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Is a vintage PC worth it these days?


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#126 Osgeld ONLINE  

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Posted Mon Oct 23, 2017 7:57 PM

back in the day I used to hide a couple USB sockets in those type of cases, just need a bit of plastic or metal and a couple panel mount connectors (with PCB headers if going direct to motherboard) 



#127 eightbit OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Oct 23, 2017 8:44 PM

Now I am reading some really strange things about Intel's SE440BX-2 board and BIOS updates. I try to obtain as much knowledge as I can obviously because I want the built to go right. I am reading reports online of people updating to the latest/last BIOS rev (rev P17) and then not being able to boot with the previous CPU they had in there because in their cases it was a CPU that exceeded 600MHz..like this guy:

 

http://www.tomshardw...30-se440bx-help

 

Anyone hear of this? I found and downloaded BIOS versions P13-P17. I will have to see what is on the board when I get it (hopefully I will not have to flash it at all) but I think in light of this information it might be good to go through bios update increments until the Pentium III 750 is properly detected and once it is to just stop and not update beyond what works.

 

EDIT:

 

Reading more about this guys situation I think I know what happened. His MB rev was lower than what Intel's paperwork wanted him to use in terms of CPU size. Funny that it worked for him previously until Intel "fixed" the problem with the BIOS update. And apparently there's no going back. I am going to have to be cautious with this build...


Edited by eightbit, Mon Oct 23, 2017 8:48 PM.


#128 Keatah ONLINE  

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Posted Mon Oct 23, 2017 10:08 PM

When I built my 440BX I had a summabitch nasty time getting the memory to be solid and reliable. I swear I had to try all combinations of all 4 DIMMS in all 4 sockets. And on the 15th try it passed multiple iterations of memtest! 20 years later the memory seems to be working just fine.

 

Some time later on I got to looking at the SPD and found the real reason. There was two different sets of modules. The fucker that owned Myoda Computers said they were all matched. Ohh bullshit. I had it out with the bastard till it was made right.

 

Everyone knows you shouldn't mix-n-match in the same bank!


Edited by Keatah, Mon Oct 23, 2017 10:46 PM.


#129 Keatah ONLINE  

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Posted Mon Oct 23, 2017 11:52 PM

I used to live and die by what sites like Hard|OCP and Tom's Hardware used to say. Every article a new rabbit hole to fall into. While providing some information, sites like that left an enthusiast begging for specific information. Specific as in numbers, revisions, specifications, all officially approved  Not a very pleasant state of affairs in retrospect. So many little gaps.

 

Simply flashing BIOSes willy-nilly, upping voltages, were the order of the day. Something I thought "sophisticated" in that time, but today see as hack jobs.

 

One point in the timeline I got a PIII 850, which eventually exploded and blew the heatsink right off. Trashed the board naturally.

 

It was starting to get hot and heavy about that time. To me it was a turning point. A time to slow down and look at what was happening in the industry. Everything seemed to be getting hotter, faster, more power-hungry, and nothing seemed to be slowing down. MHz wars weren't even half-way through. Processors were pretty inefficient, and their power consumption equaled and exceeded only by by graphics cards.

 

Seemed that heatsinks, fans, and cooling were the top topic on all the hardware sites. And if you didn't overclock, your rig was considered 3rd rate trash. Every self-respecting gamer overclocked! All to get like maybe a 5FPS advantage. Maybe some folks think it fun and a challenge. It's not. It's a hollow pursuit. And girls don't like that sort of thing much.

 

It all got to be ridiculous with the Pentium 4 and Prescott. None of it felt right. "Voltage and Amps" were being pumped into the processor under high pressure. And gamerz needed equally high-pressured cooling systems to handle it all. Heh. It was all burning up. That's when I quit being an enthusiast and began focusing on the software environment. I had had enough! Whatever assholes (in the industry) were in charge of doing this needed to be taken out and shot.

