Friday, October 10, 2008

Dell Inspiron 8600 near end of life refresh

Original Configuration:
- So I bought this laptop back in October 2004. Dang, I've had this thing for 4 years now. Here are the specs as they were when purchased:
Intel Pentium M Processor 725(1.60A GHz/400MHz FSB)
15.4 WSXGA+ (1680X1050)
Microsoft Windows XP Professional
512MB,333MHz 1 DIMM
30GB Hard Drive
Wireless Networking Cards Intel PRO/Wireless 2200 Internal Wireless (802.11 b/g, 54Mbps)
NEC CD ROM/DVD ROM 8x CD/DVD burner (DVD+RW/+R) with double-layer write capability
Network Card Integrated 10/100 Network Card and Modem

Initial Upgrades:
- I did some minor upgrades right away after purchasing the laptop.
- Added internal bluetooth (installation diagram). Part #2U381; cable - 5X617. I ordered directly from dell's parts department:
Dell Spare parts
Home/Home Office Accounts - 800-247-9252
- Dropped in another 512mb of ram for a total of 1gb.
- Swapped out the hard drive with a hitachi 7200rpm 60 gig HD with 8mb cache.

New Hardware Upgrades:
- So I used the laptop for many years in that configuration. In the past year the laptop was feeling slower and slower. Boot times were taking forever. Just launching firefox took forever. I was having S3 sleep and even occasional hibernation issues. It really is time to get a new laptop but I was thinking I could do some upgrades and maybe use it for a bit longer. Installing winxp sp3 didn't help much (I was still on the ORIGINAL factory winxp install....yeah I know I know). So I'll document all the things I did to basically give me what feels like an almost new laptop. All it takes is a little time and money and a jewelry screwdriver. I did all the following upgrades spread over the last year.
- Upgrade the bios to the latest version (A14).
- First up was upgrading the ram to the maximum of 2gb (2x1gb sodimm). When it comes to laptops I usually like to start at and use their memory advisor tool to confirm which memory is compatible since laptops can be a tad more picky than desktops. After that I just hoped over to newegg and picked up two sticks of:
Crucial 1GB 200-Pin DDR SO-DIMM DDR 333 (PC 2700) Laptop Memory - Retail
- Next, I swapped out the hard drive again. 60gb is just too tiny by today's standards. Unfortunately, 7200 rpm 2.5" PATA drives weren't being made in the larger sizes. Those were all sata. So I had to settle for:
Western Digital Scorpio WD1600BEVE 160GB 5400 RPM 8MB Cache ATA-6 Notebook Hard Drive - OEM
which was the largest PATA 2.5" drive at that time (250gb 2.5" pata drives are now available).

Speed isn't so bad on these newer higher capacity and therefore higher density platter 5400 rpm drives. In fact, the hdtach scores were pretty close to the old 60gb 7200prm drive.
If you want to copy your OS to the new hard drive I recommend VANTEC CB-ISATAU2 SATA/IDE to USB 2.0 Adapter - Retail (I picked up a bunch of these last year on black Friday at Fry's for $10 each) along with Acronis True Image. Just connect the new 2.5" drive up to the laptop using USB and run True Image. True Image has the option of creating a bootable cd with true image on there (boots up a version of linux) which is my preferred way of doing things. I took the old 60gb and bought another hard drive caddy from ebay for only a few dollars. This way you can use the old hard drive for experimentation, installing alternative os's, etc with the ability to swap drives by removing just one screw.
- I swapped out the optical drive with a samsung which is much faster and more reliable. You can read the complete details of this upgrade here:
Samsung Slim DVD Burner SN-S082H
- My optional battery that fit into the modular bay (part 4r084) died a year or so back. You can get used ones from ebay for around $20 shipped. My main battery still works ok. I get around 2hrs out of it. If you need a new one zbattery has one for $123 or you can try ebay for around $50. I've never bought a replacement laptop battery so I can't vouch on the quality of either product.
- I've also ordered a SDHC capable (plus memory stick) PCMCIA Cardbus card reader from ebay for around $15-20 shipped. It's just one of those convenient things that most modern laptops have. Since my pc card slot is sitting empty most of the time I might as well put a card reader into it. UPDATE: Be very careful about most of those ebay card adapters. Most of them are old 16 bit pcmcia cards. They work, even read sdhc, but really slowly (say around usb 1.1 speeds) and will use 100% cpu so you can't really do anything else. You can tell by the silver stripe near the connector end of the card. 32bit cards have a gold stripe (here is a pic). I'm still looking for a 32bit pcmcia sdhc card reader that sits flush. I'm not sure if one exists.

Operating System:
- After all the hardware upgrades I was still not happy with the performance. I figured it was time to install a clean copy of windows. I've subscribed to technet which gives me access to all the operating systems and office products. My subscription is only a year but the keys I get are good for life. Also, you get 10 keys for each product. So if you have a lot of pc's in the house this is the most economical way to go. The regular price is $349. If you dig around you can get that closer to $200ish after a coupon. Once in a while you can get an incredible deal for around $100 which is what I did. Yeah that's right. Every flavor of office, windows xp, vista, most of the server versions (except home server), and much more for $100. But even at the regular price Technet is still a pretty awesome deal if you own multiple pc's. Forget buying OEM copies from newegg. Technet is a much much better value in most cases.
- So now came the time to either reinstall xp or go for vista. Yes, I was one of those Vista haters earlier this year but in the last 6 months after building my two quad core desktop machines with Vista, I've gotten use to most of Vista's quirks. It's actually kind of grown on me. I like aero glass. So I decided to go with Vista Ultimate 32bit. I was a little wary since I would be installing Vista on some pretty old hardware. I do have experience with this. I even got vista working on a socket A - athlon xp pc. So I'm pretty good about finding old win xp drivers and shoehorning them into vista 32bit.
- So I backed up all my data and reformatted the drive doing a clean install of Vista Ultimate 32bit with sp1. Everything went suprisingly smooth. Almost all the hardware was automatically detected fine/installed drivers including audio, the built in ethernet, wireless networking, and bluetooth. There were only a few things I had to go hunt down.
- Obviously no new drivers have been released by dell for ages since this laptop way predates Vista's existence. For video drivers I used this:
which let me install the latest catalyst drivers which seemed to work fine with my mobility 9600 pro turbo. I tested guild wars, some source games over steam, gametap, and Knights of the Old Republic 2. They all ran fine though not with the greatest framerates. Considering the age of this laptop I was pretty satisfied. Running at 1280X800 works pretty well and maintains the 16:10 aspect ratio.

