HardwareUpgrading graphics card on an old Dell Precision

 

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 From:  Peter (BOUGHTONP)  
 To:  ALL
42853.1 
Hello Teh. I'm hoping there are still people here who pay enough attention to hardware to help with the following...

My sister has a Dell Precision WorkStation 390 with NVidia Quadro FX 550, connected via two DVI ports to two screens.

It was running Windows 8.1 Pro without issues, and it runs Debian without issues, but she was required to upgrade it to Win 10 for her work, who are arseholes. Anyhow, because Windows 10 is a pile of shit the resolution is now limited to 800x600.

Tried installing the relevant drivers from Nvidia (both U8 and U4), and they appear to work ok upon initial install, but after restarting there's glitches and flicking in the menus/etc. (Also tried older drivers from Dell; no luck there either.)

I figure the possible options are:

1. Attempt to run Windows 10 inside Debian via KVM/QEMU.

2. Spend ~£20 on a replacement PCI Express graphics card that explicitly has Windows 10 drivers available.

3. Spend ~£200-250 on a replacement refurb unit or an NUC.

The first option is not really a viable one - particularly since it isn't clear how well multi-monitor stuff works (seems the second screen would be display-only/non-interactive), but it also introduces significant potential for other issues to crop up, and may need a RAM upgrade to get acceptable performance (which removes its benefit of not costing money).

Option 3... well, I would rather not spend 10x the amount just because Microsoft suck. (There are cheaper refurb notebooks, but their screens are too small and I doubt they will drive two external displays.)

So, unless anyone has any better ideas, I need to figure out how to determine which graphics cards are suitable and compatible, then find one on eBay.

The mainboard is a "Dell 0DN075" (which I presume is same as "DN075") and Inxi reports that the PCI slots are:

  Slot: 1 type: x1 PCI Express SLOT1 status: Available length: Long
  Slot: 3 type: 32-bit PCI SLOT3 status: Available length: Long
  Slot: 4 type: x4 PCI Express SLOT4 status: Available length: Long
  Slot: 5 type: 32-bit PCI SLOT5 status: Available length: Long
  Slot: 6 type: 32-bit PCI SLOT6 status: Available length: Long
  Slot: 10 type: x16 PCI Express PEG status: In Use length: Long

I'm guessing the "x16 PCI Express PEG" one marked "In Use" is the current card and the rest are irrelevant? (Pretty sure there aren't actually that many physical sockets on the board.)

In any case, last time I upgraded a graphics card was when AGP was a thing, and none of my searches are bringing up anything remotely useful.

Can anyone help?

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 From:  CHYRON (DSMITHHFX)  
 To:  Peter (BOUGHTONP)     
42853.2 In reply to 42853.1 
The main things to watch out for with these older factory pcs are physical size of the card (two slots? does it need a 'half-height' card?), and power draw.

Probably safest to get an original card, there's an ATI here so it possibly(!) wouldn't have the same Win10 driver issue, but I'd deffo research that first:

https://www.parts-people.com/index.php?action=category&id=161&subid=625&refine=video+card
“Homeless people are dying in Happy Valley”
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 From:  patch  
 To:  Peter (BOUGHTONP)     
42853.3 In reply to 42853.1 
If work can specify minimum OS levels, do they not offer some assistance which may make buying a laptop and dock a bit less painful?
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 From:  Dave!!  
 To:  Peter (BOUGHTONP)     
42853.4 In reply to 42853.1 
Bear in mind that the motherboard only supports PCI Express version 1, and presumably the BIOS will be fairly old as well. In short, you'll need to make sure that the system can support a graphics card before buying one for it. You may find a lot of modern cards may have issues.

After a bit of Googling around, I did find this page: https://linux-hardware.org/?probe=5b5a2bb70f&upgrade

It suggests that the Nvidia GT 730 is compatible, and eBuyer do still sell this card. Nvidia also support it for Windows 10, so might be a budget option?
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 From:  william (WILLIAMA)  
 To:  Peter (BOUGHTONP)     
42853.5 In reply to 42853.1 
I can let you have an Nvidia GT 710 (2GB TBH) if you want to give it a try. It has 1 DVI, 1 HDMI and 1 VGA port and should be able to ouput from all 3 simultaneously. It has Windows 10 support but there's a separate driver. I think it should work with later versions of Windows 10 just fine (i.e. they should now have the driver), although earlier versions had a problem.

