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Hard drives and power consumption RRS feed

  • Question

  •  

    I'm making a lot of progress on my new WHS machine.  The goal has been to build a reasonably performing machine with the lowest possible power intake without spenfing a fortune.  Of those, I'd say my priorities are in the following order:

    1) power consumption

    2) price

    3) performance

     

    So far I've got a microATX setup with a mobile Sempron 2800 processor, scaled to 800Mhz.  With a single PATA hard drive, single 512meg stick of DDR, a gigabyte PCI nic, and a crappy stock power supply i'm at 50W (measured from the wall).  I have a PicoPSU on order that I'm hopeful will drop this to 40-ish watts.

     

    So here's my question:  how should I configure the hard drives to save more power?

     

    I had been waiting for the new Western Digital GreenPower drives to hit the market, but now I'm wondering if I should pop a 40-gig 2.5" as my system drive and a pair of normal 3.5" drives for storage?  Would this save power with the theory that the storage drives can sit in "standby" for 95% of the time with all OS functions running off the low-power 2.5-inch drive?  Do drives need to have special features built-in to enable standby functionality, or is this as simple as an OS power management setting?  Do people recommend a certain model for power consumption features?

     

    Also, would a 2.5" (running at 5400 RPMs) reduce performance significantly?  One thing I'd like to do is manage a couple of simple (virtually no load) websites, and I'm curious if the 2.5" would pose a problem.

     

    Any other ideas?  Am I missing a better solution to this?

     

    Thanks!

    Aaron

     

     

     

    Wednesday, September 26, 2007 7:05 PM

Answers

  • You will be unable to install WHS on a 40 GB system drive, so that plan is out. Smile

    As for the rest of your questions:
    1. You should look for drives with good performance, especially for the system drive. I'm not at home, so can't check, but I think WHS in it's default configuration supports spinning down your drives. That will save you more power, in the long run, than slow notebook drives will.
    2. A 5400 RPM system drive will have a noticeable impact on your overall WHS performance. The system drive is more heavily used than any other drive in the system, so it should be your fastest drive. And it should be your largest drive (something very hard to achieve with a notebook drive) because of the use Drive Extender makes of it.
    3. You can save a small additional amount of power if you replace your MB with one that has an integrated NIC, but no integrated video. You will need to find a MB that will POST (after installation) without a video card.
    4. Your MB may require the 4 pin CPU connector. If so, the pico-PSU will probably not do the job for you.
    Wednesday, September 26, 2007 8:54 PM
    Moderator
  • The drive manufacturer's data sheets may tell you if a particular drive can be spun down, but I haven't run across any drives for a long time that didn't support this feature. More important is whether the drive controller supports it. External drive cases often don't, and RAID HBAs usually won't, either. You can normally configure it (if available) in power options. Give it a relatively short time period (like 3 or 5 minutes) and your drives could spend a significant amount of time not spinning. Be careful how many drives you attach, though; drives consume significantly more power for a few seconds while they spin up than normal idle power, and you could easily overload your PSU if you have several drives spinning up at once.

    Which MB are you using, BTW?
    Wednesday, September 26, 2007 9:34 PM
    Moderator
  • You won't realize a huge savings by switching to the onboard NIC, just a few watts. The onboard video will be the same, a few watts. While reducing power consumption by 10%-20% might sound great (I'd expect something in the middle), reducing it by the amount of power a nightlight consumes doesn't sound so useful. Smile
    Thursday, September 27, 2007 12:05 PM
    Moderator

All replies

  • You will be unable to install WHS on a 40 GB system drive, so that plan is out. Smile

    As for the rest of your questions:
    1. You should look for drives with good performance, especially for the system drive. I'm not at home, so can't check, but I think WHS in it's default configuration supports spinning down your drives. That will save you more power, in the long run, than slow notebook drives will.
    2. A 5400 RPM system drive will have a noticeable impact on your overall WHS performance. The system drive is more heavily used than any other drive in the system, so it should be your fastest drive. And it should be your largest drive (something very hard to achieve with a notebook drive) because of the use Drive Extender makes of it.
    3. You can save a small additional amount of power if you replace your MB with one that has an integrated NIC, but no integrated video. You will need to find a MB that will POST (after installation) without a video card.
    4. Your MB may require the 4 pin CPU connector. If so, the pico-PSU will probably not do the job for you.
    Wednesday, September 26, 2007 8:54 PM
    Moderator
  •  

    Ken, thanks for the reply.

     

    I was aware of the 80Gb requirement, but I had assumed it was for total available space, not just system space (given that the system partition is only 20 gigs).  Thought I could repurpose an old notebook drive.  Oh well.  But it seems this wouldn't be a proper solution anyway.

