My XP Machine is dying - HELP

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My Dell is about 6 years old and suddenly started acting up.  I might
think it was a virus or something if the fan hadn't noticeably started
changing pitch and speed (was always fixed speed and quiet prior to
the last few days).  With the HDD being about 6 years old (XPproSP2),
I thought I'd replace the hard drive (though I'm wondering if the
power supply might not be the immediate risk) and have a few questions
that I'm hopeful someone might be able to enlighten me on. :-)

I'm thinking a Maxtor HDD and am considering adding it as a secondary
drive until I can get the data from my existing 6yo drive mirror
copied over.  I'm told that Maxtor has software with it's drives to do
this or are there other utilities I should consider for the task???

Onto the power supply - anyone know where Dell get's theirs?  I really
don't like dealing with Dell where I can avoid it.  If for no other
reason than just an inability to understand the people I end up
speaking with.

And then RAM, I have a gig and am thinking about adding another gig
when I upsize/replace the HDD.  I don't know if 'more is always
better' with ram but..  Guess I'd dang near have a new machine with a
new power supply, HDD and RAM.

I guess finally, strategy is something I'm still kicking around.
Would it be better to try and back up the existing HDD using some USB2
external drive (yet to be purchased) or give it a shot and install the
second drive - format, copy the files from existing drive, etc.  ???

Thanks for thoughts and pointers,

Re: My XP Machine is dying - HELP

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Which fan are you referring? There are usually several. In a 6 year old
machine fan bearings start to get dry. They may need oiling to get a little
longer life or just replacement. Have you been cleaning the dust out of the
fans regularly?

 With the HDD being about 6 years old (XPproSP2),
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More importantly you should be backing up your data on a regular basis.
Whenever the drive fails you'll be covered. Some drives last 10 years or
longer, but lets say your power supply went out and took the mb and hdd with
it. If you've backed up regularly you're pretty much covered. Or consider if
you simply get corrupted startup files and the computer won't boot, or you
get a virus that disables your system entirely. So you should be considering
negative events beyond a hard drive failure.

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Most hdd manufacturers have clone software for free that one can use to copy
their drive verbatum to the new drive. It would behoove you to do the
research for whoever's company your thinking of purchasing their drive to be
sure it's available. Consider companies that have a long warranty period
such as Seagate. Western Digital hdd's are a couple of years shorter in
warranty but their quality is usually very good.
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            Can't help you here. Sometimes Dell uses propriatory PS's, so
it's tough not dealing with them.

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    I think you're on the right track here. It sounds that with all your
concerns about noisy fans, hdd's, and PS's that you might do well to get
yourself a new machine, so you needn't worry about it, and use your current
machine as long as it lasts as a secondary unit. The most imperative thing
to do whether or not you keep current or buy new is to embrace a backup
strategy. One of the easiest is backing up to an external hdd via USB and
using a good software program,  such as Acronis True Image, which is rather
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You certainly could do what you are suggesting, or you could take the old
hdd and install it in your 'new' machine and copy the contents to your new

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Jan Alter

Re: My XP Machine is dying - HELP

Thanks guys - appreciate your help.  What do you know about the
backwards compatibility of Windows 7 ?  Seems that's mostly the op sys
available on newer machines (store bought) and I have tons of software
that works fine on my XP that I'd prefer not to have to buy upgrades


Re: My XP Machine is dying - HELP

On Jan 15, 10:49=A0am, wrote:
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So far, I've had no problems with older software on Win7. MS Office
2003 installed fine, though I've only used Word and just opened Excel,
Publisher, Power Point and Access. Like Vista, Win7 has the
compatibility feature to help run legacy SW. I had to use it on Vista
to run an older version of Photoshop. If you want to be absolutely
sure that older SW will run in Win7 get the Ultimate version which has
'virtual XP.' IOW, a virtual sandbox in which to run older SW.

Re: My XP Machine is dying - HELP

On Fri, 15 Jan 2010 06:48:20 -0800 (PST),

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Others have stressed that it's "OLD" at 6 years, but that
quite depends on the quality of the design.  I have 6  year
old systems I have more confidence in, expect to outlast,
many new systems built today.  Set it up right with good
cooling, don't let dust build up excessively, quality PSU
with top brand capacitors, check things like CPU VRM
subcircuit for temperature, use quality (actual fan
manufacture branded not some PC parts relabeler crapshoot
brand), low RPM,  dual ball bearing fans and top brand
motherboards ran conservatively.

