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Hacking The HP EX470/475 MediaSmart Servers

Replace Northbridge Thermal Compound

The stock thermal adhesive on the Northbridge looks like bubblegum

When you free the two spring clips that hold the EX475’s northbridge heatsink in place, you’ll see the pad of pink adhesive that looks and feels very much like chewing gum that HP used for heat transfer from the SiS northbridge to the aluminum heatsink. On my system, the default northbridge temps ranged from 57 degrees to 60 degrees Celsius. After I replaced the HP chewing gum adhesive with Arctic Alumina, adhesive temperatures stayed more or less the same, so I opted for Arctic Silver instead. At that point, temperatures dropped 2 degrees Celsius right away and temps have been trending slowly downward as the Arctic Silver compound cures and sets up better heat transfer. I’m currently reading measurements of 54 degrees Celsius from the northbridge and expect it may go as low as 52 degrees Celsius by the time the compound cures completely.

The foam pad at the edge of the heatsink starts to disintegrate as soon as any alcohol or acetone makes contact

To clean the old thermal adhesive from the chip and the heatsink, you’ll need a solvent of some kind. I tried both 90% Isopropyl alcohol and some of my wife’s acetone nail polish remover. Do yourself a favor and go straight for the acetone, but use a small knife blade to scrape as much of the adhesive off both surfaces that you can first. This will ensure the best results. Also, keep the solvent away from the foam pad at the edge of the heatsink, which will dissolve the adhesive used to secure the foam padding much more easily than the thermal adhesive you’re trying to remove.

After you’ve cleaned off all the pink goop, deposit a small dab of Arctic Silver in the middle of the northbridge chip. I used an old credit card to smooth it into a thin layer that covered the whole chip surface, but you can also use a knife blade or a business card to do likewise. When you reattach the heatsink, you might want to put something heavy on top of the fins for five to 10 minutes afterward to encourage the compound to bond the two surfaces more tightly. I used a can of beans to do this, and it seemed to work pretty well.

Northbridge heatsink replaced and ready for action

Check prices for HP's MediaSmart EX475

  • neiroatopelcc
    Seems like a nice do-it-yourself guide. I don't own such a nas, so I can't tell if something's missing. But it's nice to see something like this on toms. Too rarely do we get such a treat.
    Now tell us how we can convert a zyxel router into a storage system, or how we can mod a sata controller into a sas controller, or whatever else can be done to hardware if you know how.

    ps. it's a bit wierd that you describe how to unplug an atx power cable ... I would expect people who'd dare take their working nas apart would know, or figure that out, on their own.
    Reply
  • DiscoDuck
    Has anyone run performance numbers on single versus dual core on a homebrew WHS? IS it possible the small gains on the HP dual core setup are a limitation of the motherboard?
    Reply
  • FrustratedRhino
    It is a computer... no matter how evil it is inside, since the compaqs of the late 80s/early 90s every computers is very easy to upgrade. To say that a HTPC knockoff needed a whole guide, to upgrade it, is rather silly.

    Slow news day I guess.
    Reply
  • deredita
    Excellent write-up. I been thinking about the HP MediaSmart servers, and what would be involved to mod one.
    Reply
  • etittel
    DiscoDuckHas anyone run performance numbers on single versus dual core on a homebrew WHS? IS it possible the small gains on the HP dual core setup are a limitation of the motherboard?
    Good Question! I didn't think to tackle this within the scope of the current story, but it certainly would make fertile ground for a look at WHS in general. Having built numerous (more than 20) AMD AM2 systems and benchmarked them all, I didn't get the sense that we were dealing with motherboard limitations. Tim Higgins at SmallNetBuilder gives the EX470/475 models pretty high marks in head-to-head comparisons with other NASes so I don't think this box is hampered by inherent performance problems. But comparing it to other builds/set-ups is a good idea, and I will see if my editor is interested in a follow-up.
    Thanks!
    --Ed--

    PS to neiroatopelcc: I wish I knew how to convert a zyxel router into a NAS/SAN, or how to mode SATA into SAS controllers. Both are things I too would like to know how to do.
    Reply
  • MoUsE-WiZ
    FrustratedRhinoIt is a computer... no matter how evil it is inside, since the compaqs of the late 80s/early 90s every computers is very easy to upgrade. To say that a HTPC knockoff needed a whole guide, to upgrade it, is rather silly.Slow news day I guess.Yeah, that. Glancing through the guide, anybody who's ever done any sort of hardware upgrade on any machine should be able to figure all of this out, changing the BIOS is probably the only bit that requires any extra knowledge.

    Next up; guide to fitting square peg in square hole?
    Reply
  • etittel
    To all:

    I'd like to thank HP and Micron/Crucial for their support of this article. Micron actually overnighted me a 4GB DDR2-667 SDRAM module when I was unable to buy one anywhere in the US, on very short notice.

    I'd also like to thank the following terrific HP MediaSmart sites that helped me learn what I needed to know to write this story:
    1. Alex Kuretz: www.mediasmartserver.net
    2. Capable Networks MediaSmart Home (May be MS sponsored, hard to tell, still useful tho)
    3. Terry Walsh We Got Served4. Andrew Edney Using Windows Home Server5. Donavon West Home Server Hacks6. Microsoft WHS Team Homeserver Blog
    There may be more, but these are the most useful such sites I found. If you know of any please add them here.

    --Ed--
    Reply
  • etittel
    Drivers for EX47* Servers

    I recently blogged on my own Vista site to list all of the latest workable drivers for the EX470/EX475 MediaSmart Servers. Anybody interested in making sure they're current on drivers should find this useful. I include the link to download.com for some less-than-brand-new drivers (which SiS has since updated, but which don't work on the EX47* models) because SiS doesn't keep an archive of older drivers (at least, not where I could find them).

    HTH,
    --Ed--
    Reply
  • etittel
    Sorry forgot the driver link URL: http://viztaview.wordpress.com/2009/03/05/drivers-for-hp-ex-47-mediasmart-servers/. My apologies.
    --Ed--
    Reply
  • cruiseoveride
    So basically, you buy an over priced media center "PC" and then upgrade it?
    okaaaaay
    Reply