Guide: How to build a MediaSmart Server Storage Enclosure

by Stephen Bruce on October 27, 2010 · 4 comments

in Guides

Last year forum member erail posted a message about how he converted a demo EX470 to become an MediaSmart Server Port Multiplier giving him a matching port multiplier for his EX470 and he did a fine job.  Inspired with what erail had done I decided to do the same and since then I have converted 2 MediaSmart Server enclosures to become Port Multipliers.

I have to admit the first conversion I did was over kill, requiring machining tools that most of you do not have access too.  While that unit is online and running I thought about those of you who might like to convert an MSS Enclosure and decided to make it simple, using tools that everyone has access to or could easily purchase or borrow.  To make things interesting I built the second unit at my kitchen table and yes I made a mess but I wanted to do this in a location other than where I work to prove a point.

So if you have an MSS enclosure sitting there and you would like to convert it to become an MSS Port Multiplier then please read on to see if this is something that is of interest to you.

TOOLS YOU WILL NEED:

  1. A Dremel
    1. Cut off wheels
    2. Burr attachment
    3. 3/8” Hand Drill
    4. Philips Head Screw Driver
    5. Adjustable wrench (Used only to hold standoffs while tightening screws)
    6. 6” Scale or Adjustable Square to help with hole locations.
    7. Soldering Iron (Any 30-40w Soldering Iron will do).  If you are not comfortable soldering then you can purchase insulated terminals to slide on the ON/OFF switch but soldering is a better approach to ensure the connections hold in place better.
      1. .032 diameter Rosin-Core Solder ( Radio Shack Cat # 64-009)
      2. Desoldering Braid (Radio Shack Cat # 64-2090)
      3. Steady hands for soldering
      4. Wire Strippers.   
      5. Terminal Crimpers
      6. 4-40 Tap
      7. #43 Drill Bit for the 4-40 Tap
      8. Small Drill Bit Sets to open up Clearance Holes as needed (1/16 – 3/16 set)
      9. (Optional) Calipers these help for spotting holes and determining clearance hole sizes but are not necessary.  Clearance holes can be made with a 1/8, 5/32 or 3/16 drill bits.  I found the 5/32 works best in most cases but if the holes are off they can be opened up more with the 3/16 bit.
      10. Antistatic Mat – this is to protect the components you are working with. 
      11. Files and Emory cloth, used to smoothen out burrs from drilling.
      12. Needle Nose Pliers
      13. 2 – 4 SATA Drives mounted in the MSS Drive trays to help with alignment of the new back plane.
      14. Flash Light
      15. Ultra-Fine Point Sharpie Permanent marker

PARTS NEEDED FOR PURCHASE:

Some of the parts are optional others can be substituted.  I have listed the components I used and where you can purchase them.  Some you may already have.  I did change out the case fans to improve air flow through the unit and saved the existing case fans for my other EX470’s should I need them later.  The hyperlinks below in blue are there only to show you where I found the components for this project but you can purchase them from suppliers of your choice.  The only part you have to purchase from the vender listed is for the CFI-B43PM Port Multiplier Back Plane board.  This you will purchase from www.storage4mac.com but it will be shipped to you by www.sansdigital.com which is shown below.

  1. 200-250w Power Supply  (I will discuss this more in detail later)
  2. Red Butt Connectors (Can be found anywhere but here is Radio Shacks listing)
  3. 80mm Cooling Fans – to provide more CFM than existing Case Fans but you can reuse the case fans of keep them as spares if you have another MSS.  This fan is rated for 64.6 CFM
  4. 60mm Fan (Optional but helps bring in additional air through the front grill to help keep the PSU cooler) – For this you will have to build a means to mount the fan.
  5. Silicon Fan Mounts (Frys Electronics)
  6. CFI-B43PM board which you can order from Storage4mac.com for $48 at the time of this writing
  7. On/Off Switch to turn the unit on and off (Radio Shack P/N: 275-691)
  8. Battery Charger Connector (Optional – Radio Shack P/N: 23-445)
  9. 7 PC Board Standoffs (Radio Shack P/N: 276-195) you will need 2 packages of them.
  10. 1” x 1” x 36”  90 degree x 1/16” thick Aluminum Stock (Home Depot)
  11. ½” x 36” x 1/16” thick Aluminum Stock (Lowes)
  12. Sata-eSTATA Cable (Can be purchased at most computer suppliers)
  13. 90 degree M/F SATA Connector (Microcenter P/N:  SATA-90MF) the original part I used was OSA25 also purchased at Microcenter.   You may be able to find a 90 degree Female to eSATA to eliminate multiple connections.
  14. 4-40 x ¼ Phillips head screws (16 pcs required)
  15. 90 degree Molex Connection prewired cable (Can be purchased at most computer suppliers)
  16. Cable ties to hold the wires in place when assembling the unit.