- For the touchpad I used the following drivers:
Alps GlidePoint/StickPointer, v., A00
- Broadcom BCM Internal Modem. I used Newest - V.92 Data/Fax/Voice version 3.5.25 for Windows 2000 & XP. Even though it says it's only for xp it seemed to install fine for vista.
- I use the TRENDnet TEG-PCBUSR 32-bit Gigabit CardBus PC Card for when I want to burn something over the local network at a full 8X. It works great in vista as long as you use these drivers:
Do NOT use the realtek reference drivers!

I have to say this little project was well worth the effort. Current prices as of this writing put the hardware upgrades around $200. It almost feels like I have a new laptop. Everything loads and runs faster. Vista is plenty snappy. All the hardware works just fine. Games work fine. I have a good amount of memory and plenty of free disk space. My DVD burns are quick and reliable. Sleep is working great now. I can just close the lid and it drops into S3 standby (killawatt shows only 4 watts being used in this state). Open the lid, and I can almost instantly start using the laptop. I'm happy, the wife's happy. This should let me put off buying a new laptop for at least another year (well...unless a cheap dual core atom netbook shows up then I might not be able to resist).

UPDATE: 8/30/09
- So I decided to install Windows 7 Ultimate x86 (MSDN) today. I backed up my data, reformatted the partition, and installed a clean copy.
- Things went pretty smoothly. There were just a few more driver issues. First, the wireless networking drivers didn't install (wired was working fine). Now, I also noticed later that I had the radios turned off (wifi/bluetooth with fn-f2) so that might have been part of the issue. But if you need to install the wireless networking drivers manually these worked fine for me (that is if you opted for the intel wireless instead of the dell brand):
Intel Pro/Wireless 2200BG
- I also had to install audio drivers:
Sigmatel STAC 9750 AC97
- The above glidepoint, broadcom internal modem, and trendnet gigabit drivers that I used for vista worked fine in windows 7.
- Finally, I ran into some video driver issues. First, I used the mobility modder along with the recommended ati catalyst 9.3 drivers. It installed fine and directx was working but I lost all ability to scale to full screen. The options were just missing from CCC. This is pretty critical for such an old laptop. I typically run games at lower resolutions (1280X800) and then have the video card scale the image to full screen. Instead everything was playing in a tiny box surrounded by a large black border. I ended up uninstall those drivers and installed these instead:
DNA ATI Modified drivers
These are based off of catalyst 8.9 and installed just fine. I got all my scaling options back, and it's working great with my games.
- Another option worth checking out is I noticed a lot of drivers have been moved into windows update. So make sure you check the optional recommended updates for any potential missing drivers.
- Everything else worked just fine in windows 7 including bluetooth. S3 sleep seems to be working fine too. No problems with fn + sound/brightness. Overall, well worth the upgrade. I really like windows 7 and the new taskbar. It performs quite well on old hardware too.


Anonymous said...

Nice to read all about your Dell modifications, I have and 8500 myself, and same as you do I been trying to get the most out of it for as long as 5 years now, and to be true there are just a handfull laptop faster than mine on the place I work (and very newer ones), I also change the hard drive, got the max ram possible, add a wireless card, a modular bay extra battery, change the old main battery with a higher power output battery (from and after all that I got into the OS and modify a series of parameters (winxp tricks and cheats) and let me tell you so far so good, I think this machine is going to be with me at least 2 more years. Best regards. Adolfo.

Unknown said...

Inspiron 8600:

I had a customer bring in one with a blank display..worked fine I had some inverters, so I replaced the inverter, and the picture came up for a few minutes...all pink, and then go blank..hmm, I guess it was the I got a bulb off of ebay, 10$...replaced it, but my phat fingers broke it putting it back, this customer took it elsewhere first, and they condemned the laptop...soooo I told him I could fix it by replacing the screen...priced them up, and told him he was looking at about $200. He said he had the lappy (2) years, and did not want to invest any money into it...asked me what it was worth. I told him to me, I would give him $80 for the lappy, and not charge anything for the time deal.

It WAS a Dell Inspiron 8600, 40gb, 512mb of ram, 15.4" wxga, 32mb Nvidia. I was going to strip it, but went retarded and decided to play with it...

First, I found out that this thing is very modular...lots o' pieces come off. I found a WSXGA screen (major upgrade over standard widescreen) on ebay for $ had some physical defects...what looked like large scratches on screen, but was told they are not really visible when powered on, thus the low price. I bought it..and it looked bad off, but looked great when on..the resolution is high as all get out, so the picture is sickly sharp! Well, I decided to clean the screen, a small bit of the "scratch" came off..I thought "heeeeeyyyyy" I broke out the 'ol bug and tar remover, cleaned it with that, and viola! screen looks good as new! I am starting to fall in love with my patient.

Next I take out the memory, and add (2) 1gb a bit o', while I had it apart to clean...I notice that the video card comes out..sweet...but I want to know to my friend Google I go...turns out it is upgradeable...after some research I decide to go with the ATI 128MB Radeon 9600 pro...only a mere $125 on the 'bay.

Well, all this new found greatness needs more drive I go to the 'egg, and get me a mere 120gb perpendicular technology hard drive for her....sweet...

By now, it has consumed me, and I throw all caution of funding to the wind...what else I think??? Hmm, no wireless card..well, there is an internal $15 later I have a broadcom internal wireless G card in....

Then I installed a beta great for a week, then gets hit by the MS bullet, and the kool functions stop whats a fool to do??? Go to LINUX!!!

I decide on UBUNTU...which is cool as great...but no wireless...hmmm, sheet....seems that Broadcom and Linux are not good friends.....after (3) days..finally got a driver to work, which is a chore in itself with Linux...not for the faint of heart..Linux is like Latin or some other obscure lost language...

Well, the lappy project began losing it's kept locking up, wireless dropping out, multiple reboots...really bumming me out....Then after it sat idle for (2) weeks, I got the gumption to pull out the broadcom, roll the dice, and replace it with an Atheros mini-pci "N" card...Linux found it instantly on boot, and wireless signal went full...KICK-ASS! Speeds were awesome..and no more lockups, or wireless dropouts...seems like Atheros likes Linux, and supplies Linux community with drivers..schweet!

