Help me keep my Workstation quiet!!
May 14, 2012 3:55 PM   Subscribe

I like to keep my home office incredibly devoid of machine noise. To that end, other than my sound system (where I choose the noise), my workstation consists of 1.) A Mac mini running Lion Server on Raid 0 3.5" drives (2 x 500GB) and 2.)A Lacie quadra 1TB drive doing Firewire 800 Time Machine backups every hour (I put up with the Tsk, Tsk, Tsk, every hour without being annoyed). I need more storage, but don't want to increase the (lack of) noise factor...

...I have a couple other external USB 2.0 drives in enclosures for overflow data, but I can't stand them being on for more than a couple minutes because they seem so loud compared to everything else. What would a be a good addition of extra storage that wouldn't add to the noise factor? It doesn't have to be redundant or safe, just quiet. Thinking outside the box, please also consider maybe a.)long Firewire 800 or Thunderbolt cables so the drive(s) can be farther away or b.)Simply replacing my 1TB drive in my Quadra time machine backup with a 3TB? I don't like the second idea so much, but I read that you can store other data next to your Time Machine backups, right? I only have 1 TB of storage and 1 TB of backup right now(right at my workstation, which is fine), I probably only need an extra TB or two to keep me happy for a while. I wouldn't say price is *not* an option, but I'm in for 4 or 5 or maybe 600 bucks if things stay quiet.
posted by Rafaelloello to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Any reason you can't put the drives in the other room, and get a long USB or ethernet cable to hook things up? You can get a 30 foot USB cable for about 15 bucks on Amazon. Otherwise, there are acoustic enclosures you can use. The loudest noise seems to be the fan and not the hard drives themselves. These can be replaced, and there are all sorts of dampeners you can buy. Check out Acousti Products.
posted by iamscott at 4:01 PM on May 14, 2012

I'd stay away from long USB cables, but long ethernet cables are what they're made for. Get a NAS (Network Attached Storage) device of some sort, put a bunch of drives on it and put them all in another room.
posted by straw at 4:23 PM on May 14, 2012

If you have a fast enough net connection, cloud backup is remarkably silent.
posted by scruss at 4:28 PM on May 14, 2012

Synology 410/411 NAS units are quiet. We sleep in the same room as one and do not hear it. I fact the standalone time machine drive is louder. With a Gig-E cable, speed will probably no tbe n issue and if you decide they are whispering too loudly can go in a closet.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:16 PM on May 14, 2012

Small USB 1TB external drives (and higher cap soon), first intended for laptops, are just about totally quiet. Just give them air cooling all around.
posted by caclwmr4 at 5:47 PM on May 14, 2012

I would not recommend NAS if your use case requires performance (e.g. video or even audio, surprisingly).
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:00 PM on May 14, 2012

Response by poster: Yeah, I would kind of like to have about 3TB close and silent. Has anyone shelled out for one of the new Thunderbolt drives? I currently use a 24" DVI monitor (cable converted from thunderbolt) and a 19" DVI monitor (converted from HDMI) as a secondary but am planning to move to a 27" Apple thunderbolt display with my 24" dell as the secondary monitor. Maybe a Thunderbolt HD hanging off my TB display, anybody know if they're loud or not?
posted by Rafaelloello at 6:18 PM on May 14, 2012

Response by poster: @Blasecock Pileon: Yeah, that's exactly my situation. I have about 600GB of media I would like close by, but not have to have to turn on noisy or far off externals to access it. My mini and my Lacie are acceptably quiet, and everything right now is read, and written to, my Raid 0 on my mini which is nice and silent and backed up by my FW 800 1GB Time Machine. Essentially, I'd like to extend this paradigm.
posted by Rafaelloello at 6:26 PM on May 14, 2012

If you are talking backup, long USB or firewire should be fine, since you aren't totally hosed if there is an issue, it will just try again (unlike if you were recording live data, or something like that). This is what a lot of small home recording studios do to reduce noise. A lot of them put the whole computer in another room, and use a wireless mouse and keyboard, with long monitor extensions.
posted by markblasco at 6:38 PM on May 14, 2012

I'm planning on building an (updated?) version of this
to use as an NAS, HTPC, and torrent box. 25 watts idle with torrents in the background is quite impressive.

I believe the reviews and forums here:
are pretty solid.

It should be silent. Especially if it is an HTPC in the living room, connected by an ethernet cable.
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:50 PM on May 14, 2012

Consider putting your hard drives in another room, or in a closet, as far away as possible, and just having a screen, keyboard, and Mini w/ ssd on your desk, and remoting into your "real" computer using Screen Sharing, either wirelessly or wired.

Otherwise, as page2 of the site that sebastienbailard recommends recommends, 2.5 drives tend to be quieter (lower mass, slower speeds). Also, note that some drives have configurable acoustic management, but the most improvement comes from mounting the drives on rubber bands or foam (see the last table of page 2).
posted by at at 6:42 AM on May 15, 2012

the noise you're going to experience has far more to do with the drive mechanism than how it's connected to your computer (and, to a smaller extent, what kind of drive setup it is - if it's a 4-bay RAID enclosure type thing, it'll probably have a fan). Thunderbolt cables thus far are very short sorts of affairs. until optical cables come out they're not going to be longer than the 6.5' one you can get from Apple. my suggestion would be, if you really want all this stuff on your desk, to use SSD-based solutions; they're not going to be cheap (but then neither will Thunderbolt drive cages) but they will be silent, given they have no moving parts other than maybe a fan.

if you're serious about dropping a decent chunk of change on a Thunderbolt drive - they're not cheap - you may also find it possible to get an older or refurb Mac Mini and hook up a bunch of drives to it, shove it in the closet, and access it all over Ethernet. you can use a separate Mac as a Time Machine server fairly easily with OS X Server. then, you could get a nice SSD for your existing system and swap that in (or have someone swap it in). no turning on remote disks - just leave them on and let the computer spin them down whenever. you could also do this with a NAS, but having a real computer for it also allows you to use it for other things too (you could set it ripping CDs or whatever while you leave your actual computer for stuff, and you'd get finer control over how your disks are set up and all that). all this would not necessarily be cheap but it would get all the loud bits you don't want to hear well away from your desk.
posted by mrg at 9:36 AM on May 15, 2012

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