Installing a HDD in the optical drive bay on an HP Microserver N40L

I recently purchased an HP Microserver from DABS, the cashback offer (now extended until 31st Jan 2012) and additional discounts and cashback available via Quidco made it a compelling offer (after cashback and discounts it has cost me approx. £120).

Anyway, it arrived with a 250GB Seagate drive installed in bay 1 of the 4 bay drive array, and I immediately started thinking about moving the drive into the empty optical drive bay to give me 4 free bays for RAID 0/1 storage.

I used Ebuyer for the parts because DABS were out of stock. This is my kit list:

Description Ebuyer quick link
Startech Metal 5.25 To 3.5 Inch Drive Adapter Bracket 124153
Xenta LP4 Molex MALE to Serial ATA SATA Power Adapter 158874
Xenta Serial ATA 2.0 to Right Angle SATA 7-pin Cable (Red) 61cm / 24″ 151962

In retrospect, a left-angled SATA cable might have been better, such as this one here, because the one I purchased interferes with the CMOS battery, in the end, I used the right-angled end on the drive as it turns out that there is enough room for a straight connector to fit into the motherboard connector.

First open the drive bay door and remove the top part of the case by unscrewing the thumb screw at the rear and sliding it forward and off:


Connect the Molex power adaptor to the spare Molex plug, this gives us a SATA style power feed for the HDD:


Take the SATA cable and if you have a left-angled one, use that end, if not, use the straight end (like I did). If you remove the plug to the fan you can get at the SATA connector on the motherboard without having to remove the motherboard. It’s a bit fiddly but you should be able to insert the connector into the SATA connector on the motherboard. I removed all the disk caddies from the 4 drive bays to give me a bit more room:


In this picture, you can see how my straight SATA connector has just enough room:


Don’t forget to reconnect the fan:


Route the SATA cable up through the case:


Now remove the 250GB drive from drive bay 1 and remove it from the plastic caddy, this should be straightforward enough. I actually inserted a 1TB Western Digital Green drive (WD10EARS) into bay 1, I will add another one later.

With the 250GB drive now free, attach the adaptor brackets to each side, I used the screws that came with the brackets:


Now screw in the 4 mounting screws that will allow the bracket to be slid into the optical drive bay. I actually used the 4 “ODD” screws that are stored in the drive bay door:


Now attached the power and SATA cables to the drive:


Now slide the drive into the optical drive bay until it clicks into place:



The drive can be removed at any time by pressing on the lever to unlock it:


Now power on the system. I had to make some BIOS adjustments before my system would boot, I am not sure if you will need to do this but no harm in checking.

When I went into the “Boot” menu and selected “Boot Device Priority”, the only drive listed was the 1TB WD Green drive, but this did not have an OS installed on it, so the system would not boot.

To fix it, go to the “Boot” menu and select “Hard Disk Drives”:


On my system, the 1TB drive that I had now in bay 1 was listed as the 1st drive and the 250GB drive (with the OS on it) I had just moved into the optical drive bay was listed as the 2nd drive. So I selected the 1st drive and hit enter, a menu pops up and allows you to select which drive you want to be the 1st drive, so I selected the 250GB drive:


Back on the “Boot Device Priority” screen, the system now listed my 250GB as the boot drive, which is the one that had the OS installed on it:


Now I hit F10 to save and reboot, the system booted from the 250GB drive in the optical bay and Windows started first time:


Apparently, the on-board SATA connector does not support AHCI mode with the standard BIOS, meaning that the 250GB drive is operating in IDE mode and therefore will be running at a lower data transfer rate. The way to fix this is to flash the BIOS with a custom one that enables AHCI to be enabled on the on-board connector, but to be honest as I’m only going to use it as the OS drive I am not that bothered and will stick to the standard BIOS for now.

As you can see, I am running Windows Home Server 2011, I had to install it off an external USB disk drive which I first had to make bootable, as I didn’t have a DVD drive I could use. If I get around to it, that will be the subject of another article.

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25 Responses to Installing a HDD in the optical drive bay on an HP Microserver N40L

  1. thisisnotmynameeither... says:

    Just wanted to say thanks ever so much for the great, detailed write-up here. I’ve just taken delivery of my HP N40L, and I’m in exactly the same boat you were in, where I’m wanting to move the supplied 250GB OS drive into the top bay, leaving the 4 bottom (full speed) slots free for back-up drives.
    I’ll be saving this page as a bookmark and carrying out exactly the same mod as you over the next week or so, once I’ve got all my drives set up for migration of all my data.
    I especially like the way that you’ve been able to do this mod without messing about with the BIOS, which from reading the many forum threads discussing a similar move of the OS drive, they seem to give the impression that you can’t do the move without doing the BIOS mod for AHCI enhancement of the 5th slot. I’m glad you’ve proved that you can do it, even if it means a bit of a slower hard-drive. Mine will, like yours, be for OS only, so this doesn’t bother me either.
    Many thanks again, it’s very much appreciated.

  2. Forrest says:

    Thanks for the detailed illustrations — I was having a bit of a moment trying to figure how the bracket I bought was going to work and this really clarified it.

