AndyMelton.net
HP T5540 Thin Client

The purpose of this article is for me to capture my notes regarding the HP T5540 Thin Client. The hope is that they are of use to someone else. They are subject to change.



Specifications

Specs of model received

Processor VIA Eden 1 GHz
GPU VIA Chrome9 HC3 shared video memory (UMA)
Chipset VIA VX800
RAM 512 MB DDR2
Storage APACER 128 MB IDE DOM 44-Pin
Operating System Windows Embedded CE 6.0
USB 4 (2 front, 2 rear)
DVI 1
VGA 1
Serial 1
Parallel 1
PS/2 2 (mouse and keyboard)
LAN ports 1 x RJ-45

Upgrades

RAM 2 GB DDR2 PC2-4200 SODIMM 200-PIN 533 MHz 1.8 V
Storage APACER 8GB IDE DOM 44-Pin

Cost

Item Purchased From Item Cost Total Cost After Shipping
Hewlett Packard T5540 Newegg $12.24 $18.24
8GB IDE DOM 44-Pin eBay $18.70 $18.70
2 GB DDR2 PC2-4200 SODIMM 200-PIN 533 MHz 1.8 V eBay $9.99 $9.99
APD DA-24B12-C Power Supply 12VDC 2A NA NA NA
Total cost of device and upgrades without power adapter $46.93
Total cost of device and upgrades with power adapter $71.93
The T5540 thin clients are no longer being produced new by Hewlett Packard. However, there are a lot of online stores that have used, refurbished, and even new (unused) models. I purchased my T5540 from Newegg who claimed it to be new. The device came wrapped in bubble wrap in a plain brown box. I don’t know how these were originally shipped, but I can imagine HP not spending a ton of money for packaging of these devices. I am going to assume this is a new device someone had in storage as a spare that never got used.

The T5540 I purchased did not come with a 12 V power adapter. Thankfully, I had a spare one to use. These can be expensive, even used. In the table I have linked to the one I am using ($25 as of 12/6/2020).

Operating Systems Tested

Windows Embedded CE 6.0

The device came with Windows Embedded CE 6.0 which boots up very quickly. It does still connect to an RDP server in 2020. RDP performance was very poor. Even over a Gigabit Ethernet connection.

I could not get Internet Explorer Embedded to connect to anything at all.

Because Microsoft support for Windows Embedded CE 6.0 ended in 2018 I don’t recommend using it on a production network.

Windows 7 Professional

Prior to receiving the APACER 8 GB Disk on Module (DOM), I was able to boot a Windows to Go install of Windows 7 Professional from an SSD connected via USB. Even without disabling a multitude of services and visual effects, performance was better than I expected.

Once I received the 8 GB DOM I installed a stripped down version of Windows 7 Professional that I customized using NTLite. Performance was incredibly snappy for the limited hardware. However, there were a ton of services and components removed from the custom installation.

Just like Windows Embedded CE 6.0, Microsoft support for Windows 7 has ended. I don’t recommend using it on a production network.

Tiny Core Linux

TinyCore performs INCREDIBLY well on this device. However, TinyCore performs very well on almost any device you run it on. It is incredibly lightweight at 16 MB (as of 12/8/2020).

TinyCore is great if you just need a quick operating system to verify functionality of the device. Due to its modular nature you will need to install software for any type of functionality you are wanting to test. Midori is a good lightweight web browser for testing Internet connectivity. Web pages such as this one load, but they do not perform as well as one would think they should in 2020.

Windows 10

I have not been able to successfully boot or install Windows 10 onto this device.

The device will not boot from a Windows 10 “Windows to Go” USB drive. Nor will it boot from standard Windows 10 USB install disk.

The device meets the bare minimum processor requirement of 1 gigahertz (GHz). It has 2 gigabytes (GBs) of RAM (after the upgrade) which is 1 GB more than the base requirement.

The device does NOT meet the storage requirement of 16 GBs. However, I am hoping that I can eventually do one of the following to get Windows 10 installed:

  1. Create an install of Windows 10 small enough (using NTLite) to be installed onto an 8 GB flash drive.
  2. Purchase an IDE DOM larger than 8 GB. I have been reluctant to do this because I don’t want to invest a lot of money into this device. Especially, when the device itself was only $18 (including shipping).

Debian Linux 10.7

I wanted to see if I could run a fully up-to-date desktop on the device. Having become partial to Debian over the past few years (thanks to the Raspberry Pi and The Raspberry Pi OS) I installed Debian 10.7.

I knew I would need to run a very lightweight desktop environment.

I took two approaches.

  1. During the install I allowed Debian to install all of the necessary software for me, including a desktop environment (XFCE).
  2. During the install I only allowed Debian to install the bare minimum components. I did not allow Debian to install a desktop environment for me. Leaving me with only a command line at startup. I then took the concepts applied in my Raspberry Pi Windows RDP Thin Client article to create a custom desktop environment. For my initial tests I installed LightDM and openbox. Eventually, I installed XFCE and LXQt.

The second approach was my preference. Primarily for the control, but also because the system definitely felt snappier. Not having as many programs/services installed by default definitely helped.

Out of the desktop environments I used on the device; Both XFCE and LXQt performed as well as to be expected on such a low powered system.

If you need a GUI and can can get by with it, I would simply stick to using the combination of LightDM and openbox.

I did test RDP functionality using the device while running Debian 10.7 and unfortunately it was not the “smooth as butter” performance I strive for when using RDP. I tried connecting to both Windows and Linux servers via RDP. Both worked, but were “choppy” to say the least. This was running on a network with all gigabit Ethernet ports, connections, and switches. Unfortunately, I think it’s just a limitation of the hardware.

I tested using the device as a webserver running Apache, MariaDB, PHP, and Adminer (because phpMyAdmin is not available in the default Debian repositories). While I would not recommend this device for production use, I think for single user development testing it would be an adequate solution. Just make sure you keep a fan under the device.

While running Debian I did install Kodi to see how well the device would perform as a media center PC. It struggled to even open Kodi. Which, I find quite interesting since I’ve been able to run Kodi from a Raspberry Pi Zero.

General Hardware Notes

Opening the Case

It’s really simple, once you figure it out! Basically, you simply remove the top screw and pull the top cover forward.

When I received mine I had trouble so I consulted YouTube and found Unboxing HP thinclient T5540 /T5415 / T5545.

Internal USB Ports

There are 2 USB ports hidden beneath the top cover. These are fantastic if you want to plug in a USB keyboard, mouse, or WiFi adapter, etc., and not have it hanging off the front or back. These could even be used as storage devices to boot an operating system from.

I did have the thought that I would use these as additional storage. However, I kept running into trouble with the device trying to boot from these drives. Even if USB boot was disabled.

Heat Dissipation

The T5540 ran fairly cool while running Windows Embedded CE 6.0 and TinyCore Linux. However, as soon as I started running Windows 7 and Debian 10.7 the sides of the chassis heated up very quickly. While not hot enough to fry an egg, it would have been enough to melt butter or chocolate. The thermal pads on top of the heatsinks in the device become directly attached to the chassis when everything is all buttoned up.

The T5540 chassis is fan-less and is designed to be used with a vertical stand to allow airflow from the bottom. As a thin client running a very basic operating system, that is fine. If you’re going to do anything more with the T5540 I would recommend getting a fan under the unit. While running mine I have it sitting on top of a laptop chiller fan.

Photo Gallery

 

Other Resources

HP Product Information
HP Product Specifications
HP T5540 on ParkyTowers
$9 DOS Retro Gaming PC with the HP t5530 Thin ClientNOTE: This is one model below the t5540.