buying suggestions for DDR3 era workstations...

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So i'm planning to go to one or more of the computer recyclers in the big city sometime in december. I would like to find one or more workstations from the DDR3 type RAM era, mostly because the last time i looked (tho that was awhile ago) the ram was way cheaper than anything DDR4. It's basically throwout/a dollar a stick any size type of things unless something has changed, so I figured it would be cheap to go to 64gigs or more if my primary bottleneck is RAM instead of an older cpu.

I'm looking for a proper used workstation because i've heard they will come with strong PSU's and so upgrading to a newer gpu for instance or maybe a bunch of hard drives is easy. (since this could be used either as a backup Adobe CC machine or to experiment with a NAS - note Adobe requires newer video cards with newer versions just to even run for some dumb reason even tho the system isnt doing anything new so I wont be keeping some 12 year old gpu)

CPU's from the era should also be cheap all the used xeons and such. However i'm looking to just buy a proper used workstation - not use one of the "i'm not sure how reliable this is" "new" chinese motherboards using 10 year old salvaged chipsets which still go for new motherboard prices and dont give me 64-256gig ram capacity that i've seen in some. I thought I might as well just use the case, PSU, used mobo and everything - instead of just migrating old xeon and ram to a "new" not really new chinese motherboard. :)

The only workstations I even know by name are some of the HP Z-series - i'm not sure whether to only look for those or if those are actually better. I'd heard things like you can use the less expensive cpus from the dual and even quad socket boards in the single socket models. (or at least use the quad socket cpu in the dual socket model, something like that) I don't have all my notes handy so I can't verify where I heard that...

They will be used for multiple things which is why i'd prob have more than one computer - including just having a backup setup for Adobe CC to run on (where 32gig ram hasnt been not enough and later 64gig wont be) plus other audiovisual software (Resolve, maybe ProTools), experimenting with type 1 virtualization (probably Proxmox to start at least), i've no idea if any way a hackintosh could run on a workstation but i'd love to try (and on raw hardware, not just virtualized) if anyone has ever done that, playing with some VDI 'gamestreaming' like Craft Computing did using a tesla k80 card. Plus anything else not handicapped by the old cpu(s) obviously inferior to modern boards. (games is not super important, more of an afterthought - some mild 10 year old games probly at 1080p but I don't care or have time much, the games are more 'to test VDI' under demanding conditions)

If anyone can suggest buying guides or videos elsewhere, share personal experiences and such i'd appreciate it.
 

i386

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It doesn't make sense to invest in an ancient platform.
If you're in Paderborn Germany at one point in you life go to the Heiz Nixdorf (Heinz Nixdorf - Wikipedia) museum and see how big and heavy a cray super computer + liquid cooling system from the early 1990 is and how an "office"/entry level laptop from 2010 have roughly the same computing power but the laptop has more memory bandwidth...
Edit: I was the last time in 2012 there, not sure if the cray system is still there
 

unwind-protect

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DDR4 ECC registered goes for $115 per 4x 32 GB. DDR3 is not much cheaper.

At a requirement for only 64 GB it doesn't make much sense to go for DDR3 platforms for cost reasons. If you needed a terabyte that would be different.

If you still want it then a Xeon v2 platform is a nice way to go. But high idle power and the CPU coolers can be expensive.
 
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nexox

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I don't do premade workstations, but if I did I'd not only skip ddr3, I would also go straight past the 2011-3 socket and pick up something like a Dell Precision 7820 (likely with a pair of Xeon Silvers.) As others have mentioned, 64GB of DDR4 is only slightly more expensive than DDR3, and the prices are dropping all the time, so future upgrades should be affordable.

Edit: Some background - I just upgraded from one of the better DDR3 Xeons to a couple $20 Skylake Xeons, both systems with 256GB of memory, and the performance difference is huge.
 
Quickie response since there was more than one here...

I'll try not to be defensive but I was going for the bottom of the barrel because to be blunt I need some disposible computers that if they get stolen I don't give a crap. Being robbed of a $30 computer smarts less than being robbed of a $150 used computer.

Also depending how my experiments work because something will do the job I might be buying 6 or 12 and then price differences start to add up more. Buying a terabyte of RAM? Might happen just not to all go in one computer. That's not off the table. 12 computers with 256gig each would start to add up if I went that far.

If you want to suggest DDR4 era workstations that's perfectly fine too. It's still a question of what workstations might be more or less suitable for certain uses - are they all basically the same or is there a reason to prefer one brand over another? I just don't even know enough about what's out there, or who to ask if this is all too old for anyones interest here. Point me other internet forums where to ask on old workstations maybe.

I'll see if prices have changed since the last time I was there - that might change my opinion in favor of newer if its negligible.
 

You sure you want to go older?
$450 is more than I wanted for this immediate project. It's not going to be faster running the software I actually wanted to run? I'm well aware i'm asking at the bottom tier of the "one step from the dumpster" - i'm still curious what was good in it's time. I will worry about replacing it with a faster computer later after I learn what I set out to, and see if it even makes a difference.

