• Desktop computers: Scrap, repair, upgrade, or replace?

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    HARDWARE By Ben Myers Here is a practical guide to care for a computer and to help you decide what to do with one that is not brand-new. Computers sho
    [See the full post at: Desktop computers: Scrap, repair, upgrade, or replace?]

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    • #2451156

      Well Ben, I may take some “hell” from this response! 🙂 My modus operandi in cleaning the interior of a desktop computer and keyboards is thusly: remove all cables from the motherboard {20/24 pin power molex, all fans, the P4 cable (?), block all fans from rotating. take off the front face plate. Now, go get yer leaf blower and fire it up! in 15 to 30 seconds, the case will look like it just came off the showroom floor! No muss, no fuss. Never had a piece of stubborn dirt that “defied” the leaf blower! Forget those expensive compressed air cans! Does an equally great job on keyboards. I have been using this method for 20+ years and never damaged a computer to date. Re-assemble the computer and smile. Good for another year or two. Repeat and rinse, as they say! In lieu of the leaf blower, a good quality air compressor will work as well. O.K., you  can wear ear protectors, good idea.

      You may be wondering why you should block the fans from spinning even though they are disconnected. One, you may have missed one. Two, spinning a motor manually can make it a generator of power, three, you may spin the blades faster than their bearings are designed to handle.

      Oh yeah, do this work OUTSIDE!!!

      My “two cents”.

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      • #2451243

        We do almost exactly the same thing with a DeWalt shop vac:
        the hose connects at 2 points: at exhaust AND at intake.
        By switching the hose to the exhaust port,
        that DeWalt blows a strong stream of clean air.
        The attachments also enable a stronger flow
        thru a smaller opening in the tip of the attachment.

        RIIIIGHT! Saves $$$ otherwise spent on cans of compressed air.

      • #2451351

        I do not own a leaf blower, so using one never entered my mind. How well does a leaf blower do with a processor cooling fan and heat sink that collects the dirt.

        I also did work once for a client with a dirty environment and an air compressor, which I used to clean out the interior of a computer.

        Use the tools available at your disposal.

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        • #2451363

          Ben, I have yet to meet a filthy, dirty, greased on fan / processor heat sink assembly that could outwit my leaf blower. Sparkling clean is the answer. Hu rah!

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          • #2451411

            Wait until you run into a computer used by a smoker.  All that sticky nicotine makes it impossible to end up with a clean computer, if one wants to try.  Even a hurricane force cannot remove sticky stuff.  If the owner insists, it’s a time-consuming and expensive job to get rid of the nicotine most dangerous to a computer’s health, using a mild solvent to rub the stuff off and replacing anything that has a fan. I only see this kind of computer rarely, and replacement is generally the best option.

        • #2451540

          I’ve done work at conferences where neither blowers nor cans of compressed air are available.  Something else that will work in a pinch is a hand pump.  We normally use a pump for bicycle tires, but a foot pump used for inflating air mattresses will also work.

          For my own regular use, I have a small shop vac that allows hose to be mounted either on the input side for a vacuum or on the output side as a blower.


      • #2452931

        For light jobs I use my Data-Vac blower for grease/dust messes I would use an electronics cleaner. Current is CRC QD Electronics Cleaner. Again best used with adequate ventilation .

        Another point worth mentioning some M/B will not allow booting if the CPU fan is not saying it is AOK.


        Just because you don't know where you are going doesn't mean any road will get you there.
    • #2451186

      My alternative to canned air is this little beauty.


      OPOLAR Cordless Air Duster/Vacuum

      It’s only “slightly” larger than a typical can of compressed air, has a 6000mAh “rechargeable” battery (supports 10W fast charging) and has 2 speeds (30,000 & 60,000 rpm.)

      While it’s obviously not as powerful as a leaf blower , it still does a super job of cleaning all the dust and debris out of my PC as well as keeping the keyboard, monitor and various other things around my house clean (I regularly use to clean the stubble out of my electric shaver.)

