OK, I’m a cheap bastard, I’ll admit that. A few months ago I picked up an Optiplex 980 at the Goodwill outlet for next to nothing and started using it as my main computer. It is actually pretty decent, but the size of the SFF case is somewhat limiting when it comes to expansion. I recently found a barebones desktop tower version of the same machine, again for next to nothing, so I thought I would use that to get around the problems with the SFF case, but I discovered that it has some crazy limitations/annoyances:

1) PCIe x16 slots - it has two, but here’s the problem: if you try to use a full-size video card it smashes up next to the ductwork for the CPU fan, so the card is at a bit of an angle with unnecessary added stress (and this is after removing two screws on the duct to make it fit). The other slot, the one with clearance, is wired only as x4, so you don’t get the full bandwidth. It also blocks the internal PCIe x1 slot when a video card is installed, so it’s a double loser.

2) No Molex power connectors - thankfully I had an adapter that I made that converted SATA power to Molex, but it still seems kind of stupid to have to use a kludge like this in a system that has so much expansion potential. PCIe x16 video cards are going to need power, so where does Dell suggest I get it? Perhaps those slots really aren’t for video cards after all, which makes them seem kind of pointless.

3) Proprietary drive mounts - seriously? I now need to find some annoying bits of plastic in order to properly secure the drives.

4) Four expansion slots with four blanking plates - if I need to run cables from the inside to the outside I have to either use the opening for one of the expansion cards thereby eliminating that slot from use by a card, or I have to cut into the case and make my own opening. This should not have to be a choice I need to make.

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Yeah, I know I should just build my own system using non-proprietary parts, but again, I’m cheap. With less than $100 invested I’ve got a 12GB 3.6 GHz Core i5 system running Windows 10 with a speedy video card. I’m just ticked that Dell made a machine that appears to be designed for expansion but really isn’t, placing all sorts of restrictions on you to use the capabilities that it looks like they gave you. I will find a way to make it all work, but it ain’t gonna be pretty...