Gigabyte R180-F34 1U Server (2011-3) $94-109 + Shipping

ptcfast2

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Feb 1, 2021
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I purchased another for spare parts purposes (mainly the fans and PSUs) since the server is so cheap. I'm going to also use that motherboard to test BIOS update stuff, before unleashing it upon the ones I have deployed, and then to you all.

Microcode will come first, then other settings. Microcode is the simple bit, messing with settings that may or may not work is the harder one. Lots of stuff is there, just hidden and possibly unfinished. Not a lot of time went into perfecting the BIOS for these servers it seems, but I will do my best to deliver something that breathes some life into these.
 
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eptesicus

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Jun 25, 2017
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I got my 2.54mm 4-pin SATA power cables in the other day. I had to swap the red and yellow wires, but they work perfectly for my boot disk. I damaged one of them, so I had to order another. At least 3 out of 4 servers are setup correctly, but they all work for now.


 

ptcfast2

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Feb 1, 2021
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As promised here's an updated BIOS file that can be flashed to these servers! You'll need to use a USB bootable flash drive. You can use Rufus and FreeDOS. Provision the drive with Rufus, then just copy the files inside of the archive to the root of the flash drive. You just need to run flash.bat from the command line, and press Y when prompted to flash. This will reset your current BIOS config, but won't touch the BMC or anything else. You also need to make sure you don't have your server set to UEFI Boot for this to work properly and Video specifically is using Legacy (not UEFI) in the CSM.

There's no way to flash this via the BMC as it's expecting a signed copy, and I don't have the keys. Of course, I don't take responsibility for what might happen if you flash this. However, you can easily flash the old BIOS back via the BMC if something does not go right since it's not impacted by any of this. Yay servers!

I built this in about 2 hours, and have flashed it with success. BIOS will still report R16 as the version, but it's lying to you - I promise. I'll address that if I release another version - there's not many of these servers in the wild so going with the minimal effort --> maximum reward approach at this point. Think of it as a "vastly improved" version of R16.


So...what's new you might ask?
  1. Updated the microcode for the CPUs to the latest available. This impacted v4 processors the most as the current BIOS microcode was a bit out of date. v3 processors got a slight bump as well.
1615604803763.png
  1. Updated the EFI driver stack for the onboard LAN controller to the latest version available.
  2. Fixed a lot of bad wording/spelling errors in the BIOS and tried to make it a bit easier to understand.
  3. Added a TON of settings related to the platform - CPU, Power Control, PCI Express, you name it - some settings might not work at all, but they are there and waiting. Might help folks troubleshoot stability if needed or enable some other neat stuff.
  4. Added PCI Express bifuriciation control under IIO Configuration in the Chipset tab. :D

    1615605167380.png
 
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ptcfast2

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Feb 1, 2021
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Made a new version after some inspiration. I spent a long time revamping the BIOS terminology to make more sense in this one. I also missed some interesting items the first time around. Memory Stuff, Overclocking (lol), Power Management controls that are crazy specific, the ability to disable individual pins on the USB headers, PCIe Hotplug Support, the ability to mess with the QuickPath Interconnect at a granular level, oh gosh...there's a lot.

I hope this provides some better stability and configuration options for you all.



1615618753293.png
1615618785793.png 1615618830286.png 1615619094158.png 1615619162621.png 1615619188394.png 1615619209147.png 1615619246830.png
 
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ptcfast2

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Feb 1, 2021
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Okay one more thing! Here's a bootable ISO with everything included you can use via the Virtual Media Mount in the MergePoint BMC:


If you already have the server racked, you can just do this from the comfort of your desk or whatever. This is what I used to upgrade 3 of my servers - works like a champ. Just mount it, make sure to press enter when prompted to boot to the FreeDOS live CD, type flash.bat and you're off!

You'll more than likely encounter about 10-20 seconds of zero activity on the console window when it finishes reading the flash memory for validation before it attempts to write to it. Immediately after the initial read it then proceeds to read the ROM file from the ISO you mounted so it can write it. It's a little bit slower than USB.

Some of the BIOS features might be unfinished, not designed to be changed, or not working entirely. Tread lightly and only change what you need to from defaults. I do want to really stress that some of the exposed features may cause the system not to boot if changed.

If your system refuses to boot, you'll just need to clear the CMOS via the jumper by the CMOS battery. Not the end of the world, but could be inconvenient for some.
 
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Firebug24k

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Apr 12, 2017
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Thanks man, I really appreciate all your hard work on this. Anxious to try it out this week!

Okay one more thing! Here's a bootable ISO with everything included you can use via the Virtual Media Mount in the MergePoint BMC:


So, if you already have the server racked, you can just do this from the comfort of your desk or whatever. This is what I used to upgrade 3 of my servers - works like a champ. Just mount it, make sure to press enter when prompted to boot to the FreeDOS live CD, type flash.bat and you're off!

