1 Copper

Dell T3500 Upgrading FAQ

So after responding to a user's post and having trouble scouring the internet for advice/answers. I wanted to make a FAQ for users looking at Dell T3500 models. Moderators, if this is in the wrong section feel free to move it. I think pinning it for members would be a good idea but others may think otherwise. Enjoy:)

Originally this was written on another forum but I decided to transfer it here as this is the home of Dells.

First and foremost...

Is the T3500 worth it?

It really depends on what you plan to use it for. My T3500 is a gaming rig, and runs games like Space Engineers, GTA V,Rust, CS:GO(and more) with very good frames. This also depends on the GPU you pick, but CPU wise, the cheap X5650 will get you around most games. I also use the T3500 for video editing, and rendering does need a pretty decent CPU. I wanna say the X5650 holds up well. No custom system will come close to the price of it. I payed about $30 for my x5650, and $120 for the system its self. pair that with a GTX 1050Ti(it does have a 6 pin GPU cable:thumb:) and you'll be on your way. You could probably get a T3500 with 6Gbs of ram for around $80, just scout around eBay till you find something good.


I haven't heard of a LGA 1366 CPU that hasn't worked in the T3500, I am pretty sure most if not all work. I am happily running the famous Xeon X5650 2.66ghz in my build. My next upgrade would be a X5690 which should work.

Be sure to do the following if you have issues:

  • Most LGA 1366 CPUs aren't new(or at least the ones I come across) so there is always that possibility of it being damaged. (I have read of users having that be the case)
  • Update your bios to the latest.

Possible case of it being unsupported?(Have yet to see that)

Do I have to worry about heat?

It depends mostly on what heatsink you have, from what I have seen. Dell released two heatsinks, a version that disperses heat very badly and a version that keeps your CPU at a cool 30-40 degrees in most cases. These heatsinks are very distinguishable, one has copper pipes while the other does not. The heatsink model you should aim for is U016F.

My temps are very low, and the highest they have gotten to was a toasty 78c(while stress testing, normal use will get you 30-40 usually). πŸ™‚

Most people know this, but use a good brand thermal paste. Don't go for the cheapest you can find($1 thermal paste from Hong Kong that'll arrive in 2025:p), get something like Arctic Silver 5 or other Arctic products are fine. I used Thermaltake TG-7, I do have AS5 lying around but hey its giving me 30-40C so its fine.

Custom heatsinks?

I believe Dell used some proprietary cooling design, I haven't bought any LGA 1366 coolers but someone correct me if I am wrong.

Northbridge Chip

Others may have better results but I have found my NB chip to be burning hot. Strapping a fan to it would probably be the best solution but I stole a larger NB heatsink off my Dell XPS 720 and heat dissipation has been okay. A NB cooler with a fan would be a good solution. Better airflow helps as well!

Air Flow

Sometimes the heat problems in a T3500 could just be from bad airflow, luckily there are ways to improve this! The Dell T3500 comes with two unoccupied 80mm fan mounts on the back, I bought some Arctic F8 80mm coolers along with a Molex to 3 Pin fan adapter. I've been running off the 5V wire quietly since then with no issues.

PCI blowers are also a thing if you have unoccupied PCI slots too, though I have not tried that method yet. but hey its an option.

My next one might come as a shock to some Dell users(Some Dells give a fan error when they're replaced). The CPU fans seem to be replaceable. The T3500 has two 120mm fans in the front of the case. Which use some proprietary connector to connect, but with a little wire snipping I was able to hook up some random CPU coolers fan and not receive a fan error. My next quest is to throw in a Corsair ML120 Pro Red LED fan. I'll be sure to show pictures when I finish. If this works out fine, this would mean other third party fans like NZXT,Noctua,Cooler Master,etc should work.:)

Adding RAM

I mentioned this in another post, but adding ram as been a nightmare(my goal has been to find cheap DDR3 server ram). I haven't add much luck. I have learned that the T3500 dislikes certain ranks like 2Rx8,4Rx4. If you want ram and want absolutely no hassle. Go for Corsair Ballastix ram or other popular DDR3 brands. Finding cheap ram has been a hassle. The Dell does support ECC I believe, this cannot be mixed with non-ECC ram. It does not like buffered RAM.

