Home makeover, Dell edition....

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Old 11-20-06, 04:25 PM
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Question Home makeover, Dell edition....

I have a Dell (Dimension 4600) that recently had its second motherboard die. I've decided on a radical fix; I'm replacing both system board and power supply with "industry standard" parts, essentially taking most of the "Dell" out of it. Using the Dell case is my own personal act of defiance, I suppose, as most of the internals will be replaced. My question is; does anyone know if anything else will be salvageable, such as the memory sticks (DDRSDRAM), Hard drive, & CD-ROM? Does Dell change wiring on everything, or just the PS & MoBo? The system had a legal copy of XP home (pre-installed), and it would be nice if I could use the existing OS, or is that a pipe dream? I can access the files, using it as a slave in my other "non-Dell" computer, but it won't boot if I try it as single or master. I put the drive in as a "single" in my wife's Dell (she was at work) and after a false start, it booted up, so it seems to be okay. The re-build will be with a Biostar socket 775 board with a Celeron D 356 processor, and I'm assuming that the current hard drive will fail to boot on it as well, being non-Dell. Any opinions?
 
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Old 11-20-06, 07:25 PM
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If you do not get a Dell motherboard, then the aftermarket one WILL NOT mount to the OEM dell case. I've tried! I got a aftermarket mobo and the mounting tray and holes were proprietary for Dell junk. I had to buy a whole new case. I did have a Dell 8300 at the time though. I even tried drilling some new holes, etc, but just was not feasible.

The RAM, HD, CDROMS, etc WILL work with another mobo as long as the specs are the same. If you have a 478 pin Pentium mobo now, and you get a 478 pin Pentium aftermarket mobo, all these items will work fine.

You will probably find out you need to format your harddrive to work with your new motherboard. I found that out as well when I was building my machine.
 
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Old 11-20-06, 11:31 PM
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even more difficult than getting a retail motherboard to fit in that case would be getting the power button, hdd led, power led, front usb ports, etc to work with the motherboard. HotinOKC is right, the cd drive, hard drive, ram, even processor will work with a retail board, but it will be much easier to get a new case (you'll have to get a new heatsink too). On the plus side, a case you buy will probably have 10 times better air circulation than the dell box.
 
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Old 11-21-06, 08:38 AM
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I've got a couple extra cases sitting around in the event mounting the board becomes a major problem, but was hoping a transplant would be feasible. I wondered about the power button, etc., guess it may be more complicated than what it would be worth. As far as the operating system, can I use the product key from the Old case if I do a re-format & fresh install of XP? I'm not trying to steal anything here, the Dell had a legal copy pre-installed, with no back up copies shipped (normal now, I guess). I have an installation disk that I bought for another computer, but am unsure if this can be done as easily as the you could with the '98 programs. It would still be one licensed copy on one system, but will I have to call Microsoft for a different product key?
 
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Old 11-21-06, 04:15 PM
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the problem you will run into with the operating system is that the dell product key is an "OEM" product key. It is only for that specific computer. It is likely that it will not work with a "retail" copy of windows.
 
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Old 11-21-06, 07:04 PM
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You can use the Dell CD to install to a new computer, but you'll have to do the phone call thing to MS to get a key..
Use the CD that comes with the new MB to install drivers..
 
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Old 11-21-06, 08:15 PM
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Unhappy

Okay, thanks for the tips. I'll cross the OS bridge when I get to it, still have more parts to buy first, since I can't use the Dell's heat sink & fan (different size processor), or memory sticks (Dell is DDR, new board uses DDR2). It's starting to look like I'd been better off just buying a "bare bones" system. I guess that's part of the learning curve.....
 
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Old 11-22-06, 04:25 AM
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Quite a bit of mis-information here. Most Dell desktop cases of the XP era will take a new motherboard, PSU, or any other piece of hardware just fine, they are standard ATX, I do this weekly.
You CANNOT use the Dell OS CD to install using any other motherboard than a Dell part.
The front panel wiring is easilly modified using the black connectors from a CD Rom audio cable. The front USB ports on some are the standard 8 pin plug. There are of course exceptions to all this depending on the Dell model, but many times it's fairly easy.
 
