New lightweight server or how to fix existing one

A while ago I started using old notebooks as servers for various tasks and I grew quite fond of them. Unfortunately, both of said notebooks are facing difficulties currently…

The first notebook running Ubuntu does not boot anymore and there is no display output when I connect a screen to it. However, the fans ramp up to 100% but nothing happens.

The second notebook running Manjaro would probably still work but it faces another issue. Like I did with the Ubuntu notebook, I disconnected the display of this one as well, because both are easier to handle without a display and furthermore both display are broken to a certain degree. Sadly, the HDMI output of this notebook only starts to work after some kind of OS is running on the notebook, i.e. I am unable to enter the BIOS without the notebooks original screen attached to it.
This week, after installing updates it was unable to boot into the OS anymore and after attaching a HDMI display it mentioned something of a Kernel Panic... VFS .... unable to mount.... I googled the error and a possible quick solution would be to boot with an old Kernel, but I cannot enter GRUB without the original display attached. However, when I attached it today it turns out that this display apparently has broken completely and is useless now. Thus, I am unable to change to Linux Kernel it should boot with…


So, I’ve started to look for a replacement and would like to go with something on the cheaper end - yeah Wendell’s EPYC server builds are awesome but I would be fine with something less beefy. The tasks I perform on the machine will be some kind of file maintenance and janitorial stuff^^. This means I will download files and also move them from and to various external drives connected to it. I also have sometimes programs like Burp or Wireshark running on it, compile code (e.g. OpenSSL) or things like that while connected via SSH or VNC.

One option I thought about would be getting a Raspberry Pi 4 along with the Argon One case. This way, I could use an m.2 SATA drive as boot partition. The reason for that would be that I wouldn’t have to keep a close eye on the limited disk space an SD card offers. Furthermore, it should also offer vastly improved speeds.

Two concerns I have with this solution would be if the performance the RPi4 offers is enough (I think it should be) and if I don’t expect too much from the USB3 controller, given the OS will use it for the boot drive and various other drives will be connected to the other USB3 port through a hub.

Do you have any ideas/suggestions?


Since it seems you’ll be putting low to moderate works loads on this, I’d avoid getting a raspberry pi.
Something like a Dell Optiplex mini or a Lenovo in the same style (I forgot the name of their equivalent line) is likely more fitting. You don’t really state your needs in reasonable metrics. We need that info in order to tip you on a proper system. Something like which services you’ll be running, what operating system, how much storage and how many drives, etc. Again, from what you posted so far, I am against the usage of a Pi, even the one with 8GB.

Best regards,


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Also depends how much I/O you need. Pi’s are better for compute workloads than I/O. Pi’s are cheap, so you could just get a 2GB Pi and see how it goes. If it doesn’t work out for you, then turn it into an SSH endpoint for the network, or do the Tinypilot thing and make an iKVM out of it.


That’s a great idea, especially when considering that they are not that expensive even when compared to a RPi4. :slight_smile:

Well, I’ve mentioned Burp above and file downloading/uploading already. Additionally, I have two drives connected to it and I will probably connect one or two additional ones. All of them are encrypted with AES using Veracrypt and I think the management of those drives will be a more demanding workload. These drives have different sizes with the smallest one having 1TB and the largest one having 4TB.

Also, I will sometimes compile things like OpenSSL but I will try to keep that limited. For me, basically anything goes on this computer simply because I prefer to have these things running somewhere else without the notebook on my lap growing hotter or without the need of having to turn on my gaming machine.

As an operating system I would like to go with Linux again, probably Manjaro but I’d fine with something else as well (but not Windows :smiley: )

You mean like an external SSH endpoint so I could connect with it from anywhere?

That’s the first time I’ve heard of that…I will look it up, thanks!


He means an SSH jump host. This should be enough for your to google your way into what it is.

Seems like the computers I recommended before fit the bill. Just be sure to spec them out as necessary,

Best regards,


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Thank you very much again :slight_smile:

Yeah, like vnhs said, generally speaking you shouldn’t expose anything to the Internet unless you really need to, so if you need remote access it’s best to use a VPN, or set up a single endpoint for SSH/RDP/whatever and connect to that, then hop to whatever machine you want from there.

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I agree with vhns. Raspberry Pi’s are great for prototyping and building on, but they’re not very polished for production.

ServeTheHome’s Tiny Mini Micro series covers a lot of really great options for a homelab. A few of these and some networking equipment can give you quite a bit of space to play with distributed workloads and high-availability.



I think in most cases, I don’t really need anything exposed externally, but I will still look into it.

I will check it out, thanks :slight_smile:

Yeh, I am going to differ a bit here. If a couple of old notebooks worked well for you, then there is a very good chance a Raspberry Pi (or two or three - they are very inexpensive) may serve you as well or better.

I have slightly obscene amounts of compute and storage both at home and at work. (My work involves heavy compute and heavy I/O, and I like to experiment at home.) I also have several Raspberry Pi boards, and find them very decent, even surprisingly good, computers. For more normal use, would not be surprised if a Pi was entirely adequate.

I would suggest the Pi 4 over a Pi 3 (or earlier), as you get better USB and Ethernet throughput (for a few dollars). At those price points, you could even buy more than one, and setup one as a NAS (if you are into that sort of thing).

The fact that I can hook one of these tiny boards to a 43" 4K TV, and it seems to do just fine, still strikes me as absurd - in a good way. :slight_smile:

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In the end, I’ve been able to get my noteboom running again with the power of chroot :blush:

So, even though those recommendations have been helpful, I will be able to continue using said notebook for the time being.

Beware - Pi doesn’t do AES in hw somehow. But it’s got 4x A72 cores for other stuff.

If you’re in the market, the Odroid-n2+ 4GB + emmc is good if you want storage attached to a TV that you can ssh into and do some light vscode checkout/hack-hack-hack/test/commit/pr stuff. Uses between 2W and 4W playing a 4K HDR blu-ray iso.

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Thx, but as I’ve mentioned I’ve been able to repair my old notebook and won’t be purchasing a replacement for the time being.

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