Question from Eric: Hi Rick. I want to ask you where can I start on getting my old Dell Dimension E521 Desktop Tower working again? I don’t have a hard drive for it because the one that was in it went in my family’s fairly new HP Desktop computer and my mom doesn’t want me to take the hard drive out.
I don’t have an RGB cable and a monitor for it to work but I do have a wired keyboard, wired mouse, a power cable, and speakers, that’s it.
My older brother put a wanted ad on Craigslist for me for free computers so I could work on some older desktop/laptops so I could get used to repairing/rebuilding computers.
I was thinking about when I get some older computers I could work on them then maybe try to sell them in the summer this year. I just want to make some money to help my family as best as I can because we’re going through a rough time with our financial status. I’ll appreciate any advice you can give me.
Your friend, Eric.
Rick’s answer: Eric, I think your brother has the right idea with the ad on Craigslist. If I were you I would also put flyers on the bulletin boards at your local grocery stores and place free ads in your local newspapers (Penny Saver, etc.).
Advertise that you’ll haul away old computer equipment for free. These days lots of folks have unused computers taking up space in a closet or in their basement that they’ll gladly give away just to get them out of the way.
You might also consider bartering your time in exchange for unused computer equipment. If you’re friendly with your neighbors you could offer to do odds and ends around their houses in exchange for their old gear.
Also, don’t forget about older printers. Many people upgrade their printers before their old one stops working, and it’s a lot easier to sell a computer system that includes a working printer.
After you sell a computer or two, you can use part of that money to buy old computers at yard sales. They often come very cheap, and a lot of them will still be working.
If you can get them for free, take laptops as well as desktop computers. The only parts of a laptop that can easily be swapped out are the RAM and hard drive, so I wouldn’t really recommend buying them unless you can verify that they’re in working condition.
If you acquire a computer that has a bad hard drive and no Windows discs, you can replace the drive with one from another non-working computer and then install Ubuntu Linux. Ubuntu is completely free and it’s very easy to install. You can then sell it as an Internet computer. An Ubuntu machine is outstanding for Internet work as it runs Firefox and several other web browsers just as well as a Windows machine.
I recommend that you begin learning everything you can about computer hardware, software and operating systems right away. Virtually everything you need to know about using, repairing and maintaining computers is readily available on the Internet these days, and many awesome resources are absolutely free.
I think it would be best to begin your “computer education” by learning about the differences between various CPUs, RAM and hard drives. That’s the info you’ll need most in order to start building, upgrading, repairing and maintaining computer systems. You’ll also need to learn about operating systems such as the most recent versions of Windows and Linux (and Mac OS and OS X if you’re planning to work on Apple computers).
You’ll find literally thousands of step-by-step video tutorials for virtually any computer related task you can think of on YouTube. I sure wish the Internet had been around when I first started working with computers back in the late 1970s!
As for your Dell Dimension E521, it takes a standard SATA hard drive which you can cull from most any old computer that has one. In a pinch, you can even install a 2.5 inch SATA laptop drive (with the proper adapter) if you need to. As far as a monitor is concerned, you can use virtually any model that has a standard VGA input.
I hope this helps Eric. Good luck!
Do you have a tech question of your own for Rick? Click here and send it in!
Need expert computer help? Click here to read about the services that I provide.