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Computer rebuild, a few inquiries


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#1
Herbus

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Ok so I've decided it's time to rebuild my first computer. The computer is an Dell 8100 with a Pentium 4 CPU (about 2.8Ghz I believe), running on ME (God, it's horrible).

First, I'd like to become acquainted with the motherboard. How do I check my motherboard to see what kind it is, what sockets it has and thus its compatability with other CPUs, hard drives and video cards?

Also, currently the system has a weak 40gb faulty hard drive, with ME on it.

I do not like ME. I will be going to buy a Maxtor 250gb SATA hard drive hopefully, once acquired will it be easy to make the transition from [bleep] 40gbs of ME to 250GB and XP?

Thank you for your time.
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#2
Samm

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You sound like you're about to bite off more than you can chew, if you've never doen this sort of thing before.

I'll address your points one at a time :

1. windows ME SUCKS, big time. But I guess you already know that!

2. Being a Dell, you are going to be limited in your upgrade options.

I can tell you that your system supports :

AGP 4x Video (1.5V) MAX. Most new video cards are 8X. They will working provided they support 1.5V but they won't run at 8X speed, only 4x

RAMBUS memory only - this is the real pig. RDRAM is no longer being used in new systems & has always (and still is) very expensive. It must also be installed in pairs. You can upgrade it to a max of 2GB though if you wish.

CPU - your system has a socket 423 cpu. This is the very early P4, which has since been fazed out.

Hard Drive - your system does not support serial ata drives, only IDE drives. You can either buy a larger ide drive (but be warned that the bios may have a limit on the drive size it can recognize) or buy a serial ata PCI card. Because the bios settings on Dells are restricted, you may not be able to boot from a drive on a serial ata card. Even if you do get a 200GB sata drive to work, you will have 'fun' getting XP to recognize anything over 137GB. It can be done but only if you have a bios that supports 48 bit LBA addressing (unlikely but possible) or you partition the drive down into smaller chunks.

Also, you only have a 250W PSU with that system. This will become very restrictive if you start adding more devices (drives etc) to the system. The psu is also non-standard, so buying a replacement will be difficult.

The case is also likely to be non-standard, so you are probably stuck with the one you've got.


If I were you, start with the safe stuff. You should be able to buy a bigger hard drive (eg 80GB) to replace the old one. Installing XP on this shouldn't be a problem either. You then still have the old drive in tact in case it all goes pear shaped. You could probably upgrade the RAM also, but this will be expensive. Video card can be upgraded but only to one that supports 1.5V.

Hope this is of some help.

If you want to confirm what I've told you about your current system specs, download this program & run it :
http://majorgeeks.co...tion_d4181.html
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#3
Herbus

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Thank you for your informative response, if you don't mind I have several other questions...:

After reviewing my options, I think I will buy a new motherboard and CPU to make things easier.

Given the disposition of my Dell what can I get away with... without having to get a new fan and power supply?
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#4
audioboy

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If I may jump in here, a new mobo and CPU will also require new RAM (as the rambus will not be compatible with a newer board). at that point, you are replacing most of the guts of the system.
as samm pointed out, the case is likely non standard, so a different mobo may not even mount into it properly...also, any newer processor is going to require a larger power supply.

I would suggest you keep that system as is, for either a secondary computer, or to sell. to try and upgrade it you are looking at changing out every piece of equipment in there, except the floppy and CD drives. those can be bought new cheaply.
building a whole new system will allow you to pick and choose what features you want, so you can be sure this PC will do everything you want to do. it will also be much more upgrade friendly in the future!
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#5
Herbus

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Such is the case for my frustration!

I have decided, if possible, I'd like to replace the CPU/Motherboard.

Currently it is running with 250 Watts of power, so my main concern was whether or not I could fit a new motherboard/CPU and compatible power/cooling devices.

The tower isn't that old. I'm not talking about making this super-beefed either. I am looking to rebuild it because I was offered the funding to rebuild it and for the experience itself.

Considering the [bleep] RAMBUS ram, it would seem more economical to get a new Motherboard and CPU, how might I go about checking for the compatibility of these items with my tower?
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#6
Ntd

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Hi,
If you want to replace your current motherboard and CPU, you will also need to replace your Power supply unit and RAM. Basically it would be a new PC.

Also note that your case, the thing that holds your motherboard, might not be a standard one. By that its size and dimensions might not work with current form factors. When installing a new motherboard you will need to screw it in, and motherboards have special places that you can insert a screw, and they usually line up with screw holdings in the case, and if your case is not standard it might not fit.

However i would really recomend building a computer, because you really do learn heaps of stuff.

If you want to see if your stuff will work with your tower just measure it.
Hope this helps. Good luck.
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#7
Rockster2U

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Piling it On ..........

Herbus - listen to what you are being told. Samm gave you an excellent overview and audioboy reinforced your best approach. If you're insisting on a new cpu/mobo - leave the Dell alone and start from scratch re: a new PC. Ntd echoed the same sentiment and I'm here to tell you - they are all doing you a much bigger favor than you realize. Lose the thought that you can simply upgrade that machine by buying a new CPU and motherboard.

Again - lets itemize what you need as a minimum just to do what you want - these aren't optional - they are required.

CPU
Motherboard
CPU heatsink & fan
memory
power supply
dodgy? HDD replacement
case - yours might work but its still a ? at best

So what do you have? Your optical drives, floppy, video card and perhaps an audio card are all thats left of your Dell.

You can stick with the thought that all you need is a new motherboard and CPU, but you had best keep a copy of this thread because there will be an "I told you so" day of recogning.

:tazz:
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#8
Herbus

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Believe me, I have listened intently to every response to this topic. I have withheld several details, however because I considered them unnecessary but I will convey them now to explain my stubbornness.

