Moving a PC into the Attic

Background

So why did I want to move my PC into the attic? That's not to say I wanted to simply relocate the entire PC, monitor, keyboard, mouse and myself there! No, no, let me explain: I wanted to relocate my computer's base unit into the attic. Why, I hear you ask? Why?

First let me say that I had 3 PCs in my office; I'm a professional developer (currently of Intranet sites, using IBM Lotus Domino and IIS) so I have a server, a PC, together with a firewall PC to protect me from the nasties of the Internet. Three PCs can generate a lot of noise, heat, dust and cable spaghetti. No matter how neat and tidy I was, the cable gremlins would visit at night and turn my nicely tied and organised cables into a rat's nest of unrecognisable spaghetti.

During the summer of 2003 and again 2004, the heat generated by these PCs would ensure that I sat at my monitor sweating. And yes, I did have a ceiling fan on maximum. The hotter it got the faster the PCs cooling fans spun. The more noise was generated. It sounded like sitting inside a giant Henry vacuum cleaner. I did try various other options: I replaced the power supplies of each PC with an "ultra quiet" high power PSU; I replaced the noise CPU fans with Zalman Flower heat sinks with the fan set to near minimum. A replaced the northbridge fan on each motherboard with a passive lump of metal that looked as though it had come from the warp engines of The Enterprise.

On a GOOD day they looked like this...None of which helped. Oh sure, the PCs ran quieter than before, but as they heated up the fans ran quicker. Which generated more noise. Which...OK, I'm sure you get the picture. The Firewall PC is in fact an ITX-based VIA PC.

In case you haven't come across these before they are miniscule with the motherboard measuring just 170mm x 170mm. The CPU is passively cooled and the power supply is like the sort you find for laptops: a sort of brick shaped affair that sits on the floor. It was already silent but it still generated quite a bit of warmth. And anyway, if I was going to move the other PCs into the loft, it made no sense at all to keep that one in the office. It was, after all, just a dedicated Firewall PC (as well as being a common dumping ground for my MP3 files).

I moved my daughter's PC from her bedroom into the attic as well. Now that really sounded like a jet engine (although she claimed not to notice) and chucked out loads of hot air (which, she said, kept her warm). It just had to go.

Most people won't be moving 4 PCs into the loft, so for the rest of this article I'll talk as if I was just moving a single PC into the loft; it's just so much clearer to understand.

 

 

 

Preparation

There were some logistical problems to overcome in moving just the base unit into the attic (which is directly above the office and my daughter's bedroom). Firstly, how would I connect everything that wanted to stay in its present position to the base unit? Things that were staying were:
  1. Monitor (VGA 15 pin DSUB connector)
  2. Keyboard & Mouse (both PS/2)
  3. Printer (USB 1.1)
  4. Scanner (USB 1.1)
  5. Speakers

I would lose access to the CD writer and DVD-ROM if the PC base unit moved, so how would I address that? As all the PCs (apart from the Firewall) were connected to a network switch, which was in turn was connected to a broadband modem via the Firewall PC, these could all happily move into the attic along with the PCs because that it was they all connect to.

To find out the next steps read on.

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