Question Replace Sunon 60mm fan with Noctua? Different size 3-pin connectors and pinouts. (OWC Thunderbay Mini)

May 13, 2022
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I recently bought an OWC Thunderbay 4 Mini (a 4-bay enclosure for 2" inch drives, which I'm using with SSDs).

Long story short, I expected it to have a Noctua fan (I confirmed with OWC before ordering) but it has a Sunon. OWC agreed to send a Noctua fan to swap out, but they sent another Sunon. I asked again, and this time they said they don't have any Noctuas now, and they won't get me one. Have a nice day! (=FU)

I ordered a Noctua NF-A6x25 FLX, but it has a larger 3-pin connector and a different pinout.

Noctua's connector look like these: https://landing.coolermaster.com/faq/3-pin-and-4-pin-fan-wire-diagrams/ (Noctua says they've standard motherboard connectors, but don't provide specifics.)

Sunon's look something like this: https://www.picclickimg.com/d/l400/pict/123643211965_/Lot-of-10-Sunon-30mm-Laptop-Fans-5V.jpg

(Sorry - I don't have a place to post photos at the moment.)

I don't know the technical names for either of these connectors, but I'm wondering if there's such a thing as an adapter cable for this kind of problem.

Would appreciate any suggestions.
 

kanewolf

Titan
Moderator
I recently bought an OWC Thunderbay 4 Mini (a 4-bay enclosure for 2" inch drives, which I'm using with SSDs).

Long story short, I expected it to have a Noctua fan (I confirmed with OWC before ordering) but it has a Sunon. OWC agreed to send a Noctua fan to swap out, but they sent another Sunon. I asked again, and this time they said they don't have any Noctuas now, and they won't get me one. Have a nice day! (=FU)

I ordered a Noctua NF-A6x25 FLX, but it has a larger 3-pin connector and a different pinout.

Noctua's connector look like these: https://landing.coolermaster.com/faq/3-pin-and-4-pin-fan-wire-diagrams/ (Noctua says they've standard motherboard connectors, but don't provide specifics.)

Sunon's look something like this: https://www.picclickimg.com/d/l400/pict/123643211965_/Lot-of-10-Sunon-30mm-Laptop-Fans-5V.jpg

(Sorry - I don't have a place to post photos at the moment.)

I don't know the technical names for either of these connectors, but I'm wondering if there's such a thing as an adapter cable for this kind of problem.

Would appreciate any suggestions.
Have you tried using it without a fan? SSDs are low power.
 
May 13, 2022
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I did run it without the fan for a few hours. The case felt warm to the touch even though the drives were idle - and it's fairly thick aluminum. I forgot to check the drive temperatures, though.

Now, with the fan running, they're 35-37º C idle.

One or two Mini users at VI-Control (a music software forum) said they used it with the fan unplugged for a couple years, but they were planning to use a fan again.

I've never run SSDs in a box without fans. I don't know how safe or unsafe it is. The advice from this article makes sense:

"...studies like the one Facebook conducted in their own data centers found that the hotter your SSD runs, the quicker it wears out the flash memory inside of the drive. So while an SSD can technically operate at the higher ranges advertised my manufacturers, you’re going to get better data integrity and more life out of your SSD if you keep it cool."

Maybe I'll try it again without the fan and check the temps.

A great thing about the Noctua fan from Amazon is that it has adapter cables to slow the fan down.

I'd consider making an adapter cable, but I've never made this kind of cable before and don't have a crimper.
 

Paperdoc

Polypheme
Ambassador
Four steps for you to consider. But bottom line is that there are no simple adapters you can buy for this - you will need to do some custom mods.

1. I suspect you misunderstand the "adapter cables" from Amazon with the Noctua fan. Noctua ships their fans with LNA's - "Low Noise Adapters" - that are just little blocks you can insert into a connection point in cables - like, where you plug the fan's female cable end into a mobo male header. They are small resistors to reduce voltage supply to the fan and hence slow them down. They are useful for slowing your fan and reducing noise if your fan's power supply is fixed voltage (as yours is, I expect) rather than variable voltage as a mobo fan header might do. So these can be used ONLY if the connectors involved are "standard" 3-pin ones.

