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on 27 June 2012
I had an HP Mediasmart EX490 server that had been running the original version of Windows Home Server. It was a pretty slow, low powered machine, but it did the job.

About 10 days ago it died on me. Power supply and motherboard were both fried so I needed to look for a replacement.

Luckily, the hard drives were unharmed so 10 years of family photos, movies, music, etc were safe, but I realised that the next solution would need an extra layer of data backup just to guarantee our stuff would be safe from hardware failure, fire or theft.

So I bought this HP Proliant Microserver (with a £110 cashback deal from HP that made it extremely good value), a copy of Windows Home Server 2011, and a D-Link ShareCenter Pulse 2-bay Network Storage Enclosure.

First step was to configure the HomeServer. It has a vga port on the back, so you can see what you're doing when you install the operating system. Once it's set up you can control the server remotely so you don't need the monitor.

The other thing the server doesn't have is a DVD drive, which means you have to take a couple of extra steps to install the operating system. I found a technique online that involves creating a bootable 8Gb USB key and copying the files from the WHS DVD to it. Then you can pop the USB key into your Microserver and it will boot from it.

NB. At a certain point, after it has copied files across to the server's hard drive, the server will reboot. At this stage you need to remove the USB key and allow the installation/configuration to continue from the hard drive.

Once the operating system was installed I went through the process of getting my data back onto the server.

The old Windows Home Server used to have DE (Drive Extender) which allowed the drives in your Home Server to be aggregated into one big Storage Pool, with the option of mirroring specific folders so that a copy of the data existed on more than one drive, to protect against the failure of an individual drive.

WHS 2011 doesn't have Drive Extender, but I have installed an add in called StableBit Drivepool, that offers the same capabilities.

Through a bit of juggling of hard drives I now have 3 drives in my WHS (250GB operating system, 2TB + 1.5TB data drives) with a slot free for further expansion. I also have 2 drives in the D-Link Sharecenter (1GB + 1.5GB).

I have set up the system to back up all of my client computers to the Microserver and then copy the backups to the D-Link box, which is located in the garden shed to give a sort-of offsite backup. Our family photos, home videos, and music are stored on the HP Microserver with drive mirroring and also synchronised with the D-Link box to give 3 levels of data redundancy.

There are a couple of things I am doing to the server to finalise my solution:
1. I am adding 4GB of extra RAM as the installed 2GB is capable but extra RAM overhead will boost performance by minimising the amount of swapping to disk the server needs to perform.
2. I have installed a laptop drive in the server to allow for Server backups that make a bare metal reinstallation possible in event of the failure of the drive with the operating system on it. This required buying an internal SATA cable and a MOLEX to SATA power converter.. ..and some velcro pads to secure the laptop drive in the empty DVD ROM bay.

Even with 2GB of RAM installed the server performs very well. I have run backups to the D-Link box at the same time as streaming HD content to 2 separate computers without any drop out or stuttering on the HD video playback.

Out of the box, with WHS 2011 installed, you have a very capable home server. To maximise the ability to restore the server or your data in the event of hardware failure, I would recommend setting up the on-server backup (see UPGRADES/MODIFICATIONS above) and also backing up your most precious data (photos and home videos for me) to an external NAS box. The great thing is that this is all pretty straightforward to achieve with this setup.

I hope this review has been useful to you.

If you'd like any advice on configuring / maintaining your Home Server feel free to Comment on this review and I'll see if I can help.
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on 21 May 2012
I was initially looking for a NAS box to store my media files and I was also looking to replace my HTPC, as it was running at the limit of its capabilities. As most of the existing NAS boxes out there are extremely expensive, I was looking for other options and found this. It is a lot cheaper than the alternatives I was looking at, like synology or qnap and after trying it out I find it a very able HTPC as well, so I can replace 2 machines with this one.

Media Centre
It has an onboard AMD HD4200, which is more than enough for HD video. Some thing are missing though, like an HDMI port or even a soundcard. As this is supposed to be a server, this is hardly surprising. For me this is not a problem, as my TV has a VGA connector and I am not interested in blueray (which needs HDMI).
For the sound, I just bought a USB sound card which is perfectly adequate for my needs. If you want anything more fancy you can use one of the 2 internal PCIe to install a better one. This is also applicable to the graphics car, as one of the slots is PCIe 16x, you can install an upgrade (pay attention to the size though as you will not have much room).
It's CPU is much more powerful than the usual Atom, which gives you the option of software decoding videos that happen to not be supported by the hardware acceleration.

