SFF Chop Shop - My Dell Optiplex Saga

rogar308

Caliper Novice
Original poster
Jul 18, 2019
22
15
I'm creating a place to share mainly my Dell Optiplex story. First time I'm doing this sort of thing so comments and constructive feedback welcomed. While I endeavor to post & check regularly I do have elderly parents that I assist in caring for so sometimes updates may be awhile but I'll do my best to maintain regualr posting.
 

rogar308

Caliper Novice
Original poster
Jul 18, 2019
22
15
The Beginning

It all pretty much started some time ago (years..not even sure how many at this point) when my work decommissioned some old Dell PC's. I was fortunate at the time to snag a bunch of the old pc's. As I vaguely recall they were a mixture of tower and sff desktops with minimal specs and running Windows XP. Many of them had issues..like hard drive issues, wonky memory issues, etc but there were viable pc's in the bunch to be had. The timing was good because we were looking to get my inlaws which I fondly refer to as my outlaws a pc to do some web surfing, email and light writing duties. I thought the same would work well for my parents. I cobbled together a couple of working machines from what I had, added some memory and delivered them. So, maybe, for about $50-$100 we had 2 pc's that did the job and are actually still running as of writing this today. Kudos to Dell build quality at least for these pc's. My wife who I fondly refer to as 'cheap skunk' gave her financial approval. Life was good.
 

rogar308

Caliper Novice
Original poster
Jul 18, 2019
22
15
Da Dell Optiplex 980 SFF

In my pile of acquired old work computers there was a Dell Optiplex 980 SFF. Since my wife had the greatest need of better computer for work use I decided to set that pc up for her. At the time, I believe it was the first to get Windows 7 and I had it setup with 8GB of ram. The hard drive was a basic 128 GB sata drive. Nothing Earth shattering but it worked fairly well. At least until da wife decided to install the Microsoft Office Package. That really slowed down the boot time but it still chugged along once things got loaded.

Fast forward to 2019. With the imminent drop of general public Windows 7 support at the end of this year and the hard drive getting pretty full, I decided to upgrade the computer. I ordered a 1 TB crucial ssd for about $100 from the crucial site. I also bought an external drive enclosure from Amazon. After a bit of google searching I found some free software to create a bootable usb drive. I was able to save an image of the drive and copy/clone it to the new sdd drive and then expand the volume. Somehow I managed to get it all to work without mucking anything up. The ssd drive did not come with any mount or drive enclosure and the 980 drive bay would only hold 3.5" drives. The ssd is a 2.5" drive. I surfed around and ended up buying a dell compatible drive adapter bracket off ebay. It was mostly cheap plastic but for like $5 you really can't complain too much and it got the job done. It took a while but I also was successful in upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 10 Pro for free. Progress.

Next was memory. I discovered I could upgrade the Optiplex 980 to 16GB of ram which I thought would help things run smoother. First, I upgraded the bios to the most recent that Dell site had. Then I trolled the net I found some 'guaranteed' compatible memory on Amazon. So, I scored that (I think for less than $100) and it came a couple days later. I open up the pc take out the old memory, plop in the new memory and voila. I got 16GB ram. Wahoo! Next time I go to start the pc however, it won't boot. I try every combination of memory slots and chips even finally putting the old memory back in and it still won't boot. Error codes indicate the memory controller on the cpu is caput. Needless to say I'm *not happy*. They listed the memory as being compatable with ALL dell form factors specifically including the Dell Optiplex 980 SFF and that probably should have been a clue to me that something probably wasn't right. I don't know for sure but I *think* what may have happened is some sort lack or miscommunication with regards to the voltage settings. I believe the chips need to run at 1.35 volts and not 1.5 volts. Or, I may have needed to manually change the memory voltage in the bios to the correct voltage setting after first installing the memory but with no directions or information I honestly didn't check. When in doubt, go to crucial.com (or similar site) and get the *exact* specs for your machine. I contacted the Amazon folks and they were good about me returing the chips. The woman I communicated with was pleasant though when she asked if I wanted to replace the chips or a refund I elected the refund as the last thing I wanted was more memory that was going to hose up my computers. Speaking of which, now I had what was an essentially pc paperweight and a REALLY unhappy wife. She said she needed a working computer in like 3 days. What to do...
 

rogar308

Caliper Novice
Original poster
Jul 18, 2019
22
15
Panic!

Unhappy wife means unhappy life or something like that. Disclaimer. I'm about to divulge what is probably not the most sound reasoning, logic or purchase decisions so in no sense am I trying to set a good example here. I'm just merely telling what happened as best as I can remember it.

So, I started surfing the web for cheap used Dell Optiplex SFF computers because well it seemed like the thing to do. Of note, the more it gets past your bedtime the faster sound logic decreases. Anyway, I trolled through a lot of sites but ended up on Ebay. Ebay is a mixed blessing in my book. You can find almost anything you need or want but it can become an addiction which is not good. However, for the moment, I found a nice loaded Dell Optiplex 9020 SFF for about $300. Which considering the 32GB ram, Win 10 Pro & SSD drive alone made me think it was a great buy. Bottom line, I'd get a faster working machine delivered to my door pronto for about $350 with taxes & shipping. Most importantly it would get the nagging unhappy wife off my back which is hard to put a price on. I'd like to say the pc arrived, everything worked and end of story. Oh no. Buckle up boyz, we're just getting started...
 

D4NM

Minimal Tinkerer
Aug 21, 2019
3
2
Following this, I'm juggling with the idea of doing a 9020 SFF build next month also, good luck with the wife as it seems more delicate ground than the build itself! :p