2. The connectors on the Sunon fans on your photos have wires of Black, Red and Yellow, as all standard 3-pin fan fans do. HOWEVER, the standard sequence at the connector is for RED to be in the middle, and the photo shows YELLOW in the middle. Moreover, from what I can see the mechanical shape of that connector is not standard for 3-pin fans. So you WILL need to make an adapter cable to connect to the male fan header in your case on one end, and provide at the other end a standard male 3-pin fan connector that you CAN use to plug in a standard female fan connector (from a fan). THEN you can decide whether or not to add a LNA from Noctua into that connection point and plug in a Noctua fan.

3. Because the colour sequence and the physical design of the connector on the Sunon fan do not match, we do not know for sure what those wires are. The standard colour codes on 3-pin fans are:
Black on Pin #1 - Ground
Red on Pin #2 - +12 VDC (fixed, or variable from a mobo header)
Yellow on Pin #3 - Speed pulse signal from fan to header
YOU will need to measure those signals at the connector of the Sunon fan to verify their function. With the fan running, measure VOLTAGE from each wire to a good Ground of the case. One should be 0 Volts (ground); one should be +12 VDC; a third may show as 0 VDC or some small voltage, and may show as a small AC voltage - this would be the pulsing speed signal. OR this last may just seem to be 0 Volts, too, making it tricky. NOTE which COLOUR wire is which, and how that relates to the PINS of the header on the chassis. Now you know how to make electrical connections in the custom adapter cable you need to make.

4. To make the custom adpter cable, I suggest you get a 3-pin fan EXTENSION cable. If necessary, remove some covering so you can see clearly the wire colours in that extension cable and which connector pin each fits into. The STANDARD arrangement is that Black (Ground) is to one END, Red is in the middle, and Yellow at the other end. Cut off the FEMALE end of that so you have a piece with a male output connector. Then cut the wires and connector off the Sunon fan. You need to splice the wires from one to the other so that you have Ground to Ground, +12 VDC to +12 VDC, and Speed to Speed. Now you can plug one end of this cable into the case's mobo fan header as it was, and then plug into the other end of your custom cable the Noctua fan's standard female connector (with a LNA or not, as you choose).
 
May 13, 2022
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Thanks very much for the helpful post, @Paperdoc! I'll be making the extension cable you described.

Re: #1 - The low-noise adapter cables for this model are visually identical to the included extension cable (except for the labels identifying them as LNAs); there are no "little blocks". I wish they did have blocks, because the Thunderbay 4 Mini doesn't have that much room inside the back of the case.

I'll attempt to measure the voltage, but the Sunon's cable is very short, and the case opening is small. Great suggestion!

In the replacement Sunon fan, the yellow conductor in the center is missing. I suspect this device does not support fan speed control because it's always at the same speed, and it's always on (except when I put the computer to sleep - though the Mini wakes up frequently for a minute, then goes back to sleep).

Thanks again!
 

Paperdoc

Polypheme
Ambassador
That kind confirms a couple things. As you anticipate, Yellow VERY likely is the speed signal as on other systems, but it's in the "wrong location". So vey good proabability that REd is +12 CVDC and Black is Ground. And no confusion about what kind of signal is on Yellow.

Reading voltages on such a cable can be hard. What I often do is use leads from the meter with aligator clips, and then put a common dressmaking straight pin in each one. I can then stick them into the BACK of the female fan connector where the wires enter and try to reach the metal parts in each hole.
 
Reactions: bobster88
May 13, 2022
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Reading voltages on such a cable can be hard. What I often do is use leads from the meter with aligator clips, and then put a common dressmaking straight pin in each one. I can then stick them into the BACK of the female fan connector where the wires enter and try to reach the metal parts in each hole.
Brilliant! Thanks very much! I would never have thought of this.

I didn’t anticipate the difficulty in measuring that type of connector, but would’ve found out immediately as soon as I tried.

I emailed OWC to tech-support to verify the pin connections.

I really appreciate your help!
 
May 13, 2022
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I got lucky on my second call to OWC tech support. The agent said he used to work in the repair department and had serviced Thunderbay 4 Minis.

He confirmed that the Mini does not support fan speed control, and that red is indeed +12 V DC.

I cut off the connector from the spare fan and the female end of a Noctua extension cable and spliced the leads, red to red and black to black.

It works fine! The Noctua is dramatically quieter than the Sunon - nearly silent - though it runs faster (3,000 RPM vs 2,200 for the Sunon).

Since I used an extension cable, I can still install an adapter to slow it down, but so far it doesn't seem that'll be necessary.

Thanks again for the help, @Paperdoc !
 

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