INFOMANTION ON WHY THIS WORKS AND WHAT YOU WILL ACTUALLY END UP WITH

When the conversion is complete what you will actually have is a CFI Port Multiplier which operates the same as the Sans Digital TR4m or Rosewill RSV4 because you will have used the same back plane board as used in those units.  The trays and hard drive alignment in the MSS is a perfect match for the CFI Back Plane Board.  

Now this is what I call an interesting project and will provide you with a matching port multiplier but I will be honest it’s cheaper to just purchase a TR4m.  When erail did his conversion he used the components from an existing CFI Port Multiplier for his project and then converted the CFI Port Multiplier back using Addonics components.  Also erail modified some drive caddies in his project because he did not have the caddies in the enclosure he purchased and this guide assumes you have the HP Drive Caddies or Trays.

Once again I have to be clear in explaining that performing this modification does not save you money as it’s cheaper to just purchase an existing Port Multiplier like the TR4m but I think you will agree with me in that it’s a nice project as it allows you to have a matching Port Multiplier to go with your server.

DISSASSEMBLING YOUR MSS ENCLOSURE:

  1. Place the MSS on the Antic Static Mat
  2. Open the front door and then slid the top of the enclosure towards you.  With the MSS frame now exposed ground the Anti Static Mat  to the MSS Frame and put the ground strap on to protect the components you are about to work with.   From this point on you should have the ground strap on when handling static sensitive devices.
  3. Remove all drive trays
  4. Remove the fan and led board connectors from the MSS Back Plane.
  5. Turn the two back plane locks and carefully extract the MSS Back Plane.  The MSS Back Plane will no longer be needed so you can save it for spare parts or sell it.
  6. Remove the two small screws on the right side of the front grill.  As you remove the front grill you will need to remove the connection to the LED board to free it.  Since the screws are small and can be easily lost, I recommend you screw them back in to the frame.
  7. Remove the front door by loosening the screw to the upper left bracket which holds the door in place.  There is no need to remove the screw or the bracket as the door can be removed with the bracket in place.  Leaving it there will prevent you from losing it.
  8. Remove the 2 silver screws that hold the Power Supply/Motherboard Assembly and slide the assembly out.  
  9. Remove the motherboard from the assembly.  Disconnect the Power Supply, LED board Cable, Debug Cable if installed.  You will need to unscrew the heat sink to release the motherboard from the assembly along with the screws holding the motherboard to the assembly.  Remove the heat sink and processor cleaning both.  Store the processor in a safe location or you can leave it in the motherboard which will protect the pins from becoming damaged.
  10. Store the motherboard in an antistatic bag and place it in a safe location of your choosing.
  11. Extract the Power Supply which is held in by screws at the rear of the assembly.
  12. Remove the side panels there is a latch on the inside of the drive cage that you will need to push out then the panel can be slid to the rear of the MSS Enclosure.   Do not force the panels as you can damage then.  Use a flash light to see the tabs which you will need to release which is in the 3rd bay from the bottom.  You will need to press these tabs in and push the side panel to the rear of the enclosure.  It’s a challenge but they will eventually come out.  Take care not to damage them as they have molded in clips to help secure them to the enclosure.
  13. Remove the back panel from the MSS Enclosure by pulling up on it.
  14. Remove the two fans they have silicone mounts and they can be slide to the side and extracted.

CONSIDERATION FOR THE COMPONENTS REMOVED

Now that you have your MSS completely disassembled now is the time to figure out what do with the components you have removed.   Since you probably have another MSS you may want to keep the PSU for a spare and purchase a new PSU.  The reason is there is only 1 known supplier of direct replacement PSU’s for the MSS and its more cost effective to just purchase a new PSU for this project rather than reusing the one you just extracted.  

