How to recover from a 6-beep BIOS error on a HP Z600 / Z800 Workstation

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Funny story: I was setting browsing through the Z600 BIOS today trying to optimise an issue I was investigating, when I came across an interesting option I thought I’d fiddle with: the PCI-e compute option. You can find it under Advanced PCI options I believe. I thought perhaps it’ll turn my two GPUs on the system into even faster devices… but sadly that wasn’t the case. Instead I apparently BRICKED the whole system!

So my Z600 is beeping 6 times upon startup, which indicates a pre-video startup error (in other words, the system can’t communicate with an available graphics card). Turns out that when I enabled the PCI-e compute option on every slot, the BIOS disabled the ability to use said slots for graphics. Bit of a design flaw there, HP…

The Solution

Naturally I did this on both GPU slots, and sadly a regular CMOS reset does not switch these options back. What does work however is to use a regular PCI slot with an older graphics card to let us boot into the BIOS and change the settings back (i.e. disable compute option). The short top slot is ideal for that, because to my astonishment it’s open at the back. This means longer cards fit in without problems, and most GPUs can communicate on the front contacts.

I whipped out an ATI Radeon 2800 that’s been collecting dust in a box, slipped it in as my THIRD graphics card, attached a monitor and booted into my Z600. All went well, I could change the settings in the BIOS to non-compute, and the whole thing was solved.

I was even able to boot straight into Windows with the Radeon 2800 and the short slot, even thought the refresh rate wasn’t great (perhaps 20 Hz at best at 1920×1080), but at least I could fix the issue of the bricked workstation.

It goes to show that it’s always good to keep older graphics cards around! This works on both Z600 and Z800 workstations.

Further Reading

Here’s a list of links that helped get me to this solution:

If you have any questions, leave a comment below.

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