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DELL Desktop PCs - can you expand them?

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January 30, 2007 12:28:26 PM

This might sound off the wall, but a friend told me he could not add another hard drive to his DELL PC and claimed its BIOS was somehow locked and could not recognize new drive...

As exotic it sounds exotic to me, I prefer to ask. I am planning to upgrade RAM, get new HD and 2 PCI cards for one DEL desktop we have at home I prefer to ask before I throw my money away...

Thanks in advance
January 30, 2007 12:55:44 PM

It's theoretically possible to do, but I've never heard of Dell doing it.
January 30, 2007 1:12:53 PM

Okay, thanks...

Anyone with DELL PC that they have upgraded? What parts did you add?
Did you encounter any difficulties?
Related resources
January 30, 2007 1:15:22 PM

My friend also has a Dell.
You should open it up to see if you have more ram slots, another ide connector on the ribbon cable, etc. Check with Corsair's memory upgrade guide on their site. My friends Dell uses SRAM & requires all chips to be the same MB & is $200 for 2 more 256x2 chips. For the pci, as long as they all fit you should be ok.
January 30, 2007 1:16:36 PM

I've added modem's, agp video cards, hard drives. The BIOS is "locked" in a sense that it doesn't allow to change much. However it should detect a drive if he hooked it up right. If it is an IDE drive make sure jumpers are set correctly.
January 30, 2007 1:32:34 PM

I do a lot of work with Dells (it is the only computer that the company I work for buys) and I have never heard of this nor experienced it. I think he's full of crap.
a b V Motherboard
January 30, 2007 1:45:12 PM

One stick of dynamite will expand a Dell quite nicely :p  .

As for adding a hard drive, I have never had any trouble adding an HDD to any prefabbed computer. Usually add-in cards work fine also. No guarentees though. Dell's BIOS is proprietary, it's not layed out like the normal Award/Phoenix BIOS's. I suppose it depends on what model Dell you have and what hardware you intend to add to this Dell. As for being locked out, I don't think your friend is explaining his problem well. It could be that the computer was older and not able to recognize the drive due to it's size. Maybe a BIOS update on his Dell would have fixed the problem, who knows. In general, you shouldn't have any problems adding a HDD or add-in cards.
January 30, 2007 1:45:32 PM

Quote:
This might sound off the wall, but a friend told me he could not add another hard drive to his DELL PC and claimed its BIOS was somehow locked and could not recognize new drive...

As exotic it sounds exotic to me, I prefer to ask. I am planning to upgrade RAM, get new HD and 2 PCI cards for one DEL desktop we have at home I prefer to ask before I throw my money away...

Thanks in advance


What is the model of his Dell? As a certified Dell technician I am unaware of this constraint. The only thing that might stop him from adding another HDD to his Dell would be if he as a Small Form Factor cased system and there is just physically no room and no extra power connectors...
January 30, 2007 2:13:43 PM

Quote:
This might sound off the wall, but a friend told me he could not add another hard drive to his DELL PC and claimed its BIOS was somehow locked and could not recognize new drive...


That is not true, it will recongize new drives. There aren't a lot of changes you can make in the BIOS, but it will see it if hooked up correctly.

EDIT: I, also, am a Dell certified tech.
January 30, 2007 2:23:34 PM

Quote:
This might sound off the wall, but a friend told me he could not add another hard drive to his DELL PC and claimed its BIOS was somehow locked and could not recognize new drive...

As exotic it sounds exotic to me, I prefer to ask. I am planning to upgrade RAM, get new HD and 2 PCI cards for one DEL desktop we have at home I prefer to ask before I throw my money away...

Thanks in advance


My Dell 4600 has a BIOS which is locked such that you cannot overclock it at all. I added a new SATA hard drive and an older IDE hard drive for a total of two SATA and one IDE hard drive. I added a 1 GB stick of RAM. I swapped out the old power supply for a new Antec power supply. I swapped out the old Nvidia 5200 card for an ATI x850xt PE graphics card (hence the need for a new more powerful power supply).

There were absolutely no problems mechanically connecting any of this nor logically making it all work with the motherboard and with Windows XP.

