Thursday, 14 April 2016

Project - Socket 771 to Socket 775 - Xeon Conversion

I've been conducting an experimental project, one I've seen all over the net by others, but which had lots of different information... This is the conversion of a socket 775 motherboard to a socket 771.

First of all, why?... Why would we do this?... Well, the socket 775 is a commercial socket, supposedly sold to us mere mortal customers who buy one machine and one CPU at a time, and the motherboards and processors in the class were/are quite expensive.

We're talking about the Core 2 era, Celeron D, Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Quad.  I remember the Core 2 Quad machine I put together was really rather expensive at the time.  So, between six and eight years on, we're retiring those machines; yet they cost us a lot of money, and despite depreciation rates we users can still make use of these machines.  They can be useful as render farm nodes for 3D or movie work, they can be used as servers, to host basic information, or upload/download points, even as firewalls.  All roles they can fall into easily.

I personally am going to be using the machine I've got as a quiet webserver, retiring a venerably serving Pentium 4 Prescott for this old Dell machine.

So, what is the base machine?

Well, it's a franenstein, the in-laws have had me build them a new machine, so they had an Intel D31PR motherboard holding a Celeron D 450, and one gigabyte of RAM, a totally unhelpfully slow machine.  Even they noticed it was extremely slow.

From my spares they had enough parts to basically rebuild their machine, which I did, and it left me with their old motherboard.  I wanted to upgrade the processor, expand the RAM and add a RAID array controller card, but my budget is extremely low, we're talking £20.

Well on Amazon, I can get a RAID controller card for £13.. This left me £7... Hmm.. Luckily, the IT Department at work were able to donate to me some old DDR2 RAM, so I had the maximum 4GB the board can handle.

£7... Upgrade the processor?.... A challenge... Ebay... Core 2 Duo's and Quads, going for over £25 a pop, most of the Quads were going for £30+.  Way out of the budget.

But there were dual core Xeons for around £4... And I saw this hack out there on the wires, so I set about working.

The first step is to strip everything down, clean it perfectly, and get a scalpel.  The first part of the modification is to remove the tabs from the processor, these tell the user which way to orientate the CPU for insertion, they do nothing else... A consumer CPU is orientated horizontally, so there are tabs top and bottom to stop you inserting the wrong CPU.

And the Xeon has gaps left and right, meaning it'll bounce off these tabs on the socket 775.

Taking the scalpel, I started to cut the tabs, now I DID THIS WRONG!  A much better approach is to leave the current CPU in there, with the tabs engaged into the socket 775 CPU, and then cut between the CPU and the edge of the socket.  So the CPU acts as a guide and the delicate socket pins are protected out of sight below the CPU.

And clean the cuts you make up.

Remove any debris...

Then you need to go back to ebay, and buy a Xeon Socket Modification sticker, this is a little sticker, which will cover two rows of connections on the bottom of the CPU, it will allow most of them to pass through the plastic, but two pins are headed with a little connector, and behind the sticker these connectors actually swap the two pins over.

So, two pins, and the orientation, that's all that's different about a Socket 771 and a Socket 775 CPU.

The stickers are bar shaped, so they indicate which pin to swap, but lay the CPU down with the notches to the top, and from the bottom count 10 connectors from the bottom right, moving left... Voila, stick it down carefully.

Insert into the Motherboard socket now, so the notches are to the "top" of the socket, add the heat-sink assembly, and build it back up on your work bench.

Now, some videos and advice says you need to go to sites, and download patches for your motherboard.  During my project here I've found most Intel brand motherboards do not need any patching, only third party boards.  It seems Intel include all the microcode for all their processors (this is only a guess, I have no proof other than using five different intel boards, and two none-intel boards and always having to patch the non-intel branded ones, whilst the intel ones just work).

Then powering on...

It worked, I've gone from a Celeron D 430 to a Xeon 5130.  They're very similar processors, but the Xeon has dual cores and a much faster FSB.

My YouTube play list, for my crappy videos covering this project can be found here:

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