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Dell dimension 5150 has RAID, right?  What's wrong with that as a workgroup server vs. a PowerEdge 840?

Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2008-01-09
I need to set up a 'server' for a workgroup of 3 people.  I was thinking XP Pro, but would want RAID, so was thinking about a PowerEdge (840 was recommended in another question of mine) for the RAID and simple video card?  (it seems workstations have more expensive video cards?)

Thenk I remember that the Dimension 5150 can come with 2 drives for RAID that's built into the motherboard?  So what do you gain / lose to spend more with a PowerEdge 840?  more complexity? I don't need hot swap drives.  And is there an optiplex that has raid on the mobo?

My head spins with all the choices and talking to dell just gets sales pitches.


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Top Expert 2012

Unless you need 24/7 uptime and rock solid reliability, you could get a desktop and install a nice RAID card in it, since you are only providing for 3 people.  At home, I have a desktop motherboard in a server case with an Areca 1220 PCI-e RAID card and 5 Samsung SATA 250GB drives in a RAID-5 array, and it delivers 250MB/sec data transfer rate.  Even Win2K would work as an OS for stability.
If you are comparing the two for purchase, here's the skinny:
The PowerEdge 8x0 series does not include hardware RAID, you will have to add the option when buying it.  It is little more than a glorified desktop machine in a rack mount form factor.  You could just as easily build a nice Dimension system with hardware RAID as you could a PowerEdge.  And I'm sure you can do the same with an Optiplex if you wish -- be warned, Optiplex's are hit or miss for quality!  And if you are concerned about the video card, just go with whatever the onboard video is.

Now, also keep in mind that if you are going with Win2k3 Server you can use the built in software RAID.  It's not quite as good as hardware RAID, but it's better than nothing and is reasonably reliable depending on what you are using your system for.

My rule of thumb is go with hardware RAID on everything unless cost is a factor.  If cost is a factor than the assumption is it is not a mission critical application and software RAID is sufficient.

Hope this helps!

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ParadiseITS,  the 840 does have an integrated SAS Raid controller the Perc 5/i. It also has a non raid Sata II controller. Not sure why dells sales site shows add-in in front of it but notice that the upgrade price is $0.

Techsupportwhiz, the Dimension 5150 does not have a raid option, it has a data safe option which is norton ghost 10 regularly backing up data to a 2nd hard drive. When i configured a 5150 and an 840 on dells site the 840 was actually a $200 cheaper than the 5150. with both system having 2x250gb hdds and 512mb of ram the 5150 with datasafe and the 840 using raid 1 on the perc 5/i. When you add an os (xp pro) the 840 will still be cheaper than the 5150, but you also have to look at the support you will recieve the basic server support is going to be alot better then the core desktop support. The *40 is purty much what callandor was describing a a desktop with a raid controller just the 840's raid controller is integrated. To anwser the optiplex ?, no there are currently no optiplexs that support hardware raid.

Pros- comes pre-installed with xp pro
Cons- no hardware raid, costs more, support not as good

Pros- Cheaper, integrated hardware raid option, can add more hdds later, Better support
Cons- doest come preinstalled win xp pro


callador (et al): you're all hitting on the burning questions in my head - rock solid reliability... realistically, yeah, a server is a beefed up desktop... but what makes it beefed up / rock solid?  It's still running the same OS, same processor, same ram (albeit maybe ECC, which would likely cause it to crash when it detects a parity error vs. a desktop would keep going?!  and the server, when you look in there, looks more complex - backplane, etc... takes longer to boot, etc....  not that I am partial to one over the other, I guess because I like to keep things simple (for my simple mind : )   I like / are more familiar with desktops.

Jamie - are you sure about the 5150?  I remember seeing it boot up, talk about an intel controller, the status of the array, etc at boot up.  and this thread shows another guy mentioning raid on a 5150:


I thought it was neat that raid was in a desktop, but I guess kinda the trend as people get more and more data and never backup.  yeah, the ghost app is on there too, but if I remember correctly, it's writing to a hidden partition on the drive (so a 40 gig drive might have a 30 gb C drive and 10 gb ghost / hidden drive... and those 2 are being mirrored via controller hardware raid?!

paradise - dimension vs. opti - my head spins when talk comes to that too!  opti has the 3 year warrantee as standard.. but then do you want to sit on the phone for a long time, talk to india for a long time just to get a replacement hard drive worth $40?!  yeah, if the mobo fails, then you will regret that..  so I like dimensiones.   but dell pitches opti as more stable (vs. your thoughts of being hit or miss quality?!) and geared for networking (duh?  so the nic on the dimension won't work?!  and the os is the same xp on both boxes.  I've rarely bought optiplexes  and if a small business wants to buy a few desktops, seems to make sense to get dimensions with 1 year warrantee and 'self insure' for the add'l years (the money you save on shorter warrantee goes towards the parts, if any that fail in years 2, 3?!  that said, if you need the the smaller cased optiplex, because then are small, they  are likely a bear to work on... so let them come out in year 2 & 3 to replace the hard drive / mobo / (non-standard size?) cd drive....

