PowerEdge 860 CPU Upgrade

My PowerEdge 860 was running a bit slow with CPU usage being the main issue. I decided to solve this issue by maxing out the CPU inside my server. The CPU already inside this server was the following:

Name: Intel (R) Celeron (R) 430
Clock Speed: 1.8GHz
Number of Cores: 1
L2 Cache: 512KB
FSB Speed: 800MHz
Socket: LGA775

After doing some research, I found the most powerful CPU that is supported by the PowerEdge 860’s motherboard. It is listed in the manual and all of the specs were compatible (i.e. 1066MHz FSB as opposed to 1333MHz FSB seen in some Core 2 processors). I ordered the following processor:

Name: Intel (R) Xeon (R) X3220
Clock Speed: 2.4GHz
Number of Cores: 4
L2 Cache: 8MB
FSB Speed: 1066MHz
Socket: LGA775

New CPU.

So, now I have to upgrade the processor within the server! The tools and materials I needed were:

  • Phillips Screwdriver (For removal of heat sink)
  • Thermal Compound (The kind I have is Radio Shack but any brand will work)
  • Plastic Knife (For spreading thermal compound on CPU)
  • Cotton Balls/Cotton Swabs/Paper Towels (For removing old thermal compound)
  • Alcohol (To help get the old thermal compound off)

The first thing I had to do was, of course, get the server computer apart. To do this, I simply removed the top cover by loosening the screw and sliding the cover off.

The inside of the server.

Then, I had to get the heat sink off in order to get at the CPU socket. In order to do this, I first had to remove the black plastic cover that sits between the heatsink and the two fans near the front of the server. Then, I had to remove the heat sink itself by unscrewing the four screws on each corner of the heatsink.

Heat sink removed and CPU socket exposed.

After this, I had to remove the old thermal compound which is on both the CPU to be replaced and the heat sink that was on top of it. I did this using paper towels and alcohol.

Heat sink and old CPU with thermal compound cleaned off.

The next thing I had to do was prepare the new CPU to be installed in the server’s CPU socket. To do this, I applied a small bit of heat sink thermal compound to the top of the CPU to ensure that heat was being transferred from the CPU to the heat sink to ensure optimal thermal performance of the server.

The thermal compound I used for this CPU upgrade.

After applying the thermal compound, I spread it with a plastic knife to ensure it was evenly applied to the processor so the heat was transferred efficiently to the heat sink.

CPU with thermal compound spread evenly over its surface.

After this, I put the CPU in, put the heat sink back in along with the plastic cover, and booted the server to ensure it was working properly. Once I ensured the server was able to boot, I put the cover back on the server.

Using a tool called stress (installed as a package from Ubuntu repositories), I stress-tested the CPU while monitoring the temperature of the CPU using another tool called sensors (lm-sensors on Ubuntu). After a bit of time running this stress test, I found that the temperatures peaked out at just short of 70 degrees Celsius, which is within the safe temperature range of this particular processor (84C would be where I’d be concerned according to the information lm-sensors showed).

Looks good!

After I verified that the server was performing well thermally, I returned it to its home on my network. The performance is definitely much better with CPU load being very low most of the time.

PowerEdge 860 Update

First off, sorry for the lack of pictures in this post. I wasn’t actively documenting while I was working on the server. Anyway, you probably remember my last post which had me working on a server computer that would refuse to stay on for more than 15 seconds without shutting back off. A bit over a week ago, I received the power supply unit that I had ordered for it. I popped it in and attached the power cables and booted up the server. To my surprise, it stayed running.

The first thing I found upon booting up the server was that the RAID configuration was marked as degraded due to a failed hard drive. I checked the RAID settings and found that the system was configured to mirror data onto both of the hard drives (RAID 1 or Integrated Mirroring, as the RAID controller called it). I pulled both hard drives and tested the S.M.A.R.T. diagnostic data on both. The first hard drive tested just fine, while the second hard drive had quite a few bad sectors.

Definitely not a good thing when you see that!

Since I don’t happen to have a 3.5″ SATA hard drive on hand, I decided to simply pull the bad hard drive and connect the other hard drive directly to the motherboard, removing the RAID card since it was no longer needed. What I discovered was that the server was running FreeBSD. After this, I decided I would install Ubuntu Server onto it.

I tried unsuccessfully booting from a USB flash drive (and finding out that it may not be possible to conventionally do so), and instead plugged a DVD-RW drive into the motherboard and installed from a CD. After installation, I removed the DVD-RW drive (it did not fit into the case and was not needed after installation).

Another issue I was having is that settings seemed to be lost each time the server lost power (i.e. being unplugged). I figured this might be due to a dead/weak CMOS battery, but the solution was actually a lot easier. The CMOS battery was simply not inserted all the way into its slot on the motherboard. This was a very easy fix, and settings were being saved successfully after that.

So, there you have it. With a little work, I was able to get a fully-functional server computer for about 16 bucks! Not bad, huh?

Dell PowerEdge 860

In my previous post, I mentioned things I found at a flea market. I decided I would dedicate an entire post to this because it has a bit of a story. Anyway, I was at the flea market and I noticed someone selling server computers and was amazed to find he was selling one, a PowerEdge 860, for only 10 bucks! Of course I had to jump on that offer and buy it.

The server sitting on my desk.
The back of the server, revealing the ports. Note: I know there is no PSU in this picture. When I took this picture, I had removed the old PSU and was waiting for a new one to arrive.

When I tried to fire up the server for the first time, I found that it shut off soon after booting.

So, I started troubleshooting the server. The first thing I did was take it apart and test the memory modules by putting only one into the first DIMM slot. That didn’t work, so I figured it might be a thermal issue. I stripped off the old thermal paste using alcohol and applied a fresh batch. That didn’t work either. Another thing I tried was disconnecting the hard drives and the RAID card, but the server was still shutting off in approximately 15 seconds.

The server opened up (again, no PSU. This wasn’t the case when I was testing it, obviously).

So at this point, I had narrowed the issue down to three main components: the power supply unit (PSU), the processora (CPU), or the motherboard. The cheapest thing to replace was the power supply. I was able to track one down on eBay for about 6 USD. At the time of the writing of this article, I am waiting for the PSU to arrive. Once I get it, I will try it and hope that the old PSU was just not putting out enough power (or too much), causing the server to shut off.