Storage Server
It has 4 internal HD bays, one of which is taken by the 250GB disk. It also has space for an optical drive.
If you search the internet you can find instructions to use the optical drive connector to install an extra hard drive, so you can have a drive for the operative system and 4 storage drives.
There is also an eSata connector which you can use to connect an external drive (or use this as an extra connector for an internal drive, in which case you have to do some juggling to fit the drive inside, although there are people which have managed to squeeze even more in it).
It only supports RAID 0 or 1. If you want other redundancy modes you will have to either buy an extra RAID card (good ones are very expensive) or go with software.As most of my files do not change very frequently, I just use snapshot RAID (check SnapRAID).

It solves my network storage requirement while at the same time replaces my old HTPC. At first I was sceptical on the capabilities of the onboard graphics for HD, as most people just buy a GT520 or equivalent, but I don't feel the need for a replacement.
And for 140 pounds after cashback, who would complain? :)

As I said in the title, this is perfect machine for my requirements.
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on 16 September 2012
I bought this HP Microserver to replace a large tower that I wanted to turn back into a high performance workstation.
As others have said, this is a well built, decently specified box, that can take 4 or even 6 (at a squeeze) hard drives.
4 of the drives are caddy based and slip in and out, in seconds, the other 2 (not 100% standard fitting - but works fine) fit in the optical drive bay (using the 'spare' internal SATA and eSata connectors.

The best part for me that others may not yet have had opportunity to try, was installing it with the fantastic new Windows 'Storage Spaces' feature in Windows 8. (think Drive Extender from the old Windows Home Server, but built as a core standard and robust part of the OS using NTFS) Using this (incredibly easy to setup and configure) way of pooling drives, I now have a 10TB single volume, with parity redundancy protecting the data (spanned over 5 drives) and I can swap new larger drives in as needed.

As it's also a standard Windows machine, I have Home Group file and media shareing, Media Centre to record live TV, all the new XBox Music and Xbox Video Store features and can also run iTunes should I need or want to.

All in all a perfect solution for a home media server holding photos, files and video securely, and feeding Xbox's in the lounge and games room.

Highly recommended.
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on 26 October 2012
the N40L is excellent, & This was my second purchase in 2 weeks. I'm using 1 for as a freenas server & given the £100 HP cashback offer i was very tempted to buy another especially when advertised at £149 + shipping.
Beware, HP's terms and conditions state the unit must be from 'HP or a UK HP Preferred Partner'.
see hp.co.uk/focus for terms and conditions of teh promo
I didn't realise until after I purchased & read the review from kjgodalming that the reseller Amazon used was shipping the item from Spain and i would not be eligible for the £100 cashback promotion as they are likely not a 'UK HP Preferred Partner'.
i was too late to cancel the order (the option was there minutes before) and have now requested to send it back for a refund once it arrives. Amazon should clearly state on the product page that the item will not ship from the UK & the seller is not based in the UK. I imagine there will be a lot of returns of this product to the seller as people will assume it is eligible for this promotion.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 16 January 2014
Note: I did this review for HP ProLiant N40L MicroServer which is almost identical to this server except this microserver uses a faster processor -- AMD N54L 2.2GHz processor as opposed to AMD N40L 1.5GHz -- which is even better than the N40L MicroServer. I used the N40L microserver for quite some time and well impressed with its performance and reliability and thought prospective buyers would find my review useful hence reproduced here for easy access.

I've had this Microserver since May 2012 (over 18 Months) but never had a chance to post my review. If you are looking for a server - be it at home as a Home Server, or for a small scale business, this small box provides a very dependable solution. When I purchased it was on £100 cashback promotion and for what this server is capable of with ultimate reliability, the net price is ridiculously low but I am not complaining rather very pleased.

