My old file server died a few years ago, probably because of a dead motherboard. Might have been the power supply. Not sure.
Anyways, ever since my old server went cold turkey, I’ve had this bunch of old, powerful hardware sitting for ages.
I planned to “migrate” the motherboard and CPU from my old gaming and work PC to the old server case and revive it, but just kept postponing it again and again for a long time.
So, last week I had some spare time from work, and I decided to FINALLY start working on reviving this old hunk of metal.
I ripped everything out of the server case and replaced both the power supply and motherboard. The motherboard came with an old Intel i7 3960X still mounted inside ever since I upgraded my main PC.
I then slapped some 4×4096 MB of ram in the RAM slots for a total of sweet 16 gigabytes of 1600 MHz DDR3 madness. And carefully connected the SAS to SATA LSI 9211-8i and all six 3.5″ drives to it.
Finally, I connected the SSD and fired up the machine. The SATA cable was old and a bit loosey-goosey, but I figured it would work as long as I didn’t breathe on it.
OK, long time no see, Windows 7!
I had forgotten it was running Win 7. N-edition. The N stands for “no media features”. Well, that’s what it means anyways. Some silly EU regulations… Anyways. It fired up, but I couldn’t log in. Forgot password? Yep.
I got an idea. I used to access the server’s file shares via my old living room PC (aka HTPC), maybe there was a way to get the password from those stored credentials?
I tried the built-in Windows Credential Manager, but it wouldn’t show me the password for Windows shares. I Googled a bit and found a password recovery tool from Nirsoft called CredentialsFileView.
Et voila! It managed to reveal the stored password for the server!
I was in!
But wait, what’s this…? I was soon getting weird system crashes and weird missing system file errors…
Ok, I’ll simply try upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 10. Surely that’ll take care of the issues, right? And besides, upgrading to Windows 10 is still free… I just had to use the Windows 10 media creation tool.
I ran the upgrade… The installation went fine…
But now I got the blue screen of death within minutes, even seconds of logging in to Windows. How strange…
The error was “PAGE FAULT IN NONPAGED AREA”. Just let me Google that…
“PAGE FAULT IN NONPAGED AREA (or PAGE_FAULT_IN_NONPAGED_AREA) occurs when the Windows operating system cannot find data that should be stored in the non-paged area. This error usually occurs due to problems with hardware, such as corrupt sectors on the hard disk.”
Ok, so based on a little bit of reading, it seemed it had something to do with memory or RAM. I tried adjusting the SWAP file settings in Windows 10 first, but this had no effect.
I tried to adjust timings in the BIOS, switching between Auto and X.M.P. profile #1. No effect.
I tried swapping the RAM completely out for a different set of RAM. Nada. No help there.
I tried switching out the GPU. Nada. No help there.
I called it a night…
After sleeping on it, the next day I had decided it might be the SSD, so I tried to install Windows 10 on a different disk altogether, from scratch.
The installer got pretty far, but eventually at one point it just completely shut down the computer mid-install.
I decided to give it a break again after a few more blue screen deaths mid-installation.
Today I figured I would try fiddling with the RAM some more. Maybe it was the RAM slot?
I removed all RAM sticks but one, and tried to move it to a different slot. I tried it all.
Nada. Windows 10 setup still crashed before it could complete installing the operating system.
Eventually it had to be the CPU, right? RIGHT? This once so expensive and reliable piece of hardware, could it really be the culprit?
I didn’t want to admit it, but I eventually caved and swapped out the CPU for a less powerful Intel i7 3820, which was the original CPU that sat in the server’s motherboard.
Fired up the Windows 10 install from USB stick again and… Hmm… It seemed to be working.
I let it run, and while there was some glitch where it kept asking me for my location and keyboard three times in a row before continuing with the final stage of the Windows 10 setup, it still hadn’t crashed.
So far, so good. I had made it into Windows 10 again for the first time since the original upgrade from Windows 7 several days ago!
I let it sit for a while, expecting a system crash at any time, but hoping for the best. Nada. No issues.
So I installed the rest of the 16 gigabyte of DDR3 RAM (I only had one 4GB stick installed at this point) and fired it up again. No issues.
And this is where I am at right now.
I hope that the server works now, but will have to put it to the test.
I will try plugging in the SSD again and see if I can finally use it as the OS disk, as originally intended.
This upgrade/revival of my old server was a BIG headache, but also a big learning experience in debugging.
I also have some thoughts about the old Intel i7 3960X CPU that was producing the Page Fault in Nonpaged Area error…
Maybe it was due to all the overclocking it was subjected to between late 2011 and up until the upgrade I did in 2018?
Maybe it would work if I just cranked up the voltage a bit, even overclocked it as I used to? It used to run at 4.5 GHz…
Well, I’ll leave that mystery for another day…
If you made it this far, thanks for reading!