Dell Optiplex 980 Setup

My desktop box (an off-lease Dell Optiplex 780) work up dead a while back, but recovered; I figured an insurance policy might be a good idea, so a new-to-me off-lease Dell Optiplex 980 just arrived. It booted into Windows Vista Business, whereupon:

  • Apply all the usual Windows updates
  • Boot SysRescCD from USB, run GPartEd
  • Shrink the Windows partition (/dev/sda1) to 25 GB
  • Slide the recovery partition (/dev/sda2) over against it
  • Create 10 GB swap partition (/dev/sda3), likely never to be used with 4 GB of RAM
  • Create extended partition (/dev/sda4)
  • Create 35 GB Linux partition (/dev/sda5)

Then install Xubuntu 13.10 using the mini ISO USB, put GRUB in the MBR, reboot, and … get Vista again. Huh. This is not a nominal outcome.

For whatever reason, GRUB either doesn’t get control or defaults to the Windows partition. However, attempting to boot from the mini ISO transfers control to GRUB, thence to Xubuntu, and attempting to boot from SysRescCD works fine. Boot to Xubuntu, tinker with /etc/default/grub, run update-grub, and it still doesn’t work. Well, it boots Vista, but that doesn’t work for me; no error messages, either.

The box runs BIOS A07, so:

  • Fetch BIOS A14
  • Boot Windows, update the BIOS
  • Check the settings and discover that the hard drive is set to RAID mode
  • Change that to RAID Autodetect – AHCI
  • Ignore warnings about possible reinstall; box doesn’t come with a reinstall CD
  • Reboot and it’s all good: GRUB is now in full control
  • Both Vista and Xubuntu work fine

I think the problem came from having a single hard drive set to RAID mode. Dunno what they had in mind with that; it’s a small form factor box with no room for another drive…

Memo to Self: Yet Another Thing To Preemptively Un-Wedge