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Dimension 2350 Upgrade

Introduction

February 18, 2010

About six years ago I bought my parents a computer for random web browsing and email. Back then I never built my own computers and typically just ordered from Dell. It was a pretty basic computer and at one point I slapped another memory stick in it. Other than that it was a stock model.

After the fun I had with my new gaming system build and upgrading Anna's computer I thought it would be fun to see what could be done with my parents old Dell.

My target budget was $150.








Legacy System Info


Here is the basic system info:

  • P/N - Dell Dimension 2350

  • OS - Microsoft windows XP home edition, Version 2002, Service Pack 3
  • CPU - Intel (R) Celeron (R) Cpu 2 GHz
  • RAM - 384 MB (the original 128MB + the 256MB I added)
  • HDD -  28GB IDE (Maxtor)










After a little further research I cam up with the following information:
  • System chip set Intel 845GL
  • PCI slots were 33MHz 120 pins 32 bits

  • For memory there were two connectors
  • Memory was DDR SRAM
    • two connectors
    • 128, 256, 512mb, max 1 GB
  • Graphics were Video integrated Intel 3D Extreme Graphics

 








Component Research

CPU

Dell's technical documentation said the system would support up to a 2.5GHz Pentium 4, which happened to be


the same CPU family my previous upgrade project used (the Dimension 8200). I thought about just using the 1.8GHz P4 leftover from that project but I figured I was already going to tear it apart anyway, why not spring for another $30 2.4GHz P4.

Just to confirm I did more searching of all the usual tech support forums to confirm what I needed CPU wise. Here is what random people had to say:

  • "Its a P4 400MHZ FSB Socket 478."
  • "I read someplace that I can get up to a 2.6ghz P4 with 400FSB and no hyperthreading."
  • "Specs page sez it'll take a P4 up to 2.5 Ghz, it's a Socket 478"
  • "Any Pentium 4 with a 400MHz FSB will work"
  • "a 2.4GHz or 2.6GHz CPU may be more economical. A Northwood based Pentium 4 will be noticeably more smooth than a Williamette based Celeron"
  • INTEL P4 PENTIUM 4 2.6GHZ 400 512K NORTHWOOD SL6PP 478
Looking at prices on ebay the 2.6GHz chip usually cost 50% to 100% higher than the 2.4GHz so to save a few bucks I decided to stick with the 2.4GHz again.

Video Card

I started out looking at the video cards listed on the Dell upgrade site for the Dimension 2350. I know the prices are on the high side there but it gave me a good idea of the cards I should be looking for.

  • PNY Technologies GeForce FX 5200 256 MB PCI Graphics Card $40
  • PNY Technologies Verto GeForce 8400GS 512 MB PCI Graphics Card $60
  • VisionTEK Radeon 7000 64 MB DDR PCI Graphics Card $42
These are basic PCI cards (i.e not PCI-E, not AGP). PCI slots were replaced by AGP slots, which were replaced by PCI-Express or PCI-E which is the latest technology. One thing I had to watch out for was making sure the video card interface was listed correctly. Since PCI is so old alot of the new PCI-E listings show up in searches as PCI (i.e. they got lazy and dropped the E).

The three PCI slots in the 2350 are not the extended 128 bit versions so we needed to stick to the shorter form factor cards (about 50 pins total). Also looking at a picture of the slots the key pin is toward the rear of the card (relative to the outside) which I think makes it a 5V slot (the updated PCI interfaces could also have a slot toward the front of the card making it a 5V or 3.3V compatible slot/card).

