Can I upgrade the motherboard in my Dimension 8400?

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Can I upgrade the motherboard in my Dimension 8400?

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I have a Dell Dimension 8400 that I bought in 2005. It's still doing its job, although I've already had to upgrade the video card and RAM, replace the PSU and BIOS battery, and add hard disks. I'm running Windows 7.

I want to keep it running as long as I can, as I can't currently afford a new desktop PC. But it feels slow. I think the CPU is the bottleneck. (Pentium 4 550 with HT technology, 3.40 GHz, 800fsb, 1MB cache.) For example, Flash video is choppy, especially HD, while AVIs etc. are fine. As far as I know the GPU handles most video, whereas Flash video is mostly handled by the CPU.

Is upgrading the motherboard a good idea in this situation? If so, what should I get that would be compatible with this system?

Advice appreciated!

Verified Answer
  • You can upgrade the processor some more without upgrading the board. You don't have the fastest possible processor for the Dimension 8400 currently installed.

    If you search 'Pentium 4 670' on ebay you will find lots of cheap processors of that type. Installing one WILL make a difference to the performance of your system - I speak from experience having done a similar upgrade. Also, the price of these processors is not expensive these days. The Pentium 4 670 and Pentium 4 672 are probably the best processors you can put in the Dimension 8400.

    Also make sure you have 4Gb Ram installed, the faster the better.

    An SSD would help but they are not the cheapest.

All Replies
  • Hi,

    Welcome to the community.

    Please follow the instructions below that may fix the issue

    1. Please download and update the latest version of Internet Explorer from the link mentioned below:
    http://bit.ly/fWBdaB.

    2. Also, update the latest flash player using the link below:
    http://bit.ly/mwfN1

    3. Please try a different browser (Google Chrome or Firefox)

    In case, still not fixed please follow the link below to troubleshoot slow performance in Windows 7:
    http://dell.to/RjkZug

    Thanks & Regards
    Manshu S
    #iworkfordell

  • fjordaan

    I have a Dell Dimension 8400 that I bought in 2005. It's still doing its job, although I've already had to upgrade the video card and RAM, replace the PSU and BIOS battery, and add hard disks. I'm running Windows 7.

    I want to keep it running as long as I can, as I can't currently afford a new desktop PC. But it feels slow. I think the CPU is the bottleneck. (Pentium 4 550 with HT technology, 3.40 GHz, 800fsb, 1MB cache.) For example, Flash video is choppy, especially HD, while AVIs etc. are fine. As far as I know the GPU handles most video, whereas Flash video is mostly handled by the CPU.

    Is upgrading the motherboard a good idea in this situation? If so, what should I get that would be compatible with this system?

    Advice appreciated!

     
    fjordaan
     
    The Dimension 8400 is the last of the ATX 'clamshell' series, Dell does not have a motherboard supporting either Duo or Quad core processors that will fit the 8400 proprietary ATX chassis.

    With Dell's undocumented proprietary wiring, case and mounting, you will find it is not easy to install a non-Dell motherboard.
     
    Bev.
     
     

     

    If my answer was helpful, please use the 'Did this answer the question' and click: Yes
    Forum Member since 2001
    I am not employed by Dell

  • An SSD for use as the OS drive and a new video card may help.

    As Bev said, the mainboard is proprietary, and unless you're handy in tracing leads and fabricating cables, an aftermarket board is not an option.

  • You can upgrade the processor some more without upgrading the board. You don't have the fastest possible processor for the Dimension 8400 currently installed.

    If you search 'Pentium 4 670' on ebay you will find lots of cheap processors of that type. Installing one WILL make a difference to the performance of your system - I speak from experience having done a similar upgrade. Also, the price of these processors is not expensive these days. The Pentium 4 670 and Pentium 4 672 are probably the best processors you can put in the Dimension 8400.

    Also make sure you have 4Gb Ram installed, the faster the better.

    An SSD would help but they are not the cheapest.

  • fjordaan

    You can upgrade to any Socket LGA775, 5xx, 6x0 or 6x2 processor, with 90nm architecture, but not the 6x1 processors.

    8400 systems do not support dual core [Pentium D] or Core 2 Duo processors.

    The 670 3.8Ghz is the largest.

    Note: Prior to installing the processor, check that you have BIOS version A09, or higher, when support for newer processors was added.