      The vacuum function only works so so, (it’s just not that powerful) but will clean up “minor” spills like sugar & crumbs. It also has a “removable” filter that can be washed clean.

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      • #2451352

        A cordless battery operated blower may do a better job than cans of compressed air.  The disadvantage of canned air is that as the air empties out, the air pressure lessens.

        Finding out something new here is a two-way street, isn’t it?

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      • #2452932

        OPOLAR Cordless Air Duster/Vacuum This device works well for blowing dust off uncomputer things; I haven’t tried it on the computer yet.

        On permanent hiatus {with backup and coffee}
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    • #2451223

      The Figure 2 illustration is missing from the article.

      -- rc primak

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      • #2451241

        That one’s on me. It’s been corrected online.

        I have an automated routine to remove errant white space from the HTML, which appears to have missed a blank in the filename. But I should have noticed the missing image in my subsequent checks.

    • #2451215

      When we had the large computer boxes, it was just routine to pull the cover and remove often vast amounts of dust. We are now in the laptop or smaller world. I don’t understand why manufactures don’t provide an easy way to access the areas that accumulate dust. I also don’t understand why reviews do not include this as a criterion in their reviews.

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      • #2454201

        For a laptop, the best medicine is prevention.  Keep the dust out.  Around furry animals, keep the dust out regularly.  Every laptop I have ever seen has ventilation to let the air in to cool, and ventilation for the air to blow out.  Compressed air squirted liberally into the vents when a laptop is not powered up usually does the job.  In my handling of hundreds of laptops over the years, I have seldom had the need to remove the cover of a laptop to get closer to the vents and fans.  On the other hand, when I have to open up a laptop to add memory or replace a hard drive or SSD, I pay a little more attention to the cooling fan(s).  Some large and powerful laptops have two fans.

        Personally, I think that maintainability and ease of repair of a laptop are very important criteria.  On a scale from zero to 5, Microsoft Surface, Mac All-in-Ones (not a laptop!) and new MacBooks all rate somewhere near zero, IMHO and for various reasons.  Reviews of laptops ignore these criteria, out of fear of retaliation by an offended manufacturer, withdrawing ads.

        Maybe I should save this message for a possible future article with a focus on the care and feeding of laptops.

    • #2451245

      Who first said “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”?

      On some of our older chassis, we added cooling fans to the left-side panel,
      using a template and a metal jigsaw.

      It’s really a piece o’ cake to add a dust filter to such add-on fans.

      Whenever those dust filters need cleaning, it really is very EZ
      to switch on the shop vac and quickly remove all accumulated dust.

      The main advantage of such filters is that there is no need
      to do any disassembly whatsoever.

      Also, this works whether or not the PC is powered ON.

      The latest HP Z240 tower workstations we have purchased “refurbished”
      have room behind the front bezel for an optional dust filter; and,
      the BIOS has a feature that enables a scheduled REMINDER to clean that filter.

    • #2451259

      Ben, You are the Mark of Experience!

      FYI: because I abhor the thought of dumping a working motherboard in a landfill,
      we have re-purposed older XP PCs as backup-storage servers.

      (This, incidentally, also allows for a long-term longitudinal test of older motherboards. To date, ASUS wins, hands down!)

      Windows XCOPY command works GREAT over a LAN.

      Even though the integrated SATA ports may run at 3G or 1.5G,
      one option is to install a USB 3.0 add-in card. Then,
      we have had a lot of success with StarTech’s external USB/eSATA enclosure.

      That StarTech comes with both cables and its own AC adapter
      which can be switched ON and OFF separately from the host PC.

      It front-loads without the need for any tools.

      And, many published measurements confirm that USB 3.0’s 5G clock
      is more than enough bandwidth to support all modern rotating HDDs.

      And, even if a USB add-in card works in an x1 PCIe 1.0 slot,
      the upstream bandwidth is still 2.5G / 10 = 250 MB/second.

      Our favorite HDD for that StarTech enclosure is the Western Digital
      2TB “Black” edition 3.5″ HDD. The retail prices of that HDD have fallen
      a lot in recent months, and it continues to be a superb performer
      for our backup purposes.

