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Revaming an old Dell

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April 12, 2010 1:33:45 PM

Hi, I have an old unused Dell pentium 4 computer which i thought i could revamp and update. I have been reading as much as i can about how to build/update a computer but there are still some things i am unsure of. I basically want to make a computer that will be good for gaming so i understand that i will need to get a new motherboard, cpu, gpu, ram and hard drive. Are these the only things i need to replace or will i not be able to use the old computer? I thought it made sense to use the old dell because then i can take advantage of the already existing fan, usb plugs, optical drives, case and power supply etc. Any help would be much appreciated, Thanks

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April 12, 2010 1:55:33 PM

KwameShallah said:
Hi, I have an old unused Dell pentium 4 computer which i thought i could revamp and update. I have been reading as much as i can about how to build/update a computer but there are still some things i am unsure of. I basically want to make a computer that will be good for gaming so i understand that i will need to get a new motherboard, cpu, gpu, ram and hard drive. Are these the only things i need to replace or will i not be able to use the old computer? I thought it made sense to use the old dell because then i can take advantage of the already existing fan, usb plugs, optical drives, case and power supply etc. Any help would be much appreciated, Thanks


Upgrading a P4 machine to a modern gaming machine really won't be possible. You've seen that to upgrade your processor to a respectably current performance level, you'll need a new motherboard. And new ram. And a new video card. And a faster hard drive. However, you can cannibalize the old Dell for some parts if you want to.

Don't worry about the fans - your new components will have better ones installed, and new case fans will more than likely come with the case. The same is true for "usb plugs", unless you have a functioning front-panel bay that fits in a 3.5" or 5.25" bay - they'll come pre-installed in the front/top of the case with motherboard header wires to connect to your new motherboard. You could pull the old hard drive and potentially 1:1 copy the data to the new one with a LOT of fiddling and hard work, or you could wipe it once you have your documents and such off and use it as a secondary storage drive. Or you could re-use the hard drive as your primary master boot drive, but that would probably cause a pretty large system bottleneck.

If it's an old P4 Dell, you likely won't be able to use the PSU due to low wattage, poor build quality (IMO - high ripple, single 12V rail, etc) and the lack of EATX 4-/8-pin connector for the mobo and 6-/8-pin connectors for your video card (without resorting to the adapter route). The optical drives will probably work fine, if they're not horribly outdated and failing. I'd recommend a Blu-ray player if you're at all interested in watching HD video easily on the machine, and at minimum one DVD +/- RW for data backup.

By reusing parts from it, you're only looking at a small savings. It may be worth it to you to pull those parts I mentioned if you're on a tight budget. Personally, I'd keep the P4 unit intact and just re-buy those items (going with SATA optical drives specifically). The cash difference isn't that big, and you'd have a second system to use for other things, to set up for other people in your home, give to a friend, or donate to charity for a tax credit.
April 12, 2010 1:59:09 PM

One last thing to note, that I just remembered...

A P4 system certainly used IDE optical drives (I assume two of them, since you pluralized in the OP) and probably IDE hard disks. Most modern motherboards have moved to SATA, so you won't see more than 1 IDE controller on a new board. Which means you'll only be able to use 2 of your 3 IDE devices in the new build, barring the use of adapters.

You could always toss the old hard drive into an external enclosure and use it as a portable hard drive if you really want to keep both optical drives. =)
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April 12, 2010 2:04:59 PM

Thadius856 said:
One last thing to note, that I just remembered...

A P4 system certainly used IDE optical drives (I assume two of them, since you pluralized in the OP) and probably IDE hard disks. Most modern motherboards have moved to SATA, so you won't see more than 1 IDE controller on a new board. Which means you'll only be able to use 2 of your 3 IDE devices in the new build, barring the use of adapters.

