Dell Dimension 4600 hard drive/what to get

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Dell Dimension 4600 hard drive/what to get

This question has been answered by picturethis62


My old hard drive on my Dell Dimension 4600 (2004 512mb 400mhz Pentium 4 Processor 2.8GHz)  is about to die and I would like to replace it with a 250gb, the old one is a 80gb...I will be using a hard drive enclosure to move/save files.   Looking to spend under $100.

Would like to know what you guys recommend on what to get (specs), any info help would be greatly appreciated



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  • Haha, yes it does, man I'm learning, thank you so much!  No more questions, lol

    Thanks again

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  • I too have an old Dimension 4600. It's my parents' and they have new and powerful laptops, but still use the desktop occasionally. I'm just trying to do a little upgrade for them, while getting rid of some old parts of mine that are not worth selling.

    My intended HDD is a WD Blue 500 GB SATA 2.0, but both SATA ports in the PC are used by optical drives. I have considered trying this adapter,

    as I have considered a few PCI SATA/PATA/RAID controllers. Prices are comparable for each adapter. Of the following options, which do you believe would deliver the best performance:

    1. The SATA to PATA/IDE bridge that you suggest. If I do this, can I connect both the PATA and SATA drive w/ adapter to a single PATA cable as master/slave, or will I need a second cable? And will the motherboard on the 4600 support multiple PATA cables?

    2. A PCI SATA/RAID card at 1.5Gbps

    3. Disconnect one of the optical drives from SATA and connect using PATA. This will free up the second SATA port for the HDD. If I am to do this, can I connect the optical and hard drives to one PATA cable or will I need a second?

    I have also heard the P4 is compatible with Windows 7 and I plan to install that as a second OS as well. I have already installed 4GB RAM, would a 64-bit Win7 be possible on this motherboard/CPU or do I need to use 32-bit?

    I would like to keep the existing WinXP on the current 120GB PATA HDD. Any issues with this? I have heard that Win7 comes with SATA drivers installed, whereas XP does not, so does that mean I will not be able to see the second drive in XP?

    Also does it matter where I put which drive? I've heard that if I use SATA port 1, it will become the default boot drive, which will not allow me to access XP. Is this correct?

    Any insights will be helpful, please.



  • Most of the information on the hard disk drives for the Dimension 4600 has already been discussed in the earlier posts in this thread.  With regard to the boot drive, so far as I know, if a SATA drive is connected to the first port, it must be used for the boot drive.  I have no idea if you can still boot from the PATA drive if you attach the SATA drive to the second port instead, or if you can boot from a SATA drive attached to the second SATA port.  People I have talked to in the past have stated that they managed to get the IDE channel to run a secondary drive, but it was not possible to boot from it unless you first disabled the SATA ports or disconnected the SATA drive.  Dell did not design the Dimension 4600 to use PATA and SATA hard drives simultaneously, so getting it to work may be a matter of luck.

    With regard to the processor, you should definitely be able to use Windows 7 32-bit, but running the 64 bit version depends on the processor you have.  Not all processors used with the Dimension 4600 have 64 bit capability.  You may be able to determine this by running the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor, assuming that Microsoft still has it on their support site.  When I ran it a couple of years ago on my machines, I received data for both the 32 and 64 bit versions of Windows 7 on those computers capable of 64 bit operation, and data for only the 32 bit version of Windows 7 on those computers not having a processor capable of executing 64 bit instructions.

    Using a SATA to PATA adapter can be an exercise in frustration.  Dell computers using PATA drives are designed to use the Cable Select feature of the drive.  Many SATA to PATA adapters are permanently set to Master.  This should not be a problem since the adapter should be emulating a Master IDE drive, but I know of many people who had trouble getting these things to work.  If you try one, you should make certain the vendor will accept returns.

    The Dimension 4600 was designed to use SATA almost as an afterthought.  It has two IDE channels, and most of them shipped with optical drives on the secondary IDE channel and the hard drives on the first.  IDE channels handle two drives each, and the Dimension 4600 should have IDE cables having both a Master connector (the one at the very end of the cable) and a Slave connector (located in the middle of the ribbon between Master and the the system board connector).

    SATA drivers are irrelevant to the ports on a Dimension 4600 due to the nature of the bridge used between the drive controller and the SATA ports.  You will find no SATA drivers on the Dimension 4600 support page because the SATA ports are translated to PATA/IDE equivalents by the mainboard circuitry and the chipset firmware.  If you should decide to try an add-on PCI card for the SATA drive, however, bear in mind that those cards may need SATA drivers to work properly.

    The Dimension 4600 SATA ports were designed to the first generation specification.  Currently available drives are supposed to be capable of adjusting to the appropriate data rate automatically, but the older controllers sometimes have trouble with the negotiation.  Whichever drive you select, you should check to see if it has a jumper to restrict the interface to the first generation, and make use of it should the drive not work properly in the computer.  You should only need to worry about this if you are using the on-board ports.  The ports on an add-on PCI card should be at least second generation, and should be able to negotiate with the drive with no problem.

    Dell Forum member since 2005