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Building a backup storage box

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August 26, 2011 4:47:48 PM

I have a Dell XPS 435T/9000 that no longer works because Duke Energy decided to brown out our area with no advance warning and I was flashing my BIOS at the time. I have since replaced it with a Toshiba A665-S6090 with a 500GB HD.

I'm pretty sure my 750GB HD in my Dell still works, but inaccessible. I need advice/guidance on turning this dead Dell box into a storage device. I'm not necessarily looking to build a NAS box, but could be persuaded. I do know that I will need to replace the power supply because a relative who runs her own business and was a CAD drafter in her previous life informed me that the power supply was a type used not be home owners, but businesses involved heavily in CAD-related projects. Therefore, a new power supply necessary for home owners is required.

I'm looking at this Newegg special -- 2TB HITACHI Deskstar 5K3000 HDS5C3020ALA632 Item # N82E16822145475 -- as the second HD. Een though I could be persuaded to build a NAS, I don't want to mirror data. I want to build a simple backup box.

Any suggestions/advice would be helpful.

August 27, 2011 3:52:06 AM

You should be able to reflash the BIOS to get things up and running again. Hopefully there is no damage beyond that.

I don't understant the power supply issue... was it damaged during the brownout? I have specified or built many CAD systems... the comment about the power supply makes no sense to me. If the supply is toast, I would replace it with the same unit. Why wouldn't you?

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August 27, 2011 6:30:27 AM

mbahr said:
You should be able to reflash the BIOS to get things up and running again. Hopefully there is no damage beyond that.

I don't understant the power supply issue... was it damaged during the brownout? I have specified or built many CAD systems... the comment about the power supply makes no sense to me. If the supply is toast, I would replace it with the same unit. Why wouldn't you?


Sorry about the vagueness regarding the power supply. As I understand it, Dell originally designed the XPS 4355t/9000 for use in industrial offices that had certified electronics techs and IT personnel, then began pitching them to homes/home offices. Bear with me as this was explained ti me last November, the power supply Dell put in isn't a standard power supply that handles a standard AC/DC current like you find in a home/home office, but actually a dedicated power supply that draws from a plant's direct current. Having worked in manufacturing myself, I can tell you that most systems are dedicated direct current power to maintain an even power stream. What this causes in the home/home office are daily BSODs with many hours spent on the Dell helpline with reps who are as clueless as I was until my niece and her husband who run a business installing high-speed lines in businesses looked in my case and informed me that my power supply wasn't anything you could buy from NewEgg or other retail outlets and since my home doesn't have the power Direct Current power only, I would continue to have BSODs. Thus I need to replace this power supply with an off-the-shelf power supply.

As for the BIOS, two separate computer shops look at my machine after the brownout blowout, one shop said my mobo was fried, the other said that the mobo could also be fried, but since the BIOS chip-- again if wrong please excuse as it has been almost a year-- was fried and until I replaced that they couldn't tell about the mobo. Long story short, after finding one supplier that sold Dell parts and costing them and Dell's quote of $576.99 and the new power supply since both were so close, I decided to replace with a newer non-Dell system. I hope this clears up everything.

i just thought I could use the Dell case, which is nice, with other parts that probably still work, like my HDD to build a storage box. Since I'm good at software troubleshooting and not hardware builds, I turned to the great people at Tom's Hardware Forum for help.

Again, any help would be appreciated.
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August 28, 2011 12:08:38 AM

I looked up the workstation. Looks pretty typical to me. Couldn't find any information on the power supply. If it plugs into a 120 vold 20 amp AC outlet, like you find in offices and homes in the US, than I don't understand why it is special. Note: There is no such thing as combined AC/DC power in an outlet. It's one or the other. If the power supply requires AC power connecting it to a DC outlet that looks like a typical 120V 20A AC outlet (which I've never heard of) would definately not work.

I did a little looking around to learn more about the power supply. It sounds like it is a normal power supply stuffed into an unusual form factor. Evidently, it is not a good design and is very sensitive to dirty power. Needs a good clean AC sine wave.

