Want to get an advanced gaming or video editing PC with two Intel Xeon processors for less than $200? The details are there, but finding and putting them together can be tricky. This article tells you what parts to look for and where to find unused server hardware that will make an excellent gaming platform or workstation.

If you’re looking for something less powerful, check out our guide on how to build your own computer.

Unfortunately, there are some caveats. First, these are older server processors, which means they need older motherboards and special RAM. While cheap, they have likely endured years of heavy use, resulting in wear and tear. Their long-term reliability may not be worth it. Secondly, if you want performance comparable to today’s desktop systems, you need to use a dual processor motherboard (which is different from a dual core processor).

Linus from Linus’s TechTips created a video on the subject:

While Linus takes a more rigorous approach (he doesn’t even do business), I have a few extra tips for building your own rig out of molded, one-off server components.

DIY Junkatron Parts

The easiest way to spin up your PC from server parts is to buy a whole server. The whole server provides 100% part compatibility (biggest issue and concern) as well as an overall cheaper cost. On the other hand, shipping can be very expensive and this will limit your choice of graphics card. If a component fails, the server may also need proprietary components to replace. Most users, without access to an idle server, will probably end up buying parts off the menu.

The five most important components — in order of importance — are motherboard , frame , RAM , power unit and CPU (CPU). While all of these parts are important for performance and cross-component compatibility, I list the CPU last because once you’ve chosen the other components, the CPU becomes more of an afterthought.

Graphic card is the only part we don’t cover since server machines usually don’t have discrete cards, but you can read about how to choose the best GPU. for your system, and then buy new or used, using the notes in this guide that limit your choices (such as motherboard and case size). Keep in mind that a decent GPU will cost more than the entire system. Something like the NVIDIA GTX 750Ti is probably the most suitable option as it is economical, inexpensive and easy to install in most cases, although you can also use an AMD Radeon R7 360 and not lose any sleep over it.


Choosing the right motherboard determines the rest of your build, including your case, power supply, RAM, and processor. The main benefit of choosing an older server board is that it can include two CPU sockets instead of the standard single socket on an ATX desktop motherboard. Do not confuse the number of processors with the number of processor cores. Server motherboards can offer two physical processors that improve gaming performance using the upcoming DirectX 12 (DX12) Application Programming Interface (API), which makes more efficient use of multiple processor cores. If future games use DX12 or AMD Mantle, an Intel 8-core system may deliver performance on par with or better than today’s latest dual- and quad-core processors.

However, before choosing a processor, you must first select a motherboard that determines processor socket compatibility. As for manufacturers, Supermicro is highly recommended — they tend to offer better operating system compatibility and often work with Linux and Windows 7. Many can even be upgraded to Windows 10. However, there are many Supermicro boards with different processors. Sockets. The processor socket determines the type of processor you can use.

CPU connectors : The two most suitable connectors include the LGA771 connector of the Core 2 Duo generation and the LGA1366 connector of the Nehalem generation. LGA771 uses DDR2 RAM or FB-DIMM RAM, while LGA1366 uses DDR3. Both the LGA771 and LGA1366 come in a two-socket configuration. The photo below shows an LGA1366 E-ATX Supermicro motherboard with two connectors:

LGA1366 Supermicro Dual Socket Motherboard

PCI speeds A: Most LGA771 and LGA1366 sockets support PCIe x8 and x16 speed. However, motherboards are not designed to accommodate full size PCIe GPUs. This requires users to either find short PCIe GPUs or measure the motherboard to determine if their chosen GPU will fit inside the board.

If you can find a motherboard with processors still attached, also make sure the heatsink-fan combo is enabled. Finding server-compatible heatsinks can be expensive.

I highly recommend staying away from motherboards that have been removed from pre-built blocks. This includes any Dell PowerEdge, HP Proliant, or similar server builds based on branded components — unless you purchase a complete server unit including chassis and power supply.

Here’s a quick checklist of things:

  • Measure your motherboard to make sure it fits your case.
  • Try to buy a motherboard that comes with a processor and RAM, which allows you to check if the board works without buying additional processors and RAM. You don’t need to take this step if you know what you’re doing.
  • Not all server motherboards are in the E-ATX form. Supermicro also sells several ATX motherboards that fit most ATX cases.
  • Supermicro provides a list of their server motherboards. Look for ATX form factor boards with LGA1366 or LGA771 connectors.

A business

I’m listing the second case because many motherboards can come in irregular form factors, including Extended ATX (E-ATX). Newer E-ATX cases can unfortunately be expensive and often offer no more PCIe slots than a regular ATX motherboard. This is because E-ATX boards tend to run deeper rather than wider, which is fine for a server or workstation but not a gaming or video editing machine. Fortunately, server motherboards come in E-ATX and ATX form factors.

Here is an example of an E-ATX case on Amazon:

cupcake eat amazon deep cool

It is huge and is primarily designed to compress large numbers of hard drives. I don’t recommend buying an E-ATX case unless you already have a server motherboard: some E-ATX form factor motherboards won’t even fit inside an E-ATX case.

Why not choose one of these best PC cases instead?


