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OptiProx - The Prep

February 4th, 2021

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After having some discussions with folks on the /r/sleeperbattlestations and /r/sleepingoptiplex subreddits, I wanted to toss up a quick post on what I'm doing with my server build.

The more I hear bad stories coming out of Silicon Valley regarding user privacy the more I want to de-Google-ify my life. Having calendars and email services and data stores available to me for free is super convenient but it's not worth the hassle of having to rely on a small handful of companies to do the right thing (regarding both security and ethics).

But I have been running some servers (mostly through Digital Ocean) for the last several years, so I am fairly comfortable running my own services.

And running a server in my apartment to have better stewardship of my data is right up my alley.


Honestly, I've been wanting to do this for a while. It'll be fairly easy for me to use something like Proxmox to stand up some services like NextCloud, Home Assistant, Gogs, a Minecraft server, and a handful of other things.

Just need to build the thing first, you know? I definitely want to build a sleeper. I always love seeing cool builds of great modern hardware in a retro-ish chassis, so picking out a case is obviously where I needed to start.

Whatever I chose needed to hold a motherboard with an AM4 socket and remind me of my childhood.

Something like the old beige tower from our guest room with a Pentium II in it or the charcoal Dell Dimension 4500-ish machine I used for my homework in middle school.

After a few failed Craigslist attempts to pick up a Dimension I ultimately settled on an OptiPlex 390.

OptiPlex 390 - Front View

Awww yeah, that's the stuff. Just like what my grade school computer labs used to run.

I managed to snag it for $20 from ReSource in Williston, VT while I was up north for a couple of weeks in December (after following all relevant VT state-mandated COVID-19 travel protocols).

Huge thank you to the fellow Champlain grad who helped me find and strip the computer from their warehouse!

Once I got home I worked on finalizing my parts list:

PCPartPicker Part List

Type Item Price
CPU AMD Ryzen 9 3900X 3.8 GHz 12-Core Processor Purchased For $380.00
CPU Cooler ID-COOLING SE-914-XT Basic 45.8 CFM CPU Cooler Purchased For $28.99
Thermal Compound ARCTIC MX-4 2019 Edition 4 g Thermal Paste Purchased For $8.59
Motherboard Gigabyte B550M DS3H Micro ATX AM4 Motherboard Purchased For $101.02
Memory Crucial Ballistix 32 GB (2 x 16 GB) DDR4-3200 CL16 Memory $148.99 @ Newegg
Storage Samsung 970 Evo 500 GB M.2-2280 NVME Solid State Drive Purchased For $69.12
Storage Western Digital Red 4 TB 3.5" 5400RPM Internal Hard Drive $104.99 @ Newegg
Storage Western Digital Red 4 TB 3.5" 5400RPM Internal Hard Drive $104.99 @ Newegg
Storage Western Digital Red 4 TB 3.5" 5400RPM Internal Hard Drive $104.99 @ Newegg
Storage Western Digital Red 4 TB 3.5" 5400RPM Internal Hard Drive $104.99 @ Newegg
Video Card MSI GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4 GB Video Card Purchased For $212.69
Power Supply SeaSonic FOCUS SGX 650 W 80+ Gold Certified Fully Modular SFX Power Supply Purchased For $139.30
Case Fan Noctua B9 redux-1600 PWM 37.85 CFM 92 mm Fan Purchased For $10.95
Case Fan Noctua B9 redux-1600 PWM 37.85 CFM 92 mm Fan Purchased For $10.95
Custom ORICO Aluminum 5.25 inch to 2.5 or 3.5 Inch Internal Hard Disk Drive Mounting Kit with Screws and SHOCK Absorption Rubber Washer- Black Purchased For $8.79
Custom ORICO Aluminum 5.25 inch to 2.5 or 3.5 Inch Internal Hard Disk Drive Mounting Kit with Screws and SHOCK Absorption Rubber Washer- Black Purchased For $8.79
Custom Dell Optiplex 390 Purchased For $20.00
Prices include shipping, taxes, rebates, and discounts
Total $1568.14
Generated by PCPartPicker 2021-02-03 22:13 EST-0500

I'm overbuilding the hell out of this thing, but it should last me a long, long time. Once my new power supply comes in (more on that later), I'll just need to order the RAM and hard drives before I can start building.

Once I got the parts figured out, I needed to tackle modding the case a bit to fix the obvious airflow problem.

OptiPlex 390 - Back View

The back looks fine. Plenty of slots for the 1050 Ti (potential hardware transcoding), a regular size cutout for rear IO, room for a full-sized PSU, and even a spot for a fan!

OptiPlex 390 - Clean Inside View

Inside is super clean once you strip it down. Screw layout for a standard Micro-ATX motherboard, two dedicated slots for drives, two 5.5" slots (surprise, more hard drives), and plenty of room in the front I can take advantage of for a fan intake.

The only issue here is that while there's plenty of room for a full-sized ATX power supply in here, I missed that black hook for the side panel latch even after measuring twice. The ATX unit I ordered didn't quite fit so I hard to return it for the SGX form factor one, which SHOULD fit. That'll be coming in the mail by the end of this week - fingers crossed.

OptiPlex 390 - Taped Front View

The one real bit of modding I had to do was cutting a hole in the front of this thing. One fan wasn't going to cut it, so I wanted to throw an intake in there too.

I forgot to take a picture before I taped it up, but the whole front is the same type of metal grille that you can see right below the tape line.

Either way: I taped it up, marked out the hole so that there was still room for mounting hardware, and cut the thing out with a rotary tool.

OptiPlex 390 - Hole Cut

Not the prettiest cut, but not bad for my first job with a new tool.

OptiPlex 390 - Fan Installed

The fan mounted nice enough after I gave the mounting holes a second pass to make sure everything lines up. Plenty of room for airflow.

OptiPlex 390 - Front Panel Installed

And honestly, once I got the front panel back on, you can't even tell the case has been modded.

OptiPlex 390 - Inside View

After using some canned air to get all the dust and stuff out, I tossed the exhaust fan and all the odds & ends that came with the shell back in.

Like I said, there are still a few parts to order before I can start the build in earnest.

Might even take a day off work for all the fun. ;)


That adventure will be worthy of a whole other post.

Once that's up, it should be followed by another one on setting up Proxmox.

Can't wait to share more with y'all!

Stay frosty.


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