PowerEdge 860 CPU Upgrade

My PowerEdge 860 was running a bit slow with CPU usage being the main issue. I decided to solve this issue by maxing out the CPU inside my server. The CPU already inside this server was the following:

Name: Intel (R) Celeron (R) 430
Clock Speed: 1.8GHz
Number of Cores: 1
L2 Cache: 512KB
FSB Speed: 800MHz
Socket: LGA775

After doing some research, I found the most powerful CPU that is supported by the PowerEdge 860’s motherboard. It is listed in the manual and all of the specs were compatible (i.e. 1066MHz FSB as opposed to 1333MHz FSB seen in some Core 2 processors). I ordered the following processor:

Name: Intel (R) Xeon (R) X3220
Clock Speed: 2.4GHz
Number of Cores: 4
L2 Cache: 8MB
FSB Speed: 1066MHz
Socket: LGA775

New CPU.

So, now I have to upgrade the processor within the server! The tools and materials I needed were:

  • Phillips Screwdriver (For removal of heat sink)
  • Thermal Compound (The kind I have is Radio Shack but any brand will work)
  • Plastic Knife (For spreading thermal compound on CPU)
  • Cotton Balls/Cotton Swabs/Paper Towels (For removing old thermal compound)
  • Alcohol (To help get the old thermal compound off)

The first thing I had to do was, of course, get the server computer apart. To do this, I simply removed the top cover by loosening the screw and sliding the cover off.

The inside of the server.

Then, I had to get the heat sink off in order to get at the CPU socket. In order to do this, I first had to remove the black plastic cover that sits between the heatsink and the two fans near the front of the server. Then, I had to remove the heat sink itself by unscrewing the four screws on each corner of the heatsink.

Heat sink removed and CPU socket exposed.

After this, I had to remove the old thermal compound which is on both the CPU to be replaced and the heat sink that was on top of it. I did this using paper towels and alcohol.

Heat sink and old CPU with thermal compound cleaned off.

The next thing I had to do was prepare the new CPU to be installed in the server’s CPU socket. To do this, I applied a small bit of heat sink thermal compound to the top of the CPU to ensure that heat was being transferred from the CPU to the heat sink to ensure optimal thermal performance of the server.

The thermal compound I used for this CPU upgrade.

After applying the thermal compound, I spread it with a plastic knife to ensure it was evenly applied to the processor so the heat was transferred efficiently to the heat sink.

CPU with thermal compound spread evenly over its surface.

After this, I put the CPU in, put the heat sink back in along with the plastic cover, and booted the server to ensure it was working properly. Once I ensured the server was able to boot, I put the cover back on the server.

Using a tool called stress (installed as a package from Ubuntu repositories), I stress-tested the CPU while monitoring the temperature of the CPU using another tool called sensors (lm-sensors on Ubuntu). After a bit of time running this stress test, I found that the temperatures peaked out at just short of 70 degrees Celsius, which is within the safe temperature range of this particular processor (84C would be where I’d be concerned according to the information lm-sensors showed).

Looks good!

After I verified that the server was performing well thermally, I returned it to its home on my network. The performance is definitely much better with CPU load being very low most of the time.