      Lastly, we only switch that StarTech external enclosure ON
      to do routine backups, then we switch it OFF.

      The theory behind this schedule is that HDDs wear most from
      total POWER ON time, total NUMBER OF POWER cycles and
      of course total READ/WRITE activity.

      Applying that theory, our StarTech external enclosures minimize
      all 3 sources of wear — hopefully prolonging the useful life
      of its HDD beyond the factory warranty.

      Lastly, because that StarTech is easily detached,
      it’s also a piece o’ cake to re-attach it to another PC
      via available USB ports. Similarly, the EZ front-loading
      permits rapid replacement of the HDD inside it.

      • #2451295

        I agree with SupremeLaW! Just would like to add some experience here. When I was a career employee of AT&T, NCR {remember them?} personal computers ran for nearly 20 years trouble free! This was prior to Windows XP being introduced. They remained on 24×7, on a UPS platform. To me, that lent credence to the age old question: turn it off regularly or leave it on? I also agree that StarTech products are a cut above the rest as is Western Digital “black” series drives {some current reviews indicate a downhill slide, troubling}.

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      • #2451306

        Re: XCOPY over a LAN on NTFS file systems

        This simple technique may be very useful to PC Users
        who need a simple alternative to complex backup programs.

        You can reproduce this sequence in a few minutes of your time:

        Create a top-level folder in Command Prompt:

        cd \
        md toppy

        Now, create a sub-folder:

        cd toppy
        md subby

        Assume drive letter N: is a Windows Network drive.


        xcopy subby N:\toppy\subby /s/e/v/d
        xcopy subby N:\toppy\subby /s/e/v/d/l

        The latter will display a list of files that would be copied
        if the “/l” option had NOT been invoked.

        This same XCOPY command also works no matter how deep other “subbies”
        may be in the file system “tree”.

        We simplified the above with GET.bat and PUT.bat commands
        which reside in C:\Windows\System32 .

        Only limitation is that “toppy” cannot have any imbedded blanks.
        (There may be a way around that limitation, with further coding,
        but I never got a “round tuit”.)

        “What’s a ’round tuit’?” asked the church mouse.
        “That the opposite of a ‘square tuit‘,” replied the Choir Master.

      • #2451341

        Also a big fan of StarTech products (been using their stuff since 2014.)

        Large selection of good quality items at reasonable prices.

        Their logo says it all — “Hard-to-find made easy

      • #2451356

        Switch on and switch off applies to computers themselves, too, especially those with hard drives.  I have a couple of hard drives here powered on for nearly 50000 hours.  Why use a drive that has been spinning for such a long time?

        There’s more wear and tear and power consumed leaving desktop or laptop computers on 24/7 than shutting them down.  In the debate whether or not to turn off a computer, I have long been in the power-it-down camp.

        There are Windows settings to cycle down a drive when it has not been used for a certain interval, but clock inside hard drive firmware keeps on ticking, and hours of use go up.

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        • #2451362

          There is another, not-so-obvious benefit that obtains by switching a PC OFF:

          as long as the NIC settings DISABLE all “Wake On X” options e.g.
          “Wake on LAN”, “Wake on Magic Packet” etc.,
          a database hosted by a PC that is switched OFF cannot be hacked.

          As such, an older XP or Win7 PC that has been re-purposed to a dedicated storage server, should continue to operate for a very long time EVEN IF one of its HDDs should fail or exceed its factory warranty.

          The philosophy we have implemented is the ability to restore an entire database

          EVEN IF a HDD fails completely:

          that entire database is proliferated across all other physical drives installed inside any one chassis or external enclosure.

          Thus, “Copy Partition” in Partition Wizard restores the missing partition(s) reliably and automatically to the new replacement drive(s).

        • #2451370

          Ben, I believe another relevant factor is the quality of the input power a motherboard uses while it is running.

          In the sequence of the “flow” there’s the electrical utility, a UPS next in line, then the PSU.