He May Be Your Dog But He's Wearing My Collar

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 From:  Peter (BOUGHTONP)  
 To:  ALL
42853.6 
Thank you all. :)


Chryon:
That's exactly the type of site I expected to exist but couldn't find before.

It's a full sized tower case and other slots are empty, so I think only power draw would be a potential issue... although those cards do look a little long - what's with the weird fin/handle things?


Patch:
Yeah I tried pointing that out - the full situation is a bit more complicated (and I don't know how much she'd be ok with sharing), but it does boil down to a no-win situation and them being useless arseholes.


Dave:
I think I've seen that site recently, from a Linux perspective - didn't occur to me that it'd be a good way to check general hardware compatibility too.

This page says the GT 730 is a PCIe 2.0 x16 - so presumably it is still backwards compatible with PCIe 1.0 too?


William:
That'd be great! I think both screens also have VGA, and according to this it has the same 200W for "Suggested PSU" and half the TDP of the existing card so should good be PSU-wise.

I'll send a PM.

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 From:  Dave!!  
 To:  Peter (BOUGHTONP)     
42853.7 In reply to 42853.6 
Most cards can operate at slower PCIe bus speeds, but compatibility isn't guaranteed.

Many years back when I had an Athlon X2 system, my GeForce 8800 packed in, I bought a Radeon 5770 replacement and the system simply wouldn't boot with it. Ended up in a choice between replacing the graphics card with a poorer one that was compatible, or upgrading the mobo/CPU to a new Core i5. I ended up going the latter route in the end, but it did highlight that older boards don't always work with newer graphics cards.
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 From:  graphitone  
 To:  william (WILLIAMA)     
42853.8 In reply to 42853.5 
The GT710's are a great cheap card that works well in Win10. I've whacked them in the workhorse HP Elitedesks I've got 2nd hand from various jobs. Never had a display issue across two screens and they even 
handle some older gaming titles well. 

Depends on manufacturer, but the MSI ones always come with the option of a half height bracket. 
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 From:  william (WILLIAMA)  
 To:  Peter (BOUGHTONP)     
42853.9 In reply to 42853.6 
PM'd a reply. Just need an address and it's on its way.

He May Be Your Dog But He's Wearing My Collar

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 From:  Peter (BOUGHTONP)  
 To:  william (WILLIAMA)     
42853.10 In reply to 42853.9 
Thanks again - received, installed, and working. :)

Debian just worked with no issues (using built-in drivers), whilst for Windows only the DVI port worked initially - wouldn't even send a low-res signal over either VGA/HDMI ports.

After maybe half an hour of waiting for an update (which spent most of that time at 20% with no indication of progress) and the driver download apparently stuck behind it sitting at 10%, it eventually completed the update and installed the driver, but still seemed not to work for a couple more minutes, then suddenly the HDMI screen blinked into life.

Anyhow, a couple of restarts later, both screens have correct resolutions, no flickering or glitching, menus look as they should, etc.

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 From:  william (WILLIAMA)  
 To:  Peter (BOUGHTONP)     
42853.11 In reply to 42853.10 
Glad it got there in the end. The card would have just sat in my desk drawer for ever, so it's good to see it put to use. It was in my Plex machine for about a year but that was mainly run headless so it didn't see much action (and the free version of Plex is all CPU not GPU), so hopefully it's got some life left.

He May Be Your Dog But He's Wearing My Collar

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 From:  CHYRON (DSMITHHFX)  
 To:  Peter (BOUGHTONP)     
42853.12 In reply to 42853.10 
What de are you running on debian? I'm having some issues with the open source nvidia drivers on Ubuntu w/xfce periodically hanging after about 3-4 hours of assorted browsing/editing/file managing stuffs. I'm able to then ssh in from another pc, kill some processes (notably xserver) and reboot it. It otherwise stays up reliably for weeks, so I'm assuming it's an xserver/driver issue.
“Homeless people are dying in Happy Valley”
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 From:  Peter (BOUGHTONP)  
 To:  CHYRON (DSMITHHFX)     
42853.13 In reply to 42853.12 
That machine is just Gnome, and hasn't had that much continuous use - certainly not in its latest configuration. (For my own machines I'm currently running KDE Plasma and Cinnamon, but they have Intel graphics.)

