Well that was quick

The replacement RAM arrived today and I remembered one of the reasons I didn’t particularly enjoy building the server in the case I chose, but ultimately I did replace the modules, so the server’s now running on 128GB of ECC memory. The previous 32GB modules are sitting in their packages, and I plan on testing each individual module with memtest86+ to see if they’re any good. Not entirely sold on the idea of sticking them into my main rig at the moment, though.

The case I used for this server is a Fractal Design Define 7. It’s the one with the solid side panels and has excellent noise reduction features. It’s also quite versatile, in that different accessories can be installed depending on the end-user’s needs. All of the required accessories come with the case, too — no need to go out and buy extra stuff to set it up just right.

The Define 7 has three mesh filters: one on the bottom, one behind the front panel, and one on top. In the stock layout the one on top is unused, as the top panel is solid; however, there’s an optional vented top panel that can be used if the end-user wants to use a top-mounted radiator. That’s the route I took for this build: because the motherboard I chose has its AM4 socket rotated 90 degrees compared to other B550-based boards, installing an air cooler would be awkward. A 280mm Arctic Cooling Liquid Freezer II all-in-one liquid cooler is mounted to the top of the case and, despite having that tiny fan on the block, is completely silent during normal operation.

This decision is what caused some annoyance. See, because the CPU socket is rotated 90 degrees, the RAM is also rotated 90 degrees. When you hold a standard AMD-based ATX motherboard with the CPU socket near the top edge, the RAM slots are typically vertically aligned to the right of the socket. The ASRock Rack B550D4-4L board has its four DIMM sockets above the CPU socket, aligned horizontally. An AIO cooler mounted to the top panel of the case ends up covering three of the four RAM slots.

One key fact I left out, though, is that the top of the Define 7 consists of three layers: the top panel (which, as you recall, is the vented one), the filter, and a mounting plate for AIO coolers or fans. This mounting plate is removable, so luckily, I was able to remove 3 screws, pull the AIO’s radiator and fans out, and swap the RAM.

There was, however, another snag here: the server contains five 3.5″ hard disks. To accommodate these I had to configure the case in “storage mode” and, in order to do this, I removed about a third of the motherboard tray, fitted five drive sleds, and reinstalled that removed part of the motherboard tray on the opposite side to hold the sleds in place. The AIO mounting plate bolts to the top of this panel, giving it extra rigidity to hold those relatively heavy 3.5″ drives in place.

So … this time around, it wasn’t as simple as pulling the side panel off, pulling out the old DIMMs, and socketing the new ones in, but thanks to the excellent design decisions implemented in the Fractal Design Define 7 case, it wasn’t as difficult as it could have been.

As a side note, I had to replace a failed DIMM in a 1U server the other day as well, which made me appreciate the engineering and design work that goes into those as well. Cable management arms are spectacularly useful despite impeding exhaust airflow; server manufacturers provide diagrams on the inside of the removable top panel; BMCs tell you exactly which part failed, so you know what to replace. So, despite being more complex to use than your average desktop PC, they’re a lot easier to troubleshoot.

Now, we wait. The issue will surface in the coming days, if at all, but until then all I can do is observe.