Rebuilding a new PC from old PC parts
July 29, 2004 1:41 AM   Subscribe

My old PC (Celeron 466, 128 MB RAM) died after many years of loyal service. I inherited a gutted computer case (mother board, power source, a Pentium III processor, nothing else.) Can I cannibalize my old PC for parts to build a new computer? More inside...

I googled around to check if the components in my old machine would be compatible in a new motherboard with a PIII processor, but couldn't find anything concrete. A friend told me that there would be compatability issues in such an up-grade.

Bought my old PC in 1998, and I am pretty sure that the hard drive simply got too old - grinding noises, startup hangups, freezing, previously documented on Ask Mefi. I can afford a new hard drive, but my finances are strapped so no new PC. I have another PC in the house, but it's configured to use Japanese Windows, making it tough to work on besides web surfing.
posted by zaelic to Computers & Internet (12 answers total)
I'd imagine you can probably use the RAM from the Celeron in the PIII machine, also the floppy drive and CD-ROM. Obviously as the hard drive has gone it's pointless moving that over, but small ones are pretty cheap on Ebay.
Then you have to get install an operating sytem, unless you have the disks (which as you're operating Japanese windows on the other machine seems unlikely) again it's possibly a question of Ebaying for a version of Windows/Linux (whatever your preference is).
posted by etc at 2:50 AM on July 29, 2004

The RAM is pretty much the only thing you can use... and maybe floppy/CD drives, like etc said. Now, a more pressing matter: why are all the Google ads on ths page HIV-related?
posted by ac at 4:12 AM on July 29, 2004

With the exception of the RAM, all hardware from your old PC should work in the new one.

RAM is rather problematic: there are multiple standards, so it's not certain it will be compatible with your new PC. Also, it depends on how your computer died. For example, if the fan failed and the CPU overheated the RAM should be fine, but if the motherboard is fried because of a power surge the RAM is probably dead too.

I would also replace the HD. And even if you decide to keep your old hard disk, you're likely going to have to reinstall Windows anyway (assuming you're using Windows). Windows installations don't deal very gracefully with being moved to a new PC.
posted by reynaert at 4:13 AM on July 29, 2004

I believe the hard drive on my PC simply got too old, and croaked. While it was dying I tried all kinds of diagnostic tests, with much help from Ask Mefi, and in the end it just gasped its last and stopped bootiung. I can start it up if I leave it off for about a week or two, and it has run long enough (about a half hour at a time) for me to save most of my important files, so I am happy to trash the HD. RAM, soundcards, LAN cards, CD-ROm and stuff seems to be fine in my old PC.

I worked in the office of an Internet music company that went pyrotchnically bankrupt last year, so as part of my meager "golden" parachute I got to take home one computer (the one we installed with Japanese Windows) and a bunch of parts, including a case - which I only later discovered had a motherboard and a PIII processor in it. I plugged it in and the processor seems to run OK. I suppose the RAM should be transferable - it came from the same pile of dead office hardware.

This is just a nasty summer for me to be throwing cash around, so I would really prefer to do a cannibal job if it is possible. I have my original English Windows CDs, though.
posted by zaelic at 4:38 AM on July 29, 2004

Here's a thought - what's stopping you installing English Windows on the Japanese Windows machine? (either overwriting it, or partitioning and doing a dual boot)
posted by etc at 5:47 AM on July 29, 2004

My girlfriend is stopping me, that's what... we both write freelance, keep odd hours, and being a Yank and a Japanese living together in Hungary we are dependant on the net for news and reading. So I gotta get a machine working on my own. Soon. Under budget. Cannibal instincts kick in. Hmmmm.... Long Pig!

It looks like I'm going to start by changing hard drives on my old machine, just to see what happens. If it works, I'll try putting it all in the other case with the faster processor.
posted by zaelic at 8:43 AM on July 29, 2004

well, if it's all free hardware, then nothing's stopping you from sticking it all together and seeing if it works. if the ram fits and it boots, then you win.
posted by Hackworth at 9:40 AM on July 29, 2004

For reading the news on the net, couldn't she just get a japanese reader? A lot of our grad students are from Asia and install all kind of lanuage viewers fot that exact reason.
posted by jmd82 at 9:46 AM on July 29, 2004

Hey zaelic, from my computer building experience, I'm not too optimistic about your prospects here, at least for re-using the RAM. One reliable way to find out about the compatibility is 1) google the "new" mainboard and see what kind of memory it accepts, then 2) check the serial number (on the individual chips) and google those to see if they're the compatible type. The CD-ROM is almost certainly usable, however.

You say you're on a budget, how much is it? I can't imagine you'd need to spend more than, say $300 to get *everything* needed to make a pIII mainboard run. Of course, it might be 300 euros instead, I haven't bought components in Europe lately. Way less if you have video and audio onboard (if not, those cards may well be incompatible with the new board, too).
posted by rkent at 10:49 AM on July 29, 2004

The budget for the next few months covers a lot of corn meal, rice, and chicken neck soup... it's pretty dire. I've been putting off fixing the PC for months due to the budget.

The RAM fits the other board. Since a lot of these components (cards, etc.) came from the same office, were bought at the same time (2000 or so), and were all from PCs slapped together by the company techies. I am crossing my fingers that it works.

We used to use a Japanese reader, but since my Gurufurendo writes a lot, she needs a full OS. Two freelance writers on one PC can lead to war, misery, desolation, and despair.
posted by zaelic at 11:12 AM on July 29, 2004

The RAM from an old C466 is almost certainly a DIMM of plain old generic PC-100 (or PC-66 if you were really unlucky). It's very likely that it will run -- slowly -- on the P3 board, but with the incredible cheapness of RAM these days, you could probably score a half gig of something better for almost no money at all.

Budget constraints being important, I wouldn't be surprised if you could manage to mooch a gig or more of PC-133 from friends and relatives if you scavenged dead, discarded, or unused machines and leftovers from upgrades. I threw away almost that much when I moved.
posted by majick at 12:01 PM on July 29, 2004

I'm with reynaert. The CD-ROM, floppy, video card, sound card, whatever else card, they will all work. They're based on standards that are still around even now, so they shouldn't be a problem. The main problem there would be if one of the old cards is old enough to be a different slot type. But if they fit in the new motherboard, they should work.

The RAM from your old PC was only running at 66MHz, so that is most likely it's max. The new PC will want to run the RAM at either 100MHz or 133MHz. If your old RAM works, it will work at 66MHz and make the whole system really slow.

So basically, plug things in where they fit and turn it on. Leave unnecessary things out at first, like the CD-ROM, sound, network, etc., though. That way you can boot up a minimal system, then add things incrementally as long as it keeps working.

If it does work, but it's really really slow, there may be ways to fix that. So, uh, come on back to Ask Mefi if that's the case, I guess.
posted by whatnotever at 4:56 PM on July 29, 2004

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