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© 1997-2006
Gareth Knight
All Rights reserved

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Keeping Your Amiga Cool

Originally printed in Amiga Report Magazine 3.04. Reproduced with the authors consent. Any questions regarding this article should be mailed to Calum Tsang

(Disclaimer. I do not take any responsibility for any damages incurred by trying the things in my article. Take it as a guideline. If you are not comfortable with these procedures, ask a more experienced friend, or your user group.  Remember, I will not take responsibility)

Introduction

What scares me late at night, is not the threat of nuclear war in Korea, the late night talk show circuit contest, nor the demise of the Amiga. Actually, it's the fear of my happy little Amiga 3000 overheating. I've never really given much thought to my two other Amigas-the 2000 was always cool, and ran for days without trouble, and the 500, well I just didn't care.  But my newly acquired A3000/25 is my most cherished piece of computing hardware-something I can depend on when everything else is falling to pieces. So when my Amiga 3000 began to overheat, I decided to look into finding extra ways to keep my machine cool. First off, let me describe my A3000 configuration-an original LP52S hard disk, plus 2MB of standard 3000 DIPs. In addition, a SupraRAM 2000/2 memory board, a A2300 genlock, the ever amusing A2088D bridgeboard, and an XT Tecmar board. I recently was given a 20MB SCSI hard disk as a gift, a rather hot running Miniscribe. (which makes me ask, when visiting a friend, is a hard disk a good gift? Usually, I bring chocolates, or maybe a cheesecake I've baked myself. And what does one offer, when presented a hard disk?  Offer a danish pastry, or some cheap instant coffee?)

Suggestions:

Let's take a look at some of the things you can do to keep your hardware cool. Many are things we take for granted, but read it. You may be forgetting something. Simple environment things:
 
  1. Keep Your Environment Healthy - For you and your Amiga. Make sure it's ventilated, cool, and clean. Dust is a killer. Change your air conditioner filters. Non Amiga using householders will thank you too!  Dust will get into your fan filters, making your life miserable and keeping air from leaving your machine. (vacuum, often! I sound like a househusband. I decided to wipe down all my working surfaces, plus do a good clean up)
  2. Place Your Amiga Well - Don't put it in the sun, next to a radiator. Think smart about how heat rises-and moves inside your working area. (I placed my A3000 in front of a window, facing north. Which isn't a great idea, but the only spot in my room. I remember to close my drapes in the daytime) Also, make sure nothing blocks the back of your machine, give at least six inches behind your computer. For those with those every popular hutch type desks, remove the particle board panel to allow proper air flow.
And now, some more important hardware things:
  1. Remove Unused Hardware - There are some, who like every piece of hardware they own attached to their Amiga simultaneously.  My recommendation-Take it off! Genlocks don't need to be powered at all times-and if you do, they will age faster and restrict you from certain screenmodes. Likewise, other things don't need to be online, like your modem. Turn it off.  And for those of you with one button powerbars, consider one that has multiple switches to selectively control what you have on and off.  Increased heat, even from external devices, will generate extra heat in the room. (in my case, I removed my 2088 Bridgeboard and XT expansion card, plus my genlock. I returned them to my A2000. Don't worry, more silly Bridgeboard articles will come)
  2. Heat Sinks - Some chips in your Amiga will run hot. Buy some heat sinks, which are little funny shaped metal things that dissipate heat from hot components and some heat sink grease to attach them-they aren't glued on though. You can find both at a Radio Shack store. Be careful about applying the grease. Read the manual.
  3. Place Expansion Cards Wisely - (I made the stupid mistake of placing my 2MB RAM card on the lower slot, below the genlock, XT bridgecard, and XT expander. I removed the three cards, as above, and placed the SupraRam at the top of the machine, so heat from the motherboard would escape though my secondary fan (see below) and heat from the RAM card would be drawn out via the main fan) RAM cards generate the most heat, followed by hard disks. Place them correctly. For you lucky folks with 2000's and 3000/4000T's, space your cards out if you have the free slots.  It's rather stupid to place your accelerator, hard disk controller, and graphics board all next to each other, when you have five slots to fill. Space them evenly, if possible. The Amiga's autoconfig doesn't care if you place them all in a line, or spread out. Some cards must be in certain spots-do the best to place cards around them. Also-the 3000 and 4000 bridge slots are dynamically allocated-unlike the 2000 design, where placement of your bridgecard determines how many Zorro's you have, the new machines let you place cards all over.
  4. Clean Your Fan -While it may be dangerous to open your power supply, where the fan is-some machines will have a fan filter, which should be easily removable. If not, remove the power supply from the machine, remembering where everything is connected, and use a powerful vacuum cleaner and suck out all the dirt and dust.
  5. Take Off All Decorative Duct Tape - Actually, be careful, sometimes, we think we're quite stylish in placing duct tape over strategic areas. The ventilation grilles on the front of the 2000 and 3000 have a purpose. So do the grilles on the top of console type machines. Same goes for leaving papers propped up in front of our Amigas and on top too.

Amiga Fan Club:

And now, the special part of this article. A do it yourself, extra fan project. I take no responsibility for your actions, by the way. And opening your Amiga does void the warranty. Okay! The idea here is to install an extra fan into your machine to draw more air out. Other ideas: Buy a dual fan card, for about $69 dollars. Or, remove the existing fan, and add a more powerful one.
  • Get a fan. (make an album, promote it...apply all Latoya Jackson jokes here.) Fans can be purchased at most electronics stores. I ventured out to Active Surplus here in Toronto, Canada. It's on Queen West, if you need to know. They look like little black frames-more or less like the fan on the back of your machine. Good brands are Boxer and Panaflo. First, make sure it's a DC Brushless type. Brushless fans generate less electric noise, meaning better for computers. Next, examine what kind of voltage and what kind of power draw it has. My Microboxer was a 12V, 0.10 Amp model. Your Amiga should be able to generate both 12V and 5V.  DC, by the way. Look at how much air it blows out. Air flow is measured in cubic feet per minute. Compare numbers and prices. My fan was $6.00 Canadian. It should end in two wires.  Some may have a convenient header block. Let them show you a demo unit. Feel the air coming out. Is it strong? Or weak?
  • Take the fan home and open your Amiga. Find a good spot for it to sit. I opened up a few unused expansion slots on my A3000, and put it on the back, sitting it on the little "ledge" in the expansion card port area. I attached it with twist ties, wrapping around opened slot covers and the like. Strategically placing hardware allowed me to put the fan where it could suck through the open slot covers. Placing a fan requires knowledge of how air is supposed to flow around your specific machine.  For instance, on an A3000, air is sucked through the back left, across the expansion slots and motherboard, over in a U shape around the drive area and back out through the power supply and normal fan on the rear right. By adding a fan sucking in (make sure you're sucking or blowing, wherever appropriate-god that's sick) at the back left, I increase airflow in the way Commodore intended, cooling the components. If you have conflicting airflows because you put the fan in the wrong place, or set the polarity wrong, then you'll have trouble. On the A2000, air is sucked from the front grille across all the components out the back right on the power supply. This is rather stupid sometimes, because it sucks dust through your internal floppies.  A good place in my view to put a secondary fan would be blowing out on the left rear.
  • Attach the fan via a spare molex 4 pin connector (male) to a drive power cable from your power supply.  The centre two are ground, and the outer two are five and 12 volts positive DC.  Make sure your fan is either 5 or 12 VDC!  You may need a small piece of electricians tape or rubber band to keep the connector snug.  The result system will look like this:
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  • Close up your Amiga and replace everything making sure the fan works the way you want before you put in the screws.

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