That is what I am dubbing this thing I built….the Quiet Tower Raid. Because it is so darn quiet. And again, I did this with the aid of Patrick Sheffield. This was an idea that we have been knocking around for a while. And my editing partner Dan Wolfmeyer and I have had many conversations about how to do this as well. So it was a collaborative effort.

And well, it was quite a task to assemble.

The main reason for this was the length of the SATA cables. This is due to the fact that they are INTERNAL SATA cables, so they have a maximum length of 40″. Because of this the assembly had to be orchestrated carefully. So, before I started, I grabbed a cold one.

Imported from Germany. A really good dark beer, not at all bitter. ANYWAY…

The first thing I had to do was hotwire the Tower’s power supply. Because it was a computer power supply, it was designed to interface with a motheboard…and therefore wouldn’t power up on it’s own. It needs to receive a signal from the motherboard before it would do that. So Pat Sheffield did a little web research and found out how to “hot wire” the power supply so that it would turn on without a motherboard. On the main connector that connects to the motherboard, you need to cross two wires. The green one with ANY black one. We tested it earlier (two weeks ago) by using a paperclip and bridging them thru the connector. We turned on the unit and…heard nothing. I had to look at the fan to see that it was moving. I tell you this thing is quiet. So, with a couple sips of beer in me, I grabbed the wire cutters and cut the wires, then crossed them thus:

Pardon the fuzzy photo. The flash made it too bright to see, and when I turned it off, it focused on the wrong thing. Ah well.

Next, I opened the G5 and disassembled the Popsicle SATA:

Sad to see it go, but I know what I am building is MUCH better. Well, I still have a popsicle drive in the machine. A while ago I swapped out my system drive for a larger drive, so I took the old system drive, put on the popsicle legs and set it inside the machine. This, of course, took up one of the internal SATA connections. One of the four. On the remaining three I connected the longer 40″ cables and removed one of my PCI slot covers and strung the cables out thru the opening.

That done I put the cover back on and tucked the G5 back into the cubby under my desk. I had to trade positions with the other G5 (the one with the mapping software) so that it is closer to the roling card that I was putting the Tower into.

I turned my attention to the Dark Tower. I removed the four drive trays from the lower drive area and attached the drives to them. Four screws thru the bottom of the trays.

I separated out the power connections and tucked the rest of the cabling into the emtpy upper drive area to get them out of the way. I then took 2 of the power Y-splitters and connected them to the drives. Now came the tricky part. The power cables had plenty of room, which was good because I had to connect them to the drive BEFORE I slid them into place. Because there is no way I can do so once they were slid into place. The power was easy, as I said, it was the SATA cables that were tricky…because they were not that long. So I maneuvered the case as close as I could to the tower, set it on top of a box to elevate it and get as much slack as I could on the SATA cables. I had to get them close where they slid into place, connect the cables, then slide them in two at a time.

As you recall I had 3 internal cables snaking out the back of the G5. And I had FIVE drives in my Quiet Tower. So I connected two external SATA>Internal SATA cables to the external ports on my Sonnet 4+4 card. Those cables had PLENTY of room. So one of the lower 4 had this cable connected, and I had plenty of room. After sliding them all into place, then connecting the second External SATA cable to my fifth Hitachi 500GB drive

I closed up the case and carefully maneuvered it onto the rolling cart and put it into position.

Then I powered it up.

Did I mention this case was quiet? Thought so. After hearing the drives spin up the sound pretty much went away. I powered up the G5 and the drives came right up on my desktop. I opened Final Cut Pro and all the media came right up. All was good.

Then a day passed. Pat came by the house to see the setup and when I powered up…the RAID didn’t mount. The 500GB drive did, but not the RAID. The Disk Utility showed the drives, but not all of them. Somehow one wasn’t mounting. So we pulled out the case and checked all the connections. They all had power, they all were connected. One of the drives with the external cable was iffy. The external cable couldn’t fit in all the way because it collided with the power cable. But, it seemed secure. So…the Tower wasnt’ the cause. We pulled out the G5. When I opened it up I found that one of the cables was loose. Yes, this setup is definately straining on the cables. I’ll have to explore options for that.

So, in summation. The tower is nice and quiet, and cheap to assemble. $90 for the case and $25 for the cables. $115 for the case, which can hold six 3.5″ drive, add the cost of the drives ($1400 for 5…probably less now, under $200) then you are looking at a 2.5TB SATA RAID capable of handling 10-bit uncompressed HD for $1515. Opposed to $500 for a case that holds five drives (same cost, $1500) for $2000. A savings of $485…not too much considering all that you are laying out for the setup. But the $500 case cases offer more convenience. Attach the drives to the trays and slide them in…and they connect. My Tower took quite a bit more effort. So for the convenience and ease of getting your drives into the chassis, it might be worth the money. But if you are a bit of a do-it-yourself-er, and have some technical cajones, then this option works pretty well.