So now I am loving my lappy is light, fast as scheet...has an aluminum lid, and works..the battery lasts like 3.5hrs...a nice plus...Power supply died...ordered a 3.3a replacement..but have since found out that the 4.6a is recommended and better..just ordered that last night.

I just found out that Dell makes a bluetooth module for it, internal of I got on th'bay and bought that joker last!

Total investment: Lappy $80, LCD bulb (that I broke) $10, screen $85, Ram, $120, Video Card, $125, Broadcom card $15, Hard drive $70, Atheros card $18, power supply $25, better PS, $25, Bluetooth Card $ 12, Cable for BT card, $ 7

I just added the DVD+/_ RW...went all out with the specs..full Dual Layer support. I alos pulled out the centrino 1.5ghz cpu and upped it to the 2.1ghz processor, which is a bit pricey, but is the fastest processor it will accept.

All in All, I spent way more than it is worth, but it SMOKES my nephews new Dual Core 64-bit go figure. It was fun, and I did it over a couple of months. I highly recommend that everyone try to extend the life of their 8600's.

ARogan said...

Ron, great story. Thanks for sharing. After all my upgrades my wife really likes the laptop. She likes it so much she's pretty much taken it over and doesn't really even turn on her desktop anymore. Hmm...looks like I'll need a another laptop at some point.

Unknown said...

Thanks, your story inspired me to tell my own. Linux worked great, but not for the faint of heart if you are a tweaker coming from the Windows world..I crashed it and had to re-install 4 times before I could get it stable again, but it is a great OS, with a lot of great features...I'll add you to my XBL buddy list...My tag is AirtekHVAC.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to both of you. I am already taking your advice on some of these upgrades.My 8600 is at least 5yrs old. Am running Ubuntu for now.

Anonymous said...

Hey All,
I love my 8600 because it works, or should I say worked. It is exactly the same as it was when I bought it from dell outlet circa 2003. I am writing to ask if anyone could tell me why my "asdfjkl;" keys suddenly and completely stopped working. New keyboard from ebay with same problem. Is my computer dead? Sorry, I am a neurologist not actually much of a computer guy.

Unknown said...

Hmmm, that's a weird one...I repair PC's, and have not come across that...I'll poke around and see what I can they do anything?...Is the num-lock stuck on by any chance?

Jamie said...

I'm a long time Mac Geek, though I acquired a Dell 8600 and did a few reparis and upgrades and have been running ubunut. IT Rocks!! I recommend simply spending $19 for an intel wireless card and all will be good.
I'm thinking of replcing hte 1.4 P4 CPU but not sure of the socket etc.. Does anybody know for certain the compatibility specs. BTW for the brain DR. just get a new keyboard on eBay, around $25 bucks.


Kraig Roche said...

What a great post! I so totally agree with upgrading this laptop. I have mine from December '04 and it works pretty good for it's age. I have it at 1.5 GB Ram and the 80 GB HDD. I am looking to upgrade the HDD though and have been scoping out internal bluetooth as well. Either of you guys have a link to the things I would need for that?
Mine has the ATI 9600 and I just ordered a mod bay battery. I have been dual booting XP and Vista for over a year now and it runs both pretty well. It's not the fastest laptop ever but was so worth it. I love the keyboard on this so much over my netbook (Lenovo S10, which I also recommend). I have used this thing so much the touchpad is losing paint and the protective covering. I have a bunch of spare parts including a keyboard and screen backing so I think I'll be set for another year with it.

ARogan said...

Kraig, glad you liked the post. There seems to be a quite the 8600 fan club out there. I posted the part numbers and installation diagram for the internal bluetooth in the original post. I would just call dell and ask to transfer to the parts department and just order direct if they still carry the part (I did this years ago). You can also just google the part numbers. Ebay seems to have one for sale too:

Unknown said... need the Pentium-M Centrino 765, SL7V3. There is a few on eBay...with (1) of at a steal for $ 149.99. That is the fastest the mobo can careful not to get the wrong need the one with 400mhz front side bus, as there is another with a 533 mhz will not work.

Anonymous said...

HI guys, I hope this thread is still being watched. I've got an 8600 and have already done some upgrades that I see as the normal thing to do. I've got the WUXGA (1920 x 1200) res screen already. I've switched the wireless for a Atheros G card two years ago. I've maxed it to 2GB RAM and it has a 250GB HD. That's all regular stuff. Now I'm thinking about some serious hacking... hardware mods etc.

I've got a D/Dock docking station that takes one PCI card but it refuses to work with a Inspiron even though its the same motherboard as Latitude D800 and Precision M60 which its designed for - somehow I need to change the BIOS to one of those. Not sure how, perhaps some kind of clip on EEPROM programmer while the computer is switched off...

CPU is only 1.7Ghz 1MB L2 cache Banius. I want to change to 755 2.0 2MB cache Dothan or even beter the 2.1Ghz 765 if I can get one for a decent price.

I overclock my machine by 11% to just under 1.9Ghz. If I go 12% then the sound dies.

I thought about changing the RAM from PC2700 to PC3200 and seeing if there is a way of modding the board to switch the PLL to up the RAM speed to 200Mhz (plus 11% overclock) from current PC2700 166Mhz. Just an idea, don't know if its possible.

I've ordered a new LCD backlight to make the screen bright again, should be here in Australia next week from the US (love ebay :D )

Recently I noticed there are SATA second HD bays for the Latitude D800 and they should work on the Inspiron if its true. Its a bit expensive at US$70 but I might put in a 500GB drive with one of those and down the track replace the internal 250GB with a SSD when prices become realistic.

Once its been brainwashed into thinking its a Precision M60 it will be time to solder on the missing USB port and internally mount a USB hub and SD card reader so I can easily swap stuff with my iPaq 210 :-)

Recently I got a Vantec HD dock with USB, eSATA and firewire. Currently I use firewire so the CPU load is low and transfer is high (kicks USB's arse!). A sata card is essential, either PCMCIA or perhaps PCI when I finally get it D/Docked.