 

While I dabbled with the P4 Extreme Edition, 3.4GHz, 2MB cache, it never felt like a practical system either. Most power-hungry rig ever. And that's more or less when I stopped chasing hardware. Today we have that P4 level of performance (and more) for like 2 or 5 watts!

 

I'm pleased to say my old legacy rig hasn't seen any changes since 2006. Ohh maybe a different fan arrangement or wire rerouting here and there. So it's genuine legacy.



#130 eightbit OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Oct 24, 2017 7:56 PM

And so it begins. CPU and memory are not in yet, so I can just look at the case and motherboard for now ;) Really nice case by the way!

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#131 eightbit OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Oct 30, 2017 10:26 PM

There has been a lot of updates/changes and headaches with the above Pentium III build thus far, but I am nearly done. I actually had a screw head snap off while screwing in one of the cards into one of the slots. First time that has ever happened to me. Getting it out of the slot hole was a joy....not. I had issues with the IDE to CF adapter and the motherboard not accepting cards larger than 2GB. I went with a 32GB DOM (disk on module) instead that works great. I have been testing it with a PIII 450 all of this time while waiting for a Slot 1 fan kit for my PIII 750. The fan arrived today and it is not compatible with the Pentium III Slot 1 processor...so had to order a different one. I attempted to remove the fan from the PIII 450 in order to simply use that with the 750 and broke the garbage plastic pins that hold it on....so yeah...it will not be functional until I have that slot 1 fan replacement. I'll tell you, sometimes when working on these it feels like God didn't want me to do it. But screw that, I am determined. I am almost there! 


Edited by eightbit, Mon Oct 30, 2017 10:26 PM.


#132 Osgeld ONLINE  

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Posted Tue Oct 31, 2017 7:43 AM

GLUE

 

mind you its a thermally conductive epoxy so dont put it on anything you want to remove lol



#133 remowilliams OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Oct 31, 2017 7:45 AM

 I attempted to remove the fan from the PIII 450 in order to simply use that with the 750 and broke the garbage plastic pins that hold it on.

 

Too late, but you can fairly reliably pop those Intel fan pins out simply by putting a standard case screw underneath them and carefully pressing down.  You may have saved yourself headache by avoiding the CF/IDE, I had intermittent odd issues I was never able to pin down when using them for boot.



#134 eightbit OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Oct 31, 2017 3:12 PM

 

Too late, but you can fairly reliably pop those Intel fan pins out simply by putting a standard case screw underneath them and carefully pressing down.  You may have saved yourself headache by avoiding the CF/IDE, I had intermittent odd issues I was never able to pin down when using them for boot.

 

 

Thanks for the tip on fan removal. I doubt I will have to do that again but if so it is good to know! The CF IDE device works great with my old Pentium 180 Gateway and after a BIOS update on that machine it will accept and use an 8GB CF card. Ironically the newer Pentium III machine just locks up on the BIOS when trying to access the same 8GB card. I guess it is just a toss up with these devices in vintage PC's. The 32GB disk on module works perfectly however....I really like this device!



#135 Keatah ONLINE  

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Posted Tue Oct 31, 2017 5:48 PM

After comparing all the legacy features of my existing Pentium III rig vs the to-be-built PentiumPro rig, I see no advantages to building it out. Bus, memory, instruction set, ports, slots, graphics, sounds, OS compatibility, and more.. All seem to be covered on the P3 with more practicality included.

#136 Osgeld ONLINE  

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Posted Tue Oct 31, 2017 6:15 PM

yea the only reason I would build a pro is just out of sheer novelty, I have done a dual PP 150 system once before, it was great at holding the floor down, but what are you going to do with a big ass heavy server running NT4, (or even a workstation) that a P3 will run circles around 


Edited by Osgeld, Tue Oct 31, 2017 6:16 PM.


