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I have a Dell Dimension 9200 that I got back in 2007 when vista was just released. One day I switch it on and it gives no signal to the monitors. Its still does boot up though (I can hear the start up sounds). I have opened it and the graphics card is on and fan spinning but just no output.

Does anyone have any good ideas on how I can get it running a fresh OS without buying a new card? I want to use it as a Linux server where I can just remote desktop into and will not need a display.

NB Before you ask there are no internal graphics.


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Just get the cheapest graphics card you can find and get over with it. – Renan May 11 '12 at 21:25
So you boot the PC, and there is nothing displayed. Yet you blame the graphics card. How have you eliminated the monitors (plural?) and cables as possible causes? – sawdust May 11 '12 at 21:37
I have tried everything sawdust, different displays and cables. I have also used the displays on other machines. – roryhughes May 11 '12 at 21:42
This is the kind of thing you'd do if you were NASA and having to deal with a remote space probe. Instead, put a video card in it long enough to do the install. OR ARE YOU SECRETLY NASA? I'm on to you! – Mark Allen May 11 '12 at 22:53

You can try something like this: boot up a livecd/usb with a know login such as ubuntu and openssh installed by default (not all do, but server ones should). On your router find the ip, and ssh into it with the known user. If this does not work, you would have to make a live usb/livecd yourself. Then you can just configure everything else through ssh. I have a laptop like this (though the display is not totally dead, but the output is unreadable, so I guess my case is a little less severe) that I have used as a server.

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I think most public liveCD images have taken the basic security caution to disable remote login for accounts with empty passwords and on most of them, the only user is one such account. You'll probably have to build your own liveCD. – May 11 '12 at 22:07
systemrescue cd goes straight to root, but that is reasonable as it is for rescue to begin with. ubuntu user can remote login in the cds i used without a passwd, at least used to. newer versions could have changed. to run livecd you need physical access and with physical access at hand, there is not much security to ensure really because there is not much an attacker can do on a livecd system. – johnshen64 May 11 '12 at 22:10
I don't quite understand your point. Once you can sudo you can do anything to the computer. That's the worst thing can happen. Many system administrators have to set BIOS passwords and disable CD and USB boots just to prevent tech-savvy employees from booting an alternative system and change the security settings in the on-disk OS. – May 11 '12 at 22:19

It might get pretty tricky, but you can make unattended install. IMO, the easiest way to go is using PXE (quick googling indicates your laptop supports it) to do network install, since you won't have to run back and forth with flash drive to change the configuration file if anything goes wrong and it does not boot up. This guide looks like a good start. The most difficult step might be setting up BIOS to boot from desired media.

If you have a COM port (according to description I found, it is not installed, but there is a good chance there are necessary pins on your MoBo), you can try using it to connect a serial console and use it to interact with installer.

And of course the simplest way: create a virtual machine on your working PC, start installation process there and just duplicate all steps to your headless Dell.

Besides, why not simply plug your HDD into another machine, install an OS there and then just return HDD back? It is not troubleproof, but probably the most sure way to achieve what you want.

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