7 Replies Latest reply on Nov 18, 2010 8:08 AM by glfrank

    Dell XPS 700 Upgrade


      Hi all ... I have an XPS 700 which has just died and I'm sure from all I've read, it's the motherboard. This is a well documented problem which Dell has turned it's back on.  Of course, my 700 is out of warranty and Dell will do nothing.


      I've done a lot of research on the web, there is about a 0% chance of finding a Dell replacement and even then there are problems with the updated 720 boards. I would like to find a BTX full style motherboard to replace the Dell unit. Does anyone know if Intel has ever made a BTX style board which will work with an E6400 processor? I found a motherboard, D955XCS, which is almost a direct physical drop in for the Dell, but I don't know if it supports the E6400 CPU. I realize I will need to do some rewiring, but I don't see that as a problem.


      Can anyone offer any information?


        • 1. Re: Dell XPS 700 Upgrade

          Some people do a clean install on Dells to get rid of the software and ignore the warranty.  Upgrades had been notorious for proprietary connectors that could probably be replaced with a soldering iron and scavenged parts.  Power supplies sizes have also been a problem but the cases are nice.  The D955XCS only lists old pentium processors.  Apparently the BTX approach never took hold so ATX boards that support the E6400 include retired G965 and near retirement DG45ID (x38 series boards, maybe x48).  The problem with those Dell's may include confusion with the power management differences of those older boards.  Power supply failure remains likely unless added cards caused the failure.  The E6400 is still capable but your case etc may be aging more than you realize.

          • 2. Re: Dell XPS 700 Upgrade

            Curious592 ... thanks for your comments; I appreciate your time writing a reply.  I understand the proprietary nature of Dell systems, I've done a lot of reading and I am looking at this as an experiment as much as anything else.


            As far as I can tell, the problem with my XPS 700 is the motherboard, nothing else.  If there was a reasonably priced replacement/alternative from Dell or even elsewhere on the web, like ebay, I would try it ... but there is not.  I found the D955XCS board by searching the web and then I matched the DWG's in the Intel literature with the Dell board.  It looks like a full BTX style board will almost be a direct physical swap, but not exact and definitely not the wiring.


            The original Dell uses two power connectors to the board, a standard 24 pin and a non-standard 20 pin.  There are plenty of places on the web where I can buy 8 pin connectors (along with many other connectors and wiring harness assy's) used by the standard BTX boards.  My intent was to chase out the wiring from vendor diagrams, splice an 8 pin connector in place of the 20 pin and move on.  There are some features of the Dell XPS 700 case that I will likely never figure out, like the front panel indicators because they are not documented, but I'm willing to let them go.


            So, maybe my question would have been be better asked as ... can anyone recommend a full BTX style motherboard that will accept the E6400 CPU?


            I found a vendor selling the boxed version of the D955XCS for $27.00 plus shipping ... if I can find a BTX board that works with the E6400 CPU in that price range, say around $50 or so, it's worth the experiment.


            Again thanks for your time!

            • 3. Re: Dell XPS 700 Upgrade

              I didn't find any list on Intel for BTX boards.  BizRate and Geeks.com have boards.  If you are interested in AMT a Q series board would be good but a software application is needed.  The G965 VIIV is $35 but I wouldn't bother with the VIIV.  I don't recall if the 945PAW is older than the 965 but a graphics card would be needed.

              Unless the case is too customized the dimensions should not be that critical.  I assume you have DDR2 665MHz.  Other manufacturers offer more processor compatibility but I can't vouch for how well they work.

              You totally lost me on the 8-pin connector.  The pin assignment could probably be worked out by chance but the functionality could be board specific.

              • 4. Re: Dell XPS 700 Upgrade

                So, I've found an Intel microBTX motherboard p/n DG965MS for $48 which supports the E6400 CPU and the memory which is DDR2 667MHz.  I can't locate a full BTX board supporting the E6400 CPU, so I will have to settle for a few less slots.


                Sorry for being somewhat cryptic about the 8 pin connector ... it's the one of two power connectors to the motherboard.  Boards usually have a 20 or 24 pin connector as the primary power connection and a secondary connector which I think provides power to the CPU.  Usually these are 4 pin or 8 pin and in the case of Dell's XPS 700 the secondary is 20 pins.  I think that's because the Dell is a proprietary design and has additional features.


                The trick for me now ... figuring out what wiring I need to modify to connect the new motherboard.  As I wrote earlier, this is an experiment and if I can make it work I've saved a machine from the dump for a while longer.  There are lots of people with failed Dell XPS 700-710-720 which Dell no long supports,  These were high end machines, very expensive when originally purchased.  Apparently, it was a known issue with the board and for a short time they provided upgrade kits, unfortunately they only provided them to people who had bad systems.  So, if you had an XPS and it ran fine until recently, like the one I have, you're out of luck.


                Anyway, thanks for your suggestions!  I'm going to buy the DG965MS and take a shot at modding this beast.

                • 5. Re: Dell XPS 700 Upgrade

                  I suspect that is your best bet without looking at it.  Unless you plan on adding several cards the micro boards are fine.  The image I saw had a 24-pin main power (a 20-pin power supply connection works as far as I know) and 4-pin CPU power connection.  I think newer boards have 6 or 8-pin CPU power connections and require appropriate power supplies as discussed elsewhere here.  This might have something to do with AMT or similar management but I suspect it has to do with power distribution or management.  The Dell I saw on searching was a gaming machine that most likely had something faster than an E6400.  That was plenty expensive for me when it came out.  If you plan on doing gaming I suspect a newer board would be better such as an i3 system.

