Thursday, March 22, 2012

HP N40L MicroServer Media Center

Many people choose to buy the HP MicroServers because they are relatively inexpensive - as expensive or cheaper than a 4-drive NAS - and yet offer the opportunity for more. What that means is different for everyone and in my case I wanted a server dedicated to Media Center + redundant NAS.

In my quest I have tried the following setups over the course of several days:
1. ESXi hosting Windows 7 Ultimate + FreeNAS
2. ESXi hosting Windows 7 Ultimate + Unraid
3. Windows Home Server 2011 (was hoping to be able to run Media Center on the server)
4. Windows 7 Ultimate

The one thing I found refreshing about this system is how simple it is to POC all of these systems. Change which drives boots in the BIOS, or just swap them between the bays, and all of the sudden you have a new environment to work with. I have a few spare 80-150gb drives which I swapped out for the testing. Pretty cool, I've never done this on my workstations outside of VM.

Anyway, let me not bore you with my thoughts. Let's get to the reason you're here: using this server as a Media Center.

First and foremost: yes, you can install your Ceton InfiniTV tuner card in the server and it fits just fine in both PCIe 1 and 2, however the rear panel needs to be cut back a little for the M-Card to fit in. I found PCIe 1 is easier to cut since that slot is taller to begin with and only a small notch need be removed. This took me all of 5-minutes with a mini hacksaw.

Now that that's done, take the entire assembly (remove the M-card) and reassemble the server 


When assembling test that when the Ceton card is in place that you're able to slide the M-Card into place. In my case it was a very tight fit and thus required a little sanding.

Here's what it will look like when complete:

Pretty simple. Hope this answers the question for those curious whether the Ceton InfiniTV will fit inside an HP MicroServer (N36L & N40L).

Windows 7 Tips:

Go to: Start -> Control Panel -> System and Security -> System -> Advanced System Settings
  •  Enable RDP
  •  In the Advanced tab click on Performance Settings and then in the Advanced tab select to adjust for performance of background services (this will be a server after all)

  • Although the idea is to run this server headless, the initial Ceton/Media Center setup should be done at the console, otherwise many of the necessary tasks will fail to complete

Hope this helps somebody out there. I'll add more in the future as I have a little more time to experiment.