You could always toss the old hard drive into an external enclosure and use it as a portable hard drive if you really want to keep both optical drives. =)


Thanks for that. So basically the only thing i'll be able to reuse are the optical drives (they are DVD +/- RW) and i can't really use both? I just thought using the case would save me money but i guess as they're basically the cheapest part of the whole build i might as well just buy a new one. I definately don't want to reuse the hard disk as it's pretty small and i dont really need much storage space. It seems from what you're saying that i might as well just build a computer from scrath.
April 12, 2010 2:27:05 PM

KwameShallah said:
Thanks for that. So basically the only thing i'll be able to reuse are the optical drives (they are DVD +/- RW) and i can't really use both? I just thought using the case would save me money but i guess as they're basically the cheapest part of the whole build i might as well just buy a new one. I definately don't want to reuse the hard disk as it's pretty small and i dont really need much storage space. It seems from what you're saying that i might as well just build a computer from scrath.


Something like that, yes. =) I think being able to deduct from next year's taxes the donation of your P4 rig to a 501(c) non-profit charity would probably off-set the cost of the new parts. You'd have to do some research on its value, and wipe the hard drive thoroughly, but its not too hard.

I don't like Dell cases. Period. Half the time they're slim-line and require the low-profile cards. The other half of the time they have some problem or another - poor airflow, lack of fans, poor fan placement, sharp metal corners, tight working spaces, wonky bay mounting, etc. I emphasize tight working spaces... it's like the working on the engine of a modern Cadillac... there's no way you're going to get an American-sized hand into that caddy's tight spaces without removing 100 plastic covers that are only there to deter you from working on it yourself. Blargh!

And yes, you can use both optical drives. If you don't re-use the hard drive. Or one optical drive and the hard drive. That is, without adapters.
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April 12, 2010 2:28:04 PM

KwameShallah said:
Thanks for that. So basically the only thing i'll be able to reuse are the optical drives (they are DVD +/- RW) and i can't really use both? I just thought using the case would save me money but i guess as they're basically the cheapest part of the whole build i might as well just buy a new one. I definately don't want to reuse the hard disk as it's pretty small and i dont really need much storage space. It seems from what you're saying that i might as well just build a computer from scrath.


One other thing to keep in mind ----- Dell used to use propeitary case\PSU layouts in the wiring and trying to use an old DELL PSU on a MOBO other than a DELL would burn out the MOBO (they rearranged the wiring on the PSU and MOBO to switch 2 wires so that you were stuck buying replacements from them instead of another company - If you tried using one of their PSUs on a different MOBO it would fry it and if you tried using another companies PSU on their MOBO it just would not get power !! ) they have since seen the error in their ways and changed but since this is an older P4 it is possible that case\mobo use the old design and this may not be reuseable !!)

AS far as what can be reused -- pretty much the DVD drive and possibly 1 HDD (if they are IDE as new MOBO's have only 1 IDE connector and support 2 devices on the IDE channel) - the Monitor - the Mouse\keyboard (IF you ensure the MOBO you buy supports them (many new MOBOs are doing away with the PS2 connectors and switching to USB) - Speakers - THe Microsoft OS can usually be reused if you have the install disc and the product key (this alone can save $100) but you may want to upgrade to windows 7 anyway.

SO you are pretty much looking at getting a new system -- the good news is prices have come down considerably for the performance you get so a decent system can be built for $500 - $700 give or take a bit.
April 12, 2010 3:04:41 PM

JDFan said:
THe Microsoft OS can usually be reused if you have the install disc and the product key (this alone can save $100) but you may want to upgrade to windows 7 anyway.


Not necessarily. An OEM key from a pre-installed O/S will likely fail authentication from my experience when used in a custom build. And that's assuming he even has a retail disc and not a "restore disc", which would probably notice the difference between his hardware and what it's designed to be install on, and refuse to install.
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April 12, 2010 7:44:40 PM

Thadius856 said:
Not necessarily. An OEM key from a pre-installed O/S will likely fail authentication from my experience when used in a custom build. And that's assuming he even has a retail disc and not a "restore disc", which would probably notice the difference between his hardware and what it's designed to be install on, and refuse to install.


