Can I Use this Dell Dimension PC for WHS? RRS feed

  • Question

  • I've got a 5-year old Dell Dimension 4100 PC in my basement that we recently retired
    and I'm wondering if I could use it as a WHS server.   The alternative I was considering
    is an HP EX-475 which obviously is much more costly.

    800MHz Pentium III
    512MB RAM
    It originally shipped with Windows 98 (about five years ago), but it was upgraded to XP SP2 a couple of years ago
    and has run with no problems. 

    I was thinking of installing a couple of 500GB hard drives.

    Couple of questions:

    1) Is it even worth considering using this system?

    2) My understanding is that a system must have Windows 2003 Server Edition compatible drivers
    before WHS can be loaded. A thorough review of Dell's support site indicates there are no specific 2003 Server drivers
    available.  Does it matter?  Can I just assume the existing drivers will work?  Has anyone here successfully
    transformed a Dell Dimensio of similar vintage into a WHS server?
    Tuesday, November 27, 2007 5:59 AM

All replies

  • The Dell will probably run Windows Home Server, but it doesn't meet the minimum specifications, so you should expect that it won't deliver much in the way of performance. You can probably get Windows XP drivers to work, if Windows Server 2003 drivers aren't included on the installation DVD, but there are no guarantees. In addition, since that PC is several years old, there are various components that are likely to be reaching the end if their life: power supply components, capacitors on the motherboard, fans and hard drives all wear out.


    I think you would be better served by either buying new hardware on which you'll install Windows Home Server, or an OEM unit like the HP Mediasmart Server. With careful selection, you can get a complete system's worth of parts from a vendor such as NewEgg for under $500, and have a server that will last for quite a while.

    Tuesday, November 27, 2007 12:12 PM
  • Thanks, Ken.  I'm going to take your advice.
    Tuesday, November 27, 2007 12:17 PM
  • Steve- you might consider going ahead with your system if the alternative is buying a new pc/hardware set for your WHS, at least for trial purposes.  If it's dissatisfactory you can always drop those 500's into the new machine...


    I installed each build of WHS on an ancient xpsr400 with 512mb (yes, that’s a pII 400mhz).  In the beginning this was only due to it being my only “throwaway” pc.  However, I added a $30 dvd drive, a Belkin sata controller (due to server 2003 compat) and a pair of 320’s and have found the performance to be perfectly acceptable.  The NIC won’t operate at anything above 100mbs (system limitation?), but the interface, menus, etc, all perform as fast as I could want.  I was surprised as you can imagine, and have yet to run into a single issue with the installation or performance. 


    Note that I do not have a hard drive installed on the primary IDE channel of the mobo- only the dvd drive on #2.  When I left the original hd attached there the system refused to acknowledge the pci sata controller (a BIOS issue, but due to the age of the system we’re stuck with what we have). 


    I’m not streaming media from the WHS, but only relying on its backup utility (have restored from it once) so I can’t comment on those capabilities on this dinosaur.  I did already have the drives available, so if those are a pending purchase the cost plus controller and dvd drive might be approaching the OEM units available.


    Just my two cents…


    Tuesday, November 27, 2007 11:29 PM
  • I absolutely disagree with Ken and agree with sdjj. I followed a similar course and say go for it. You may be pleasantly surprised.  The only issue that you might face is the simultaneous viewing of multiple heavy resource using video files.  I am also pleased with its performance running SharePoint Services on top of the normal WHS stuff.


    Tuesday, November 27, 2007 11:46 PM

    I am using a Dimension 4100 @ 1Ghz & 512 Ram for my WHS RTM machine ATM.

    Its quiet & was given to me from my work. I just installed 2 new Hdd's & a CD/DVD drive & she is humming away under my desk just fine.


    The drivers were not a problem as WHS installed just fine & i have not had any problems at all w/ it.


    Wednesday, November 28, 2007 3:54 AM
  • Geez and I thought my P4 2.53Ghz was an "oldie" to be using for WHS. More stories like this over time will dust off a lot of old retirees.


    Great news from those riding the dinosaurs.  Giddy yup!




    BTW... Ken does make some very valid points regarding the reliability of computer components towards the end of their rated lifecycle, but the $500 mark is still too high IMO if you want to go that route. If you go to Dell Outlet as I did 3 weeks ago, I had a new box shipped to my door for $375. It included Vista Prem., C2D 2Ghz, 2GB ram, 320HDD, Wireless NIC, 8400GS, 16x DVD+-RW, 13in1 mem card reader. I seriously couldn't even come close to putting one together for that price using the lowest end parts at NewEgg.  Dell is damn near giving them away if you know where to look. That was actually an upgrade for my wife, but if used as a WHS it would obviously be smokin' right along ;-)


    Wednesday, November 28, 2007 6:34 AM
  • I used a Dimension 4100 for all my beta testing, although it was the 933MHz version. It gave no problems at all, other than hunting around for a DVD drive to boot from. The first two drives I tried would not support booting, so go for a recently released drive. I also put a PCI USB2 card in as the base system won't support USB external disks and I am sure you will want to expand storage further fairly shortly.


    I have moved up to a 1.2GHz system now based on an old Poweredge 500SC. This is running 7 disks (5 internal and 2 external) giving a total of 1.5TB (I used any disks I could conveniently get hold of). The only issue I am now finding is continuous heavy CPU usage balancing storage. I guess this is due to having lots of medium capacity drives rather than a few very large ones. That may become a problem for you if you expand a lot later on.





    Wednesday, November 28, 2007 10:12 AM