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Optiplex Mod Challenge!

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March 1, 2013 2:46:15 AM

A recent company wide layoff has caused a liquidation in property from my former employer and so I've acquired an office computer from them.

It is a Dell Optiplex 745.

HDD: WD 160 GB

RAM: 512mb

CPU: Intel Celeron (I have yet to turn it on and see what the Ghz are but its a CELERON so what's the need?)

The computer has been stripped of it's optical drives and it's only data input can be through it's USB and Ethernet ports.

I was advised by another member of Tomshardware, namely stickg1 that the best thing to do with this is to mess around with it, and possibly alter it to become a low power, discrete Home Theatre computer. I'm interested in this kind of project and I wanted to consult the hive mind of tomshardware for more ideas and suggestions about going about doing this.

Right now I'm trying to figure out what kind of mobo this thing has without taking it apart. I want to upgrade this thing to be decent. I need to know what kind of cpu I could upgrade this to, what kind of cheap gpu would put hdmi in this thing? All things that I'm curious about.

I just had great success building my first custom computer, but I don't know the first thing about building a home theatre unit. Anyone that helps is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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March 1, 2013 3:04:08 AM

You might want to start by finding out what size the motherboard is. Dell used to, and still often does, produce custom dimension boards. You might not be able to find an motherboard out there that fits in the case properly.

Secondly, if you stick with the motherboard, Dell often surface mounts the CPUs, so you cant simply pop another chip in the CPU socket.

Third, the power supply might be non-ATX compliant.

What type of case is it? Those Optiplexes came in 3 or 4 different styles.
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March 1, 2013 4:56:36 AM

tigerg said:
You might want to start by finding out what size the motherboard is. Dell used to, and still often does, produce custom dimension boards. You might not be able to find an motherboard out there that fits in the case properly.

Secondly, if you stick with the motherboard, Dell often surface mounts the CPUs, so you cant simply pop another chip in the CPU socket.

Third, the power supply might be non-ATX compliant.

What type of case is it? Those Optiplexes came in 3 or 4 different styles.


Hmm well, its definitely smaller than a mid atx. Here's a listing on eBay that has the exact case though, not the same build.

http://pages.ebay.com/link/?nav=item.view&id=1408985339...

I'm not interested in changing the mobo out, I just need to identify this mobo. Any other identifiers I could find on the case itself maybe? It's an older model, from 2008 i believe?
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March 1, 2013 5:11:57 AM

It just got interesting. I booted up the computer for the first time to see how everything is working inside and to my surprise it's running a form of Linux! I knew some of the computers at work had Ubuntu on them, and I had to use them a time or two for working but I'm an utter linux noob. I have a copy of Windows XP here that I can install to it but it doesn't have an optical drive. I'll have to copy my install disc to a flash drive and try and install it that way.

Sadly enough, the IT guys at work didn't bother clearing all the user accounts off of these things so I couldn't get past the login screen. Think I'll still be able to boot the flash drive from the bios and wipe this thing clean with a copy of windows XP?

Also discovered, the celeron processor is 1.80 Ghz and the Ubuntu version is 10.4 GNOME if that means anything.
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March 1, 2013 5:16:18 AM

tigerg said:
You might want to start by finding out what size the motherboard is. Dell used to, and still often does, produce custom dimension boards. You might not be able to find an motherboard out there that fits in the case properly.

Secondly, if you stick with the motherboard, Dell often surface mounts the CPUs, so you cant simply pop another chip in the CPU socket.

Third, the power supply might be non-ATX compliant.

What type of case is it? Those Optiplexes came in 3 or 4 different styles.


Opened it up in search of the service part sticker Smorizio mentioned, discovered that the CPU is not surface mounted and is fully interchangable! Woo!
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March 1, 2013 5:18:59 AM

Yeah, that is the Optiplex 745 DT, I think. They are extremely common in businesses, and lots of them are hitting the used market as those organizations retire them.

If you don't plan to replace the motherboard, good, because it is not a standardized motherboard. You won't find anything to swap it with and fit right in. The good thing is, I believe it is socketed. You could remove the current Celeron CPU and replace it with another socket T chip, something up to a Core 2 Duo (1066Mhz). It should take up to 2GB of RAM too.

(I was typing all this as you replied above. Yep, you could bump that processor!)
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March 1, 2013 5:26:36 AM

smorizio said:
dell like hp put a service part sticker on the mb..just have to open the case to read it or google the model number in google and words system board for the dell part number.
http://www.dell.com/downloads/global/products/optix/en/...
http://www.amazon.com/Genuine-Dell-WK833-MotherBoard-Op...
http://www.amazon.com/Dell-Optiplex-System-Motherboard-...
http://www.ascendtech.us/dell-optiplex-745-motherboard-...