What makes you think it's the drivers - wont killing xserver cause all GUI apps to be killed, so it could still be a number of things?

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 From:  CHYRON (DSMITHHFX)  
 To:  Peter (BOUGHTONP)     
42853.14 In reply to 42853.13 
It could be any number of things, but that's my best guess (unfortunately it's also a production server, so that complicates any sort of troubleshooting). Maybe it's a gpu memory leak? Anyway it only seems to affect the graphics subsystem, as everything else including ssh, apache and mysql keep on trucking.

I'd heard that the open source 'nouveau' driver could be problematic, this is the only pc with their graphics I use, all the others are either AMD or Intel, with no similar issues (or any, really) -- I always install the headless netinstall server edition, add xfce, and build up from there as needed (my home pc runs Fedora).

Totally not a fan of Gnome or KDE. Tried cinnamon, found it buggy and lacking polish but this was a few years ago.

I usually try to id all running GUI processes in top (typically firefox and thunar), and kill them before xserver and reboot.
“Homeless people are dying in Happy Valley”
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 From:  william (WILLIAMA)  
 To:  CHYRON (DSMITHHFX)     
42853.15 In reply to 42853.14 
Sounds like the Raspbian Lxpanel memory leak. It is/was in Raspbian Stretch and I don't think anybody bothered to fix it without upgrading to Raspbian Buster. Runs fine for ever until you try to do anything remote that uses the graphical interface, then after a while it starts to squeak "Failed to fork (Cannot allocate memory)" and nothing works, even a console. Daft workaround is to login with VNC or whatever and turn the bluetooth on and off.

He May Be Your Dog But He's Wearing My Collar

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 From:  CHYRON (DSMITHHFX)  
 To:  william (WILLIAMA)     
42853.16 In reply to 42853.15 
Crikey. checked my notes, the server was assembled from parts in mid-2012(!)

Ran headless for 6 years then stuck a GT520 (purchased with the rest in 2012) in it when it became my main dev platform.

The production server role was a demented skunkworks experiment that worked rather too well, and the rest is history.

I suppose it could be a hw issue ...
Thanks for listening to my TED talk, "Anyone who tells you we have any idea how the fuck computers work is a liar"
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 From:  Peter (BOUGHTONP)  
 To:  CHYRON (DSMITHHFX)     
42853.17 In reply to 42853.14 
I thought the Nouveau driver used to have issues but those had been ironed out now? At least that's the impression I've gathered from occasionally scanning through threads with people asking for help - that most people don't need the proprietary Nvidia drivers any more.

Why've you got a GUI on a production server anyway?

Not a fan of Gnome either, but it's simple enough for non-power users. Cinnamon is adequate, but also limited in places, and the widget code is ugly and confusing. I was planning to switch from Cinnamon to Plasma (since I was ok with that in Debian 10), but the latest version of Plasma seems both slower and buggier, and it just doesn't gel with me, so now I'm faced with tedium of downloading half a dozen different distros/DEs to see if I can get on with any of the others.

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 From:  CHYRON (DSMITHHFX)  
 To:  Peter (BOUGHTONP)     
42853.18 In reply to 42853.17 
Well it's one of those weird things where the pandemic and WFH reared its ugly head, so it got pressed into full-time service in that role, which it does great.

I'll have to consider another arrangement soonish, since arguably it should be on its last legs, I have to refresh the Ubuntu LTS it's running anyway and yada. Hopefully I can keep using it for a dev box, if I can sort out the gui issue, maybe try a different legacy gpu for that.

I've tried quite a few different de's and settled on xfce for being lightweight and stable, with no stupid wannabe OSX/Windows eye candy BS.
Thanks for listening to my TED talk, "Anyone who tells you we have any idea how the fuck computers work is a liar"
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 From:  ANT_THOMAS  
 To:  Peter (BOUGHTONP)     
42853.19 In reply to 42853.1 
Nice to see this one resolved.

But really, why aren't your sister's workplace providing a computer?
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 From:  Peter (BOUGHTONP)  
 To:  ANT_THOMAS     
42853.20 In reply to 42853.19 
*shrug*

If I could share more details, everyone would be asking why they're not requiring the use of machines they've provided, pre-configured and suitably locked-down, but why be competent when you can be cheap?

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