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Upgrading just CPU or CPU + Motherboard (on a budget)

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Hi all, I've been running Unraid for several years (maybe 5 now) and love it. 


When I built my Unraid server, my main purpose was just for storage, so I went with a low power consumption CPU: Celeron G3950 in a MSI Z270 SLI Plus motherboard. It's been rock solid. Also 8GB RAM.

But over the years, it's been so useful having a server running all the time, and so easy to run containers, I've added quite a bit to it. Now up to:

- VM: Home Assistant locked to 2 cores

- Containers: Plex, Grafana, Influx, UniFi controller


Most of the time, it handles all this well and CPU load stays under 25%. I don't run Plex often, or even access the storage that much. Mostly its the containers and VMs getting more use these days. 


Occasionally, Grafana will be really slow to load some dashboard panels. And Occasionally CPU will go over 75%. It was convenient, for a while running transcoding with a HandBrake container, and I could do that again at some point so I don't want to rule that out, but not using it lately.


Question: What's the best "bang for the buck" upgrade I could do here?

It seems like possibly I can upgrade just my CPU to a i5-6500 without upgrading my mobo, and that would give me 4 cores instead of 2. That CPU can be had for about $120 and has higher single threading score as well as double the cores (for VMs) and more than double the PassMark score.


Is there a more capable processor-only upgrade I should be looking at? Granted, the motherboard is limited to 6th and 7th Gen i3/i5/i7 processors in 1151 socket type.


Buying a new Mobo to support a new CPU obviously adds to the price of an upgrade, and might even need different RAM then.


Any suggestions for this use case, how to get more muscle for VMs and containers on a shoestring budget?

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I was in the same scenario some years ago.  As trurl say more ram for sure.  What I did was buy the fastest used CPU that ran in my current board.  I believe a i7-7700k will run in your board and could be had for about $100 off ebay.  This is a huge upgrade from your current Celeron.

As you say that will bump you to 4 cores but equally as important is it runs 8 threads while your Celeron runs 2.

Edited by Gragorg
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  • 2 weeks later...
On 1/19/2024 at 5:21 PM, bmcent1 said:

Ok, absolutely will do that. Anything else? Feels like going to 4 cores over two should help with VMs and containers.


First of all: Much more RAM! 8GB is... 👎🤣

For the VMs, more Cores can do a good job 👍

Edited by Zonediver
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