My bad I phrased that wrong, it does support raid 1, but its a driver based raid 1 which isnt a true hardware raid solution it will still peg the cpu ans system memory for raid functionlity, and if there is an issue with the drive or an os issue seroius enogh to damage the drive the raid is gone. Thats why i will always recommend hardware raid and also discourge people from software and driver based raids.  Also where you were talking about warrantys, If you get the 840 it comes default with 3 years basic server support which will usually be provided in the us ,only 3 call centers take server calls, twin falls idaho, round rock texas, and panama ( usually only late at night and early in the morning they cover the graveyard part of the 24/7 tech support and have no issues speaking clear english). The customer can upgrade up to a max of 5 years of warranty, meaning they wont have to replace it for at least 5 yrs (unless they out grow it). The 840 to me would clearly be the best option for the customer over the 5150, it has true hardware raid support, costs less than the 5150, and has has better support. Why spend more on a desktop that was designed for the average users internet and word processing uasage, over a system designed to be a server?
Top Expert 2012
There is a difference in the hardware and OS between servers and desktops.  Servers can have redundant power supplies, NICs, ECC RAM, and better chipsets.  The video usually is low end, because no one needs to look at the screen on a continual basis.  The server OS is usually more stable because it has all the non-essential stuff stripped out so that it can run continuously and without memory problems.  It usually can address more memory and so can run more programs.
jamie -- we just got a PE 860, no hardware RAID.. perhaps the 840 is different....  it's an option on the 860.

techsupportwiz -- i hear you... however I made a mistake in my previous comments -- I was thinking about the Precision line.... NOT the Dimension line...  The Precisions are well built (generally) machines that are/were the basis for the SC server line at one time.  As for Dell's warranty... look, it's better than notihng at all but if you wanted a refurbished computer, you could buy it on eBay... cus that is what you get with Dell's warranty (and replacing brand new parts with refurb'd parts is more the standard these days)...

the real question is whether or not every single dollar counts... IE:  You have $X to spend on a server and it's not enough.  Because springing for a real server box with hardware RAID is worth every penny when a drive fails... no matter how good your backup scheme is, even for only 3 people.  If you are buying a Dell (ick) anyway, the server will be fairly cheap... I mean they start @ $399... the 860 we just got for a customer was for a Fax Server and it was under $1k for the whole package (except the fax board which cost almost as much as the machine) since we put CentOS on it.


OK, so I opted for the Power Edge 840.  Any ideas!?

We got a PowerEdge 840 with the SAS 5/iR raid controller, 2 SATA drives and configured for RAID 1 out of the box.  No OS preinstalled.  I wanted to install xp (it's a server for a small workgroup / I wanted RAID...)

First, do I need / want the open manage disks?

I booted off the xp pro cd and pressed f6 (the unit came with the 2 drives configured as raid 1 out of the box).  From the dell website, going into prweredge 840 and win xp, there's no floppy driver app for the sas 5/ir controller listed - just firmware?  


I went in the list for win 2003 and got this:


I had made a floppy of this app:.


First time through, it had the drivers for the sas 5 card for server 2003 and for 2000.  I chose 2003.  it then balked after a little while about a file not present.  I rebooted from CD, pressed f6 and chose win 2000.  setup seemed to run ok.  rebooted ok into graphical setup, entered serial number, machine name, etc...

rebooted after a while into what should have been the first time booting up into windows, I believe.

it blue screens right after windows splash screen is on for a couple seconds.  I filmed it with digital camera because blue screen flashes so quick.  it talked about hard drive and hard drive controllers. and had a stop 0x0000007b error.

anyone know what next to try?!
The open manage server assistant disk wont work with xp only server os's. Try this driver http://support.dell.com/support/downloads/download.aspx?c=us&l=en&s=gen&releaseid=R122663&SystemID=PWE_P4_840&os=WNET&osl=en&deviceid=10269&devlib=0&typecnt=2&vercnt=1&formatcnt=3&libid=46&fileid=163147
download the .exe (its a self extracting zip file) and either extract it to a folde then copy the contents of the folder to a floppy or just have it extract to a blank floppy. If it still gives an error about a missing file try a new floppy disk. Also in the future when lokking for driver your going to need to go under 2003 dell wont have all the options listed under xp where they dont consider it a supported os for a server.


your welcome
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