Our server is seven years old now. I initially snapped up the HP Proliant N40L MicroServer for £165 back in 2013 after someone spotted an on-line offer with Box.co.uk that worked with a £100 HP rebate promotion. Ridiculously cheap, even allowing for the machine only having 2GB of RAM and 256GB hard drive.
I mentioned to Sue that the Windows Home Server 2011 operating system that our server ran was no longer supported by Microsoft so we were no longer getting hotfixes and updates. As all our data is on there, she found this rather concerning so it is now time to bring the system more up to date.
Rather than replace the box with another and just move the four hard drives across, I’ve decided it will be cheaper to just upgrade to Windows Server 2019. Luckily, the hardware has the required level of Alphabetti Spaghetti to run the new operating system (i.e. NX, DEP, SLAT, CX16 and a bunch of other initialisations I don’t understand) so maybe I should look at adding some more RAM.
The 2GB has been perfectly adequate for what is just a file server although OneDrive has started to become a demanding service since I upgraded to, and subsequently filled, 1TB of cloud storage. I’ve read some discussions online of people trying to squeeze 16Gb into the motherboard with varying results due to some timing issue in the architecture (which officially only supported 8GB) – usually the machine would need to be rebooted multiple times before both memory slots would be recognised. A few people reported that having a USB drive plugged in seemed to magically solve the timing issue which seemed worth a shot so I went shopping.
Shopping attempt #1
There seemed to be a dearth of 8GB available with most places being out of stock. One eBay seller offered multiple combinations of sizes for the type I needed and some were in stock so I ordered 2 lots of 8GB. A few days later and 16 (sixteen) x 1GB DIMMs turned up in a Jiffy bag (!).
Shopping attempt #2
Paying more attention to what the seller was actually offering, I returned the 1GB DIMMs and ordered 2 lots of 4GB as the best combination available. (Still amazed how they just send DIMMs in little anti-static bags inside jiffy bags with no sensible protection. I assume losses due to breakages are less than the cost of proper packaging.)
The efforts that go into designing the accessibility of the innards of a computer are usually impressive. The N40L is no different.
- Switch off and unplug external cables
- Move the server to another room where there’s some space to work comfortably.
- Open the door
- Unlock two rubber-coated, easy-grip bolts
- Remove the six cables from the tidying clips on the sides.
- Unplug the cables from the motherboard (only the power socket being tough)
- Slide the motherboard out
- Swap DIMMs and make sure you hear that satisfying clunk as the clamps move into place.
- Reverse process
So, no screwdriver needed although pliers were handy just to encourage the bolts to start moving from their factory-tightened positions.
The new DIMMs snapped into place easily and I started up the server. POST reported 4Gb which wasn’t what I was hoping to see. Windows reported that 8GB was physically there but over 4GB was “hardware reserved”. To avoid taking the motherboard out again, I tried a few futile fixes first. For example, running MSCONFIG.EXE and unchecking the ‘Maximum memory’ checkbox, leaving it specifically set to 8GB, did nothing.
Another was to upgrade the BIOS. You never know, it may fix it, and some of the listed updates sounded potentially useful for the replacement version of Windows anyway. So, I grabbed the 2013 update from … wait … the Internet Archive (web.archive.org) as getting it from Hewlett Packard is no longer an option. Thanks, HPE. The update comes with a HP utility to build a bootable USB drive for you … which doesn’t work as it complained my Cruzer Blades were read-only. So over to Rufus to build the drive instead and manually copy the BIOS update files.
Now I’ve been working remotely over RDP as the server has no monitor but the BIOS update will boot up into a DOS session which I won’t be able to see. So, the server is now on the dining room table where the Acer wide screen is set up for the work laptop. BIOS update process works perfectly but, not surprisingly, makes no difference to the amount of RAM available. Time to check the purchased DIMMs actually work.
- Take out 4GB DIMM from left bank and replace with original 2GB DIMM – server sees 6GB. That 4GB DIMM seems good.
- Swap the 4GB DIMMs round – server again sees 6GB. Hmmm….
- Take out 2GB DIMM and return to having 4GB DIMMs in both banks – server sees 8GB. Bastard.
Maybe I shouldn’t have ignored one of the first troubleshooting recommendations you see online – “make sure all memory is seated securely”.