I have also seen some confusion on the Dell RAM limit. Dell states that 24gbs of RAM is the max supported. This is not the case if you upgrade the CPU. The OEM CPUs are only designed to accomadate 24gbs of RAM, however going to a X5650 brings that limit to 288gbs. The memory limit resides on the CPU. Just google the chip you're looking at, and check its ram limit if you wanna go past 24gbs. I have seen users go up to 48gbs(6x8gb with upgraded CPU), which leads me to believe getting to 96gbs of RAM might be possible with 16GB sticks. I have yet to shell out a few hundred on 16GB DDR3 ram though(my choice would be Corsair RAM though).

I am currently using a 5x4gb(first 5 slots) + 2gb(6th slot) configuration right now, Dell gave me a non-efficient RAM error on the first boot but everything since then has worked flawlessly.

Hard Drives/Expansion

I use 3 HDDs in my Dell which are for Windows,Storage(steam libraries ,footage ,etc), and an hackintosh drive.

The Dell's limit is about 3, including the floppy drive bay but I am using that for a HDD and it works fine. You could expand further to a 5.25 bay but 3 is enough for me.

The Dell T3500 has 5xSATA II ports, this should be plenty. It also has older ports such as 1xIDE and 1xFloppy Connector.

The Dell has a good PCI expansion as well. It has PCIE 2.0 which is enough for a modern GPU. I am happily running a GTX 960 2GB in my system. It has 2xPCI, 2xPCIE x16 and what looks to be PCIE x8. My T3500 has 2 GPUs(GTX 960 and Radeon 6670) and a USB PCI adapter.

By the way, some Dell T3500 sellers may list it without an HDD. I almost bought mine without a HDD tray. Keep that in mind!

Power Supply

In the other thread I responded to, it was said the Dell has a proprietary PSU. It does not have a proprietary PSU. I was able to replace my power supply with an EVGA 500w standard ATX PSU. Your PSU shouldn't be lower than 500w and should have a 24pin and 8 Pin CPU connector. The CPU connector is all the way at the bottom so you may need an extender if the CPU wire doesn't reach. The replacement of the PSU also requires you to take your motherboard out of your system. Dell wires the CPU cable beneath the motherboard(I left mine out so I can easily replace it in the future.

The PSU mount is upside down( logo will be upside down), just warning incase you buy a PSU with the fan placed on the wrong side. I would recommend a modular PSU, as things can get a little cramped towards the 5.25in drive area(I just tucked my wires in the bays I could)


Some users might be interested in running macOS Sierra on their Dell T3500. Everything work's great except audio at the moment. A USB audio(3.5 Aux) works great. I had help with mine, so I can't explain too much but it does work fantastic.

Part 1, next part is second post!

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8 Replies
1 Copper

RE: Dell T3500 Upgrading FAQ

Motherboard Upgrading

This has not been tested as far as I know, you're on your own here

I have found that Dell reused many parts in the T5500 series which made me wonder if a board swap is possible.

I've put together a comparison of the T5500 series and T3500 series. Notice that the only difference in the CPU riser in the unoccupied area of your T3500. In theory it should be possible, I will possibly try it in the future.

The T5500 motherboard seems to have everything the T3500 motherboard has.

T7500 motherboard?

The T7500 has a different layout(case wise) it would seem from the T3500/T5500 series however the motherboard seems to be very similar and should fit/work with the other parts inside your T3500. I can't guarantee this so you're on your own if you plan to do this. The requirements go for the T7500 as well.

The T7500 motherboard doesn't have much advantage over a T5500, you'll get a few extra SATA ports but nothing a SATA card can't do for you. The T7500 motherboards are a bit pricier too which is hard to justify over the T5500 but if you can find a cheap one, go for it.

Whats the point of upgrading my motherboard?

Upgrading to a T5500 motherboard would enable you to use a CPU riser which means a second CPU. You would be able to run ,for example, Dual X5650s together(which would show a 12 cores and 24 threads in Windows)

This could give you better performance in certain things. I only bring this up because T5500 dual Xeon versions can be a bit pricey.

The second CPU will require its own 8 pin, so you'll need a PSU with two 8 pin connectors. Everything else is the same for the T5500(24Pin ATX, etc).

And the Second CPU riser, which can cost a bit so keep an eye out for deals!


Let me start with, this is a Dell machine. Not a EVGA Sabertooth x58 motherboard(just an example). Overclocking won't really be possible on the Tx500 series sadly. If anyone has a finding, let me know, I will add it to the post.

If clock speed matters to you, go for a higher Xeon like a X5690. There is also a cheaper W3690 version, but this has a 24gb RAM limit and cannot be used in a Dual CPU configuration I believe. Other than that, its the same processor. I'd recommend the X5690.