I customised the hell out of XP to speed it up heaps and will soon add a 512MB Ram drive for all the temp files etc to supposedly give it a 5 or 6 fold increase in performance (fingers crossed)

I'm considering the idea of putting in a Killer M1 gaming NIC into the D/Dock which offloads all the networking to the special (running on Linux) network card. Its how the old IBM AS/400's were able to run NT without crashing and be fast - they wrenched all the networking away from Windows. Networking is what made it so unstable and slow.

ATI 9600 Pro extreme HW mod idea - delicate soldering required. You could replace the RAM with faster RAM from a 9600 XT and MAYBE the GPU also (it runs upto 500Mhz instead of 400Mhz) and much more easily replacing the RAM on the card. There is a common hardware mod to refurbish the heat sink on the Dell ATI card to keep it cooler and allow it to run at its full 400Mhz as they slowed it down to 327Mhz for stability cause it gets too hot with crap Dell heat paste on the heatsink. With the full mod you could perhaps get another 50% speed out of the card :-)

OK perhaps I'm going a bit over the top and yes the ATI upgrade is perhaps pushing things beyond realistic (though technically possible).

What do you guys think? And do you know how to change the BIOS of the 8600 to be a Latitude D800 or Precision M60?

Supposedly when you change it to M60 or D800 the LAN will upgrade to Gigabit which is crippled by 8600 BIOS.

Its inspirational to read your work :D

Feel free to email me about this, change the URL from Austria TLD to an @ symbol ;-)

ARogan said...

Greg, dude you are hard core. Yeah ummm I never cross flashed a laptop motherboard bios, and I probably won't start now but good luck to you.

Unknown said...

This is a great post, I am so happy I found you guys :)
I also have done some mods to my 8600 bought it back in 2003, its still kickin' and kickin' good. 1st day I got it I replaced the Hard drive with that same 60gb 7200 RPM which back then was the fastest you could put in that old buddy. I also added back then 1gb of ram.
Today, I found this post, because instead of getting rid of it, I want to increase its life span even more :)
Thanks to you guys I found all the info I need o do so. My shopping list:
1) replace the old 256mb 2nd ram dimm with a new one 1GB to match the current, expanding it to 2GB.
2) Replace the wireless card (I just upgraded my network to draft N and gigabit. So I plan to use tha same ron mentioned (this was one of the missing pieces in the puzzle).
3) For the GBit, I plan to use the pcmcia port as it will only be usefule when I am docked.
4) Now that I read this post, I actually got inspired, and would like to upgrade video and cpu... we'll see how that progresses :)

thanks to you guys... and its awesome to see this good old laptop has a good fan base.


Unknown said...

I am continually amazed by this laptop compared to even the newer models. I have had several HP and Compaq machines, even another Dell, and they all are dead, while this thing just keeps on chugging. Running Linux, I don't get to enjoy the full potential of my mods, I think Windows would be more of a challenge for the hardware. I ran Vista before I did the mods on it, but could not resist trying Linux.

Helmut, certainly go with the Atheros card...I could not be more pleased.

something else I don't think was previously mentioned...battery life...perhaps I got lucky, but I am running gkrellm, and have my fans set to continuous full speed, and I still get almost 3 hours out of the battery...and it is the original!

This is perhaps the best laptop I have ever had, hands down. Now I am thinking about changing the screen to a "glossy" one.

good Luck!

ARogan said...

Ron, could you maybe post more details on which atheros model card you picked up and where?

Unknown said...

I couldn't agree more, this laptop was built to last. Its top quality, seems like a commercial, but it amazes me how long it has lasted... On top of that, just like you, I am running on the original battery, I get between 2 to 2.5 hours.

I couldn't find the atheros card any where, and I have been looking every where on-line, so, the only other 2 anthena connectors card I found is one they are selling through amazon from a different store:

I don't know which chip set it has, but I couldn't find any other card.For 28 bucks being an OEM draft N card is not exactly a bargain, but I am hoping it works, I'll let you know once I have it.

Trying to avoid issues later I searched to find the same memory I put back in 2003 :P funny enough is not that easy to find any more, but I manage to find it in memoryT website its a kingmax, you can find kingston every where... but the kingmax was not that easy to spot and the price wasn't as good as the other brands either, so I pulled that 1gb for 48 bucks.

I am not sure I will need the bigger HD any more given the usage I have for the laptop.. but I am still thinking about it.

I am hunting now for the bluetooth card, Ron reported he got it for 14 bucks, I haven't been able to find it for that price, I saw it in 2 online stores (again hard to spot) but its going for 43 dollars... given the price Ron reported.. I did not buy it... Tomorrow I will call dell parts and see if they carry it and at what price. Ebay has one from the UK going for 14 bucks.. but its already bid on and...well, I would rather buy in the US to avoid high shipment costs.

I'll let you know what happens. Thanks!

Unknown said...

I'll try to find the info...I got it on ebay, as well as the BT card...In fact, ebay is where I got all the parts, except the hard drive, which came from newegg. I'll pop it open next day or two and get the info. off the card.

I think this is the one I got, but I think I got it from a US seller a bit cheaper...|65%3A1|39%3A1|240%3A1318|301%3A0|293%3A1|294%3A50

Anonymous said...

this is a great post. I inherited this laptop and I had her change to a Seagate 7200RPM drive some time back. I have also changed the wireless card to a TP-Link Draft N wireless card. Had to replace the power pack. Installed Vista Enterprise and it works pretty good. My only issues are the keyboard (sister spilled coke on it) DC jack needs to be replaced. I bought the part and a friend is going to fix it for me. Battery holds a charge but will run from 100 percent to 70 and shut down LOL
Also upgraded to the max RAM @2G Crucial 2700.

Alex said...


Thanks so much for this post. As a real tech newbie, this was really easy to understand. I followed most of your recommendations on the RAM and HDD. The result? Much, much faster response and I didn't have to buy a new computer.

Anonymous said...

I like the next to last post, inherited an 8600 from my brothers daughter. She said a beer had been spilled on it. That was not the case. It was infected. It finally shut down with a line that says, windows does not start file missing or corrupt \windows\system32\config\system. My plan is to reinstall a ADMIN copy of windows XP Pro. What i am trying to find is a systems disk, any ideas. I went on the Dell web, could not find it. I offered to buy it in a email, got a response that refered to warenty?

Am I going at this the right way. I have a 1.7, 40 gig hdd. 1/2 gig ram. once I get this running, I will be doing all of the upgrades that you did. Am I going to be running into any problems with my approach or from Dell. Greg

ARogan said...

if you need xp pro you might just go pick up an oem copy for someplace like newegg:

Unknown said...

