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May 22, 2010

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HP MediaSmart Server EX485 CPU Upgrade

Last week I went through the fun of upgrading the processor in my HP MediaSmart Server EX485. Now that a bit of time has passed and I’m confident that everything is stable, I figured I’d share the results.

The MediaSmart Server EX48X series came with an Intel Celeron 440, single-core 2 GHz processor. Although the Celeron was a huge improvement over the EX47X series, it could be a bit better, especially when it comes to streaming and transcoding media. I was honestly a little hesitant about doing the upgrade. After all, the MediaSmart Servers aren’t designed to have interchangeable parts and have components designed and tested for what they ship with:

  • The server doesn’t have video output, which means any BIOS updates or changes have to be made blind.
  • The CPU heatsink is passive, and the power supply is smaller. It simply can’t take a juice-hungry, water cooled processor.


HP MediaSmart Server EX485After doing a bit of research to see even if the EX485 could support a CPU upgrade, I discovered that the Intel Dual Core E5200 was a really popular upgrade among other MediaSmart Server enthusiasts. The E5200 seems to provide the best bang for the buck and for the most part, can just be dropped right in place of the Celeron 440. It was important too though to get an E5200 with an sSpec of “SLAY7” or “QFHQ” (they’re stepping model M0). Again, I didn’t want to have to tinker (would be required with stepping model R0) and just wanted something that could be dropped in.

The E5200s are becoming a little bit harder to find nowadays though, as none of the suppliers I frequent had any in stock. One local shop did have one that had been previously used one to diagnose a PC. Seeing that I was running out of options, and this one was a SLAY7, I decided to pick it up.

I used the excellent instructions at MediaSmartServer.net (“A Closer Look at the Ex490 and EX495 Hardware”) for disassembling my MediaSmart Server. Pulled the old Celeron and replaced it with the new E5200 and some Arctic Silver thermal compound. Reassembled and crossed my fingers. It booted!

Before I had disassembled my server, I had run CPUID Hardware Monitor for about a week to get a decent idea of what temperatures the Celeron ran at. The core temperature averaged at about 65° C, and maxed out at 69° C in the week span. As I hadn’t altered the server in anyway and it sat stock from the manufacturer, I accepted those temperatures to be my baseline. Well, I’m happy to say now that with the E5200, my temperatures have actually decreased quite a bit: averaging 43° C and maxing out at 47° C. More power with lower temperatures, you can’t go wrong. As far as streaming and transcoding media, I’ve noticed a great improvement and the server doesn’t seem to be maxing itself out by just loading the Windows Home Server Console. That being said, I unfortunately didn’t take any video crunching numbers before I did the swap, so don’t have much to compare the end result to, other than saying it’s generally “snappier”.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Adam
    Apr 27 2011

    Hi Matt,

    This is awesome! Exactly what I am planning to do this weekend:)

    With this said, do you have any idea where I can possibly get new 3.0 Server software image? HP stopped selling it to my great disapointment:(

    Good article! Thanks!
    Adam

  2. Apr 28 2011

    Hey Adam,

    Good to hear that you’re looking into tweaking your HP box a bit. For an hour’s worth of work, you won’t regret it.

    I wasn’t aware that HP had stopped distributing the 3.0 upgrade discs. They’re really bailing out of the WHS market fast. So that being said, I’m not too sure of where it can be obtained from. Sorry.

    Good luck on the upgrade!

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