          My empirical research appears to support the conclusion that a quality motherboard is the component that is LEAST LIKELY to fail, as long as all 3 “nodes” in that sequence produce quality DC power to the motherboard.

          Fan bearings wear our;  HDD spindle and armature bearings wear out;  anything with moving parts is prone to wear out at some point in time.

          Theory to test:

          does a motherboard running 24/7 with quality input power

          function predictably longer than

          the same motherboard switched ON and OFF

          but with poor quality input power while ON?



      • #2451412

        I replaced an older ThermalTake unit for external drives with a Startech, which has the advantage with USB 2.0.  The ThermalTake, though, has both USB 2.0 and eSATA connections.  eSATA can be advantageous with older computers, not much with newer ones.  The StarTech is very good.  I have other ways to attach drives externally, including IDE/PATA drives which I rarely see nowadays.  On occasion, it is necessary to connect an NVMe M.2 SSD, too.

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        • #2451413

          David Rivera at YT has been doing lots of “home lab” presentations, and one of his most recent videos compared USB and eSATA performance with external enclosures.

          If my memory is correct, the USB performance was significantly lower than the eSATA performance, when the external enclosure housed a SSD.

          The combined controller overheads with USB really slowed the performance of that external SSD.

          The HDD’s measured speed was almost the same with USB and eSATA cables.

          eSATA can be very practical, provided that it does support hot-swapping eSATA cables;  or, at a minimum, with cables attached the OS detects the external drive when its AC adapter is switched ON.



        • #2451464

          Here’s something related I just found out about Samsung SSD’s – you can’t run Samsung Magician software against their SSD’s if the SSD is in an enclosure.  This includes checking for and updating the firmware.

          Samsung support didn’t have a good explanation as to why this limitation exists and couldn’t point me to any company resources that could better explain this.  To be frank, Samsung support was kind of lame and not impressive.

          I had to open up the case (which is what got me to clean all the dust out) to mount the 2 SSD’s on SATA cables so I could check for firmware updates via the Magician software (one yes, the other no).

          I do have an eSATA connector on my mobo but I’ve never used it and of course, it requires yet a different type of header cable that I did not have.

          What I am wondering is would the eSATA connection help me avoid having to crawl under the desk and open up the computer to plug the SSD’s in an check for firmware updates?

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          • #2451490

            The whole trick for checking/updating the firmware is whether the drive shows up in the Magician drive window or not. If it does (and it’s a Samsung drive), you can check/update its firmware.

            Not sure why Samsung support wouldn’t know this, but the problem with USB drives is their Magician S/W uses SATA/PCI to communicate with the drives (i.e. if you plug a USB drive in, it never shows up in the list of drives.)

            And to answer your question, yes, an eSATA connection will work.

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            • #2451509

              As I understand it, eSATA requires a different connector at the host side, and it provides slightly more voltage to span longer cables.

              And, of course, it is supposed to support “hot plugging”.

              Taken together, these features require a dedicated hardware controller, and a dedicated device driver.

              Therefore, there may be an option to ENABLE or DISABLE that eSATA controller in your motherboard BIOS.

              Look under “integrated devices” or similar description.

              If your motherboard BIOS recognizes a SSN connected to your eSATA port,

              and particularly if your OS sees it and you can format it and do I/O, THEN

              Samsung Magician SHOULD detect it and permit firmware updates.

              Last thing, you may need to update your copy of Magician to the very latest.

              If none of the above works, there is always the option to install plain SATA ports in an available PCI expansion slot, and connect the internal cables directly to the integrated SATA ports on your motherboard.

              Then, you can connect your SSD to another SATA cable that plugs into that PCI slot adapter at your chassis’ rear I/O panel.

              You’ll also need to “hot wire” a SATA power connector.  We keep a few old AT-style PSUs around for such purposes e.g. testing fans and such.

            • #2451510
            • #2451519

              And, you said you don’t have a compatible cable with an eSATA connector.

              There are similar “slot adapters” that come with 2 standard SATA connectors,

              NOT eSATA connectors.

