HP Microserver N40L Build and Bios Modification
By Guest Blogger: John V. Stutsman
I recently completed setting up my new HP ProLiant N40L MicroServer that I purchased at Newegg.com. It was a special combo deal that included the MicroServer and a copy of Windows Home Server 2011.
At this site, HP MicroServer Self Repair Videos there are repair videos from HP that show how to disassemble the MicroServer and among other things install new or additional RAM onto the motherboard. These videos are a must watch in my opinion before you attempt any DIY work on the MicroServer. I ordered and installed the Kingston Model KVR1333D3E9SK2/8G which is two 4GB sticks of ECC memory.
Flashing the BIOS
A refresh of this Posting is available at HP ProLiant N40L MicroServer Build and BIOS Modification Revisited that provides more detail and a Step-By-Step Guide of the BIOS Modification Process. (2/3/2013)
I then flashed the modified BIOS from BIOS-MODS to my MicroServer using John Zajdler’s, @DieHarder on twitter, Diehard in the HomeServershow.com forums, guide and suggestions.
I would just like to note that DieHard is a rock star! I followed his notes and suggestions and I had no problems getting BIOS-MODS modified BIOS that would unlock many of the hidden features on the MicroServer – especially enabling me to set SATA port 4 (the mother board port for the ODD (Optical Disk Drive) if installed and port 5 (the eSATA port on the back of the case to AHCI and at a higher port speed than it’s default.
Set up the Flash and it almost immediately took me to a C:\ prompt after the BIOS had successfully been flashed.
I then rebooted and hit F10 to get into the BIOS — Realized I made a mistake not checking the BIOS before flashing it but as I poked around I found many new options that people had written about so I knew I had the modified BIOS.
It Looked like all ports 0-5 are set for AHCI in the Advanced Menu – which is correct but you need to make additional changes to get ports 4 & 5 to AHCI and high speed.
Under IDE Configuration in the advanced Menu it has the option of setting AHCI speed to Auto, 1.5, & 3 – initially I left it on Auto but later on DieHard’s suggestion I changed it to 3.
At the Southbridge menu part of the BIOS I saw at this location http://forums.overcl…8216324&page=41 that says:
In bios under Chipset / SouthBridge Configuration / SB Sata Configuration
· Disable “SATA IDE Combined Mode” – sets port 5 and 6 to use AHCI
· Enable “SATA ESP on all PORT” – sets all ports to be external SATA ports
The SATA ESP on all PORT makes all SATA ports hot swappable.
I found the following instructions/recommendations:
· Enter BIOS with F10
· Go to the Chipset Menu > Southbridge Configuration > SB SATA Configuration (New Menu!)
· Enable OnChip Sata Channel, OnChip IDE Type to IDE, Sata ID Combined Mode to Disabled and SATA ESP and SATA Power on all PORT to Enabled.
In the Chipset menu you’ll find the SouthBridge Menu:
I set my AHCI speed to 3 also:
Installing the SSD
Then I installed a Crucial M4 128GB SSD as my OS drive located in the space above the 4 drive bay and below the ODD bay in the MicroServer after clearing out the power cables there by re-routing them in the cable run on the side above the power supply. See pictures here of the SSD location. The SSD is running from Port 5.
SSD Location: I installed the SSD in the open space below the ODD (Optical Disk Drive) bay and above the main 4 drive bay. This is actually be an excellent space for a floppy drive installation except for the “HP” lighted logo in front.
Note: in the last picture the book “Windows Server 2008 R2 – Unleashed” is opened to Chapter 3 “Installing Window’s Server 2008 R2”. This is a great book for reference in my opinion.
Installing Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise
After installing the SSD I loaded Server 2008-R2 Enterprise onto the MicroServer. That installation went very quick and surprisingly smooth.
I burned the iso for Server 2008 R2 to a DVD and used a USB DVD drive (pictured above) to install Server 2008 R2 Enterprise. I installed my OS onto the SSD drive.
