Saturday, 21 January 2012

Adventures with BIOS batteries... fixing the Dell Dimension 8400

Since I upgraded to my new editing station, I've had less call to use my older machine, a Dell Dimension 8400 which is over seven years old.  However, the Dimension runs all my old 32bit XP software, including After Effects which won't transfer over to my new Windows Vista 64bit machine.

Recently the old Dell started playing up, displaying CMOS warning messages on startup and generally being a bit flaky.  It turned out that the Bios battery was nearly dead, unsurprising given the age of the machine.

Changing the Bios battery in one of these old Dells is a very straightforward job, so easy that even a computer illiterate like me can do it.  First I downloaded the user manual from the Dell support website which helped to identify the parts needed.

The Dell uses a very common type of battery, a CR2032, and I already had some on hand, so all I had to do was open up the case and get to work.  These batteries are available from ebay or your local Radio Shack, and should only cost one or two pounds.

First of all disconnect the power and remove all the cables.  The case opens on a hinge at the front, so simply press the large button on the top rear of the case and push the case open.

Inside, the CMOS battery is hidden behind the graphics card and other boards on the lower left of the picture.

Here's a close up of the battery, the graphics card is blocking access and will need to be removed.

Once again, a very simple task on these new Dells, what would once have meant unscrewing the tiny connectors on each board is now simply a case of unclipping the green plastic bar at the outer end of the boards.

With the bar removed, the Graphics card and other cards slide out with only a little pressure.  They are fixed at the back by small connecting lugs, so tilt the out at an angle.  Be sure to avoid touching the metal ontacts on the boards and beware of static charges... be sure to ground yourself before touching the boards otherwise you could damage them.

Now the CMOS Bios battery is clearly revealed.  I used a wooden pick to spring the clip holding the battery in place and it popped out.

A quick press with the finger and the new battery is in place and the machine is ready to go.

After re-connecting all the cables, the machine boots up and a quick press of F2 enters the Bios menu.  I needed to disable the floppy drive as my machine doesn't have one, and then I set the date and time.

That's it, the machine is ready to go, and all set to give a few more years of After Effects and Photoshop work to my projects.

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