Random notes from the web:
  • "If you have a spare PCI SLOT the best I ever found was a PCI (not PCIe) FX5700 card. Today you can still find fx5500 (not too bad) and in a pinch the now common PCI FX6200"
  • "One option is a PCI geforce4 card"
  • "Sparkle 8500GT 256Mb PCI card. I think this is probably the highest spec nVidia card available in a PCI form factor"
  • "Diamond Stealth S85 with/avec Radeon 9250"
  • "I would be looking at the NVidia 5500 or 5700 series. You can purchase those cards with 128 MB or 256 MB of RAM"
  • "Radeon X1550"

The nvidia cards seem to be more prevalent on ebay so I started looking for auctions of the following cards: nvidia GForce FX 5200 5500 5700. Initially the ebay option looked good. There were a lot of cards and they were being sold for $15-$25 with shipping. After losing a couple of auctions (always in the last seconds) I went back to looking at the big component seller sites (Tiger Direct, Newegg, etc...). Some of the PNY and BFG tech cards were going for $30 to $40.

After thinking about it some more I already had a bunch of stuff I was planning on ordering from Newegg (drive, fans, memory, etc...) so if I did order a new card shipping was already included.

The PNY card was still listed on Newegg with a $10 rebate making it $30. That was close enough to what the used cards were going for that I just said heck with it and ordered a new card.

Also the PNY VCGFX522PEB GeForce FX 5200 256MB 128-bit DDR PCI Video card was listed as needing a 250W power supply. Most of the bigger cards required a larger supply and I was hoping to avoid upgrading that. The card also didn't have a fan which to me was a bonus.





Memory

For the system memory the mother board only had two slots, both of witch were currently being used. The plan was to upgrade both slots with a matched set of 512MB for a total of 1GB.

Once again I started with the Dell upgrade site to get some idea of what memory I should be looking for. They had the following listed for the 2350 - Dell MFG# SNPJ0202C/512 Dell Part# A0740406 Technology: DDR SDRAM 400 MHz ( PC3200 ) Non-ECC. This was listed at $30 per stick.

A lot of people seem to recommend Cruicial (aka micron) for Dell upgrade memory. Here is what they were saying:
  • "I upgraded to a full 1Gb made up of 2 512Mb PC-2700 simms."
  • "The maximum ram would be 1GB of PC2100 (266-MHz) DDR SDRAM (non-ECC)."
  • "Crucial PC2100 512mb stick"
  • "I usually buy from crucial.com"
Using the memory finder utility on the Crucial site:
  • 512MB, 184-pin DIMM, DDR PC2700 memory module
  • CT522400 * Module Size: 512MB * Package: 184-pin DIMM
  • Feature: DDR PC2700 * Specs: DDR PC2700 • CL=2.5 •
  • Unbuffered • NON-ECC • DDR333 • 2.5V • 64Meg x 64
  • $20 per stick, free shiping.
The Crucial memory recommendation gave me a good idea of what I was looking for. I tried browsing ebay. There were some really cheap sticks of memory but at the really low prices there were not any matched sets. A lot of the cheaper options seemed to be the really low speed 133MHz type. The used 2x512 matched memory sticks started showing up in the $25 to $35 range.

After that I went onto Newegg and tried there memory selector utility. It came up with the Kingston Value RAM for $16 per stick (Kingston 512MB 184-Pin DDR SDRAM DDR 266 (PC 2100) KVR266X64C2/512). Doing a search of the user comments for "Dell" turned up a couple of dozen post that the Kingston memory worked great in Dells. All the basic specs matched the Crucial memory so I decided to just buy new (gotta keep that economic recovery moving).


Hard Drive

Upgrading the hard drive was probably over kill but I thought it would be fun to try. I remember the boot time of my parents computer being abnormally long so I thought why not put a moder 7200 RPM drive in. I could always use the old one in Anna's computer for storage.

Starting with the Dell website agian it listed a lot of Western Digital drives. This one looked like a decent one: Western Digital ATA-100 160GB EIDE 100MB/s Hard Drive 8MB 7200RPM 3.5IN Caviar Blue $50

I did some more web searching and found some good post on Tom's Hardware which basically said either Western Digital or Segate. Newegg users seem to favor the Segate so I ended up ordering the Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST380215A 80GB 7200 RPM IDE Ultra ATA100 3.5" Internal Hard Drive.

