Upgrading a Dell Precision T3500 Workstation to a Gaming Rig, Advice Needed!

Insideraptor

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Jan 6, 2015
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I am mostly a lurker but I have decided to ask for your opinions about this new build I'm about to undertake. I have a Dell Precision T3500 Workstation that served as a server at my workplace. I paid $50 for it and it seems like an excellent machine to tinker with.

It has a stock power supply of 500W and supports dual gpu's. It has 5 ram slots that will support up to 24 GB, but I don't really need to upgrade from my current 10GB although, I am not sure I arranged the sticks properly.

I plan to transform this server to a tanking gaming machine. My mobo is a LGA1366 chipset, sucks, I know, but I found some good CPU's that I can use that will act as gaming CPU's. I plan to get the w3580 which clocks at 3.2 GHz. It costs $399 on Amazon new, but I want to get it for $90 used on Amazon. Do you recommend used CPU's for gaming or will they fail on me?

Every gaming rig needs a powerful GPU, so I am going for the nvidia 970 which goes for about $340 right now on Amazon.

As far as I am concerned, the i7 960 will not bottleneck the 970, or even the 980 in the event that I would want to upgrade further in the future.

I'm only playing on a 1080 60" flatscreen so I don't need anything for 4k graphics or anything. I don't think server CPU's can overclock so I think I am going to avoid that possibility.

I'm not trying to spend more than $450-500 on this build, but I want a gaming rig that will play new games (even if it means low settings) for about 6-8 years.

Is this build possible? As far as I am aware, this build is compatible and everything agrees, I would like some input from the wonderful people of Tom's Hardware on this.

Pictures of the stock rig. http://imgur.com/a/BXG7h

Tl;dr: Adding i7 960 + nvidia 970 to a server desktop to make a gaming tank.

Thanks.
 

tiny voices

Titan
Moderator
Used CPUs are generally fine. BEfore you buy, check the supported CPU list for that PC/motherboard to be use whatever you buy will work.

You will need a new PSU simply because the old one is not great quality and is well old. Get a 650w Antec, XFX, Seasonic, EVGA (G2,B2,GS) PSU.
 

Insideraptor

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I chose the i7 950 from this site, http://www.cpu-upgrade.com/mb-Intel_(chipsets)/X58_Express.html, which to my understanding shows supported CPU's for an LGA1377 chipset.

Will a new PSU fit in my full tower case? I was really trying to avoid this because of the fact that the power cables are almost strapped to the case and it would be sort of complicating to sort out (I'm new to this). Check the pictures for reference. Thank you for your reply.
 

tiny voices

Titan
Moderator
YEs a new PSU will fit. The PSU is the most important part of a PC and a bad one can destroy the entire computer. It needs to be changed.

I understand that the socket supports all 1136 CPUs, but because this is a branded OEM PC and not a custom build, the motherboard may be "locked" and only support certain CPUs. The 950 will likely work though.
 

eroom93

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Mar 5, 2015
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Hi...
little late to the party on this one but i'm gaming on a dell t3500 and hopefully i can still bring something to the table

i am not sure if the dell board support core i7, i have a xeon x5570 and it is an absolute tank
also, although the board supports dual gpu's, it doesn't support Sli or crossfire, so said two gpus cannot be used to work "together"

also, if you want to put in a larger graphics card, then the included hdd cage will have to go...
i managed to squeeze in an asus gtx 670 and have it running off THE STOCK POWER SUPPLY!!! made an adapter to pull power from TWO of the sata rails

also with the cpu selection... if the memory that you are planning to use came with the server, it is probably ecc redundant server memory, in which case, it will not work with an intel "core" cpu

my advice, is stay with a xeon for this computer or you'll have to buy new ram AND cpu... the cpu i have is 2.93Ghz and it turbo's up to 3.2 and although on paper it seems slow to my other computer clocked at 4.7Ghz even at lower "speeds" the xeon out performs the core i5...

i've only really had 2 problems, and 1 other complaint with...

the two problems are kind of similar... if i turn off my computer, when i go to turn it back on some hours later, i am greeted with diagnostic lights 1 and 3 plashing... which i think is "memory configuration error"

this is solved by turning the computer off at the wall for atleast 20 minutes prior to boot...

the other problem was a little more severe where i had an orange power light and some other code flashing
not sure what the code meant, but after a week of trying to fix the problem i took it to a computer store, and they fixed the problem by cleaning the UNDERSIDE of the memory slots...

my other complaint is that the storage is only sata 2 3gb/s which is fine for mechanical drives, but hard limited my ssd to about 300mb/s

sorry for long post... hope i wasn't too late
 

daveabides

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Feb 8, 2016
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I don't know if your answer ever helped the OP but I am sitting on a T3500 with the same idea in mind and found the information Indispensable. Thank you
 

bambiboom

Dignified
Insideraptor,

I recently upgraded a Precision 3500 as my backup system for workstation applications, 2D and 3D CAD, graphic design, and written projects:

