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How to Enable Automatic Fan Control to keep Z420 Workstation from Overheating?

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HP Z420 with E5-1650 at 3.2Ghz

I just purchased a refirbushed HP Z420 Workstation with an Intel Xeon E5-1650 v1 CPU running at 3.20Ghz.


I'm running Ubuntu Linux 16.04 LTS Workstation software and using the box as a Plex Media File Server.


The problem is that the system keeps overheating while transcoding multiple streams with CPU Temps sometimes going so high that the CPU Temporarily shuts down till it cools a little.  All internal fans are running but very slow and NEVER change speed regardless of CPU load or component temperatures.


The HP Authored Document at the link below clearly states that the fans ARE controlled by the mother board and OS to insure correct operating temperature based on CPU and other component temperatures/loads.


"Quiet and reliable

HP continues to lead and provide the quietest line of workstations, and the HP Z420 is no exception. Fans are strategically placed in the chassis to provide optimum system cooling and uncompromised reliability by using advanced algorithms to control fan speeds based on system configuration and key component temperatures. In addition, HP engineered an advanced liquid cooling solution to keep the HP Z420 running cool and quiet even under the heaviest processing workloads. HP also demonstrates innovation by providing new tool-free hard drive rails with improved mechanical isolation to reduce chassis vibration and noise.

While low acoustics, thermal management, expandability, and performance are priorities, it is essential that the system reliably withstand difficult physical conditions. The HP Z420 is built to withstand high shock and vibration environments. Rigorous climatic and dynamic testing helps to ensure that HP workstations are highly reliable in a wide variety of demanding conditions, while delivering uncompromising performance."


So now that we are pretty confident that this system should have the ability to automatically change the fan speeds based on CPU and other component temperatures, I need to know how to do this because it is not doing so now when running Ubuntu 16.04 Desktop on a fresh installation.


Any assistance in this area would be greatly appreciated...


Dan K.



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On my z210 running Windows7, system fan is controlled by BIOS and i've seen no issue while encoding video.


Now I don't have a z420, nor do i run Ubuntu on my z210 workstation, however there is a z420 BIOS setting within Power | Thermal  that enables you to set the rate of the system fan when the CPU is idle. Conceivably, it is possible that having this setting at the lowest level may not allow the fan to spin up quickly enough to cope with the load on your machine. So try bumping it up to mid or highest level :Wink:


But do note that it could be a hardware issue with the fan not being able to spin to max speed. By setting BIOS Power | Thermal to max, you should hear the fans are spinning noticably faster than before. If not, consider you may have a motherboard fault or fan fault. Obviosly in this situation, changing the fan would be the cheapest option to try.


Also, do consider that as a refurbished machine, the termal paste may be in need of being replaced since it could be old and dry. Again changing the thermal paste is a cheap option to try.

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Thanks for your reply.


I did find the Bios Setting for Fan Speed and have set it a couple of notches above the minimun and it's doing a good job keep the CPU cool at that setting while transcoding.  I still think there should be something in Ubuntu that would allow it to adjust the fans based on actual temp.


I'll give the CPU a look and see if the paste is shot or needs to be cleaned an replaced. I think I have some Artic Silver left over from another CPU Replacement I did a few months ago.  Great Suggestion!


Otherwise, it's a fine machine and works flawlessly running Ubuntu MythTV and hosting 2 HDHomeRun Extend ATSC Boxes for a total of 4 ATSC Tuners from which I record all of my local OTA TV here in Central Florida.


Thanks again for your input and if you or anyone else can think of anything else to try, Please feel free to comment here.



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The Z420 has a motherboard header and an official black plastic holder for a front "PCI" fan blowing from front to rear, but many of the workstations did not come with those.


They can be added.  I have the part number if you need it.  I think it is good to add this, especially if you have some cooling issues and are pushing the limits at times.

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I know it is a very old discussion, but I would ask Skylarking a thing.
My Z210 doesn't change fan speed automatically, even when the cpu is really hot, i must set in bios the minimum fan speed to the middle setting, otherwise in summer the cpu is very hot (over 80°C) when I do video rendering.

It is frustrating because it would be much more useful to increase the rpm (and therefore the noise) as the load increases, instead of restarting the computer every time, entering the bios, setting the minimum speed and returning to do different jobs to avoid having any noise.

Is there any solution? The bios is upgraded at the latest version.

Thank you for your help.

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