Yet again you save the day smorizio! According to the dell page, I'm in possession of a Optiplex Small Form Unit. This info is substantial, thank you very much.

Now what to do with this unit.... Any ideas?
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March 1, 2013 5:42:44 AM

I'm searching all over for an intel core 2 duo Socket T like the specs mention but I wonder if I'm looking for the wrong socket. What socket is this mobo, how can I tell?
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March 1, 2013 5:53:24 AM


It can be a challenge getting Dell Optiplexes necessitating a lot of on-line digging to kernel mods .
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March 1, 2013 5:57:55 AM

Did some research and discovered that Socket T is the same as LGA 775. GREAT GLAUX.

I'm preparing to boot the computer on a flash drive to install windows xp, I'll let everyone know how it goes.
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March 1, 2013 5:59:26 AM

prin1113ci said:
It can be a challenge getting Dell Optiplexes necessitating a lot of on-line digging to kernel mods .

I'm too stupid to understand what you said. :( 
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March 1, 2013 6:24:35 AM

Annnnd, booting from the USB drive isn't as easy as I thought it was.... Hmm... More learning to be done! Any help is still appreciated.
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March 3, 2013 3:57:50 PM

This is the list of supported processors

ntel® Core™2 Duo Processor E6700 (4M Cache, 2.66 GHz, 1066 MHz FSB)
Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor E6600 (4M Cache, 2.40 GHz, 1066 MHz FSB)
Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor E6420 (4M Cache, 2.13 GHz, 1066 MHz FSB)
Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor E6400 (2M Cache, 2.13 GHz, 1066 MHz FSB)
Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor E6320 (4M Cache, 1.86 GHz, 1066 MHz FSB)
Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor E6300 (2M Cache, 1.86 GHz, 1066 MHz FSB)
Intel® Core 2 Duo 1066MHz FSB Socket T XD, EM64T 4MB L2 cache EIST and VT (E6000 series)
Intel® Pentium® D 800MHz FSB Socket T XD, EM64T, 2x2MB L2 cache, EIST, and VT on 950/960 (900 series)
Intel® Pentium® D 800MHz FSB Socket T XD, EM64T, 2x1MB L2 cache (800 series)
Intel® Pentium® 4 800MHz FSB Socket T with HT, XD, EM64T, and 1MB L2 cache (500 series)
Intel® Celeron® D 533 MHz FSB Socket T with XD and EM64T (300 series)

If you are unsuccessful in booting from USB, let us know - there is a way to clear all passwords by removing password jumper, interested?
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March 3, 2013 4:41:01 PM

Kisianik said:
This is the list of supported processors

ntel® Core™2 Duo Processor E6700 (4M Cache, 2.66 GHz, 1066 MHz FSB)
Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor E6600 (4M Cache, 2.40 GHz, 1066 MHz FSB)
Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor E6420 (4M Cache, 2.13 GHz, 1066 MHz FSB)
Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor E6400 (2M Cache, 2.13 GHz, 1066 MHz FSB)
Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor E6320 (4M Cache, 1.86 GHz, 1066 MHz FSB)
Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor E6300 (2M Cache, 1.86 GHz, 1066 MHz FSB)
Intel® Core 2 Duo 1066MHz FSB Socket T XD, EM64T 4MB L2 cache EIST and VT (E6000 series)
Intel® Pentium® D 800MHz FSB Socket T XD, EM64T, 2x2MB L2 cache, EIST, and VT on 950/960 (900 series)
Intel® Pentium® D 800MHz FSB Socket T XD, EM64T, 2x1MB L2 cache (800 series)
Intel® Pentium® 4 800MHz FSB Socket T with HT, XD, EM64T, and 1MB L2 cache (500 series)
Intel® Celeron® D 533 MHz FSB Socket T with XD and EM64T (300 series)

If you are unsuccessful in booting from USB, let us know - there is a way to clear all passwords by removing password jumper, interested?


Thanks for the extensive list! As I am still having trouble with booting from the usb drive, I am interested.
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March 3, 2013 7:19:53 PM

I am not guarantee that this will work, but you have to try.

Turn off the computer and disconnect the power cable from the electrical outlet.
Remove the computer cover.
Reset the current CMOS settings:
Locate the password (PSWD) and CMOS (RTC_RST) jumpers on the system board.
Remove the jumper plug from the PSWD jumper pins.
Place the password jumper plug on the RTC_RST pins and wait approximately 5 seconds.
Remove the jumper plug from the RTC_RST pins and place it back on the password pins.
Close the computer cover.
Attach the computer stand, if used.
Connect your computer and devices to electrical outlets and turn them on.





If you need help getting to the motherboard you would have to read a manual ftp://ftp.dell.com/Manuals/all-products/esuprt_desktop/...

