A friend of mine had an old HP MediaSmart Server that apparently had a bad PSU (the server didn’t boot when plugged into the wall), after some begging he gave it to me to see if I could do something with it. This signaled the start of a new project.
Several sites detail all the upgrades you can perform to the aged server, after all it has a PC motherboard with serviceable components inside. Of course this depends on the model of the server you own, in my case the server is an EX487, which came with a Intel Celeron 2.0Ghz Processor, 2GB of DDR2 Memory (PC2-6400), 700 GB of storage and Windows Home Server.
The main purpose of this build would be to replace an ancient laptop I’ve been using as a seed box and a 3TB WD MyBook Live NAS I had lying around with my Personal Movies, Music and Series. I also wanted to throw Plex Media Server at it. So I could stream media on the fly to all of my devices (PS3, Chromecast, WDTVlive, phones, etc)
It became obvious the current specs of the server would not be enough to run all of that. So it was time to perform the upgrades and fix the damaged PSU.
(At this point you have to think if you want to invest money on an aged PC, or buy a new one. The selling point for me though, was the cool little case this server is on. I wanted the small form factor over building an entirely new clunky, power hungry PC. and after the upgrades the server its strong enough to perform the necessary streaming I wanted. So why getting an overpowered PC when this server can do it just fine? UPDATE: Here is an Lifehacker article that’ll let you decide)
In summary here are the upgrades I performed:
|CPU||Intel Celeron 2.0 Ghz||Intel Pentium E5200 2.5 Ghz SLAY7||$22.99||Needs to be SLAY7 to avoid having to flash BIOS. Get them from eBay. 5 for $22.99|
|RAM||Hynix PC2-6400 2GB||G-Skill PC2-6400 4GB 5-5-5-15||$109.99||Required to run WHS2011, needed to be able to run more applications, such as Plex.|
|PSU||Busted 200W||New 330W PSU from ebay||$68.89||More Power, More Doing™|
|HDD||700 GB||120GB Kingston SSD|
2x3TB WD Red Drives
|More space, Drives geared towards NAS systems|
|OS||Windows Home Server||Windows Home Server 2011||$0||Based on Windows Server 2008 R2.|
|Other||Install PMS (Plex Media Server), PMS (PS3MediaServer), uTorrent, CouchPotato, SickBeard|
|Total||$522.81||Not cheap, but well a Synology with similar power/specs runs about $734.99|
- Artic Silver 5
- #0 Phillips screw driver.
- #2 Phillips screw driver.
- Flat screw driver.
- Anti-static wrist strap.
- Bottle of Compressed air.
- Isopropyl alcohol
The upgrade can be done in a couple of hours. The hardest part was to install WHS 2011, remember that these boxes don’t have monitor out unless you buy an additional adapter (that runs for $99!!! ) so the best option, the one I use, was to install WHS 2011 into the SSD using an external USB dock or enclosure. For that I used this handy software called WinToUSB that allows you to install any Microsoft Windows ISO into an external drive (not the full ISO but the actual uncompressed OS into the drive). You can follow the Lifehacker guide to do it yourself.
Once the install is complete (using the app) boot into that drive with your main PC, and complete the remaining installation steps. Once you have finished the installation, pop the drive back into its caddy and plug it into your server. You have yourself a new operating system.
For the PSU, you have to open the case, remove the front grille, all the drives, and remove the motherboard. There are videos with the whole process here.
Once the PSU is changed, you can also replace the RAM and the CPU, which follows the regular process of changing those parts. Take time to use the compressed air too and remove any dust that have been collecting during the years. Also, use just enough thermal paste on the new CPU, you don’t want to create heating issues, after all the new CPU gives off a little more heat.
Assemble everything back, pop in your System Drive (SSD), and your data drives (WD Red) into the server.
Plug the server to your wall, plug in your Ethernet cable, RDP in and update Windows Server, it will take a while depending on your internet speed… (~2GB of updates)
After multiple restarts, you will have a working server, then move your data using USB or your Network. Install your apps (PMS, uTorrent, CouchPotato, SickBeard) and enjoy!.
Feel free to comment or ask any questions.