Off-lease Dell Optiplex 745's. I just got 2 of the minitowers (30+ lbs so I would call it a maxitower!) and they kick butt! Up to four SATA drives, two PCI, one PCI Express and one PCI Express 16 slots, 7 USB ports. Best of all they come with Windows XP Professional! And even a COA sticker on the top of the cabinet in case the "man" comes down on you. They usually come with Pentium D chips, usually between 2.8 and 3.4Ghz although they also support 1066FSB Intel Core 2 duos (2.2 and 2.4Ghz.) I am fixing one of them up for my long neglected Roland Studio Pack with the powered mixer for automated mixdowns.
You can usually find one for $150 to $200 on Amazon and eBay but I was looking for the one with the large case with full expansion capabilities. Watch out on Amazon because they will lump together several 745's under one item number and the description on the product page probably doesn't match what the seller is selling; it is best to email them to confirm what they are actually selling. What is really confusing is that the "desktop" case is a much smaller case than the "mini-tower" and it has fewer expansion options. They also make a Small Frame Factor and an Ultra Small Frame Factor versions- the USFF can be mounted on your monitor!
I've had good luck dealing with a company in Connecticut which handles off-lease computers from many of the Fortune 500 companies. Their prices are a bit higher than some of the others but they do offer a 60 day hardware warranty which includes shipping any parts to you along with all of the shipping charges involved if the computer actually needs to be replaced. So they make sure that the computers are in good working order when they ship them- and it comes with an optimized version of WinXP with only the basics and none of the crapware that comes with most new computers. I never know what is safe to uninstall on a new computer so that is a big help. Gee whiz, what a revolutionary concept- including just the basic operating system and the basic system tools and accessories, and let the customer install the programs that he wants.
My old WinXP box died last summer- it had been on its last legs for 2+ years and I had already bought a HP Window 7 machine to replace it when it finally died. I had thought that Win 7 was a substantial upgrade from Vista, which I hated with a passion, but it is the same old dumbed-down POS with too much hand-holding- and handcuffs, too boot!
The HP did not have PCI ports so at that time I got a Gateway 64 bit/8GB computer to use for my digital recording studio but hadn't used it yet (it came with Vista-ugh!) I just installed WinXP64 Professional on it and it really screams now.
No more Vista,
No more Seven.
After six months of crap
I'm back in heaven!
(probably depends on how much use it's had, but) might not stand up to a lot of heavy use (the alu electro caps specifically). I have one that appears similar, and not having to buy the OS (and being able to obtain XP--a bit of a necessity to run lots of stuff) and the low price can definitely be attractive though.
The caps you mentioned are on the motherboard? What symptoms would you get if caps had gone bad? The way I figure it by the time the mobo fails the price of these will be even lower. If you back up your boot drive to an image regularly you can restore it to any of the 745 models and keep going.
Thanks for the heads up! I will look into it.
(what I've experienced in general) sluggishness, weird errors. Specifically, on a couple of PCs, it appeared that caps related to the USB bus would cause errors with external HDs (USB connected). Might be fine though (I'd guess) if the PC hasn't seen heavy use, but the caps do have finite lifetimes and all the caps used thoughtout (mobo, power supply) may not be long-life types (it looks like some are and some aren't--I wonder if there is some intentional selection of shorter-lived caps on purpose). The thing is (w/the caps) is that caps on the mobo are not easy to replace with normal means because of the multilayer PCB which makes for a super effective heat sink.
Yes, it would be good if they came with an odometer!
Oddly enough, this is the box I run at work. I didn't think they were so cheap though. At this kind of pricing, I think I'm going to pick up two of these so I can have a server and an electronics bench computer. Thanks for the heads up!
Humor is the best alternative to serial killing. - Chuck H
There is an intermediate model going for about $300 refurbished- it's the 755.
P.S. One more bonus with the 745 model- you get a 3 1/2" diskette drive! I had been thinking it was useless but then I remembered- it is very easy to make a bootable diskette and add whatever DOS utilities you want to run. Try that with a CD or a DVD and you will probably end up with a bunch of coaster- or miniature frisbees if you are so inclined.
(I've been wanting to run WDIDLE3.EXE on all of my WD Green drives because it allows you to disable the timer which will park the heads and power down after 8 seconds of inactivity. It is better to let Windows and the BIOS determine when to do that because the constant starting and stopping will wear out these drives much sooner than a hd without that "feature". One limitation of WDIDLE3- it only acts on the internal drives and I have about a dozen of these drives in external enclosures. It is very easy to plug in the drives temporarily with the 745 since there is plenty of room and you don't need to be a contortionist as illustrated in the YouTube video. (The video is fairly tame for the first minute and a half but if you're high on psychedelic you may want to skip the rest!)
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