     

    About the PicoPSU, they have a 4-pin cable adapter.  Combined with at least one splitter I think this will work.  I'm looking forward to this thing.  Efficient, fanless, small, with most of the heat being generated outside the box in the AC-DC converter (or so I'm told).  The box is currently running with only one case fan (CPU is passively cooled), which is nice and quiet.

     

    Thanks for the advice on the hard drives.  I'd like to look deeper into the spinning down features.  Do you have any pointers for where I could find more info?  Is it a standard windows power management setting, or something special for WHS?

     

    Also, how much power does the integrated video use?  Are there ways of disabling these things?  This particular motherboard was fairly unique in that it supports mobile processors (with the appropriate frequency scaling).  The whole setup so far has been dirt cheap.  $40 mobo, $18 case, $8 CPU (ebay), $20 passive heatsink.

     

    Thanks again for the help!

     

    Aaron

     

     

     

    Wednesday, September 26, 2007 9:09 PM
  • The drive manufacturer's data sheets may tell you if a particular drive can be spun down, but I haven't run across any drives for a long time that didn't support this feature. More important is whether the drive controller supports it. External drive cases often don't, and RAID HBAs usually won't, either. You can normally configure it (if available) in power options. Give it a relatively short time period (like 3 or 5 minutes) and your drives could spend a significant amount of time not spinning. Be careful how many drives you attach, though; drives consume significantly more power for a few seconds while they spin up than normal idle power, and you could easily overload your PSU if you have several drives spinning up at once.

    Which MB are you using, BTW?
    Wednesday, September 26, 2007 9:34 PM
    Moderator
  • Thanks again for the help!

    The motherboard that I chose is the MSI K8MM3-V 
    http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E16813130058

    It seemed to be a nice tradeoff between price and features, also providing support for mobile processors.  Someone else on the forum here mentioned it as well (he's running with a Turion).  It has a nic built it, but I've added a gigabit PCI nic for speed.  At some point I'll try to measure the power consumed by the PCI nic.  Maybe gigabit isn't necessary.  I'd also like to determine if the integrated video can be turned off.

    I currently have the system running Linux.  Just playing around with it while I wait for WHS here in the states.  In fact, I evaluated BackupPC running on this machine, which seemed to be relatively full featured (though, without many of the WHS features).  I was not impressed with its performance.

    I don't plan to have more than 2 drives (outside of my idea for the 2.5" option).  I think a pair of 500's will serve me for a while.  But I have read about the spin up power.  Most seem to require 25+ watts for this period of time, which can add up.  The PicoPSU is 120 watt.  I could upgrade at some point when needed, but for now I'd really like to keep this system running like a low-power light buld.  Pretty cool to think about IMO.

    Thanks again,
    Aaron
    Wednesday, September 26, 2007 10:19 PM
  • You won't realize a huge savings by switching to the onboard NIC, just a few watts. The onboard video will be the same, a few watts. While reducing power consumption by 10%-20% might sound great (I'd expect something in the middle), reducing it by the amount of power a nightlight consumes doesn't sound so useful. Smile
    Thursday, September 27, 2007 12:05 PM
    Moderator
  •  Ken Warren wrote:
    While reducing power consumption by 10%-20% might sound great (I'd expect something in the middle), reducing it by the amount of power a nightlight consumes doesn't sound so useful.

     

    Very true.  Admittedly I'm getting a little compulsive about this Smile

     

    Aaron

    Thursday, September 27, 2007 4:47 PM
  • I have my backups set 8pm -10pm and make sure all my (3) PCs are on at that time.

     

    I turn the server on at 1945 and off when it has completed the backups.

     

    Power consumption = 50W x 3/24 = ie about 7W average!

     

    Mel

    Tuesday, October 2, 2007 8:23 PM
  • Ahhh, that is efficient.  But you lose a lot of functionality that way.

     

    Aaron

     

    Tuesday, October 2, 2007 9:21 PM
  • BUT I store photos etc on a mirrored NAS drive.

     

    I only use the WHS for nightly backup - so I don't lose any functionality!

    (Others might)

     

    Mel

     

    Tuesday, October 2, 2007 10:05 PM
  • Also i noticed that you are using a sempron CPU. you might want to check that it runs the AMD quiet and cool . I know for sure that the intel Celerons dont have the power saving options and i thought the same was true about the AMD sempron CPU's.

    If its the case than it might be worth the upgrade to the 3800+ dual core athlon or similar.

     

    Might same you a few more watts.

     

    Peter

     

    Wednesday, October 3, 2007 6:10 AM
  • George Ou on his ZDnet blog has been building low cost, low power PCs and blogging about them.  In this post, he's building an all-in-one (think poor man's iMac) that pulls 58W idle, including the 20" LCD monitor.  One of the key things that he did was to get a low power, 80 Plus compliant power supply, the 220W Sparkle SPI220LE.  It's a Flex AT power supply... will these fit in a normal case?  George's PC itself pulls 30W.