I do want to stress that some of the exposed features may cause the system not to boot if changed. Some of the features might be unfinished, not designed to be changed, or not working entirely. Tread lightly and only change what you need to from defaults.
 
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Zalouma

Member
Aug 5, 2020
32
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As promised here's an updated BIOS file that can be flashed to these servers! You'll need to use a USB bootable flash drive. You can use Rufus and FreeDOS. Provision the drive with Rufus, then just copy the files inside of the archive to the root of the flash drive. You just need to run flash.bat from the command line, and press Y when prompted to flash. This will reset your current BIOS config, but won't touch the BMC or anything else. You also need to make sure you don't have your server set to UEFI Boot for this to work properly and Video specifically is using Legacy (not UEFI) in the CSM.

There's no way to flash this via the BMC as it's expecting a signed copy, and I don't have the keys. Of course, I don't take responsibility for what might happen if you flash this. However, you can easily flash the old BIOS back via the BMC if something does not go right since it's not impacted by any of this. Yay servers!

I built this in about 2 hours, and have flashed it with success. BIOS will still report R16 as the version, but it's lying to you - I promise. I'll address that if I release another version - there's not many of these servers in the wild so going with the minimal effort --> maximum reward approach at this point. Think of it as a "vastly improved" version of R16.


So...what's new you might ask?
  1. Updated the microcode for the CPUs to the latest available. This impacted v4 processors the most as the current BIOS microcode was a bit out of date. v3 processors got a slight bump as well.
View attachment 17860
  1. Updated the EFI driver stack for the onboard LAN controller to the latest version available.
  2. Fixed a lot of bad wording/spelling errors in the BIOS and tried to make it a bit easier to understand.
  3. Added a TON of settings related to the platform - CPU, Power Control, PCI Express, you name it - some settings might not work at all, but they are there and waiting. Might help folks troubleshoot stability if needed or enable some other neat stuff.
  4. Added PCI Express bifuriciation control under IIO Configuration in the Chipset tab. :D

    View attachment 17861
Awesome thanks so much for this great work, cant wait to flash this and test it out

Did the PCI Express bifuriciation worked with dual nvme pci card?! or 4 nvme?
 

ptcfast2

Member
Feb 1, 2021
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Did the PCI Express bifuriciation worked with dual nvme pci card?! or 4 nvme?
It should - I didn't test it, but setting it to the appropriate setting on the slot your card is installed should do the trick. It's built into the platform, so no reason why it wouldn't work if the setting is there.
 

puglife

New Member
Mar 12, 2021
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Thank you ptcfast2 for the bios. I been running it for about 2 days now and its going strong.


For anyone setting up these systems. Stuff i found out.

I bought 4 of them. 3 had 13 bios and had no issue using v4 cpus. The 4th had a old 5 and it wouldn't load anything with v4 chip. I couldn't get the bmc to work or anything. Only way was to get a loaner v3 cpu . It would freeze at the chipset line.
Next ram needs to be in correct spot. Check the manual. You're looking at the blue spots first but they need to be right ones
These run windows 10 and newest Ubuntu just fine.
Lastly the heatsinks with these are not flat. I feel its worth taking little time and lapping them down. Some of mine were a lot worse than others. It looks like they might be getting damage with the way they bolt them in without a cpu.
 

AviationLogic

New Member
Feb 23, 2021
9
3
3
So having a bit of an issue with our second server.

I have known good E5-2699v3's/memory but cannot get past boot code 79.. We even ordered a e5-2620v3 and have the same issue.

I'm open to suggestions. Currently we are trying to boot of 1 stick mem and CPU0 populated.
 

Zalouma

Member
Aug 5, 2020
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So having a bit of an issue with our second server.

I have known good E5-2699v3's/memory but cannot get past boot code 79.. We even ordered a e5-2620v3 and have the same issue.

I'm open to suggestions. Currently we are trying to boot of 1 stick mem and CPU0 populated.
Code 79 is normally related to VGA port on these servers, do you have PCI VGA installed? or using any PCI Card on these?
 

ptcfast2

Member
Feb 1, 2021
38
58
18
So having a bit of an issue with our second server.

I have known good E5-2699v3's/memory but cannot get past boot code 79.. We even ordered a e5-2620v3 and have the same issue.

I'm open to suggestions. Currently we are trying to boot of 1 stick mem and CPU0 populated.
For what it's worth I encountered this specific code with PCI Express cards being installed and changing a BIOS setting to something the PCI Express card didn't like. Had to clear CMOS.

