Precision Fixed Workstations

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Easy to boot a Precision 7820 from an NVMe drive in the NVMe FlexBay?

I am a professional photographer using a Precision T7400 workstation as my graphics workstation. I have the OS (Windows 10 Pro), my applications, system files and the like on a Samsung 860 EVO 1TB SSD in a SATA tray in one of the front 5.25: bays, and I keep all of my image and data files on four internal 3.5” WD Black 5TB SATA HDD drives configured via the on-board RAID controller as a pair of 10TB RAID 0 volumes (actually a pair of 4TB volumes, since I discovered after buying the drives that the T7400’s on-board controlled can only recognize up to 2TB drives.)

I recently found out that the T7400 will not run the latest version of Photoshop, as Photoshop now requires CPUs with the SSE 4.2 instruction set, and my processors are SSE 4.1.  So, I purchased a used Precision 7820 with dual Silver 4214 processors and Windows 10 Pro but no drives. The easiest transition is to move all 5 of my drives from the T7400 to the 7820, and I don’t foresee any problems configuring the 7820 just like the T7400 is configured now, or am I wrong about that?  I’m hoping the on-board Intel® RSTe controller will recognize the full 5TB size of the WD drives, though I’ve been unable to find a verification of that on the Dell website or in this forum.  If so, I might switch to a single 10TB RAID 10 volume.

Before moving the Samsung SSD, though, I wanted to ask for opinions as to whether a newer and faster SSD will provide a noticeable improvement in system performance. If yes, I’m open to specific make/model suggestions, keeping in mind that I value reliability over sheer speed.

Alternatively, I’m reading that NVMe drives are much faster than SATA SSDs, so I have 3 questions.

  1. Will I see a significant improvement putting the OS and my applications on an NVMe drive in the FlexBay?
  2. If yes, can I easily configure the 7820 to boot from the NVMe drive in the NVMe FlexBay and still have my RAID array via the onboard RSTe controller? “Easily” is the key word here. While I’m very good with hardware and built both of my current T7400s (my office computer is also a T7400) from enclosures with an MB and a PSU and nothing else, I’m significantly less knowledgeable about some of the behind-the-scenes technologies.  For example, a Google search this morning for “can the dell precision 7820 boot from the NVMe card?” turned up answers very much like this one:  “An adaptor will not magically allow you to boot an NVMe SSD on a system without NVMe support in UEFI, and any PCIe-to-M.2 adaptor will allow you to boot on a system with NVMe support. It is simply a passive electrical adaptor. *No legacy BIOS to my knowledge is able to boot from an NVMe device.”  That did not answer my question, as I have no idea what UEFI is, whether the 7820 has NVMe support in UEFI, why I might need a PCIe-to-M.2 adapter, or whether the 7820 has a legacy BIOS. What I want is just an answer like: “Yes, it’s not that hard to do if you read the following tutorial …” or “Unless you’re ready to invest the time and effort roughly equivalent to a college-level class, just boot from your SATA SSD and be happy with that.”
  3. If booting from an NVMe drive while concurrently having a RAID volume (or two) for my data is, in fact, reasonably easy to accomplish, exactly what specs do I look for in an NVMe drive?  From what I can tell, the 7820 is PCIe 3.0.  Is that true for both the expansion slots and the NVMe controller? NVMe cards appear to come in one of 3 form factors.  Which do I need for use in the NVMe FlexBay?

Any and all help will be greatly appreciated!

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2 Bronze
2 Bronze
942

Hi there, Precision 5820 owner here which has a lot in common with the 7820. 

I run 2 x 2TB NVME SSDs in the top two Flexbays in a RAID 0 configuration and boot Windows from them no problem. Also no issues booting from a single NVME either. 

Performance is incredible, running your OS and applications on an NVME SSD is the single best thing you can do for a performance increase right now. 

I also run a pair of 18TB Seagate Ironwolf HDD’s in the bottom two Flex Bays in a RAID 0 configuration. The system recognises the full 18TB per drive no problem. 