Some things to keep in mind:

1) Don't buy more expensive RAM which is faster than your motherboard can handle. You'd just be wasting money. With Windows XP, you won't need more than 2 GB of RAM unless you're doing some unusual music encoding or graphics design work.

2) You didn't mention what model Dell you have, so I cannot tell if you must have the older IDE hard disks or can use the newer SATA drives. If your current hard drive is connected to the motherboard using a tiny black cable, then you have SATA. If so, then buy a new SATA drive.

3) Make sure than your motherboard has enough PCI slots to accomodate the new PCI cards that you want to buy. Make sure BEFORE you buy them. If you are going to swap out your graphics card for a newer one, then see how many PCI slots are blocked when you install the newer graphics card in the graphics slot. Sometimes, because of space considerations, older PCI slots get blocked when you insert a newer, bulkier graphics card which tends to take up 2 spaces due to the imbedded fan on those graphics cards. Buy the graphics card first and install it before buying any other components.

4) Buy a more powerful power supply from a reputable manufacturer like Antec. The power supplies that come with the Dell PCs tend to be only enough for the components already onboard when the Dell PC ships to you. Don't go for less than a 450W power supply.

5) Don't expect your Dell to be expandable beyond 1 or 2 years. The motherboards and relatively small cases which come with the older Dell PCs can only be expanded so much.

Good luck.
January 30, 2007 2:43:05 PM

Have added 2 HDDs, a DVD burner, sound card, wireless networking card, firewire card, AGP video card and 512MB of RAM to my now ageing Dell Dimension 4550.

Never had any issues (aside from MS making me reactivate every so often...)

Must must throw this 4 year old lump out the window..

*Drools over octa-core Intel Nehalem and nVidia 9900GTX*
January 30, 2007 3:03:10 PM

The only OEM computers where a hard drive was semi-difficult to replace were Compaq systems that had the ROM partition. That was about ten year ago.

On my Dell 4500 I've replaced:
CPU (1.8 willy P4, to 2.0 celly o/c'd to 2.66Ghz, to 2.4B P4)
AGP (rage 128 pro to GF3 Ti200)
Ram (added another stick of PC2100 256MB ram-generic brand)
PCI (added TV capture card)
Opitcals (swapped out CD-RW for DVD-RW drive)
Hard drive (added another Seagate, this one a 7200.7 200GB)

And finally: Motherboard/CPU upgrade (swapped in Asrock 775i65g and Pentium D 805, reused everything else).

On my Inspiron 1200 notebook:
CPU [replaced 1.3GHz Celeron M (Dothan), with 1.4 GHz Pentium M
(Banias)]
OS: using Dell OEM XP pre service packs (using Dell 4500 disk)
January 30, 2007 3:21:32 PM

Quote:
aside from MS making me reactivate every so often...


Hmm....not running Dell oem XP I take it?
January 30, 2007 3:25:12 PM

Yeah, I am.
Just MS arn't very nice...
January 30, 2007 3:27:17 PM

Quote:
The only OEM computers where a hard drive was semi-difficult to replace were Compaq systems that had the ROM partition. That was about ten year ago.

On my Dell 4500 I've replaced:
CPU (1.8 willy P4, to 2.0 celly o/c'd to 2.66Ghz, to 2.4B P4)
AGP (rage 128 pro to GF3 Ti200)
Ram (added another stick of PC2100 256MB ram-generic brand)
PCI (added TV capture card)
Opitcals (swapped out CD-RW for DVD-RW drive)
Hard drive (added another Seagate, this one a 7200.7 200GB)

And finally: Motherboard/CPU upgrade (swapped in Asrock 775i65g and Pentium D 805, reused everything else).

On my Inspiron 1200 notebook:
CPU [replaced 1.3GHz Celeron M (Dothan), with 1.4 GHz Pentium M
(Banias)]
OS: using Dell OEM XP pre service packs (using Dell 4500 disk)


If you don't mind my asking...how were you able to overclock your processor?

The BIOS in my Dell 4600 is locked tight and allows very little modification and certainly doesn't allow overclocking of anything.
January 30, 2007 3:30:23 PM

What model is the system?
January 30, 2007 3:44:58 PM

Quote:
If you don't mind my asking...how were you able to overclock your processor?