The fans are another component that I suggest you keep since they are prewired and may be of use in your existing MSS.  I would also leave the silicone mounts on the fans as you can damage them if you improperly extract them.

The motherboard, processor, heat sink and RAM if functional may be of value and can be sold on this site or eBay if you no longer require them.   What I do not know is if the heat sink used on all MSS units is of the same design and if so you may want to hold onto it should you decide to remove some of the aluminum stock to add a small fan to assist with heat removal. 

LET THE MODIFICATIONS BEGIN:

1.   Remove the back part of the enclosure

There are 6 rivets which attach the back cage panel to the MSS Enclosure; you will need to drill out with a #43 drill.   Once this panel is removed you will need to tap the holes with a 4-40 in the panel itself and then open up the side holds of the enclosure to make clearance holes for the 4-40 screws to pass through.

The reason for doing this is to make it easier to service the unit in the future and to allow ample room to build and install the components that will soon hold the CFI-B43PM Back Plane Board in place.

The reason for using 4-40 screws is because not only do they work but the height of the head does not interfere with installing the side panels.

2.  Remove the steel stock which originally held the MSS Back Plane in place

There are several tabs which held the original MSS Back Plane in place that interfere with the installation of the CFI-B43PM Back Plane Board.  These tabs need to be removed and the edges need to be smoothened out.  The tabs can be bent back and forth with pliers till they break free with pliers or using a Burr attachment with the Dremel ground out.   As the picture below indicates you will need to remove some additional stock to provide clearance for the new board about to be installed and to eliminate the potential for shorting out the board after it has been installed.

Remove any sharp edges with the burr and then the file to eliminate areas which you could cut yourself on while working on the unit.  To make certain the edges are smooth to the touch use emery cloth to further smooth the edges.  

Blow out the enclosure to remove metal fragments.  Now carefully handle the CFI-B43PM Back Plane Board and confirm there is no steel stock in the way for mounting the new board.  Place 2 drives in MSS Drive Caddies and insert the bottom drive first then carefully seat it in the bottom backplane connector and then carefully seat the top drive.  This is only to make certain the board can be mounted.  Care must be taken not to damage the board and remember when handling these components to make certain you are grounded.

Remove additional steel stock as necessary and make certain that before you proceed that you have confirmed that there is no steel stock from the MSS Case Frame that will interfere with the installation of the board.  Then remove the drives and backplane.

3.  BUILDING THE CFI-B53PM SUPPORT STRUCTURE

Looking at the new backplane you will notice there are 7 mounting holes.  What we need to do is using Aluminum stock build a frame that we will later mount to the sides of the MSS Enclosure.  You will need to use the standoffs to mount the board to the frame which we are about to build.  The purpose for the standoffs are for support and space needed for the backplane board connections.   What you will soon begin to realize is that there is not a lot of space here to work with but I can assure you that using the exact components I listed earlier you will not have difficulty putting this unit together.

Cut two pieces of 1 x 1 Angle Aluminum stock so that they are longer then the back plane board about 5” in length and remove any burs from the stock with the file and emery cloth.  Take a close look at the side molding as they have molded in structural ribs and clips which attach the panel to the side of the enclosure.  These are important because you will need to drill 4 holes in the sides of the enclosure to provide support for the back plane board and it is important that the screws are located between the ribs to provide ample clearance so the side panels can be installed without difficulty.

With the side panels off find the centers between the ribs and mark their locations on the side of the MSS Enclosure.  Now you will want to draw a grid to properly spot the mounting hoes you will need to make.   Keep in mind there is plenty of room for error here but you must keep the holes away from the ribs or you will not be able to attach the side panels.

So making the grid is simple.  From the back of the enclosure to the front you will need to measure 1.5” and from there using a Square  draw a line from the top of the enclosure down towards the bottom  5” in length on both sides of the enclosure.   Now using your center markings take the square and make horizontal lines across the vertical line you just drew on both sides of the enclosure.  This will provide you with the approximate locations of the holes you will need to drill but do not drill them just yet because we will need to verify the assembly.

