How mcuh can the computer change and the old harddrives stilll work?

Discussion in 'Dell' started by micky, Feb 18, 2014.

  1. micky

    micky Guest

    How much can the computer change and the old harddrives stilll work?

    All 3 computers are running XP Home, SP3.

    I have a friend who has a friend who has a fairly old computer that
    she's happy with, except it no longer works. It doesn't even display
    the bootup screen or the logo. Let's assume it can't be fixed. I
    checked, by connecting each to my laptop via USB, and both harddrives
    are good. Ooops. I only displayed the folder structure,
    didn't actually dispaly any text files. I figured as long as there was
    no clicking and the directories displayed okay, everything was okay. Do
    I have to do it again more thoroughly?

    She can't afford to buy anything for 2 months at least, and increased
    taxes and food costs are really hurting her, so no matter when, the
    money will hurt. Our common friend is going to pay the 50 dollars
    below. .

    Please correct any mistaken notions I have.

    Ebay has not far from here the same make and model she has for only 50
    dollars. IIUC, I can just put the two harddrives in this new computer
    and everything will be for her as it was, and it won't take me much
    time. (Okay, I confess, it's a Dell Dimension 4400, it's 10 years old,
    and running XP,)

    If, say, the video card has been changed and is wrong, I can take the
    video card from the old computer, and then it will be right again.
    (Though even without doing that, I can get enough picture out the new
    video card to install the right driver for it, right?)

    AIUI, OTOH if I go to a diffrerent model even of Dell, it's likely
    important different drivers will be needed. Dell has its drivers
    available online (and I have another computer with which to download
    them and copy them to a flashdrive) but some drivers are so important
    the computer won't even run enough to accept new drivers, and without
    some chart from Dell that doesn't even exist online, I won't be able to
    know in advance which models have these changes, and the only way to be
    sure it will work is to use the very same make and model.

    (What are the things for which the wrong driver will prevent the
    computer from working well enough to replace the drivers?)

    (I have software, that I've never used, both from Paragon and Acronis
    that is designed to get around this problem, but I just don't want to
    spend the time for the friend of a friend. (It's also crowded and
    inconveniet to work there.) ) I'm figuring changing the harddrives
    will be 30 minutes to an hour, and anything more complicated will take
    me 4 to 8 hours.

    There is also for sale, about 30 miles farther away, another Dell 4400,
    reconditioned, but this one has a 2.4 gig cpu instead of 1.5. That
    would be nice I guess, though all she does is read email, write email,
    look at webpages, and sometimes print pictures. ( Does a faster cpu
    mean much? I think the only thing slowing her down most of the time is
    her DSL connection, not the cpu speed????) Most importantly IIRC,
    there are no drivers for the CPU so she could go to a faster one and if
    that were the only change, her two old harddrives would work fine,

    Thanks a lot.
    micky, Feb 18, 2014
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  2. micky

    micky Guest

    Maybe I'm stating this backwards, by "her old harddrives would work
    fine" I mean her computer would work fine using only the drivers that
    are installed in Windows as it is set up on the old harddrive, the one
    with windows on it.

    (The second harddrive is some but not all of the data. It's hard to tell
    what it is on it and what the connection to the windows harddrive is.
    It would take a long time to extract her data from the two harddrives,
    to use with an entirely new computer. Too much time for me and neither
    fo the other two people know how to do it.)
    micky, Feb 18, 2014
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  3. micky

    Steve W. Guest

    OK if I understand this your question is "Can I take the hard drive out
    of her current computer, Install ONLY that drive in one of these others
    and have it boot up and work"

    The answer is, It isn't very likely to work.
    The boot record, various drivers and the way the drive is currently
    formatted all play a part. If the other machine was EXACTLY the same,
    with all the same hardware and chip addresses then it might work.

    But all is not lost. You have the drives from her current machine. The
    machines you are looking at already have the same OS that she is used to.

    So get one, determine what programs she was using for mail/web whatever.

