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HP Proliant Microserver - Purchase, Upgrade & Setup Guide

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Here is a guide to the HP Proliant Microserver, from purchasing to upgrading to setting up.

Special thanks to Clock'd 0Ne, Russell, HUKD, those people I have linked to and all of those that have linked to this guide!


1. Initial Purchase
   1.1 - Specification
   1.2 - Purchasing
   1.3 - Performance Comparison
   1.4 - Additional accessories
   1.5 - Other discussions

2. Upgrades
   2.1 - BIOS
   2.2 - RAM
   2.3 - Drives
   2.4 - Graphics

3. Installation
   3.1 - Hardware
   3.2 - Accessories
   3.3 - Which OS?
   3.4 - Drivers

4. Misc Links

1. Initial Purchase

1.1 - Specification (With my comments)

        AMD Turion™ II Neo N40L (1.5GHz) / N36L (1.3GHz) / G7 N54L (2.2Ghz)
        AMD RS785E/SB820M chipset
        Two (2) DIMM slots
        2GB ECC (1x2GB) Standard or 4GB (1x4GB)/8GB Maximum, using PC3-10600E DDR3 Unbuffered (UDIMM) ECC memory, operating at max. 800MHz ECC not essential
    Storage Controller:
        Embedded AMD SATA controller with RAID 0, 1 (Can do other RAID, e.g. RAID 5 via software)
        Embedded AMD eSATA controller for connecting external storage devices via the eSATA connector in the rear of the server
    Internal Drive Support:
        4 Internal HDD Support <--- Not strictly true, there are 5 internal SATA connectors one for Optical drive, you can use a HD in here with suitable mount or removable HDD bay, however to get full bandwidth benefit a BIOS upgrade mentioned below is advisable
        Maximum internal SATA storage capacity of up to 12.0TB (4 x 3TB 3.5" SATA drives) +3TB as mentioned above + eSATA (which you can route internally also)
    Network Controller:
        Embedded NC107i PCI Express Gigabit Ethernet Server Adapter
    Expansion Slots:
        Slot 1: PCI-Express Gen 2 x16 connector with x16 link
        Slot 2: PCI-Express Gen 2 x1 connector with x1 Link
        Slot 2-2: PCI-Express x4 slot for optional management card
    USB 2.0 Ports:
        Seven (7) USB 2.0 ports: 4 front , 2 rear, 1 internal (for tape or USB stick)
    Power Supply:
        150 Watts Non-Hot Plug, Non Redundant Power Supply (Actual power usage seems to be between 30 - 45 watts)
        Optional MicroServer Remote Access Card
    Operating System:
        Supports Windows and Red Hat Linux If Windows - a server version suggested if RAID5 required
    Form Factor:
        Ultra Micro tower (1 x 5+1/4" Drive bay - for some reason not mentioned in standard specs)
        This product is covered by a global limited warranty and supported by HP Services and a worldwide network of HP Authorized Channel Partners. Hardware diagnostic support and repair is available for one year from date of purchase. Support for software and initial setup is available for 90 days from date of purchase. Enhancements to warranty services are available through HP Care Pack services or customized service agreements. Hard drives have either a one year or three year warranty; refer to the specific hard drive QuickSpecs for details.
        NOTE: Server Warranty includes 1 year Next Day Parts replacement, 0-Years Labor, 0-Years Onsite support. Additional information regarding worldwide limited warranty and technical support is available at:

1.2 - Purchasing your HP Microserver

You can get one of these fantastic servers from £109 for the N54L!

The HP £100 cash back offer is back and available on the N54L model (The cashback offer usually runs to the end of the month, but is extended each month):

- I have no idea how long this will continue to be repeated
- Make sure that the part code is correct as mentioned in the cash back deal and that the site you are buying from is HP certified.
- Apparently you do not need to post you proof, if you can scan your form you can send to (you should get a response in a couple of days)
- Payment is reliable, you  just have to be prepared to wait up to 6 weeks.
- Check for the best price around! is always a good place to see where the latest deals are on and there's always Google
- Also don't forget quidco and other additional cashback offers or discounts!

