Join the serverbuilds.net community
In order to not clog up the /r/Plex subreddit and discord, I, along with help from /u/manbearpig2012, have decided to make a community focused on used/refurb server hardware builds. Currently, the discord is 650 members strong! We post a lot in the #tech-deals channel when we find anything on sale that might benefit a build.
- Discord invite link (the easiest way to flesh out your build and ask questions)
- YouTube link - lots of xeon build videos here
Ryzen Threadripper 1950X costs around $880.00 on a good day. It scores 22491 on passmark multi-core. It’s a great processor, but unfortunately that’s not taking into account the costs of the motherboard, cooling solution, case, relatively pricey DDR4 (32GB starts around $300 or more!), and other supporting components.
Instead, let’s build an entire system that can provide MORE passmark score, for LESS than the cost of just the Threadripper 1950X CPU.
This is… the $750 Thread-Runner.
Rules for buying used server-grade parts on eBay:
- Buy from highly-rated, reputable sellers
- When “Or best offer” is available, use it. Sellers will likely discount parts, often up to 30%.
- Shop around. There are many resellers selling the same exact parts on eBay, find the one with the best price.
- Scrutinize the details of the auction. For example, make sure CPU stepping / revision is correct to what you need. Make sure components are listed as functioning and not “for parts only”.
- Do not, under any circumstances buy QA/QC/QS/ES labled CPUs. Only buy official used / refurbished Intel Xeon CPUs. Chips with this label are not guaranteed to work, and might break functionality with something as simple as a BIOS update.
- Check sources other than Ebay. /r/buildapcsales can be a huge help with this. Amazon or Newegg often have huge sales on some of the new parts. Shop around people!
- Be patient. If there isn’t a deal on a component, waiting a day or two often pays off. (sometimes bigly!)
|Type||Item||Price||OBO?||OBO price target||Shipping|
|Motherboard||Intel S2600CP Dual 2011 R1 motherboard||$145.00||YES||$135.00||$0.00|
|CPU Cooler||2 x Arctic Alpine 20 Plus CO||$35.98||$0.00|
|RAM||8x4GB DDR3 ECC REG||$71.99||YES||$61.19||$0.00|
|EPS Splitter||8 Pin to Dual 8 Pin EPS Splitter||$7.99||$0.00|
|Case||Phanteks Enthoo Pro, black, no window||$79.99 (after $10 MIR)||$7.99|
|Type||Item||Passmark||Price||OBO?||OBO price target||Shipping|
|CPU||2 x E5-2620 V1 6C/12T each||12554||$29.99||$0.00|
|CPU||2 x E5-2650 V1 8C/16T each||15063||$135.00||YES||$114.75||$0.00|
|CPU||2 x E5-2660 V2 10C/20T each||18824||$249.00||YES||$211.65||$0.00|
|CPU||2 x E5-2680 V2 10C/20T each||22980||$365.00||YES||$310.25||$0.00|
Other parts to consider
|Type||Item||Price||OBO?||OBO price target||Shipping|
|SAS HBA||LSI-9210-8i SAS2 (Add 8 SATA 3 ports)||$54.99||YES||seller accepts $45.00||$0.00|
|Cable||SAS breakout cable (need 2)||$9.99||$0.00|
|Fans||Arctic 120mm PWM low-noise fan 5-pack||$24.59||$0.00|
|Cable||12 Pack SATA cable||$8.99||$0.00|
|Cable||2 Pack Cable Matters Sata to 4x SATA Power Splitter||$11.99||$0.00|
|Type||Item||Passmark||Price (Before OBO)||Price (After OBO)|
|“Base” config||2 x E5-2620 V1||12554||$413.98||$385.13|
|“Plus” config||2 x E5-2650 V1||15063||$518.93||$469.89|
|“Extra” config||2 x E5-2660 v2||18824||$632.93||$566.79|
|“Thread-runner” config||2 x E5-2680 v2||22980||$748.93||$665.39|
About this build:
- Important note: This motherboard comes with low profile server heatsinks for rackmount use only. (these are replaced in the guide)
- General: This build will be using two Intel Xeon processors on an Intel Socket 2011 R1 motherboard with up to Quad-Channel DDR3-ECC RDIMM memory. It does not include specifications for SSD or HDD.