Non-Dell Fans

I mentioned earlier the use of a ML120 Pro fan in the front cage of the T3500. I did a little test run(picture below) and it worked great and ran at fine speeds(quiet too πŸ™‚ )

I also tried the fan in the second front cage fan slot, I believe they are both 120mm fans but I won't know till I take the fan cage out(It seems to be just a thinner version of the bottom fan). Next step is to make an adapter (4 pin to the "5" pin Dell connector, waiting on my 4 pin fan extender) because I don't feel like wire snipping this new fan :p. I may do a NZXT Aer RGB fan next with the NZXT Hue+ and plug the Hue+ into the motherboard's internal USB. I would probably mount the Hue+ on the bottom, free space. I will be sure to update the post if I do.


Finally got the parts I was waiting for(heatshrink and 4 pin extender) :), ready to go!

What I ordered/You'll need:
Solder Kit
Rosin 60/40 Solder
Fan of choice(4 Pin I'd recommend, no idea what 3 pin does)
Rubber mounts(I ordered some but they didn't work, ended up using screws)

Step One


Heatshrinking...(actually forgot to put heatshrink strips on and had to redo the soldering)

And testing!:D

Everything looks good

Step Two

Removed the fan, and we're left with the fan screw holes

Now to see how the fan fits

Fan fits perfectly in the cage, made sure to route the wire so it was not in the way.

Step Three

Secured the fan in

and now to put the cage back in, like normal.


Now to enjoy it, and prepare to buy a second fan for the cage πŸ˜›

I really like how this came out, It was really hard to come to a T3500 from a XPS 720(lighting is awesome, miss it). This is the first step towards making it like my XPS 720.

To-Do list: spray paint the front panel gray, and 80mm LED fans (and as mentioned the second cage fan)

Shame I bought two Arctic 80mm fans, not sure what I'll do with the now.

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1 Copper

RE: Dell T3500 Upgrading FAQ

What a coincident, I have just received a Precision T3500.

I would like to make use of the case, PSU and RAM and upgrade the processor and graphics card to more current offerings.

Would it be possible to make use of the case and mount third party motherboard on it? It seems to be not the case. If so, would I be able to run an Nvidia GeForce 1070 on the stock setup?

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1 Copper

RE: Dell T3500 Upgrading FAQ

Would the stock setup be compatible with Nvidia GeForce 1070?

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1 Copper

RE: Dell T3500 Upgrading FAQ

Third party motherboards can be mounted however you can't use the cases front panel without doing some wiring.

The stock setup might be able to run it depending on the CPU, there could be bottlenecking. Maybe grab an X5690/W3690 to pair with the 1070? Not sure how the x5650 holds up.

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6 Thallium

RE: Dell T3500 Upgrading FAQ

The 3500 supports Crossfire but DOES NOT Support SLI.

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1 Copper

RE: Dell T3500 Upgrading FAQ

Thank you for this!  I recently grabbed a T3500 for $72 shipped.  I sold the 2 4gb sticks, W3520 and Quadro graphics card that was in it and picked up a W3565 for $10 and 6 1GB sticks for $15.  I am awaiting an HD 7870 I paid $31 for that has glitched graphics when hot.  I hope to revive it as my goal was to see what kind of gaming machine could be put together for around $100.  While waiting for the HD 7870 I put in an RX 460 I have since the performance should be similar.  I can't believe how well it runs things and scored higher in Firestrike than I would have guessed.  

P.S. Your RAM error message was due to non-matching sizes in each slot.  The T3500 only likes the same size sticks set up in 3's or 6's because of the tri-channel memory setup.

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1 Copper

RE: Dell T3500 Upgrading FAQ

Thank you for this!  I recently grabbed a T3500 for $72 shipped.  I sold the 2 4gb sticks, W3520 and Quadro graphics card that was in it and picked up a W3565 for $10 and 6 1GB sticks for $15.  I am awaiting an HD 7870 I paid $31 for that has glitched graphics when hot.  I hope to revive it as my goal was to see what kind of gaming machine could be put together for around $100.  While waiting for the HD 7870 I put in an RX 460 I have since the performance should be similar.  I can't believe how well it runs things and scored higher in Firestrike than I would have guessed. 

P.S. Your RAM error message was due to non-matching sizes in each slot.  The T3500 only likes the same size sticks set up in 3's or 6's because of the tri-channel memory setup.

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1 Copper

RE: Dell T3500 Upgrading FAQ

If you're having CPU heat issues with the T3500 or T5500 you can buy a heatsink that has a fan mounted to it.  Or if you want to modify your own heatsink you can look at the listing to get some ideas on what to do.  See the links below:

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