Max Upgrades on E521 or C521

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Max Upgrades on E521 or C521

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The original topic was deleted, so here we go again.

This topic is to discuss upgrades to the E521 (fullsize) and C521 (slimline) desktop PC's.

CPU - 65w or 89w work.  However, you must use the older BIOS.  1.0.3 is currently on my C521 with the 5600+ Windsor (89w running at 2.8Ghz and 2048Mb L2).  That chip won't work with some of the later mobo BIOS revisions.  Luckily, you can re-flash to the earlier revisions.  I have heard of brave souls using the 125w AM2 CPU's, but they use so much of your 260w to 305w power supply that your choice of Video Card is severely limited.  Also, the 125w Black-Edition CPU's are 'unlocked' for overclocking, but you cannot BIOS overclock with these computers. 

RAM - Guarenteed:  1GB x 4 sticks of DDR2 PC6400 800Mhz RAM for a total of 4GB.   Known to work in all C/E521's.  (Vista32 and XP32 can only 'see' about 2.75GB to 3.25GB because the rest of the 4GB addresses have been taken by VRAM and system devices, ports, etc...   Vista64 and XP64 can address between 8 and 128GB of RAM depending on version)

RAM - Maybe (Undergoing testing currently):   The jury is still out regarding use of 2GB sticks of DDR2.   The AM2 CPU's can address more than 4GB RAM and so can the Nvidia N430 chipset that these mobo's use.  Both have the ability to 'recognize' 2GB sticks of DDR2.   I know that 2GB x 1 stick usually works.   I know that 2GB x 2 sticks usually works.  I am doing some testing to determine if you can run [2GB x 4 sticks - 8GB] or [2GB x 2 sticks and 1GB x 2 sticks - 6GB]  reliably and not cause problems under stress.   I have (1) E521 with newer mobo and BIOS versions, I have (2) C521's with older mobo and BIOS versions.  If I can get more than 4GB to run reliably in ALL these systems (and no, I'm not going out and buying 12 sticks of 2GBx1 DDR2, I'm not rich), then it's pretty safe to assume that the factory specifications regarding the RAM is similar to most of Dell's specifications.  (my E1501 laptop would take twice the RAM as what was stated in the owner's manual and service manuals)   You need to consider that 8GB may be max ram that can be addressed by chipset/AM2 and that your VRAM may cause problems.  If current tests go well, I would suggest 6GB RAM so you can use a 512Mb or better video card without conflicts. 

GPU/Video Cards:   Factory PSU or upgraded PSU, that is the question.  For the factory PSU, any video card that doesn't require an additional power connector in addition to the power supplied by the PCI-e 16 slot should work.  I have been using the Nvidia 8500GT, it's not the best, but the 32 pixel shaders are more than double that of the GF6800 which is minimum requirement of most of the latest 2009 video games.   I can get use medium settings on Fallout3 and Necrovision (DX10 version).   I am going to try the (gasp!!) ATI HD 4650 LP/LP (low profile/low power), which should be a little better than the 8500gt and is only $41.00 on newegg right now after a $15.00 rebate.  If I had a little more cash, I would get the 9600GT LP/LP version, the core and memory are clocked about 5  to 10% lower than a standard 9600GT, but the 64 pixel shaders and DDR3 VRAM still will play even the most demanding of games (Crysis) at reasonable frame-rates in low to medium settings this runs about $90 or so online.   All of these cards use are relatively low-power and will work on the stock PSU even with an 89w processor and a secondary optical drive and secondary HDD.

more to come later.  too  busy to continue right now.

 

 

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C521 - Athlon64x2 5600+ Windsor, 2GB DDR2-800, Galaxy Nvidia 9600GT LP Video Card (my gamer)

E521 - Athlon64x2 4400, 4GB DDR2-800, Nvidia 8500gt (wife's C4 machine and my backup gamer)

prior Dell's:  Optiplex GX110 (owned 3 of these), Dimension C521, D400 laptop, E1501 laptop, and many others.

All Replies
  • Ok,  here's an update:  

    Jury is still out on the 2GB sticks of DDR2,  I bought a second stick, but I think it's bad RAM.  It hasn't worked in any of my Dell's or my HP computer at work which does specify 2GB x 2 (4GB total) using both of it's slots.   I'm pretty sure it's a bad stick, but I bought it used as part of a combo purchase so I am just stuck with bad ram now. 

