My New (to Me) Dell Workstation

Dell computers have served me well over the years.

I had a Dell when I first joined the professional workforce and Dell computers have been a mainstay of my employers throughout my career. I’ve owned several Dell machines for home use, and transitioned quite a few enterprise machines over for use by local schools and non-profits. It’s probably no surprise that, when it came to building my own part-time home office, I turned to Dell for my main computing needs.

Working with resource-intensive applications like Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Premiere while also running local instances of Microsoft SQL Server starts to get tiresome without the proper equipment. At my day job, I have a Dell Precision M4600 mobile workstation and it is glorious. For home use, I figured I’d start with a fixed workstation, then add a mobile workstation later. Unfortunately, these are prohibitively expensive on my limited budget. So how could I possibly afford one of these machines and still pay my mortgage? Enter…

I recently purchased a refurbished Dell Precision T3500 for around $400 shipped. This included a coupon (still valid this month) for 25% off T3500 machines. So what did $400 get me?

  • Intel Xeon processer, W3550
  • NVidia Quadro 2000
  • 4GB RAM
  • 250GB Hard Drive
  • Windows 7 Pro 32-bit
  • 1-year extended warranty

It sounded like a great deal to me – and it was. This machine was graded by as a “B” cosmetically. When I received the workstation, it looked pretty close to an “A”. It was shipped in a Dell box with a new keyboard and new mouse. This was a bonus because (1) I didn’t know those came with it, (2) I love Dell keyboards, and (3) they were NEW – nobody wants to use a grubby old keyboard or mouse that’s all shiny where your fingers go.

Peeking inside the chassis, it looks like the hard drive was brand new. There was a slight bit of accumulated dust but, otherwise, the thing looks brand new.

To be fully truthful: I knew I’d need more RAM and storage if I was going to be editing videos. So I bought the fastest processor and the smallest RAM and hard drive that was available at the time. I used Crucial’s memory configurator to pick the right RAM and then maxed out the machine right away – better to spend the money now and reap the benefits immediately, than to slowly add as needed, suffering all the while. I’ve had good luck with Western Digital Black drives, so I added a 1TB drive.

One of my favorite things about Dell fixed workstations is how effortless it is to swap out components. I didn’t have to remove a single screw to replace the RAM and add a hard drive. This took all of 3 minutes – if I managed our corporate IT stash, this alone would make Dell computers a no-brainer.

Here’s the one pitfall to buying a last-gen machine: new operating systems aren’t officially supported. Although perfectly suited for my needs, you can’t deny that this is a 2009-era computer – ancient in computer years. That means that Dell’s officially sanctioned drivers and applications are only supported for Windows 7 and prior. With that said, I’m running Windows 8.1 Pro and it functions flawlessly – no compatibility issues, everything is ridiculously fast (you know you’re in for a good time when the Windows install time is measured in minutes, not epochs).

Last thing I’ll mention…some people have reservations about buying a used computer. Ordinarily I would, too. With a Dell Precision, however, you’re getting the Volkswagen Jetta Clean Diesel of computers. They’re designed to run a long time reliably because professionals use these day in and day out. Having been involved in a $200,000 enterprise purchase of Dell Precision computers, I can also tell you that companies often overspec these machines for the activities their users are truly performing. What does this mean? In car terms, you stand a good chance of getting an off-lease Dell Precision that’s got all highway miles – meaning you get lots of time to punch the gas and do donuts in your cyber parking lot.

Overall: very happy with this purchase.

Would I buy from another off-lease machine from You betcha. I’ve been recommending them to all my buddies that are in similar situations as mine. Next up: a Dell Precision Mobile Workstation.