Well, Just got another one on ebay, to give to my daughter. I had to replace the mobo (with one from ebay), but used all the parts from mine in the earlier post. Got less than $100 in it, and another rockin' laptop!

Anonymous said...

Ron I loved your story and I would also like to have my laptop running really fast..the only thing I had updated is the bios, and also the memory to 2gb.

I view a lot of video and steam HQ video, and more speed instead of stop and start videos that I get. I refurbished it because I dropped it and cracked the casing. Also how did you fix the power supply without changing the motherboard. I just love it the way it is just want it to be it because you adapted to Linux OS. I am technically challenged but want to be able to do my own hardware upgrades.

Unknown said...

Thanks! I actually had problems with the AC adapter...not the internal power supply. It is model PA-10, and you can buy them all day long on ebay for less than $10. The latest one I bought for my daughter had a bad mobo, and I picked one up on ebay for like $30 with (1) bad USB has (2), so no big deal. I think XP is pretty quick as well, since that is what is on hers, but linux is way fast, I suspect due to less bloated code. Another nice mod is the covers available. So far I have found Lava Red, Burlwood, and Silver swirl. Go to ebay and search for inspiron 8600 cover. You get a nice snap on cover for $20+/- to enhanc the looks a bit! These are pretty awesome units.

Unknown said...

Wow, this is really useful, detailed information. My daughter got a used 8600 running Vista about a year ago. and lately she's been having really serious speed issues, particularly on boot up and shut down.

We were on the verge of getting a new laptop. Your post gives me a lot of possibilities to check out, instead. Hey, I might finally get the video driver issues solved so she can run Blender (3D graphics program) again.

Thank you so much!

ARogan said...

Glad you found it helpful. Windows 7 has been running pretty well so far on this laptop so I would definitely recommend giving it a try.

Investeraren said...

Hi ARogan, I have a D800 1.7Ghz, 2GB ram, on which I installed Windows 7 RTM yesterday. Smooth and nice, updated graphics card and sounddrivers as you mentioned above. One unknown driver missing though... Question: does your CPU run at full freq. all the time or does speedstep work as it should by clocking down when OS is idle?


Richard said...

Got my 8600 as part of my works PC@HOME project.

Spec when new :
SCREEN : WUXGA (1920x1200)
RAM: 512 MB (DDR 333)
HDD: 60GB (7200rpm)

Whats changed:

2006: RAM >1.5GB (really should have got 2 sticks of 1GB at the time!)

2007: HD died changed to Samsung HM160JC (160GB 5400rpm)

Used 3yr onsite support to replace whole screen due to dead pixels.

2009: Installed today: CPU >(SL7V3) 2.1Ghz M 765 from the ebay (California to Belgium ($100 & $15 post & 10€ customs duty)

Performance :
Running Vista & 7 RC1 (Rating 3.6 slow for the drive CPU 3.2 > 3.8

Need to look for a cheap internal DVD burner.

Many thanks for your tips, a few more years out this old beast yet.

ARogan said...

Looking at cpu-z my cpu is locked at 1.6ghz all the time so unfortunately it doesn't seem like speedstep is working under Windows 7. If you find a solution please let us know.

Richard said...

hi, well not sure what different between RC1 & RTM but my machine is running cpu-z 1.52.1 and the core speed floats from 595.6Mhz using X6 Multiplier up to 2098Mhz using x21 Multiplier

Wth Speedstep enabled in the BIOS.......

Richard said...

You do realise that the CPU needs a load to increase speed, try openeing a programme which is heavy on the system or a website far away from you and watch CPZ-U

ARogan said...

Yes I know about needing to put a load on the cpu. I used rthdribl_1_2 (which is a quick little directx benchmark I like to use on new builds just to make sure the 3d stuff is working right). I guess If I wanted to put a really heavy load I could use occt or orthos but rthdribl is usually definitely enough for the cpu to speedstep up. Besides, what I was seeing in cpuz was my cpu at max speeds all the time (1.6ghz) even when there was no cpu load. The problem is it is not stepping down (to save on battery life) vs stepping up.

Anonymous said...

Dear ARogan (and all the posters) this website is amazing! in a few minutes I found some answers to old questions. Please, keep it going on. I'm also the owner of a Dell 8600 (or she's sometimes the owner of this owner...)and I love it every day more. A MILLION THANKS!!!

Anonymous said...

Dear ARogan & Inspiron 8600 fans
I have found 2 kind of the Atheros Wireless card: the "Atheros AR5008 Wireless Mini PCI Card 802.11n 300Mbps" and the "Atheros 5008 AR5BXB72 802.11n Wireless PCI-E Card 300M" (the difference in the form are specified by the "PCI" against the "PCI-E"... Can someone tell us which one is the right one for the Dell Inspiron 8600? THANKS A LOT ARogan

ARogan said...

My guess would be the PCI one. PCI-E probably means pci express. The 8600 definitely doesn't have that.

Anonymous said...

Dear ARogan & Inspiron 8600 fans:
I'm searching for the CPU Intel Pentium M 765 CPU SL7V3 2.10GHz / 2MB / 400FSB (called also DOTHAN to replace my Intel Pentium M 1.7 (called also BANIAS)
I try to contact a seller in eBay but he doesn't answer my e-mails asking about rush shipping and handling... Please maybe some one know a realibale seller for this CPU? THANKS A LOT!

Georgy said...

Sadly speedstep did stop to work with the launch of Windows Vista and I had problems with the temperature of the notebook. I did search for a long time and did finally find RMClock which is a great utility to change the CPU frequency. I run it for about 3 years now and never had problems with it!!! Although the temperature on Vista is about 50-60C (full load) and about 45C (idle) (cpu with 1.7Ghz) I have no stability problems. Compared to Linux 42C idle and about 60C with full load. I use also a Zalman notebook cooler which really helps me a lot to extend the life of this notebook.
I do really heavy compilation tasks and software development related things when I am using windows and without RMClock, it just would not be possible. If someone is interested I can share some of the RMClock settings.

An other great help is the APC UPS, which allows me to remove the notebook battery and increase the cooling performance of my zalman notebook cooler.