    Then install them and simply transfer over the files that are on the old
    drive. Most of the mail and web programs make that easy.
    Steve W., Feb 19, 2014
  4. micky

    clare Guest

    If it has the same motherboard and video card it will boot and run -
    may need new drivers for sound or network.
    Even a different motherboard will likely boot OK. The odd video card
    can make the hard-drive unbootable - Get another Dimension 4400 and
    you have better than a 95% chance it will boot and run.
    clare, Feb 19, 2014
  5. micky

    Ben Myers Guest

    Okay, I've to do these sorts of things to rescue clients with distressed computers.

    1. You can mount a hard drive as a slave in another system and it will workjust fine if it is error-free or almost. This is the trivial case.
    2. You can mount a hard drive as the boot drive in another system and Windows will boot up without a BSOD provided that the motherboard chipset is identical to or very similar to the one in the original system. The brand names of the motherboards do not have to be the same. The motherboard chipsetis the primary determinant as to whether Windows starts up or not. As an example, using old familiar technology, if an original motherboard has an Intel 845 chipset (e.g. Dell Dimension 4300, 4400, 4500, 4550, 2400), then the second motherboard needs to have the same chipset. If the chipsets are in the same family, such as Intel 865 (Dell Dimension 8300, 3000, 4600) and875 (no known Dell system), a hard drive will boot, too. This is even thecase between laptops and desktops, so a drive from a Latitude D620 (945 mobile chipset) will boot and run in an Optiplex 745.

    Caveats here: Other licensed software such as Adobe Photoshop or Acrobat may break, because the licensing is tied more or less to the brand name.

    As I said, I've been there numerous times, 3-4 years ago taking a hard drive from an HP Pavilion and moving it to a Gateway with the same chipset. The system ran fine and the owner felt no ill effects until I replaced it with a Win 7 system last week... Ben Myers
    Ben Myers, Feb 20, 2014
  6. micky

    micky Guest

    Wow. Good to know. Though of course it makes sense after I read the
    rest of your post.
    Uh huh.
    I'll bear that in mind. So far. for my own computer, I assembled one
    myself and now I'm using a Dell whose harddrive failed (and a friend
    gave me) and I have a slightly better one like that, so very little
    licensed software involved.

    Not sure about this friend's friend.
    Thanks a lot. Some of your info I probably can't use** in this
    particular case, but there will be other opportunities. Probably more
    important, it fills in a hole in my understanding, and that is very

    And thanks to Steve and Clare.

    **My friend was out this morning. He drives a lot, and he's really
    eager to do this, and he went the 40 miles and bought the second 4700,
    which was only 40 dollars, on craigslist. He's going to want to make
    the change within a week, and I plan to let you all know how it goes.
    micky, Feb 20, 2014
  7. micky

    denny.b. Guest

    In my humble 16 years of rebuilding hard drives and configuring OS's an
    apps; I would say off the bat, not much of a chance, UNLESS the compute
    you put the "C Drive" into is 95% exactly alike the computer which tha
    hard drive was previously installed in. Especially with windows XP. See
    WinXP installs a LOT of files which direct their attention to feature
    on the motherboard of the computer on which it is installed, and AL
    those motherboard files, such as North-bridge drivers, South-bridg
    drivers (USB, IDE etc etc) are going to be strictly for the motherboar
    that that C Drive was installed on. A lot of MBoard chips get configure
    by WinXP upon installation, and they stay that way, and never change
    When you then try to take THAT hard drive into a different computer, an
    attempt to bootup, the info on the hard drive wont match much i
    anything at all, of the mother board in the computer which that driv
    wasn't initially installed on.

    IF you then take that C Drive and place it in a different computer, an
    try to boot it up after attaching it and all.... what's MOST likel
    going to happen, is windows will throw up a blue screen which may rea
    any number of errors, the most major one, and in the big picture, i
    will basically say NO WAY MAN, I'm shutting down because my driver
    crashed with whatever is on this new motherboard. or, NO WAY Genera
    Protection Fault "windows is shutting down to protect your computer fro
    damage" etc etc....

    The motherboard drivers, and hardware drivers which are installed an
    embedded on that hard drive do not jive with the needs of th
    motherboard on the replacement/surrogate computer. Your best bet
    really, is to get a second computer which is as close to the old one a
    possible, and have a C Drive in THAT new replacement computer havin
    windows XP already installed ON that new, replacement computer, an
    SLAVE your old C Drive as a second drive in the new PC.