    Good news on the Video Card front, though.   Best Buy put the Galaxy 9600GT LP (low profile AND low power) on clearance for $69.00.  (it depends on the store, though - Whitemarsh, MD was charging $96.00 and Golden Ring, MD is charging $69.00)   This swayed me to go for the 9600GT and boy, am I glad I did.  It runs Crysis (yes, THE Crysis) with all settings at High except for Low shadows and Medium Post-Processing.  1024x768 resolution.   This gives me minimum 31 FPS and average 46 FPS.   I can live with that, as I have a smallish monitor and the game is 100% playable as frame rate stays above 30 FPS at all times.   I have spent about 4 hours total during 3 sessions (one lasting over 2 hours) so stability isn't an issue.   And that is in the C521 with the underrated 270watt power supply and the 89watt CPU.  This card only uses 60watt going full-tilt on a hardcore game.   If 2+ hrs straight playing Crysis isn't causing any problems, then this setup is plenty stable for anyone.   

    More to come.... 

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    C521 - Athlon64x2 5600+ Windsor, 2GB DDR2-800, Galaxy Nvidia 9600GT LP Video Card (my gamer)

    E521 - Athlon64x2 4400, 4GB DDR2-800, Nvidia 8500gt (wife's C4 machine and my backup gamer)

    prior Dell's:  Optiplex GX110 (owned 3 of these), Dimension C521, D400 laptop, E1501 laptop, and many others.

  • So - any news yet?

    I'm still waiting how the ram upgrade turns out. :)

  • I just installed 2x2GB sticks of Patriot 800mhz RAM and it works fine.  But CPU.Z still saw the RAM as 400mhz, what it up with that.  I am running the latest Bios which I think is 1.1.11.  Can someone explain that?

    I then installed more of the older RAM, I am not sure but I think it is 4300mhz or something like that. I don't remember and will have to double check. They are 1GB sticks. So now I have 6GB showing up in CPU.Z and of course  a little over 3GB in Task manager. I did this so I can install Windows Server 2008 and run VMware or Virtual Server 2005 for some VM's I need to work on like SharePoint 2010 and so forth.  I will be upgrading this PC to a 64 bit os so I can use the memory. I may even just put my XP64 on it. I have a Vista Ultimate but it needs to be upgraded to Windows 7 so I might as well get a Tech Subscription and have what I need to work with....sorry just thinking outloud here. In final, I will probably put XP64.  I have had issues having to start and stop services and so forth to get the performance out of this thing with it's limited memory, even at 3GB. 

    I have been reading the forums for days in plans for building a power HTPC/Virtual Server/Gaming system.

  • it's only going to show approx 3.2 Gb RAM since you are still using a 32bit OS.  once you go to 64bit, windows will 'see' all of the RAM.   some RAM requires higher voltage than others.  i ran into some problems with certain brands of 'gaming' RAM.   i can run one stick fine, but to put two sticks in it tries to run in 'dual channel' mode and there is a voltage issue.  sometimes the RAM will run, but at a lower speed and not take advantage of the 'dual channel' which is needed to get the PC6400 (800mhz) memory speeds.   I tried using 4GB this way (in single channel mode and lower speeds), but i get better performance in my one C-521 with only 2GB running in dual channel mode (higher Vista WEI score, too with only 2 GB).

    as to your BIOS - DOWNGRADE NOW!! -  the earlier versions were more 'open' as Dell wanted to make sure that changes to future plans for the product life-cycle could be accomidated. 

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    C521 - Athlon64x2 5600+ Windsor, 2GB DDR2-800, Galaxy Nvidia 9600GT LP Video Card (my gamer)

    E521 - Athlon64x2 4400, 4GB DDR2-800, Nvidia 8500gt (wife's C4 machine and my backup gamer)

    prior Dell's:  Optiplex GX110 (owned 3 of these), Dimension C521, D400 laptop, E1501 laptop, and many others.

  • Well I have Windows Server 2008 on it now and it shows 4GB of RAM. The bios is reporting 4GB of 800mhz ram.  CPU.Z is also showing that RAM.

    It ran on 6GB of RAM and showed up as 6GB in CPU.Z.

    I need to get another two sticks of RAM. 

  • I don't expect to find drivers for the video or the media controller but I may try to use the Vista drivers.

  •  

    after win2k, they changed the naming scheme.  had they kept the old scheme from winNT and win2k:

    XP = server 2003 professional

    Vista = server 2008 professional.  99.9% of drivers for vista will work for server 08.  just remember that 32bit drivers won't work on 64bit OS and vice-versa.

    you can actually 'convert' server to the 'user' version, it's a royal pain, though as many registry and control panel settings must be changed, etc...  and you have to manually install the 'candy' like games and things like media player, etc...    not worth the hassle.   

     

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    C521 - Athlon64x2 5600+ Windsor, 2GB DDR2-800, Galaxy Nvidia 9600GT LP Video Card (my gamer)

    E521 - Athlon64x2 4400, 4GB DDR2-800, Nvidia 8500gt (wife's C4 machine and my backup gamer)

    prior Dell's:  Optiplex GX110 (owned 3 of these), Dimension C521, D400 laptop, E1501 laptop, and many others.

  • Great thread going on...

