Good Bye, Raspberry Pi

Nov 3, 2023

tech homelab 100DaysToOffload

Reading time: 4 minutes

I’ve been using a Raspberry Pi 4 as my homeserver, it’s running off an SD card. Or it was, because the SD card died recently, and I don’t know why.

One day I woke up to the server not responding, and a reboot didn’t help either. So I attached a monitor and found that the Pi was stuck in the “bios”, telling me that it couldn’t find the SD card, even though it was plugged in.

So I looked at the card on my normal PC and found that it was recognized as a drive with 0 bytes. Not great.

I googled for a while to see if there was a way to revive the card, and I also asked on mastodon if anyone had an idea, but the responses were… not encouraging. Seems like the card is dead and at least with normal methods there is no way to restore it.

What happened, and what next?

Since I can’t look at any logs anymore, figuring out what happened is pure speculation. Someone on mastodon suggested that it might be excessive writes to the card due to the USB-stick RAID array I set up. Maybe that was the case, I don’t know. I wasn’t aware that a RAID can cause excessive writes to the system disk, but it could have been. Could have also been a power loss during a write and that corrupted the card…

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that’s happened. I have a Raspi 4 at work that already killed two cards during normal operation, and there I was also not able to determine what had happened.

Could have been a problem with the cards, or with the Raspi, or a power failure, or a fault with the hardware that was plugged into it…

The problem is that I’m starting to lose trust in Rasperry Pis, especially since there are a ton of posts online about Raspis killing SD cards… and of course I have backups and everything, so no data was lost, but setting it all up again is still a pain.

New server

I was a bit annoyed with the Raspi anyway, because I use docker a lot for the services I’m running, and I often found that docker images weren’t available for ARM at all or not for the specific ARM version the Pi is using, so I was already thinking about switching to x86, and this event finalized the decision.

My idea was to get either a SFF machine or an old laptop, so I can set up a server that consumes as little power as possible. I looked around on classified ads and found an old Dell Latitude E7440 with an i5 4200U mobile processor, 8GB RAM and 128GB SSD from a local guy, which is just about perfect for my usecase, so I bought it straight away.

And so here we are, an old business laptop is my new server!

Now I’m in the process of setting it back up and (a first for me, but essential) documenting every step of the way in the form of a bash script that I can just run if I want to install a new server, and everything will be set up the way it was in no time. At least that’s my goal, we’ll see if I achieve it.

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