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How to spot the difference between PCI and PCI-X

I had a crash course today in the PCI-X standard and it’s compatibility with PCI cards.

A customer needed an external SCSI connection installed in a Dell PowerEdge 2850 server to enable it to talk to a shining new Iomega REV Autoloader. So off I trundle with a bag full of PCI SCSI cards I had in stock, expecting one or all of them to be suitable.

The PowerEdge 2850 had a PCI-X riser board. Now I’ve read enough about PCI-X to know that it’s backwards compatible with PCI cards. No problem – I thought.

Except this riser board has little keys (or notches) preventing me from inserting any of my PCI cards into any of the slots. Grrr!

Much frustration ensued, until I found a superb document at explaining the different revisions of the PCI standard and that 5v PCI boards could not be used in 3.3v slots – I’d imagine they blow up nicely if you do!

What cards did I have with me? 5v cards of course.

The funniest (or most scary) bit of this story is that between us, the IT Manager at this site and I had suggested that by cutting a gap into one of our old 5v boards with a hack saw – we could make it fit. With hindsight it’s a crazy suggestion but only now do we realise that those little gaps on PCI cards are there to stop idiots pushing them into slots where they will blow up… 🙂
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Richard Tubb

I help IT companies grow their businesses in a scalable and sustainable way. My clients are business owners of small to medium sized IT firms. at Tubblog
I help IT business owner's to free up their time, concentrate on what is important, and build a business that can run without them.


  1. That last paragraph makes me cry.
    (Tears of laughter or fear… You decide ;))

  2. Richard says:

    Not half as much as I’d have been crying if I went through with the foolish scheme…

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