Purchased on Ebahhh 12.12.15 for $53 + $24 shipping:

Precision T3500 (2011) (Original) Xeon W3530 4-core @ 2.8 /3.06GHz > 4GB (2X 2GB) DDR3-1333 ECC > GeForce 9800 GT (1GB)> WD Black 500GB
[[Passmark system rating = 1963, CPU = 4482 / 2D= 609 / 3D=805 / Mem= 1409 / Disk=1048]

I purchased:

CPU: $60
RAM: $43
And I had a Quadro GPU, PCIe RAID controller, and 15K SAS drive

The results were very good:

Precision T3500 (2011) (Rev 2) Xeon X5677 4-core @ 3.47 / 3.73GHz > 12GB (6X 2GB) DDR3-1333 ECC > Quadro 4000 (2GB) > PERC 6/i +Seagate 300GB 15K SAS ST3300657SS + WD Black 500GB > 525W PSU> Windows 7 Professional 64-bit > 2X Dell 19" LCD
[Passmark system rating = 2751, CPU = 7236 / 2D= 658 / 3D=2020 / Mem= 1875 / Disk=1221]

And the key 3D score is much better.

The total expenditure was $185 and I can sell the original CPU and GPU for about $50.

CPU: The CPU's that I think are contenders for upgrading a T3500 are:

CPU Contenders:

_______________________________________ Average Costs__Average Points per $

I. W3530 2.8 / 3.06GHz _5587 (Actual) ___ $11 >[$38] $65 _147
II. X5687 3.6 / 3.86 _7217 = +29% ___ $70 >[$100] $130 _72
III. W3680 3.33 / 3.6 (1333) _9398 ___ $140>[$175] $208 _54
IV. W3570 3.2 / 3.46 _6261 = +12% ____$25 >[$38] $50 _42
V. X5677 3.46 / 3.73 (130W)_7046 = +26%___$33 >[$55] $80 _27
VI. W3580 3.33 / 3.6 _6586 = +18% ____$50 >[$73] $95 _23

This list takes a variety of 4- core and one 6-core (W3680) and compares the average pointns of CPU rating in Passmark to the cost on Ebay.

The W3530 was by far the best cost /performance ration but I wanted to improve the CPU rating by at least 20% and chose the X5677 4-core @ 3.47 /3.73GHz which is also a 32nm CPU whereas most of the others are 45nm lithography. The highest speed LGA1366 Xeon is the X5687 which is a dual Xeon design 4-core @ 3.6 /3.86. The gain in speed may or may not be worth the price increase, but if it fits your budget, I would choose the X5687. That CPU, by the way, cost $1,550 new.

RAM: There are 6 RAM slots in triple channel , so the best performance is to have sets of 3 of the same modules The usual RAM in a T3500 is going to be DDR3-1066 or 1333 ECC. The W3530 that arrived in my T3500 supports up to 1066 RAM, but came with 2X 2GB of 1333 ECC and I bought 4X 2GB of the identical brand and model.

GPU: The T3500 can use two GPU's but does not support SLI. For gaming I would suggest a used GTX 770 which is in a very good cost /performance position.

Drives: I ended up using a Seagate 300GB 15K SAS drive and the WD Black 500GB that came with the T3500, but as the disk system is SATAII 3GB/s, I'd suggest a reasonable SSD. A Samsung 850 would be ideal and if the budget supports a 250GB, you might be able to run the whole system off of it. I have a large C: drive - 153GB, but all the files I need for work is only 50GB so I could use a 250GB as the sole drive and the mechanical drive is only for backup /storage. this is the arrangement on my Precision T5500.

Performance of the T3500 can be very good:

Passmark results> Highest performance in each category:

System Rating: 3493 (W3690 / Quadro 5000 / Samsung 850 Evo 250GB
CPU: 9764 (W3690) Highest 4-core: 7610 (X5687)
2D: 765 (Quadro K4000)
3D: 8462 (GTX 970 which = 8 the top 10 scores) Highest GTX 770 (6162)
Mem: 2066 (24GB)
Disk: 8189 (Samsung 840- RAID 0?)

So, yes your idea to use a GTX 970 does produce extremely good results. If the budget is tight, consider the GTX 770.