Attach the PC Board Standoff to the back side of the CFI-B43PM board.  The back side is where the power and SATA connections are so to be clear the screws you will attach these Standoffs will be on the Drive Side of the board.

Insert a drive mounted in a Drive tray into the bottom slot.  Carefully connect the Port Multiplier Board to the bottom drive.  Now do the same with another drive but use the top drive bay.  What this does is give you an alignment of the board and the ability to verify the hole locations on the side of the enclosure but taking the 1” x 1” angle brackets you cut earlier and placing them inside the enclosure so that the backs will touch the standoffs and the sides of the brackets touch the sides of the enclosure and point towards the front of the enclosure.

Once you verify everything intersects well you can remove the board and drives from the enclosure and drill the holes using the #43 drill bit needed to make the 4-40 holes.  Later we will open up the holes to make them clearance holes but for now they are there to help us spot another set of holes we will need to make.

Now insert the drives and attach the angle bracket and lightly press it against the standoffs and against the side of the enclosure.  Using the Sharpie marking pen mark the location of the holes you will need to drill and tap on the sides of the bracket using the holes you just made in the side of the enclosure.  Do this with both the right and left bracket.  Now using the #43 drill bit make the 4 holes in the sides of the angle bracket then then tap those holes using the 4-40 tap.  Clean off any metal fragments that may be left.

Remove the drives and the board so that you can open up the side holes in the enclosure.  Using a 5/32 drill open up the 7 holes on each side of the MSS Enclosure.  Three holes are for the back panel and the other four are for the angle brackets which will support the backplane board.  These holes need to be large enough to allow a 4-40 screw to pass and also be smaller than the head of the 4-40 screw but also to allow some play when performing the final assembly.

Now we have to spot the holes to mount the CFI-B43PM board to the MSS enclosure.   Again insert the drives and connect them to the back plane.  Attach the side angle brackets and screw them in taking care not to over tighten the screws just make them snug enough to hold the brackets in place.  Locate the 4 standoffs now touching the brackets.  Mark the centers of the top two standoffs from the top and the side of each standoff.  Now remove the angle brackets and with your center markings draw lines till they intersect as this will give you the location of the top two clearance holes to drill.   Now measure the distance between the centers of the top and bottom standoffs and mark a line on the angle brackets to represent the distance.  Now measure the distance to the center using the top standoff location and mark that on the bottom.  Do this for both sides and when done remove the angle brackets and use a 5/32 drill to make the clearance holes for the screws that came with the standoffs.  Again the hole has to be large enough for the screws to pass through but smaller than the head to properly secure the brackets to the standoffs. 

Now attach the angle brackets to the side of the enclosure and to the standoffs.  If you did your hole locations properly they should fit without issue and if not the is some room for adjustment as the holes and be opened up a bit more if necessary.   Screw the angle bracket to the standoffs.  At this point you should be able to remove and insert the drives with few problems.  If you are having difficulty simply open up the holes in the brackets allowing for the board to find its home until you are able to insert and remove the drives normally. 

The last bracket you need to make is for the center standoff.  This one is a tad bit more difficult to locate but obviously not difficult at all.   Measure the inside distance between the two angle brackets and cut a piece of the ½” x 1/16” aluminum flat stock to size.  It can be a bit smaller it just has to fit and it’s not a perfect fit because there will be a slight bend in it when you install it.  Insert the flat stock piece of aluminum you just cut then simply let it rest on top of the center standoff and mark the center of the standoff onto the flat stock.   Now remove the flat stock and drill a clearance hole in the center so you can attach it to the standoff.   Insert the flat stock again only this time you will need to pull it out a bit to go over the standoff and yes it will be slightly bent but its ok.   Screw the flat stock into the standoff but before tightening it down adjust the flat stock so that its level and then tighten the screw.

Now for the scary part, using the #43 drill carefully drill a hole through the angle bracket and drill through the flat stock on both sides.  Now remove the flat sock piece and tap the two new holes 4-40 and then using a 5/32 drills open up the two holes you just made to the angle bracket.  Using canned air blow out the metal shavings from the enclosure and attach the flat stock to the assembly.