Newegg also had an 3.5 to 5.25 hard drive adpater kit available for $10. I thought about getting that in case I wanted to leave both drives in the machine. There is only one slot for a 3.5" drive so the other would have to go into the unused CD ROM tray. I opted to not get this. I figured I could either rig it or just use one drive. 

Cooling

Given the condition of the fans in Anna's old Dell I figured it would be prudent to order some replacements for my parents machine. The single case/cpu fan of the stock dell was listed as 92 mm x 92 mm x 25 mm. In the previous upgrade it was easy enough to pop out the stock Dell fan and put in the replacement so I thought I would try that again. I ordered a basic case fan from Newegg with 30+ CFM.

The 2.0 GHz Celleron was listed as having a TDP of ~50Watts. The 2.4GHz P4 came in at ~70Watts. Given the extra dissipated power I figured I would need a direct CPU fan. On my last upgrade it was easy enough to rig a fan on to the old heatsink so that was my plan for this upgrade as well. I thought about ordering an integrated fan/heatsink assembly but given Dell's proprietary socket mounts it probably would not work anyway. So I thought I would save myself the money and just wing it.

Also I am sure this system will complain about the fan being non stock like the 8200 did (i.e. Previous Fan Failure Error). I hope the fix is the same (disabling the keyboard fault reporting in the BIOS).

Power Supply

I thought I would try to re-use use the old Dell power supply. The 250W stock Dell supply I took out of the 8200 still looked in pretty good shape and the 2350 was 4 years younger (still old though). I figured I would see if it worked then order something only if I ran into trouble.

Also according to the web the stock Dell supplies are rated for 250W but that is somewhat under rated using the industry standard metrics. They are really closer to a 350W supply.

Also the Dimension 2350 PSU is a standard ATX type. In the words of one of the Dell support forum posters "I got a 400Watt ATX supply, which, contrary to much urban myth DOES fit in the Dell Dimension 2350"

Final Components

Everything was ordered on 02/20/10 from Newegg, except the CPU which was the day before on ebay.

 Component  Description  Store  Price
 CPU RK80532PC056512 Intel P 4 2.4 GHz 512 400 478 SL6S9  Ebay  $23
 GPU  PNY VCGFX522PEB GeForce FX 5200 256MB 128-bit DDR PCI Video Card  Newegg  $40
 MEM Kingston 512MB 184-Pin DDR SDRAM DDR 266 (PC 2100) Desktop Memory Model KVR266X64C2/512  Newegg  $33
 HDD Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST380215A 80GB 7200 RPM IDE Ultra ATA100 3.5" Internal Hard Drive  Newegg  $40
 CPU Fan
 EVERCOOL FAN-EC7025M12CA 70mm Case Fan  Newegg  $4
 Case Fan
 XIGMATEK XSF-F9251 92mm Case Fan  Newegg  $5
   
 shipping  $11
     Total  $156

Build Notes

Cleaning

I picked up the computer from Dad on the afternoon of February 28th at a family get-together. I started off with a good cleaning of the case using both the vacuum and air duster cans. The boards actually looked rather clean once the dust was removed which was surprising considering how old the computer was.

Memory

I thought I would start off with the memory upgrade as that seemed like a easy first step. I yanked out the old 128MB and 256MB memory sticks and installed the two new 512MB Kingston memory modules. The BIOS and windows recognized the 1GB of RAM on the next reboot. Step one complete.

CPU

Next up was the CPU. Rather than leaving the hardest item for last (like I had on the previous upgrade effort) I thought I would get the harder step done in the first hour or two of work (and before I got too tired).

The stock heat-sink and CPU came out easily enough. The old thermal pad stuck to the heat-sink when it was removed which made scraping it off easier. A razor blade and Arctic Silver thermal material remover came in handy here.


