Installation of the cooler is very straightforward and will not cause any problems to anyone who can install a CD drive. Place the hard drive into the cooler with the bottom of the drive visible. There are a pair of thermal probes; one that is a short wire and one that is a longer one. The short probe will be attached to the bottom of the hard drive and the longer one can be put almost anywhere that is convenient within the case.
I made mention that the short probe needs to be attached to the hard drive. This is because the short probe acts as a speed sensor for the twin fans of the HDCS unit. As temperatures get higher, the fans automatically spin at a higher speed. The Spec Sheets from Antec state that the fans will begin spinning at 3500 RPM when the probe reads 30C (about 86F). It will gradually spin faster until it is maxed out at 5000 RPM at a temperature reading of 45C (about 113F). I found that the fans will start spinning at lower temperatures, but I have no complaints about this at all. The more air, the cooler the hard drive.
From there, take the 4-pin Molex connector that is a part of the unit and hook it up to your hard drive. The other connector will be where you bring in a power source from the system PSU, so the end result is that your hard drive and the cooler share a power resource. With the small draw of the fans (under 1 watt per fan), you will have no problems with there being ample power still for the hard drive.
From there, you'll just need to place the entire assembly into an empty 5.25" drive bay and you'll be set (after hooking up the power, of course).
Since there is a limited functionality to a hard drive cooler, the testing involved will be simple. I will record the temperatures of the hard drive at an idle speed and under a load. Idle will consist of booting the system up and letting it run without applications in the background for 15 minutes. This will allow the system to get to a normal operating temperature and also give me a result that is constant. Load tests will be done by running a loop of the SiSoft Sandra 2003 File System Benchmark test. The test will run three times consecutively and the highest temperature attained will be recorded. I chose three runs of the test because when running through a trial run, a fourth test did not result in any higher temperatures.
Here is a look at the test system used:
Xoxide modified Lian-Li PC60 case
EPoX 8K9A2 Motherboard (KT400 Chipset)
Athlon XP 1800+ Processor @ 1870 MHz (Thoroughbred)
512MB Crucial PC2700 DDR Memory
Seagate Barracuda 40GB HDD @ 7200 RPM
If you'll take notice of the hard drive, you'll see that I've added a little bit of a monkey wrench to the tests; namely, the Barracuda series drives are fully enclosed and also include an insulating layer between the moving parts and the exterior casing. Though this may not seem very fair, if the HDCS unit can make a difference in this drive, then it will prove to be even more effective on a normal model.
Ambient temperatures during the tests is a constant 21.2C as measured by a thermal probe. This probe is independent of the cooler so that the results will be uniform throughout testing. It is also battery powered so there will be no worry of any chance of a false reading due to a small power spike from the system.
Also of note is the fact that I will be comparing the Antec cooler to not only a bare hard drive with no cooling, but also to the same hard drive when it is sitting comfortably within a Lian-Li case with a pair of 80mm fans blowing directly onto it. This will give us an idea as to how it compares to a case that has adequate cooling already in place and give us an even larger picture of its effectiveness.
There is no big surprise that the Lian-Li case managed to win the contest in overall cooling, but I was rather impressed that the margin of victory was relatively small. Also taking into consideration the tough job it had of cooling an enclosed hard drive, I will have to admit that the Antec HDCS unit performed very well.
And make sure that you take a look at the meager one degree advantage that the Lian-Li case achieved during the load tests.