Now you can tighten down the screws and test how well the board alignment it first by inserting drives in the top and bottom bays and then to the middle bays.  Remember you can open up the clearance holes a bit to allow the board to find its home.  Do not force the drives in, they should slide in easily.   If you have made it this far then you have done well and the hard part is over.

4.  INSTALLING AND WIRING OF A POWER SUPPLY

There are of wide selection of power supplies to choose from but they all have similar wiring characteristics.   Below are the required connections you will need from your power supply of choice.

  1. 2 power connections to the back plane which should be 90 degree Molex Connections
  2. 2-3 fan connections.  The front fan is optional the two rear are required
  3. Start Stop connection for the on/off switch

The remaining wires can be terminated or tucked in alongside the PSU Cage but there is simply   not enough room to leave all the connectors in place.  What I chose to do is to cut the connectors off and using heat shrink tubing simply just covered up the ends of the wires.  If your experienced working with PSU’s you can simply de-solder the unnecessary wires and be done with them.   For this project I just chose to cut the wires and insulate them with shrink tubing but you will need a heat gun to shrink the tubing to the wire.   I then used cable ties to secure the wires in place alongside the power supply cage out of harm’s way.   In future they may come in handy for a power source for the MSS LED’s but that remains to be seen as additional power conversion and switching of signals from the CFI Backplane Board may be required.  Point here is I prefer you not mess around with the internals of a PSU both for your safety and to avoid potential damage to the PSU, Back Plane Board and your drives.

The PSU I chose for this project was an FSP200-PLA 200W which fits perfectly in the power supply cage.   This particular power supply had additional vents that the actual cage blocked so for the vent considerations I simply removed the steel stock from the MSS PSU cage to allow the PSU to function as it was designed to.   The PSU you chose may not require you to modify the PSU Cage but when choosing a PSU please keep this in mind.

Also the FSP200-PLA 200W as well as other similar units tend to be smaller in length which allowed me to install a front fan to bring in additional airflow to help keep the PSU cooler which is optional and shown in the pictures below.

Everything I have done was with the thought of being able to fully disassemble and service my MSS Port Multiplier should the need ever arise which is why I chose to use various connections that you may or may not want to install.

The power and fan connections are pretty basic and I do not need to address them but what you need to get is 90 degree Molex connectors that you can either wire yourself of purchase them as I did pre-wired.  These keep the power connections clear of the fans.   The other set of wires you will need are the ones to start and stop the PSU which on the motherboard connector are pins 13 and 14 where 13 is black and 14 is green.  On the MSS PSU its pins 1 & 2 where 1 is black and 2 is green.  These two wires will need to be soldered onto the Normally Open Contacts of the On/Off Switch.  If you look at all the pictures I have provided you will notice that if I have to open up the enclosure everything can be unplugged and moved off to the side.  This includes the on/off switch, eSATA connector, fans and all the PSU connections thus making tear down an easier process, just how you chose to approach this task it entirely up to you.

For additional information on the MSS PSU and replacements PSU that are known to fit in the MSS enclosure please review the sites Wiki.  If you chose to use the PSU in your MSS Enclosure you will need to locate the wires required for the Molex Connectors and Fans.  Because the MSS PSU is special I do not recommend using it for this application as it will server you better as a backup PSU and should you decide to sell it you can sell it for more money than the cost of the PSU I used.  Having said all this the MSS PSU is very special and has a higher value then purchasing a PSU for this project.

5.  INSTALLING THE ESATA, FANS AND ON/OFF SWITCH TO THE BACK PANEL.

I wanted to keep the MSS Enclosure as close to original as possible without having to modify it too much or take away from its aesthetics.   I chose to use as many of the case openings as possible.  Notice that where the rear USB ports are is a rather large switch to turn the unit on or off and that I did use the original eSATA port location for the eSATA connection but covered the LAN port with part of the eSATA Bracket to properly secure it in place.

The on/off switch is a bit larger than the hole for the USB connections so using a dremmel and a burr attachment I removed enough steel stock to properly mount the switch.

