I purchased a Dell Optiplex 745 (ultra small form factor) from a used equipment sale at the local university. I had hoped that it would be low power as well, but that does not seem to be the case – although a more modern computer is always going to be more efficient (or at least you would think so).
First, I had to reset the BIOS as it had been password protected against changes. Resetting the BIOS was simple: remove the password jumper in the system, boot fully once, then replace the password jumper. The full description is available at eHow. The only sticking point was trying to find the jumper in the case; it turned out to be roughly in the center of the board underneath one of the airflow covers. If you are looking at the system from the top – with the front facing you – the relevant cover is in the back left corner, and the jumper (a tiny blue shiny plastic jumper with extended grasping handle) is towards the center of the board.
I’ve not yet found how to reset the “title” that comes up when the system is booted; this does not seem to be in the BIOS settings anywhere. I could fully reset the CMOS entirely (rather than just the password) but that always scares me – what else will be lost?
Trying to use the CDROM, I ran into some difficulties. It appears it may be easy to put the CDROM in incorrectly; be sure to put it in the right way and seat it fully.
I decided I would put Fedora 16 on this system – and went with Fedora 16 64bit. This went quite smoothly and the system runs well. Specifically, I went with the Fedora 16 XFCE spin – which means it runs fast and light. Running a lightweight desktop on a fast machine is even nicer than I would have expected. I did load WindowMaker but haven’t yet tried it. Who knows – I might try 9wm once.
I loaded up everything that one needs for a home desktop: DVD playback, MP3 playback, and so on. I couldn’t get Parole to work with DVDs, so I went with Totem instead. In the same manner, I installed RhythmBox to play MP3s. I also had no problems getting Flash or Java to work. On the web, an excellent resource for all of these steps is at LinuxForDummies. Video and sound were recognized without problem.
This is definitely a nice setup: both the hardware (the Optiplex 745) and the software (Fedora XFCE 64-bit spin) are recommended.