Upgrading hardware inside existing computer

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Upgrading hardware inside existing computer

Postposted on Wed Jan 18, 2012 5:41 pm

I have a Dell Dimension computer I bought 6 years ago that currently runs XP Pro. When I ordered it, I had it modified with 2 GB of RAM at the time in anticipation of Vista, but never bought Vista. It also has a 3.5 inch disk drive that I'd like to keep (for old time sake; still have several diskettes).

I particularly like the computer casing design. The good thing about the design of the computer casing is that it has plenty of open venting around the hard drive for air cooling. I live in a desert region of the country and so far have not had any problems with the machine overheating during the summers. From what I can tell of the more recent casing designs that Dell is using, they don't have the same venting as this casing, so I'd like to keep this computer casing and just upgrade the workings inside (CPU, motherboard, and RAM).

Does anyone here know whether or not you can send your computer to Dell and request an upgrade of the hardware inside? Would they even consider doing that? Or would they try steering you to purchase an existing model? Can't they put one of their newer models hardware into an older casing? I'm not really sure if this is done at all.

Barring that, how difficult and expensive might it be to have this kind of upgrading done by someone? I originally paid $1300 for the unit, and it's still running fine (knock on wood!).

Any and all opinions appreciated.
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Re: Upgrading hardware inside existing computer

Postposted on Wed Jan 18, 2012 5:52 pm

I upgraded a 2001 Dell Dimension for many years. The main problem was that Dell used--at least back then--proprietary power supply plugs and I couldn't upgrade without more watts so I had PC Power & Cooling make me a custom power supply. You need to check your power supply before considering a more powerful system--in fact, I'd suggest adding that to your motherboard, CPU, and RAM parts list.

Why don't you do the upgrade yourself? My Dimension upgrades eventually gave me the confidence to build my own system, whose specs are below. If you're going to pay someone figure on something like at least $45/hour for labor plus parts.
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Re: Upgrading hardware inside existing computer

Postposted on Wed Jan 18, 2012 6:16 pm

Top of the list: Dell won't be interested.

Other than that, there's good news, and bad.

Good news: There are easy upgrades you can make yourself, including: installing more RAM, installing Windows 7, installing a more powerful graphics card, installing a faster hard disk or even solid state disk drive. These will provide serious speed improvements, depending on the tasks you perform.

Bad news: You will probably not be able to upgrade your motherboard. Dell tend to use proprietary designs with proprietary mounting methods. If you can tell us the exact model of your machine we may be able to give more details on this.

For a power supply, you may have the same problem as with the motherboard. Again details of your system will help!

Some other points to consider:
  • New, modern PCs tend to run cool, and are generally capable of operating in ambient air temperatures up to 35-40C with no ill effects.
  • The upgrading is not difficult - most of what is described above you will be able to do yourself, especially with expert TR Forum guidance!

Hope this helps,

James

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Re: Upgrading hardware inside existing computer

Postposted on Wed Jan 18, 2012 6:57 pm

Pretty much impossible. The proprietary plugs for the front ports/buttons/lights will not work on a conventional motherboard.

I feel your pain. I love some of the Dell cases and wish a guy could put modern parts in them.
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Re: Upgrading hardware inside existing computer

Postposted on Wed Jan 18, 2012 7:31 pm

I'm typing this on a Dell Dimension E510, which I bought in 2006; so, I feel your pain. I've taken this box as far as you can -- upgraded everything except the motherboard and Pentium D processor it came with.

As has already been stated, Dell used a proprietary connector for the front panel. Dell also used a BTX (no not ATX) form factor mainboard. No one makes aftermarket BTX boards. Fortunately (for me) by 2006 they had stopped using the proprietary power supplies.

Basically, there is nothing you can do. Coming from an electronics manufacturing background, I can tell you it's just not cost effective for Dell to upgrade machines like these; they will be happy to sell you a new machine of course. I understand you liking the case design -- except for the one glaring flaw (the BTX form factor) I like it. There are a number of similar cases available, browse newegg, tiger direct, or Fill in the Blank with your favorite online vendor here .

Luck to you man,
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Re: Upgrading hardware inside existing computer

Postposted on Thu Jan 19, 2012 1:02 pm

As has been mentioned, Dell will likely have no interest in doing this for you. If they did, by chance, you'd probably spend a lot more than you want. They'd rather just sell you something new.