- CPU: I think these options are pretty self-explanatory at this point. Choose the best option that you can afford, upgrading later is really easy! Passmark scores are taken directly from CPUmark’s site.
- Motherboard: Intel S2600SCP (Link to Intel product spec page) This motherboard has dual 2011 sockets with 16 DIMM slots. Dual Gigabit NIC is included, with plenty of PCI-E expansion. This is the same motherboard / case combo that NATEX US sells, at a higher cost than what’s listed here.
- RAM: In this guide there’s only one option listed. IMO, this is the most cost-effective way to get full Quad-Channel support for maximum bandwidth. The pricing is pretty good as well. If you need more RAM, you can add another 8x4GB, 8x8GB, or 8x16GB later.
- CPU Coolers: These are the most cost effective heatsinks for 2011. I haven’t had a problem running 150W CPU’s on them, they’re great.
- PSU: It’s cheap, powerful enough, and works. Not much more to say. A higher spec PSU is listed here than the normal 450W ones, considering the potential output of the system under full load.
- Case: This case is chosen for this build due to its SSI-EEB support. SSI-EEB is like E-ATX with different standoff mounts, so most E-ATX cases WILL NOT WORK with this motherboard. You could always drill your own standoffs in the case, but that’s a huge pain in the ass. This case is great, and it’s on sale. There’s one with a window for $10 more if you want it. Oh, and the case supports 6xHDD + 2xSSD natively.
Cautionary notes, other details
- Server equipment is stripped down to the bare minimum for compatibility and reliability. Because of this, features you are used to having might be missing - for example, some server motherboards don’t have onboard audio. Also, most will use VGA onboard.
- Use a SSD for your host OS. This is likely where your Plex metadata will live, so if you’re going to generate thumbnails and you have a sizeable library, make sure to get an appropriate size. 250GB is a good start for most people.
- Familiarize yourself with the BIOS options. Some may be different than consumer models. Make sure Hyper-threading is turned on in the BIOS. When in doubt, clear the CMOS / reset to default. You should verify that all threads are showing in your host OS.
- Almost any OS will work. Includes ESXI, unRAID, FreeNAS, Linux, and Windows of course.
- Evaluate your RAID options. This motherboard has capabilities for onboard RAID, but that isn’t for everyone. LSI SAS add-on cards are a great way to get started with hardware and software RAID.
- If using a LSI HBA, such as the one listed here, you must flash it to IT mode. It’s a relatively simple process. Video and text guide here.
Q: Aren’t used parts unreliable?
A: No, actually in this case, quite the opposite. Server-grade used components are designed to be more reliable than consumer-class components. They are often recycled / resold when the upgrade cycle happens at major institutions or businesses. Some are sold as new - old stock, where the components are new but were never used. Myself and many others have found that used server components are more reliable than even new consumer-grade parts.
Q: I’m nervous / anxious about building a computer with server hardware. How much different / harder is it than regular computers? OR - I’ve never build a computer but wanted to, can I start with this?
A: I’d argue that it’s actually easier and more straight forward than building with regular computer hardware. Just like with anything else, doing research is key here. The components that are outlined in this post are compatible with each other and are probably about a 4/10 in overall difficulty. I’ve started to make some video guides on my youtube channel, and have even done a live stream build. Also, join the discord, @trusted and @build complete will help you out!
Q: Why should I do this? I want a i7-6700K or (INSERT_CPU_HERE)
A: Because price/performance ratio is important, and the goals are different. This isn’t a gaming machine, it’s for serving up content, virutalization, and more. Don’t forget all of the other vast capabilities besides Plex! (sonarr, radarr, PlexPy, etc.)
Q: I have questions/can’t find alternative parts/ready to buy. What do I do?
A: Join the /r/JDM_WAAAT discord and ask @trusted to review your build in the #hardware channel. We can’t help you after purchasing, so ask before you buy.
Please feel free to leave a comment or ask questions below.
Keep calm, Plex on!