Another time I saw this code was RAM - it would hang there and a DIMM needed to have its contacts cleaned with alcohol and reseated before it would post. It's not a very informative BIOS, but if you're getting VGA output, it means that the server is working and it's not the processor. BMC would alert if it detected a processor fault and well, the server wouldn't uhm....process anything. :D

More than likely an add-on card or RAM related. If you can swap RAM modules that's also a good way to test. Clear CMOS first, then try the other stuff if you can/if it's applicable to your configuration. The BMC also might shed more insight via the SEL Log and let you know that it's encountered something. When you see "Please wait for chipset initialization" the BMC is the conductor here for the most part. It's a bit of a dance between it and the BIOS to make sure the server is A-OK healthwise before giving you control.
 
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ptcfast2

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Feb 1, 2021
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Also: If anyone can test bi-furication with my little modded BIOS that would be grand. I would, but the card I used to test before is being used now, and I can't remove it from where it is installed.
 

AviationLogic

New Member
Feb 23, 2021
9
3
3
Code 79 is normally related to VGA port on these servers, do you have PCI VGA installed? or using any PCI Card on these?
Was just processor and onboard VGA which displayed video with no addon cards, We tried different CPU's memory configurations memory reseats the whole nine yards. We could not get the machine to get past code 79.

We ordered two servers 1/2 worked without issues.

Currently running dual E5-2699v3's and 128gbs ram. :D
 

AviationLogic

New Member
Feb 23, 2021
9
3
3
For what it's worth I encountered this specific code with PCI Express cards being installed and changing a BIOS setting to something the PCI Express card didn't like. Had to clear CMOS.

Another time I saw this code was RAM - it would hang there and a DIMM needed to have its contacts cleaned with alcohol and reseated before it would post. It's not a very informative BIOS, but if you're getting VGA output, it means that the server is working and it's not the processor. BMC would alert if it detected a processor fault and well, the server wouldn't uhm....process anything. :D

More than likely an add-on card or RAM related. If you can swap RAM modules that's also a good way to test. Clear CMOS first, then try the other stuff if you can/if it's applicable to your configuration. The BMC also might shed more insight via the SEL Log and let you know that it's encountered something. When you see "Please wait for chipset initialization" the BMC is the conductor here for the most part. It's a bit of a dance between it and the BIOS to make sure the server is A-OK healthwise before giving you control.
Tried a clearing CMOS, BIOS Recovery. Memory swaps with known good chips etc. No external cards. I couldn't even get into the IPMI. Different CPUs all V3. and all gets stuck at Initializing chipset, code 79. Can't try updating bios because the server would not post.
 
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puglife

New Member
Mar 12, 2021
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4
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Tried a clearing CMOS, BIOS Recovery. Memory swaps with known good chips etc. No external cards. I couldn't even get into the IPMI. Different CPUs all V3. and all gets stuck at Initializing chipset, code 79. Can't try updating bios because the server would not post.
When booting before it locks do you see an ip address in the bottom corner? These are said to be able to bios update without cpu or ram. I never was able to get it to work. Seeing you have 1 good one working. Maybe double check all the jumpers are matching. I would try using only 1 cpu and 1 stick of ram. Ram has to be in the correct spot listed in the manual.
 

puglife

New Member
Mar 12, 2021
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Anyone put in a standard video card into these? How you did you power the pcie ? From one of the 8pin atx ports?
 

AviationLogic

New Member
Feb 23, 2021
9
3
3
When booting before it locks do you see an ip address in the bottom corner? These are said to be able to bios update without cpu or ram. I never was able to get it to work. Seeing you have 1 good one working. Maybe double check all the jumpers are matching. I would try using only 1 cpu and 1 stick of ram. Ram has to be in the correct spot listed in the manual.
Hmm. I hadn't thought to compare jumpers, Management Eth port shows activity, but doesn't seem to be pulling an IP. Ram is in correct spot far left first blue, and CPU0 populated. Still seems to fail at initializing chips. On the bright side the seller is sending a replacement server and requesting the old one be returned. So i'll play with it more when we get our replacement unit.
 
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ptcfast2

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Feb 1, 2021
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Anyone put in a standard video card into these? How you did you power the pcie ? From one of the 8pin atx ports?
Most video cards won't fit in this server due to the proximity of the PCI Express full height slots to the DIMM locations. If the card is too long, it won't fit. You'll want a GPU that is geared towards Mini-ITX if you want something to fit - GPU can't be much longer than the actual PCI Express x16 slot itself. About 2-3 inches longer is the limit. I've got Quadros in mine and the server works great with them and PCI Passthrough. 0 issues.

As for power, those ports you mentioned are for GPUs, so if you get a card that requires external power, you can just power it off those.