I recently discovered that my upgraded Optiplex 980 didn’t have the oomph to drive two optical drives, two hard drives and a 9800GT using the stock power supply. A little research showed that I could use a standard ATX power supply, sort of. Dell being Dell, the power supply pinouts don’t conform to the ATX standard, nor do they use a standard ATX connector.

There was an adapter on the power supply and I disconnected all of the wires, using the proper tool, and tried to reconfigure it to work with an off the shelf power supply, but the pins didn’t seem to want to securely seat in the housing. I gave up and ordered a rewired adapter and installed it today. Of course, it didn’t work.

Troubleshooting computers is just like working on a car. Try different parts in different places (or bench test) to find the point of failure. I tried the new power supply in a different computer and it worked. I got the original adapter back together and tested it with the stock power supply and it still booted so I knew that I didn’t kill the computer. I tried a different power supply (good thing I’m a packrat) with the new adapter and it worked! Somehow the power supply I tried to use originally is somehow different enough that it was incompatible with the Dell.

After all of this, the computer is back up and running with all of the drives and no sign of a lack of wattage. I think I can finally call this machine complete, seal up the case and start working on software issues (mouse problem on KVM when switching away and then back - gotta love windoze). And back to an older Dell to figure out why a fresh install of Win7 runs so horribly slow and has booting problems; I suspect it has something to do with my used DVR hard drives, so a full format and testing is in order. Maybe someday I will actually use these computers instead of just tweaking and upgrading, but like we do with our cars, sometimes the tweaking is the fun.