The Dell OptiPlex 7010 is a business orientated Small Form Factor machine released around 2012. It is based on the Intel Q77 Express chipset.
One of my customers has many of these machines and users were complaining they had become slow, but they didn’t have budget to buy new machines. So I tested to see if upgrading some of the components would bring the machines to an acceptable standard.
The objective is to be able to run standard Office Applications with good response times (Windows 10, Outlook, Word, Excel, MS Teams, Web browsing etc).
Because these machines are quite old I focussed on upgrades that would provide the best value, because there is no point investing too much money into an old machine. So this guide is split into sections.
Table of contents
Upgrade the Hard Drive to Solid State Drive
By far the best value upgrade for this machine is to replace the hard drive for a solid state drive. It provides a massive boost in responsiveness and takes very little time or expertise to do.
For an SSD upgrade you have several options:
- Swap the Hard Drive for a Solid State Drive.
- Swap the CD/DVD Drive for a Solid State Drive.
- Upgrade to a PCIe NVMe Solid State Drive in the PCI Slot.
Here is a video that shows the relative boot speed of an OptiPlex 7010 when using the original hard drive, a Samsung Solid State Drive and Western Digital PCIe NVMe drive:
Here are some figures that show the performance figures produced by CrystalDiskMark:
- Standard 3.5″ Hard Drive included with the machine:
- Samsung EVO 860 500Gb Solid State Drive:
- Western Digital Blue SN550 NVMe PCIe Solid State Drive:
Other than the obvious performance increase, I found this machine to be quite sensitive to the vibration caused by the hard drive. Swapping to an SSD made it near silent.
Swap the Hard Drive for a Solid State Drive
The hard drive bay in the OptiPlex 7010 is a standard 3.5″ bay, so a bracket is required to fit a 2.5 Solid State Drive securely. But other than that, it is a very simple operation. You could choose to fit the SSD without a bracket, it has no moving parts so it should be fine.
You can clone hard drive to a new SSD using the cabling for the DVD Drive. I used Macrium Reflect free edition to clone the drive. Here is a video that shows how to clone the hard drive and then replace it completely.
Swap the CD/DVD Drive for a Solid State Drive
If you don’t use the CD/DVD Drive on the Dell Optiplex 7010 you can easily swap it out for an SSD with the use of an 12.7mm Optical bay caddy, like this one from Amazon. This means that you can keep your hard drive and use it as additional storage. Swapping the DVD drive out for an SSD is very easy. Here is a video that shows how it can be done.
You can use the same procedure as above to clone the drive.
Upgrade to a PCIe NVMe Solid State Drive
An NVMe Solid State Drive provides the very best performance, but the procedure is slightly more complicated for two reasons:
- The Optiplex 7010 does not have an NVMe slot.
- It does not support booting from NVME.
However, it is not difficult to achieve. Here is the equipment I used, all from Amazon:
- Western Digital Blue 500Gb NVMe M.2 PCIe Drive
- Cheap M.2 NVMe to PCIe Adapter
- This tiny Sandisk Ultra Fit USB Flash Drive
Here is the drive installed into the adapter:
By using Clover Bootloader, the USB Flash Drive will enable the machine to boot from the NVMe drive. I put the USB Flash drive in the back of the machine:
These Sandisk Ultra Fit drives are really neat, it barely protrudes from the machine. The next step is to make the flash drive bootable:
- Download and run Boot Disk Utility.
- Insert the USB Stick that you are going to boot from into the machine.
- Select your USB Stick and click format:
- Open your newly formatted drive and copy \EFI\CLOVER\drivers\off\NvmExpressDxe.efi to:
Copying the NvmExpressDxe.efi to the drivers folder adds NVMe support to Clover which will enable booting from the NVMe drive.
I deleted everything else from the \EFI\CLOVER\drivers\UEFI folder, so it only contained NvmExpressDxe.efi. I also modified the config.plist to reduce the boot delay, you can copy my config from here.