    You can then take ALL of your programs personally created files and cop
    (DO NOT MOVE THEM, COPY THEM) onto wherever you want them on the newe
    replacement computer. Get copies of apps that you previously had, an
    install them on the already present c drive on the second, replacemen
    computer. Once you have all the files copied onto the new machine, an
    the programs toted over to the new C Drive of the replacement computer
    you can format the slaved old C Drive and you'll end up with basically
    refurbished version of the old PC, but in a different computer.

    This way you wont have to deal with the hassle of the newer, replacemen
    computer rejecting the drivers and running OS files from the other
    drive from the previous PC. I have tried, and tried, and trust me, 90
    of the time, the transferred hard drive and OS on it, will reject th
    computer you try to boot it up in, if it is not the original compute
    which that hard drive was installed on.

    I hope this reply was a timely reply, and not to an 8 week old reques

    Denny reBOOT.PCTech Cheer
    denny.b., Feb 20, 2014
  8. micky

    Ben Myers Guest

    Quick summary. If the motherboard chipset of the replacement motherboard is the same, or in the same family, odds are near 100% that the hard drive will boot with the replacement. To know what the same chipset families are,you gotta be a chiphead and read chipset specs.

    Here is the exception which I ran into yesterday. The Precision 370 and PowerEdge SC420 motherboards are chipset compatible, but the PowerEdge SC420 BIOS does not support AHCI. The hard drive from the Precision 370 was set up with Win XP Pro with SP3 and AHCI enabled in the BIOS. I know, 'cause Iset up the system for my client years ago, but the 370 board now has a blown capacitor after 10 years. So I tried booting the hard drive from the SC420 and got the predictable 7B BSOD. My only choice to save my client's expensive licensed software was to buy another Precision 370 motherboard. And I'll make the effort to change its service tag to match the original, so the expensive licensed software won't think it is on a different system andthrow up and vomit... Ben Myers
    Ben Myers, Feb 22, 2014
  9. micky

    Ben Myers Guest

    "UNLESS the computer you put the "C Drive" into is 95% exactly alike the computer which that hard drive was previously installed in." Not precise enough... Ben
    Ben Myers, Feb 22, 2014
  10. micky

    Ben Myers Guest

    Based on very recent experience (yesterday), you can expect Windows 7 activation to complain if you switch motherboards, even with the same chipset and possibly with an identical motherboard. I replaced a Vostro 400 motherboard (bad CMOS-battery circuit, lost CMOS settings when unplugged) with one from an Inspiron 530, with the same Foxconn G33 chipset and overall design,and now Windows wants me to activate again.

    You can avoid the activation problem if you use an identical motherboard model AND CHANGE THE SERVICE TAG. That way, Windows 7 does not know that youactually changed out the motherboard.

    Now for a comment on the quality of the motherboards in the Vostro and Inspiron desktops. One word: cheap! Why? Because they use a generic Award BIOS, and the service tag cannot be changed. Or, at least, nobody knows how to do it, as far as I can tell. The physical construction looks OK. However, this is the first time I have ever seen a failed CMOS-clock circuit on a not-too-old motherboard, with the board unable to maintain CMOS settings and run the clock when system was unplugged. I tried 4 different CR2032 batteries with the same result, wondering whether I had bought a batch of defective batteries. This is a sign, if you need it, that the quality of Delldesktops for consumers (Inspiron) and small businesses (Vostro) has dropped way off from the days when the sturdy Dimensions ran rock solid for yearsand years... Ben
    Ben Myers, Feb 25, 2014
  11. micky

    clare Guest

    Their "good" stuff may still be decent - but my experience with the
    cheap (not necessarily inexpensive) consumer stuff is "the Dell from
    clare, Feb 26, 2014
  12. micky

    micky Guest

    Wih all the helpful answers, it's hard to know whom to reply to.

    Paul raises a lot of issues, some of which I havent' an answer for yet
    but I do have a general answer.

    Yes, changing the computer that surrounds the hard drives, from one Dell
    Dimension 4400 to another, went as smooth as silk,

    It didn't say I needed a single new driver and didn't say a word about
    Windows reactivation.

