How to Build Your Own 1u Linux Server




In this instructable, we will build a fast server capable of running Linux very well. It will also be expandable to two processors and, in standard configuration, supports RAID 1 mirror. This particular configuration has been tested with Debian and is currently being used in the real world as a primary internal server to several offices, one with more then 30 users. mimicIT provides complete opensource solutions that merge low cost consumer technology, with enterprise level methodology, to produce a network infastructure that rivals simlar networks costing thousands more. Our mantra is the concept of sharing, so in that spirit we present each of the pieces to our solution with instructions and detail, so it can be built and deployed by you. Our eventual goal is to have a complete business model that is opensource, a turnkey IT business with proven models that will allow you to handle more clients, and make more money.

Step 1: Parts Needed

1. Ever Case R9138B-M20 Black 1U Rackmount Case after market 460W PS

2. 2 x CORSAIR 1GB 184-Pin DDR SDRAM ECC Registered DDR 333 (PC 2700) Server System Memory

3. ASUS NCLV-D Dual Socket 603/604 Intel E7320 Extended ATX Server Motherboard

4. Intel Xeon EM64T 2.8 Irwindale 800MHz FSB 2MB L2 Cache Socket 604 Processor

5. 2 x Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 ST3250824AS 250GB 7200 RPM 8MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive 6. 2 x Bent elbow SATA connectors

7. **Dynatron 400w Power Supply

You can usually find all of these parts at at a low price. I have also used

**This is optional, but highly recommended so that you can easily upgrade your server without running out of power.

Step 2: Switch Out the Power Supply

Unscrew the old 200w powersupply and remove.

Take the new powersupply and remove the two screws holding on the bracket.

Move the bracket from the front to the rear.

Position so you have two bracketholes lined up with the bottom of the case.

Notice we use a 460w. This is plenty of room to run our two drives and another processor. This unit, while not being as taxed, will also run cooler and be able to handle the expansion in the future.

Step 3: Bracket Removal

This is the Riser card support that needs to be removed in order to place the motherboard down.

Notice the large brass strut, just unscrew this. You will have to wiggle the support a bit, but it should come right out.

Step 4: Backplate Fit

Remove the backplate and use a pair of plyers to remove the extra metal untill it fits your motherboard. In this case its only one section.

Step 5: Processor Backplate Placement

This is the hardest part of the install, so take your time.

The included template that comes with the motherboard is a decent guide, but it won't do all the work for you.

First step is to just place the motherboard in the case and see where the screw holes line up.

Next you can mark the nut holes for the processors with a sharpie.

This will help you place the metal backplates that are stuck to the bottom with adhesive. If you screw up, don't worry, you can with a little prying take it back out and restick it.

You will bend the metal if you are too forcefull. After you have the backplates in place, screw the brass nuts on and check your motherboard placement again.

The guide might tell you to use spring clips for placement, ignore this. It is useless and just adds weight and complexity.

Use the supplied nuts for the bottom and the riesers to afix the motherboard to the case.

Step 6: Install the Processor

Awaken your innner mason as we spread heat compund on our processor. Don't get this stuff on your skin, its flakes of microscopic metal.

First step is lift the lever. Place the processor on the mount, notice the arrows on the processor and the mount, they have to match.

Do not force the processor down, use your finger to barely wiggle it left and right as you move the lever a bit up and down. It should slide right in.

Now Place a bit of thermal goo in the center and use one of those fake credit cards they send you in the mail to spread it out. I use Arctic Silver by Antec.

Once you get a smooth even coat, your done.

Step 7: Install the Processor Fan

Place the processor fan down and align it carefully with the screw holes.

Make sure the arrow point towards the rear, the direction of the airflow.

You only get one real shot at this because of the compound, so again, take your time.

Once you get it where you want it, screw the opposite corners down, like you would tightening the wheel of a car after changing the tires.

If you have not changed the tire on a car before, and you own a car, that's just sad.

Connect the CPU fan cable to the connector on the motherboard labeled CPU_FAN1.

Install the memory. Start with the farthest left slot, then skip one and install the second stick.

Step 8: Installing the Hard Drive

Notice the type of cable you are going to need to install two drives in this case.

If you do not have this cable you are going to need it, so go get it. It's just an SATA with a bent end. Slide your drive in there, plug it in, the power and the SATA.

Next if you have not already done so, remove the fan bracket. You can then place the second drive down. Plug it in, and screw it in from the bottom.

You do not need to screw in the first drive. It is held in place by the case bracked and the second drive very securely.

Why two drives? We will be running them as a RAID-1 Mirror. If you have a drive failure, you just pop in another drive, and away you go.

Step 9: Case Switches and Lights

Open your manual and look for the page that tells you where to plug in the case page 2-40 in my book. Look to see where each connector goes

Plug in the System power LED (Green 3-pin PLED) This is the power LED which lights up when you turn on the power, and blinks when in sleep mode. Connect the server power LED cable to this connector.

Next we'll connect the hard disk drive LED (Red 2-pin IDE_LED). This is the HDD Activity LED, which lights up or flashes when data is read from or written to the HDD.