If it is of interest I also updated a T5500- which uses the same chassis and CPU's but has a dual CPU motherboard, can use ECC registered memory- which is the same as servers do it's cheaper to buy used- and an 875W PSU instead of the 525W of the T3500. This system is for use as a rendering engine:

Purchased for $171 + $20 shipping:

Dell Precision T5500 (2011) (Original): Xeon E5620 quad core @ 2.4 / 2.6 GHz > 6GB DDR3 ECC Reg 1333 > Quadro FX 580 (512MB) > Dell PERC 6/i SAS /SATA controller > Seagate Cheetah 15K 146GB > Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
[ Passmark system rating = 1479 / CPU = 4067 / 2D= 520 / 3D= 311 / Mem= 1473 / Disk= 1208]

+ expenditure of about $850- total= about $1,050:

Dell Precision T5500 (2011)(Revised) > 2X Xeon X5680 (12-cores @ 3.33 / 3.6GHz), 48GB DDR3 1333 ECC Reg. > Quadro K2200 (4GB ) > PERC H310 / Samsung 840 250GB / WD RE4 Enterprise 1TB > M-Audio 192 sound card > 875W PSU > Windows 7 Professional 64> HP 2711x (27", 1920 X 1080)
[ Passmark system rating = 3844 / CPU = 15047 / 2D= 662 / 3D= 3505 / Mem= 1785 / Disk= 2649] (12.30.15)

The T7500 has 4 drive bays instead of two in the T3500 and T5500, supports 192GB of RAM, and the power supply is 1100W.

The price to performance of these systems, the low cost of components that were extremely expensive new, and their highest level of reliability is difficult to improve upon.

Cheers,

BambiBoom

HP z420 (2015) > Xeon E5-1660 v2 (6-core @ 3.7 / 4.0GHz) > 32GB DDR3 1866 ECC RAM > Quadro K4200 (4GB) > Intel 730 480GB (9SSDSC2BP480G4R5) > Western Digital Black WD1003FZEX 1TB> M-Audio 192 sound card > 600W PSU> > Windows 7 Professional 64-bit > Logitech z2300 speakers > 2X Dell Ultrasharp U2715H (2560 X 1440)>
[ Passmark Rating = 5064 > CPU= 13989 / 2D= 819 / 3D= 4596 / Mem= 2772 / Disk= 4555] [Cinebench R15 > CPU = 1014 OpenGL= 126.59 FPS] 7.8.15
 

Kalim_1

Commendable
Apr 11, 2016
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Hey I use the same rig with a r9 280 x and I use a pcie card to boast the data speeds for my ssd
 

johnplawlor

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Aug 12, 2016
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Hi guys, the power supply in the T3500 is 525watts max. The GTX 970 requires a power supply of 550watts.

Wouldn't installing a new GTX 970 require a new power supply?
 

Hypertheader_06

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Oct 24, 2016
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i have several of these and there are two different versions which have different compatability for upgrades. If your T3500 has a firewire port next to the 2 USB ports on the front on the case it is not just a Dell Precision T3500, it is if fact a Dell Precision T3500 Workstation, which has far better support for cpu upgrades and come from dell with better hardware all around (i.e. psu is "525 80+ silver" rather than the 525 which is not 80+, CPU support for the workstation version includes 32nm 6.40 QPI 12mb cache and hexacore + hyperthreading whereas the basic model cannot post 32nm CPU's. the basic model is fine if you just want an i7 920, 930, 950, 960 ...or any other bloomfield core i7 1366 chips. The 975 is 45nm making it the only extreme edition compatible with the basic model. My 950 runs perfect in my basic model. My Workstation model is currently running a Xeon X5667 3.06/3.33 same clock as my i7 950 only the Xeon has 12mb L3 cache over 8, a QPI 6.40 over the i7 950 4.80, and finnaly the lithography is 32nm rather than 45nm. Dell has been known to under rate the wattage capabilities of the PSU's they put in their flagship products like the Precision, and Alienware models. I still have my old Precision M90 portable workstation from early '06 running one of the first 64 bit intel core based chips the t7200 matched with 4gb ddr2, x-25 intel 160gb ssd and Quadro fx 1500m and the PSU claims 130 watts, but even the bios sees 150 watt output, it has a Windows Experience Index score of 5.0 CPU, 5.0 Memory, 5.9 Desktop Graphics, 5.2 Gaming Graphics and 7.6 Disk drive scores, showing it is still a relevant PC (ideal hackintosh!) You can count on any of the Precision models to last far longer than the original hardware capabilties (which makes them the very best oem PC's for almost any use, particularly rendering video, imaging, servers, and when the cpu and gpu are replced (primarily GPU) Gaming most certainly. In fact many of the T3500, T5500, and T7500 components are the same as Alienware models such as the Area 51 desktop which is basicly the same platform as the T3500. you dont have to remove the power cables to upgrade the PSU if you are replacing a 525 watt in the T3500 with the 875 watt T5500 or the 1100 Watt T7500 because the harness is modular (unclips from the power unit) but proprietary to Dell Precision Tx500 and Alienware Area 51. FYI the 525 80+ that came with my workstation puts out over 600 watts both using software to monitor and using math based on specs labeled on unit.
 