            • #2451776

              If you look at the Samsung Magician install guide, there are a few pages of warnings about what the software DOES NOT work with. Whew!

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          • #2451508

            Samsung Magician has its limitations.  Another one is that it does not work at all with OEM Samsung drives.

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          • #2452382

            I have an older Thermaltake BlacX Duet HDD Docking Station with both USB and eSATA connectors on the back, plus the cables.  My collection of parts and attachments I use for service work includes both a Lenovo Thinkpad T420 with eSATA port and an older motherboard with eSATA on the back panel.  I often use one or the other with the BlacX to examine a SATA drive taken from another system.  eSATA is competitive in speed with USB3, in the ballpark but maybe not as fast.

            If you need to update Samsung or other SSD firmware often, it’s much easier to use a BlacX and a system with eSATA to do it.  Easier than crawling around on the floor and more professional in appearance.  ;>)

            And, of course, I have a newer StarTech dual HDD docking station, USB3 only.


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          • #2452422


            What you really need is this SATA 2.5 Inch 22 Pin USB Powered with eSATA DATA Cable ($3.25 + shipping & tax.)

            Remove the SSD from the USB enclosure and connect it to the eSata port on your mobo using the cable.

            If the eSata port on your mobo is a power over eSata port, that’s it.

            power over eSata ports look like this


            If it’s not a power over eSata port,  you’ll need to also plug the USB connector into a USB port to provide power to the SSD.

            No more having to open up your PC to check for firmware updates.

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            • #2452486

              Have you tried that cable with a spinning platter HDD?

              Also, that connector should work with 3.5″ HDDs.

              That web page says:

              “This is an eSATA 2.5 inch HDD High Speed Cable with USB Power and eSATA DATA transfer Cable.”

            • #2452520

              Actually, there’s no such thing as a cable specifically for HDDs or even for 2.5″ vs 3.5″ drives.

              The cable needed to connect to a drive (HDD/SSD/CD-ROM) depends on what type of connector is on the drive itself and, unless it’s a very old 3.5″ HDD, it’ll use the same SATA connector as the new 2.5″ drives (both HDD & SSD.)

              In this case, the plug on the “single” end of that cable is a standard 22 pin SATA and it’ll work for any device that uses that type of connector.

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            • #2452522


              Then, the only outstanding question is the amount of DC power provided by the chipset to that powered eSATA port.

              The link you provided to that cable’s specs does mention 2.5″ HDD, but it does not mention 3.5″ HDDs.

              Don’t 3.5″ HDDs require MORE DC power than 2.5″ HDDs?

            • #2452523


              That web page says:

              “This is an eSATA 2.5 inch HDD High Speed Cable with USB Power and eSATA DATA transfer Cable.”

            • #2452533

              This is also my understanding:

              “P.S. check your HD spec to see if it needs both 12V and 5V (and each power rail’s supply current needs.) Typically 3.5″ HD needs both and 2.5″ only needs 5V.”



    • #2451358

      What a timely article! I have a 7y/o Dell desktop that has been running 24/7 for over 7 years in a woodworking shop on my workbench now. The amount of stubborn dust is unbelievable! Thinking it’s worse than the desktop from a veterinarian’s clinic that had 2 dead rats and enough dog and cat hair to make a a pillow or 3 out of! Amazes me sometimes how much abuse machines can withstand.

      I use a compressor with a filter/dryer, erasers and a good bit of alcohol, acetone, electrical contact cleaner and simple green depending on what I’m cleaning.

      Never Say Never

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    • #2451376

      Ha!  I just cleaned my desk tower after about a year.  Huge amount of dust.  I mostly used a vacuum cleaner with attachments for small work.

      I have a water cooled processor on this and the amount of caked on dust on the radiator was surprising.  This unit has a fan that blows into the radiator and then those two items are mounted on another fan on the case that blows outward.  So had to take out all 8 screws to disassemble everything and get that radiator clean.  Next time I do a water cooled system, I will mount the radiator externally.

      Tip: If your vacuum has a reverse connection, this can be very helpful for cleaning computers.  Blow through the power supply and watch all the dust exit!  No leaf blower needed.  Just do this outside somewhere.