    I replaced the 250GB with a 2TB and as updating Win 7 Enterprise 64 before doing a 4 drive — 3TB each install in the other drive bays. I had the 3TB drive working with the 250GB drive resting in the optical bay so I know it is feasible.

    Although I did the 3rd party BIOS update to unlock the SATA full speed feature for the optical bay. Also looking to test to see how much faster a HP P410 dedicated RAID card is going to be in this machine (RAID 5) versus trying to set up a slower RAID off this system. The other option would be a RAID 0 on the 4 drives with just backing up select data to the 2 TB to reduce the hard drive failure risk.

    Can’t wait until I have this 14TB server completely set up as my kick butt media server.

    • Matt says:


      What thirt party bios tool did you use? Is it straight forward?



    • wontigonk says:

      Hi Forrest,

      I’m just about to embark upon this setup. HP say that the setup only supports 4 x 3Tb – did you have nay problems with the 4 x 3Tb drives?

      Also, what 3rd party BOIS update did you use?


  3. Matt says:


    Thank you for your reply. But I have read in forums about modding the bios to make the internal Sata connection to work at AHCI.



  4. Mark says:

    Really sorry but going for the biggest idiot question…
    I’ve moved the drive on my new microserver, attached it directly to my router and powered it up….but I can’t see it on my network in windows explorer… do i find it to access the bios?!?

    Many thanks

    • Hi Mark, bit confused by your question, accessing it over the network and accessing the BIOS are two different things. You’ll need to plug a keyboard and monitor into the Microserver to access the BIOS. To access it over the network, well where to start – what OS have you got installed and have you configured the network settings? Can you ping the IP address it is using?

  5. paradroid888 says:

    Thanks for writing this up I followed your guide and it worked a treat, now there’s four drive bays ready to load up with HDD’s 🙂

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  8. boumbara says:

    Thanks for this article. Very useful links to buy the fittings, much appreciated!

  9. noname says:

    Thank you very much for this – I followed your instructions to the letter and despite not being particularly confident, it all worked first time. Actually the hardest thing for me was getting the door and top of the case back on. Really pleased to have 12TB of storage running (can thoroughly recommend the 3TB WD Reds). This has been one of the cleanest and most helpful walk throughs I have ever used, especially with the links to the cables and fittings.

  10. Sean says:

    Much appreciation for how thorough you documented this update. I referenced this while moving my OS HDD into the ODD bay and adding USB 3.0. My only snag was somehow breaking off the corner of the SATA cable after it was in the MB and I was putting the MB back in place. Thankfully just needed another SATA cable. Everything is working, and now I’m ready for my 4th 3TB WD RED drive. Only wish would be a faster processor in this box. Thanks again!

  11. dearleuk says:

    Very useful. Thank you

  12. s abo says:

    Thanks SO much for your guide. Really made it easy for a noobie.

  13. Wow three years later and this article is till getting a lot of hits, my Microserver is still going strong, I recently added two 2TB WD Reds and created a separate RAID1 volume for work related stuff.

  14. perky says:

    The N40L hardware can definitely use AHCL on the internal SATA connector and also on the eSATA, but these modes are disabled by the stock BIOS. You’ll need to reflash the BIOS with the file given here:
    Note you will also probably want to disable ‘combined mode’ if you are using software raid, it makes Linux see all drives as being connected to separate host controllers.
    My setup uses Puppy Precise Linux, this boots from a USB stick plugged into the N40L’s internal USB connector. This is an ideal OS – it’s small, copies itself to RAM from USB and runs exclusively in there so very fast.
    My system now consists of 6 3TB HGST disks in RAID6 configuration, 4 in the main bays and 2 mounted in the 5.25″ bay with a 3 fan 3.5″ drive bay cooler in the front. One of the 5.25″ bay disks connects to the eSATA port and one in the additional SATA port on the motherbopard. Performance is excellent, it maxes out on Gbit Ethernet for reads and gets close to max on writes. Puppy Linux rocks for this app!

  15. Dearleuk says:

    Second time I’ve used your guide, glad it’s still going strong

  16. Frankie says:

    Hi There
    Does this work with the New Gen8 Proliants – I I see that there is no way of removing the top tray to fit the the drive. Thanks

  17. Microserver says:

    Thank you for this Guide!
    Had one spare HDD that can be used for 20 Euro’s (for the cables and bracket). 😀

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  19. Z.D. says:

    Thanks for this documentation! I just did this mod today, after 5 years! Two things I would change:
    1. Instead of getting left- or right-angled SATA cable, just get both ends straight. They work fine. I got the 24″ red cable just like yours, which is very slim and flexible. 2. I attached the four ODD (Optical Disk Drive) screws to the bottom holes of the mounting bracket instead of the top holes. Makes more sense – the HDD has more airspace all around and underneath it. Having he ODD screws on the top holes causes the bottom of the HDD to press and rub against the bottom metal plate during insertion. Extremely tight fit, cannot be a good thing.

  20. takkischitt says:

    Great tutorial! Thank you for spending your time doing this, I greatly appreciate it. People like you make the Internet extremely helpful.

  21. Gunnar says:

    Thanks for excellent guide. I got my old N36L disk array upgraded thanks to your guide. Cheers!

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