Cheap server as router

a router with adequate performance for 1 Gigabyte SQM, VPN etc usually commands a high price tag. Therefore I'm plannning to buy a used 1U server for this purpose.

  • Lenovo RD540 w/ PSU - 42.8 USD
  • Xeon E5 2620 v2*1 - 7.8 USD
  • ECC DDR3 16G RDIMM - 20 USD

Are these more cost-effective than buying a high-end router? How much power would the server consume under normal usage?

Any help would be appreciated.

Have a look at the PC Enginers APU2D4
Maybe it has enough power for you.
You can install OpenWRT
The CPU also has AES-IN support build in - in case of VPN usage.

To get an impression:

-> around 75W idle

Please mind: This seems to be a dual CPU setup, see

I wouldn't expect the power consumption to scale linearly with the number of CPUs, therefore estimating 50W.

Do you really want a router that consumes 50W 24/7, just for doing nothing?


Thanks for the link!
Indeed the power consumption is a little bit higher than expected. Maybe it could make more sense by building a backup server/NAS using the 4*3.5" bays in the server.

:joy: The APU board seems even more expensive than the Xeon server.

Sure, but the APU uses around 6 watts idle, that's an order of magnitude less than your Xeon board. Or to put it in real world numbers: The APU uses €10 in power per year, while the Xeon uses €100 (Edit: in Central Europe power prices, USA is about half that apparantly.)

These server boards were never designed to be energy efficient (or particularly silent, mind.) They were built to be reliable and powerful. That's why they can be had dirt cheap, now that they are not that "powerful" anymore compared to current systems.


a used enterprise desktop (eg optiplex) will do what you want, is quiet with usb-stick boot and should use about 10-30w... look for newer cpu for less power consumption.

apu maybe fast enough, but costs more due to specialized design; not worth it imo.

Or this : PFSense ?

My experience with 1U servers is that they need a low-power CPU up/downgrade, a high-efficiency DC-DC PSU, power “brick”, and several quiet fans to be usable and marginally economical. Unless the board offers something unique (like six Intel NICs), something like the APU series for moderate loads or the ODROID H2 for higher loads would be my choice.


…and even then the form-factor doesn't provide any means of natural convection, so you rely more on active (noisy, power consuming) cooling that you would on devices with more- and vertical volume (chimney effect).

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Spotted another Sandy Bridge E3 platform on eBay.

  • HP DL120 Gen7 (one CPU socket, two 1 GbE ports, one PCI e2 x8 and one x16 slot available)
  • E3 1220L (dual core, 22W TDP)
  • ~ 85 USD with shipping

I abandoned the plan to populate the router to be with HDDs, since that will be adding another layer of complexity.

For the AP part I'm using 4x Linksys EA6350v3, 2x Asus RT-AC58U and a Newifi D2.

You seem to be bent on getting a power-hungry, decade-old, loud, hot-running server ... just because they are cheap? There's a reason they are cheap.

I think at this point you'll have to decide for yourself. You heard all our arguments before.


sounds good

sounds good, too

Servers are rack mountable, have ECC memory support & expansion capabilities and generally more reliable than products from a no-name brand.
The only real problem is the power consumption of CPU and BMC, all other concerns are derived from this one.

So the question becomes:

  1. Is ECC RAM important in home router application?
  2. Are those consumer grade products reliable enough for 24x7?

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I think the manufacturers indeed tried to design those boards to be energy efficient, though not as a priority.

In the US assuming say $0.10 / kWh and 50 watts 24*7*365 hours a year, that's $307 a year. Buy yourself a 10 watt x86 box which will then cost $61 a year, spend $200 on the box, and you're ahead before year end... by the end of the second year you've bought yourself a second box...


At $0.30/kWh, the arguments are even more compelling.


Having installed a 1RU in a closed storeroom, within a cabinet in a spacious 3 roomed office... at a factory. Every single time we got called out... the poor lady on reception, had a look on her face and words to the effect that it was not smart.

There is another funny story about my boss half under the floor panels holding a fan when the data-center lost air-con... ( kW=° )