Another Day, Another PC

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Spalls Hurgenson

Jul 16, 2022, 2:54:13 PMJul 16
It was raining the other day. Oddly enough, that's usually when I find

PCs, that is. Old PCs left outside on the curb; unloved, forgotten,
replaced. They sit there sadly, wishing for a new home. So I give them
a new home - either my own, or some other lucky recipient after I
clean them up and pass them on.

I was hopeful when I saw this one: it was a mini-tower and I'm on the
lookout for a chassis with a small form-factor so I can (finally)
finish up my Win95-era PC. But on picking it up, it was immediately
obvious that this case wasn't going to work for me; it was a Dell.
Now, I actually don't have a problem with Dells per se, but they
typically are full of proprietary components that can't be easily
re-used. Still, it was black 'n' shiny 'n' tiny, so I took it home.

It got a thorough cleaning, although by and large it was in remarkably
good condition. Still, out came the brushes and 90% IPA and cleaning
rags and within a few hours every crevice was dust-free and refreshed.
Dust was blown out, grunge scrubbed off, new thermal paste applied,
cables neatly tied, fans cleaned 'n' lubricated, and screws tightened.
Aside from a few very faint and thin scratches on the front bezel, the
computer looks brand new.

It runs too; no missing components or damage. It's a Dell Inspiron
3668; an unexciting build designed for use as an office workstation.
Still, with an i5-7400 quad-core CPU and 12GB RAM (far more than was
necessary for its former duties, as it turns out), it runs well
considering what it was meant for. It's only downsides - aside from
all its proprietary tech - are its slow video (integrated IntelHD) and
spinning rust storage... well, that and its lack of any real
upgradability. With only a single PCI-E slot and a weedy 240W power
supply (with no extra power cables for internal components), you're
pretty much stuck with what you got from Dell. But the voltages were
fine and the machine ran without error or noise.

This was my first Windows10 "trash-puter"; so far I've found lots of
XP and Windows 7 machines left curbside, but no Windows10 machines
until now. I guess that says something about the age and commodization
of that OS. In some respects, I was happy to see this; it made the
restoration much easier. Just crack the passwords to get admin access
and create a restore USB, and viola; an entirely fresh OS, complete
with the original software and all necessary drivers. Pretty good for
a curbside find!

(And, yes, the previous owner left their HDD in the computer without
wiping it. Yup, they left all their data on the drives. Its a good
thing I'm not evil, because some of the stuff looked sensitive too.
Even after seeing this happen dozens of times, it still surprises me
to see people being so careless. Wipe your drives before throwing out
your computer, people!!!)

Long-term, I won't have much use for this PC (short term, I have a
brief project for which I'll use it). It's really not sufficient when
it comes to gaming, and I already have a number of spare desktops
cluttering up my closets. Already I'm wondering what I might do with
that i5-7400 or those 12GB RAM... an upgrade to one of the other
machines? Or maybe I'll just find somebody who wants something to surf
on. As I said, for an office-puter, it's a fine. It's just not much of
a gaming rig.

Still, I always love tinkering with 'new-to-me' hardware, so this was
a fun little project getting it back into fighting shape. And who
knows, maybe I'll find a reason to keep it after all.

But I'm already looking at the weather reports to see the next time it
rains, 'cause who knows what I'll find then?

Rin Stowleigh

Jul 16, 2022, 6:48:10 PMJul 16
You may actually find some real gems as Windows 11 becomes more
prevalent... Some of my machines here did have a TPM module and were
"Windows 11 capable" but you'd never know it until you went into the
bios and tweaked some settings. I can only imagine how many people
will put decently fast machines out on the curb due to that one.

Spalls Hurgenson

Jul 16, 2022, 7:13:01 PMJul 16
Ohh, I hadn't considered that. I may have to clean out another closet
for the incoming hoard ;-)

In this case, the machine in question is definitely not
Windows11-compatible, but that's not a problem for me as I was hardly
intending to upgrade it anyway (it may make it a wee bit more
difficult in re-homing the PC should that be in its future). Although
- IIRC - Microsoft has announced that they will allow Win11 to run on
hardware without TPM2.0, albeit without support & upgrades.

But it gives me hope for some more exciting rainy-day finds. C'mon


Jul 16, 2022, 8:58:56 PMJul 16
>But I'm already looking at the weather reports to see the next time it
>rains, 'cause who knows what I'll find then?

Haha! Nice PC saga there.


Spalls Hurgenson

Jul 23, 2022, 11:07:53 PMJul 23

So, after some scrubbing and tinkering and reinstalling, the new PC is
configured just how I like it. All those annoying and extraneous
Microsoft services have been disabled, all the necessary third-party
apps are installed, and the awful Win10 Start Menu has been hidden
away. The work is done, so now for play.

First thing, how well does this machine run? Time to fire up the
benchmarks. The 3DMark series are my primary gauge, although I play
around with others too. I toss on GTA and Doom3 and (of course) Crysis
just to see how they all run.

And the results are: well... they all run. Most though, not so well.
Comparatively, this 2017 machine has the same performance of my 2008
Intel Core2Duo desktop (actually, just slightly worse). This is
largely due to the lackluster performance of the integrated IntelHD
630 video-subsystem; with a discrete video-card, it would probably
perform much better. Unfortunately, it's limited upgrade options
(largely hindered by its paltry 240W power supply) make improvement
unfeasible. That it performed as well as it did is largely due to its
comparatively overpowered CPU.

Still, it runs games from 2006 and earlier amazingly well. "Elder
Scrolls: Oblivion", "Tomb Raider: Legend", "Civilization IV"? No
problem. It starts struggling with games from 2008, like "Grand Theft
Auto IV" or "Dead Space". And you really gotta knock back the video
settings for 'newer' games - like "Farcry 3" (2012) if you want to get
any sort of usable frame-rate... and even then, it's hit or miss. I
got "Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor" (2014) working, but not in any
way I'd want to play it.

It just goes to show how vital the GPU is to modern gaming; had this
PC a video-card from 2020 and a CPU from 2012, it probably would have
been able to handle most modern games, but saddled with the
unreasonably slow IntelHD chipset, it was ten years out of date even
when it was new, even if it is /technically/ a DirectX-12 card.

Which isn't really surprising, since - ultimately - the computer was
intended as an office workstation, and probably not expected to play
games anymore complicated than Solitaire. It doesn't really have any
problems with YouTube in HD, and it runs work applications with
suitable (if not notable) alacrity.

Still, it would have been nice to be able to fire up a modern video
game during some of the quieter moments. But, oh well, it's not to be.

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