First off, I am still in that wonderful phase of adolescence... 'teen-age'

My mother purchased this computer, it discontinued service (broke down) and she prompted me to rebuild it and told me what funding I would recieve.

She only wishes to use the computer for minimal internet access, and I must build the computer on her budget, meaning the HDD, CPU/Motherboard, Memory and necessary cooling/power components could probably be purchased, but not much else... seriously, asking for a new case would probably push it.

So I accepted this challenge because I'd like to do it, learn it and do it again with my own computer in a month or so after my employment grants me the opportunity (I just got a 1987 Jeep CJ7 and it requires some funds as well).

The best way to learn, I have ascertained in my short life, is to question question question. I am not at my peak in computing knowledge ATM and there are many mysterious aspects out there, but I have the interest and incentive.

I appreciate your responses, please don't think I do not, and if you would be willing to help me learn I will surely pass the information on to somebody else...

That said, everything in consideration, can this be done? I am willing to learn about BIOS, I am willing to gather up the info on my tower to see whether or not a new motherboard will fit and I am willing to figure out how to make it work. I know it won't be easy but I expect it to be a profitable experience.

How does one check to see if his case is standard or non-standard?

How does one become learned on the anatomy of their PC? How can I measure whether or not a motherboard will fit, is it just a matter of length and width? And should most newer thermal solutions/fans and Power supplies fit?

If it was my money, [bleep] right I'd buy a whole new PC and... I will. This DELL does not need to be awesome, it just needs to be suitable.

If a new motherboard will not fit, will just get a new case and start from scratch.

Once again thank you for your time
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#9
Samm

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Theres one more thing though thats been overlooked so far...you said this Dell machine had broken down hence the rebuild. Do you actually know for sure what the cause of the breakdown was? If you don't, then its possible the video card or hard drive is to blame & therefore another component that will need replacing.

Re. the case. Whether a case fits a particular motherboard depends on the case & the board having the same form factor. The form factor pertains to the size/shape of the board but also to the way the board is mounted in the case. This means that the screw holes in the mobo must line up with the ones in the case (where the spacers go). It isn't always necessary to have every single hole in the board matched but you need most of them matching so you can secure it to the case. The ones that don't match up can be fitted plastic standoffs that just rest against the case.

Most modern boards are standard ATX form factor. You can also get micro ATA, NLX, LPX etc. Most but not all cases will take more than one type of form factor.

HOWEVER, a lot of the major computer manufacturers such as Dell, Compaq, HP etc use their own boards & their own cases. Often, to prevent you from replacing one of their components with one made by a different manufacturer, they make some of their components non-standard. The case, mobo, psu are usually the most likely ones to be affected.

Even if a new motherboard will physically fit & screw in place in the Dell case, you will almost certainly find one or more of the following bits don't fit :
the front panel connectors - often a single block connector not individual ones
the rear plate on the case that the ports (ps2,usb,audio etc) fit into will be different. This can often be replaced though so not a major problem.
The psu. Not only can this have proprietry connectors (as well as being underated for a new system) but also a different shape or size somtimes. The first issue won't be relevant if you're replacing it anyway but may be relevant if the new psu won't fit into the case due to being a different size/shape.

So, you are probably looking at a new mobo, cpu, heatsink+fan, ram, psu, case. This leaves the hard drive, optical drive, video card, floppy drive that are re-useable (assuming they still work of course)
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#10
Herbus

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A few comments on the case itself:

Here's the dimensions

17.532 (height) 8.1 (width) 17.225 (depth)

It has a 250W power supply, equal it would seem to many of the Micro ATX desktop cases for sale today...

Or did I miss something? I'll post a picture of the inside of my PC in a minute
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#11
Samm

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The dimensions suggest that its not mico-atx but thats it. Knowing its not m-atx still doesn't tell you whether anything else will fit in it because of the mounting points could still be completely different.

A lot of slightly older proprietry systems used small psu's because (1) they weren't designed to be upgraded & hence wouldn't require anything larger and (2) their psu's are better quality than a lot, so a Dell or compaq (for example) 250W rated PSU is equivalent to a crappier 350W PSU (at a guess). It doesn't mean that the case is likely to be micro atx just because a lot of micro atx cases use 250W psu's.
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#12
Herbus

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Well first off I'd like to thank you guys, I have finally come to a logical conclusion!

To [bleep] with that Dell. To respond to Samm, the hard drive was the cause of the problems. So with that in mind I will replace the hard drive with a compatible 30-60GB hard drive (pointers?), install Windows XP and a new CD-ROM. That's it.

This thing will be a reminder that corporations suck and I will never purchase a PC from one ever again.

So my mobo is compatible with a ATA/100 IDE hard drive no bigger than 60GB right?

Here's the fun part though, I found this builing a PC scheme so compelling that I'm going to go all-out and build a nice PC, but this will be another topic.
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#13
Samm

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Good idea.
Look for a ATA-100 or 133 drive. (system may not support 133 but thats OK, just means it will run at 100). ATA100 is hard to get hold of now.

I believe that your particular system has been tested by Dell with an 80GB drive, so that should be your max size. Double check this though in Dells support website. If you go to FAQ section & search on your model number, there should be FAQs re. the largest drive size your system can support.
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#14
Supergeek.dcse

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you wont be able to buy a mob for the dell case unless you buy it from them but you could put xp on it as is it will work well you an change vid card
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#15
audioboy

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herbus, that is definitely the right choice for this machine. only replace what needs it.
most if not all of us here got started into the hardware aspect of pc's by replacing a bad component. fix one, realize its not necessarily very difficult, become curious about how it all works....pretty soon your building your own machine, helping your buddies troubleshoot their systems, etc.

its an important lesson to fix what is needed, and nothing more in a situation like this. save the money for the machine you want to build!
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