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Technical - Computer Change

Last Changed 2/21/2012

We operate our computers different than most.  We use two laptops, one for each of us, and a central computer that we use as a file server.  Actually the central computer does a lot more than just act as a file server.  It backups up our data locally on separate disk drives and also perform off-site backups.  Currently we use Carbonite.

For a couple of years now we have been using a very healthy PC as our central computer, a HP xw8200. The xw8200 has dual Xeon processors, the most powerful version of Intel chip for server use.  At the time we acquired the xw8200, we wanted a dual CPU system as Dale used the system more than her very old laptop.  We figured one CPU to handle Dale's use and the other CPU for the  file server function.

When Dale got a new laptop, her use of the central computer dropped off significantly.  We also came to understand that the greatest electrical user in our trailer was the xw8200, even more than the refrigerator.

A generation of Small Form Factor (SFF) PCs which use low electrical power CPUs and components that you formally find in laptops.  We decided to change the central computer to a SFF PC.  We choose a Zotac Xbox AD02 with a AMD dual core E350 CPU, 8 GB of memory and a 320 GB internal disk drive.

Computer Change This is  the xw8200 we replaced.  It filled a third of the knee space across under our desk and came out to the edge of the desk when pushed back against the wall.

The xw8200 trapped heat inside the desk knee space and it was uncomfortable to work at the desk, let alone not have much foot space.

The xw8200 had 4 disk drives and a DVD drive.
Computer Change The one thing the xw8200 did well was move cooling air across the disk drives and the CPUs.

While the new SFF PC is very small, 7.5"x7.5"x.1.75", it holds only one internal disk drive, and had no built-in DVD drive.  These components will be external.

We made a rack using Closetmaid shelving and aluminum angle stock to hold the various components of the system.
click on images to enlarge
Computer Change We could have spaced the components closer together but we wanted good air space.

We had to add two powerstrips for the extra outlets needed for the external devices, (3) disk drives, DVD Drive, PC, monitor, (2) USB Hubs, speakers, Ethernet switch, and printer.
click on images to enlarge
Computer Change To protest our disk drives, we used Thermaltake dual cooling fan drive enclosures.  They cost more but cheap enclosures mean disk drive failures from heat.

The two  disk drives on the bottom shelf.  The lightscribe DVD drive is on the middle shelf.  The top shelf has the Zotac Xbox AD02 PC.  There is room for a third disk drive on that shelf.

The Ethernet switch is mounted on the side.

We drilled holes in the bases of the PC and the disk drives and used plates under the ribs of the shelves to hold the devices in place.  We also used wide Velcro strips to hold the devices in position when we travel.

Computer Change Even with good spacing for air cooling, the rack takes a lot space than the xw8200.

And there is no perceptible heat on Dales' legs.
click on images to enlarge

Disclaimer: The information in this site is a collection of data we derived from the vendors and from our personal experiences.  This information is meant as a learning guide for you to  make your own decisions  Best practices and code should always be followed.  The recommendations we make are from our personal experiences and we do not receive any compensation for those recommendations.
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