    I use Hitachi HDDs in my WHS.  They have Advanced Power Management that allow the drives to go into lower power states automatically without OS intervention.  It's all documented in the OEM manuals on their website.  They have a "feature tool" that you download and burn onto a CD for setting the power modes.

    On another subject, does anyone know how much power a stick of DDR2 RAM typically consumes?  I too am rather anal about lowering power and am trying to decide if I should add in a second stick.
    Thursday, October 4, 2007 5:41 PM
  •  

    I tried to write this yesterday, but I got an error on submission. 

     

    Scorpia:  yes, Cool and Quiet is enabled, though this is currently running Linux (while I wait for WHS) and I'm not sure the support for this technology is perfect.  It took some research and pakcage installation to get it working.  But I have verified that it appropriately scales down to 800Mhz (from 1600) when under minimal load.

     

     

    As for an update on the components and power consumption:  A few days ago I installed the PicoPSU (which did require a $2 adapter for the 4-pin CPU power connector).  I am very impressed.  My machine had been running at 53 watts idle (measured from the wall with a Kill-A-Watt meter).  Swapping the stock PSU with the PicoPSU reduced the power consumption to 34 watts.  It's amazing how inefficient a stock PSU can be!!  The Pico is awesome.  No fans and tiny.   It's rated at 120 watts which is more than enough, though my AC-DC converter is only rated at 60 watts.  I'd need a larger one if I add a second 3.5" hard drive. 

    Shutrbug, if you can live with 120 watts, then I'd recommend this PSU.  It's well above 80% efficiency, probably in the 90's,

     

    In fact, the entire machine now runs with one small fan, manually reduced to it's lowest RPM setting.  The only thing uyou can hear is the HD.  I'm pretty happy with 34 watts.  Heck, that's less power than any single lightbulb in my house.  But I'm still going to see what else I can do to bring it down (just for shats and giggles).  I'm inspired by TranquilPC's machines, and I'm having some fun with this.  The components have been kept on a budget too.  I think I'm still under $200 total (including the temporary 300Gig HD).  This number will rise when I finally get the larger capacity WD GreenPower hard drive and of course the WHS license.  But so far so good.  I'll send out a component list when I consider this thing final, in case anyone's interested.

     

    Aaron

    Thursday, October 4, 2007 6:05 PM
  • Good to hear the Power supply saved you so much power. Im assuming it saved that much as its not using as much itself ie not driving a internal fan etc.

     

    Are you sure 120w is enough power when running 100% flat out?

     

    Also i found a good reduction in power when i underclocked the FSB on my box. Might be worth a go . iven if you dont leave it there, maybe the CPU will run passive if you reduce the fsb

     

    you can allways turn it up again if needed.

     

    i run my CPU at about 160Mhz instead of 200Mhz. saved quite a bit of power if i rememebr right.

     

    Peter

    Thursday, October 4, 2007 10:19 PM
  •  

    Hi Peter,

     

    I'm pretty sure I'm safe with the 120W PS.  My CPU is a mobile version which has a TDP of 25 watts, which means that it shouldn't go above that even under load.  I believe most 3.5 HD's can reach about 27 watts during spinup.  And everything else is pretty minor.  All in all, I think I could run with 3 hard drives before coming close to the limit, and I'm planning for 2 HD's max.  However, I'll test this out at some point.

     

    I would like to look at FSB clocking options.  Unfortunately this particular motherboard really doesn't have any support for doing that kind of stuff in the BIOS.  Do you know if you can do this via sofware?

     

    Aaron

    Friday, October 5, 2007 12:05 AM
  • Note that you'll need active cooling for the PicoPSU if you're above 100 watts (I think that's the number) for more than a couple of seconds at a time.

    And you can't underclock (or overclock) in software. The utilities that motherboard manufacturers distribute with their boards actually change the same settings the BIOS does..
    Friday, October 5, 2007 2:23 AM
    Moderator
  • Thanks Ken.  I'm not surprised by the 100 watt limit.  All my work so far with this machine has been fairly light.  More CPU load and/or hardware and I'm quite sure I would need more cooling.  I'm curious to see how WHS performs on this machine.

    Thanks for the tip on underclocking.

    Aaron

    Friday, October 5, 2007 2:33 AM
  •  Ken Warren wrote:

    You can save a small additional amount of power if you replace your MB with one that has an integrated NIC, but no integrated video. You will need to find a MB that will POST (after installation) without a video card.

     

    Any advice on mbs that WILL post without a video card?

    Thx,

    Ed

    Friday, April 18, 2008 3:40 PM