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    • #2451539

      One point to emphasize:

      It is questionable to donate an old computer to a person or a nonprofit desperately in need of one, especially if the PC has a hard drive with tens of thousands or hours of use. If the computer that you gifted fails, nobody will be happy.

      I have spent 35+ years working in non-profits, and I can’t make this point strongly enough.  Even if a computer may have monetary residual value in the sum of its parts, for a non-profit, a donated computer is frequently a net negative, a huge waste of time (both to the end user, and the people providing support) and often, money as well.  For that same reason, I will not allow purchase of “reconditioned” computers that are off-lease that have been used for several years, especially if they have original hard drives in them. They’re just not worth the hassle.

      There are exceptions, of course, but a used computer generally needs extensive reconditioning work, and a lot of ongoing support.  If you’re willing to be the support person for a computer that you give to an individual, that may be acceptable.  However, if you decide that a computer isn’t working for you, assume that it will have similar (or more substantial) problems for somebody else. Giving a used computer to a non-profit merely off-loads your problems onto the non-profit, which may have significantly less resources to handle those problems.  Besides the problems of an aged machine, a donated machine will often not have specs that fit in with what the rest of the org already has.  Even if the non-profit can’t use the machine, it’s still a net cost to them in figuring out how to dispose of it.

      If you want to support a non-profit with a computer, contact their IT people, and then buy and donate a new computer that is configured according to <span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>their</span> specifications.  But don’t give them your hand-me-down  junk.  Thanks, but no thanks.

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    • #2451557

      for a non-profit, a donated computer is frequently a net negative, a huge waste of time (both to the end user, and the people providing support) and often, money as well.

      That’s exactly why the local non-profit I regularly donate to no longer accepts old computers or peripherals.

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      • #2451563

        I can offer one “refinement” to that policy:

        we have been having wonderful success purchasing and upgrading REFURBISHED HP Z240 workstations:

        the interiors are laid out with great attention to detail, cable management and such.

        They come with Windows 10 64-bit already installed, which reduces the marginal cost of all that hardware to $100 +/- .

        The Intel CPUs have integrated graphics, which are more than adequate for our needs.

        Here’s one retail supplier:  Under “Workstations” scroll down to “HP Workstations”:


        The money saved, as compared to purchasing comparable NEW workstations, can be applied to adding more DRAM, more storage etc.

        The Z240 has one NVMe M.2 socket on the motherboard.

        The upgrades we have done with success are:

        32GB of DDR4

        2 x Western Digital 500GB M.2 NVMe SSD w/ headsink (one in a PCIe M.2 adapter)

        front fan and fan housing attached to interior of front panel (cools 1 x NVMe SSD)

        dual Vantec PCI slot fan in empty PCI expansion slot

        2.5 GbE NIC in x1 PCIe 3.0 expansion slot

        not yet purchased:  optional dust filter that installs behind front bezel

        • #2451564

          bird’s eye view of HP Z240 Tower workstation:


          Samsung M.2 NVMe drive is visible at top/center

          • #2451567

            One question I have NOT yet asked of that retail seller:

            Can they pre-install Windows 10 to an M.2 NVMe SSD

            INSTEAD OF a 2.5″ SATA SSD?

            With the expertise showing at their Internet website,

            I would expect this would be no problem for them —

            except maybe requiring a Special Order.

          • #2451845

            This bird’s eye view of an HP Z240 Tower workstation could be easily expanded with:

            (a) 2 x 3.5″ HDDs

            (b) front card guide (intake fan housing):  see drawing

            (c)  4 x PCIe expansion slots, all PCIe 3.0

            (d)  an optional PCI slot and PCB can be plugged into a custom connector on the motherboard, at PCI slot cover #5

            (e)  counting slot covers, by NOT installing that custom PCI slot at (d) above, instead we have installed our favorite Vantec dual 70mm fan that blows UPWARDS across the PCIe slots towards the CPU’s HSF

            (f)  lastly, there is an optional dust filter that fits neatly inside the front bezel


            See current prices at Newegg for “refurbished HP Z240 Tower workstation”:


        • #2451570

          the fan housing behind the front panel is called “Front Card Guide”


        • #2451626

          No objection from me there.