    Bev.
             

     

    If my answer was helpful, please use the 'Did this answer the question' and click: Yes
    Forum Member since 2001
    I am not employed by Dell

  • Thanks very much for the answer. Just a few other questions:

    - Is it a fairly simple procedure to replace the CPU? Looks like it, from a few YouTube videos I watched.

    - I only have 3GB RAM currently -- is it essential to upgrade that to 4GB, or just another potential improvement?

    - My BIOS version is only A03 -- as Bev suggests it seems I'll have to upgrade it first.

    Looks like I'll spend about £20 on eBay for a 3.8 GHz P4 670, which is fine. I'll probably hold off on getting an SSD for now.

    Thanks to everyone who answered my question!

  • FJ

    A couple of things to consider.

    The CPU upgrade is pretty much as straight forward as you would have seen in a video. If you do, and it does provide a modest increase in performance, expect an increase in fan noise as they work harder to cool the hotter CPU. IN my case my 8400 is situated such that it doesn't bother me. In another thread a poster found the increase objectionable enough to return to the previous CPU.

    If you continue using Windows 7 32bit and upgrade to 4GB of RAM you will only actually get an additional .25 ~.50GB of useable RAM. 32 bit systems only support a maximum of 4GB. and some portion of that will be mapped to hardware addresses. The 3.8 GHz P4 670 does support 64bit Windows but will call for a clean install as there is no upgrade path from 32 to 64 bit. (that's why I haven't done mine yet. Should my need to to do a clean install proceed the demise of the 8400 I'll give 64 bit a go.)


    Also on the memory front, watch to see that your modules are closely matched. When I first installed Windows 7 on this computer and upgraded the RAM to 4 GB I got frequent BSODs citing "kernel errors". Changing my mix matched RAM for 4 matching 1GB modules from Crucial fixed the problem.

    An SSD was the most recent and significant upgrade I made. Computer boots in about 20 seconds and everything is noticeably faster.

    http://www.mushkin.com/Digital-Storage/SSDs/MKNSSDCR120GB-DX.aspx is the one I chose. Not prohibitively expensive and a solid performer.

    There are some excellent tutorials on migrating to and fine tuning an SSD @ http://www.sevenforums.com/ (in the tutorials section )

    It seems like a lot of work for an older machine but these 8400s are real workhorses and mine feels just as fast or faster than my wife's much newer core 2 machine.

    HTH

    D

  • fjordaan,

    - Upgrading to matched pairs of 1Gb each, one in each of the available slots, would be best even if the OS can't access the full 4Gb. However, look around for prices, it might not be worth it price-wise. But if you can afford it, I would recommend it.

    - About the fan noise, I didn't notice a significant difference when I upgraded to the 670 processor.

    - One other note: you mentioned Flash video being choppy. Well I do have some experience of that in my Dimension 8400. Before Flash 10.1 came out, Flash would only use the processor to decode video. I couldn't watch a youtube video at 1080p, it was far too choppy (this was even with my 670 processor installed, even though the 670 did give me a general performance boost). However, since Flash 10.1 came out (we're now at 11.4) Flash can use the graphics card to help decode video. However you have to have a supported graphics card installed. Lists of supported cards are here for ATI www.tomshardware.com/.../adobe-flash-10.1-performance-hardware-acceleration,2805-4.html and for Nvidia here www.nvidia.com/.../gpus_supporting_adobeflash.html Because I have a supported card now I can watch 1080p videos from youtube (I make sure to close down all other programs, and let the video load up before watching it, but if I do that, I find I can watch them okay.
    However I should add: that is only for 1080p off youtube. I was able to watch 720p before Flash 10.1. So even if you don't have a supported card and can't get one, a processor upgrade should help you to watch most videos up to 720p. 

    - When playing large video files at 1080p (not from youtube, ones on your hard drive), make sure you are using a player which isn't a resource hog. Because the Dimension 8400 is just on the cusp of being able to play such files, choice of player really matters. VLC media player is not bad, but I have had had good experience using windows media player 11 and the CoreAVC codec with very large 1080p video files en.wikipedia.org/.../CoreAVC (that could be the subject of a whole other tutorial / thread though: just to say, not all video players were created equal and whereas some may give you stutters, others may not)

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