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Dell Optiplex

Discussion in 'Linux and Unix' started by OldLadyWho, Jan 26, 2007.

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  1. OldLadyWho

    OldLadyWho Thread Starter

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    I am trying to set up a computer for the grandchild of a friend. The computer won't be connected to the Internet, and she would like it to have some educational programs and games on it. Simple ones. The grandchild is pre-school age, but very smart and likes to use my friend's computer. My friend would rather not allow that. She asked if I could find something cheap and simple for her grandson to use instead.

    So, I found a Dell Optiplex GX1 (circa 2000) for $45.00. It has 128GB RAM, a 6GB hard drive, a CDrom, a floppy, and is a small form factor. I just got it today and fired it up. It booted into Windows98SE, but it also had a lot of other stuff on it from Novell and Sun.

    It was apparently used as a work station in a company. I was dismayed to find no control panel, and that it would not boot from either the floppy drive, nor the CD drive. I went into the Dell bios to see if I could change any settings to make it boot from the CDrom. There seemed to be NO option to do so. I have several Live CDs ready to try out (DSL, Knoppix, and Ubuntu), but I'm at a loss. I spent a LOT of time digging around on the Dell web site, but found no answers. Also Googled to see what I could learn.

    My question is: Is there a way to alter the Dell bios? Is there a generic bios that can be used to make a Dell computer into a normal one?

    I know, this is probably a really stupid question, but it's an honest one. Can anyone help?
     
  2. fenderfreek

    fenderfreek

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    I run a couple of GX1's in my house and the boot options are on the second page of the bios setup. Try that. As far as a distro to use, try Edubuntu. It's Ubuntu with educational games and programs.
     
  3. OldLadyWho

    OldLadyWho Thread Starter

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    Yes, Edubuntu was what I had in mind for the Optiplex, but I wanted to try the Live CDs first to make sure everything worked.

    But, I'm afraid I couldn't find any settings options on the BIOS that indicated a drive to boot from. I did look at both pages. Can you help me figure out what setting to change?

    On other computers there is an obvious way to set the boot sequence. I could find nothing like that on the Optiplex. Is it just worded differently on the Optiplex?

    OLW
     
  4. OldLadyWho

    OldLadyWho Thread Starter

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    I found some information that said that machines made before 1998 may not have the option in the bios to set or change the boot order. I had thought that this machine was made in 2000, but maybe not. It came loaded with Win98SE. So, I'm panicking a bit. It doesn't seem to be able to read the A drive on boot. I've tried booting with a Win98 boot floppy, the floppy drive "chugs" at boot, like it's being read, but then the message that a non-system disk is in the drive and to remove it, etc.

    I've tried the same boot floppy on another machine to make sure it's a good one, and it worked fine.

    So, if I pull the hard drive from the Optiplex and connect it to another computer, and load the Ubuntu Live ISO onto it. Would it then boot into Ubuntu Live from the hard drive?

    I'm sorry if these seem like silly questions, but I've never run into this problem before. I'm baffled.

    Is it possible that this computer was set up specifically NOT to be changeable? Maybe that's why it was so cheap...
     
  5. CouchMaster

    CouchMaster

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    I had an old IBM like that and discovered dip-switches on the MB that changed the boot order.
     
  6. OldLadyWho

    OldLadyWho Thread Starter

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    lol, your post had me spending the last hour sifting thru obscure old forum posts from Googling "dip switches, dell optiplex gx1".

    I have the case opened on the Optiplex, but so much of the motherboard is obscured by the drive bays. I'm afraid this one may be beyond my skills.

    But, before I give up (I don't do that very easily), is it possible to just plug that dell drive into another computer and load a Live ISO onto the hard drive and have it boot from that? (I'd clean the old Win98 from the drive first). Or even move the boot files for Win98SE directly to the hard drive, wouldn't it boot from that? Then it might allow me to at least put a clean install of Win98 on it. Not what I wanted to do, but the old installation with all the old junk on it needs to go.

    Is this a hopeless project?
     
  7. arochester

    arochester

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    fenderfreek said "I run a couple of GX1's in my house and the boot options are on the second page of the bios setup"

    fenderfreek - If you read this, can you say exactly what in the bios affects the boot up order?

    I have worked on Optiplexes but I can't remember... (Sign of old age)

    I think that 128Mb RAM is not enough to run Edubuntu, Ubuntu, Kubuntu etc. The Gnome and KDE versions have a suggested hardware requirement of 256Mb Ram. They could "run" but very S-L-O-W-L-Y.

    I have found ebay a useful source of used memory. If you stick with 128Mb you are looking at something like Xubuntu or Zenwalk. They are both Xface based, so no pretty Gnome or KDE interface.
     
  8. CouchMaster

    CouchMaster

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    I've had great success loading Win3, Win95 & Win98 on a HD and moving it to another computer - and it working! But not any other OS. It might work (it's a hardware/driver problem) but all I've ever gotten is a grub error with Linux...
     
  9. OldLadyWho

    OldLadyWho Thread Starter

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    Thanks for telling me that. It's one of the things I was considering doing. I do have an older 13GB hard drive that has Win98SE loaded on it, I figure if all else fails I can just plug that one in and work from there. I consider 98SE a last resort though, because I honestly don't want to start another child on Windows. He'll have enough of that when he's older, I'm sure, but it would be nice if he started out knowing there are other choices.

    My original intention was to use DamnSmall Linux on the machine, or Knoppix. I may have some spare RAM that will work on it to give it a boost, but the computer really won't be used heavily. The child is 5 years old. He types well and likes word and numbers games. Pretty tame stuff. In a year or so we'll fix him up with something faster, and maybe he'll start building his own after that. :) I just wish the OLPC was available. I'd buy one for him.

    Anyway, I found that Dell still supports the Optiplex GX1, and I've downloaded the BIOS update and all the drivers and manuals, etc. So, if I go with a Win98 install, I'll have everything I need. I also found some instructions on changing the boot order in the Optiplex BIOS, though I think they are for the updated version, I'm going to look in the current BIOS again, just to make sure.

    As for making a Linux boot disk. There are plenty of instructions on the Internet to make them, as well as some links available on bootdisk.com for Linux boots, but they all require some skill to build. I went thru the process to build a Debian boot disk last night, but it didn't work, so I'll need to practice on it a bit. I fear that us newbie Linux users are spoiled by Live CDs. I've never run into a computer that wouldn't boot from CD before.

    Thanks so much for your help! I'll post back when I get it to work. (I'm such an optimist! :) OLW
     
  10. fenderfreek

    fenderfreek

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    Sorry for not elaborating.

    On mine, there's a second page, and in the first section or two, there is an option for "Primary boot device", or "default boot order" or something to that effect. The options for it are floppy, CDROM, PXE, and "Device List ctrl+->" The last option lets you press that key sequence and you get a menu where you can reorder the boot priority. It may be set up to look at the HDD first, so if nothing else, try unplugging the HDD and see if it fals back on the floppy or CD-ROM.

    As far as MoBo DIP switches, there aren't any on mine, but I'm not a definitive resource. I just got half a dozen of them for free and went nuts playing with them. :)
     
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