Lastly, we will connect the ATX power button/soft-off button (Yellow 2-pin PWRSW) This connector is for the system power button.

Pressing the power button turns the system on or puts the system to sleep or soft-off mode depending on the BIOS settings. Pressing the power switch for more then 4 seconds while the system is ON turns the system OFF.

Step 10: Plug in the Power Supply

Now you can plug fans and powersupply into the motherboard. 4 connections.

Reinstall the rieser support.

Step 11: Wrapping It Up!

Ok so here we have it, just place the extra cables so that the airflow from the backfans is not restricted. ON the top of the harddrives is good, and to the side of the motherboard and powersupply.

At this point I usually test the system to see if it POSTs. If yes, I place the top on and load the OS. If not, I check to see what I might have done wrong.

Usual causes of the system not booting:

Switch connecter wrong way.

Memory not in all the way.

Something grounding to case that should not be.

If you do power it up and get the lights, you are ready to load the OS.

How to do this without a cd rom? We use PXE boot, part of the next HOWTO for mimicit.

I hope you have enjoyed our tutorial, we would enjoy feedback on how to make it better, so be sure to drop us a line.
Visit us at mimicIT developer.



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    20 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Good demonstration and I recommend it although now its cheaper to get bigger hard disks. Thanks anyway


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I was looking around Instructables for mini PC projects and I ran across yours. I was impressed that you've shared on how to make a 1U server, not many would be willing to share this commercial knowledge so I'm very glad you did!

    So I ended up creating a group called "Small Form Factor " (SSF for short). It's a group devoted to sharing info. on small DIY computer projects/concepts. Please Join if you are interested. If anyone else who is reading this has some interest in SSF PC's please don't hesitate to join as well. Oh yes....I forgot to mention that I have added your instructable to the group along with a bunch of others. I hope you don't mind.


    12 years ago on Step 1

    That power supply isn't on their site anymore, can you recommend another one?

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Step 1

    I'd personally sod it and buy Aleutia's Rack mount server. It's just as cheap.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Yeah, I'm building a small server computer for use with my freinds sharing files and stuff, I won't need anything as hardcore as this, I'll just go with some extra parts I haev laying around.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    nice i'm making a media server so i cam use games, music, picks and videos


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Really great instructable, I'm building something similar, but cheaper, for a spam appliance for my office, and this really helped out. One question though, did you purposefully omit an optical drive? I would like to have one on my rig, but it seems like all the slim optical drives have a goofy laptop connector instead of normal IDE and molex.

    2 replies

    Yes, I didn't put a optical for a reason. As long as you have a working TCP/IP connection, and your iface supports PXE, you can do everything you could with a drive over the line. This means no reason to have cd's etc around, at all. Less clutter, and searching for -this- version -that- version, everything is streamed from your installation server running tftp.
    You can even setup a menu for pxe that's very sharp and will install multiple OS's over the wire via a click. Combine that with streaming of live OS's preinstalled with tools for diagnostics and connection to network mounts, well optical drives are kind of silly...
    see my blog for information on installing debian and windows via PXE, also check out Trinity Rescue Disk, they have a pxe solution with an great menu already built.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for a terrific "instructable". I'm gathering my $$ together to mimic (almost) your buildout, and I'm wondering a couple of things. 1) Do processor backplates come with the processors? Or does that have to be acquired separately. 2) Did you successfully try any other motherboards? I already have your recommended case, but I want to install a motherboard with on-board audio, and I'm having a tough time finding one that will fit into the space provided. Any recommendations will be appreciated. Thanks.


    12 years ago on Step 11

    Doesn't come on the motherboard, but there is an expansion card called asmb2
    that supports IPMI.
    Here's a link:


    12 years ago on Step 1

    Could you be more specific with the RAM? I don't know what to look up in the catalogues. Stephan

    1 reply

    Reply 12 years ago on Step 1

    *CORSAIR 1GB 184-Pin DDR SDRAM DDR 333 (PC 2700) ECC Registered Server System Memory Model CM72SD1024RLP-2700
    here's the newegg link: newegg
    You'll need two of them.


    12 years ago

    Currently the only suppplier we deal with is They are by far the cheapest and most reliable we have found, all the pieces can be found there. We build, and preload these servers with Linux for use as small business servers for our clients. We also have them availible for sale pre-built on our site. Our cost is about $900. Loaded with an OS, clients data, tested and shipped, we charge $1500. And your right, if you look at the major vendors, you are not going to be able to touch a machine like this pre-built for under $1500, in some cases much more. This build is 2 drives, 2gigs of ram, room for another procesor, and plenty of power to handle it all. Best of all this configuration is being used in the real world everyday by our clients, so we know it works, and works with the OS we provide. Remember also, the hardware is top of the line, Corsair, Asus, etc, not the lowest bidder hardware for a machine, and the performance reflects that.


    12 years ago

    Have you got a list of suppliers? All too often, stores hike up prices to astronomical levels as soon as you get close to anything "industrial" shaped.


    12 years ago

    Wow, not a bad price at all! Nice instructable!


    12 years ago

    Looks good! What's the estimated cost of this "pizza box"?