I am putting here a part of the log:
01:50:33.835, Clock: 1698.55, Throttle: 99.99, FID: 17.0, VID: 1.340, CPULoad: 97.16, OSLoad: 97.00, CoreTemp: N/A
01:50:34.836, Clock: 1698.56, Throttle: 100.00, FID: 17.0, VID: 1.340, CPULoad: 71.11, OSLoad: 70.00, CoreTemp: N/A
01:50:35.838, Clock: 1298.89, Throttle: 99.99, FID: 13.0, VID: 1.340, CPULoad: 49.05, OSLoad: 44.00, CoreTemp: N/A
01:50:36.839, Clock: 1099.03, Throttle: 100.00, FID: 11.0, VID: 1.340, CPULoad: 80.14, OSLoad: 80.00, CoreTemp: N/A
01:50:37.840, Clock: 1298.90, Throttle: 99.99, FID: 13.0, VID: 1.340, CPULoad: 44.40, OSLoad: 47.00, CoreTemp: N/A
01:50:38.872, Clock: 799.33, Throttle: 99.99, FID: 8.0, VID: 1.340, CPULoad: 41.28, OSLoad: 44.00, CoreTemp: N/A
01:50:39.843, Clock: 999.17, Throttle: 100.00, FID: 10.0, VID: 1.340, CPULoad: 63.94, OSLoad: 62.00, CoreTemp: N/A
01:50:40.845, Clock: 599.47, Throttle: 99.99, FID: 6.0, VID: 1.340, CPULoad: 64.75, OSLoad: 57.00, CoreTemp: N/A
01:50:41.846, Clock: 599.48, Throttle: 99.99, FID: 6.0, VID: 1.340, CPULoad: 61.35, OSLoad: 63.00, CoreTemp: N/A
01:50:42.848, Clock: 1298.87, Throttle: 99.99, FID: 13.0, VID: 1.340, CPULoad: 63.96, OSLoad: 65.00, CoreTemp: N/A
01:50:43.849, Clock: 599.49, Throttle: 100.00, FID: 6.0, VID: 1.340, CPULoad: 50.23, OSLoad: 48.00, CoreTemp: N/A
01:50:44.851, Clock: 799.33, Throttle: 99.99, FID: 8.0, VID: 1.340, CPULoad: 62.24, OSLoad: 57.00, CoreTemp: N/A
01:50:45.852, Clock: 599.48, Throttle: 99.99, FID: 6.0, VID: 1.340, CPULoad: 46.07, OSLoad: 44.00, CoreTemp: N/A
01:50:46.853, Clock: 599.49, Throttle: 99.99, FID: 6.0, VID: 1.340, CPULoad: 46.38, OSLoad: 41.00, CoreTemp: N/A
01:50:47.855, Clock: 1698.56, Throttle: 99.99, FID: 17.0, VID: 1.340, CPULoad: 82.54, OSLoad: 77.00, CoreTemp: N/A
01:50:48.856, Clock: 1099.04, Throttle: 100.00, FID: 11.0, VID: 1.340, CPULoad: 55.32, OSLoad: 52.00, CoreTemp: N/A

Investeraren said...

Hi Georgy, thanks for your reply on the Speedstep issue. I would love to see your RMclock settings!

I tried installing RMclock when I installed Vista a few years back and it installed but locked up when I used it, same problem on a fresh installation of win7 rtm a month ago. Did you use any compatibility mode when you installed it?

Questions: Have you tried RMclock on windows 7?

Anonymous said...

Dear ARogan and Inspiron 8600 fans
Finally, and thanks to all your posts, I succeed to find and buy a brand new (not refurbished) 2.1 CPU SL7V3 to change the original old 1.7 CPU.
Also, in a few days I will receive the new 250 Gb. 7200 rpm I just order, I already have 2 Gb memory... Until now everything cheaper than buy a new notebook... and I really love my I8600...
Still have two questions and need some help:
1) Some one have a reliable web site where I can found orientations to change safely and orderly the CPUs.
2) someone knows if there is a safely way to add memory to my ATI MOBILITY RADEON 9600 PRO TURBO? (it already has 128 MB) I would like to have at least 250... Or there is a way to change / upgrade the ATI adapter - graphic card to a better more "charged" model?
PS: I also would like to found a 802.11n wireless N card for this notebook... any advice someone?

cheap computers said...

It really is time to get a new laptop but I was thinking I could do some upgrades and maybe use it for a bit longer.

Anonymous said...

Dear fellows, My Dell Inspiron 8600 is working fabulous... I get more than 21% gain with the CPU upgrade, the 2 Gb memory and the 250 Gb 7200 rpm HD. It;s amazing! some of my coleagues have brand new Dell and HP notebooks... and my own surpasse them in response time... The only thing I miss is a little more memory in the ATI MOBILITY RADEON 9600 PRO TURBO w/128Mb... Wish I could change it for another adecuate card, but until now I didn't find any... Any sugestions? I have another two 2009notebooks also from Dell, but I'm in love with this old friend...
Thanks again and again ARogan for your blog!

Investeraren said...

Hi again everyone, after a lot of testing I solved the problem by using RMClock. There is some kind of bug in the graphical interface of RMClock on when running in Vista or Windows 7 which makes it lock up the whole computer but I managed to create a profile and save it anyway. Had to make one setting at a time and the save and close the window and the open and make the next setting.... close and so on...

FINALY I now have my olden golden Dell Latitude D800 rolling smooth and nice with Windows 7 Ultimate RTM. It is faster than with XP, very stable and looks beautiful. RMClock works nicely as I don't have to change anything in the interface when it is setup.

Getting a new battery next week - hoping to make it run for at least 3 hours.


Anonymous said...

Does a 250 GB 7200 RPM work on the 8600? I spoke with Dell Tech somewhat-Support and was told the max. on it is 100 GB 5400 RPM.
I was thinking about getting this:

but am not confident it would work...

Also, a recommendation on an internal DVD-RW drive, I'm ready to upgrade.

I'm running XP and already upgraded to 2 GB memory.


ARogan said...

The only thing you really have to worry about is that the hard drive is no thicker than 9.5mm, 2.5", and PATA. I've used a variety of 7200 and 5400 rpm drives without any issues.

Unknown said...

Well, I have upgraded another one of these for my daughter. Very bulletproof machines. I am considering selling the one I built...Should be able to get $300 for it...any takers before I list it on ebay? If ARogan does not mind, post a message for me here. You can go back to see the specs..It also has a new lava hard shell lid cover on it.

suresh said...