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Old 11-22-06, 06:31 AM
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Interesting observations that you state here; runs contrary to previous assertions. How does one tell if the model involved is one that has proprietary wired system board and power supply, and therefore will fry circuitry when replacements are made? With a dead motherboard in this Dimension 4600, assuming everything else is okay, it would nice to just replace it with a standard M-ATX, and get away from whatever flaws seem to plague this model. Also. as far as the OS; as is the case with both a Dell laptop and a Dimension E3210 that I recently purchased, no CD came with them. XP was pre-installed, and any back up installation resides in a separate partition on the hard drive. How one is supposed to "restore" after a hard drive failure is beyond me. What I was referring to was a purchased copy of XP that I bought for another system that I had re-built. I questioned if I could use that installation disk to install the program, then use the product key that is on the Dell for the pre-installed OS that I apparently won't be able to use. Again, not trying to steal anything here, just restore a licensed system to operation. Thank you for your insight!
 
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Old 11-22-06, 08:31 AM
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By looking at the case design of a Dimension 4600 from an online photo, I can tell you for a fact that that case is a standard ATX design and replacing the motherboard is quite easy, I've done it numerous times. The Power supply is standard ATX as well and will work with any aftermarket motherboard of the same design (Socked 478, 775, etc). The hardest part will be converting the front panel connectors, but as I said, all you need are a couple cd rom audio cable end plugs.
If you replace the board with one that has the same chipset (I.E. Intel) you won't even have to do a repair install, you'll just have to call Microsoft to re-activate.
 
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Old 11-22-06, 10:12 AM
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After sorting through all this, swapping the motherboard with the 478 socket replacement sounds like the best fix for this machine, and would certainly make my niece (her machine) happy if I can pull off such a resurrection. Looks like I'll have a spare XP-capable machine with the extra parts I've accumulated now, might be a good time to experiment with linux on it. I'll look for the "nearest-to-original" board, and will post back with my results. Thanks for the opinions....
 
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Old 11-22-06, 10:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Davejb
Quite a bit of mis-information here. Most Dell desktop cases of the XP era will take a new motherboard, PSU, or any other piece of hardware just fine, they are standard ATX, I do this weekly.
You CANNOT use the Dell OS CD to install using any other motherboard than a Dell part.
The front panel wiring is easilly modified using the black connectors from a CD Rom audio cable. The front USB ports on some are the standard 8 pin plug. There are of course exceptions to all this depending on the Dell model, but many times it's fairly easy.

I used my Dell OS software and registered it fine when I got a new aftermarket ASUS mobo, case, etc. You will have to call Microsoft and give them that old Dell product key so they can give you a code, but it will work. I've done it a few times already. The only thing left that is from Dell, is the processor.
 
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Old 11-22-06, 03:19 PM
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You did an OS installation with the Dell OS CD? You would be the first I've heard of, all of the ones I've had my hands on have been BIOS locked.
 
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Old 11-22-06, 05:04 PM
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>>>You did an OS installation with the Dell OS CD? You would be the first I've heard of, all of the ones I've had my hands on have been BIOS locked.<<<
I've done it. My Dell Operating system disk is standard xp. I've had to use it on several puters that friends/family have brought me and of course they always forget the disks.
many years ago I had an Acer that was bios locked, and hated it.
 
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Old 11-22-06, 07:20 PM
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I may be overlooking something obvious, but there still seems to be something I'm having trouble with here. The Dell I'm trying to return to functionality did not come with a OS CD. If replacing the motherboard with a non-Dell product prevents the hard drive from completing boot up, what are my alternatives? I'm the first to admit that I have much to learn, although I have built a couple '98 machines, and replaced my Gateway's motherboard with little trouble as well. The new board then used a different chipset than the original, and after I ran the CD that came with the board, the computer booted XP without a hitch. Perhaps this was because the XP was an upgrade from ME, rather than being a Gateway supplied version. Is it likely that this scenerio will be repeated when I install the new board in the Dell?
My wife's New Dell also lacked any CD's, their documentation claims any problem can be resolved using the restore function and the "hidden partition". That will be the last purchase that I make from Dell, Gateway, or any of the brands that don't supply a restore CD. Am I alone in my opinion about this practice?
 