My 5820 is an X299 platform with an i9 10980XE CPU, it uses Intel VROC RAID which is/was an enterprise alternative to Intel RST. 

You shouldn’t have any issues at all. And yes, the 7820 is PCIE-3.0, PCIE-4.0 was not available on Intel CPUs available with the unit. However the only benefit you’ll really see from that right now is the doubling of bandwidth enabling x4 NVME drives to get upto 8GB/s rather than 4GB/s.

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887

I suspect that that cable went to an optional raid controller
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUEdpEhR4Us
so... just disconnect the 4 sata cables from it (and keep it, they are always messy to be sourced, I suspect) , and plug them to the mb ( easy that they have even numbers on them on the white labels, in case you want to match the ports... not a requirement obviously )

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Happy owner of a dual silver T7820

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Replies (17)
4 Tellurium
953

Hello,

welcome to the club. So, the first question I would make you is : is the unit you purchased configured with 2 m.2/u.2 converted flexbays ? If they are, at least one of the top2 bays would have an adapter installed with a small removable caddy made for a nvme drive.

Otherwise you have a configuration with 4 x 3.5"/2.5" trays made for sata units, and you can add an nvme drive in a pci-e slot inside by using a cheap asus (example) adapter (or a dell adapter for 2 - 4 nvme ).

To install windows on a nvme unit, is as simple as loading the intel RSTe driver while installing

https://dl.dell.com/FOLDER07153683M/1/Intel-Rapid-Storage-Technology-Enterprise-Driver_22P84_WIN_7.0...

so you would take this driver, extract it with 7zip on a pc, copy the extracted folders an usb thumbdrive, and point the windows installer to the correct directory when given the option. 

The nvme unit is faster than a sata ssd by a factor of around 5, but how much you would notice it it's a matter of your normal usage ( and to boot would just be a matter of some seconds anyway ) : you would look for a 2280 form factor nvme , pci-e3.0 is enough for this unit ( pci-e4.0 would work at pci-e3.0 speeds )

A thing to keep in mind is that a 7820 has up to 4 x 3.5" flexbays with caddies for hdds, and to add  more internal sata storage ( you have 5 units ) requires converting the 5.25" bay (or the slim optical drive bay)

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Happy owner of a dual silver T7820
2 Bronze
2 Bronze
943

Hi there, Precision 5820 owner here which has a lot in common with the 7820. 

I run 2 x 2TB NVME SSDs in the top two Flexbays in a RAID 0 configuration and boot Windows from them no problem. Also no issues booting from a single NVME either. 

Performance is incredible, running your OS and applications on an NVME SSD is the single best thing you can do for a performance increase right now. 

I also run a pair of 18TB Seagate Ironwolf HDD’s in the bottom two Flex Bays in a RAID 0 configuration. The system recognises the full 18TB per drive no problem. 

My 5820 is an X299 platform with an i9 10980XE CPU, it uses Intel VROC RAID which is/was an enterprise alternative to Intel RST. 

You shouldn’t have any issues at all. And yes, the 7820 is PCIE-3.0, PCIE-4.0 was not available on Intel CPUs available with the unit. However the only benefit you’ll really see from that right now is the doubling of bandwidth enabling x4 NVME drives to get upto 8GB/s rather than 4GB/s.

941

Thanks for the quick and detailed reply. The 7820 just arrived a few minutes ago, so I was not certain of the FlexBay configuration until just now.  It's set up for four 2.5" / 3.5" drives.  No NVMe.  I've been looking around for PCIe NVMe cards, and it looks like the Dell 23PX6 is a safe (if overkill for just 1 SSD) choice.  There are many on eBay at around $60 obo, and there is a refurb on Amazon at $70.  Amazon had a bunch of much cheaper options ($20 - $35), but none with a well-known brand name, and the thought of relying on a cheap no-name card for my OS and applications doesn't thrill me.  Is the 23PX6, in fact, a good choice?  I don't remember where I read this today, but one article said to beware that some low-end PCIe - NVMe cards only use 1 or 2 of PCIe's many communication lanes, and I can't find detailed specifications anywhere for the 23PX6, though I found one Dell document regarding M.2 PCIe SSD Interposer cards in general. That info suggested I needed to put the card in at least an x4 slot but did not say whether putting it in an x8 or x16 slot would boost performance.  Do you know of cards besides the 23XP6 which might be better performers?

