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  Dell XPS 210...

[15 July 2022] One of these systems caught my eye on ebay. A Dell XPS 210 from around 2007 I believe.

On this page:

  • Initial thoughts

  • Specs

  • RAM issues

  • Recapping

  • Other points

Initial thoughts:

It was going pretty cheap so I grabbed it. It was assumed to be in full working order but it ended up having a couple of issues. Before determining those though, my immediate impression upon receiving was that I was impressed with my purchase; it was nicer than I thought and I loved the mechanism for opening the cover that hides the DVD drive and other front ports - a simple press of a button and the door retracts (using levers and springs) *up and out of the way.


I say, up, but that depends how you have the system orientated; it can be laid on its side as it has rubber feet there also (although mine is missing one) and I can envisage that things would not work so smoothly this way, certainly not on my desk with all its clutter! The style - partly like other Dell systems I am familiar with from the era/product line (see right for the "big daddy" version), in this case with that mechanism, made me think of the Alien movies. (Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem was released in 2007 so I wonder if the aesthetic was a nod to that).


The specs of the system aren't all that impressive, or even desirable to many:

  • Intel Core2 Duo, 2GB RAM, Windows Vista, 250GB Hard Drive.

I'm a rare breed though; I quite like Vista (it just needs more RAM and a nippy hard drive).

Windows needed reinstalling on the computer and upon proceeding to do this I discovered the DVD drive was faulty and struggling to read discs. Thankfully the ebay seller reimbursed me the cost for replacing this (a slimline IDE drive was required), although I did remove and dismantle the drive to try and improve its functioning first, but with little success.

RAM issues:

Next up I wanted to increase the RAM, but I encountered issues.

Side note on Vista and RAM:
In my opinion Windows Vista really needs a minimum of 4GB of RAM and I believe this is partly why the OS gets such a bad reputation because when it was released that amount of RAM was expensive and it was released in the time of the change over (from Windows XP) to 64-bit systems and therefore there were 32-bit variants (and other systems) that didn't support that amount of RAM. It wasn't uncommon for someone to buy a new computer that only had 1GB of RAM and it would therefore be immediately slower than their old XP machine they were replacing.

I used Vista's Performance Index tool to gain a benchmark of the current system.

I then upgraded the RAM (2 x DDR2 6400) to 4GB (the system had two of its 4 slots occupied), and ran the tool again. The system would either freeze or the graphics drivers would crash and then the system would freeze after.

I should point out that the system, while having onboard graphics (VGA) had a dedicated graphics card installed (an ATI Radeon X1300 Pro 256MB) but it had "a weird proprietary" socket (DMS59) for which I had no adapter, so I had removed this card, enabling the onboard graphics. The concern here was that the graphics system would now be using a portion of the system RAM, and this proportion might be at odds with 4GB installed.

A long story shorts, it turned out that the system is very picky about what RAM is used, simply adding two sticks matching what was seemingly included with the system when it was new, resulted in it failing the performance test. The computer worked fine otherwise, but I didn't really have anything else to test it with, so I wasn't happy to leave it this way and I wanted to get to the bottom of it.

At first I only had some mismatched DDR2 5300 modules to trial with and they worked, so I assumed that was the system's preference. I noticed in the BIOS that it was limiting any 6400 RAM to 5300 so I resorted in replacing all with four matching modules of that speed. In the end I also reinstated the graphics card after purchasing a necessary DMS59 to DVI adapter (this can allow both DVI and VGA (with another adapter) to be used, and also has twin outputs so two screens can be connected through that DMS59 port - the system is low profile, so I can appreciate the benefit of this choice of socket.


Whilst in the system to replace the RAM I noticed some of the capacitors were bulged.

(two next to the 12V and one next to the CPU/Chipset, all three of the same type)

I considered this might be the cause of the RAM instability, and keen to not just ignore the caps, I elected to bravely replace those capacitors. This isn't a task I'm particularly proficient at but my keenness spurred me on and I approached the job carefully and patiently so as to hopefully avoid damaging anything.

Replacing the capacitors didn't go all that smoothly because most of the holes from the legs of the capacitors immediately sealed over with remaining solder and I struggled to unblock them in order to properly install the replacement capacitors. I got there in the end though.

Replacing the capacitors didn't change the RAM issue but I'm glad I went ahead and replaced them in order help keep the system otherwise working reliably.

Other points:

A stock photo I found of the system (right) shows it with original speakers, keyboard, mouse... and remote. These I don't have. Whilst working on the system though I noticed a blank panel below where the DVD drive and card reader module sit.

I realised that the Hard drive access LED was behind this panel, although very difficult to see (and you'd certainly not see it with the door closed). There appeared to be more cables going to the area that for this alone, so I'm guessing the IR module resides here also. I will keep on the lookout for one of those remotes.

Even with the dedicated graphics card installed this is particularly limited by its 256MB which in my experience would not be sufficient for the high resolutions people use today (4K for example). The card is also passively cooled with minimal airflow in this case - I have noticed that it runs pretty hot. A replacement low profile, more modern graphics card with more RAM would be a further upgrade option.

While the hard drive could probably be replaced with an SSD, this is less than idea for a system running Windows Vista due to the lack of TRIM support. Alternatively, a Linux distro could be used instead, and therefore take advantage of an SSD, but personally I like this to be the Vista system it was made to be.

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