          However, that’s a reasonably new, business-grade, workstation-class machine that has had some serious work on it, including a new SSD and generous quantities of RAM, as well as a thorough cleaning, to ensure that it is adequate for doing what you expect.

          The kind of stuff I’ve seen is far inferior to that. It’s been some time since I’ve had to deal with that directly, but I’m guessing that the kinds of stuff that somebody would offer to our org would be a laptop with something like 3rd Gen Intel, 500 GB HDD (original hard drive), 8 GB of RAM (often less), original fan, and usually, factory-original installation of Windows (and likely originally shipped with Windows 7 or 8, even if upgraded to Win 10).

          I may be able to find a place for a machine like that for special purpose, but I’m not going to put it on the desk of somebody that uses it every day that I have to support, but I have plenty of trailing edge machines of my own like that, and I don’t need somebody donating one to my organization that’s looking for a tax deduction.

    • #2451633


      Looks like the latest version was announced circa July 2016.

    • #2451822

      The local thrift shop has always been good for finding usable monitors and other computer equipment. Consider donating to the local thrift shop.

      On permanent hiatus {with backup and coffee}
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      • #2452090

        I donate all old tech equipment there with the hope that they will be able to make a few bucks selling it to people who know how to use it or else will disassemble and recycle stuff (fingers crossed on this).

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    • #2452583

      Not sure if anyone mentioned this – replace the CMOS battery. You never know how old it is; and I have seen two dead computers come to life after I replaced the CMOS battery.

      What can you do with an old computer?
      * Give it to someone who can’t afford any computer. They will be thrilled to get it.
      * Use it as a print server for an old printer which has no networking capabilities.
      * Use it as an internet radio.

      Group "L" (Linux Mint)
      with Windows 8.1 running in a VM
      • #2453878

        You are reading my mind.  I have a wonderful older Oki MC561 color printer, but its network card failed, and replacement cards are unavailable.  One near term project to keep everyone in our house happy is to set up a small and elderly but small Lenovo Thinkpad X201 to be a printer server, connected to the still functioning USB port on the Oki.  When we have run through the stock of toner for the printer or if the Oki simply bites the dust, it will be time to replace it.

        CR2032 CMOS batteries make an appearance in the sequel to this article.  So do possibilities for reuse.

        • #2453916


          Regards to your defective network card for the Oki MC561 color printer, perhaps the use of Ethernet to USB adapter can keep it as a “networked” printer. They do work fine when used for a computer {as many current laptops no longer have an Ethernet port}. They run around $ 10.00, super simple to install {plug and play}. They come in 10/100Mbs and Gigabit versions {tad more $$$}. Gigabit is not necessary as printers are not FAST devices.

          Just a thought …

    • #2452680

      I’m very careful with canned air these days. I used to use it to clean out the fans in my ThinkPad laptops, but one time I overdid it by over-revving the fan until it whined, which taught me that it was a bad thing. I had to replace the fan. Ben probably would have done that with alacrity, but I fumbled it and then needed to buy a completely new heat pipe, too

      So these days I hold fans stationary when using canned air.

      Air from a compressor is great for circuit cards, no question about that. Just don’t aim it at moving parts.


      2 users thanked author for this post.
    • #2452933

      The solution I use for keeping my insides clean is positive air pressure, fans sucking air in through filters faster than the exhaust fans exhaust. You can verify this from an open rear slot with a Kleenex tissue. Not perfect as air can still drift in and filters don’t remove all dust with reasonable sized fans.


      Just because you don't know where you are going doesn't mean any road will get you there.
      2 users thanked author for this post.
      • #2453160

        Wow, wavy — TMI 🙂 Do you really keep your insides clean??? You actually suck in high-pressure air as you’re holding a Kleenex tissue near your other end to verify the process? Amiright??  [Ducks]

        Win 7 SP1 Home Premium 64-bit; Office 2010; Group B (SaS); Former 'Tech Weenie'
        2 users thanked author for this post.
        • #2453162

          As I read his summary, the intake fans have dust filters, so the air they move has little if any dust, once inside the chassis.