I didn’t set up role’s right away but I went through all of the Windows updates and loaded Microsoft Forefront Endpoint Protection 2010 via the instructions at http://technet.micro…y/ff823774.aspx
Testing Hard Drive performance in the MicroServer
Later I formatted the Original 250GB Segate drive (in Port 0 or the left most port of the main 4 bay) that came with the Server and I looked forward to the process of adding more drives and adding the Hyper-V role to Server 2008 R2
I used ATTO Benchmark to test my SSD and the original stock 250GB Seagate drive.
And like a proud grandfather – here are some pictures from my build of the MicroServer:
The only glitch was taking out the SAS cable connector from the MB when I was installing the RAM — there were two hooks that would NOT release when I pressed the connector release — I finally utilized the screwdriver shown above to bend the connector housing very slightly so that when I pressed on the release the hooks would actually release. The SAS connector in the picture is released and is mostly out of the MB housing. MB SATA port 5 connector is clearly visible just right of the battery and the MB USB connector is left of the battery.
in the photo above the 8GB of RAM is now installed —
I thought this photo (above) would be interesting — you can see the SATA cable run as well as the other cables — it’s not necessary to unplug the MB power cable so I didn’t.
I decided to try some additional drives I had to see how they perform in the MicroServer.
First I checked out the old Seagate 750GB System Drive that I had removed from my EX-487 last fall and a Western Digital WD20EADS that I am holding as a spare for my EX-487:
The performance of the stock Seagate 750GB drive wasn’t as good as the 250GB Seagate that came with the MicroServer while the performance of the WD20EADS wasn’t that bad.
I then tried a WD20FAEX — a 2TB Black drive that is actually a SATA 6G/s though in the MicroServer it’s connected to a SATA 3G/s:
Nice! For future tests I decided to use the WD20FAEX as my drive for my VHD’s and Hyper-V snapshots and the WD20EADS as my Server backup drive.
Wish I had a SATA 6G/s VR to test — I suspect it’s performance would be even better that the WD20FAEX since it’s about 20% faster (10,000 RPM vs 7,200 RPM) so that should mean read/writes around 180 if it’s truly scalable. But then it may not be when noting that the VR’s have only a 32MB buffer whereas the WD20FAEX has a 64MB buffer.
Installing a Drive in the ODD Bay
Well, I couldn’t leave good enough alone — I decided to see if I could move a drive into my open ODD Bay on top of the MicroServer and tie it into Port 4 (the eSATA port). My OS SSD is still tied to Port 5 and is in the space between the ODD bay and the main 4 Bay (SATA Ports 0, 1, 2, 3) below.
I decided I’d put my WD20EADS into the ODD bay and try it out as a Server back-up disk — I wanted a green drive up there because the ODD is closed in and I wanted a drive that normally ran cool in that space. I think long term the enclosed nature of this bay could be a detriment to a higher performance drive that generates a significant amount of heat.
The WD20EADS Drive installed without a hitch — I used a splitter so that it shares it’s power feed with the SSD below it.
It’s performance is as follows while running off of the eSATA (port4):
Pretty much the same as before when it was located in the main 4 drive bay.
Here is it’s location:
You can just make out the SSD OS drive below it (See the blue SATA cable and the blue Tape)
The 2TB green in the ODD bay is plugged into Port5 which is the eSATA port — so I had to run an eSATA to SATA cable from the back of the case into a hole at the expansion slot and up the inside of the case next to the Power Supply to the ODD bay — it’s the Red cable:
I used the Tripp Lite 18’ eSATA to SATA cable for this run – you can see it disappearing into a blank old low profile NIC plate.
Originally I planned to install an old PCI D-Link NIC I had been saving for an occasion such as this – that’s when I realized a PCI card would not fit into a modern PCI-express slot. I ended up going with an Intel EXPI9402PTBLK Two Gigabit NIC that I could use in a future server build.
3TB Drive Installation
Now came the really fun part of the evening. In a weak moment earlier in the week I had purchased a Seagate 3TB 7200 6GPS drive that was on sale at Newegg — I was needing another 3TB so this fit the bill.
