Breathing Life into Your Old PC

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Breathing Life into Your Old PC


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Xeon LGA 771 H4X – Does it work?

While a majority of you have probably moved well past Intel’s LGA 775 motherboards and the Dual Core or Core 2 Duo CPUs from 2006-07, they continue to have decent gaming value at lower resolutions and packed quite a punch during their time. But as newer computer games emerged demanding more processing power it became impractical for you to frag your best on the old machines and you’ve probably since retired them. But did you sell off your parts on e-bay, or did you perhaps keep around the machine as a spare? If you did, you’re in luck.

Mini P-180 with H50 CoolerApproximately six months ago someone began to commercialize a modification of the Xeon quad core processors manufactured during the same timeframe as the Wolfdales, allowing you to use them in your standard LGA 775 motherboards. Intel at the time made it “impossible” to drop a Xeon chip into a standard motherboard because the Xeons had 771 pins and they were oriented differently on the motherboard. The modification is cheap, relatively easy, and pays huge dividends in processing power…IF it works.

You may be asking…WHY? Are there not Core 2 Quad CPUs that will do the job and not require this modification? Yes, but they’re much more expensive on e-bay and at their prices (average of $125) you’re best off buying a brand new CPU/Motherboard/RAM combo than trying to upgrade your CPU.

So before more of you decide to give that PC to grandma, piece it out on e-bay, or take it to BestBuy for recycling, we at DMV Gamers thought it was worth the investment to test and see if you can get more life from your system before it’s finally retired.

TEST SYSTEM: Motherboard: ECS G31T-M 1.0; RAM: Corsair DDR-2 800 (CM2X2048-6400C5); Heatsink: Corsair H50 Watercooler; Case: Antec Mini P-180

We started with research, and found a step by step foolproof (almost) guide right HERE. My thanks go out to the pioneers of that site.

Once we were confident the method would be fairly easy to employ (and not burn up our motherboard or fry our components) we updated our bios (which was 4 years old from the most recent release) and started to shop on e-bay for Xeon 771 CPUs. We purchased an X5450, a Quad core CPU clocked at 3.0ghz at a 1333mhz bus frequency for $30. It took a few days of looking and putting out best offers, but you can easily acquire one for that price range and ignore the $40+ prices. We also found the LGA 771 to 775 mod “stickers” on e-bay, and purchased a pack of 3 for $5. Apparently they’re fragile and could break easily, or you could mess up applying them and need to use a new one, so three is a good number. It only took us one though.

$35 later we have our new CPU and sticker and begin to follow the guide on applying the adhesive. It was fairly easy, but you do have to work slowly and carefully. I found tweezers worked well here to help align the sticker, along with a good light (I used a headlamp). While the sticker went on easy, I wasn’t confident I aligned all the holes exactly. They were close, but not perfect. Hopefully this wouldn’t be a problem, but if it was I had 2 more backup stickers to use.

I then began to delicately slice off the two tabs on the LGA 775 socket that are “guides” to orient the CPU. I used a razor as suggested, and while anticipating a difficult time in slicing thick plastic I found they came off quite easily. I continued to refine my slices closer to the edge to ensure there were no pieces jetting out, but the initial slice likely did the job. I’d strongly recommend a good light and a magnifying glass (although we didn’t use a magnifier it would have made it easier to tell if we cut it properly). And while all of the step by step guides noted to be quite careful not to bend any of the surround LGA pins, I found they were actually a decent distance away from the tabs that it wasn’t realistic to bend or hit them if you’re using light pressure, a razor, and are careful. Seeing how far they were from the tabs gave me confidence to continue cutting.

Once the tabs were off, I inserted the new Xeon into the array, clipped it back in, added some thermal paste and put on the original heatsink from the C2D E7200 I replaced.

Now comes the moment of truth, turning on the machine. I pushed the power button on and….nothing. The fans spun up, but the computer didn’t post or beep. “There goes my motherboard” I thought to myself, concerned I had damaged the board when cutting the tabs. I also wondered if I got a dud CPU off of e-bay, or if the sticker wasn’t set right.

I went back and (at least attempted to) recut the tabs closer again, to ensure the new CPU sits flush with the LGA array. I also reset the CPU, reapplied the thermal paste, and reset the heatsink. Second time moment of truth….YES! I have a successful boot! Instant recognition by the BIOS and when Windows loaded it began to load Xeon drivers.

Great I thought! But is it stable? And will that sticker stand the test of time under high temps? Initially I had a few issues with stability and heat. The computer would shut itself off after a few minutes in Windows. I determined the original heatsink wasn’t set properly, and therefore wasn’t dissipating heat correctly. A technical problem with the heatsink pins prevented me from reusing it, but I had a spare Corsair H50 watercooler heatsink that I decided to use.

The H50 performs closely to the large 3-4 pipe copper heatsinks H50 Cooler such as the Hyper 212 Plus, so if you have one of those laying around you should be good for heat dissipation. The X5450 uses 120w of power, generating a tremendous amount of heat compared to the E7200 it replaced. I also later learned that the E5450 uses only 80w of power and therefore should generate far less heat. For your purchases, I’d recommend the E series Xeons as they are less likely to require an aftermarket cooler. They’re also about the same price as the X versions on e-bay.

In order to test just how much heat the X5450 generated and whether the CPU could be stable for daily use I ran Prime 95 in conjunction with Real Temp to monitor the CPU core temperatures (photos below). As you can see, at 100% CPU usage for about 5 minutes the Xeon was in the mid-70s Celsius. While the 70s seemed somewhat high and is not my preference, the system ran stable. The TJMax for this Xeon is 100 Celsius (the temperature the Xeon automatically throttles down from its max speed due to overheating), so being 25 degrees below that I felt comfortable. Also, Prime 95 is meant to stress the CPU to the max, and in all likelihood your daily usage isn’t going to push the CPU to those temps unless you’re doing very intensive processes.

I also tested the system for over 24 hours Stress Test Tempsin an on but idle state and the temps stayed at roughly 34 degrees Celsius and did not crash.

VERIDCT: The LGA 771 to 775 mod works, is cost efficient, and will extend the useful life of your PC. We recommend the E-series Xeon chips which run cooler at roughly the same cost on e-bay.


The Good

  • Cheap
  • Easy
  • Power Charges your Old PC

The Bad

  • Could Damage PC
9

Written by: Greg B.

2 Comments Added

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  1. Drinnan December 16, 2016 | Reply

    I’ve bought an x5450 already modded and tested (supposedly) to replace the q6600 in my old rig that is going to my son this xmas paired with an rx480. Let’s hope it’s all plain sailing. The g41-es2l is on the compatible list so I will just have to see if I need to add the microcode to the bios or not.

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