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Upgrading Head Office Computers

Company name removed for anonymity

My company have been using the Dell Optiplex 280 for a number of years. They’re slow, a little unreliable (in some cases), and generally no longer up to the demands of the companies needs and requirements. Due to updating to newer tools and corporate applications it was a good idea to debut them (albeit a little late) on a brand new machine. After what seemed to be months of planning and preparation, a deal was struck with Dell and new computers were ordered.

I’m rushing here though; initially it wasn’t quite that simple.

After what must have been 30 different suppliers and multiple brands looking for the right quote [that being the lowest price for the best performance!] with decent after sale support, Dell, surprisingly, was the supplier of choice. This was partly due to their sweet talk and appealing discounts, but also down to the old saying “better the Devil you know”, My company has had Dell for a number of years, and although the thought of swapping to a different supplier such as HP, Lenovo, etc was tempting, the idea was dropped.

Specification wise, after some testing and brainstorming the following had been decided;

Core2Duo 3.00GHz
3GB Ram
And a simple
80GB drive. [Being that most of the user documents are server-located, HDD space was not an issue].

The idea being that these computers need to be prepared to last. Generally hardware in a corporate environment is upgraded every 3-4 years, depending on the company’s needs and requirements. My company needed something that would stay ahead of it’s time for a good while to come, and this was the specification that was agreed upon to keep up with the advances of the technological boom that is upon us. I for one know that the spec could have been a lot better still [quadcore etc], however at the same time the budget has to be considered when deciding on what to go for and in this case, this was an affordable yet well spec’d selection.

Initially only one of these computers was ordered with the intention to test the machine’s capabilities with the corporate image, software and to document how it handled punishment beyond what it would actually take while serving the employees. As was to be expected, there were some minor issues,

  • the SATA harddrives weren’t recognised by the image installer,
  • the USB drives apparently did not exist etc,

All driver related which was soon fixed with an updated image installer. Aside from that minor hiccup, the testing phase went very smoothly and quickly, giving very positive results meaning it was perfect for the company’s needs. The new machine, the Optiplex 760DT was a colossal upgrade on the previous 280’s. It is incredible how times have changed and the difference between the old P4 and what is now in use, the Core 2 Duo. The speed was the initial surprise, boot up and logon times had dramatically increased. The newly designed Dell keyboard and mouse is so very nice to use, nothing like the old, chunky ones that had tendencies to invoke RSI after use on a short term basis.

It took a while, but eventually the order for the computers had come in [and with ever increasing issues on the old machines, it was not too soon either] and were left in the parking lot. Luckily Jim, our caretaker was on-site and ready to help out with the unpacking and moving of the computers. If it had not been for him, it would have taken far longer.


To an extent they were covered, but seeing as rain was destined to fall and resembled something you’d see in the Amazon during “rain season”, the packaging didn’t hold up too well and boxes were getting wet. The standard form of transporting the computers into the building was abandoned, and replaced with a slightly unorthodox window slide.


Eventually all of the computers were unboxed and stacked up ready for imaging. The process I had to repeat 59 times, and all on my lonesome. However, the computers 1 by 1 [eventually 2 by 2 as I’d began to speed up, a mouse in each hand? Oh yes.] were imaged and ready to be sent out to the office.

Here’s a few pictures of the stack;


Mmm, I love the smell of technology in the morning.

Deploying the computers was a breeze once they’d been imaged. A simple adjustment to the chassis holding the computer under the table (as the computers were a little bigger than the old ones) and they went straight in.

Set up was a synch also, all that was required was a removal of the reservation for the previous machine, creating a new one for the new machine in the DHCP and renewing the IP. It couldn’t have been any easier if I wanted it to be. A few extra installations on the standard image for the odd users here and there in need of specialist software and the job was a good one.

Room by room on floor by floor the computers were replaced in less that 10mins per machine average. Starting from the top where it was decided that ICT would first preliminarily test them to make sure there were no issues, and going down to the basement. It didn’t take too long, but the imaging was an unnecessary wait [I say unnecessary, in that I would have been finished 3fold had it not been for the imaging] though it had to be said, imaging was much faster via USB than the network.


To finish off the project, the old computers needed to be wiped and sorted ready for selling them. Fortunately this was a very simple aspect. In using the UBI (universal base image), the first process is wiping the drives before replacing the content on them with that of the image. By stopping the process after it has wiped the drives (and before it writes new information) the drives are left empty, all taking not much longer than the time it takes to boot up and shut down again. This was a nice bonus to an otherwise fairly exasperating project.