General Question

ScottyMcGeester's avatar

How can I revive my old computer?

Asked by ScottyMcGeester (1897points) August 5th, 2020

I want to do this as a sort of side project. So even if I need to buy new parts or something I’d want to for the sake of learning about replacing parts and not worrying about messing up because it’s an old computer.

This was my first desktop computer dating back to 2004. I don’t have the specs because the computer runs so slow that it’s so difficult to load anything in File Explorer.

But it’s:
Dell Dimension 8300 (Model #: DHM)
Pentium 4
Windows XP Home Edition

When I went to college and got a laptop, my mother inherited my old computer. And of course, no offense but, when a boomer starts using a computer then things kind of go downhill from there in terms of maintaining the computer. She downloaded so many things and hardly checked the system and it eventually became super slow.

It used to not even load Windows, but with some patience I managed to revive it to the point where I can actually start it up and look around My Documents. But there are many issues I need help with:

1. How can I fix the keyboard and mouse ports? They don’t respond at all. Doesn’t matter which keyboard or mouse I plug in, they don’t respond.

2. How can I fix the USB ports? Only one USB port responds and I use a wireless mouse with that port. It’s the port in the front underneath this hatch you have to open. All other USB ports don’t respond.

4. How can I make it go faster? I was hoping to get what my mom needs from the private documents by moving them to a flash drive and then reimaging the entire computer. But I can’t do that because it’s so damn slow at loading windows in File Explorer and the window ends up “Not Responding”. I’ve already disabled all the unnecessary startup programs to get it to load, but now the issue is loading everything else I click on.

5. How can I make the fan quieter? The fan is so loud. It sounds like it’s really pushing to keep itself going. The longer you have it on, the louder it gradually becomes, until it reaches a certain point where it doesn’t get any louder.

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10 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

Most important thing: Get an SSD.
Clean the fan and the cooler. Replace the fan if necessary.
Reapply the thermal paste for the CPU (might have dried up).
Install more RAM.
Reinstall windows.

zenvelo's avatar

You need a lot more memory, both RAM and on your hard drive. And you probably need to replace that Pentium.

You can buy replacement fans, and find one that is much quieter.

elbanditoroso's avatar

How well do you want it to work? It will never act like a W10 machine, ever.

You might get it to work on Vista, maybe, subject to memory.

ragingloli's avatar

Or, considering how ancient this thing is, maybe build a new, cheap one.

ragingloli's avatar

The RAM upgrade might not even be possible, since the 32 bit version of Windows XP only supports 4gb max.

elbanditoroso's avatar

The original 8300 DHM came with 512mb memory, and 80 gb hard drive. It will accept up to 4GB memory but won’t use all of it.

This could be made into a slow-end Linux machine or a barely useful Windows box.

Jeruba's avatar

I know nothing, but my son would probably suggest starting by cleaning the contacts in the ports: Q-tip, alcohol.

I would probably just smack it. Doesn’t help, but it makes me feel better.

Some boomers are totally up on computers, having followed their ascent from nothing right to their present state. They understand them from deep in their origins. My husband is a lot like one of those. I, however, am a natural at breaking things. I was hired once on a contract to beta-test a major piece of Silicon Valley software. They gave me a long list of steps to follow. I intentionally did them out of order, and sure enough, the system crashed. I explained to the manager, and she said, “Why did you do that?” They never hired me again.

Inspired_2write's avatar

Go to used computer places and use the parts,as that may help.
I knew one man who did that as a business.

hmmmmmm's avatar

Unless you want to see if you can get that dinosaur running as a challenge, give up. If you need a low-spec Windows PC or notebook, you can get them for $250. You can even get a refurb desktop from Amazon for $145.

If your goal is to simply recover the contents of the hard drive, you can either drop that drive in a functioning PC to grab its contents, or you can get something like this, which would make the drive an external drive that you could hook up to any computer.

dabbler's avatar

Hey, boomers designed all that kit!

That box is old enough that as mentioned by others, it may simply be beyond upgrade to modern standards. The service doc from the DELL support page for that model shows max RAM at 4GB – that’s not terrible but it’s not a lot either. System clock maxes out at 800 Mhz which is probably slower than your smart phone. That clock speed plus a 32-bit CPU and bus… with all possible modern upgrades this box will seem feeble.

Consider a refurbished modern machine (Newegg or TigerDirect) – unless you have access to used parts as @Inspired_2write suggests. Take the hard drive out of the old machine and stick it in the new machine as an auxiliary drive. That’s my best advice for your time and money.

If you are sticking to the plan to get this box running as well as possible. Get more RAM, there is a great survey tool at Crucial that can point you to what RAM you can put in that machine. Crucial also make excellent SDDs.

A lot of the symptoms you describe, mouse and keyboard ports not working, USB not working, sound like oxidized connections to me. Follow the wires from the ports to the connectors at the motherboard, remove and re-install each of them multiple times to scrape the oxide off and re-establish good connections.

Best of luck, and have fun!

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