Good to see so many 8600 fans and I am one of them.5 yrs old and still going great. Recently I installed Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition(SP1) on it. Previously it was having WinXP Pro.
Now All my drivers are gone. No sound, no internet,no USB nth..
I searched on dell site for Windows Server 2003 drivers but all i can see is that for 8600, they give only WinXP drivers and not windows server 2003. I reied installing WInXP drivers but they dont get installed? Is 8600 not capable of handling windows server 2003? Can I get the drivers from somewhere? pls help

Anonymous said...

"The only thing you really have to worry about is that the hard drive is no thicker than 9.5mm, 2.5", and PATA. I've used a variety of 7200 and 5400 rpm drives without any issues."

How did you get around the BIOS issues (137 GB limit)?


Anonymous said...

After reading the post here on Inspiron 8600 I pulled mine rom the closet and upgraded the ram to 2GB and hard drive to 250gb 7200rpm I had laying around, it has 32mb Geforce graphics but for what I use it for it will work?, I have the mini-pci card with a new B,G, mimo N-card. new install of windows XP and multi-boot with Linux Ubuntu Netbook Remix (cold-boot in 4seconds!) wifi finally worked after I installed with mimo-N card.
I need help from the talent here,I have a D-Docking station with pci slot but can't get it to work?I have latest A14 BIOS but I am lost as to why not working? maybe needs a special driver? anyone got D-Docking station with pci slot to work? any help would be appreciated.
also with Linux with wifi on I get 6hrs on battery life, when I am away from ac I use Linux versus XP which last about 4hrs

Anonymous said...

Very interesting site. Congratulations to the doers. One "big"question remind unanswered: which kind / brand of 2.5in has 250GB IDE with 7200RPM? I Have been searching the web and found... NO ONE! If the posting know one please post the code name and brand so others can benefit too. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

2010 and my i8600 still going.
Win7 runs *very* nice (Aero disabled).
Would love to get an SSD, but don't know if it can handle SSD's.
I do know that the BIOS cannot recognize past about 100GB. I have a 160GB WD drive in and I had multipartitioned but couldn't install OS's on anything past the last 60GB. So, I have OS partitions within the first 60GB and data partition on the last 100GB

Anonymous said...

dude how in the world did u play that game on your 8600 mine is exactly the same i have an inspiron 8600 with windows 7 and i cant play any game at all it keeps saying something about directx3d and i know the problem but how do u fix it

ARogan said...

Sandra, for me the key to getting games to work was installing the DNA modified ATI drivers I linked near the end of the article.

Anonymous said...

Hi every 8600 lovers! Thanks to ARogan and this site I have get some orientations and updated my 8600. I have no porblem at all installing a Samsung 160GB 5400rpm PATA Hard Disk. There is a Toshiba and a Hitachi too. They work perfectly with XP pro SP3.
Now: I have read in this post that manypeople says that they installed 250GB 7200rpm HDs... May I ask where they found them? I have found no one! so, sorry if I must say so: is this some kind of swagger, a lie or what?
Please, can some one answer this so to not create "false expectations"?
Thanks again ARogan.

Guy Piche said...

Great post ARogan. I have benefitted from this information as I upgrade my 8600. Thank you. I want to reach out to your readers and you for help in finding a ATI MOBILITY RADEON 9600 PRO TURBO w/128Mb to buy. There are plenty of ATI MOBILITY RADEON 9600's but I cannot find the Pro. Does anyone know where there one for sale? Thanks again.

Unknown said...

It's nice to hear that so many people are fighting to keep their old Dells from the brink of obsolete. I've had my 8600 (1.3GHz, 256MB RAM, & 40GB HD) since 2003.

I've been considering a 30GB SSD ($79), since it seems like my HD is the slowest component...the HD LED is solid for long periods of times. I use my computer mostly for web browsing, MS Office, and stock trader, so I don't need the most powerful machine. I just need mobility and something quicker would be gravy.

Has anyone had any experience with an SSD in an old 8600?

Kevin said...

Great post! I found it while thinking about rejuvenating an old Inspiron 8600. It had been collecting dust for a year. It had XP on it, and had gotten to the point it was crawling *unbelievably* slow.

I went with Ubuntu 10.04 and had already upped the memory to 1 GB.

It's perfectly usable, great as a big "netbook" and faster than it's been in years. Especially without ForeFront virus scanner running constantly.

Other commenters are correct though that the wifi card is tricky to set up. I fiddled with it for at least a day. Though I didn't really know what I was doing (first time I set up wireless in Linux)

It had a Broadcom BCM4306 Rev 2, card. I just about threw it away and purchased a new one for < $20.

Though, after I figured out which driver to install, and how, it's wasn't that hard to work with. Here are some instructions that worked for me:


refurbished computers said...

Thanks, your story inspired me to tell my own. Linux worked great, but not for the faint of heart if you are a tweaker coming from the Windows world..I crashed it and had to re-install 4 times before I could get it stable again, but it is a great OS, with a lot of great features

Send Flowers to Italy said...

Nice effort, very informative, this will help me to complete my task.

refurbished computers said...

Linux worked great, but not for the faint of heart if you are a tweaker coming from the Windows world..I crashed it and had to re-install 4 times before I could get it stable again, but it is a great OS, with a lot of great features.

Unknown said...

It's an oldie but goodie, laptops have been with us for long enough now that the older ones still make viable work machines. Not everyone needs the latest DirectX/OpenGL capabilities.

A great walk through guide concerning upgrading laptop memory can be found at the link below.

Upgrading DDR laptop memory guide


Carpet Cleaning service said...

This is again a wonderful invention of Dell. I liked it.

Juegos said...

Thanks for sharing Ron, great story. I'm using Linux and is working great, I love Dell.

ran said...

Me again, running my i8600 with Win7 (aero disabled), 160GB WD 5400, 2GB DDR.

Has anyone tried either:
a) PATA SSD or
b) 1.8" SATA SSD with SATA -> PATA adapter?

I'm leaning towards trying (b) since PATA SSD's are so expensive. I could get a 32GB Sata SSD for $80 and an adapter for $12. Then, I'd replace my CDROM (which I rarely use) with a 2nd hard drive dock and put my 160GB WD HD in there.

