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Bamcorp
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Upgrading an hp z400 (six slots)

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hpz400 revision 2
Microsoft Windows 10 (64-bit)

Be prepared for wall of text/ multi part question

 

Hey everyone,

 

Awhile back I built a friend a gaming pc using the hp z400 as a base, it has worked well in everything he has tried but for his birthday I wanted to upgrade it a bit for him. So im upgrading him from a 950 with a fan strapped to it because the factory one was broken, to a blower style rx 480 ( to hopefully improve temps inside the case by exhausting them out the back instead of just blowing the heat up towards the cpu).

 

His current cpu is the w3550. I bought a w3690 for him. These things are in the mail as we speak. His z400 is the revision 2 with the six slots, and it has the higher end cooler. 

Here are my questions :

 

1. Do I NEED to update the bios to get the w3690 to work in his motherboard? He is using the 3.07 bios. 

 

2. IF i do update the bios, should I avoid the bios with the spectre and meltdown fixes? Ive read that these fixes can reduce performance on older intel processors, and was wondering what the community's verdict would be on this.

 

3.The ram configuration he currently has is 4x2gb ecc sticks, plus an 8gb stick. It says its running in triple channel at 16gb, when I checked it in speccy. My question is : Do you guys think he is losing any gaming performance by having things in this configuration? What is the average ram score for a 16gb z400 , so that I can compare performance and be sure were not leaving anything on the table?

 

4. I bought him a pcie exhaust blower, its twice as thick as the little thin black ones, was just wondering what you guys thought on these products? i figured it would help get a small amount of airflow through the case. Ive installed a few case fans with molex adapters as well. Temps were never a REAL issue, but I know the cooler we can keep the system the less we have to be concerned with throttling, and we can hopefully keep things in an optimal thermal range to keep the turbo boost feature engaged to increase the single core performance while hes gaming. 

 

5. Are there any other things you guys recommend adding to the pc for cheap that would impact the performance that I havent thought of?

 

He has his OS on an SSD and keeps his games on the 500gb 7200 rpm hdd it came with. 

 

Thanks in advance. 

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DGroves
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in general, you should always install the latest bios, and do the bios updates from either DOS or withing the bios itself doing a bios update from within windows can result in a failed flash and a corrupt (non working) system

 

in regards to the specter slowdown issues, it now has no difference if you are using windows,  as MS has now included the microcode fix within windows 10 for numerous cpu's so your going to get the patch either through a bios update or from within windows

 

the fastest ram speeds/bandwidth is achieved when all channels are using the same size/speed modules,...please refer to the hp 4000 service manual for memory configurations

 

the  w3690 when used in a z400 supports DDR3 800/1066/1333  ECC memory with 1333 being the fastest

 

also note that the memory speeds can depend on the cpu installed lower model cpu's may not support the higher ram speeds

Bamcorp
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My main question about that was: If the sticks dont match, it shouldnt be running in triple channel, yet it is. At least thats how my x99 board works , so i was a bit confused. 

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SDH
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Barn,

 

For others to know.... the Z400/Z600/Z800 had two versions.... and the easiest way to tell the difference in a Z400 is that the faster better version 2 Z400s all have 6 memory slots while the version 1s had only 4.  The other way is to look in BIOS at the boot block date.... the later one is better to buy, and posted about in here.

 

Happy to help with this project.... I'm typing on a souped up Z400 version 2 workstation now, which we have as our main family HP workstation in our home library.  I am one of the guys who tries to keep our enterprise IT budget reasonable.... our business does not require the latest and greatest, and lately the bean counters have ordered new ZX40s, with slow processors to save money.  As a result my tuned ZX20 version 2 builds can easily outperform those..  I know the difference between a finely tuned fast workstation and a guilded one.  So, I have this nice Z400 version 2 here to work on....  here are your answers:

 

1.  You only would "need" a BIOS update if you needed the Intel/HP microcode built into the new BIOS to run the W3690, or for security.  If the W3690 supporting microcode is not present you're dead in the water and that is not a good place to be if you've put in a processor without BIOS support and have the old supported processor in the garbage can.  I personally run the X5690 in all of our Z400 version 2 workstations but the W5690 is just fine too.  The X5690 was never certified by HP as a processor for the Z400 V2, but every one I have tried it on has worked.  So, my rule is that if there is a mature BIOS out there ( as there is for the Z400) I upgrade to that before any other thing.is done.  That 3.07 needs upgrading to the latest.