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Old 11-23-06, 05:03 AM
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Once you change the board the Dell CD is useless anyway, so it wouldn't do you any good if you had one. If a repair install is needed you would need to get your hands on an actual Microsoft Windows XP OEM CD of the version on the PC (home or pro) to do it, and I stress OEM as the retail version you buy in the store will not work with the product key on the COA sticker on the PC. Your best bet would be to replace the board with one that has the same chipset, then no reinstall willl be necessary.
 
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Old 11-23-06, 06:03 AM
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Thank you all for your patience, I will eventually understand all this a little better. I've learned the best way is frequently to dive right in, but that can frequently result in accumulating parts that you don't really need. I'll be back, I'm sure, as this project continues.
 
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Old 11-23-06, 02:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Davejb
Once you change the board the Dell CD is useless anyway, so it wouldn't do you any good if you had one. If a repair install is needed you would need to get your hands on an actual Microsoft Windows XP OEM CD of the version on the PC (home or pro) to do it, and I stress OEM as the retail version you buy in the store will not work with the product key on the COA sticker on the PC. Your best bet would be to replace the board with one that has the same chipset, then no reinstall willl be necessary.

Not sure why you are saying this since a lot of us have done this without problems. I used my DELL OS CD on two of my computers that I changed motherboards on. The only thing "Dell" left on my computer is the processor, everything else is aftermarket. Like we said in previous posts, you will just have to call Microsoft to activate which only took 5 minutes and no hassle.
 
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Old 11-23-06, 05:47 PM
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you can put any board you can get to fit in the case. each board should come with it's own drivers.
your dell hard drive has a ghost copy on it, probably at the end of the hard drive, and you can see it with a partition program, or ghost. You can use any xp cd, and just use the numbers on the computer. then you will probably have to call microsoft, and tell them you made substantial changes, like a brand new motherboard. they will authorize it. Any other drivers you need from dell, like monitor, or video or network, you can download from dell.
All the parts, like the cd, dvd,a floppy if you have it, basically everything that wasn't built on the board can be used in your new system.
 
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Old 11-24-06, 05:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Davejb
You CANNOT use the Dell OS CD to install using any other motherboard than a Dell part.
Wrong Dave.. I've been there, done that..
 
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Old 11-24-06, 05:55 AM
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Obviously, there's some differences of opinions about what can or can't be done when changing Dell parts. Perhaps Dell has changed standards often enough to cause this? One more question related to the power supply; I understand that they can only be tested while under a load, or they will burn out when powered up. How then, do you test a switchable PS without having it hooked up to a board? Just plugging in a hard drive wouldn't switch it on, and plugging into a board wouldn't let you test those connectors. If it's unknown whether the board or power supply is bad (or both), how do you troubleshoot them without damaging either of the replacement parts? Basic questions, I guess.... the type that keep the corner computer shops in business.
 
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Old 11-24-06, 09:58 AM
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I'll have to try a Dell CD on a non Dell board and see what happens, last time it wouldn't work.
There is no 100% foolproof way to test a PSU other than trying it in a PC. I have 2 different types of PSU testers, and both have incorrectly told me a PSU was good when in fact it wasn't.
 
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Old 11-24-06, 10:36 AM
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I had a local tech declare my Gateway's power supply DOA last year, and sold me a replacement. The symptoms re-occurred so I changed the motherboard. After everything was running well, I put the "dead" power supply back in, and it has performed without a flaw for over a year now. He used a LED tester, so I questioned their value since. I should be able to use a multimeter to check voltage at the connectors, but the switching circuit would have to be activated and if I screw up the attempt, I would likely fry what might have been a good PS. If the previous accounts I've read about Dell proprietary wiring is accurate, just plugging the Dell power supply into a known operating motherboard could cost me the motherboard. How can I determine if the connections are compatably wired without risking this?
 
