We have decided it was time to upgrade our small Linux server which runs Home Assistant and several other docker containers.

In 2017 we installed a Gigabyte EL-20 3700 ultra-small form factor PC which had an Intel Pentium N3710 processor, 8Gb ram and 120Gb drive and this has been running 24/7 for the past six years.

Since setting up the system we have gradually increased the number of docker containers running on the computer and the lack of RAM and drive storage has become an issue.

After looking at several options we decided to upgrade to a new system running the Intel Quad-Core Processor N100 chipset and use an ASRock N100DC-ITX motherboard which has similar power consumption.

Case and Motherboard
Parts to build the new computer

The motherboard features:

  • Intel Quad-Core Processor N100 with 4 E-cores with a turbo frequency of 3.4GHz and Intel UHD Graphics
  • Supports 1 DDR4 DIMM
  • 1 DC Jack (5.5 x 2.5mm) for an external 19V power adapter
  • 1 PCIe 3.0 x4 x2 mode, 1 M.2 Key E for WiFi
  • Graphics Output Options: D-Sub, HDMI
  • 7.1 CH HD Audio, Realtek ALC897 Audio Codec
  • 2 SATA3, 1 M.2 PCIe Gen3x2
  • 4 USB 3.2 Gen1, 2 Rear, 2 Front
  • Realtek Gigabit LAN

The motherboard has a built-in heatsink and is a fanless design so we will not have any fan noise from the computer. CPU Comparisons from CPU Benchmark

  Intel N100 Intel Pentium N3710
Socket Type NA FCBGA1170
Max Turbo Frequency Up to 3.40 GHz Up to 2.6 GHz
Total Cores 4 4
Total Threads 4 4
Graphics Intel UHD Graphics Intel HD Graphics 405
Max Resolution 4096 x 2160 @60Hz Unknown
Thermal Design Power (TDP) 6 W 6 W
Memory Type DDR4 3200 MT/s
DDR5 4800 MT/s
LPDDR5 4800 MT/s
Released Q1 2023 Q1 2016
Single Thread Rating 1974 686
CPU Mark 5640 1383

The above benchmarks show the new processor is over 300% faster on the CPU mark and 188% faster on single-threaded applications whilst keeping the same low TDP of 6 watts.

Parts Used and Assembly

Item Price Link
Asrock N100DC-ITX Motherboard £123.46 techimage.co.uk
Goodisory A01 Aluminum Mini-ITX HTPC Desktop Computer Chassis (Red Aluminum) £38.22 Amazon UK
19V 4.74A 90W Laptop Charger £19.80 Amazon UK
Crucial 32GB (1x32GB) 3200MHz CL22 DDR4 Desktop Memory £63.99 ebuyer.com
Crucial P3 Plus 1TB PCIe 4.0 3D NAND NVMe M.2 SSD £55.98 ebuyer.com
Total £301.45  

Assembly is straightforward; the top of the case is removed using four screws which reveals a hard drive mount bracket which is held in place with 2 screws. With this removed the motherboard backplate is installed and the motherboard is fitted into the case onto built-in standoffs.

Case top removed
The top of the case removed showing hard drive bracket
New motherboard
The new motherboard and Intel N100 processor
Rear panel view
Rear panel showing the motherboard installed
Side View
Side of the case showing extra USB 3 ports

Software Setup

The computer was connected to a monitor, network and keyboard and Ubuntu Server 22.04.3 LTS was installed.

We then proceeded to install the software needed for Home Assistant and other applications including:

Docker Images:

Home Assistant Docker edition.

Firefly III, a free and open-source personal finance manager.

Bookstack is a self-hosted wiki which we use to store documentation for our projects.

Gitlab, self-hosted source code version control.

Uptime Kuma which is an easy-to-use self-hosted monitoring tool for websites.

Zigbee2MQTT is used to communicate between our house’s Zigbee sensors with the MQTT server and Home Assistant.

We also set up a Samba file share to copy the databases and configuration files to the new server from the existing machine.

Moving Home Assistant

Our Home Assistant database is stored on the MySQL server, and we created a backup on the old computer which saved a 1.8Gb database file.

We initially tried to restore this to the new server using phpMyAdmin but this failed due to timeouts. We then proceeded to copy the file to the new server and use the terminal with the following command to restore the database:

mysql -u myusername –p homeassistant < homeassistantbackup.sql

Once the database was restored, we copied the Home Assistant configuration folder for Docker and created the Home Assistant Docker image using docker-compose scripts.

Overheating Problems

Shortly after installing the operating system and setting up the software packages, we found that the new case was very hot and checking the CPU temperatures showed the cores over 95 degrees Celsius.

As this is far too hot for the CPU, we shut down the computer, removed the top of the case and temporarily fitted a spare Noctua NF-A14 140mm fan and connected it to the CPU fan header on the motherboard.

Running the computer for several hours showed CPU temperatures around 35 to 45 degrees Celsius which is a big improvement.

As the motherboard was described as a fanless unit, it must need very good natural airflow and the case we purchased was too restrictive for the heatsink.

The top of the case is a 4mm thick aluminium sheet and it has slots milled for airflow, but these are much too small to allow adequate airflow.

To resolve this, we created a cutout in the top panel on our mill, mounted the Noctua 140mm fan into the panel and added a finger guard over the top to stop any finger loss.

Cutting the case top
Cutting a hole in the top of the case to fit a cooling fan
Fan fitted
The 140mm fan fitted into the case top
Fan installed into the case
The new fan fitted with a finger guard

We initially planned to fit the fan on the outside of the case and created an additional cutout for the power cable but after creating the new cutout we found that the fan would fit inside the case and had clearance for the heatsink.

Installed in the rack
Installed in the small server rack