Reviving Old PC800 RDRAM PCs

RDRAMStickI recently came across an old Gateway Performance 1400 that needed fixing. Generally a PC this old is to be considered “Scrap” and usually I advise the client that it’s time for the dreaded replacement. Then comes the painful process of moving of data, apps, and all of the other nightmarish stuff that comes to the small business owner requiring a computer upgrade.

But this computer was just a bit different, as are many other RDRAM based Pentium 4 computers with a 400mhz Front Side Bus. It came with Windows ME installed originally back in 2000. Over the years the owner upgraded to Windows 2000, and recently upgraded the OS to Windows XP.

Now keep in mind that this box only had 128mb of ram … and XP actually ran on it. It was slow with that 128mb of ram, but still usable for most business tasks. But one particular app was having problems due to the low amount of RAM available to it.

I started pricing a pair of 512 sticks of PC800 RDRAM for it, but the retail price from the bigger internet stores for that type of RDRAM was around four hundred dollars at the time. Since I could buy a cheap Budget business PC with DDR2 ram for a couple of hundred bucks more, it wouldn’t have been worth the upgrade for my client. Thats where ebay comes in.

I found the same 1gb kit on ebay for under two hundred dollars and that included shipping and postal insurance. The seller’s store is “Rambus RDRAM Depot ” and they offer a really great way to get some extra life out of those old RDRAM machines. I also added a salvaged secondary 40 gig hard disk from the junk pile (to help speed up swap-file in-out) and the machine is now as fast if not faster than most new budget priced business PCs but at less than half the cost of buying new and with no included data migration pain.

Here is a list of the RDRAM machines that are salvageable with this simple upgrade:
COMPAQ
Deskpro EN Rambus ;
EXS Desktop, EXS P IV;
Presario 7000T, 7120US, 7126CL;
Workstation 300, AP240, AP250, AP550, SP750;
Evo Workstation W6000, W8000.

DELL
Dimension 8250, 8100, 8200 (both 400FSB and 533MHz FSB);
Dimension XPS B533R, B600R, B667R, B733R, B800R , B866, B866R, B933, B933R, B1000, B1000R, B1130, B1.13R;
OptiPlex GX200, GX300, GX400;
Precision 667, 733, 800, 866, 933;
Precision Online Trading Workstation;
Precision Workstation 220, 330, 340(both 400FSB and 533MHz FSB), 350((both 400FSB and 533MHz FSB), 420, 530, 620.

GATEWAY
GATEWAY 700C, 700L, 700L2, 700S, 700SE, 700X, 700XL.
Performance 1300, 1400, 1500, 1600, 1700, 1800, 2000;
E Desktop Series E4400, 4400SE, 4600SE, 4600XL, 4650, 4650 Deluxe, 6000 Deluxe, 6000L
Professional S 1300, 1400, 1500, 1600 ,1700.

HP
Pavilion 1G; 7960, 7970, 9795, 9720;
HP Workstation X1100, X2000, X2100, X4000;
Kayak X2000, X4000, XM600, XU700, XU800

IBM
NetVista A60i 6832, A60 6833;
Intellistation M Pro 6229, 6849, 6850, 6866, 6868;
Intellistation Z Pro 6866.

Sony
Vaio PCV-RX66, RX76, RX370, RX380, RX370DS, PCV-RX380DS, RX462, RX462DS, RX463DS
Vaio PCV-RX465DS, RX470DS, RX480DS, RX490TV, PCV-RX500E, RX600E, RX600N, RX790C, RX790G

Thanks to Rambus RDRAM Depot for the above table. (as well as for the excellent deal)

So if you have one of these PC800 RAMBUS RAM machines, or you find one in the bargain bin of your local computer superstore (I see the IBM boxes at Microcenter now and then) bump up the RAM to a gig or two, add a second Disk, and cheaply get another two or three years of life out of equipment you would otherwise retire.

Just a quick disclaimer, We here at PoliTech have no affiliation with the vendor links posted above, We’re simply happy customers, and think the Rambus-RDRAM-Depot folks are still offering some really good deals on RAM that is getting harder and harder to find.

A quick update: This is an old post but I just wanted to mention that Windows 7 32 bit is running fine on that old Gateway.

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6 comments

  1. I too have one of these old PC800 RDRAM PCs, that originally came with Windows Me. And I too ran XP on 128 MB but I put in 512 (128×4) a couple yrs ago… now I really need more but I am dreading migration…so I was interested to see your article.

    My Sony VAIO PCV-RX470DS is included on the list from Rambus RDRAM Depot.. BUT the specs I have seen say it has a 512 MB max RAM.

    The mb is a Asus WMT-LE. chipset Intel 850

    Back when I upgraded to 512 I recall someone saying they thought it could take more, but I didn’t at the time pay much attention. Any thoughts? Any experience doing such a revival on these Sony VAIO PCVs with PC800 RDRAM?

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  2. Just adding, for the benefit of others, that I found a post on the Vaio Village forum from a guy who did successfully upgrade an RX470DS to 2GB RDRAM. And I’ve seen a couple other people who have put in over the (supposed) maximum of 512 in other Vaios in this line.

    The BIOS data says there is a PER MODULE limit of 512…but 4 modules. Hmmmm. Could it be that Sony may have just got mixed up & used the per slot limit as the total RAM limit? a mistake back in 2001 that has prevented all these poor Vaio owners from doing an upgrade that is actually possible?

    Well, I”ll be stopping by Rambus RDRAM Depot to get some RIMMs for this old antique.

    Cool blog, btw

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  3. I also have the same Sony Vaio and have ordered 2 GB of RDRAM. I do believe that sony made a mistake I will post a follow up when the memory gets here. I recently added a 500 GB drive as the old 60 gb was getting tired and needed cloned. THis machine has worked for everything I use it for and don’t feel its very “green” to get a new one with that “new” operating system. I like XP and want to stay with it. Again I’ll let you all know if it really works. By the way I am only running 300 something in memory.

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  4. Well guys and girls I have a Sony PCV-RX470DS running windows XP. remember the post where these computers could supposedly only take a max or 512 MB of RDRAM? Well I ordered 1 GB (4 sets of 256 MB and IT ALL WORKS GREAT!!! Bought on the internet site. for I think about $150 haven’t run stuff yet but its seeing all the memory and with the new 500GB hard drive its like a new machine.

    Thought I’d pass that along. As far as I can tell if they would have had 4 cards with 4 GB on them the machine would have accepted it. I think XP has a limit of 4 GB.

    I figure that when this computer was new it was at the end of ME. I got a free upgrade. The way the systems were marked and marketed were for ME. So when the new OS came out nobody ever bothered to check but its all working great.

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  5. Hi Chopper Dan, Thanks for sharing your re-build experience here. There are some unofficial “Mini” or “Tiny” XP builds that I have used for really old Compaq iPaq desktop machines (we’re talking 900mhz boxen) with great success.

    And I also have had a bunch of good luck running various Linux flavors on many of the old salvage computers that find their way to me. Knoppix, and Fedora have been most stable on old machines for me (but YMMV). Nice part is that you can load the entire Linux OS directly from the CD drive and don’t actually have to “install” any of it on your hard disk.

    I just rebuilt an old Gateway Performance 1×00 (don’t remember the exact model off-hand) for an older lady and she is thrilled to have not only saved several hundred dollars that she would have spent on a new computer upgrade she didn’t need (think email, word-processing and solitaire). But she was also very happy to tell me that this was the “Green” solution as nothing ends up in a landfill, and she’s also not responsible for the carbon required to manufacture a completely new comp.

    Thanks again for sharing Chopper Dan!

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