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Old 11-24-06, 12:25 PM
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Originally Posted by HD_RIDER
I had a local tech declare my Gateway's power supply DOA last year, and sold me a replacement. The symptoms re-occurred so I changed the motherboard. After everything was running well, I put the "dead" power supply back in, and it has performed without a flaw for over a year now. He used a LED tester, so I questioned their value since. I should be able to use a multimeter to check voltage at the connectors, but the switching circuit would have to be activated and if I screw up the attempt, I would likely fry what might have been a good PS. If the previous accounts I've read about Dell proprietary wiring is accurate, just plugging the Dell power supply into a known operating motherboard could cost me the motherboard. How can I determine if the connections are compatably wired without risking this?
Dell USED to be proprietary with their PSU's. Over the last few years, they have stopped doing this so people can put in aftermarket PSU's. The only way I think you could find out is cross reference the part # off the Dell PSU, and do a search on it on the internet. If it is proprietary, I think they sell some sort of adaptor to make it work.
 
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Old 11-26-06, 06:11 AM
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Your legal options for an OS are to go and purchase a legal retail copy of Windows, or to install Linux or other free OS on that machine.

On the whiter side of grey, you could purchase an OEM license for the OS.
 
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Old 11-26-06, 07:00 AM
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Originally Posted by classicsat
Your legal options for an OS are to go and purchase a legal retail copy of Windows, or to install Linux or other free OS on that machine.

On the whiter side of grey, you could purchase an OEM license for the OS.
Why would him getting a new motherboard etc and loading Dell OS, which he already paid for, be illegal? He is installing it back onto his own computer, not loading it on 15 machines. Microsoft allows this as well, if it has seen to many different computer installs (usually more then 10) then it will void the OS.
 
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Old 11-27-06, 03:11 PM
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The OEM license the Dell shipped with is only valid on the PC it came installed on, It cannot be installed on a different PC. How Microsoft defines PC is open to debate, some say the motherboard, case and so on. But Microsoft will reactivate for you with no issues even if you tell them you changed the OEM board when you call, so it's really a moot point.
 
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Old 02-15-07, 12:34 PM
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an update on the Dell makeover

I ended up using an Asus motherboard, a different case & power supply, but everything else was Dell parts. When Microsoft wouldn't re-activate, Dell sent a replacement disk with numbers that they thought would work. The disk did, the numbers didn't. The Dell representative spent an hour with a three way call that included Microsoft, and the end result was that Microsoft considered it to be Dell's problem, and would not offer any solution beyond buying a new license or complete new XP program. The Dell rep called back three times with new numbers to try, but all but the last effort wouldn't work due to the mobo being non-Dell. The last number failed due to "exceeding the number of times it can be authorized". I have to say that the Dell rep really tried, but the only way they could have resolved it would be buy an OEM version for the numbers, an expense they wouldn't incur, even in the name of "customer service". Microsoft's greed is beyond comprehension, for they fully understood the situation, but would only offer to sell a new license, as though that $100.00 would make or break them. Currently, the system is running Linux, but doubt that my niece (her computer) will be content with this solution long term, and will probably end up buying another XP program. Thanks again for the assistance & tips.
 
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Old 02-15-07, 01:08 PM
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In your case I can see why MS wouldn't help you, swapping the motherboard and case constitutes a new machine really, and the OEM license is valid only on the Dell. If you had swapped only the motherboard (or at least told them you did) they probably would have activated you.
 
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Old 02-15-07, 01:59 PM
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Not so

Actually, I hadn't mentioned the case, only said that I had swapped motherboards. According to the Microsoft rep, if it didn't have a Dell motherboard, it was no longer a Dell, and not under Dell's license. Dell discontinued that board, and offered no replacement. Out of warranty, out of luck; they indicated that I should just buy a new computer from them to resolve the problem. Once the warranty is out, it's disposable. Perhaps on a different day, a different MS rep, things may have been different.
 
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Old 02-15-07, 02:51 PM
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He must have been having a bad day, I've done this many times on Dell's, HP's and so on with no problems at all.
 
