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.
Here is the basic system info:
After a little further research I cam up with the following information:
Dell's technical documentation said the system would support up to a 2.5GHz Pentium 4, which happened to be
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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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).
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.
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).
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"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.