Is a Dell better than an HP? Are they all the same? That's mostly what I was wondering. I was seriously looking for the least expensive computer with 64gigs under $150 and if it comes in at $100 thats better, and $50 even better, because I need a system that I can clone and leave in places like a garage where if someone broke in and took it i'm out almost nothing. This is super low $ homelab learning for a still impoverished college student with other uncovered health bills. : P
 

FRPII

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$450 is more than I wanted for this immediate project. It's not going to be faster running the software I actually wanted to run? I'm well aware i'm asking at the bottom tier of the "one step from the dumpster" - i'm still curious what was good in it's time. I will worry about replacing it with a faster computer later after I learn what I set out to, and see if it even makes a difference.

Is a Dell better than an HP? Are they all the same? That's mostly what I was wondering. I was seriously looking for the least expensive computer with 64gigs under $150 and if it comes in at $100 thats better, and $50 even better, because I need a system that I can clone and leave in places like a garage where if someone broke in and took it i'm out almost nothing. This is super low $ homelab learning for a still impoverished college student with other uncovered health bills. : P
Where do you live? I give away workstations to the impoverished for funsies.

Edit: not a joke, despite someone's laugh react. I have a couple Precisions left. I'll check their RAM capacities Monday evening.
 
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Peter Blanchard

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$450 is more than I wanted for this immediate project. It's not going to be faster running the software I actually wanted to run? I'm well aware i'm asking at the bottom tier of the "one step from the dumpster" - i'm still curious what was good in it's time. I will worry about replacing it with a faster computer later after I learn what I set out to, and see if it even makes a difference.

Is a Dell better than an HP? Are they all the same? That's mostly what I was wondering. I was seriously looking for the least expensive computer with 64gigs under $150 and if it comes in at $100 thats better, and $50 even better, because I need a system that I can clone and leave in places like a garage where if someone broke in and took it i'm out almost nothing. This is super low $ homelab learning for a still impoverished college student with other uncovered health bills. : P
So you need two machines and sync or sync to cloud/whatever?
 
Multiresponse at once, also I PM'ed FRPII to see...

I kinda wish I could reboot the conversation assuming I maybe chose an unclear title or description but i'm trying to get better, and trying not to write novels at the same time in response.

I was looking for DDR3 era workstations because I already use a DDR3 era Phenom x6 to run Adobe Premiere and other apps on because CC gives me 2 authorized installs so this would replace that backup. For the fairly simple workloads i'm still doing at college - the x6 Phenom was working fine, i'm just running short on ram at it's 32gig limit - needing to close my browser with it's excessive tabs while editing - so I figured bumping up to 64gig would fix that immediate bottleneck. Other apps like ProTools ran fine.

Because I always like an abundance of cheap computers I figured it's probably a good time to buy more than one workstation so that I have other spare computers for other projects. I have other things I need to learn - hackintoshing, type 1 virtualization - so just getting a 2nd workstation at the same time makes sense. Virtualization will really suck ram so going beyond 64gig is in the cards as soon as I need to.

If the things I learn pan out, buying more of the same type of workstation made sense to me including setting up other college friends. Might as well match what I already have so that familiarity with one type of workstation and it's setup is just shared. So I was curious "whats different between brands?" Are there unique features that make one brand dramatically better than others for what I want to do? Like for old laptops - I love Thinkpads because theyre rugged, serviceable, there's nothing else that had those unique features - which I appreciated and wanted more than just speed or cheapness or being light.

So what might sell me on wanting one type of workstation over another? HP over Dell? Who else makes them? Etc. Whether I buy DDR3 era or DDR4 era is almost irrelevant, at some point i'll buy more, my projects are not that demanding (if they all already run on a 12 year old 6 core Phenom) so if I fall in love with a brand of workstation - like I did with Thinkpads - i'll probably upgrade in the same direction in the future IF later workstations are good in the same way.

Finally I prefer cheaper gear because i'm unfortunately moving into a higher crime location next year. To where I either want only a beater PC on location, or plan to set up a virtualized session where I can remote-log in to my girlfriend's faster PC across town who will hopefully be living in a far safer location. (I have to be nearer the downtown college) Remote-log in also keeps my data safe - and means the speed of my local PC doesn't matter much except as a terminal. So again... cheap workstation = works fine for this use.


So does anyone have any brand insights into what made one brand of workstation unique from the DDR3 era, and whether or not all those traits continued into the DDR4 era?
 
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Peter Blanchard

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If theft is a concern, there are number of simple and inexpensive options to make it less easy. Some are obvious but ones that immediately spring to my mind...

I used to use Dell Poweredge T605 dual Opteron server as a workstation. The case is incredibly heavy compared to a standard PC case. lt's physically larger than ATX cases, doesn't have any handles etc for easy handling. I doubt that any casual thief would be able to make off with it. Even if they did, they would be very noticeable struggling down the road with a big lump of metal.

