27 Sep

MicroATX Home Server Build – Part 2

Category:Hardware, Home Lab

First an editorial correction to the previous post. An Intel B85 chipset motherboard will not support my current LGA1155 socket i5 processor, because that chipset is meant for the 4th Generation stuff (i.e. Haswell). Forget I wrote that.

And meanwhile, back at the content:

The case arrived last friday, and it’s a nice one! I’ve already stripped out the stuff I don’t need (mainly the 5,25″ bay internals), and installed the Corsair VX 450W PSU I had laying around from a previous build. A few notes:

  • The PSU installation was tricky
  • There are plenty of fans included, but they can easily be replaced. I’m thinking of getting their own 230mm (!) fan for the bottom of the case, since it should be fairly quiet
  • The handles on the bottom and top are a mixed bag. They are flexible, yet solid, so I wouldn’t worry about breaking them per se. I did end up removing the bottom handles (are they still handles even though they are in the bottom?) because it felt wobbly with them. I don’t want it to sway if i touch it.
  • Plenty of slots for 2.5″ and 3.5″ HDD’s. Very nice! All with removable mounting brackets of sorts
  • The case was wider than i thought, but this isn’t a bad thing
  • Most things are toolless, but there were some (easily removable) screws for certain parts
  • A nice selection of screws, rubber grommets, standoffs and other bits and bobs were included

The PSU installation

The PSU is installed in the front of the case, but not like you would think. I am not entirely sure why they opted for this method, but there is a standard power cable running from the from the front, from under the case, to the rear of the case, to a standard power plug. This is so that you can have all cables running to the rear of the case, even though the PSU isn’t physically in the rear.

The problem is that when you mount the PSU (it’s mounted top down, instead of on its side like usual), the regular power plug which you would plug to a wall outlet, is for the internal run, that ends with a 90 degree angled plug. It was *very* hard to fit, as you can see from the pictures. If your PSU has the plug near the edge of the PSU, it might even be impossible to fit the cable.

Detail of case bottom. Note PSU placement and power cable.
Detail of case bottom. Note PSU placement and power cable. Also note the rubber feet to lift the case slightly and allow at least minimal airflow below the case

From a space utilization perspective, I see why they did this. But the practicalities are well.. not. I seriously hope I didn’t break the cable, because the fit is so tight. If i did, it’ll probably blow a fuse the minute I turn it on, since it’s it would then be in contact with the metal of the case, causing a short.

Removing the bottom handle

I’m not sure why they made the bottom handle rounded too. The top one I get. It’s ergonomic, it looks good. But the bottom? I don’t want the case to be a rocking chair. I want it to sit still on the floor, shut up, and to what it is told.

Luckily, removing the bottom handles is an easy task: Remove four screws, pull it slightly and lift it out. The result isn’t pretty, but then, this is a home server build, not a beauty pageant. Someone asked Bitfenix if they’d consider different kinds of handles, or kits to cover the void left by removing a handle. The answer at the moment seems to be no, and I understand. As they say in the post, plastic is cheap, but making new molds isn’t.

I suppose if the visuals are a dealbreaker for you, either leave the handles in, or cover it with black gaffer tape or something. You can see the end result in the pictures.

Because of airflow, and stability, I added rubber feet to the bottom of the case. They seem to work fine. Whether I need more of a gap between floor and case remains to be seen. I have bigger rubber feet, and I’ll replace them if it seems necessary.

Lower case after handle is removed.
Lower case after handle is removed.
Full side view of case after lower handle removed
Full side view of case after lower handle removed

..and for my next trick

I am currently looking for a motherboard. I’m basically down to two choices:

Intel DH61ZE – https://www-ssl.intel.com/content/www/us/en/motherboards/desktop-motherboards/desktop-board-dh61ze.html

A cheaper desktop board with the same H61 chipset: http://www.asrock.com/mb/Intel/H61M-DGS%20R2.0/ or https://www.asus.com/Motherboards/H61MK/specifications/

Price for the former is ~80€, price for the latter: 45-60€

I might not move the i5-2500 to this board after all. I’ve been looking at a used i3-2100, which has 2 cores and hyperthreading, making it nice for an ESXi box. They are priced at around 40-60 euros used.

Memory will come from an existing stash, but will be limited to 16GB due to the motherboards. Just something I’ll have to live with unless i dish out more money for a modern board, or a proper server grade board and processor.

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