 ft., or at night. Prefferably without moving parts, so that it doesn't choke on the dust after a year or so, and which is very cheap to build. Also it has to be safe enough so that it could be left unattended at home, and it wouldn't short or anything.

Has anyone done something similar? What kind of hardware I should be looking at? Price range?


I recently built a couple of pfSense boxes (two for redundancy with failover support). By sheer luck it wound up being extremely quiet. The two are side by side and with both of them running you have to pretty much have your ear a few inches a way to even tell they are on. You could probably substitute the motherboard for a cheaper one (I picked that one for the mSATA connection and dual intel nics).

Case http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.as ... 6811152123
Motherboard http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.as ... 6813121623
CPU http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.as ... 6819116409
SSD http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.as ... 6820148610
RAM http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.as ... 0139075CVF
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