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Last reply by 12-29-2019 Solved
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T420 Graphics support?

I recently got a T420 for Desktop virtualization in a lab environment.  I'm not doing VDI but I am going to be running multiple VMs at a time, one of which will be my daily work VM.  I have no need for a several thousand dollar GPU but I would like better graphics than the on board [] that most servers are given.  No crazy gaming but some GPU capability would be nice.  Here is the rub.  It seems the ONLY cards this guy supports are the Q4000 and Q6000 Nvidia cards?  Seriously?  Is this really the case? I don't care about Dell supporting it but I am not allowed to use my $100 Graphics card from Best Buy?  I really hope I'm just missing something.  Can the T420 use graphics cards other than the Nvidia Q4000 or Q6000?  If not, does anyone know why?  Is this a bios enforced limitation?  Is it some other technical limitation?

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Hi Zanzaboo,

I'm not aware of anything we've done to specifically disable unsupported video cards, though we definitely cannot guarantee their compatibility nor have we tested or validated them in any configuration and for that reason do not recommend them. For supported graphics cards on the T420 (which you have correctly identified as the Q4000 and Q6000), you must disable embedded video output from the BIOS/System Setup under Integrated Devices (pg 30-31, support.dell.com/.../T420OMen.pdf ) to get video out. Note that when you do this, the iDRAC virtual console video output will no longer be available until embedded video is enabled again. I don't know of any reason you cannot follow the same steps with an unsupported graphics card but I must stress we did not test or validate it and if it doesn't work you would not have any recourse under warranty (i.e. we would not replace the motherboard for a faulty PCI-e port, for example). I'm not sure if PCI-e video passthrough will work on here, but you may need to configure the SR-IOV setting (right below the embedded video setting) per the needs of your hypervisor. Let us know how it goes, and good luck!

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Hi Zanzaboo,

I'm not aware of anything we've done to specifically disable unsupported video cards, though we definitely cannot guarantee their compatibility nor have we tested or validated them in any configuration and for that reason do not recommend them. For supported graphics cards on the T420 (which you have correctly identified as the Q4000 and Q6000), you must disable embedded video output from the BIOS/System Setup under Integrated Devices (pg 30-31, support.dell.com/.../T420OMen.pdf ) to get video out. Note that when you do this, the iDRAC virtual console video output will no longer be available until embedded video is enabled again. I don't know of any reason you cannot follow the same steps with an unsupported graphics card but I must stress we did not test or validate it and if it doesn't work you would not have any recourse under warranty (i.e. we would not replace the motherboard for a faulty PCI-e port, for example). I'm not sure if PCI-e video passthrough will work on here, but you may need to configure the SR-IOV setting (right below the embedded video setting) per the needs of your hypervisor. Let us know how it goes, and good luck!

Download the Dell Quick Resource Locator app today to access PowerEdge support content on your mobile device! (iOS, Android, Windows)

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Hello. I just got a t420 server for my personal high performance computing and my cheaper PCIe graphics card won't work. Did you get your server to work with a card other than Q4000/6000? I am a bit concerned about disabling the onboard GPU and not being able to ever see my compuer reboot.

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you can always clear the nvram using a motherboard jumper, so you are safe. I would also think  the system would show video on the onboard if no video card is detected, but I dont have the means to test that to be sure.


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The process should be much easier for you as the T420 has a x16 PCIe slot designed for 75W graphics cards and the system has PEG connecters to feed your hungry graphics cards with power. So these latest servers were designed to handle graphics cards but only Dell cards will be supported if you have issues.

Contrast this to my my T610 which is limited by it's x8 lanes and 25W PCIe slot limit . I've installed a hand modified x8 PCIe XFX Geforce 7600 GS so it would fit in the x8 PCIE slot available on my T610 and it's been working for well over a year 24/7 without issues.  

So just power down and insert a PCIe graphics adapter (games card) into PCIe slot3, reapply power and boot up jumping into the BIOS. As the monitor is still connected to the integrated graphics as you should see what you are doing and now you should be able to disable the integrated graphics adapter. Exist and save BIOS. Reconnect your monitor to the new PCIe graphics adapter and reboot your system at which point you should again see the boot process via the new graphics card. If not, you can always revert to the integrated video by moving the monitor cable back and clearing NVRAM.

If you have previously used a Quadro card within your OS, these Quadro drivers will be loaded and they do not work with games cards so you may revert to very low resolution! So, if you have issues, uninstall the Quadro drivers and install GefFrce drivers and all should be OK.

Obviously, multiple games graphics cards require some form of licensing which is normally embedded in mobo NVRAM and checked by the driver (so SLI will not work on these systems). Quadro cards use different driver and these may or may not make such checks depending on how they are licensed but in any case as they are supported by Dell so multiple cards would work.

As Jonathan mentioned, you will loose some iDRAC features but that's OK if you don't need these features, i didn't.

Let us know how it goes...

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zanzaboo and mfgobbi, have you ever found a solution? Does the solution proposed by skylarking work? I'm considering the same scenario and would like to know upfront if this will work.

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For anyone wondering if this works it does.  Just disable the onboard video in bios and away you go.  I did have issues with passthrough in ESXi but I didn't spend much time on it because it wasn't all that necessary for me.  

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What graphics card did you use? I am looking to purchase a T420/T320 for my main work PC but I need dual monitor so I just want to know what others have gotten to work before I spend the cash and have to figure it out myself.

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I put a 100 dollar amd/ati radeon 5450. It has dvi and hdmi outs.  Works good for dual head.  Just disable the onboard vga in the BIOS,  and it will detect your pci card. Make sure you download the amd drivers to configure everything to taste. Good luck.

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Started with an Nvidia GeForce GT 610, switched to an ATI card I've had for years, and am now back to integrated because I installed ESXi on it and went headless.  I can't say for certain but I don't think you will have any issues with an off the shelf video card as long as it is not something weird and you disable the on board graphics in bios.

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