Fan-tastic Box Fan Computer Fan

Box Fan Computer Case

Sure, it’s a great idea to keep your computer components cool…. but why? PC components consume energy and in doing so they generate heat. That heat can reduce overall system performance or even damage specific parts. You’ve certainly noticed those huge aluminum finned heatsinks covering critical components in your PC. They are there for a reason, to keep things cool. Most PC’s have at least one fan, if not several, usually only a few inches in diameter. If a small fan does an okay job at cooling a PC, how would a large fan do….. we’re talking a really large fan? [Envador] wanted to find out and made a PC case with the largest fan possible.

Looking at the photo it is pretty obvious that PC case frame is fabricated from standard PVC piping. The side of the case is hinged to allow access to the internal components. That huge set of blades started out as an off-the-shelf box fan. It was taken apart and mounted directly to the PVC case door. It wouldn’t make too much sense to have side panels on this case since the fan is so large. So, instead of solid sides [Envador] used chrome-plated plastic grills that are usually reserved for fluorescent ceiling lights. Perforated metal strapping holds all the drives, power supply and mother board in place.

Unfortunately, [Envador] doesn’t give any before/after temperature data but states that the PC tops out at 95°F and he hasn’t had any problems with computer performance.

48 thoughts on “Fan-tastic Box Fan Computer Fan

  1. I’ve noticed that CRT monitor in lower right, the Floppy drive and the Slot A (presumably) CPU, and thought: Weird. Then the author’s blog confirmed the obvious: This awesome idea goes as far as almost 14 years ago! 3D Prophet II 32MB.. What a monster it was ;)

  2. Wow! That’s a pretty innovative idea, and from 2000 as well! I would love to see an updated version of this, but I bet it’s a pain to keep clean, especially with a cat around.

      1. Not if someone wants to overclock everything. I’ve gotten Intel 2600k to 5GHz stable and a quick test to 5.3GHz. Some hard core people have reached 6Ghz+ without using LN. At those temp, it makes a lot of heat. Since no low power devices can run at crazy high speed,

  3. At least I don’t see 38 100MB parallel Zip drives, mounted upright in leather to make one massive cluster to store animated gifs.
    It seems like a rig that, could actually survive a couple of decades if it needed to.

    1. I’ve got two computers that run 24/7 with the cover off and I have no problem with dust whatsoever. One has been running that way for about a year. The second has no case at all; its just bolted onto an extruded aluminum base. It’s been running virtually nonstop for 4 years now. Every year or so I go over everything with a can of air, but usually it doesn’t look too bad anyway.

      As someone who used to work doing PC repair, I never saw a system where dust alone had contributed to a failure (and believe me, I saw some really dusty cases). The only time dust is a problem is in computers that come from smokers’ houses (where the “dust” contains more tobacco tar than actual dust) or industrial/auto repair shops (where the dust is mixed with aerosolized oil and grease. In both of these cases, the grime builds up on fan blades and heatsink fins much thicker than dust alone, and it’s nearly impossible to remove.

      1. Laptops are another exception; most have such anemic cooling systems and poor vent design that even a tiny reduction in airflow can cause it to overheat. On the other hand, most consumer laptops have so many other design flaws that they die from other failures before dust ever becomes an issue.

      2. I cleaned one out that came from a home with wood heat and lots of pets. The thing was so jammed up with fuzzy gunk that it overheated literally within 30 seconds of powering up. Fortunately it was built shortly after manufacturers started putting thermal protection in their CPUs, so it shut itself down rather than set itself on fire. It came as a surprise to the owners when I handed the computer back and told them that the only problem was that they needed to dust it every now and then.

        As for the giant fan above? A novelty, nothing more. Can you imagine trying to write a report with that fan running 18″ from your head?

        1. You don’t have to have it on max rpms though. With a custom speed controller you could probably make it comparable to poorly made regular case fans. The upside is way higher CFM.

  4. A couple of comments were made on keeping it clean.

    As if normal, enclosed cases stay clean inside?

    Rather than enclose it and/or adding a filter maybe a good idea would be to give it legs so it sits a few feet off the ground. That would keep out most of the cat hair and a lot of dust.

    1. The best way to keep out the dust is to seal the case up completely, use heat pipes or mechanical attachment to direct heat to the case itself, use the case itself as a heat radiator. You gotta do the math on the heat conduction of the case to the air to figure out how hot it’s all going to get. By the way, you should use an “ambient” temperature of at least 105 F in your calculations, because that’s “ambient” in the summer if you don’t have air conditioning.