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Old 02-15-07, 04:29 PM
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I replaced the mobo in my Gateway with a board of the same number, except it wasn't from Gateway, and after explaining it to the MS rep, I was given the number to re-activate without a hitch. I was hoping for the same results with this Dell, but since the board was totally different, they weren't as sympathetic. It probably doesn't have anything to do with it, but the Dell rep was either Pakistani or Indian, and a little hard to understand, as was the MS rep. When they were discussing the problem between them, I could only pick out every 3'rd or 4'th word, until the MS rep insisted on a credit card number before continuing any further. Personally, I felt they could have been a little more lenient in their interpretation of the license. From what I understood about the number of "votes" assigned to each component, a mobo change should not have prevented re-activation once it was explained. In any event, this has changed my mind about Dell, after having bought a laptop and an E-310 for my wife just months before all this took place. I'll either build my next one from scratch, or try out a Mac-mini when I replace my current workhorse.
 
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Old 02-16-07, 04:40 AM
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On an OEM PC, where the Windows install uses the BIOS as an identifier, just swapping out the motherboard and nothing else will trigger the activation scheme, sucks but that's the way it is, it's not just Dell.
 
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Old 02-16-07, 04:43 AM
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I would not be too quick to blame Dell. It sounds like they have gone above and beyond what they need to do to support you. You share some of the blame in this mess. The 4600 was one one of Dell's less expensive computers. ALL computer manufacturers eventually stop supporting every computer line they make and sell. They stop supporting the less expensive lines first. You get what you pay for.
 
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Old 02-16-07, 12:02 PM
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Dell OS install

I think that the problem here with the OS install is that Dell has done this in two different ways, one is to give you a full install windows disk, the other is to provide you with a Dell "restore" disk, both have the full windows files however the "restore" CD is tied to the bios, the full windows install CD is not.
This is where the confusion lies.
SO if you have a restore CD no you can not install the OS from the CD if you have changed motherboards, however if you have a full install disk for the OS then yes you can. (after contacting microsh*t for a new key to "validate" your copy of windoze)
Good Luck,
Bitsbucket
 
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Old 02-16-07, 03:00 PM
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The first attempt to validate was after booting up the first time (after board replacement) with the original installation on the hard drive, which had the "restore" function on a hidden partition. Naturally, it recognized the new board and went to the re-activation screen. The first call was to MS, which decided it it was no longer under the Dell license parameters. I explained why a non-Dell board was used (no Dell replacement available), and she emphatically stated that it was Dells problem, not theirs. So I called Dell. The first Dell rep had me do a re-install, which resulted in the same situation. Then they gave me new numbers to use with a disk they were putting in the mail, and swore that would fix it. When that didn't take care of it, the Dell rep had me do a re-format & fresh install from the disk, to be sure I did it right. That led to the 3-way call with MS, as mentioned earlier. It wasn't through lack of effort on Dell's part, as we were probably on the phone for three hours if all calls were added up. My criticism towards Dell is because they knew they had a shoddy board in that series of systems, and did not offer any solution other than complete replacement after going out of warranty. Granted, it wasn't top of the line, but after all this, I wouldn't consider a top of the line model from them, either. To top it all off, it wasn't my computer, it belongs to my niece, and she won't be content with Linux. That means, for my efforts, I have $200.00 wrapped up in a machine that I don't need, and she won't use unless it will run the Windows programs that she needs. Over-all, it's been an education. If the price of XP ever drops, I'll install it and everyone should be happy, and I might even get some of my investment back! Thank you all for your interest and comments.
 
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Old 02-16-07, 07:29 PM
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Is it any wonder that people DL a bit torrent to generate keys, and register the OS? Greed is the corporate game I suppose..
Vista is going to be even worse.. It will check all by itself with MS to make sure its still a legal copy every few months..
 
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Old 02-16-07, 08:02 PM
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HD_Rider, there's a chance you could call MS again, just tell them that you replaced the motherboard, and they'd give you the activation code. Some days I've gotten the 3rd degree from the activation robot, and most times they just read off the code and don't care.

The secret seems to be "less is more" -- the fewer details you give the better the results.

Good luck...
 
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Old 02-17-07, 04:53 AM
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Call Monday morning while the guys' boss is in a meeting..
 
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Old 02-18-07, 10:53 AM
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Do the right thing, and buy a new copy of XP OEM or full retail, or even Vista (if you desire).

The Dell copy is likely BIOS locked to the Dell motherboard, and it is their choice to to that.
 
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