    It was like nothing had changed. It took about an hour and 10 minutes
    including the mistake I made that I describe below. But also including
    the time to find the right extension cord and 3-prong adapters to plug
    in the computer and the thin screen monitor I brought over. and to get a
    banana and things like that.

    It still has the Network card it came with, and it wasn't connected in
    place when I left, so we hadn't tested on the Internet when I was there
    (Sunday) but she must have tried it by now and if it didn't work I would
    have heard about it. (The seller gave my friend his number and said
    to call him if there were any problems. He was Craigslist and only
    asked 40 dollars (compared to 50 that the Ebay guy did) )

    And she had a two USB, two Firewire card that came with the computer,
    but we didn't put that back in and left the four USB jack the new
    computer had. I don't know anyone who uses Firewire, so maybe she's
    better off with four more USB ports than just two??

    Big question. She had two memory slots only with 512M each. The new
    computer was advertised at 1.5 Gig and indeed when I looked at System
    Properties / General, that's what it said.

    I thought no one made 750 meg DDR memory sticks, and that if one used
    1Meg and 512K sticks in the same pair, it wouldnt' work right. Like
    maybe it would only work as well as 1G???. But fwiw it says 1.5 gig.

    I made one mistake for sure. When I looked inside the harddrives while
    they were in the non-working computer, I didn't notice that both had
    windows. I thought only one did and if I connected them backwards
    Windows would not start. And then Sunday, even though I concentrated, I
    didnt' concentrate well enough and I connected the wrong drive as the C:
    drive, maybe. Neither my friend nor I could tell for sure that we had
    done this. Because neither of us had seen the computer start up, we
    didn't know what the desktop looked like. We were startled because it
    had 3 logon options, the woman, her son, and guest. My XP never shows
    Guest, and my friend uses a Mac 99% of the time.

    Plus she uses the mouse with left-handed turned on, and sometimes it
    seemed to be on and sometimes not.

    It only took 5 minutes or less to reverse the harddrives and the new
    setup also included Guest. And when she got home late that night, she
    told my friend (her tenant in the same house) that indeed, it did have

    We tried to figure out which is the more newly used partition by looking
    at her email, in Outlook, but whichever way the drives were, the email
    (in and out and and drafts etc.) was the same!!! Is that because...
    well her son who lives in the next city maintains her computer much of
    the time and he might have started her over in a new harddrive, but
    maybe windows automatically pointed to the Outlook that was already
    installed? Or maybe he manually pointed to it, so he woudln't have to
    copy or move the data? Anyhow it was confusing.

    I think it was Skype that decided it. I know she uses Skype once in a
    while now and it wasn't in the first version of Windows.

    This mistake of mine must have taken at least 15 minutes to check out,
    plus 5 minutes to switch the drives.
    micky, Feb 26, 2014
  13. micky

    micky Guest

    And thanks to everyone.
    micky, Feb 26, 2014
  14. micky

    Paul Guest

    It sounds like you did OK.

    While it's possible to move file pointers to stuff (such that both
    OS installations point to the same data files), let's hope it really
    isn't set up that way :)

    You would want to examine the boot.ini file, to be sure
    what the boot menu is pointing to. Just to verify there
    isn't some trickery in there. You'd want to verify
    that both disks had OSes, both were set up to get
    kicked into action from the boot menu and so on.

    Disk Management applies labels to the partitions, and what roles
    they can play. And can give some hints as to how the disks
    are related to one another.


    It says 2 x 512MB max there.

    The datasheet for 845 (DDR version) says it accepts 2x1GB sticks.
    The config you have currently, could then be 512MB + 1024MB as
    two different sticks. There's no need to match the capacities,
    since the 845 is a single memory bus, and can accept mixed
    DIMMs without changing the performance level due to mixing.
    On dual channel boards (ones after the 845 era), that's
    when you become more interested in channel matching.

    See section 5.2.2 on PDF page 109... The 1GB DIMM would need
    to have 16 chips on it, to work properly (512Mbit tech, under
    the x8 column)

    In future, if you want confirmation of memory types,
    you can carry a no-install version of CPUZ with you,
    and use that to list the SPD contents on each DIMM.
    That would have told you one is 1GB and the other 512MB.

