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