Rodney_21

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Oct 15, 2016
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You guys seem very knowledgeable about the Dell T3500 and I'm having some trouble and have a few questions.

My T3500 specs are: Xeon W3565 @3.2Ghz, 16gig RAM, WD 500mg blue,

From the beginning the CPU ran *HOT* , jumping from 60 to 80 at idle and reaching 100c on a stress test before I shut it down. The fans were always revved up loud. After about a week of running it like this, I got up one morning when the PC had been off for many hours and it would not boot due to a "Card cage fan error/failure" despite the fact that both fans were spinning.. I googled in a panic and learned that I could eventually make it start up by unplugging the PSU and holding the on button for 20 seconds.

I called "Tekboost" and they suggested I check to make sure there was enough thermal compound on the CPU heatink. That is when I learned they had shipped me a Xeon with the cheap aluminum only heatsink (T021F model number) that I think probably was recalled due to it's inability to cool properly.

I didn't have thermal compound or money to order any so I ended up just turning hyper threading, and speedboost off in the BIOS which make it just slightly less hot.

It kept happening, so they shipped me another fan unit ( the two stacked fans in the front ) which fixed the problem of it not wanting to boot but only for about a week.

I had no choice but to continue trying to get them work with me as by this time I was not happy and had no more money to spend. I explained to them that at the price I payed I should not have to go out and buy a proper heatsink so they shipped me the U016f model with copper core, and four heatpipes- like the one pictured above in the identical system.

This helped a lot but still didn't run within specs till I clipped a fan to the rear of the heatsink. This brought temps down another 10 degrees, now it runs cool enough.. but I still have trouble getting it to boot because of the constant fan failure errors. The very last time it happened, it was something like "card controller not working" .. so I've gotten two different errors.

If you google "dell" and " fan failure message " you find that this is a common occurrence but I can't find a solution. It's been suggested that I turn off the error in the BIOS but I can't find the option, and would not want to fry anything as I have spent every cent I had saved on this iffy system.

Now I'm just not turning it off but that's no solution. If anyone could help me I would be most appreciative .

thanks
 

bambiboom

Dignified


Rodney_21

You seem to have done everything methodically and if the T3500 has the correct Steel /Copper heatsink and the thermal paste / installation of the CPU is correct, I can't account for the warm running except to think that at least one interior case fan is not working.

Have you verified that all case fans are running?

What are the current running temperatures? If the GPU running hot as well? - That would point to a case fan.

Is the BIOS the latest version" The fan controls are in BIOS and I've forgotten if there is a setting that can "encourage" more fan RPM.

Cheers,
BambiBoom
 

Rodney_21

Commendable
Oct 15, 2016
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I updated the BIOS to the latest at some point. Yes both fans are running. They don't seem to increase in RPM anymore but I don't get the CPU that hot, I will run a benchmark but I hate to push things. It can at least tell me if the fans will rev, if they won't that's a problem. Is fan control, the hardware part of it, integrated into the motherboard?

I just put a GTX 750ti OC Windforce edition and it's the best gaming platform I've ever had. I removed and cleaned the fan cage and connectors. It's doing fine for now. Just need an answer. I tried to call Dell, if you have three hours to spend on hold that's great but none of them speak English and I don't have that much time.
 

Vester_E

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Apr 16, 2017
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Hey i have the same idea! But if a 950 works will a GIGABYTE GF GTX 1050 TI WINDFORCE work then?
I have a 6 PIN and everything! And it is a Low Profile card!
And im 100% sure that it will fit in physically, Because the case is huge!
 

bambiboom

Dignified


Vester_E<

When Precision T3500's were new, they were made to accommodate some large Quadro both in size and current:

Support for 2 PCI Express
®
x16 Gen 2 graphics cards up to 150W. 2 to 8 monitor configurations depending on card(s) chosen.

Quadro
5000
NVIDIA Quadro 4000
ATI FirePro V7800
NVIDIA Quadro 600
NVIDIA Quadro NVS 420
AMD FirePro V5900
NVIDIA Quadro NVS 295
ATI FirePro V5800
NVIDIA Quadro 2000

AMD FirePro V7900
ATI FirePro V4800
ATI FireMV
V2260

_And Quadro FX 5800 were big 512-bit, 4GB 200W video editing cards -$1,600 I think.

T3500's could use two, 150W GPU's, up to 10.5" so a modern card: 1050, 1060, or 1070 should be no problem, but compare the size to the specs for a Quadro FX 5800: Length 10.5 in X Height 4.4 in. There will be some room left as they had a support bracket that sat in a slot.

Cheers,

BambiBoom

 

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