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Before you buy a new computer, beware...

There comes a time when we all want a newer computer. Cost, tech support, warrantee and quality are all important. But what about maintenance? Suppose the hard drive dies, no big deal you can get a new one anywhere. Suppose the power supply goes? If you bought a Dell you can only get one from Dell, if your computer is still under warrantee!

Let me tell you about a recent experience I had. I maintain a network for a local company, and was called in because one of the machines would not boot. After quickly checking it out I noticed that the fans were all running very slowly, and the hard drive did not start. I told them I thought the hard drive died and perhaps either the motherboard or power supply was going bad. I took it to the office to fix.

The computer was manufactured by Dell in 2000. Upon testing the computer I found that the hard drive was dead, and the power supply was bad. I had another hard drive and power supply on the shelf, and proceeded to install them. While attempting to install my standard ATX power supply I discovered that it would not fit. Uhmmm! I then noticed that the Dell power supply was built completely opposite of a standard (nonproprietary) power supply and could not be installed into the Dell box (tower). So I did a search on the internet to purchase a Dell power supply, but found that no one on the internet sells one. I also found out that even if you hacked up the computer box to fit a standard ATX power supply, the wiring configuration is completely different, Compounding the pounding, Dell uses a standard ATX plug to attach to the motherboard and at this point the unknowing individual would plug in and fry the motherboard and toast the power supply. So the only choice I had was to go to Dell to get a power supply.

I then found out that Dell does not sell parts, they replace them under warrantee, if , the computer in still under warrantee. If not, you will need to return the unit to them for repair and pay for all the shipping, allow 3 to 4 weeks for the return of your computer. Or trade it in for a new one. This was unacceptable, 4 weeks or $600 for a new tower! All I needed was a $30.00 power supply.

Getting back on the internet I found a guy who makes an adapter for the wiring, but still no way to mount the power supply into the Dell box. My next thought was to get a new box and move the other components into a new box.  So happens that I was just building a new computer for myself and had a new tower still in the shipping box that I hadn't opened yet. I pulled the motherboard out of the Dell and noticed that it mounted differently than all the other motherboards I had installed before. When trying to fit it into the new box I noticed that all the ports would not line up and none of the mounting holes lined up.

Not only was the Dell power supply proprietary (not interchangeable with standard industry parts), but so was the motherboard and tower.  In fact even the CPU fan was proprietary. Now what else do I need? What are my choices? The Dell was a 1 gig MHz Intel (a PIII) with 256K Rambus Ram (RDRAM). RDRAM is real hi-tech and expensive. But try and find a standard Motherboard for a PIII (socket 370) and RDRAM is impossible. I spent a good 10 hours searching for one, to no avail.

Now before I go on, I must say that all the parts Dell used on this machine were high quality parts, but barebones. The power supply was only a 200 watt, but very well made. RDRAM must be installed as pairs, Dell installed a single stick or 256K and the second stick was a filler. RDRAM needs a pair to run at top speed. The tower was one of the best built towers I have ever seen, it weighs a good 15 pounds, stripped.

The CD-ROM was salvageable. and the CPU, or the RDRAM, but not both. You can no longer find a PIII socket 370 motherboard that accepts RDRAM. You can only find a a top of the line and very expensive PIV socket 478 motherboard that will accept the RDRAM.

After all was said and done, my client spent $800.00 for a new nonproprietary pre-built computer, due to the inability to purchase the $30.00 power supply that was needed to fix his machine.

Now the point to this story is before you buy a pre-built computer you want to find out if the parts are proprietary like Dell's, Compaq's ,HP's, Gateway's, and Packard Bell's are. If so, buyer beware. I know Micron was using all standand parts the last time I looked at one, but these days I build my own computers after owning two Packard Bells. When a power supply goes, I simply take by backup part off the shelf and install it. Cost $28.00

If you build your own computer, and that is not hard to do, you can build a brand new one with good quality parts for under $300.00. The computer I am currently building for my wife to use for surfing the internet and storing her data costs $287.80 plus several hours of time to hunt down parts on the internet and approximately 3.5 hours to assemble it, install Windows and software, and set up the network. Note: If you get the wrong parts (incorrect specifications for your computer) or receive defective parts and/or your new at this, it could take quite a bit longer.


$100.00 = AMD Athlon XP 2800, CPU Cooler , motherboard (w/100 NIC, audio, USB, video)
$81.90 = 40 Gig hard drive     
$25.00 = Tower w/400 watt supply (w/2 fans, on sale with free shipping) Great Deal!
$00.00 = DVD/CD-ROM ( I am using one I already have)
$6.95 = Floppy
$38.95 = Ram 512K
$35.00 = Shipping (about)

You can save even more money if you can use parts from your old computer

UPDATE: A reader wrote me telling me he has a Dell computer that was built in 2003 and now out of warranty. He was able to get a power supply from Dell. After all the power supply should more than a year.

 

 

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