 

2a.  Personally I don't avoid the latest BIOS for the HP workstations once they have been out for a couple of months, and if I upgrade sooner even then never have had a problem.  Our enterprise is in the medical field and security is paramount.  I would not advise avoiding a security upgrade for us or any other person including your friend.  I am sensitive to the need for speed, and have not detected an adverse effect from the latest BIOS upgrades.  This includes the latest from HP for the ZX40, generation, and the older one that came for the ZX20 generation.  We will upgrade all our ZX20 workstations when the latest security BIOS upgrade is released (currently "pending").  You will likely see no added BIOS upgrades for the Z400, by the way.  So, go get the latest, which is 3.61 released by HP 3/6/18..

 

2b.  The key to safe BIOS upgrades is to only do them from within BIOS, plus once you launch one go get a cup of Joe.  I've seen ZX40 BIOS upgrades auto-restart a box up to 3 times.  Dinking with the box during that process is bad.  Give it time.  Learn how to upgrade BIOS with the .bin file on a thumb drive, and how to navigate to that from within BIOS.  I have posted on that many times here.  Trying to upgrade BIOS from within W10 with the HP-provided utility built for W7 is a very bad idea.  Don't ask how I know....

 

3.  The answer to your question is yes.  The Z400 v2 has 6 memory slots, triple channel.  Best performance is if all sticks are the same (his are not).  The W3690 was released by Intel at a $1059.00 cost, has one sSpec code (SLBW2), has 6 native cores, runs at 3.46 GHz base frequency, has 12MB of level 2 cache, and needs a 130W HP "Performance" level fan (which came with most Z400s).  That one has the 92x92x25mm fan and the 5-pin white fan plug with the ground jumper from pin 1 to pin 5.

 

The W3690 currently costs about $80.00 USD used on eBay, and I only buy used processors from well reviewed US sellers.  It can run memory rated up to 1333 MHz FSB, and if he is not running that fastest RAM he will lose out.  So, ECC unbuffered RAM, matched, rated to 1333... 6 sticks x 4GB/stick is what I'd advise.  I like to run HP RAM originally meant for that workstation and search eBay for such.  Finding cheap matching RAM is an art form on eBay.  Dan in WGBU, our favorite HP engineer, emphasized that few understand the very significant value of the matched RAM approach.

 

4.  You really must have the front "PCI/card guide" fan.  You really should have the special passive air flow baffle.  I have part numbers if you need.  I added a HP chipset cooler fan with a Noctua ULNA plus a LNA fan speed reducers in series.... excellent result. 

 

5.  HP made a PCIe USB3 Texas Instruments based 2x2 card that I added, and that has been very valuable for high speed USB drives.  All that has been posted about in here..... none of which is really needed if your friend is not pushing the envelope.

 

6.  I'd dump the platter HDD... anything with a spinning platter is a a frequent time sink unless you can walk away from it or have it do its slow thing in the background.  Go find a nice used 600 GB or less Intel 320 series SATA Gen II SSD for that job.

 

 

 

 

Bamcorp
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4.  You really must have the front "PCI/card guide" fan.  You really should have the special passive air flow baffle.  I have part numbers if you need.  I added a HP chipset cooler fan with a Noctua ULNA plus a LNA fan speed reducers in series.... excellent result. 

 

what kind of result did you get?

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SDH
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HP engineered the first two to provide best balanced cooling of the Z400 from their informed perspective, and I figured they knew what they were doing.  My logic is that if I was going to push the workstation with the fastest processor running fast memory at its maximum potential I'd benefit from their work.

 

I engineered the third and it probably is overkill but there is a Z400 motherboard header for that fan.  I harvested  the fan from a Z600, and can get you the part number for that too if you want it.  The Z600 uses a northbridge active cooler in all configurations so I've added that to my Z400 builds.  The fan's native speed is quite high so I dropped that to roughly 1300 RPM with those two Noctua 4-wire fan speed reducers in series.

 

The result has been a quiet and cool running very fast Z400 workstation.  If your friend's ends up running cool enough as it is then he is already where he needs to be.  However, with him being a gamer and with you worried about thermal throttling I figured you'd want my best advice.

