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If you have the later 003 revision then you can use either X55xx or X56xx CPUs. It’s physically write-protected within the BIOS and does not get upgraded when you flash the BIOS.
So if you have one of the earlier revisions and you flash your BIOS then the X56xx CPUs will be recognised but the bootblock may fail to get that far and you could be presented with a black screen and a POST failure when you power up.
The key is the bootblock date shown in the BIOS work.
Word on the HP forums is that the behaviour of an earlier revision flashed up to the latest BIOS and used with X56xx CPUs ranges from ‘works for me’ to ‘sometimes won’t boot’ to ‘total failure to POST’.
We ran Redhat Enterprise Linux on them and they were, and still are, extremely fast linux servers that could operate as physical boxes in our production environment or virtuals in development. And it was very expensive, much too expensive to justify forking out for one. You can now pick up a brand new replacement motherboard for an HP Z800 on ebay for £100. Excitement quickly turned into a daunting realisation that I may have bitten off more than I could chew. It will not fit into any ‘normal’ PC case, not even an EATX tower case. There’s a separate power connector for the memory banks with a proprietary connector. Clearly this is a server motherboard adapted only slightly to fit into HP’s proprietary case with HP’s proprietary power supply and cooling system.
It shows the pinout of the power cable, taken as you hold the cable and look at the connector. Each of the pins in the connector is physically keyed with either a square or a slightly rounded socket and there are only 18 pins.The Z800 board comes in three different revisions, indicated by the AS# number printed on the white sticker located directly below the big black chipset heatsink. As you can see from the image this board is an 002 revision.The executive summary to what I’m about to explain is that if you have revision 001 or 002 then you can officially use only Xeon X55xx CPUs.Luckily the order and shape of the pins is identical to a standard 24-pin ATX power cable leaving 6 pins unused at one of the ends.To solve the physical cable issue I bought an ATX power cable extender on ebay for a few pounds and simply sliced off the unwanted pins with a dremel and sanded it to leave a nice finish.
I’m not one to give up in the face of a technical challenge and besides I’d just forked out a hundred notes on the board so the rest of this article will go through all the steps in detail that you would have to do in order to get one of these beasts up and running yourself.