If this not going to work, you would have to pull optical drive from another PC and stick it into yours.
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March 10, 2013 8:26:48 PM

Kisianik said:
I am not guarantee that this will work, but you have to try.

Turn off the computer and disconnect the power cable from the electrical outlet.
Remove the computer cover.
Reset the current CMOS settings:
Locate the password (PSWD) and CMOS (RTC_RST) jumpers on the system board.
Remove the jumper plug from the PSWD jumper pins.
Place the password jumper plug on the RTC_RST pins and wait approximately 5 seconds.
Remove the jumper plug from the RTC_RST pins and place it back on the password pins.
Close the computer cover.
Attach the computer stand, if used.
Connect your computer and devices to electrical outlets and turn them on.

http://imageshack.us/a/img826/3796/optiplex745mobodiagramp.jpg

http://imageshack.us/a/img585/3848/optiplex745mobodiagrams.jpg

If you need help getting to the motherboard you would have to read a manual ftp://ftp.dell.com/Manuals/all-products/esuprt_desktop/...

If this not going to work, you would have to pull optical drive from another PC and stick it into yours.


Luckily after much investigation, I found a piece of paper with what seemed to be a password on it, I tried it several times to no avail and eventually tried it with the first letter capitalized and it worked! Turned out the password entry was case sensitive.

So now I have a copy of Windows XP still loaded onto a flash drive and I plan to reformat the whole thing and install XP.

But oddly enough, I witnessed a mystery while digging through the internal files of the computer. I wanted to make sure the thing was wiped clean of all work related files and it seemed to be, but then when I looked at the properties of the hard drive, which physically read that it was a 160 GB capacity drive, it calculated that it only has 30 gbs available and only 7 gbs used. I thought this was odd.

I'm going to attempt to install Windows XP on it today and I'll report back with the progress of that.


Also, I found out what the best CPU for this thing is, but what is the best GPU for it? I cannot for the life of me, figure out the right one for it. I thought I found a good one because it said it was a low profile one, but it required a PSU of 400W's, this thing only has a 275w psu. .....Can I even upgrade a small form factor Optiplex's PSU? The challenge continues!
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March 10, 2013 11:22:05 PM

Alright, here's what has happened so far.

I turned on the computer and plugged in my flash drive with the copy of windows xp setup disc on it. The computer did open the drive but couldn't understand any of the files within it. It seemed that Wine was capable of opening the setup.exe of the disc but it stated an error about format so I immediately thought, "Well ubuntu just isn't going to play nice with these files."

So I proceeded to do what I planned on doing anyway; formatting the computers hard drive. I decided that perhaps this linux based format needs to be cleared out and replaced with good ol' NTFS. So I took the HDD out, hooked it up to my computer, and opened it up with Disc Management and found that the reason the computer only assumed the hard drive had 30 gbs of memory was because the people at my old job partitioned the drive as such, 30 gbs of active drive, 640 mbs of free space and around 111.75 Gbs of unallocated space.

Either way, I wiped it, set it up for one large format/partition and made it clean. I was able to put files in and out of it so I figured it was ready for a windows install. First I thought, I'll be smart and install windows XP on this drive while it's right here in my computer! I opened the disc and setup.exe would not let me click install windows XP at all. After some quick googling I found the windows 7 just doesn't permit these set ups to work in this environment.

Then I just restarted my computer, and attempted to boot from disc, and I planned that when it asked me which drive, I'd point it right to the correct one and I'd be happily on my way but NO, BSOD happens and I restart the computer again.

The BSOD deterred me from trying again, I DID just build this computer of mine and I'm still paranoid of errors. So I decided that I need to get this HDD back into the optiplex. I booted it up just to see what would happen and I saw a little message on the screen state: "Grub Rescue"

I read that Grub was something related to linux so I thought that was odd that even though the HDD was COMPLETELY wiped, slow format and everything that any remnant of linux left behind was odd. I assumed that it was something kept in the RAM for safety purposes.

ANYWAYS, I'm back to having to figure out how to boot from flash drive on this thing. I googled all over, and everywhere I look, the information is either too old or the downloads I get are corrupt. Any help is greatly appreciated. I'm still seeking help on getting Windows XP on this thing and what kind of video card would put HD output in this little thing?

Thanks again!
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July 11, 2014 2:14:35 AM

I suggest a bios update may solve your problem for usb booting !!
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July 12, 2014 12:37:46 AM

Hi,
what happens when you press F12 at the Dell post screen?
Also, you should be able to install upto 8GB of RAM as it will have 4 slots which each support 2GB.
For graphics look for a passive cooled gpu (one without a fan just a heatsink). They usually use less power.
Paul
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July 12, 2014 4:59:15 AM

I'm sorry but I really should close this thread. Sorry everyone.

I eventually used the hard drive that came in the optiplex as a backup drive for my existing rig as it's HDD failed.
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