  5. I was disapointed to see the CPU fan. I’m thinking that maybe that could be replaced with just a big heat sink so long as it is always ran with the big fan blowing on it. I also would be interested in opening up the power supply, maybe replace a couple walls of the power supply case with mesh that lets air through. Then remove it’s fan(s).

    It’s those small computer fans that really make the most noise. Eliminating them would be great!

    1. I have a case with a huge fan (IIRC it was 14 inches) but removed it and made its grill the intake.
      These big fans don’t seem to be made to spin quietly even at low RPMS whereas there are many 120mm fans which are well reviewed and really quiet.
      I’ve found passive heatsinks to be pretty large and expensive but you can get compact and very quiet hsf (e.g scythe)

      I like the idea of a games console/steambox style PC which could have a pretty decent GPU, CPU and RAM embedded into one PCB with a single heatsink and a couple of silent fans blowing air out of the top. If someone could get the price down to that of a current gen games console with specs of a mid range gaming PC I think it could be fairly popular!

      1. Fan noise is a function of the velocity of the blade tips, so a large fan will be a LOT less noisy than a small one pushing the same CFM.

        Have you ever been in the same room as a 1U server? They sound like fighter planes because they must use tiny little fans. On the other hand, one of my systems has a couple of 8 inch fans in the top and a 12 inch fan on the side panel, and they are just dead quiet, much quieter than a disk drive. In fact the case manufacturer brags explicitly that the larger fans are quieter.

        1. “In fact the case manufacturer brags explicitly that the larger fans are quieter”

          That’s only because larger fans were designed to have lower RPM than the smaller ones. If the large fans had the same RPM as the smaller fans, the tips of the larger fan blades would be faster.

        2. It’s easy to make a fan quieter than a disk drive, you could do that even when most consumer grade stuff was 80mm fans!
          I found the bigger fans made a sort of scuffing sounds at low RPM and wurred more at higher RPM than my decent silent 120mm ones. I’d be interested in links to dead silent larger fans though.
          For instance my noctua fans put out 83,2 m³/h at 10,7 dB(A) and aren’t even the ones I’ve got that seem to work best (just have easy to find spec sheets)

  6. It’s ugly.

    Still working great, my old Silentium-PC, Heat pipe cooled Intel 2.4GHz mono-processor, one whole side of the big tower is an extruded aluminum heat sink.
    And that’s looking nice.

  7. I like this build. I’ve done some fun cooling projects in the past but never thought to just use a whole box fan. I’m betting short of dust/pet hair control it’ll work just fine. Do you have any idea how many CF/M that thing moves? The casters are a nice touch to.

    1. Last .. word.. (Whatever that s supposed to mean). You never thought that you could actually use 1 device instead of a great many devices to do one simple specific task? Who would have thunk!

  8. I am very old, so forgive me my question: Do English native speakers now really use an apostrophe to mark the plural of an acronym? I mean that plural form of “PC” there: PC’s.

    1. No, but many people are not sure, so they throw the apostrophe in there. In any case, who cares. I think the “annoyingUnemployedEnglishMajors-A-Day” URL is what you were looking for, you must have clicked on this one inadvertently.

  9. FWIW without the surrounding shroud this fan would be laboring to do much more than cause a localized wind-storm. Still probably plenty for this vintage of PC.

    I’ve seen some ATX cases sitting in server rooms with sides removed that had been running for the better part of 10-15 years…caught my eye because I saw ISA slots! After a handful of years though with modern systems the TIM (thermal interface material) kicks the bucket, dries out, and you have an issue.

  10. I would make the hinge out of the tube-connector corners themselves. The door-fan pivoting on the top and bottom joints not glued. Tee’s in the hinge pipe to link to door. Elegant, no screws. Still the plumbers tape gives off the aura of hardwarepunk.
    I have a couple of naked computers, topless mini cases. They stay cool and showy as a steam locomotive. The wiring is flat and tucked in spaces, the front end is only as thick as the tray and a hard drive.
    Restaurant kitchen computers are the worst for fan-gunk.

    1. I worked at a software company located over a restaurant, the (apparently cannibal) cockroaches are attracted to the shellac. I opened up a commodore 64 once that was totally crammed full of dead cockroaches.

  11. I still like my water cooled setup.

    In the summer I put the radiator in the window and blow the heat straight outside. In the winter I put the radiator next to my desk and it keeps me and my cat warm.

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