I just finished an article for Tom’s Hardware on hacking the AMD-based HP MediaSmart Server models (EX470 and EX475, to be completely specific). It explains how to upgrade the memory, and drop in a more powerful CPU for those to whom the urge to tinker is strong. It even explains how to hack the BIOS to drop in one of a small number of dual core processors that will work in this compact little machine. I took lots of photos to illustrate the processes and activities involved, so those interested in hacking their boxes will have my work to draw on as well as the excellent how-to video from Home Server Show and the photo essays on this subject from WHS MVP Donavon West entitled “Upgrade the Memory in your HP EX470 or EX475” and “Add ‘Wow’ Performance to your EX470 with a Processor Upgrade.” I also compared and contrasted performance on the Intel NAS Performance Testing benchmarks for an EX475 with the stock 0.5 MB of RAM, plus 2.0 and 4.0 GB as well, and compared the stock Sempron 3400+ CPU to a single-core LE-1640 and a dual-core BE-2350 CPU (all with 2.0 GB of RAM because that’s the memory size that maximizes the price-performance trade-off).
In the follow-up since finishing the article, I’ve been researching the drivers that work best for these AMD based units, and have learned that anywhere from two to as many as five of those drivers can safely be upgraded. Here’s a list of recommended drivers based on my tinkering to see which may be safely be installed on the EX470 and EX475 models. I also provide a handy set of download links for those in need of a source for the update files. Where newer updates are available, except as noted, please assume I’ve tested them and they don’t work (thus, for example Uvga3_384.zip and Uvga3_385.zip are not suitable for SiS Mirage Graphics built into the HP MediaSmart models).
|SiS Mirage Graphics||126.96.36.19910||2007.06.25||Download.com||Not needed unless you use direct VGA output|
|Sis191 GbE adapter||2.0.1039.1110||2008.03.03||Download.com||None|
|Processor: AMD K8||188.8.131.52||2006.5.27||Download.com||Newer version 1.3.2.0053 available; not tested|
|Marvell 61xx RAID||184.108.40.206||2008.1.2||Asus download||Use Windows XP 32-bit version|
|SiS 0182/1182 RAID||5.1.1039.2110||2007.1.11||Download.com||None|
Before installing these drivers, it’s wise to take some precautions against potential problems. First and foremost, you’ll want to make a complete backup of your server’s system partition (Drive C:). This may require you to add another drive to your MediaSmart Server and designate it as a system backup volume, instead of adding it to the server’s storage pool. Because the MediaSmart Server system partition (Drive C:) is only 20GB in size this makes backup a perfect target for an older, smaller USB hard disk you may happen to have on hand. Even 80GB isn’t too small, given that complete system backups consume only 20 GB (plus whatever you’ve got stored in the shared folders), and incrementals seldom consume even 25% of that amount.
Except for the graphics driver update (which most readers won’t need unless they purchase a header cable for VGA output and plan to hook a monitor up to the EX47x box itself) you can extract the files, and use the “Update Driver” button in Device Manager to point the updater at the proper directory and then perform the update yourself. For graphics, you’ll want to run the setup.exe file inside the ZIP archive named Uvga3_381.zip. When I tried the newer graphics driver updates that didn’t work, WHS was smart enough to revert to the Standard VGA Graphics Driver included in its driver library, so graphics kept working even after this failed, much to my great relief.
Some users have reported substantial improvements in network throughput resulting from the GbE driver upgrade; others have reported less variability in network throughput over time (with higher averages). The RAID driver updates are generally regarded as desirable from the standpoint of improving system reliability (earlier drivers suffered from documented issues with data corruption in the shared WHS storage pool). Other drivers may be updated more or less at your own whim or discretion. Enjoy!