This Old Server, Part 1: Too HotPosted: October 19, 2013
I’ve written before (This Hot Server) about my home server, and the work I’d done to it. The case, dating from 1998, was as junky as the parts it once housed. This summer, we had another heat wave in Salem, and for the better part of July my apartment topped out around 95 degrees F!
Just about every electronic device I owned overheated and shut down in those several weeks, including my tablet! One device of mine, a graphics card in my workstation, died after reaching 160 degrees. Celsius. (!!!) (Trackmania had been stuttering for a while, making gameplay miserable. Now I knew why. Of course my card’s fan used cheap sleeve bearings! Of course was the fan not replaceable! Of course it was toast…!)
Amazingly, my server only shut down a few times! The Tyan board I had was remarkably tolerant to the environmental abuse I put on it. I wanted to get a new server board anyway, but more importantly I wanted a new case.
Dell systems—I have parted quite a few—tend to be almost physically compatible with ATX form factors. But not quite. Most of my server parts would fit in this case. But, again, not quite. There were some modifications needed, like the motherboard tray:
This motherboard tray would be a challenge. First of all, most of the standoffs would need to be removed, and new threaded hex standoffs (the standard for white-box cases) would need to be drilled and installed. The biggest problem was the I/O panel. In most boards, the I/O panel is a cheap steel plate with holes for the specific I/O ports, serial, video, USB on the motherboard, and they are placed differently for each board. The Dell’s I/O panel was thick steel, part of the motherboard tray itself. I had never used a cutoff wheel with my old Dremel clone, but I was about to find out how.
I also had to figure out the front panel:
The power LED on this Dell glowed a nice bright blue when it was on, but the pinout of this panel is nothing like most white box servers I have seen, or owned. Of course it wasn’t in the Dell service manual.
There were some promising signs. The Dell power supply and its tray fit the standard EPS12V:
The PE1800 also came with a decent drive cage and two good fans. We never had thermal problems with that machine for the 8 years it was in service.