According to the web the 2.8GHz Pentium 4 dissipated 20 more watts than the 2.0 GHz Celeron. Rather than ordering an expensive new cooler my plan was to attach

a new 70mm fan to the stock heat-sink. In the planning stages I really wasn't sure how I was going to do this because I had no idea what the cooler looked like. However once

I had it apart it looked easy enough. I


drilled four holes in the corner of the stock cooler. Then I used some metal wire, along with some rubber washers to dampen vibration, to secure the fan to the cooler. It seemed solid enough.

Once I added the fan to the CPU heat-sink there was no way the green air baffle of the stock Dimension 2350 would still fit. My plan was to remove the baffle and then also replace the old Dell 92mm case fan with a replacement I ordered from Newegg. The old fan was installed in the housing with rubber grommets which could be removed by pushing them back with a small screw driver. This method basically worked but I did partially break one of the four grommets. Even with the broken part the grommets still held the fan OK.


The plan with the old Dell fan was to relocate it to the lower front of the case as an in-take fan. I thought it would help the general air flow from lower front in to upper rear out. Another reason for keeping the old Dell fan running was so the "Previous Fan Failure Detected" BIOS message would not occur on boot up. I gave the fan a good cleaning and oiled it up with some 3-1 oil mixed with graphite powder so it would hopefully last another five years.

One problem I ran into after relocating the old fan was that the fan's vibrations seemed to get amplified by the side panel. It was annoyingly loud. My solution to that problem was an additional brace on the back of the fan. I used a diagonal metal bracket which pushed a rubber gasket and applied pressure to the middle of the fan. This really cut

down on the noise and vibrations.

After all the fans were installed and the re-used CPU was operating happily in its new home I did a few test runs of the system to see how hot the heat sink was getting. After a few reboots and starting misc programs over 20 minutes the heat sink temperature did not noticeable rise as far as I could tell. It looked like the custom re-work cooler solution would work fine.



Hard Drive

Next up was the hard drive. The stock IDE cable for the Dimension 2350 was master only but I had a master/slave cable in my spare parts box. I connected the new Segate drive with the jumpers set for cable select mode. Both the BIOS and Windows detected the new drive. I had previously downloaded the disk setup/cloning tools from the Segate website. Cloning the old drive to the new drive was pretty painless with the Segate utilities. After the cloning was complete I removed the old drive and installed the new drive in its place. Windows booted with no issues.

Video Card

To install the video card I had to move the PCI modem card that was installed in the top slot down to the bottom slot. The card installed easy enough but the BIOS, which was REV00, had no option to install disable the on-board video.

A quick search of the Dell website turned up a REV02 BIOS. Updates to the BIOS on the Dimension 2350 were done using the 3.5" disk drive. Luckily I still had a few of those old disk laying around. After a few attempts to make an update disk I finally found a disk that was writable.

A quick reboot with the update disk installed and the update program fired up as expected. However the program seemed to get stuck shortly after it started. The screen displayed blinking text that said "Update in progress" and a DOS A: command prompt. After staring at that unchanging screen for about five minutes I realized the update process was taking too long. A web search turned up a solution which involved running the BIOS update program manually from the A: prompt. I tried that and the BIOS update ran and said it completed successfully.

I connected the monitor to the new video card and on the next reboot I set the video selection option to "auto" in the BIOS. Windows fired up with the default VGA driver. I tried deleting the old on-board graphics from the device manager but on reboots Windows would re-detect and re-create the driver for it. I tried disabling the on-board video instead of deleting it and that seemed to work.

I had previously downloaded the latest Geforce driver for the board, which installed with no issues. Another reboot and the full NVIDIA control panel was available to adjust the settings for the display.


Epilogue

Basically all the upgrades went pretty much as planned. With the additional fans the tower is a bit nosier than it was originally but that really doesn't seem to bother the owner.

I have no objective numbers on how much the performance improved. Subjectively the machine feels much faster. The boot up was painfully slow and at least now the time from power on to when it is usable is only a few minutes.

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