          By design, the exhaust fan(s) move a lower air volume.

          The combination produces an interior air pressure that is higher than the exterior air pressure.

          This means any extra interior air pressure is forced out via other small gaps and crevices in the chassis, which prevents dust from entering via those same gaps and crevices.

          1 user thanked author for this post.
          • #2453167

            Thanks very much, SupremeLaW. My comment to @wavy was tongue-in-cheek 😉

            Win 7 SP1 Home Premium 64-bit; Office 2010; Group B (SaS); Former 'Tech Weenie'
            1 user thanked author for this post.
            • #2453168

              You do know the name an attorney gave his new baby daughter?

              Answer:  SUE!!

              p.s. What happened after you were no longer a “Tech Weenie”?

              1 user thanked author for this post.
            • #2453171

              Groan 🙂

              I became a lawyer (/jk)

              I’d prefer not to derail this thread any longer, so back to our regularly-scheduled program . . .

              Win 7 SP1 Home Premium 64-bit; Office 2010; Group B (SaS); Former 'Tech Weenie'
              2 users thanked author for this post.
            • #2453172

              I can see we need to enhance this Forum software with a way to input audio recordings!

              This way we can compare empirical measurements of fan noises.

              You know, just like my “Fan Club” (real inscription on one of my banker boxes).

              p.s.  future “groans” will be instantly censored

        • #2453183



          Just because you don't know where you are going doesn't mean any road will get you there.
          2 users thanked author for this post.
      • #2453173

        This principle also applies to HVAC systems. Makes a big difference when you have positive pressure in the dwelling rather than negative. Much less air infiltration and as a result dust. Good job wavy!

        Never Say Never

        1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #2453834

      Now, go get yer leaf blower and fire it up!

      This is thinking outside the box…and house…and workbench…and…

      I’ll have to try this (on an otherwise expendable computer).

      1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #2453842


        After realizing my DeWalt shop van has 2 ports:  1 input and 1 output, I tried something that seems to work short-term:


        I remove the left side panel on each PC chassis, power it ON, and use that DeWalt’s blower option to raise some of the interior dust for the installed fans to exhaust out the rear.

        I do spin-up the heatsink fan on the CPU, but I’m careful not to OVER-rev it.

        If I need extra air speed, that DeWalt comes with an attachment that has a narrow tip, which increases the shop vac’s air speed.

        This technique still leaves the dust on the carpet behind the PC chassis, but it has the added advantage of NOT requiring all cabling to be disconnected.

        Lazy Man’s Way?  YES!!!



        • #2453876

          I’ve never been a perfectionist.  If I get rid of the dust bunnies, and the dirt caked everywhere on boards and fans, that 99+% is good enough.  A little bit of dirt left in some crevice somewhere will not be the death knell of a computer.

          Whatever works for you or for anybody else to remove dust and dirt from a computer chassis is fair game, whether a DeWalt, some other electric device that blows a narrow, focused and hard stream of air.  Still, having once used a high powered shop compressor, I still needed to use an industrial q-tip to loosen the dirt, then blast again.

          1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #2453835

      Very interesting article. Three comments (1) Figure 2 did not load; the others did (2) Amazon lists the exact applicator you show for about $16 for 1000. (3) I’ve found that Endust for Electronics Multi-Purpose Duster gives me much better mileage than some other brands in similar size cans. Even better, DPOlar makes a battery-powered duster (recharge via USB) that works as well as “canned air” and is a lot less expensive in the long run.

      1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #2453837

      I also don’t understand why reviews do not include this as a criterion in their reviews.

      For the same reason cell phone reviews don’t mention how well it makes phone calls. If you didn’t already know, you could read a dozen cell phone reviews and never learn that the thing can make phone calls.

      1 user thanked author for this post.
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