Any thoughts, experiences???

plantronics headset said...

This is an awesome article. I have one of these old Dell's and was going to throw it away. I refurbished it and now it performs like new.

cheap auto insurance quotes said...

I`ve had this machine for years and it still looks and runs great i even recently Maxed out the memory at 2GB and installed windows 7 home premium x86 and it surprisingly runs great the only thing is the video card is not powerful enough to run the Aero desktop theme. but who would think that a 7 year old laptop could even run windows 7 let alone run great!!!

Richard said...

I recently decided to upgrade my 8600 (was top of the range at the time), that I bought in Jan 2004 (for about £3000). I must say, this blog has some interesting comments that have been quite useful - thanks guys !
I have never had a single problem with it in all these years, and is a great little "workhorse". Although I have more higher spec machines, I love this for encoding movie files.
@Ron,check this out:

I also fitted the following:
1)Dell TrueMobile 350 Bluetooth Wireless Card RD530 W9242 X5166 UG748 You also need the 5X617 TrueMobile 300 BDC Bluetooth Cable Assembly.

2)2.5 inch Hard Drive SATA to IDE 44 Pin Converter Adapter

3) Pentium M 765 (Dothan) 2.1 GHZ (was 1.7Ghz Banias)- easy to get hold of here in UK.

4) Marvell Wireless 802.11N 300MBPS Mini PCI Card - ran the 3rd aerial under the screen bezel.

5) Dell Laptop Stand & Dell D/Port Dock Replicator (you need PA10 power supply adapter for this)

6) Another SATA HDD caddy

7) 1TB SATA 9.5 mm 2.5 inch laptop HDD for the SATA caddy

I',m just looking into sticking a SSD in it with a PATA to SATA adapter.

I'm going to keep this baby going for as long as I can, so any further suggestions are more than welcome.

Richard said...

Oops - I forgot to add, you can also flash the firmware in the NEC optical drive from the site below if you want to upgrade the burning capabilities.

Anonymous said...

Hi Richard!
I read your post from 9/19/11 9:20 AM and I'm very interested in what you did as I did almost the same, besides the SATA 2 PATA converter...

Regarding [quote]"2)2.5 inch Hard Drive SATA to IDE 44 Pin Converter Adapter" [/quote] can you please post some pictures how you did it?

I can't figure out how to fit the converter into the caddy and into the laptop... Some pictures will help a lot! Also if you can afford it, a way to e-mail you... ;-)

George Anonymous

Boston Hotel Rates said...

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Richard said...

I read your post from 9/19/11 9:20 AM and I'm very interested in what you did as I did almost the same, besides the SATA 2 PATA converter...

Sorry for the delay - you have to find the very smallest adapter for it to fit, I tried 3 or 4 before I found one that wasn't too big in depth. Hope that helps ?

New Mexico Rugs Hilary said...

An old refurbished Dell works well if you take the time and effort (and money) for it. Better than throwing it away completely.

Responsive web design said...

Thanks for sharing your info. I really appreciate your efforts and I will be waiting for your further write ups thanks once again.

Anonymous said...

[Quote] I read your post from 9/19/11 9:20 AM and I'm very interested in what you did as I did almost the same, besides the SATA 2 PATA converter...

Sorry for the delay - you have to find the very smallest adapter for it to fit, I tried 3 or 4 before I found one that wasn't too big in depth. Hope that helps ?

Please, can you post a picture or, at least, to provide a temporary e-mail to conctact with you? (I have not any chance to buy a new computer so, I must try to do my best with these amazing I8600.. ;))
Many Thanks in advance!!!

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Anonymous said...

Hi folks,

my baby is still running too - since 2004. I love it!

- Jens

Pentium M 755
plus some external hardware

ARogan said...

It's a sad day but I finally ended up selling mine. We moved and my wife had me purge a lot of stuff from the house and we just weren't using it much. I did a clean windows 7 install before I sold it and was still surprised at how well it ran.

Anonymous said...

I have an 8600 that was working perfectly until Nov 2011 when I powered it down to take it to a class. When I got there and tried to power it on, It immediately comes up to the black screen with "Dell" in blue on it and there is a status bar at the bottom of the screen. Below the status bar it says "BIOS Revision A14". The status only advances a little; maybe just short of an inch and it stops and hangs there. In class I was able to hit the Delete Key and it finally came up. I shut it down, took it home and again got it up with the Delete key. I took it to a repair shop and at first they did shutdown and powered on and it came up without any prompting. However, the next time it wouldn't come up and we can't get it up now. The shop says it has something to do with the BIOS and there is nothing they can do except replace the mother board. I just brought it home. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Ann

Anonymous said...

Hi Ann,

It may be the battery (Inspiron 8600's have issues booting if the battery is old), or

It may be the hard drive, but if not booting at all, you could try this:

Disconnect the power cord from the laptop.

Remove the battery from the laptop.

After waiting a minute or so, press and hold the power button for 30 seconds.

Reinsert the battery and power cord.

Press and hold the power button for 3 seconds then release.

Hopefully the laptop will come up.

*Have an external hard drive or flash drive handy, so you can copy off your files to external storage.

Hope this helps,

Anonymous said...

I was given a faulty 8600 last year.
All I had to do was re-install the OS. Nice :-)

Until now, when it is refusing to see the power adaptor. Common problem.
The adaptor has an ID chip that tells the Dell that it is seeing a "genuine Dell" PSU.

When that ID chip dies (or the ID reader chip in the laptop) - as they very frequently do - the Dell goes into low power mode, refuses to charge the battery, and cuts the CPU speed right down.

Get this - the PSU works, so do the others I tried: but the Dell refuses to use it.

Absolutely infuriating, and all to milk you the customer for an extra buck on a "genuine" psu. If I had bought this, I would be in a killing mood - as it is, I will NEVER buy a Dell ever in my life, and recommend others bear this issue in mind too. They absolutey suck over this scam.

Get a Toshiba or a Fujitsu, hard-working, tough, laptops I've bought and used for years with no issues.

Anonymous said...

I should add that, of course, this ID chip in the power supply scam means you can't use a third party psu either.

Much about it on the web, but no-one has a solution.

Unknown said...

so I had some inverters, so I replaced the inverter, and the picture came up for a few minutes...all pink, and then go blank..hmm, gogusestetigi