Dell Dimension 8400 Hard Drive Replacement: No Windows XP Cd provided

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Dell Dimension 8400 Hard Drive Replacement: No Windows XP Cd provided

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My Seagate hard drive: ST3160023AS 149 Gig, 3.5" 7200 RPM is failing and needs to be replaced. I contacted Seagate and was advised that the ST3500641AS-RK drive would work just fine. I note you do not carry that. Several questions:

First, which hard drive would you suggest?

Second and most important is how to load the new hard drive with the current version of Windows XP. I have the replacement CD's which Dell sent to me but they do not include a Windows XP CD. My computer did not come with a Windows XP CD.  I assume my backup of Windows XP is contained in my i386 file.  I have gotten mixed messages from Microsoft and have a saved conversation wherein they tell me I can use another retail windows XP disk I have on another Dell computer and use that product key.

I have been told that the product key for the Dell Dimension 8400 is buried somewhere in the BIOS.

I have a 1TB backup drive and can put everything on that.

I have been told that I need to buy an external box for the new hard drive and load everything from the old hard drive onto it.

All in all, I have no idea how to proceed.

1. How do I switch hard drives and load Windows XP onto the new hard drive without a Windows XP CD and product key from my current computer?

2. Is there a web page you can direct me to that will give the steps for loading drivers, etc?

Thanks in advance

Morgan45

Verified Answer
  • Sorry for the delay in responding but my timing was off by a few days. I woke up and got an error message regarding my config sys and could not repair it or even access it. So, got a pro to put in a new hard drive cloning (ghosting) the old drive with the external caddy. Back on the air with a new hard drive, a terrific software system that is very good about backing up to my external back up.

    Dell disks were received but did not work. I never had the serial number of my Windows XP. OEM installed Windows for the Dell did not come with a disk and my, at least, came with no serial number. Microsoft suggested to me that I could use another Windows disk I had, which would not have worked as that disk was a service pack 2 disk.

    In the end, cloning is the way to go and do whatever you need to get the material transferred between drives. I am very happy with the new drive and it has far more memory than I need. Sadly, I too will moving on to Vista and will lose several nice programs in the process.

    Many thanks for the insights. I was following them and then got so rudely interrupted.

All Replies
  • To answer your last question first, this page will lead you to the instructions on installing your operating system:  Restoring or Reinstalling Windows on a Dell.  A manual install is covered in the third option on that page.

    With regard to having no Windows CD, if you live in the U.S. you should use this form to request a replacement for your operating system CD:  Dell Replacement Disk.  There may be a charge for this service.  If you do not live in the U.S., I'm afraid your only choice will be to contact Dell Technical Support for your region directly and request the disk.  Use the information needed in the U.S. request form as a guide to what you will need to provide to the Dell Representative.

    You can use any 3.5" SATA desktop hard drive as a replacement for your old drive up to a capacity of 2 TB.  The only thing I would stay away from on a Windows XP machine is the Advanced Format drives as these require special handling to be used with that operating system.  The 2 TB limit is due to the fact that Windows XP only uses the Master Boot Record scheme of partitioning on hard disk drives.  Larger drives must be partitioned using the GPT partitioning scheme which Windows XP 32 bit does not understand.

    If you use a Dell labeled installation CD to install Windows XP on your computer you should not need to worry about the product code for activation.  Dell installation disks are automatically activated at the time of installation.  If you use a standard Windows XP disk, or decide to update your system using Windows 7, you will need a new product key as standard installation disks do not have the necessary code to check for the Dell BIOS signature.

    One additional issue you will need to consider when you are ready to install; the Dimension 8400 uses SATA hard disk drives and has an AHCI setting in its controller.  Most Windows XP installation CDs do not have a driver for this mode.  When Windows XP setup tries to install files to your hard drive you will get a message that setup cannot find any eligible disk drives for the installation, Stop: 0x0000007B.  The easiest work-around for this problem is to go to System Setup (F2 during the Dell screen after starting the computer) and set the SATA configuration to RAID Autodetect/AHCI.  Most people can't tell the difference between this setting and the AHCI alternative; all it does is set the SATA controller to a translation mode that makes the SATA hard drive look like a standard PATA/IDE/ATA drive.  In this mode the IDE mass storage drives native to Windows XP will see the drive and the setup application can install the system.  Installing Windows XP using the AHCI controller usually means you must make an installation CD by slipstreaming the AHCI drivers into the files already on the Windows XP setup disk and writing out a new CD.

    EDIT:  Forgot one thing; as your present hard drive is still working you might want to consider using an imaging program such as Acronis True Image to clone your existing hard drive.  If you purchase a Seagate or Western Digital hard drive you can download a crippled version of this application from either vendor, though you must have a Western Digital drive to use its version and a Seagate drive to use the version from that vendor.  The only thing I don't know is if these versions support a feature that allows you to adjust the size of the cloned partition.  The purchased version of Acronis allows you to fit the image onto a new drive having a different size from the original, provided the new drive has at least the capacity occupied by the information on the drive.  I would still order the Windows installation CD, but cloning the drive would make things much faster and less troublesome.

    Dell Forum member since 2005

  • I second the opinion of imaging the existing drive to the new hard drive.

    Regarding a non-Dell XP install CD, Dell keys will work with OEM discs but not with retail ones. If a retail disc is used, a retail key must be used but should not be activated; once the install is complete, the Microsoft product key change utility should be used to switch the product key to the key of the Dell COA.

  • The 8400 has (or had) the windows 25 character key on a small sticker on the tower. Mine has it on the left side. You can borrow a Dell xp disk that is the same version--home, pro, mce--as yours. Lots of those disks out there. Use your own key if it is asked for one. I'm not sure if Dell is still sending out replacements disks for XP since support for it is discontinued. Don't forget to install the Desktop System Software first along with the chipset drivers or all the other drivers won't install. Dell Drivers and Downloads has what you would need. support.dell.com/.../index.aspx

  • Sorry for the delay in responding but my timing was off by a few days. I woke up and got an error message regarding my config sys and could not repair it or even access it. So, got a pro to put in a new hard drive cloning (ghosting) the old drive with the external caddy. Back on the air with a new hard drive, a terrific software system that is very good about backing up to my external back up.

    Dell disks were received but did not work. I never had the serial number of my Windows XP. OEM installed Windows for the Dell did not come with a disk and my, at least, came with no serial number. Microsoft suggested to me that I could use another Windows disk I had, which would not have worked as that disk was a service pack 2 disk.

    In the end, cloning is the way to go and do whatever you need to get the material transferred between drives. I am very happy with the new drive and it has far more memory than I need. Sadly, I too will moving on to Vista and will lose several nice programs in the process.

    Many thanks for the insights. I was following them and then got so rudely interrupted.

  • We're very happy to learn that you have it working again however you made it happen.

    Best of luck to you!

    Dell Forum member since 2005