If your system was made well and has enough performance for
your uses, it can be quite cost effective to repair it
providing you don't have to settle for some
bottom-of-the-barrel brand part if it's something like the
motherboard that failed.  In other words it need not be a
Dell part you use to replace the original, necessarily.

The PSU is sometimes an exception, but at about 6 years ago
Dell used standard ATX PSU in many of their full mATX
midtower systems.  Less so on their slimline or workstation
oriented systems.

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The rear fan on many Dell systems is an early failure point.
It is rather trivial and inexpensive to replace that if it
is failing, though sometimes it is integrated into a plastic
shroud and you might need to cut out the fan frame from the
shroud and determine what to use as strap holes to fasten on
a new fan with nylon wire ties (or drill some holes in the
chassis rear for regular fan scews to mount it).

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Either I should read ahead, or you have neglected to mention
what is "acting up" about your system, besides noticing a
change in fan sound pitch.  Is there some instability?
Slowness?  Any indication the hard drive is failing?

I do feel that at the six year old point a hard drive should
be considered at end of life and replaced to increase odds
of data retention, guarding against sudden failure even if
you are making regular backups, but without an indication it
is failing at the moment, a plan to replace the hard drive
can wait until you determine what, if anything, else is the

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What "data" do you need to copy over?  Maxtor and others
include a drive cloning program to duplicate your old drive
to your new one with the intention of booting to the new
drive the next time you boot, having the old one
disconnected at that point so the OS reconfigures itself to
consider the new drive the boot/OS drive before you hook the
old one back up, if ever.

If all you need do is copy some user data, not the whole OS,
simply connect the new drive, boot windows, and copy it
within windows Explorer.

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Do you think your power supply is failing?  If not, the
question seems a wild tangent.  Dell has used a few
different manufacturers which build custom to Dell specs,
when it is OEM proprietary, or simply offer an existing
design when it is not.

The first thing you need do is use a search engine to find a
standard ATX PSU connector pinout and compare it to your
PSU, and standard ATX PSU dimensions and compare those too.

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First you need to consider the spec of the system, CPU for
example, what tasks you use it for, and look at Windows'
Task Manager to see how much memory it's currently using for
those tasks.  Maybe you need more memory, maybe you don't.
Maybe you need more memory AND more CPU performance, and the
same goes for hard drive... maybe a newer faster drive is
needed right now, or maybe eventually but it isn't the
primary problem right now.

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You have not expressed your immediate problem nor your exact
goals.  Backing up data can be done several ways, it depends
on what that data is and when or where you'll need it again.

It seems others have half talked you into buying a new
system.  If the current one has a major part failing like
the motherboard that may be a good option, OR if it's
overrall performance is just too low for your tasks, but
otherwise it would be better to back up a bit and forget
everything except exactly what the system is doing *wrong*
now compared to when it was ok.

For example, if the system is instable don't hook up a new
hard drive and expect a good data backup, an instable system
could corrupt the data and if it is only a personal data
files you need, pulling the drive and copying it while
connected to another system might be the better option.

As for chosing between a USB2 external or internal drive,
either will suffice to copy data while running windows.  The
internal drive will be a little more compatible with many
3rd party cloning programs that boot to their own OS, though
many versions over the more recent years can work with USB2
external drives too, so ultimately the choice could be one
of which type you have more use for in the future.

If you're set on buying a new system you have no need for
either, just network the two systems together and copy the
files over the LAN.

Re: My XP Machine is dying - HELP

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Thanks for the response...  Until a guest moved in temporarily and
started using this computer, it was running a bit slow and I knew it
had been a while since I'd defragged the HDD so had plans on doing
that soon.  Suddenly, the loudness of the cooling fans (though COULD
BE the HDD) changes pitch and this machine starts to sound similar to
another Dell we have which is newer, slimline and the fan sound
fluctuates on a regular basis.  At about this same time, some files
programs all but stop opening when clicked, my PCTools Spyware Doctor
won't run (thought perhaps through this guest, I may have picked up
spyware or a virus of some kind).  A scan of my AVG turns up nothing
so what a puzzle.

I haven't blown the machine out lately so will do that next but am
starting to thnk the power supply may be acting up but it IS, one of
the three (HDD failing, PS failing or virus, etc).  Which is why I
came here for ideas.  If something were just a little loud, I'd be
concerned about that alone but suddenly the machine is acting up with
that extra loud - although it does sound much like the slimline that
speeds up and slows down and has out of the box since I purchased it
about a year ago.

