Upgrading Dell Dimension 9200 to Windows 10

The Dell Dimension 9200 is an old PC by all measures. I bought mine in January 2007 and it has served me well. The processor is the Intel® CoreTM2 CPU E6400 @ 2.13GHz, which was state-of-the-art at the time of purchase. It came with a 380 GB disk and 2 GB memory, installed with Windows XP and with a free Windows Vista upgrade.

Over time, it has been improved. I opted out on Vista, but immediately had to purchase a Firewire adapter, that I needed for my Canon DV camera (yes, video cameras had tapes back then). In 2010, it was upgraded to Windows 7 Home 64 bit. Now it supported up to 4 GB memory, so it was upgraded to that and the disk was exchanged with a 1.5 TB Seagate Barracuda 7200.

In that configuration, it laboured on until last year, when my increased use of VirtualBox started to impact performance. I looked around the Net and found that, contrary to Dell’s specifications, it should be able to support even 8 GB memory. So I bought 4 x 2 GB 240-pin DDR2 DIMM modules, with only limited success – it was obviously faster, but started to Blue Screen. The modules where returned to the shop with a full refund and I looked more carefully at what other people had suggested to be safe. I then bought four Corsair XMS2 Xtreme Performance DDR2 2 GB DIMM 240-pin (CM2X2048-6400C5) and everything has worked fine ever since.

Then came along Windows 10 and I registered for my free upgrade, only to be disappointed – the ATI X1300/X1500 graphics adapter is not supported by Windows 10.

Back to Googling and I found that the Radeon HD6450 series should work fine with the Dimension 9200 (and its limited 375 W PSU), so I bought myself a Sapphire Radeon 6450 1 GB DDR3 with support for three monitors and sporting both DVI and DisplayPort connectors. At the same time, I bought a 250 GB Samsung SSD 850 EVO to further enhance the performance.

The current set up is:

  • Dell Dimension 9200 with Intel® CoreTM2 CPU E6400 @ 2.13GHz
  • 8 GB memory (4 x Corsair XMS2 Xtreme Performance DDR2 2 GB DIMM 240-pin (CM2X2048-6400C5))
  • Sapphire Radeon HD6450
  • 250 GB Samsung SSD 850 EVO

I had a Windows 7 Pro product key laying around, so I did a fresh install of that, on the new disk. Then I upgraded to Windows 10 Pro and it went perfectly fine, within a few minutes it had activated itself. Then I chose to re-install Windows 10 Pro from scratch, just to make sure that no Windows 7 leftovers could impede on future performance and/or stability. You may need your Windows 10 Pro product key for that, but it can be found using e.g. ProduKey-64 from nirsoft. Spoiler Alert: All Windows 10 Pro product keys are identical and will be VK7JG-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXX-3V66T (XXXXX is for obfuscation), at least for installations upgraded from Windows 7/8.x Pro.

BitLocker Disk Encryption is available in Windows 10 Pro, but the Dimension 9200 lacks the modern type BIOS that allows secure storage of the encryption key. It can be activated by performing a little operation Windows Registry Keys and then you will have to either enter a password/passphrase at boot time or have dedicated USB key with the encryption key inserted in the computer at boot time. I prefer the passphrase, because USB keys tend to fail over time.


Upgrading Dell PowerEdge servers

Most Dell owners will be familiar with finding the Service Tag of a server, laptop or desktop, then to enter it at the Dell driver download page and be rewarded with a wealth of suggested patches and updates. Unfortunately, there will often be drivers and upgrades far beyond what is needed for exactly your server/laptop/desktop. And to add to the misery, unless you happen to use exactly the Windows version that Dell assume, you will probably have a difficult time, trying to get the upgrades installed.

For Dell servers however, there are some hope for the exhausted sysadm….

Recently I have had the privilege of upgrading two Dell PowerEdge servers, a 2970 and a 2900 respectively. The 2970 was running VMware ESX 4.1 and thus I managed to install the appropriate upgrades, using the CLI in ESX. Except that not all firmware upgrades were available in ESX (Linux) installers and had to be installed from a DOS boot cd.

In the end, I am not even sure, that I had everything upgraded 👿

The 2900 is running ESXi 5.1 and therefore has no CLI. New approach was needed and preferably something easier. And there is a surprisingly easy method!

  1. Download CentOS Live DVD – find your appropriate mirror site.
  2. Write iso file to a blank dvd
  3. Ensure your server is able to obtain an ip address and is internet connected
  4. Boot the server onto the CentOS
  5. Install Dell firmware update utility – see below

The use of CentOS is due to the Dell preference for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), which you may not have at hand. CentOS is pretty compatible and for this purpose fully compatible.

How to install the Dell firmware update utility – in 8 lines or less:

# If proxy is needed, uncomment the next two lines and fill in as appropriate
# declare -x http_proxy="http://proxy:3128"
# declare -x ftp_proxy="http://proxy:3128"
wget -q -O - http://linux.dell.com/repo/hardware/latest/bootstrap.cgi | bash
yum install dell_ft_install
yum install $(bootstrap_firmware)
update_firmware --yes

That’s it! The last command 'update_firmware --yes' will detect what firmware updates are needed and install as necessary. Total downtime should be less than 30 minutes, if you have prepared as described above.

Update: Some updates are done, using the internal flash memory as a temporary boot device, e. g. the BIOS firmware update. Therefore the server must be rebooted and not powered off, after an update.

Update II (Sep. 19th 2012): I first performed this on an older PowerEdge 2900. Due to its age, it had only few updates of recent date. I just updated a much newer R610 and found that the Dell repository for the above update procedure, is some what out of date. 👿 So don’t expect to get the newest firmware, if your server is of recent date, but you’re still able to get a very precise inventory of your server from the above procedure and then use that inventory to identify the exact right upgrades for your server and then download them manually from Dell Support.

Ny hjemmecomputer

Min daværende arbejdsgiver var inde i en god periode og jeg fik derfor lov til at specificere og indkøbe en computer til hjemmebrug – det var i sommeren 1998. Da jeg 4 år senere stoppede i firmaet fik jeg den med, formeldest 1500,- kr., hvilket syntes en fair pris for en dual PII-450MHz med en 19″ ViewSonic PT795 skærm (1600×1200@85Hz).

Dell Dimension 9200 - © DellSå fik vi DV-kamera og manglede derfor en dvd-brænder – i det hele taget en computer, der havde kræfter nok til videoredigering. Det er mange år siden, at jeg har beskæftiget mig med pc-hardware, men efter samtaler med venner og kollegaer, faldt valget på en Intel Core 2 Duo E6400-baseret model. Yderligere undersøgelser viste, at Dell havde en konkurrencedygtig pris, ikke mindst i kraft af deres hyppigere kampagner, hvor man får diverse opgraderinger med, hvis man køber inden næste dag :roll:.

Fruen accepterede investeringen og Dell leverede på under en uge – til døren, med fragtmand. Så weekenden er gået med at installere, konfigurere og kopiere data fra den gamle computer.

Apropos den gamle computer – dual PII-450Mhz, 1024 MB RAM og Ultra160 18 GB SCSI-harddisk – den står nu overfor et nyt liv, som firewall/webserver på min adsl-forbindelse. Det vil bla. berøre denne side, som fremover gerne skulle opleves lidt kvikkere. Først skal den “nye” server dog lige adskilles og blæses fri for støv, såvel som have monteret 2 x 120 GB harddiske til data – den nye server vil naturligvis have spejlede diske, for maksimal sikkerhed :wink:. Det bliver godt – mere om det senere.