Anyway, let's move on.

Dell makes nice cases and you want to build a new machine inside the old case. Sounds like you need a new power supply and a new motherboard and will transfer the RAM and processor from the old board to the new one.

You'll have to refer to the DELL documentation to determine the power supply form factor. There are many good power supply companies, such as Corsair or thermaltake. Looks like that computer came with a 475watt unit, which seems small to me. The form factor *is* a little odd... seems about a 1/2 inch larger than a typical ATX power supply. I found one gentleman that replaced the stock unit with a Corsair HX620 and was happy. Others went much larger... 850 watts. These are standard ATX units and so you end up mounting it with only two screws and it leaves some empty space in the back panel you should close off with metal or cardboard to keep the airflow going through the fan. Also someone suggested suggested this unit as a same size replacment: https://shop.pcpower.com/products/power_supplies/dell/

My suggestion: Do a little research on the power supply. You may want to try corsairs online sizing wizard to determine the right number of watts based on your graphics board, specific processor, etc.

Get the power supply sorted out first. Hook everything back up. You may find that your motherboard works and the power supply was just damaged by the brownout. That would be great!

If it turns out the mother board is shot than I suggest the easiest thing to do is get an exact replacement for it. You may find other sources for it besides Dell, but Dell may be the easiest route.

Hope this helps.
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August 28, 2011 11:30:17 PM

Yes, it is a power supply that requires a sine wave or it causes your computer to BSOD several times a day. Since I worked at a pharmaceutical plant in my town whose equipment ran "trash" --output that was unusable by industry standards -- or worse yet shut down or had to be shut down because Due Energy's power is 'dirty' and not 'clean' before it enters your building, I can tell you that I and anyone else needed these types of power supplies in our pcs.

Moving on, I have already had the CPU and the motherboard tested at a Computer Direct Outlet, where they build custom PCs, repair and of course, troubleshoot PCs in Greenville, SC. The tech took both the CPU and motherboard out and put it on two different test beds actually, and it wouldn't post. They then checked the internet and their sources and found one aftermarket source in Texas, with whom they had business and could vouch that it was a good business. The price for both CPU and mobo was actually higher than what Dell quoted over the phone.

I'm not trying to build a new computer from parts left over, but then I'm not sure what I need. I was thinking of building a NAS or something like it. Just want to use the case and HDDs for storage. Again, I'm not sure what is required or if I'm looking in the wrong direction.

A few years ago, there were several articles from pcmag.com, pcworld.com, and other types of websites of magazines about building a NAS yourself, but I can't seem to access the articles and only read over them as I wasn't interested at the time.

As you've already stated, Dell has 'special' dimensions to their cases and much of their primary hardware. Therefore, if I need to put a new motherboard in, I'm not sure standard components will fit in this case. Am willing to try, but money definitely figures into the decision.

Again, any help is greatly appreciated.
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August 31, 2011 5:15:58 AM

In terms of the motherboard it should be a standard size.

You can look up the dimensions for an ATX sized motherboard and use your tape measure to see if it is the same. The ATX form factor relates to the overall size, the location of the back panel stuff, and the location of the standoffs that attach the motherboard to the case.

I suspect it is a standard sized motherboard, and made by one of the typical manufacturers. One Dell I have here uses an Intel motherboard. You may be able to find some information silk screened on the motherboard itself. Even if you can't find a manufacturers name, you may find a product number that you can google with. Otherwise, if you do enough google searching you may be able to find out who made the motherboard.

As a jump start... does your motherboard look like this one: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/accessories/B003KJ1SB8

But you know what? If all you want is a NAS using that big old I7 is complete overkill. If you just want a very simple box to serve files, you can make it happen with a much cheaper motherboard, RAM, and Processor. You could get the Intel D510MO, for instance, it should do just find hooked up to a disk. That motherboard would be absolutely swimming in all of the extra space inside your case.

Just thinking out loud....
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