Frugal Find: The Dumpster PC (Editor)

Recently I both tweeted and and mentioned in the Q&A show, that I had found something quite spectacular in the dumpster just outside my apartment. Not one to typically dumpster dive, this model is so low to the ground (about waist-high for me) that I can't help but peer in and see what potential treasures await. Being an area of high turnover will often yield lots of good stuff in the trash, as people leave town and head for the airport (the only way out of town).

Even high expectations did not prepare me for what I was about to find. At the top of the mound of that day's trash was a huge aftermarket PC tower box, the kind that gamer's buy to set up custom rigs and populate with fast processors and high-end graphics cards. A quick look inside revealed the box did actually contain the tower, and the tower housed a motherboard and graphics card!

I snatched the box and its contents out of the dumpster and hauled it inside. It would be a a great find if all that worked was the tower itself. But what if the computer worked? I've been editing all my content for years on my laptop as I needed the portability. Now, I desktop could better fit my needs, especially if that graphics card was usable by my editor, Sony Vegas Pro. I seem to remember some settings that let Vegas playback and render faster and more efficiently when using certain GPUs (Graphic Processing Units) on specific graphics cards.

Cracking open the case led to some nice surprises. There was a motherboard by Gigabyte, a Radeon 6990 graphics card (with 5 video outputs!), 8 GB of RAM, a DVD writer, a fan controller, and an flash/USB interface on the front panel. No hard drives (to be expected from anyone dumping a computer), but all this stuff looked great for a potential editing machine.

I obtained a DVI to HDMI cable and adapter and plugged the machine into my TV, and the wall. Lights turned on and fans whirred, but no picture. Even with no hard drive I should still be able to get to the BIOS screen, but no luck. I checked all my connections and even re-inserted the graphics card, but nothing seemed to work.

Then I noticed something that led me to believe the graphic slot may have been damaged. The locking clip on the slot was broken off. Luckily, the Gigabyte motherboard had a second slot (I presume for a multi-monitor setup), so I relocated the Radeon 6990 to that second slot and fired up the machine again. Success! I saw the Gigabyte splash screen which allowed me to get to the BIOS screen.
The BIOS informed me as to what kind of processor I had: a 3GHZ Athlon II x4 (quad core) 640. I also did indeed have 8 gigs of RAM, just like my laptop.

I was pretty pleased by all this. While not state of the art, this machine probably an above average gaming rig about five years ago (judging by the processor and the graphics card model) and was looking to be a great editing setup for Sony Vegas Pro. But would it?

Stay tuned to find out!


Anonymous said…
did you ever consider it was stolen and dropped there , any id on it for police id, might need to check it out, having it even from a dumpster is still possibly a crime
Scott Eggleston said…
It never crossed my mind that it may have been stolen, but considering how old the hardware is, I highly doubt it. Not only that, but people are dumping things of value all the time in this town due to their need to get rid of stuff before they are forced to leave by plane.
Qrious said…
Sweet find! Am willing to bet that you're 3 sigmas from the mean in terms of it being dumped vs. "stolen." I've built many PCs myself and it sounds like you're spot-on with the specs and how old they seem to be. Again, awesome find Scott!