PLEASE NOTE: Although I initially wrote this post about the Drobo 5N, several commenters have pointed out that the Drobo 5N & 5D use the same chassis & so this is equally helpful for fixing noisy Drobo 5D fans too.
Drobo makes a nice backup system, but the cooling fans are crap. The fan in my Drobo 5N was no exception & failed after 3 years, most of which it spent on standby with the drives spun down. As far as I know, the Drobo cooling fan runs constantly even when the drives are spun down.
For the cost of a $15 fan & maybe an hour of your time, you can replace the fan in your $500 Drobo5N backup system.
Also see the very helpful comments on these steps from Tad Harrison — the 3rd comment at the end of this post.
- Shut down & unplug the Drobo. Remove the hard drives & remember the drive order in the bays. It might not matter, but why tempt fate?
- Remove the magnetic faceplace & pull out the rubber gasket from the groove behind the faceplate.
- Unscrew the 4 rubber feet on the bottom of the unit. Also remove the small hatch on the bottom that covers the mSATA bay.
- Slide the metal case off the chassis. I don’t think it matters which end you slide it off. The case is split in half on the bottom. You’ll need to lift up one side just a bit to get the case to slide past a few items in the mSATA bay.
- Push in the plastic tabs to remove the fan backplate on one end & the drive bays on the other end. I think there’s 5 tabs for each. This part was easy.
- Unscrew 4 screws total, on the sides at the fan end: 1 upper & 1 lower screw. Leave all the other screws in place. Trust me on this.
- Slide the top of the chassis back & up to separate it from the bottom/sides. This can be tricky – use a flat screwdriver to pry the lower slot closest to the back (see photo) if it’s stuck. Unplug the white plastic fan & power switch connectors when you can get to them – they just pull, no clips.
Finally, easy access to the fan! Not so fast, Batman. The fan is held in place by 4 plastic anchors that work like drywall anchors – there’s a center pin which spreads out the tip of the anchor when it’s pushed in all the way. Best method for removal is push the center pin from the fan side with a paperclip or small nail until the anchor pops out. Don’t try prying the anchors from the cap end or you’ll likely end up breaking them off.
- Cut the fan wire close to the old fan so you have decently long leads on the connector plug end.
- Solder (or use wire nuts, or butt splice connectors) the plug onto the new fan wires. If you solder, use shrink tubing! It’s awesome. Remember to slide the tubing on, before you solder.
Now you’re ready to put everything back together. Really this is just an excuse to start the instruction numbering over at #1. Also now that you’re in this deep, let’s make putting your Drobo back together look like 4 steps:
- Reattach the fan to the chassis with the plastic anchors you didn’t break. Make sure the the fan is oriented correctly so it blows air out the rear vent. The side with the hub struts is the “exhaust” side, so you would want that facing the rear. Stare at the fan blade shape for a bit & you’ll figure it out. Some fans have arrows on the cowling that indicate airflow direction.
- Slide the chassis back together, reconnect the fan & power switch connectors, & screw the 4 screws back in. PRO TIP: make sure the fan wires aren’t in the way of the fan blades.
- Snap the fan backplate & the drive bays back in. It can be a little tricky to get the drive bays seated all the way. Make sure you line up the many clear plastic nubs along the bottom edge with the all holes (these are the blue lights that indicate capacity).
- Slide the chassis back into the case. Reinstall the mSATA hatch cover, rubber feet, rubber gasket, drives, & magnetic faceplate. Plug in & turn on.
Nice work. You saved $500 on a new Drobo.
Hope the new fan lasts longer than the old one.