The $30.00 Windows XP Computer.

Based on Jeff Duntemann’s suggestion about the SX270 I went on eBay and bought both an SX270 and an SX280. I bid and got the 270 for $30.00, however, the vendor required a shipping fee of $30.00 for UPS ground which I think is a bit of a ripoff. Still, $60.00 isn’t bad (potentially) for a working more-or-less modern computer. For those who have more time than money, who want to try this route, here are a few additional tips.

1. All eBay Dell SX270s are not equal. Many are stripped of their hard drives. This is presumably for security reasons. If yours does have a drive, it will probably have been wiped, so it will need an operating system.

2. Many of the SX270s have what is called a COA sticker included. Sometimes this is simply described as “COA included”. This gives you a Windows license key. You still need to be able to install a copy of Windows, so you need to have a CD lying around, and typically this needs to be a single user copy. (I tried installing using the media from our site license. This wouldn’t accept the COA as it the one on the sticker wasn’t a “volume license” number. I also tried using an old Microsoft Action Pack version of the Windows media and this didn’t want to accept the number either. All this nonwithstanding the fact that I *do* have a legitimate Windows XP COA number to input during the installation process. The best solution proved to be a Dell Windows XP “operating system reinstallation disk” of which I have several lying around from previous new Dell machine purchases.

3. Both the SX270 ad SX280 have power bricks, similar or larger to those that you find on inexpensive ink jet printers and laptops. These are by no means generic and you need to be sure you have the right one to fit the machine. The eBay listing may or may not include the power brick….if it doesn’t you’ll be out another $10-$30.00. I was unlucky, but managed to get a Buy-it-Now brick for $10.00 (plus shipping of, I think $6.00). So, my $30.00 computer now costs $73.00.

4. My machine arrived in reasonably good shape; but was dusty. The CD drive wouldn’t read a CD correctly. I bought a CD cleaner disk from Amazon, and that seemed to fix the reading problem; but if it hadn’t the PITA factor would have gone up considerably as I’d have to replace the CD drive.

5. Once Windows was installed, I downloaded the network drivers from the Dell site, using another machine… and installed these on the SX270.

Then there is the inevitable faffing about trying to find video drivers for the unit. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a utility that would contain all of the drivers necessary, and that would install them in one batch file? Anyway, according to the discussion on the Dell web site, drivers should be installed in the following order:

  1. System driver file…either desktop or laptop. (I never found this for the SX270)
  2. Chipset (motherboard driver) requires a reboot.
  3. Video driver. requires a reboot.
  4. Network driver (already got that, otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to download directly to the SX270)
  5. Audio drivers.

When Windows was first installed, the machine wouldn’t produce any screen resolution higher than 600×480. Once the video driver was installed, it went to 1600×1200 automatically. Pretty dramatic.

Looking at the specifications on the Dell site, it says that this machine is actually an SX270N. I’m not sure what the difference is between an N and a non-N.

The fan is noisy. Too noisy. Like the wind in Wuthering Heights. The fan noise diminished when I placed the unit on end, with the vent holes in the top. I’ll also attempt to peel off a label that the bonehead vendor stuck on the top thereby covering about 20% of the ventilation holes….maybe that will improve the air circulation and keep the machine cooler.

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