Server Assembly, Day 1

While I await the arrival of the power supply tomorrow, there is plenty of work to be done. First off, there are ten standoffs which need to be screwed into the chassis so that the motherboard can be installed. This is a very simple job, once you carefully identify exactly which screw holes are the correct ones for the EEB form factor.

Standoffs

With that first step addressed, installation of the motherboard itself takes but a few minutes. The only real issue was caused by the screws for the internal case fans – the motherboard had to be carefully navigated around them. With the motherboard in-place, it already looks like a “real” computer and it’s somewhat amazing that there are hours of work left before it will be able to do anything.

Fans

The next step is to install the CPU. Thanks to the zero-insertion force socket, this is yet another easy step. The socket unlocks and opens easily, exposing the contact pins below. The main concern here is touching the contacts – that would be “bad,” so resist the temptation. You very likely have all sorts of bad things on your fingers – ranging from static electricity (but you are wearing an ESD strap. right?) to oils which may be dielectric and not friendly to high heat.

CPU socket

The CPU itself is then gently placed in the socket; once again, resist the urge to touch the pin package on the bottom of the CPU. There are notches on the edges of the CPU’s board which only permit it to be inserted one way, so there is really no danger of doing it wrong. And it does not snap it – it just sits there. Do not push down on the CPU hoping to hear a satisfying “click.” Worst case, you’ll hear a very unsatisfying “crack.”

CPU install

Once the CPU is in place, lock down the socket. You may face some uncomfortable resistance, but don’t be afraid. You want it to be locked down solidly because you really don’t want it going anywhere.

Locked and loaded

There once was a time when that’s all you had to do to install a CPU, but CPUs simply run too hot these days to be left naked to the world. So we need to install a CPU cooler on top of the CPU. As I mentioned previously, I was completely unimaginative and went with the stock Intel thermal solution. Like most coolers, it’s a beast. The Intel one comes complete with it’s own thermal paste already applied, so it’s just a matter of pressing down on the cooler as you screw it down. Care must be taken to partly screw down the four screws in a pattern, working each corner down evenly to ensure that the thermal paste also spreads evenly. After a few passes around the screws you’ll hit resistance. Do not over-tighten.

CPU cooler

No CPU is going to be happy without some RAM, so it makes sense to add that now. In this dual-socket machine there are 8 RDIMM slots, but each slot is tied to a particular CPU (4 each). If not all of the RDIMM slots for a single CPU are used, it is important to place the memory in the correct slots. Since I’m adding 4x8GB and only a single CPU, I really cannot go wrong as long as I place the memory around the installed CPU. The Corsair Vengeance RAM looks a bit menacing with the large fins for heat dissipation. That’s just fine with me.

RAM

To finish out the day I attach an external VGA port to the VGA header on the motherboard. Yes, I did buy a video card, but using the on-board video first helps to minimize the number of things that can go wrong when first testing the system. The VGA cable motherboard connector has a solid block where one of the pins could be, and the header is missing a pin – therefore, you cannot install it incorrectly.

External VGA

That’s a good start for day 1. The power supply is en-route for delivery tomorrow. Assuming the power supply is compatible with the case and the motherboard (a bigger ‘if’ than I’d like to admit), we should be able to see our first POST codes soon.

Day 1 assembly