I'm currently using a copy of VISTA that was originally on an E-machine - I used the E-machine Operating System Disc that came with a refurbished E-machine I bought for my 10 year old neice (they had installed a new version of VISTA on it as part of the refurb and left the old product key on the machine so it had 2 authentication codes - one stayed on that system and the other I used when upgrading my system from XP (when the system was an AMD athlon 3200+ socket 754 system with a 7800GS AGP video card) and then I also reauthenticated the install after upgrading the system to a new AM3 Gigabyte MOBO with DDR3 RAM and a 5770 GPU using only the HDD, DVD drive and PSU from the old system so it required reauthentication but phone authentication worked fine !!
April 12, 2010 9:01:06 PM

JDFan said:
I'm currently using a copy of VISTA that was originally on an E-machine - I used the E-machine Operating System Disc that came with a refurbished E-machine I bought for my 10 year old neice (they had installed a new version of VISTA on it as part of the refurb and left the old product key on the machine so it had 2 authentication codes - one stayed on that system and the other I used when upgrading my system from XP (when the system was an AMD athlon 3200+ socket 754 system with a 7800GS AGP video card) and then I also reauthenticated the install after upgrading the system to a new AM3 Gigabyte MOBO with DDR3 RAM and a 5770 GPU using only the HDD, DVD drive and PSU from the old system so it required reauthentication but phone authentication worked fine !!


If we're discussing what's technically possible, sure, it might be. However, most OEM discs and keys are locked. If we're talking about what's legal and ethical, see below.

Re-using an OEM key on another system, whether the system of initial install is still being used or not, is not permitted under software licensing from Microsoft. Specially, OEM licenses are permitted to be pre-installed on a single system prior to delivery to the customer and do not allow for reproduction, redistribution, or installation on additional machines (single license).

You can read up on OEM licenses at:
http://oem.microsoft.com/public/sblicense/2008_sb_licen...
http://blogs.msdn.com/mssmallbiz/archive/2008/06/16/860...
http://blogs.zdnet.com/Bott/?p=1561

And of course:
http://www.google.com ;) 
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April 12, 2010 9:26:58 PM

Thadius856 said:
If we're discussing what's technically possible, sure, it might be. However, most OEM discs and keys are locked. If we're talking about what's legal and ethical, see below.

Re-using an OEM key on another system, whether the system of initial install is still being used or not, is not permitted under software licensing from Microsoft. Specially, OEM licenses are permitted to be pre-installed on a single system prior to delivery to the customer and do not allow for reproduction, redistribution, or installation on additional machines (single license).

You can read up on OEM licenses at:
http://oem.microsoft.com/public/sblicense/2008_sb_licen...
http://blogs.msdn.com/mssmallbiz/archive/2008/06/16/860...
http://blogs.zdnet.com/Bott/?p=1561

And of course:
http://www.google.com ;) 


Since you linked this article I will let you infer what you want from it :

Quote:
The original OEM Windows licenses that ships with the PC is bound to that PC. So, if you buy a Dell PC with an OEM Windows license, that OEM Windows license stays with that PC. If you sell the PC, you have sold the OEM Windows license with it. If you donate the PC, you donate the OEM Windows license with it. If you burn and destroy the PC, you burn and destroy the OEM Windows license with it. So just because you wipe the information clean off the hard drive before transferring the PC, it doesn't change the fact that the OEM Windows license stays with it. Because of this, yes, you certainly can reload the original OEM Dell Windows CD back onto the PC since the OEM Windows license is tied to it anyway. Just be sure that when you transfer the PC to the new owner that you also transfer all of the OEM Proof of license components with it as well.

Thank you and have a wonderful day,

Eric Ligman
Microsoft US Senior Manager


So as long as he is upgrading That PC it is perfectly within his rights to reload the OS onto it after completing the upgrade !! -- whether the parts are slowly changed over a period of time to upgrade or the upgrade is done all at one time the license for that PC is still valid and there is no need to buy a new license but if you feel differently and wish to provide MS with additional funds then that is your decision to make as far as I am concerned once I buy a piece of software I am free to use it as I see fit and seeing that I activated the license over the telephone after changing my system it appears that MS would agree.

!