Mark Berry December 22, 2008
About a year ago, I bought a Dell OptiPlex 755 for a client. The machine came with Intel Advanced Management Technology (iAMT) with vPro. I soon discovered that has a killer feature: it has a little web server built into the hardware that allows me to remotely power the machine off and on. That's right, out-of-band power management built into the motherboard! For someone who does remote IT administration, that feature can be invaluable. I decided I would definitely look for iAMT/vPro on future purchases.
Dell Outlet has some great deals on OptiPlexes. When you follow the link from the Outlet to the OptiPlex 755 Desktop Product Details, vPro is mentioned six times. It's obviously a major feature of the OptiPlex 755. Intel's list of vPro Skus also confirms that vPro is included on every OptiPlex 755 form factor. vPro is a feature of certain processors, so I made sure that I bought a machine with a vPro-capable processor (an E8350).
Long story short, the computer I received did not have iAMT or vPro. The setup options were simply missing from the systems management BIOS.
It turns out that in spite of all the hype, by default, iAMT and vPro are permanently disabled when you order a new OptiPlex 755. A field motherboard replacement would fix this, but after Dell scheduled, then canceled, two motherboard replacements, Dell informed me that I would need to return the old computer and buy a new one pre-loaded with vPro.
Finding vPro at the Outlet
Before looking for a vPro-enabled machine, you need to know the part numbers for Dell's various management modes. I tried to ask an Outlet salesperson about which machines have vPro; he transferred me to tech support. Unfortunately, most first-level OptiPlex support people also are unfamiliar with iAMT and vPro. For a major feature, it is a surprisingly well-kept secret.
I eventually found a Dell article titled Manageability Mode Options on Replacement System Boards for the Dell™ OptiPlex™ 755, which explains the four OptiPlex 755 manageability modes (numbered 1, 1, 2, and 3). Here is part of the chart from that article. I've added the description that you will see when you look at the system at the Outlet:
|310-9491||CU245||Option Online: Advanced Client Systems Management (w/vPro)
Outlet Name: Labeling (only visible after adding to cart!)
|310-9494||HP413||Option Online: Advanced Client Systems Management (w/iAMT)
Outlet Name: iAMT Advanced Hardware Enabled Systems Management
|2||ASF Only||310-9492||CU377||Option Online: Basic Client Systems Management (w/ASF)
Outlet Name: ASF Basic Hardware Enabled Systems Management
|Option Online: Client Systems Management Disabled
Outlet Name: Client Systems Management Disabled
So you're in the Outlet store, and click on System Details to see detailed information on a system. What management mode does the system have? Look under “Software Upgrades.” There are four possibilities:
- You see “iAMT Advanced Hardware Enabled Systems Management” listed. The system should have Part Number HP413.
- You see “ASF Basic Hardware Enabled Systems Management” listed. The system should have Part Number CU377. This is what I got by accident; it is not vPro and Dell will not upgrade it to vPro.
- You see “Client Systems Management Disabled” listed. The system should have part number XT411 or NN180.
- You don't see any management mode listed. This system probably has Part Number CU245. You'll have to check the shopping cart details to be sure.
To double-check the part number, add the system to your shopping cart. The My Cart page starts in Summary View mode. Click on Detail View (not System Details to show each part number included in the selected system. If you want vPro, look for the CU245 part number; the description will say “Labeling.”
Tip: If you are specifically looking for vPro, you can filter your Outlet store results to show systems that could support vPro, e.g. an OptiPlex 755s with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor speed of 3000 (meaning 3GHz, like the E8350). But it's still a tedious process to look at the details of each machine and add machines to your cart until you find one with vPro.
iAMT Only vs. iAMT with vPro
There is still some confusion in my mind as to the difference between the two Option 1s (CU245 vs. HP413). I have had two high-level tech support reps tell me that if the manageability mode is 1 and the processor supports vPro, vPro is enabled. However, no one has yet been able to explain why some systems that list manageability mode 1 and have a vPro-capable processor are still showing up as HP413. This is especially true when looking at the OptiPlex 960s. When you buy a new 960, you automatically get vPro. But when you look at the Outlet inventory, most are listed with HP413, i.e. without vPro. I'm still hoping to hear back from support with further clarification on this.
Note to Dell: how about using a meaningful description for Part Number CU245 in the Outlet? And maybe add a warning (like in the regular store) that CU377 cannot be upgraded? It would also be nice if the Optiplex support reps were trained in this useful feature.
Bottom line: if you want vPro, make sure the shopping cart details say “CU245” before you buy!