Tuesday 25 March 2008

ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 on Intel X38BT Install Issue

There are just some things we never got warned about in school! ;)

When it comes to the more exotic system builds, it is always good to be prepared for the unexpected.

As our previous post on the conflict between the Zalman CPU Cooler bottom bracket and the back of the Intel X38BT makes clear, there were going to be more challenges putting this system together.

Even with the Cooler Master Cosmos' open design, there were some space and cable path issues between components.

One such conflict is between the ATI HD 3870 X2 and the on board SATA ports.

The Intel X38BT board layout is as follows:

19: On Board SATA Ports

We have the on board SATA ports directly in line with the PCI-E 16x lanes for the video cards.

So, when we go to install the ATI HD 3870 X2 video cards, which are full length and double wide video cards, we end up with a space limitation right above the on board SATA ports.

The out of the box SATA cables that came with the X38BT motherboard have the standard straight in plug style with the metal clip:

Intel X38BT Supplied SATA Cable

In this situation, they will not work. The cable ends plugging into the motherboard port would stand too tall for the ATI video card to seat itself properly in the PCI-E slot.

In order to make things work, we needed a SATA cable with a plug that had a profile that was as low as possible.

We were fortunate that we had a pile of SATA cables to sort through.

We ended up finding four of the following (we were installing four hard drives):

Intel Server Board SATA Cable with 90 Degree Plugs

Both ends of the cable had a 90 degree plug on it. Because of the tight space limitations behind the drive connectors, having these cable types on hand to connect the drives to the motherboard served up a double bonus:
  • Enough room to properly seat the full length ATI video cards
  • Better clearance on the plug side of the hard drives
One never knows when those spare parts may come in handy. In this case, they saved us a trip to one of our local suppliers to pick up some of the required SATA cables.

We will however, make sure to pick some up on our next trip through there or on our next order from Synnex or Tech Data.

As a system builder, one can never be too prepared! The above parts run would have cost us enough to cut right into the margins on the system itself.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

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