                  • 6. Re: Dell XPS 700 Upgrade

                    I have a similar problem. My XPS 700 motherboard is dead and I want to replace it with an Intel motherboard. Can you recommend an Intel model?.


                    The CPU is Intel Core 2 Duo 1.86 and RAM is DDR (The motherboard is Dell GR 909).


                    Thanks in advanced

                    • 7. Re: Dell XPS 700 Upgrade

                      Hi ... I can make a recommendation and report on what I've done so far. I searched for a full BTX board that would support the E6400 CPU in my XPS, but so far I have not found one.


                      I spent a lot of time on website blogs, most of which said nothing can be done with the XPS 700.  Everyone basically said if the motherboard goes it's a paperweight.  If you spend time searching you'll find stuff like ... the Dell board and PSU are proprietary (partly true), Dell is not offering any boards (seems to be true and a BIG disappointment considering what these units cost!), if you find one it would be expensive (very true), can't drop a replacement board into the XPS (only partly true), etc.


                      Most of what you read about replacing the the XPS is 'generally' true, but not all. I even contacted Foxconn in China to see if they could or would offer advice and, as you might expect, that went no where except a waste of my time. This seemed like an interesting technical challenge, so I decided to take it on to see just how far I could get, here's what I've done so far:


                      1. The first issue is a replacement board; I purchased an Intel micro BTX p/n D946GZTSSL from a guy on eBay for $25.00 including postage. I will include a link to his eBay store at the end of this note. The D946GZTSSL board will bolt directly into the XPS case and I was able to reuse my CPU and memory.
                      2. The board comes with a new back panel, the Dell and Intel boards do not match up, but the Dell metal plate pops out and is easily replaced by the one that comes with the Intel board.
                      3. At this point, the new board fits, you don't need a saw or torch, there are no case modifications required.
                      4. The next problem is the Dell PSU which is partly proprietary, but a fairly easy fix. The large 24-pin plug (I think it's labeled P1) is standard and connects directly to the Intel board, but the smaller plug (I think it's labeled P2) is not standard. The Intel board needs a 4-pin plug (2-12V and 2-ground connections) which is not available on the Dell PSU. The pin-out descriptions for the Dell PSU and Intel board are in the manuals, so it's not hard to figure out. I was lucky, I had an old PIII case that I should have recycled years ago. I cut the 4-pin plug from the PIII Case and spliced it into the P2 connector with some crimp on connectors. I forget which pins I used, but around the middle of the connector there are a couple 12V (yellow) and ground (black) wires; again, you can find the description in the Dell manual.
                      5. The cooling fans are a problem too as I think Dell has them wired in a proprietary way. I did a Google search on "CPU cooling fan wiring" and found a couple websites with color coding info; I think I switched the yellow and blue leads and swapped the red and black. Like the PSU, get the board manual from Intel and research fan wiring on Google, you can figure out the wiring. The little pins will push out of the Dell connector with a very small pointed tool, like an ice pick. They are fragile, so take your time. My CPU fan works fine, the board seems to be controlling the speed, but the other fans are 4-wire and the board has 3 pins. When I plug these onto the board they run full speed, so I still have some work to do here.
                      6. The next problem is my nVidia graphics card, it's double thick because of the cooling and because I used the micro BTX board and the Dell CPU fan, there is no room for the graphics card. I had a smaller card, normal thickness, and it dropped right in. I've done this as a temporary measure, I'm going to find a way to get the original GPU back into the case. This would not be a problem with a full BTX board.
                      7. Back to that old PIII case, I grabbed the power button with wiring and connector and popped it on the Intel board for temporary on/off control.
                      8. At this point you can reconnect drives and other devices, check all your wiring and connections and fire it up. If you're reusing the your original drive, the OS will likely crap out because of the difference between motherboards. I started with another drive, installed XP and then migrated files from the old drive.


                      The real challenge in this whole process is trying to reuse/reconnect the front panel of the XPS case. As far as I've been able to learn, this is 100% proprietary to Dell and so far I've not been able to find pin-outs or a wiring diagram, it would be nice if Dell had something! This will obviously take a lot more effort and work, but I believe I have figured the connections needed to use the power button and HD activity light. I think the USB and 1394 port are standard and can be connected directly to the board.  Next I am going to work on finding a way to control the fan speeds (not the CPU fan) which I think will be easy. There are lots of computer modding websites that sell fan speed controllers. After that I will work on the case LED lighting and again I'm going to search the Internet for some type of plug-in controller.


                      I think I will be able to make the XPS fully functional except the four system status LED's on the front panel; they're absolutely proprietary to Dell and I doubt they is a way to bring them back to life.  I estimate I will spend between $50-$100 for bits and pieces, plus some significant time fiddling with all this.  For that will get the XPS back working almost where it was originally. The original motherboard had some neat functionally that I will never get back, but it's do this or use it as a boat anchor.


                      Here is the link to the board I purchased:




                      I would be interested to hear if you do anything with your system, let me know.