16
Apr
13

Cleaning my Sparcstation 20

Tape drive enclosure

Tape drive enclosure

Every change of season I find it’s a good idea to service any of your main computers that you run the most. My Sparcstation 20 is basically in use at the moment as a SVN server and a few other services so is on pretty much all the time. So I decided that it would be a good idea to take it apart and give it a good clean.

PSU crud

PSU crud

The main places that need cleaning in computers are usually around the important fans in a system, so this is usually a good place to start. The SS20 has no fans except for the two within the PSU that draw cool air in around the CPU MBUS modules, so this is where pretty much all the dust should be (and was). I also decided to clean the external tape drive.

Machine without the PSU

Machine without the PSU

To clean a machine I like to use soft brushes like a long bristle paint brush and soft tooth brush. They are often better than compressed air for moving larger lumps of dust caught in grills. Compressed air is a useful tool for cleaning where the brush can’t go.

Dual CPU MBUS module

Dual CPU MBUS module

The SS20 doesn’t have any heat sinks that need to be cleaned, but most newer machines with faster processors do. It’s important to remove shrouds and fans when cleaning them so you can get the worst of the dust off and out of the fins. It’s sometimes a good idea to remove the heat sink altogether so you can clean it more effectively and to refresh the thermal paste. Thermal paste eventually dries out and loses it’s heat conductivity, so it’s a good idea to change it occasionally. Running a stress test is usually a good indication as to whether you need to replace the paste.

RAM slots.

RAM slots.

I would like to mod the machine to have better cooling and filter out the dust from the air intake, I need to get some fans to add to the case and work out a decent scheme of filtering that won’t make the PSU overheat. A temperature probe for the CPU area would also be nice so I could tell how hot the machine is running.

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