I installed the 3TB drive in the 4th drive bay (far right) in the main 4 bay which meant it was attached to SATA port3. The performance of this drive is SIMPLY AMAZING!
Shortly after this I installed the Hyper-V role in the Server 2008 R2 Enterprise and then installed Windows Home Server 2011 without a single hitch. In order to have a safe testing environment I installed Microsoft Forefront via the method described by Tinkererguy and Joe_Miner
Later I successfully passed through the ST3000DM01 to WHS 2011 running in Hyper-V and did another disk test. While there’s a slight change in the performance of the Seagate 3TB drive it is still very good any way you cut it.
That is some drive! and this performance is with it attached to a SATA II or 3Gbps port!!!!! I decided I needed to pull a 3TB WD drive out of my main Client to do a comparison. So that’s what I did.
The drive I pulled from my main Client is a Western Digital WD30EZRX 3TB drive that’s a SATA III or 6GBPS. It’s performance was markedly worse than the Seagate ST3000DM01 when tested attached to Server 2008 R2 and when passed directly thru Hyper-V to the VM of WHS 2011.
The MicroServer Owners Club on the OverClockers Australia Forum member Doodz has a comprehensive write-up on the power useage of the MicroServer.
In my own configuration of the MicroServer with:
· 8 GB RAM
· Crucial M4 128GB SSD
· WD20FAEX 2TB Black Drive
· WD20EADS 2TB Green Drive
· WD30EZRX 3TB Green Drive
· ST3000DM01 Barracuda 3TB Drive
· Intel EXP19402PTBLK 2-port NIC
I found that the MicroServer had a start-up peak of about 101VA (Volt-Amps) ran idled at about 61VA.
In the above configuration I still had one slot open in my 4-bay for another 3.5” spindle drive so in the interest of science I re-installed the original Seagate 250GB drive:
· ST325318AS Barracuda 250GB Drive
In this “filled” configuration I found that the MicroServer had a start-up peak of about 111VA and ran idled at about 66VA.
I plan to do a lot more testing with my MicroServer. I’ve found the MicroServer to be an excellent learning tool and have been using it to try things out as I work my way through some of TechNET’s eLearning courses. Being able to easily set up a virtual machine on the MicroServer greatly expands its versatility and usefulness. Check out the links to the variety of user groups (below) for lots of great ideas on the possibilities with this MicroServer.
This is also a great little file server for the small business and the home. I’ve found it to be very reliable and easy (and fun!) to work on.
Many people in the Home Server Community were very instrumental in helping me figure out this fun machine. I’d like to thank everyone in the forums for their helpful suggestions and insights.
Some Useful MicroServer links: (For a more Current list of links see: Useful MicroServer Links & References 2-3-2013)
HP business page for HP ProLiant N40L 1P 2GB-U Emb SATA NHP 250GB LFF 150W PS MicroServer
HP MicroServer Self Repair Videos <= These are a MUST View IMHO
HP ProLiant MicroServer Owners Club (Dieharder gave us this link earlier)
ROM Firmware Upgrade from HP
HP Operating System and Virtualization on ProLiant Servers Info Page the official HP position – check out the MicroServers and see what officially supported under Server Matrices
Windows Server Certification
HP MicroServer Series Overview
MicroServer Driver & Support Info
Andy’s World – check out his posts on the MicroServers. For something really interesting read about his Cluster of MicroServers running ESXi 5.0
A nice write-up on specs and ideas on what the MicroServer can do
AMD Turion II Neo N40L
The MicroServer and ESXi
ESXi 5 Part 1
ESXi 5 Part 2
The MicroServer vSphere Lab
MicroServer and vSphere compatability
An interesting way to install 2008 R2 onto the MicroServer
A microserver with USB 3.0 and 3TB drives
Diehard’s live on air tear-down of N40L <= Must view — if you’re in a hurry start at the 23 min mark (Home Server Show 167 pre-show) — but take the time to listen to Christian’s discussion (starting around 50 minutes) of the BIOS and how to upgrade the BIOS – the upgrade BIOS is available at BIOS-MODS
And of course the Home Server Show’s MicroServer Forum