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This answer claims that hoppers cause chunks to be loaded "at least partially."

Using a loop of hoppers, is it possible to keep chunks loaded, specifically for farming, smelting, and mob grinding? What are the limitations to chunk-loading in this way—are only the hoppers loaded? Does the hopper loop need to span multiple chunks, or will a loop in a single chunk work?

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    The only mob grinder that I can think that would work in this scenario is an Iron Golem grinder. No other mobs would spawn outside the 128 radius. – John Jul 25 '13 at 15:59
10

Yes

You can

This video explains the phenomenon, and how to build one:

Basically, it works as you have said, a long loop of hoppers will keep a chunk loaded, but the hopper chain must start in the spawn chunks. You can use chains of hoppers to basically extend the area of chunks at spawn that is kept loaded.

enter image description here

In this diagram, the yellow area represents the spawn chunks. As long as the hopper chain starts in the spawn chunks and leads out of it, those chunks will all be kept loaded.

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    You stated before that items still won't despawn in the loaded chunks. Could you clarify and summarize what behaviors (such as this one) work differently than a chunk with a player in it? (If it's explained in the video, a short summary would be helpful, as I can't watch it just yet and it'd be nice to have it answered in the text.) – dlras2 Jul 25 '13 at 15:52
  • @DanRasmussen I stated no such thing! I'm afraid I'm heading out now, I'll test this next time I get a chance. – fredley Jul 25 '13 at 16:05
  • Quoted—sorry. =P – dlras2 Jul 25 '13 at 16:27
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    +1 for "ridiculously useful for so many god**** things!" lol – Ender Jul 25 '13 at 20:00
  • Any chance to test any of these behaviors more thoroughly? – dlras2 Jul 30 '13 at 21:00
2

Linking your chain to the spawn chunk is not necessary. You just need to make sure there are several items in each hopper and ensure you don't unload both chunks at once.

Setup two hoppers as you normally would on the border of two chunks. Place your items in both the hoppers, then travel away from the hoppers in a direction that will only unload one hopper chunk at a time, like so:

CCCCCCBBCCCCCC
CCCCCCBBCCCCCC
CCCCCCHHCCCCCC ===========>>>>>
CCCCCCBBCCCCCC
CCCCCCBBCCCCCC

C = The chunks B = Chunk Border H = Hopper

If you go out of range to unload only the furthest hopper (Chunk 1), the closer hopper (Chunk 2) still in range will kickstart the furthest chunk and load it. When the closer chunk goes out of range the further one will do the same and keep both chunks loaded.

It won't work if you unload both hoppers at the same time, so if you chainload a large area it makes it much harder to unload all the chunks at once (unless you teleport out of the area)

The chunks will remain loaded until the player physically goes back to the chunks, stops the hopper clock and moves away again to unload the chunks. I havn't yet tested whether server restarts and logging out unload these chunks though...

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