Then all you need to do is make sure your machine is set to UEFI boot, and select the USB flash drive as the primary boot device.
You can clone your existing hard drive to the NVMe drive, but only if it is formatted with the GPT partition scheme. If your current disk uses MBR you will need to do a fresh install of Windows on to the NVMe drive.
After I finished the NVMe upgrade, I removed the hard drive and SATA cable to make the airflow a bit better:
Note, If you remove the hard drive completely you will get an error on boot which says:
Alert! Hard Drive not found. To continue press F1 key To change setup option press F2 key To run onboard diagnostics press F5 key
Press F2 to go into the BIOS settings, go into System Configuration and then Drives and then untick SATA-0. Then it will boot without any error messages.
You may be wondering if it is worth putting an NVMe drive in a machine this old, but I think it is for three reasons:
- If you choose the SSD carefully, you can get one for very little money.
- NVMe drives are less CPU Intensive than SATA drives.
- It’s much faster, but cost is about the same.
Additional RAM will only make a significant difference if the applications that you typically run demand more RAM than you have. In my opinion, 4Gb is the minimum to run Windows 10 smoothly.
Additional RAM can make a massive difference to performance, but the performance increase does depend on what applications you typically use. In my opinion, 8Gb is the minimum to run Windows 10 smoothly.
The Optiplex 7010 uses DDR3 PC3-12800 which is quite expensive and depending on how much you already have, might not be a worthwhile upgrade. My machine had only 2Gb installed, so I bought 2 x 8Gb sticks from Amazon.
The maximum amount of memory you can install into the Dell Optiplex 7010 SFF is 32Gb. The technical guidebook states that 16Gb is the maximum, but this is incorrect. It has 4 Ram slots (2 Banks of 2) and each can take 8Gb of Ram. I have personally tested it with 24Gb (2 x 8Gb and 2 x 4Gb). Motherboard is pictured below:
Upgrading the CPU can make a lot of difference to the performance of the OptiPlex 7010, depending on what CPU the machine already has and what you are using it for.
According to the technical guidebook, these are the CPUs officially supported for the OptiPlex 7010 SFF:
|CPU||Mhz||Max Mhz||Cores||Threads||Single Core||Multi Core||GPU|
|Core i7-3770S||3100||3900||4||8||768||2889||HD 4000|
|Core i5-3570S||3100||3800||4||4||748||2394||HD 2500|
|Core i5-3475S||2900||3600||4||4||713||2262||HD 4000|
|Core i5-3470S||2900||3600||4||4||712||2263||HD 2500|
|Core i5-3500S||3000||3700||4||4||666||2234||HD 2500|
|Core i5-3450S||2800||3500||4||4||679||2048||HD 2500|
|Core i3-3240||3400||3400||2||4||621||1377||HD 2500|
|Core i3-3225||3300||3300||2||4||614||1384||HD 4000|
|Core i3-3220||3300||3300||2||4||598||1332||HD 2500|
|Core i3-2130||3400||3400||2||4||590||1331||HD 2000|
|Core i3-2125||3300||3300||2||4||604||1376||HD 3000|
|Core i3-2120||3300||3300||2||4||565||1259||HD 2000|
For the table above I took the single core and multi-core scores from Geekbench.
You can see there is a vast performance difference in the lowest specification CPU and the highest one.
Looking on eBay I think the Core i5-3570S and Core i5-3475S have the best price/performance ratio. The Core i7-3770S is around double the price of the 3570S. The Core i5-3475S is good value and has the benefit of HD4000 graphics.
I think the Dell OptiPlex 7010 Small Form Factor is a really neat little Office Desktop or media centre machine. It still looks good and has good connectivity.
One other thing that is useful for these machines is a DisplayPort to HDMI cable, like this one from Amazon. It makes connecting it to a modern screen easy.
Are these machines worth upgrading? I think that depends on what you are using them for and what specification you are upgrading from. If you choose your upgrades carefully, you can gain a lot of performance, for not a lot of money.