I'm not getting another Dell. In the aftermath of the lightning, I've discovered that the motherboard to my Dell Dimension 2350 is fried. What's unknown is whether the processor and memory are also fried, so I'm thinking: a new motherboard, a faster processor and better memory. What could be simpler?
Lots, it turns out. First, Dell's motherboards are custom, which means you have to buy them from Dell. Part of them being custom is that they're apparently not exactly conformal to standard form factors, and plus there's the additional bonus that they're not cheap. Of course, the system was fairly budget, but one can easily see that Dell is out to gouge you on replacement parts, so they're not going to get my repeat business. I'm NOT going to replace my whole PC with a near-exact replica that's also not maintainable. Again, not kicking Dell too hard because you get what you pay for, but some people are evidently quite upset at the corner-cutting. Apparently the BIOS is also obfuscated, but I imagine there are good reasons for that. It's not what I want, though.
Also, Dell evidently fiddles with their power supplies a bit so that they're still ATX form/fit, but the cabling is a bit different. This is all purely based on word-of-mouth on chat boards, mind you, but I believe it. Any manufacturer that purposefully deviates from component standard layouts (which, by the way, requires some investment) in order to more firmly hammerlock its customer base should be looked at askance.
And don't even get me started on Microsoft. After much Googling, I discovered that removing my HDD from the Dell system and attempting to boot another system from it (to actually access its contents. Unprecedented, I know) was pretty much a lost cause, and since I've got this wonderful Dell system, I don't even have a WinXP installation disk. No, I've got a Dell WinXP reinstallation disk. Apparently Win2k and WinXP both are rather more picky about hardware changes in the system, to the point that if you add a component you may have to repair your system before it'll boot properly. FanTASTic.
All of these events are leading me to buy a barebones box from a local outfit, rather than repairing or upgrading my current system. I'm not saying don't buy Dell, I'm just saying that you ought to be aware of what you're giving up in doing so. If you're planning to have Dell do all of your maintenance, and don't mind talking on the phone, being walked through a mindless sequence of fault-isolation steps that a machine could walk you through more quickly and less annoyingly, go for it.
So, you all know what I'm going to be doing over lunch. What I'm shooting for is a 3GHz system with a half gig of RAM, an ATI All-in-Wonder (or equivalent), and a DVD burner, and precious little else. I'm willing to buy the video card and the DVD burner separately, as they're not essential for accessing the financial data. And I'm probably going to need a copy of WinXP, damn Microsoft's black, shriveled soul to hell. On the bright side, I'll be able to cannibalize the CD burner and DVD burner for my dual-boot system; it has a Smart & Friendly 2x (IIRC) CD writer.