The BIOS in my Dell 4600 is locked tight and allows very little modification and certainly doesn't allow overclocking of anything.


Pinmods.
January 30, 2007 3:48:02 PM

Regarding "locked" drives, certain older Dells had a BIOS that could only support 2 ATAPI devices. So, you could have 4 HD's, 3HD's and 1 CD/Zip, or 2HD's and 2CD/Zips but you could not have a CDR, a CD, a Zip drive, and an HD, or 3 DVD-Rs, for example. One of the slave ATAPI devices would disappear. This was a limitation of the BIOS from the MB subcontractor, and was not fixable.

RAM can be hard to match, some models take anything, including mismatched DIMM sizes, etc. Other models are very particular about specific supported DIMMs or matched sizes.

IDE devices (barring the issue above) should always work if you have space.

PCI cards should work as well if you have the slots. Like most motherboards, Dells have 'preferred' I/O, IRQ, and DMA settings for slots, so if your PCI device requires or prefers a specific set of resources you might have to juggle there. This is especially the case in Optiplexes. On Dimensions you can generally move existing PCI devices around and put your card in slot 1, so that it gets inited first, but on Opti's with tons of onboard resources all that onboard stuff inits before the slots do, so you might run out of DMA's or your PCI NIC might end up sharing an IRQ with a mouse, for example, which could lead to performance issues. In that case you'd probably need to disable unused items in the BIOS (extra ports, onboard sound if an addin sound card, onboard NIC, etc.) Rare problem, and possible with any computer where you add a bunch of PCI accessories, but could be a problem.
January 30, 2007 3:56:00 PM

Odd. The version of Dell OEM I use never asks me to reactivate when I significantly change the system configuration. In fact, it never even asks me for a Product Key during installation. As long as it sees a Dell Bios, it installs without complaint. WPA is never activated unless I attempt to use the Dell OEM CD on a non-Dell motherboard.

I'm using the Dell 4500 OEM disk on the Inspiron laptop, and it passes WGA. I also have it installed on an old Optiplex GX100 (which is currently sitting in the corner collecting dust), and although I've never attempted it, I'm pretty sure it would also pass WGA, using the same auto-installed product key and everything. Sounds like an experiment for when I have free time. :wink:
January 30, 2007 4:05:56 PM

Quote:
Odd. The version of Dell OEM I use never asks me to reactivate when I significantly change the system configuration. In fact, it never even asks me for a Product Key during installation. As long as it sees a Dell Bios, it installs without complaint. WPA is never activated unless I attempt to use the Dell OEM CD on a non-Dell motherboard.

I'm using the Dell 4500 OEM disk on the Inspiron laptop, and it passes WGA. I also have it installed on an old Optiplex GX100 (which is currently sitting in the corner collecting dust), and although I've never attempted it, I'm pretty sure it would also pass WGA, using the same auto-installed product key and everything. Sounds like an experiment for when I have free time. :wink:


Dell was one of the last OEM's to stop shipping a 'real' OS disk. It sounds like you get one before the cutoff. Now Dell sends a system-specific 'restore' disk, which is supposed to do a BIOS check, and also load all preinstalled software, which is useful for drivers but annoying for the other preinstalled crap. I think it does a service tag check, so it is not supposed to restore on any mobo but the one it shipped with, but it might be more generic than that.

If that was the disk from the GX100, that would explain it, since with GX100's they shipped real installation disks.
January 30, 2007 4:51:19 PM

Quote:
Okay, thanks...

Anyone with DELL PC that they have upgraded? What parts did you add?
Did you encounter any difficulties?


I've upgraded dozens of Dell desktops (and servers for that matter) for work and for myself.

I've added opticals, HDDs, and RAM no problem...

In fact, I just added 512MB of RAM to my brother's Inspiron 6000 the other day, no problem.
January 30, 2007 6:06:27 PM

I got a dell xps 400/9150 and this is all I have add to it.

BFG 7800 oc 425/1050(OC to 475/1200)



and a small thermal take blue led fan.

!