Using Silicone Mounts installed on 80mm fan slide the fans in place taking care to mount them so that they will blow air out from the MSS Enclosure.  Secure the wires as best as possible alongside the fans so that the wires do not come in contact with the fan blades.  Mount the eSATA connection to the panel you will have to drill and tap a 4-40 hold to hold the eSATA connection in place also notice I used the metal bracket to properly secure the connector to the back of the MSS enclosure which accommodated the stresses involved with inserting and extracting the eSATA cable.

6.  FINAL ASSEMBLY

Install the PSU and screw its cage to the enclosure to hold it in place.  Take care to route the cables necessary to the back of the enclosure to make the power connections to the board, fans. Slide the plastic cover onto the back enclosure panel.  Connect the power cables and the 90 degree SATA connection to the board.   Connect the fans and the power switch connectors.  Attach the rear panel to the MSS enclosure using 6 4-40 screws to hold it in place.  Slide the side panels back on the MSS enclosure they will snap into place.  Reattach the front door and grill remember to remove the small screws from the enclosure case.   Slide the top back on the enclosure.  Install the compliment of drives you desire to use.  Connect the eSATA cable to the unit and server and then connect the power cable.

Now say a prayer so the server gods will be nice to you and turn the unit on.  If all goes well you should now have a fully functional MSS Port Multiplier others will surely desire to have but you can always point them to this guide so they can build their own.

Below is a pic of the actual MSS Port Multiplier test which are shown as Unmanaged Disks in the Disk Management Display or Disks 12-15.

7.  FUTURE PLANS

What I have yet to address is the LED Conversions from the CFI-B43PM board to the existing MSS LEDs.  It is my intention to build a conversion board for this in the future so that you can determine the status of your unit and drive activity.  Stanley at Sans Digital was kind enough to supply me with the information on the LEDs for the CFI-B43PM and CFI-B53PM back plane boards.

For those with EX49x servers if you do this you will lose 1 bay of capacity because your eSATA can support up to 5 bays.   So if having that 5th bay is important to you then this project may not be in your best interest.  However there exists a CFI-B53PM board which can be used to build your own enclosure or you can still convert an MSS Enclosure but to do that it will require you to do some extreme modifications to the drive bays because the spacing for the drives is different between the two Back Plane Boards.  In the future if I can get my hands on another enclosure I will convert it for a 5 drive Port Multiplier.  There are some extreme challenges but I am certain it can be done but first I need an enclosure to work with and another MSS Drive tray or I would need to use a different drive tray and build a new internal drive bay frame and have to modify the front grill to accommodate the 5th drive without ruining the entire esthetics of the unit itself and the LEDS would have to be changed modified as well.

If these are of interest to you please let me know and I will be more than happy to add them to my ever growing list of projects.  The idea here is to have fun doing something interesting and indeed unique.

8.  FINAL THOUGHTS

I have to thank erail for being the first to demonstrate this could be done.   I have built 2 of these units and while both were done somewhat similar the 2nd unit was done only to demonstrate the simplicity that it can be done with tools most have at home or that can be borrowed.   It’s clear there are multiple ways to do this, erail used very simple brackets he attached to hold his board in place and used lower profile fans and did so without removing the back panel.   If you chose to convert an MSS enclosure you may find another interesting way to do the modification and hopefully you will share your ideas with others.

This project is not exactly cost effective when you can purchase a TR4m for $100-150.  However it is an interesting project that provides you with something very unique.  The total cost for each of you will be determined by what you already have vs. what you need to purchase.  Some of the cost as mentioned can be offset by selling off the components you do not need and can also provide you spare components you might be able to use in the future.





Article by

By day I am a Plant Engineer running a food container manufacturing facility which supplies containers to the Chinese Restaurant Industry. By night I spend my time helping others with their Windows Home Servers, working on various server projects. My other interests are animals, photography, media streaming, cultural history and linguistics. You can find me in the MediaSmartServer.net forums as Comp1962


{ 3 comments }

diehard October 27, 2010 at 7:45 am

Thanks for taking the time to build and share this project. Great photos, I enjoy hardware hacks.

The Kitty October 27, 2010 at 4:41 pm

Don’t forget – if you have an EX48x unit, you can only hook one non-multiplied eSATA device so this will not be a good option.

Comp1962 November 7, 2010 at 7:03 pm

@ The Kitty ~ Thats a good point.

Comments are closed, visit the forums to continue the discussion.

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: