How to build a rack server

How to build a rack server


If you have ever built or upgraded a personal computer. Then building a rack mounted server is very similar with some minor differences as seen in this article. One of the more important aspects being the hardware that you ultimately decide to use, which can affect the overall performance of the server. This post will show you the basic how-to of building a server from scratch. If you use a bare bones unit, much of the hardware should be included in the kit.


Hardware Installation




The processor is easily installed. Look at the bottom of the CPU. You’ll see at least one edge (possibly two) with pins missing. It will look like a diagonal. Which will match the socket for the cpu.  If it does not seem to fit, do not force it. You will bend or break pins. Double check that it is orientated correctly, so the pins line up.


(Picture taken from TomsHardware)

Once the CPU is sat correctly, you can close the load plate to secure it, just drop the load plate down and then push the arm into it’s lock position:


(Picture taken from TomsHardware)


Apply thermal paste to the top of the processor. Before attaching the heat sink. Thermal paste should be available at most electronic or computer stores.


Finally, attach the CPU cooler, typically with a clip or screws. For this example we are using a 1U heatsink, so it requires a backplate first:




And then flipping the motherboard over you’ll be able to screw the heatsink to the backplate for a secure fit:






If your rackmount case doesn’t already have the PSU installed, you will need to do this now. For our example we are using a 1U case, so this is a 1U PSU located at the back right. Your situation may vary, but it is all very standard.


Slot the PSU into the correct space to line up with the mounting screws. For our example the only screws to mount the PSU are on the back of the case into the front of the PSU. Some cases will have a piece of metal to screw to the back of the PSU near the cables and that then screws to mounting points on the case – This secures it very well.




Installing MotherBoard


Ensure that the case has the screw mounts in the correct places, if these are in the wrong place for the motherboard you are fitting then it could result in shorting the bottom of the motherboard. Once all the mounts are in the correct places you can line the motherboard up with each screw mount and screw it on.




You are now ready to connect the power cables to the motherboard.


First we start with the 20 or 24pin main power connection which you should be able to easily locate on your motherboard. Just take the power connector from the PSU and connect it to the correct slot on the motherboard:




Secondly, depending on your motherboard, you may need to plug in the 4 or 8 pin power connector. The slot to connect this to on your motherboard is usually near the CPU:




The last of the cables to connect to the motherboard are from the case itself. They usually consist of pins for the front power switch, reset switch, HDD L.E.D, power L.E.D and sometimes the network L.E.D and USB port.


You will need to check your motherboard manual for a guide to where each of the pins connect to your motherboard, some images are below for your general reference of what these connections look like.


Front Power Switch, Reset Switch and L.E.Ds:




Front USB Port:






RAM is easy to install, just make sure the two clips to each side of the module slot are released (down), line the RAM up with the module slot to ensure the notch out of the RAM meets with that of the module slot and push down at each corner of the RAM until the two clips at either side engage and secure the RAM in place.




In my opinion with servers, RAM shouldn’t be chosen solely for maximum speed, but should be selected for reliability. Modules with ECC support (Error Correction Code) are a good choice. Since it can compensate for single-bit errors.


The use of dual channel, should be given consideration when buying memory. Because two DIMMs are not any more expensive, than a single module that is twice as large. In my experience it offers significantly better performance.


Typically with RAM modules with ECC support. Smaller amounts of memory (2x 512 MB rather than 1x 1 GB) is often more economical. The downside is if you ever wish to upgrade the memory. Chances are you’ll replace the current RAM with two modules of higher capacity. Whereas using a single module, you’ll typically have slots free. There are pros/cons to both paths.


Hard Disks


To install the hard disks for our rackmount case, you are required to unscrew the mounts from the case, and then screw them to each side of the HDD.




Once this has been done you can then screw the mounts back into the case to secure each HDD.




Once the drives are slotted in the power and data cables are connected. You will need to connect the data cable to your HDD and then terminate the cable at your motherboard or raid controller.






Above: drives are all connected and ready for operation.


Your server basics are now complete. If you have a raid controller or other PCI cards to install, you should be able to consult your hardware manual for this.




Cable management is important, spend some time ensuring cables are as tidy as possible, and that they do not restrict too much airflow from any case fans.


Wrapping Up


The last process would be to power up the unit and make sure every thing seems to be running fine & POST check.


The final step would be to install the operating system of your choice. We have an image step by step tutorial of how to install CentOS, you can find that here.




  1. An important question that often comes to mind and most people ask is whether to build your own or buy a rack server. Well, if you need decide to buy, do so from alternative sources like Craigslist, Ebay, Dell Outlet, etc. However, if you end up building them, go with SuperMicro.

  2. It is a nice post. The process to build a rack server is explained in a good way. It is very helpful for me. Thank you so much for sharing.

  3. This one is perfect and most helpful. With the help of images, a graphical step by step how-to is very convenient. Building a rack mounted server has been a challenge.

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