    Just wondering has anyone tried the 45W AM2 chips like the 5050e with the C521?

    I have recently started to my C521 overhaul project beginning with the videocard.

    Finally got rid of the slow ATI 1300 Pro and replaced it with a Galaxy 240 GT LP with great results.

    After reading your report, I guess I should be safe to upgrade to 4GB RAM as long as I stay away from those gaming RAM with nonstandard voltages.

    I guess I can upgrade my RAM by Thursday.

    I am still waiting for my ASUS Xonar DX to replace the onboard audio, but then I learned this card has issues with the nForce chipset and it requires a floppy power connection, unfortunately I doubt the floppy power cable is long enough.  Maybe I will have to opt for the D1 instead unless I can find the right extensions or adapters.

    The DVD Combo drive and the primary hard drive is also due for upgrades.  I will probably get a Bluray combo drive and a WD Green Edition drive respectively.

     

  • I went to the local computer market today in search for a 5050e with no luck.

    Instead I was persuaded by the salesman into buying an Athlon II 215.  I know it's an AM3 chip, but in theory it should work.

    If it doesn't work, it is probably the BIOS.  Anyway, let's find out.

    I'll post the results in a few days.

     

  • it will need a bios update.   (which dell has not done since before AM2+ or AM3 was released)

    however, you might be able to get away with a bios downgrade.   the older versions of the bios were more "open"  as dell allowed for some 'elbow room' as better processors came along.  at the end of the E/C 521 product lifecycle, they didn't need to allow for this and 'locked' the bios to existing factory options only. 

    because of this, you might be able to run an AM2+ or AM3 on the older versions of the bios.  "might".  no guarentees here and don't be surprised if it seems to work, then has intermittant BSOD errors or just shuts down randomly, which could indicate an issue with the allocation of resources with the cache.   memory management is the 'software' change to the AM2+/AM3 as compared to the AM2.  obviously there is a hardware change, as well (45nm process and 938 pin vs 65nm or 90nm process and 940 pin).  the 938 pin will fit in the 940 pin AM2 socket, however. 

    if you get this to work, theorettically you might be able to run ddr3 memory. 

    why you need all this, i don't know.   4GB PC6400 RAM and the 2.8Ghz 5600+ allows me to convert a CD to MP3 before the 2nd song is done playing (while i'm converting).  that plus the 9600GT lets me run Crysis at better than 720P resolution with all the 'effects' turned on and the graphics set to 'high'.   unless you are converting DVD's, today's consumer software doesn't even challenge my system.   even photoshop CS4 can convert huge RAW format pictures in reasonable times.  (faster than at college on their brand-new Mac's that were spec-ed specifically for photo editing). 

     

    let us know how it goes, though.   it would be interesting to find out if you can get it to run stable.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    C521 - Athlon64x2 5600+ Windsor, 2GB DDR2-800, Galaxy Nvidia 9600GT LP Video Card (my gamer)

    E521 - Athlon64x2 4400, 4GB DDR2-800, Nvidia 8500gt (wife's C4 machine and my backup gamer)

    prior Dell's:  Optiplex GX110 (owned 3 of these), Dimension C521, D400 laptop, E1501 laptop, and many others.

  • Um...the exact reason of this upgrade is beyond me as well, I was in the mood probably sums it up.  I guess it is like asking why do women enjoy buying clothes?

    As I explained earlier, I got the AM3 Athlon II 215 because Athlon 5050e was not available.  It probably is a mistake, but sometimes you never know until you give it a go.

    If it doesn't work, I will return the 215 and try to buy the 5050e from another vendor.

    The reason I selected the 5050e is to shave some load off the PSU, because I already installed a new videocard and I plan to introduce a new sound card to the system.  I was even considering to add a SATA or USB expansion card as well.

    The 3800+ I am using now as a 65W TDP, 5050e is 45W, so in theory I could shave 20 watts off.

    Oh, I installed 2 sticks of DDR2 800 with no problems.

    I have a burning question though...the HSF seems very hard to remove, it just won't bulge.  Is there any special tip to take it off?

    Thanks.

     

     

  • 2 sticks of Kingston ValueRam

    KVR800D2N6/2G

    2GB 800MHz DDR2 Non-ECC CL6 DIMM

  • OK, the CPU cooler turned out much easier to remove than I expected, but my AM3 experiment didn't work out.

    The system would not POST.

    However, I discovered that my current  3800+ is the energy efficient version with 35 TDP, so upgrading the CPU to save some wattage won't work at all.

  • So are you guys saying that it is possible to have more than 4gb of ram on the E521 with non-gaming type memory? What modules are you guys using for this purpose?

  • Pretty much, yes.

    As long as you run a 64bit OS.

    Concerning gaming Ram: Problem is, most of them run above the standard 1.8V, but  the Bios/Mobo won't let them.