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Hacking The HP EX470/475 MediaSmart Servers

Replace The Stock CPU

You have two options when it comes to replacing the CPU for your EX47* MediaSmart Server. You can go with a faster single-core CPU, which requires no BIOS hacking and essentially involves a CPU swap maneuver. Or you can replace the single-core CPU with a dual-core device, but then you must first hack the BIOS before the server will recognize the processor. I tried dropping a BE-2350 into the unit before hacking the BIOS and the unit would not boot at all.

First, I’ll explain how to swap the CPU. In the next section, I’ll explain how to hack the BIOS. If you want the EX47* MediaSmart to recognize a non-Sempron processor or you wish to use a dual-core CPU, please remember that you must first hack the BIOS before replacing the CPU chip. You can’t hack the BIOS if the machine won’t boot, and that’s exactly what will happen if you try these steps out of order. Before the step-by-step instructions, however, I’ll introduce the CPU options and present my benchmarking results.

CPU Options

Table 3 provides information about various processors that may work in your EX47* unit. I stress the word may because ample community communication confirms that some processors that work perfectly in some units fail to work at all in other units. Because the EX74* units are lightly cooled and since the power supply in the unit tops out at 200 W, most informed speculation on this topic centers on two related aspects of system operation: power consumption and heat output. Apparently, some CPUs consume more power than others, even if they are rated identically for power consumption. Likewise, some EX47* units apparently produce more heat than others and are more subject to thermal shutdown for that reason. Keep this in mind as you ponder your CPU upgrade options.

Table 3: Viable CPU Upgrades for EX47* Models

NameTypeProcessClockCacheTDPCost
LE-1620Single Core90 nm2.4 GHz1 MB45 W$48
LE-1640Single Core90 nm2.6 GHz1 MB45 W$39
LE-1660Single Core65 nm2.8 GHz512 KB45 W$47
BE-2300Dual Core65 nm1.9 GHz1 MB45 W$70
BE-2350Dual Core65 nm2.1 GHz1 MB45 W$70
BE-2400Dual Core65 nm2.3 GHz1 MB45 W$108
3800+Dual Core90 nm2.0 GHz1 MB35 W$???

The low-power (35 W) version of the AM2 Athlon X64 3800+ processor is an optimal choice for this upgrade. But alas, these parts never made it into retail distribution because of OEM demand, and while you can find them occasionally online, they often cost over $100—well outside the price range for the other options on this chart. If you do find one or think you’ve found one, make sure the first three letters in the on-chip part number read "ADD"—only these models are truly 35 W parts. Some vendors have been known to pull bait-and-switch maneuvers, so be sure you can get your money back on a return if you purchase one from a vendor with whom you’ve never done business before.

Aside from the 3800+, upgrading the EX47* CPU is a case where you’re better off choosing lower model numbers over higher ones. That’s because higher numbered models usually consume more power (despite identical TDP ratings) and generate more heat. For that reason, I chose the middle-tier entries from both the LE- and BE- models included in Table 3 for benchmarking: the LE-1640 and the BE-2350. Just FYI, reports of successful upgrades also correspond to model numbers and makes a compelling reason to pick from the bottom or middle rather than the tops of these ranges as well. Alas, I too was unable to secure a 35 W 3800+ processor, despite numerous efforts to do so, so I can’t report on its suitability for this purpose—although you can find plenty of glowing reports about this upgrade online.

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?rel=ugc]http://www.mediasmartserver.net/]www.mediasmartserver.net
    2. Capable Networks MediaSmart?rel=ugc]http://www.mediasmarthome.com/]MediaSmart Home (May be MS sponsored, hard to tell, still useful tho)
    3. Terry Walsh We?rel=ugc]http://www.wegotserved.co.uk/]We Got Served4. Andrew Edney Using?rel=ugc]http://usingwindowshomeserver.com/]Using Windows Home Server5. Donavon West Home?rel=ugc]http://www.homeserverhacks.com]Home Server Hacks6. Microsoft WHS Team Homeserver&rel=ugc]http://blogs.technet.com/homeserver/Default.aspx?p=2]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