A couple of years ago, I discovered the r/homelab and r/homeserver subreddits. My wife and I had just bought our first house which had a nice big basement area. We were using it for storage, a laundry room, and my office area. With all this space and reading about the wonders of having a home servers and home labs to play with, I decided to jump in and buy the suggested Dell R710 server. It was wonderful. It allowed me to learn about networking, software routers, and virtualization. After a couple of months of it sitting on a workbench, I picked up a surplus 48 unit rack and rails for the server. This setup worked great at the house, it stayed tucked away in the basement where the noise was not an issue.
However, I recently relocated to Charlotte. We only had 3 weeks to find a place to live up here, so we decided to start off with an apartment for a year to determine what area of Charlotte would suit us the best. Obviously, we were downsizing from our house in Augusta. We were going down to a little bit less than half of the square footage that we had in the house. We put some stuff in storage, gave some things away, and donated a good amount of things.The adjustment to less space has not been horrible. We have realized that we probably had more house than we really needed. But, we do not have a basement to tuck away the roar of the server. I had it running in the second bedroom of our apartment which is set up as an office for us. The noise was pretty noticeable once we had it sitting only 20 ft away from the main living area. So we decided that we had one more thing to downsize.
It did not take me long to realize during my time with the r/homelab starter kit, was that it was way more that I actually needed. So in my planning for the replacement, I thought about what I wanted to be able to do.
- Run docker containers
- Ability to run virtual machines
- Reduce the size of my rack or eliminate it completely
- Have a good amount of room for storage
- Quiet, or at least quieter than what I currently have
So I began to put together my list of what I would need. I had an older processor, motherboard, cooler, and RAM from my first build back in 2012. I also had a couple of drives that I could pull out of the R710 to get me started. I figured that I wouldn’t really be doing much with my server so I could just re-purpose those items to get me up and running and achieve a quieter apartment. I picked out a case, modular power supply, and, since there were no on-board graphics on the motherboard, an inexpensive graphics card. Just two short days and an Amazon delivery later, I was ready to get this build started!
As luck would have it, all my parts arrived on a Friday. That meant that I should be able to knock out the build on Saturday and have it all wrapped up by the evening to begin setting up the new server. As you can probably guess, that is not what happened. Saturday morning arrived, and I went to check out my current server to go ahead and back up my Unifi controller for migration. I could not log into my controller’s web GUI or my Proxmox web GUI. Nothing seemed like it was responding on the server. This was not how I had seen this day going down. I went into the BIOS of the Dell and began to look and see if I could tell what was going on.
Now is where I should probably mention that I didn’t really get to know my Dell that well. I did enough learning to get it up and running and to set up Proxmox to set up the VM’s that I wanted on it. The virtualization is what I wanted, not the sysadmining of the rack mounted beast. Looking in the BIOS, I saw that I had a foreign configuration in the setup of my disk groups. Well a quick Google excursion later, I found that in this case you just needed to erase that configuration and you would be on your way back to normal. Yeah, I should have spent a little more time looking around online to see just exactly what that was going to do and what that meant for me. Turns out that I was supposed to have that configuration and just needed to load it into the BIOS. At least I think that is what is meant. Bottom line, I impulsively tried to correct the error and screwed it up. So let that be a lesson.
Luckily for me, I didn’t have that much on the server. I really just used it to play around with some virtualization and wasn’t using it for storing a lot of critical data. Lesson number two, always have data backups. Luckily, I did have backups of pictures that I had on the server, but I may have lost some music files. I have the CD’s, but I can always take some time and burn those and put them on the new server. Turns out after some investigating that one of my drives had failed in the server and that caused the original configuration error. Oh well. Maybe it just knew that I had already marked it for permanent power down.
Once I got that sorted out, I began with my build of my new machine. Hopeful about what lie ahead for me after my Dell had forsaken me earlier in the day. I really like the case that I picked out for the build. It is a cube basically. It makes it really easy to manage the cabling inside, especially with the modular power supply I bought to go along with it, and I figured that it would sit nicely on a shelf, quiet and out of the way.
So I am going through and building everything and making sure all of the cabling is routing properly, things are going good. I can still make it to finish the build by the end of this Saturday. Maybe I will have to wait until Sunday to get it all set up but that would be just fine. I get everything plugged up, even those way too small connections for the front panel that I now have to take a picture of on my phone and expand to see what goes where! Plug in the power supply to the wall, hit the power button on the front and…..nothing. Oh, wait, yeah, the power supply comes switched off, you idiot! Flip that…..nothing. I unplug everything from the power supply to check that. Nothing! I can’t believe that I got a bum power supply. I look online to see how to check it, but a lot involved a paper clip and I was not too keen on doing some crazy paper clip jumper on this new power supply. In my research, I found that if you problem is somewhere else and there is no power return to the supply, you won’t get anything happening. I thought about the fact that it was probably a better bet that my almost 10 year old motherboard and process had an issue than my brand new power supply!
Back to Amazon for a new motherboard and processor! I decided to go with a 3 series of the AMD Ryzen processor. I currently have a 5 series in my gaming rig and have been nothing but pleased with it. From what I had been reading, this would be more than enough power for the new server. I will admit that it took a lot for me to not use this as an opportunity to upgrade my current processor, but I figured that one build was enough! A rare moment of restraint on my part. But another two days to wait for the parts to finish the build!
Keep a lookout for part 2 of the build and my lackrack project!