Initially I used this microserver with Windows Small Business Server 2008 (SBS 2008) without any trouble. Currently I am using it with Windows SBS 2011. The recommended hardware platform for SBS 2011 is a quad-core system but with a dual-core N40L AMD processor this server didn't let me down and runs smoothly with 16GB RAM installed. Oh, yes, although HP technical spec indicates an 8GB maximum memory, it is possible to run this server with 16GB RAM installed. Apparently only some specific RAM chips work for 16GB configuration but the choices available are very good. I am using Crucial CT2KIT102464BA160B 16GB (2X8GB) DDR3 240 Pin PC3-10600 CL9 Unbuffered UDIMM Memory Module Kit. I know dual memory kits (8GB x 2) Kingston KVR1333D3N9K2/8G and Corsair CMX16GX3M2A1600C11 also work as I tested by swapping from desktop PCs I had nearby. Google or Bing is your friend to find out more of the compatible 16GB memory chips for this microserver.

Note that SBS 2008 or 2011 I tested with is a very demanding operating system (OS) as it is hosting, among others, Microsoft Exchange Server and SharePoint application for collaborative work. In comparison OSs such as Windows Home Server or non-server OS such as Windows 7 are relatively less demanding in processing resources which means that this server can go the extra mile to handle advanced applications such as multimedia streaming in the home environment. I found its streaming capability to XBOX 360 (pictures, music and video) as good as playing them on a dedicated system. The video part needs to be in specific formats for streaming but pictures and music require no extra effort other than storing on the server (and organise into a play list) which for instance Windows Home Server is designed to do such chores quite easily.

As for hardware side of things, this server can be configured/modified more than what is offers 'out of the box'. My current configuration is:

Western Digital Velociraptor - 250GB Desktop SATA Hard Drive for OS as C: drive. Currently, considering changing this to SSD for improved performance and less power.

- Originally supplied OS disk is used for backup (SBS does automatic backup and requires a dedicated disk drive)

- 2.5" disk as D: drive (used as shared drive among other things). As a small laptop type drive, this drive is just tucked away under the DVD drive.

- With the addition of Adaptec RAID 1220SA RAID controller, 2x1 terabyte drives used more like centralised network attached server (NAS).

Uninterrupted power supply (UPS) is provided by APC BK650EI 650VA with power consumption maintained below 60W which makes this server even more attractive due to its low power operation.

Yes, the above raises many interesting questions, such as, why I didn't use the built-in RAID controller, and how I managed to put in more disk drives, and for those interested I have my answers.

To continue ...
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on 16 April 2013
Excellent product. Never mind the criticisms about the cash back. The price is very, very good.
I purchased this box to replace a Maxtor Shared storage II that died after 5 years of very good service. Could not repair it, despite running Linux and S/W raid ... bad move maxtor, never again a ready made NAS+RAID storage. So I purchased this one. Installed Slackware (actually, Puppy Linux 5.2). Very easy. All worked first time. All devices recognised and configured.
Installation requirements (for the solution I implemented):
1. puppy live install image on a USB flash stick (made using, for eample, a laptop)
2. VGA monitor
3. USB keyboard and mouse
4. 3 HDDs (total 4 disks bay: 1 250 GB came with the box, I bought 3 500GB, 1 for the backup and 2 for the RAID1)

Follow the Linux instruction for the installation of the OS.
When all is installed and configured (couple of hours), make sure you have mdadm and samba packages installed.
The configuration of samba is fairly easy (plenty of online documentation).
The RAID1 is also fairly easy to configure, but careful that after reboot your RAID may not be "assembled" automatically (I have not found out why or in what cases). Just add some "mdadm --assemble /dev/md1" command to some initialisation script, before starting samba.
In about a day this whole installation can easily be done and you will be happy you built your own high spec NAS+RAIS+backup solution.
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on 31 December 2012
I had a minor emergency on Christmas Eve this year when my Qnap NAS box that is used as my primary backup died. - It ran an automated firmware update that failed and left the box in an unrecoverable state - Nice job Qnap. I ended up spending several hours trying to recover but the unit was totally dead. HP were running a £100 rebate on their N40 Microserver so I decided to buy one as a replacement. I'm really glad I did!

