I had an old Compaq Evo D510 full-size tower/desktop convertible PC, from the Pentium 4/Windows XP era, that I wanted to upgrade. The machine long ago outlived its usefulness–its Pentium 4 CPU is less powerful than the average smartphone CPU while consuming enough power to be a space heater–but the case is rugged, professional looking, and long since paid for. So I thought it was worth dropping something more modern into it.
I chose the Asrock Q1800, which sports a quad-core Celeron that uses less than 10 watts of power and runs so cool it doesn’t need a fan. It’s on par with an early Intel Core 2 Duo when it comes to speed, which won’t turn any heads but is plenty fast to be useful, and the board can take up to 16 GB of DDR3 RAM and it’s cheap. I put 16 GB in this one of course. I loves me some memory, and DDR3 is cheap right now.
Keep in mind this is the high-profile ATX case. There was another model of Evo D510 that came in a low-profile desktop case, and the back panel of that board was different. With some tinkering you might be able to get a newer board to fit that case, but I haven’t tried it.
Removing the old board proved a bit of a challenge, as is often the case with P4-era stuff due to the massive coolers that CPU needed. After removing a myriad of screws holding the motherboard in, it still doesn’t budge. The monster cooler attached to the P4 bolts in with four more screws. Release the two handles on the CPU fan, then while pressing down on the whole fan assembly, push the front two legs forward. At that point they release, allowing you to remove the fan and expose the four screws. Remove those and the board removes easily.
After removing the original board, remove the four standoffs that sat underneath the CPU. They unscrew easily. If you leave them in place, they’ll short out the new board.
The Q1800M bolts in fine in place of the old one, it just takes a lot less space. Five of the old screw positions line up perfectly with the six positions on the Asrock board. I just left the post in the upper right corner vacant.
The old Compaq front panel connector plugs right into the Q1800M’s header. The connector has a key pin in the correct position; just let the extra pins hang off the end.
The old Compaq power supply works too. The Q1800M has a modern 24-pin ATX connector but only needs the 20 pins the old original P4 supplies had. Fortunately for you and me, the ATX power connector is keyed so it only fits the right way. Don’t force the connector; try the other way and it will fit easily. For that matter it doesn’t need the supplemental 4-pin P4 connector either, so I just let that connector hang. The caveat with the old power supply is that it won’t have any SATA power connectors, but a Molex-to-SATA splitter is cheap.
If you want to reuse any of the old drives, you’ll need to add an inexpensive PCIe IDE card, but if you want to reuse an old IDE hard drive, make sure the PCIe IDE card you get is bootable. If all you’re looking to reuse is a DVD drive, be aware that a SATA drive may cost less than the card, but if the card lets you use more drives (the Q1800M only has two SATA ports), it may be worth doing anyway.
Speaking of drives, I highly recommend pairing up an SSD with this board, as it will be fast, quiet, and low on power consumption. Many tasks are I/O bound rather than CPU bound, so a low-end CPU paired up with an SSD and lots of RAM can still result in a very responsive system.
You’ll probably want to put an inexpensive 5.25 inch card reader with USB ports in one of the drive bays, since this case doesn’t have any front-mounted USB ports.
The Q1900M does have legacy PS/2 ports, so if you’re a fan of old IBM keyboards like me, you’re in luck. They’ll work. So will an old PS/2 mouse, if you need to use one, though I’m not aware of any old discontinued mice that have the rabid following that the IBM Model M has.
The case fan connector fits in the chassis fan connector on the board, and the cable reaches. You probably won’t need it but you can hook it up if you want to be safe and don’t mind the sound of the fan. If you opt not to use the fan, remove it for better airflow rather than just abandoning it. It’s held in with four screws.