The majority of Americans will tend to go from an old computer to a newer one by simply hitting their local box store and buying an entirely new system once they come up with the funds to pay for it. If you have an older Dell computer, it is possible to combine the old with new technology all by yourself. This has the advantage of letting you choose exactly which components and specifications you want for your rebuilt machine, whether your focus is on graphics, processing power, large or multiple hard drives or incredible sound.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Philips screwdriver
- Hard drive
- CD/DVD drive
- Video card
- Ethernet card
Unplug your Dell and then open the case. Different Dell computer models will have different schemes for opening them, but most will require the use of a Phillips screwdriver to release at least two screws first. Some cases have latches you will have to squeeze or pull in order to release them.
Disconnect the hard drive and the power supply leads to the motherboard once the case is removed. The hard drive is located toward the front of your computer case and probably has a wide, flat grey cable leading from it to the motherboard. The power supply is a largish square box in the back of your computer that has the power cord plugged into from the outside. All of the wires from this box go to either the motherboard or the drives, like your hard drive and CD/DVD drives. Disconnect the power and reset wires from the case to the motherboard as well.
Unscrew and remove any peripherals such as your video card, Ethernet card or modem. These are large, rectangular components attached to the motherboard--seated perpendicular to it. You may not have any of these if your video card and Ethernet were all "on board" as a permanent part of the motherboard.
Unscrew the motherboard from the case using your screwdriver, and then remove it from the case.
Remove your CD/DVD drive or hard drive next by unscrewing them from the side where they are held to the casing. If you are not replacing your CD/DVD drive or hard drive, leave them in place.
Touch a ground source to make sure you have no static on your fingers and pick up your new motherboard. Install the processor by carefully snapping it into position--it will only slide into its slot one way, so do not force it--and lock it down. Place the cooling fan on top of the processor according to the instruction manual that came with your motherboard and lock it down.
Insert your RAM modules into their slots carefully. Like the processor, RAM will only fit into the slot one way, so if it doesn't slide down easily, try turning it around.
If you bought a new hard drive or CD/DVD drive, install those now and screw them into place.
Place your new motherboard in the old Dell case and align the screw holes and the back faceplate. Not all of the holes have to align, nor are they likely to. Just as long as four of them do, you can screw the board in to secure it in place.
Reconnect the power to the motherboard from the power supply. Don't forget the cable to power your new CPU and fan, if applicable--your computer won't start unless they are connected. Plug in the power and reset buttons and the leads to your CD/DVD drives and hard drive.
Install your peripherals, such as Ethernet card or video card, and screw them securely in place. Connect all of the remaining leads required: the data cable to your hard drive and the data cable to your CD/DVD drive. Put your Dell case back together and screw it tight before plugging in the power supply and turning on your computer.
Tips and warnings
- If your computer is very old, it may be IDE, which is a certain type of connection, and many new and modern motherboards do not have IDE connections, they use the SATA connection exclusively. If you have an IDE hard drive and are planning to keep it through your upgrade, make sure you pay attention when buying your new motherboard to make sure it has an IDE slot on it.
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