It's physically larger than a dedicated NAS box, a lot louder (not noticeable in an office environment, but you would definitely not want to use this as a Home Theater PC), however you get a huge amount of hardware for your money. I'm using the unRAID OS with it, and the two make a perfect combination, particularly since unRAID runs from a USB key, and the microserver has a spare USB socked on the motherboard that allows you to plug in a USB key internally, leaving you with 4 spare drive bays out of the box and the option to add a fifth drive with a bit of tinkering.

As a home build NAS or workgroup server it's a steal. The build quality is superb - HP even include an Allen key and enough spare screws to fit all your additional drives :-)
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on 9 April 2012
The HP Microserver has been well reviewed on many sites, including Silent PC Review. Unfortunately it doesn't live up to the hype, as many other people have discovered (check the SPCR and AVForums forums).

The fans are loud. HP claim 22dB, but my basic meter rated the Microserver at 48dB from 1m. I swapped the 120mm fan for a quieter one which reduced it down to an acceptable level, but even so the PSU fan is far too loud to use as a media centre. Definitely the sort of thing you need to keep out of the living room and bedroom.

The PSU is also far less efficient than the review models. SPCR measured an idle power consumption of 25W with two hard drives. As shipping the Microserver comes with one 250GB HDD and idles at 52W. More than twice what the review samples used. This is a common trick - send review sites units with special high efficiency components but ship much cheaper parts to consumers. I confirmed that the PSU is at fault by trying a more efficient one which did manage to reach 27W at idle.

Other than these two serious issues the server is a very nice bit of kit. The CPU seems reasonably powerful, a bit quicker than my older Atom D510 despite that CPU having hyperthreading. Plenty of room for HDDs (you can actually have 6 if you use the 3.5" bay and the external SATA) and fairly easy to work on. Seems solidly built. The unusual torx screw heads are a bit annoying and the multi-SATA cable is difficult to remove (necessary to slide the mobo out for RAM upgrades and the like). The GPU is powerful enough to do transcoding on the fly for DLNA. Some people have commented that the lack of a HDMI port makes it less useful as a media centre, but it is far too loud for that anyway.

The on-board network chip is a Broadcom NetXtream. It isn't particularly good, strange for a machine basically built to serve files over a network. I can pull 60MB/sec over it, although CPU load is a bit high. There is no jumbo frame support, which isn't as bad as it sounds because interrupt moderation makes it less important these days, but still... This is a budget chip. PCI-Express NICs are pretty cheap, but will of course add to the power consumption.

The BIOS is really basic. There is no fan speed control. Very little in the way of configurability for SATA operation, boot order and the like. The minimum shared memory for graphics is 32MB. The BIOS won't boot with slow fans. SPCR says the cut-off is around 500 RPM, but I couldn't go any lower than about 900 RPM.

Overall I'd say it's a good product, if you are willing to accept the noise and either pay the higher electricity bills or shell out for a PicoPSU. As ever HP managed to take a good idea and almost ruin it.
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on 1 September 2014
I upgraded it to 16GB, and changed the firmware to an unofficial build which allows the CD SATA cable to work with a hard drive so freeing up one of the drive bays. In this configuration, it works wonderfully with 4 x 3TB of WD Red (Raid Edition) drives - so giving me 12TB as Raid 0, or 8TB as Raid 5 (recommended) using ZFS over FreeBSD 9.

The NIC is a single 1Gb, which is fine, but adding a second PCI-E single channel low profile fibre NIC and running with both NICs means I can have six HD movies playing around the house by different members of the family. :-)

I suppose my main point is this little HP can make a very capable Media Server. Pair it with a WD Live, and it's awesome.
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on 1 March 2014
If all you need is a better NAS box, as I'll never be convinced a NAS box would outperform a proper machine doing the same task, then this is what you want, don't waste money on windows server it WILL crawl running on this, run win7 ultimate, pair it with 8gb of ram, put the 250gb hdd in the optical bay (using a 5.25 to 3.5 inch adapter) and full it with high capacity drives and you have a quiet fast(ish) file sever that has full access and control rather than the half way house nas boxes use, look at it this way, if bad boxes were the way forward surely data centres would be filled with them...but they're not
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