1.3 - Performance Comparison

This link has a comparison of the different models processing power, looks to be 57% CPU increase from the N36L to the N54L although that wont tell the whole story admittedly:

There is also this more comprehensive comparison between the N40L and N54L:

1.4 - Additional accessories may be required

- The top bay is provided with a molex power connector and that's it, if you want to put a drive in there you will need a SATA cable (right angled ideally) and a molex to SATA power adapter - They'll only be a couple of quid - try eBay or Amazon

- Optical drive if you want/need one

General Discussion Threads on Other Sites ~1500 posts > 2500 posts, first post has some good links..

2. Upgrades

2.1 - BIOS

Updating your BIOS can increase the speed of the Optical drive SATA port, as seems to be limited to operate in a combined IDE mode when shipped originally. However it was reported that the later HP BIOS supports the full speed but this has since been confirmed false, you will need the 3rd party modified BIOS to unlock AHCI mode for the 5th SATA port. There may also be other benefits of upgrading.

Latest HP BIOS:

Original post to 3rd party BIOS to increase SATA speed:

Updated 3rd party BIOS to increase SATA speed, which is based on the newer BIOS:

BIOS mod guide if you already have the BIOS dated 01.17.2011 preinstalled from factory: (Thanks Clock'd)

2.2 - RAM


What is ECC memory:

Basically is has in built error checking, which makes it more reliable (but slower and more expensive). Modern RAM is reliable enough you are highly unlikely to see any benefit in ECC.

What should I chose?

If you decide to run mission critical software that will have a lot of RAM throughput on it, then ECC may be worth while!

Most however have gone for non-ECC as it is inexpensive and an easy upgrade!

The HUKD thread has mentioned the below ECC (Thanks Clock'd):
Also the 4Gb module:
Slightly cheaper at Kikatech:

When choosing 'performance' RAM that is cheaper than ECC, please be aware that some modules by brands such as Corsair, Crucial, etc will feature large heatsinks. Due to low clearance above the RAM slots on the microserver motherboard it is not recommended to buy RAM with large heatsink unless these can be removed.

2.3 - Hard Disk / Solid State / USB Drives?

The most popular choice of HDD for storage is the Samsung F4 2TB, I'm not saying this is your only choice, but works well with the server and plays nicely with RAID (Some drives wont). Also it's the best bang for buck (or was until the flood)

Also make sure the firmware on the Samsung drive is up to date, the early model has a slight fault in the firmware. Guide here to update firmware:

Official specs from HP state a 2TB per drive limit, however there are people happily running 4x3TB drives, it looks to be supported by default, but is worth checking before purchase. PLEASE NOTE THAT YOU APPEAR NOT TO BE ABLE TO BOOT FROM 3TB DRIVES.

Some people chose to boot from USB drives, meaning that the full 5 internal SATA slots can be filled with HD's for storage, usually this uses a linux NAS distro (See "Which OS") You can also use an internal USB drive for keeping a drive image of the OS drive as I do with Acronis.

Solid State Drives.. Yes they work, but no I haven't a lot to add at this point. However you can fit a slim SSD or laptop HD in the top section along side another HD or optical drive, but you will need to take a feed from the eSATA and pass it through the cover over the PCI slots. If used I believe you will need to slide this in under the top part of the chasis above the HD array bays, this obviously wont be mounted securely!!!

2.4 - Graphics

Generally you should not need a graphics card if you are just planning to use the server as a fileserver, the onboard ATI powered graphics are more than capable for basic running.
If you are considering a HTPC or transcoding media server, you will need something more substantial. The two most recommended cards I have seen are the Radeon HD5450 1Gb which will confidently play 1080p with HDMI audio passthrough, or for those that prefer nVidia or wish to use linux/XMBC setup the GT510/GT520 cards are the recommended options, as these have better driver support.
You need to choose cards that are half-height and with low profile heatsinks, preferably passively cooled

Recommended cards
HIS HD 6450 Silence Edition £36.99 playing 1080p with audio pass-through in XBMC - confirmed by sexytw
Sapphire Radeon HD5450 1Gb - should come with half-height brackets and is suitably low profile
Zotec nVidia 210 512MB graphics card, its £25ish and plays 1080p with HDMI audio, also had more luck with nVidia cards over ATI when running on Linux (Ubuntu or XBMC Live). - Recommended by Leon

3. Installation

3.1 - Hardware


Useful guides and videos to assist with hardware installation:
HP Parts and Upgrades Guides

Direct Link to Video guides:

HP Parts and Upgrades Video Guides

3.2 - Accessories

There is no additional SATA cable provided for a 5.25" bay device and the power connector located here is a 4-pin molex, not a SATA power connector. Please check if you have these cables spare if necessary, if not factor these into your purchasing.

