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upgrading my parent's desktop


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Hey so I am looking into upgrading my parent's Vista desktop and looking for some suggestions. I already have a couple ideas, but I want to get some feedback and make sure I am not missing anything. As you can imagine a Vista PC with multiple users has been bogged down with tons of crapware over the years.



They use the computer for basic web browsing, MS Office, and Quicken. There are also thousands of family pictures stored in the computer organized with Windows Live Photo Gallery.


The computer is a Dell Inspiron 530s with Pentium E2180 dual core processor and 2gb of ram.


My first plan was just to wipe everything and start over with a clean Windows 8 install. I figure that Windows 8 is just plan faster than Vista on any hardware in addition to the fact that a clean install will get rid of any crap programs slowing the old system down.


I think I can dig up the license key for their office 2007, but does anyone have experience finding keys for Quicken? I doubt my dad can find his software box, and if we can't get Quicken back, then the whole operation is called off.



Phase Two would be to upgrade the hardware.


I like the fact that the PC is a slim model, and I was thinking of leaving the case, psu, dvd drive, and optical drive alone. Then I would only have to replace the motherboard, CPU and RAM.


Parts I am looking at are the ASRock H77M, Celeron G540, and 4GB of ram. I figure this would be under $150 for the whole upgrade. Any one see any compatibility issues here? Do you think the slim psu from the Dell will work with the ASRock h77 board?



Here are links to the parts:





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There is an application called "keyfinder" that should get all your product keys for you.

Second, I would upgrade the hardware before installing a new OS

Finally, it appears your parents are not power users and may find W8 a little "jarring" coming from Vists. You may want to consider W7 in order to mimisize IT support calls

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Be careful with upgrading the internals and not the case. Dell customer manufacture's their hardware and a lot of times their cases are not designed to hold standard motherboard sizes. You can try it, just know you may have to buy a new case if it doesn't fit


W7 or W8 would be fine on that hardware. However quicken will make it show its age and will be just as slow on a new OS as it is today.

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if the machine was good enough to run Vista, it will run Windows 7 with no problem and actually utilize the memory a lot better.


Keys: Use Belarc Advisor to find all the keys, and I mean all of them. Quicken has no keys unless you are wanting to unlock some extra features

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I second the comments about the case. Very often off-the-shelf motherboards will not fit into a Dell chassis.


I also second jmwills comment about not needing new hardware. Windows 7 will indeed run faster than Vista, especially after the system has been de-crappified. Not sure if there is room on the mobo, but you might want to boost the RAM to 3 or 4 GB. Just be aware, often Dell systems will only accept Dell RAM (the key-slot in a lot of Dell RAM is in a different location than mainstream RAM). You might want to check that out before deciding.

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Well I have Windows 8 up and running on the computer. Its very fast and smooth right now. Currently transferring 41,000 photos from the back up drive. The new copy/paste feature is as good as advertised. more updates to come.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Ok, so here is an update on the overall experience of upgrading my parents' desktop from Windows Vista to Windows 8 Pro. There were no hardware changes.


The first part of the story is that my external USB hard drive failed the night before. I had planned to use it for extra back ups and it also contained other utilities I might need.


Before we even started on the upgrade, I took my dad into the store to show him Windows 8 to make sure he could get used to it. I explained it as desktop mode and tablet mode. I showed the desktop first and then showed him that the start menu can be accessed from the same place as before. He said, "So I can just click on those tiles instead of the old start menu." I said yes and he said, "Cool, I can handle that." So that was that.


My dad had already started a backup and so we let that finish and I looked up product keys using Belarc Advisor which worked great. Thanks to jmwills for that recommendation. I also deauthorized iTunes. (But I forgot to uninstall Office.)


I downloaded the Windows 8 upgrade advisor and it ran through and offered the upgrade. I put in the credit card for $40 and we were off and running. It asked for the type of install I wanted and I chose clean. Then it sat there and ran for a while. The whole process was very simple and almost too simple, since I would have liked a few more details about what was going on. I was looking for this screen, but it didn't pop up until the end, and I was kind of afraid it was just going to reboot with out giving me the option for the ISO. But no problems. I chose to create media and burn it to a DVD.


I shut down the computer, unplugged everything and booted onto the DVD. I deleted all four old partitions and did a fresh install which created two partitions (one tiny, hidden partition) like I expected. It booted up and I signed in with my dads newly created outlook.com account. All the drivers seem to just work out of the box. I didn't install any at this point, though later the printer driver had to be installed.


I set up three more user accounts. Then I attempted to install Office 2007. My dad don't have his disc and since my portable hard drive had failed I didn't have the .exe file with me. I used Chrome remote desktop to log into my home computer, upload it to SkyDrive and then download the Office 2007 .exe file. For Quicken I had to start a support chat and give them my order number from 2010 and they had to put a new .exe file in my account again so I could re download it. Quicken installed fine. Office also installed but since I did not uninstall it from the previous computer, I had to call into Microsoft's automated activation service and get it activated again.


After that I just did some customization to get icons (I mean live tiles:) in good places for my dad. I started copying and pasting files from the backup to the C: drive. The new windows copy/paste is very nice. I set up my dad's Outlook and that was about it.


Over the next week or so, I used chrome remote desktop to access the computer and finish a few things. Chrome Remote desktop got the job done, but the experience wasn't great. It required my dad or brother to sit at the computer and initiate the access, and my control of the mouse often cut out. However, I was able to copy files from the back up to the correct libraries in the new system. I also installed the print driver and Windows Essentials Mail 2012.


Overall, this was not a bad process and really helped to give this desktop a second life. It is much faster than before. One last comment is that in the process of the upgrade, it seems to have installed the 32 bit version of Windows 8 Pro. Nowhere did it give me an option or inform me that this would be the case. I have read that if you do and upgrade from a previous 32 bit OS you must stick with 32 bit for Win 8. I would assume then that it was a 32 bit version Vista even though the processor supports 64 bit.

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