As mentioned earlier, the motherboard determines what type of RAM you are using. Unfortunately almost all DDR2 server motherboards require either ECC DDR2 registered ECC DDR2 or FB-DIMM RAM. FB-DIMM has a different form factor than DDR2 memory modules, which limits compatibility with special motherboards. Here is an example of how DDR2 differs from an FB-DIMM memory card:

ddr2 vs ddr2 fb-dimm

You will notice that they not conclusions are compatible. Therefore, it is very important to choose the right RAM. FB-DIMM memory card does not fit in DDR2 slot; A DDR2-ECC stick will fit in a DDR2 socket, but probably won’t work with a motherboard if it doesn’t support ECC memory.

While DDR2 RAM costs next to nothing, especially for 1 or 2 GB racks, ECC and FB-DIMM memory are notoriously unreliable and have higher latency than non-ECC RAM (which is bad). On top of everything else, ECC memory can be very picky about which motherboard it works with. The easiest way to guarantee compatibility is to buy a motherboard With working memory. Alternatively, you can check the list of compatible motherboard RAMs on the manufacturer’s website.

Keep in mind the following tips:

  • RAM should be used in pairs.
  • ECC DDR2 RAM is different from ECC registered DDR RAM. Most server boards use registered DDR2, not just ECC, but it depends on the motherboard.
  • ECC DDR2 RAM is not pin compatible with FB-DIMM RAM. Check your motherboard for compatibility.
  • Don’t mix and match sticks of RAM.
  • DDR2 RAM and FB-DIMM is designed for motherboards with LGA771 sockets.
  • DDR3 for LGA1366 motherboards.

And the last note A: DDR3 RAM is significantly easier to use as all DDR3s have the same form factor, regardless of server capabilities. However, many server boards still require ECC memory, which can cost more than non-ECC RAM. Likewise, check your motherboard’s compatible RAM list before you buy anything.

Power Supply

Choosing a power source can also be a problem. For those not in the know, read about choosing the perfect block. . Pay special attention to total power your assembly and number of processor power pins, required by the motherboard.

corsair power supply

Dual-socket motherboards require more power than single-socket motherboards. Often the motherboard has an 8-pin CPU power connector. This means that the PSU must also have an 8-pin (4+4) rather than the typical 4-pin CPU power connector, although you can buy an adapter cable. In terms of load capacity, most 600W PSUs will work for a dual processor build. For greater stability, however, you may want to over-supply power. These old server boards can be very power hungry. You must also consider the power requirements of your graphics card.

If you have an old (and powerful) PSU, you should consider reusing it: Can I reuse my old PSU?

I recommend using the eXtreme Outer Vision Power Calculator to determine if your PSU can deliver enough power.

Processor and heatsink fan

The processor and heatsink fan are determined by the motherboard (how to install a processor heatsink). Four types of processors are available for LGA771 and LGA1366 sockets. These:

  • Core: 65 nm manufacturing process. Socket LGA771. This is the slowest of the four architectures.
  • Penryn: 45 nm heat shrink core. Socket LGA771.
  • Nehalem: A new architecture based on a 45nm manufacturing process. Connector LGA1366.
  • Westmere: Nehalem stamping on a 32nm manufacturing process. Connector LGA1366. Westmer is the fastest.

Penryn or Core architectures are cheaper. However, I’d bet Westmere or Nehalem offer the best savings since they use DDR3 RAM and an LGA1366 socket, making finding heatsink fans a lot easier (and cheaper). Of particular interest is that Nehalem-EP and Westmere-EP may include hexacore processors (or more). They are quite expensive than quad-core ones, but allow you to run your own 12-core computer. Unfortunately, not all of them use standard server sockets, and tweaking around them can increase compatibility issues. I don’t recommend using anything higher than quad core.


Some things to watch out for:

Places to buy

eBay is the easiest and most convenient place to buy used electronics online. It also allows you to perform filtered searches as well as tools to determine the real market price of any old server motherboard, processor or RAM. On the other hand, prices can be a little higher than you expect, and if a part doesn’t work, returning to the seller can be painful. Are there alternatives but I haven’t used many of them.

University IT Center . Many colleges and universities sell their used, refurbished computer equipment, often for as little as it originally cost. Unfortunately, they offer the first spell to current students and teachers. But if you’re an active or faculty member, the university is often a one-stop shop for getting a complete server system on the cheap. Some universities even sell their used server hardware over the Internet. Try searching the internet for keywords like your college name and «surplus» or «auction».

public auction . Many state and local governments also auction off their surplus electronics. An auction is a good way to get an entire server for cheap since you don’t have to pay for shipping. But in my experience, public auctions tend to be messy and disorganized. I recommend buying at the university at an open auction.

ServeTheHome is a great price tracking system for Xeon processors. Although the price of a used LGA2011 (a much newer socket) has been dropping rapidly lately, they are still not as cheap as the LGA1366 and LGA771 processors.

Is building a PC out of junk worth it?

I would say yes, but only if you love working with computers and want a good budget project to keep you busy.

Be sure to check out the settings to optimize your PC for gaming. with our guide.

Image Credit: Aleksey Lazukov’s RAM install via Shutterstock, FB-DIMM vs. DDR2 by DmitryP0

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