Gateway ESX500S Upgrade

Introduction

July 27, 2010

My aunt asked if I could take a look at her computer and see if there were any upgrades available. I said sure and started my usual research on the web.













Legacy System Info


The PC make and model number was a Gateway MFATXPNT ESX500S P04. Unlike the previous Dell updates I worked on the Gateway was a little harder to research. Dell is still in business. Gateway was bought out by I think Toshiba awhile back, plus their model number system was a bit less straightforward than Dell. My initial research didn't turn up any concrete recommendations so rather than order the parts blind I wanted to take a peek inside the machine first.

When I cracked open the case I found that the motherboard was an Intel D845GRG. That was lucky because Intel still has lots of detailed documentation on their old products, unlike the Gateway docs which were not very specific on the PC specs. The Intel pages had very detailed info on what RAM would work which is what I was primarily looking for.

The installed CPU was a Pentium 4 2.40 GHz. According to the motherboard manual it would support up to a 2.8GHz CPU with a 533MHz front side bus and 512kb cache.

The motherboard had an integrated video chipset with an empty 4x AGP 1.5V only expansion slot.

The machine had 512MB in two DDR sticks. The specs on the old memory were 2.5V, 184 pin, 200 MHz, serial presence detect, non-ECC, and unbuffered. The motherboard manual recommended 200MHz or 266MHz DDR.

The legacy hard-drive was a Maxtor N256 Fireball 3 2F04OJO. The basic specs were ATA/133 interface, 40GB, 5400RPM, 12ms Seek, 2MB cache.

Component Research

Selected Upgrades

HDD

I figured on an older machine a new hard drive would be a good idea. The first reason being that hard drives have mechanical parts which wear out and fail. The second reason being that newer hard drives have bigger caches and faster platter speeds. The hard drive I ended up getting was a Western Digital Caviar SE WD800AAJB 80GB 7200 RPM 8MB Cache IDE Ultra ATA100 3.5" Internal Hard Drive. It had twice the storage of the old drive at 80GB. Also it was 7200 RPM versus the old drive's 5400RPM and had an 8MB cache versus 2MB.

MEM

Next up the biggest bang for the buck on upgrades is more memory. 1GB for WindowsXP seems to be the recommended minimum so I looked at 1GB sticks. I scouted around Newegg, Ebay, and Crucial's website for options. One critical piece of information I learned from the Ebay vendors was that the Intel motherboard require low density memory. This meant 8 chips on a double sided stick. There are high density sticks out there that have the same capacity but use fewer chips on the memory sticks. That configuration does not typically work in the Intel 845 boards. I also learned that the ECC memory is really meant for servers so non-ECC is the way to go.

I ended up getting a 1GB PQI stick from Neweg: PQI POWER Series 1GB 184-Pin DDR SDRAM DDR 266 (PC 2100) Desktop Memory Model MD641GUOE

Skipped Upgrades

GPU

I thought about getting an APG card but at $40 bucks it was a bit steep for the performance boost it might provide on an web surfing/email box.

CPU

I also scouted eBay for CPU upgrades and found several 2.8GHz 533Mhz P4 processors for $10ish plus shipping. Given it would be only a 16% speed boost and it would greatly increase the risk of me breaking something (or getting a dead on arrival part) I opted skipping the CPU upgrade.

Build Notes

Cleaning

As usual I got out the shop vac and did a thorough vacuuming of the PC and blasted the power supply with the compressed air can. I even removed the CPU fan to vacuum out the processor heatsink. The dust was pretty caked on underneath the fan so I was really glad I took the initiative to do a bit of disassembling. I also added some three-in-one oil and graphite powder to the fan bearing.

Component Installation

The stock memory was two 256MB sticks. I removed the closest stick to the CPU and replaced it with the new PQI 1GB stick. On the next reboot it was recognized with no problems in the WindowsXP device manager (new total 1.25GB).

Next up was the hard drive. It came pre-configured with the cable select setting enabled. After installing the drive in the secondary drive bay I powered up the machine with the Ethernet cable plugged in. Once online I downloaded the Acronis utility from Western Digital's support page to clone the drive. The cloning process worked without issue. Once it was complete I swapped the old and new drive positions on the IDE cable and the system boot, much faster, with no issues.

Epilogue

I spent a little time removing some "mem turbo" and "system optimizer" applications that were bordering on being malware in my opinion. These apps came up on boot as expired trials and had large adds to sign up for upgrades. Completely useless I thought. After removing all that garbage the machine seemed to boot quicker. I set the desktop background image to be the Brewers logo (my aunt is a big fan) and called it done.

The Sequel: Lightning Storm

About two months after finishing this upgrade a severe thunderstorm rolled through my aunt's area. My dad, who lives about a mile away from my aunt, said the storm had an unusually high number of lightning and thunder cracks. The same storm rolled through Madison and also here Milwaukee and it woke me up. The next morning my aunt tried turning on her machine and not much of anything happened. The external DSL modem was completely dead, not even the power LED would come on. The computer fans would turn on but the BIOS screen would not show up.

I happened to stop by that weekend so I said I would take the computer back to my workshop and see what I could do. I had an old power supply laying around so I tried that out first. The computer behaved the same way with the known good supply as it did with the case supply. I pulled the hard drives out and tried them in another machine and they seemed to still be working.

Intel D845GRG Motherboard Research

Given all that I think what happened was their telephone line is probably what picked up the nearby storm strike (they said it wasn't a direct hit on the house). The charge came done the phone line and completely fried the DSL modem, then whatever was left hit the motherboard through the Ethernet port.

I found some relatively cheap Intel D845GRG motherboards on eBay. The model number on the Gateway board was 4000783 but most of the boards on ebay were 4000828. I was a bit hesitant to order a different model number board but one of the ebay sellers said it would work. I didn't have anyway to test the CPU or memory but I had comparable parts for those slots from other upgrades. For $25 shipped the refurbished motherboard was on its way.

Swap Out Success

The motherboard showed up Friday afternoon. It looked clean enough and came with a driver disc and IDE cable. I removed the old board and verified the jumpers were all set the same on the new board before screwing it down to the case. I  On the first power up WindowsXP re-installed all the board drivers automatically. After a few reboots the system worked as well as it had after I intially upgraded it. The processor, memory, and hard drive all survived the lightning strike and were working fine in the replacement motherboard. In less than a week the system was back up and running.


 

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