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Inspiron 3050 Micro aka the backpack server


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Dell Inspiron 3050 aka the backpack server
I recently picked a Dell 3050 Inspiron Micro after a tweet from Mr. McCabe.  This product is very similar to the HP Stream desktop and come in at a low $179 for a perfectly capable HTPC for Plex and Netflix streaming and simple web browsing.
From Dell the low end one come with the following:
Celeron J1800
32GB M.2 2242 sized drive but has the hole and support for a 2260
802.11 AC with Bluetooth 4.0
SD Card Slot
Microsoft Windows 8.1 with Bing


There is an option for a J2900 Pentium Processors with 4 cores and 2MB cache that I might have gone for if I had already seen it but it is a $50 upgrade and so far I have not noticed it.  The other options just include either SD Card or a wireless keyboard and mouse combo.  I would lean on either of the end with the higher processor or just the baseline model.  The real glimmer was the ability per the service manual to add a 2.5” drive as storage. http://downloads.dell.com/Manuals/all-products/esuprt_desktop/esuprt_inspiron_desktop/inspiron-3050-micro-desktop_Service%20Manual_en-us.pdf



Like Tim Allen once I got it home I set out to give it more power.  First up, it has a single SO-DIMM and it maxes at 8GB so a visit to Amazon got me that for $40 and while there I purchased 128GB 2242 M.2 drive for about 60.  That said you can find 256GB M.2 in the 2242 form factor (the first 2 digits are the width and the second 2 are the length for those new to the M.2 standards.   After getting the drives and ram while I was installing them I found out there was a second hole for the support dot for the M.2 drive allowing for the install of at 512GB drive if you desired.   My hopes were crushed though as I opened up and the sata/power cable is not included with the system.  Called an Interposer cable by Dell this cable could not be found by any of my Dell contacts or Enterprise support team.  Upon research they only supply it on the units with the 500GB Sata which they apparently do not sell in the US (not sure if they sell them anywhere) Oh well its primary purpose was to be a test and HTPC box so onward it lived running Windows 10 in beta and  golive.

Until I ran across an blog post mention on Dell mentioning a HP part 6017B0421501.  A quick search on ebay and this little ras cal can be had for about $13-15.  I ordered 2 (just in case)
The caveat with this part is you will need to trim the 2 white tabs sticking out by the gold leave to use it on the 3050 Micro.
Once trimmed you can insert it in the ribbon holder and secure the retainer clip



The cable it a bit long but easily manager and with that you can add your favorite 2.5 drive as well.  In this case I am using a 750GB Seagate 7200 RM drive but for $100 you could get a 2TB Seagate spindle drive or the SSD of your choice.   A 512 boot with 2 tb SSD is possible but having $1000 in drives for a $180 pc probably not feasible.  All said I have $300 invest in a box that can now be set up as a portable plex server or even a really small home server if desired.

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  • 4 months later...

Amazon had the 3050 on sale for $149 so I couldn't pass it up. Also ordered the HDD ribbon cable and maxed out the RAM with an 8 GB module. With tax I'm about $220 out the door. Plans for this puppy are:


1. Install a spare 500 GB HDD and install the free Citrix XenServer hypervisor.

2. Install USB gigabit Ethernet adapter, and a Sophos UTM virtual appliance (or the new XG firewall).

3. Install Nas4Free virtual appliance, using a USB 3.0 drive. Also setup a share to rsync with the NASberryPi (Raspberry Pi running openmediavault).

4. Should have enough RAM left over to run either Windows 8.1 or 10, with 4 GB RAM as a VM on that box, to manage the whole environment.

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  • 3 months later...

I was searching the web looking on how to upgrade the Dell 3050 and I came across this posting. Good Info on the SATA drive (great photos!). My plan is to use the Dell 3050 as Entertainment  PC connected to the TV. I'll replace the 32gb M.2 SSD with a 128gb, upgrade the ram from 2gb to 8gb and install for now a 1tb SATA data drive (videos & music). I also purchased a Air Mouse with keyboard remote.  This is much better than a cheap Android TV box.


So thanks foe the tips!


Then I looked at the rest of the forum content available, so I joined.

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Glad you liked it but really need to do a better grammer check on the post.   I am up to 3 of these around the house (got 2 around xmas for $99).  All have the sata cable, a 128 m.2 and 8GB RAM, 2 are HTPC for streaming plex and the 3rd is a test box with W10 fast ring on a 240GB SSD and a test Sophos router on the m.2

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The best picture was the last one, I wondered how I was going to connect the HP SATA cable correctly.


The only problem I'm having with this project is cloning the M.2. I bought a MyDigitalSSD 128GB (MDM242 SBe-128) from Amazon. I was going to clone the existing 32g M.2 to a 128gb M.2 using a USB adapter. I ordered an USB adapter from MyDigitalSSD from Amazon. They sent a 240gb 2.5 SSD drive instead of the adapter, they screwed up. And now that adapter is not available on Amazon. So I'm hold with this project until I find another USB adapter.  Any Idea's? Did you a USB adapter?


My knowledge of the M.2 type SSD is very limited, just started to read about them.


MyDigitalSSD may have a good product, but there is no support. Three unanswered emails and a phone call to the store when they were closed (4:30pm EST or 1:30pm Arizona time), and they close down over the weekend. I doubt I will be buying from them in the future with no support.

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  • 2 weeks later...

You should be able to do the clone with an adapter; we keep one in the office for this purpose.  Macrium Reflect does a nice job of cloning and is free for office use.  We do however, use an M.2 to SATA adapter, which I'd trust more than a USB one.





I've used a couple of MyDigitalSSD drives, and have had no problems with them.  They're generally Phison-controller SSDs with name-brand memory.

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  • 6 months later...

Really enjoyed the project description.  I took a similar path for adding a WD 750GB HD, but now that the drive is connected, I can't edit the BIOS settings.  First page allows me to change time and date, but I can't modify the Fixed HDD settings.  Bios A06 from this unit purchased Nov 26th, 2016.  Any suggestions for this rusty PC guy?

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  • 1 month later...

Glad you liked it but really need to do a better grammer check on the post.   I am up to 3 of these around the house (got 2 around xmas for $99).  All have the sata cable, a 128 m.2 and 8GB RAM, 2 are HTPC for streaming plex and the 3rd is a test box with W10 fast ring on a 240GB SSD and a test Sophos router on the m.2

i'm unable to do uefi boot from a 256 sata ssd, only legacy works. what's urs, uefi or legacy ?

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  • 4 years later...

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