    In this picture, CPUZ shows "Slot #1" and the
    kind of memory installed in it. You use the pull-down
    menu where it says "Slot #1", to select the other slots
    as desired.

    Finding a 1GB stick of RAM in there, means the previous
    owner ignored the "Dell advice".

    Paul, Feb 26, 2014
  15. micky

    Ben Myers Guest

    "Dell advice" as printed in their specs very often lagged (lags) behind technology introduced after the advice went to print. And they don't take extra time to update it. Best to look up the specs for the chipsets used in Dell boxes. The Intel 845 chipset variants are all capable of handling 2GB of the right type of memory... Ben Myers
    Ben Myers, Mar 2, 2014
  16. micky

    micky Guest

    On Fri, 21 Feb 2014 22:04:05 -0800 (PST), Ben Myers

    Actually, I didnt' get the post that follows until Ben quoted it a day
    later. I haven't missed nearly as many posts with Eternal-Sept. as I
    did with Verizon and Erols when they had newsgroups and this is the
    first one in months that I know I've missed.

    My OP was, on second look, long and tedious, and didn't say upfront that
    the original and the 2 possible replacements were Dell Dimension 4400's.

    So indeed I think they were 95% exactly alike.

    The new one had a faster CPU, but that doesn't matter.

    And even though it was faster, I think it might have been older, because
    it still had a fan attached to the CPU heat sink. The original broken
    computer had a shroud with a larger fan at the output of the shroud near
    the rear of the case. I would assume that design came later. But
    that doesn't matter either.

    Anyhow, the change went without a hitch, generating no requests for
    drivers or reactivation. More details in another post in this thread.

    micky, Mar 3, 2014
  17. micky

    micky Guest

    Speaking of chipsets, it would have been nice to find a newer model
    computer, rather than get the same ol' thing.

    But am I correct in guessing that chipsets only stay current for a
    couple years, and any computer 3 years newer or more would be using a
    different chipset anyhow?

    It would take a lof googling and reading to find a different model
    computer that still used the same chipset, Especially since I'm not on
    anyone's mailing list and no one sends me lists of what brands and
    models use what chipset. It's probably not worth the effort,
    right, since it won't be more than 1, 2 years newer??
    micky, Mar 3, 2014
  18. micky

    Ben Myers Guest

    Intel has followed an almost-yearly progression in its progression of ever improving chipsets. Possibly the one exception was the 845 chipset for earlier Socket 478 Pentium 4 motherboards. The 845 chipset lasted maybe 3 years. (Looking at Dell Pentium systems, the Dimension 4300, 4400, 4500 and 4550 and the wildly popular Dimension 2300/2400 all used the 845 chipset.) Intel got a lot of mileage out of the 845, so they had no motivation to improve it until later. Initial Socket 478 P4 systems ran with 1.5GHz CPUs and the last CPU chip fully compatible with the 845 was the 2.8GHz Celeron, nearly twice the speed.

    Getting a system with a newer chipset, faster CPU, more memory etc would not work as a plug-compatible replacement. Instead, it would require a reinstall of Windows and all the other software, because Microsoft decreed it has to be that way... Ben Myers
    Ben Myers, Mar 3, 2014
  19. micky

    micky Guest

    Then I did the right thing. If I'm going to spend extra effort helping
    her, it can be with some of the problems that she has every 3 or 6

    micky, Mar 3, 2014
  20. micky

    clare Guest

    An upgrade install of microsoft windows XP is all that is generally
    required - and in many cases not even that.The only times I have not
    been able to do a motherboard upgrade is if the old motherboard was
    running certain video drivers and failed without being able to :knock
    them back" to generic VGA drivers first. Otherwise the systems boot
    with errors - no sound, no network, sometimes no USB, etc and you need
    to source and download all the required drivers and instal them to get
    full functionality back. Reinstalling programs is usually not
    required. The secret is, you need a "full install" windows disk, not
    an OEM Image disk. A retail disk or a generic oem disk does the job.
    Generic OEM USUALLY works with the provided key, while you need the
    retail key to intall from a retail disk (generally speaking). A
    service pack 3 upgrade disk generally works and accepts the original
    authorization. (been doing this crap since before Windows 1)
    clare, Mar 3, 2014
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