Because of where it was set up, drilling holes for securing it to a table was considered. Not for security reasons but because using as one side of shelf support. It has anti-tip feet that fold out and drilling through them and bolting them to table would have been trivial.

Laptops are much more attractive because they are small and potentially high value. Having a sacrificial expensive looking but crap/dead laptop might be an idea, especially if your other devices look old/low-end/dead.
 

FRPII

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I was talking to IT at work and we have a similar workload scenario... A single thread with a massive memory requirement... So they run it in an Azure rental. Storing the drive contents is cheap and the processing and ram requirements are cheap given he only uses the time he needs. Is this a possibility?
 
So i'm still in the market seeking suggestions. :) I got held back by college finals and medical issues.

Still looking into either DDR3 or DDR4 era workstations - i'm now starting to lean towards DDR4 now because checking RAM prices it looks like are alot closer than they used to be, and by the time i'd be expanding big like 256gig maybe they'll just be equal. Also the latest Photoshop update no longer supports the old cpu I had on the backup machine so it's no longer working as a backup machine. :) Even if I get a one generation newer that is supported i'm sure the writing is on the wall for how long it will still work before that's bumped off next so maybe I will just go DDR4.

I'm starting to search ebay and if I cant find a minneapolis area supplier of used workstations might just eat the shipping cost.


I'll simplify things to my one outstanding question though... are they all basically the same? For compatibility, reliability, quality, whatever.. Is there a reason to get a Dell Precision over an HP Z-series? Have you used more than one workstation or do you prefer one brand over others for some reason?
 

i386

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prebuilt systems? vendor lock in via proprietary connectors/form factor, constrained airflow, highly integrated (=smaller physical footprint, often looks better than your diy system :D), smaller/focussed ecosystem (limited amount of parts also limits possible causes for problems)
 
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is it the same with their _workstations_ though? I thought the HP Z-series were big fairly open boxes I mean.. (unless Dell and others ARENT and that's the question/should I shop for one brand of _workstation_ over another, I know I don't like the Dell desktops with their nonstandard crap and small sizes and a PSU so weak even another 40 watts draw makes it crash)

FWIW i'm still shopping/in the market for ddr3/ddr4 as long as i'm posting on this thread, ive been checking the freegeeks in minneapolis a few times but so far they only have desktops. (and if I were more able to upgrade those i'd probably do that but nothing i'm looking at so far will go to 64gig ram let alone more on the motherboard)
 
If theft is a concern, there are number of simple and inexpensive options to make it less easy. Some are obvious but ones that immediately spring to my mind...

Because of where it was set up, drilling holes for securing it to a table was considered.
It's _a_ concern but not the _only_ concern. The other plans like "if one workstation of brand X works well i'm building six others and future ram may be going way up" because i'm mostly ram bottlenecked in my use case is still an issue. :)

I was talking to IT at work and we have a similar workload scenario... A single thread with a massive memory requirement... So they run it in an Azure rental. Storing the drive contents is cheap and the processing and ram requirements are cheap given he only uses the time he needs. Is this a possibility?
I'm not sure all the ins and outs of an azure rental but I don't think so, internet speed would be one of the bottlenecks in that scenario. Right now memory is my only difficult bottleneck - since my reduced needs are working on a 32gig RAM oooold phenom x6 with a gtx 970 just fine - it's ONLY bumping the ram limit at times. Yes eventually everything upgrades but needs of this moment are simple and I need redundancy and more seats (if I set up a few friends to help on the cheap, or even alternate locations for myself that I can work on things in the future without hauling either expensive delicate laptop or heavy clumsy computer in and out on the ice in winter) more than anything. That was why even if it's only 64gigs in one PC now, when it starts being more across multiple PC's the ram cost builds up more.

That said i'm still open to DDR4/newer architechture because Adobe is finally starting to complain about older cpus with the latest photoshop update and i'm sure premiere isn't far behind. : P
 

nexox

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The Dell and HP workstations, plus most other brands, use their own motherboard form factors, custom power supply connectors, and stuff like the second CPU with its memory slots sitting on a mezzanine board over the first socket. For basic stuff like power supplies you might be able to find a cable to adapt to a standard part, but if you need a new motherboard, you can only fit the one from that specific model. On the plus side, that's what makes them cheaper than systems that use standard ATX components.
 
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zachj

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new and used hp/dell workstation motherboards are cheap as hell—way cheaper than equivalent supermicro/tyan/asrockrack boards…

You can get an HP Z6 G4 motherboard for $100.

the power supplies use custom connectors. The fans use custom connectors. There are adapters for both.

The cases are bespoke as are the front panel connectors but these things don’t break so it really doesn’t matter.

I wouldn’t be worried about proprietary parts; fans are power supplies are the ones most likely to matter and they’re already easily solved.
 
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