Some tall USB pens such as the Cruzer Contour will not fit the internal USB slot without a flexible adapter.
If planning on routing an eSATA to SATA cable through the expansion slot at the rear, a 0.5m cable length is perfect to accommodate this.

For mounting HDDs in the spare 5.25" bay
Cheap & cheerful (as used by Clock'd 0Ne): Metal 3.5 to 5.25 Inch Drive Adapter Bracket - only £2.32 w/ free delivery from
Removable swap bay for the spare 5.25" bay
IcyBox IB-168SK-B Mobile Rack
Cheapest prices found at Scan or Tekheads (both ex delivery)
Cheapest alternative found at w/ free delivery: 5.25" Tray-Less SATA Hot-Swap Bay

Some installs have managed to squeeze two 3.5" HDDs into the 5.25" bay using a Nexus "Double Twin" HDD Silencer or Noiseblocker X-Swing, but these are a discontinued line and now very hard to find, you may be able to find one via some extensive Googling or on eBay.

3.3 - Which OS

Windows Server 2003/8 - Is a popular choice for those people who want to use RAID 5 and have the ability to run other software, 2008 is officially supported by HP

Windows Home Server - This is also a popular choice for the more domestic use and now 2011 is now officially supported by HP, and 2003 works without problems.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 Server - I assume will also give the RAID5 benefit and the official support by HP, but for those in the Linux camp (I'm not)

Windows 7 - Good if you don't want RAID5 and want a lean windows machine, pro version is however desirable if only for remote desktop access.

FreeNAS - Able to boot from the internal USB slot, leaves the rest of the SATA ports for pure storage! But that is all you will get, you can't run other software.

Unraid NAS - Similar to the above, but I believe a bit more advanced - unRAID guide here:

3.4 - Drivers

Official Drivers:
- Microsoft Windows Server 2008 Foundation Edition
- Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2
- Microsoft Windows Server 2008 Small Business
- Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 Server (x86)
- Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 Server (x86-64)
Available at: HP Business Support Website

Server 2003 - Thanks Russell

NIC Driver - taken from
AMD Processor Driver -
 (You'll need to have at least SP1 for 2003 on before installing the Processor Driver, which is a nice 372mb download.)
Chipset & CPU - think I've got the right one from a rather long list* on
Graphics Driver - Packages\Drivers\Display\XP_INF section in the Win XP Drivers from here:

* For Server 2008 users the Vista/Win 7 drivers should be used

Windows XP (and 2003)
This forum post:

Windows Home Server
This forum post has quite a bit on WHS:

Windows 7
Apparently doesn't need drivers, W7 picks them up just fine (If anyone can confirm)

4. Misc Links
Tim's 7.24TB "Tiddler" Unraid NAS - includes BIOS mod/settings

Very cool: Massive Array of Inexpensive Servers (MAIS) :bow:

Install XBMC on it:

Excellent guide/users thread over on LimeTech/unRAID forums:

Microserver front door 'dust filter' mod:
 - Suitable with this filter material

Awesome idea, I was thinking we needed exactly this but wasn't sure if it was distinct enough from the XBMC guide to be worth creating.

I intend to replace Windows 7 with Windows Server 2008 R2 soon so I will try to document that fully.

Admins feel free to modify the thread, if you want to add more content or other peoples posts..

I need someone to add some info on graphics card choices? and any other info you think should be included?

I think it's worth having a guide for this as the XBMC guide only really touches on this one..

Clock'd 0Ne:
This is brilliant. I've added some info the graphics card section and I will try and put some more details in the driver section :thumbup:

Adding an accessories section for recommended H/W such as for additional drives, e.g cables, 3.5" to 5.25" adapters...


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