 

Good luck on your project!

Bamcorp
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Yea I definitely appreciate the help, I was just wondering what kind of performance boost cooling the chipset would provide, its not a subject I hear talked about very often.

 

Currently , when I check speccy, his motherboard sits at around 60c.

 

If you feel like sharing the part numbers with me thatd be appreciated. For the chipset and front intake baffle you mentioned.

 

Im currently trying to track down the latest bios for the z400 on the hp website :

 

do the two revisions of the z400 motherboard need different bios or does it detect which is which when installed?

 

says the latest update is 3.60 in this thread. 

 

https://h30434.www3.hp.com/t5/Desktops-Archive-Read-Only/Cannot-find-z400-bios-update/m-p/6350806#M5...

 

Is there a later one?

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SDH
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I'll get you the numbers and some pics.  The idea on the northbridge fan is that when you have this workstation really humming there is a lot more heat generated there than expected.  That is why the Z600 has the active heatsink above, and why the HP engineers put the motherboard fan header on the Z400 but I never have seen a HP installed northbridge active cooler.  Avoiding thermal throttling at that chipset was my goal.

 

2a above.... 3.61 is the latest.  Google Z400 drivers and go to the top HP result, and down into the listing for BIOS, and run the .exe but cancel out of the install on any PC.... in root C there will be a new directory SWSetup... in there the .exe folder, and in there a DOS folder, and in there is the current .bin file.  Once you have that you are almost done for updating BIOS from within BIOS.

SDH
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Here's a pic (can see them when a moderator releases them) showing the airflow guide installed.  It is designed to move front case drive heat/memory heat up and out via the powersupply's fan pathway.  This is one build, using a salvaged Z600 northbridge heatsink's fan, which is a 40x40x20 PWM controlled fan.  Base speed is quite high which is why I added the Noctua 4-wire LNA and ULNA in series.  Nice and quiet now.  Goal is about 1200 RPM.  At this point in the build the front bottom case fan has not been added yet.  There is a motherboard header for that at the bottom front motherboard corner.

Z400 chipset fan added.JPG

 

Here is a nice pic showing a later variant, with Noctua 40x40x20 mm fan.  The 4 studs are epoxied in place while they pass through the fan holes so that they set perfectly in place.  The nylock nuts ensure that no loose parts will become present in the future.

PIC00010.JPG

 

The airflow guide:

3 591213-001 outside.jpg

 

The front PCI fan holder for the Z400 and Z420 are identical in shape.  Z420 Front PCI fan & card guide kit is comprised of fan holder & fan = KIT = 684024-001.  Black Plastic fan holder part:  This has AS P/N 604781-003 etched on the plastic which is ***identical*** in shape to the one used on the Z400 (which has AS P/N 604781-001).

 

Fan part:  The Nidec fan, also used in other 92x92x25mm sites on the Z420 = 647113-001, and has OEM label of T92T12MS3A7-57A03, which is a 0.35A 12VDC fan and runs at 629 RPM in the Z420 v2.  Do not know the RPM if that fan is used in the front PCI position in a Z400.  Thus, can search for the following numbers and buy the least expensive one.  I have also found that eBay sellers sometimes use the fan part number to sell the whole kit so search using that also:

 

Z400       619579-001         SP P/N  (HP calls this "Cooling fan kit with front guard & fan"), 604781-001 = AS                 P/N

Z420       684024-001         SP P/N  (HP calls this "Plastic front card Guide w/fan holder), 604781-003 =         AS P/N, 647113-001 = fan (this Nidec fan in Z420 runs at 629 RPM.... excellent)

 

Best deal via all these was by searching for the fan number from the Z420, and both the fan and the black plastic holder were included, for 15.00, shipping included.

 

EDIT:  Those kits have gotten harder to find over time..... search this forum for "ghetto mod" to see my method of adding a HP PWM controlled front fan without the black plastic fan holder.

 

 

 

 

Bamcorp
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minor note:

 

I was having issues finding the bios in the drivers section for the hp z400. Its because i was looking through windows 8 section, and I guess the last one, 3.61 , is only supported on the windows 7 option. Just a side note as we move forward with this process. The w3690 came in the mail today, and im walking the guy through how to update the bios. 

 

 

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