Thanks, again, for the help.  I'm excited to also be a member of the Dual Xeon Silver club.  It's just that so much has changed since I built my T7400s.  The learning curve is steep -- especially when clients are waiting for edited files. 

913

If I'm not mistaken , the Dell 23PX6 is an 8x pci-e card allowing to install up to 2 nvme drives.

Dell sells only 2 adapters , one for 2 nvme, and one for 4 nvme... so the question is mainly if you plan to add more than 2 nvme in the future (apart that if it's so long in the future, you could always either resell the 2x card or keep it in an 8x slot and add a 4x in the 16x slot, upping the total to 6 nvme drives).

In case the 7820 you got has nothing installed in the 5.25" bay, the power cable required is hidden just under the psu in a kind of holder ( to access it and release to let it go to the front bay, requires removing temporarily the 2nd cpu board ).
The 5.25" can be converted to 1x3.5" with fan (dell kit) , 2x2.5" with fan (dell kit) accessible only from the inside. Alternatively Icy Dock has some nice metal conversion kits that allow external hotswap

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Happy owner of a dual silver T7820
889

Hi, thanks for the info.  I have a new question, though.  My 7820 arrived yesterday.  I didn't have a lot of time to look it over, but I did open it up to look around the interior and was confused by something.  It came with a 256MB SATA SSD in one of the Flexbays, and the back side of the flexbays looks to be difficult to access without removing the CPUs.  I just assumed the 7820's Flexbays would have SATA cables and power already connected, but the SATA 0 through SATA 5 ports on the MB are empty.  There is a bundle of wires coming more or less from the Flexbay area marked SATA 0 through SATA 3, but instead of being plugged into the MB they are plugged into a set of connectors which consolidate into a single connector I've never seen before.  There is no readily visible port on the MB for that single connector and 7820 - Unknown connector 2.jpg7820 - Unknown connector 1.jpg 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

it was dangling free in the case.  Do I disconnect that consolidating cable and plug those 4 connectors into the SATA 0 through SATA 3 ports on the MB?  Any info on those connections will be appreciated.

I did buy yesterday a Dell PCIe > NVMe card and will decide today between a Samsung 980 Pro and a WD 850 Black drive for my OS and applications.  Yes, those are PCI 4 cards for a PCI 3 slot, but as of yesterday both PCI 3 counterparts were considerably more expensive. 

Until the card and drive get here I'm not going to do anything else with the 7820 except swap the DVD RW drive that came with the 7820 with the internal BD writer currently in my T7400.

 

888

I suspect that that cable went to an optional raid controller
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUEdpEhR4Us
so... just disconnect the 4 sata cables from it (and keep it, they are always messy to be sourced, I suspect) , and plug them to the mb ( easy that they have even numbers on them on the white labels, in case you want to match the ports... not a requirement obviously )

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Happy owner of a dual silver T7820
884

Thanks.  That does make sense.  I've never used a separate RAID controller, so I wouldn't recognize any such connector.

4 Tellurium
885

Yw, they tend to use these because they are more compact. It's a pity they pulled out the card, before selling the unit

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Happy owner of a dual silver T7820
858

A usual configuration if you order it with NVME's in flexbay is that the top two flexbays will have a PCI-E NVME backplane attached and will be connected to the motherboard by two black square connectors/cables.

The other two bays should be connected to the motherboard via standard SATA cables and will be ready to accept a SATA drive in the caddy's.

The cable you have photographed is a SAS breakout for an optional hardware RAID controller. Unplug the SATA from it and plug them into the motherboard.

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