If you're unhappy with the current line of Dell cases (I assume you check into others as well), you might want to consider building your own system. There are lots of great options for cases out there, and you'll get plenty of help on these forums. It can be intimidating at first, but do a bunch of reading, check out the TR system guide linked on the front page for some initial guidance on parts, and just feel free to ask questions and look around from there.
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Re: Upgrading hardware inside existing computer

Postposted on Thu Jan 19, 2012 2:02 pm

I agree with everyone. It's just not worth upgrading. For one, 6 years old means you're probably running a single core CPU, DDR1 ram, AGP Graphics? A $400 modern computer could outperform a system like that. It is true that modern systems run considerably cooler than systems from 6 years ago, dont get too scared about the reduced front air vents on the new dell cases.
If you prefer a non-proprietary pre-built system with higher quality components, I would suggest ibuypower.com or cyberpowerpc.com. Check out TR's System Guide for hardware ideas and post a thread on the System Builders Anonymous forum with some specifics about usage, cost, life expectancy, etc for some suggestions to make sure you have a system that is optimized for YOU. If you cant find a case that you like on either of their websites, you can always buy one from newegg.com and do a case swap without having to worry about compatability.
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Re: Upgrading hardware inside existing computer

Postposted on Fri Jan 20, 2012 12:47 am

Wow, guys. Thanks for all the opinions! This forum is the greatest.

DPete27 wrote:It is true that modern systems run considerably cooler than systems from 6 years ago, dont get too scared about the reduced front air vents on the new dell cases.

I especially appreciate comments like the above, as that was my main concern. The machine I have is a Dimension E510. I went with Dell based on my brother's recommendation who mentioned at the time that Dell used an "open architecture" as opposed to the proprietary "closed architecture" of a brand like HP. Apparently, from your comments, Dell's architecture is not as "open" as he thought. I really appreciate finding this out.

Looks as though I'm better off just purchasing a new machine when the time comes and leaving it at that.

Thanks again for all your time and consideration.
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Re: Upgrading hardware inside existing computer

Postposted on Fri Jan 20, 2012 2:08 am

Brent00 wrote:I have a Dell Dimension computer I bought 6 years ago that currently runs XP Pro. When I ordered it, I had it modified with 2 GB of RAM at the time in anticipation of Vista, but never bought Vista. It also has a 3.5 inch disk drive that I'd like to keep (for old time sake; still have several diskettes).

I particularly like the computer casing design. The good thing about the design of the computer casing is that it has plenty of open venting around the hard drive for air cooling. I live in a desert region of the country and so far have not had any problems with the machine overheating during the summers. From what I can tell of the more recent casing designs that Dell is using, they don't have the same venting as this casing, so I'd like to keep this computer casing and just upgrade the workings inside (CPU, motherboard, and RAM).

Does anyone here know whether or not you can send your computer to Dell and request an upgrade of the hardware inside? Would they even consider doing that? Or would they try steering you to purchase an existing model? Can't they put one of their newer models hardware into an older casing? I'm not really sure if this is done at all.

Barring that, how difficult and expensive might it be to have this kind of upgrading done by someone? I originally paid $1300 for the unit, and it's still running fine (knock on wood!).

Any and all opinions appreciated.



So all i get from this is that you really like the case?

Well the case industry has evolved a lot and there are a miriad of cases out there that could provide far better cooling then what you got now. Question is, what's your budget?
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Re: Upgrading hardware inside existing computer

Postposted on Fri Jan 20, 2012 9:29 am

Brent00 wrote:Looks as though I'm better off just purchasing a new machine when the time comes and leaving it at that.


Like I said, when the time comes, have a look at ibuypower or cyberpower and utilize the forums here at TR, they're full of very knoledgeable people willing to offer help/suggestions. I hate discouraging people from building their own computers (I love building computers), but I also realize that there is a certain level of knowledge on the subject needed before building a system. More than just knowing what hardware to buy. Buying a computer from ibuypower or cyberpower is going to get you a good quality computer (better than dell/hp/etc) that you will be able to throw some upgrades into yourself. Thats how I got started with my first computer as a freshman in college: I added more ram, then new power supply, then new graphics card, then new OS, then I built my first computer from scratch, and the rest is history. The physical act of building a computer is much easier than its made out to be, a little reading is all you really need to get started.

System building is really a dying art if you ask me, with all the tablets and laptops becoming more and more powerful, less and less people need/want desktops. Its really a shame, computer tech is such an interesting and constantly growing field, its very addicting. You just dont get an appreciation for the hardware inside a laptop or tablet, they rarely get opened up to reveal their inner working parts, much less be able to upgrade/replace those parts to any significant degree. I've spent too many hours to count (and probably more hours than I should) reading sites like Tech Report, Tomshardware, Hardware Secrets, Anandtech, XBitLabs, etc. I just can't get enough, who knows maybe you'll get hooked just like I did/am! (One can only hope)
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Re: Upgrading hardware inside existing computer

Postposted on Sat Jan 21, 2012 3:38 pm

TR has a handy build it yourself guide as well. Thats good reading material, just ran across it today so I thought I'd throw it in here.

http://techreport.com/articles.x/13671
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