Elektromxs
2 Bronze

TB16 dock noisy fan and what's inside

Hello,

I have been dealing with this fan noise on and off ever since I got my TB16 (240w version) last fall. I am using it with a Precision 5530, 2x P2415q displays, keyboard/mouse, and even the ethernet. I often will have my phone or ipad charging off it too, so the thing is definitely getting a workout with nearly every port in use.

What I have always found baffling is that the fan noise appears to be quite random. It is quite inoffensive when my computer is charging, running solidworks, while charging my iphone and ipad at the same time. But it can be *very* offensive when, like this morning, I go into my study and everything is cool from the night, and the computer has been asleep all night. Yet, that fan is whizzing it's little brain out like an annoying mosquito.

I found after a bit of searching that this is a very common complaint (almost as common as the fragility of the TB3 connector on the other end) and no real answer other than some people have had them replaced under warranty, which of course doesn't fix the (non-existent, operating as designed) problem. The standard response from Dell representatives is to of course install all of the bios and firmware updates (mine were all up to date as of this morning). Some people are asking if a quieter fan can be sourced and installed. Most are afraid of using a philips screwdriver or breaking the thing, it seems like nobody has actually bothered to look inside of it. It's pretty easy to open up with just a couple screws on the bottom.

So I took the thing apart to try to see what was wrong with it. It turns out, nothing. As soon as I disconnected the TB3 cable from the dock (which requires a screw-in bracket to keep it secure) I noticed the connector is not only made out of thick aluminum, it has heat sink fins on it. And that connector is warm (!) even though my computer had been asleep all night. So even though the computer is asleep, the dock is still keeping it's link and power circuitry awake.

Anyways, I pulled it open and found a cute little blower fan right on top of that big finned connector body. Everything else inside was cool to the touch. So that fan is definitely working!

Anyways, I solved the problem by zip tying it underneath my desk. That muffles the noise enough for me to make it inaudible. The only improvements I could see would be to add another fan and, since my previous laptop IMG_0598.jpgwas a razer stealth with it's ridiculous hair dryer 'core' docking station/egpu, I'm not going to complain too much about it.

If anybody cares, the PN for the fan is Sunon MG75150V1-C110-S9A.

IMG_0596.jpgIMG_0602.jpg

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5 Replies
Jolemon
2 Bronze

Re: TB16 dock noisy fan and what's inside

Hi

I did the same. I'm considering replacing the fan with a passive heat sink.

I wonder why there's a plastic cover over the aluminum connector? Well it's actually a socket for the connector but I guess it retains the heat inside...

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AnotherJamieRI
2 Bronze

Re: TB16 dock noisy fan and what's inside

@Elektromxs @Jolemon 

I'm an EE experienced in thermal management of boards and systems, both fan and passively cooled designs, mostly with PWM control speed. Half my work was improving inadequate designs using retrofit or easy to implement design updates. (Sadly good thermal design is not taught to EEs, nor is the art of "reliability design", and on-the-job learning depends on the companies they apprenticed in)

I would be happy to coach what might be simpler solutions for decreased chip temperatures, but would be shooting arrows without thermocouples and data loggers. IR thermography is second best... I have that but don't have your dock... 3rd best would be a series of close up photos and spot temperature measurements of the chip case or heat sink Temps, but you would need to spend a few dollars on a meter with thermocouple. Perhaps some of this exists on the internet already?

The goal needs clarification-fix overheating? Or just keep fan running at lower speed?

Jamie

<Email id removed>

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Jolemon
2 Bronze

Re: TB16 dock noisy fan and what's inside

Hi Jamie

Thank you very much for your help. As this docking is quite old I don't think it worth spending too much time on it (except for the fun of the fact and xp gain^^)

I simply removed the fan and it works well. Let's wait for hot days during summer to see what happens^^

Keep cool

Jo

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AlexRau
2 Bronze

Re: TB16 dock noisy fan and what's inside

Jo:

I did the same thing as you a few days ago, opening the whole thing to disconnect the fan; however, on the ribbon that connects to the board, there are wires for both the fan and the power button, and I don't see any way to disconnect just the fan wires without cutting them. By detaching the ribbon, you lose both the fan and power button, which is like trading one inconvenience (fan noise) for another (having to use the laptop power button). Did you simply detach the ribbon or do something more complicated?

Btw, the reason this dock and others have fans (as I've now learned) is because of the thunderbolt connector. The metal encasing on that thing is quite literally a mini heatsink that is being cooled 24/7 by the fan on top of it. It looks like such a stupid design. 

I did try going 1 day with the fan disconnected and nothing bad happened, but the thunderbolt connector did get insanely hot. Much hotter than with the fan. I'd be worried about long-term performance.

Another solution would be to buy a 140mm fan and have the dock sitting on it. It would probably be more silent than any internal fan.

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Jolemon
2 Bronze

Re: TB16 dock noisy fan and what's inside

Hi, yes that's right, I lost the power button, anyway I never used it before.

I agree that this docking is badly designed. I'm ready to see it burning ^^