I'm not anxious to buy a new machine because I like my XP and also
have a pretty big investment in software that runs on my XP.

I'm thinking if the power supply is failing, perhaps the best step
would be to remove the old hard drive and add it into a new machine
where I'd like to clone it over to the new HDD.  Regarding files, I'm
hoping to clone what I have from the OS up if possible.


Re: My XP Machine is dying - HELP

On Sat, 16 Jan 2010 13:47:56 -0800 (PST),

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Many have thermally controlled fans and will change speed
often during use, but unless the use pattern changed or the
ambient temps changed, a change in the fan noise is likely
to signal the bearings are wearing out, or just running dry
from lack of lube and will soon wear out.

You might peel the sticker back on the fan to see if it has
a sleeve bearing and if so, put a couple drops of thick oil
in it.  That could rejuvenate it and keep it running another
year or two... till the next time it needs lubed again.  

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Malware could do this, or a failing hard drive (or by
extension, part of the hard drive subsystem like a poor
connector or cable, you might try unplugging and replugging
the cables and using a different cable if you have another
available.  It is not likely to be the PSU or heat causing
this particular problem.

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It could be coincidence, a fan failing plus the other
problem, or if it is malware causing a high system load then
elevated temperature could cause more noticable fan noise
than you had previously.  You might try another malware and
antivirus scanner, look at what is running you can't
identify in Task Manager, and what loads at boot-time with a
utility like "Hijack This", then go a web search for any
entries on it's list that you can't identify as there are
bound to be a few things the OEM installed that load if you
haven't uninstalled all that OEM stuff.

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Run the hard drive manufacturer's diagnostics to check the
drive.  Also look in Windows' Event Viewer, a hard drive
problem often will put error messages there if the type of
problem where the drive still half works instead of
completely failing all at once.

A failing PSU could cause hard drive malfunction, but it
seems less likely since besides the primary problem the
system otherwise runs.  With a PSU problem you will more
often have a failure to turn on and POST, total crashing,
resets or most often and eventually, system just turns off
when the PSU protection circuit kicks in detecting out of
range voltage conditions.

I do agree it is a good idea to pull the drive and make a
backup of whatever you might need - even if the drive isn't
failing it is better to be safe than sorry.

A new drive's bundled software, or what is made available
from the manufacturer on their website will clone a drive.
For example Seagate offers an OEM version of Acronis
Trueimage, one of the most popular PC hard drive cloning
softwares available today.  IIRC, it simply requires having
the OEM's brand of hard drive installed, although if you
wanted to later buy the full retail software it should be
able to use the backup images without the same model of
drive in a system... and yet you may not need this
functionality, to just duplicate a drive but such types of
software are very handy for making full OS partition backups
in case a virus infection or other windows problem surfaces,
then you don't need to fix the problem and can instead just
restore the working backup.

Re: My XP Machine is dying - HELP wrote:
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About every HDD manufacturer provides software to back up everything
to another drive, either with the drive or as a downloadable file.
The only restriction is that at least one of the HDDs has to be from
the manufacturer.
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Specify Spanish because almost all of their Spanish-speakings techs
know English, and usually they're more knowledgeable.

The Dells I've seen had Delta or HiPro power supplies, but I've heard
that some were made with Bestec supplies, a brand you want to avoid.
If your Dell uses a normal-sized PSU with normal wiring on the big
connector (i.e., there are at least three orange wires on it, not just
one), then you can substitute a regular ATX PSU.  Otherwise order a
Delta from Dell.

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I think you should first find the source of the flakiness of the
computer, such as by running a self-booting diagnostic (Seagate/Maxtor
have one, but also has MHDD) to do a scan of all the
sectors.  It also wouldn't hurt to use a digital meter to measure the
voltages from the PSU and also for the CPU, memory slots, and video

A lot of Dell desktops made 6-7 years ago contained faulty Nichicon
brand capacitors (Nichicon is normally an excellent brand) that would
fail in just a couple of years and usually bulge on top, but some
failed with no visible signs.  Some of the motherboards needed only
six capacitors replaced, but earlier ones needed well over a dozen
changed. has more information.  The repair isn't
difficult or expensive if you can solder ( has lots of
detailed instructions).

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