#137 remowilliams OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Oct 31, 2017 6:34 PM

Now I am reading some really strange things about Intel's SE440BX-2 board and BIOS updates. I try to obtain as much knowledge as I can obviously because I want the built to go right. I am reading reports online of people updating to the latest/last BIOS rev (rev P17) and then not being able to boot with the previous CPU they had in there because in their cases it was a CPU that exceeded 600MHz..like this guy

 

Out of interest I plugged in the SE440BX-2 (P17) to see.  It seemed to have no problems with a PII 300, and P3 450/550/700/1000



#138 eightbit OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Oct 31, 2017 7:21 PM

 

Out of interest I plugged in the SE440BX-2 (P17) to see.  It seemed to have no problems with a PII 300, and P3 450/550/700/1000

 

 

I found out what the issue is. You have to have specific motherboard revisions in order to use CPU's 550E and better (see attached PDF). I guess there must have been an older rev BIOS for the older revision motherboards that did not check and allowed people to use larger CPU's in the older boards....but once they updated their BIOS that was "fixed"...no longer allowing them to use those CPU's on those revisions. Hence the issue that person had after updating his BIOS.

 

I checked and I have a newer revision board that allows the higher clocked processors and I suspect you do as well considering you can use them as well. In other words, we have no worries ;)

Attached Files


Edited by eightbit, Tue Oct 31, 2017 7:24 PM.


#139 Keatah ONLINE  

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Posted Tue Oct 31, 2017 8:44 PM

I was going to build it out of sentimentality, to reminisce in the days of old when I imagined doing all sorts of cool things with it. But, since then I did all those cool things and more with even just the PIII, not to mention all the recent i7 stuff age. So again it would serve no purpose. It's officially off my project list.

I was thinking of tearing down the PIII completely, and washing and rebuilding it. It's been neglected in terms of dust. I may also relocate the hard drives and possibly, possibly, change up the PCI soundcard to something a bit more basic. I've found that quality stereo speakers and amps give more than 5x multi-channel sound does on mediocre speakers. This could be a 3 week project if I stretch it really really hard.

Anyways the PIII + 440BX supports the major technologies like ISA/PCI/AGP, MMX/SSE, out-of-order execution, while maintaining all the legacy stuff like real serial Com ports, real Parallel port, selectable A20 line, legacy BIOS, Floppy & IDE, Super I/O, native PS/2 style, or old-style DIN(w/adapter), USB 1.0 and 2.0.

When I put it together in the late 1990's I didn't expect to be able to use it 20 years later as a backup utility computer and test-bed. In emergency I can get real work done on it thanks to the 1GB memory. With modern browser. But I also see it doing "survivalist" self-contained computing which isn't dependent on the Internet. My upgrade philosophy at the time was to not lose any "legacy-ness" - like going to a USB card with more ports, but losing DOS compatibility. Or upgrading a graphics card and giving up Fast-Writes or VESA 2.0 in DOS. Things like that.

While it runs at 1.4 something-GHz. I can downclock it or slip in a 233MHz processor AND disable L1 or L2 for software wanting slow hardware.

I also can use my Epson MX-80 F/T w/Graftrax Dot-Matrix printer in Windows 3.1. It also has Composite & S-video In/Out. And it supports Play Inc.'s Snappy Video Digitizer and a Zip-100 parallel port drive. Genuine SoundBlaster ISA card, PCI LAN, and 3x IEEE 1394 ports. Internal ISA real hardware modem, or external USR 3453B via a COM port.

I've got a range of older graphics cards, but currently a GeForce 4 4600 sees the most usage. ViRGE DX, Cirrus Logic 5422, Riva-128, TNT-2 Ultra, Voodoo 2 graphics - available should I need them.

A couple of years back I built an ISA extension chassis giving 4 extra slots, at the cost of 1-internal slot, so I gain 3 slots total. It's nothing more than slots, ribbon cable, connector, and buffers.

So yes, by building the PPro I would not be gaining anything. Not a damned fucking thing.

Edited by Keatah, Tue Oct 31, 2017 8:54 PM.


#140 juansolo OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Feb 8, 2018 10:24 AM

A bit of a thread resurrection this one. As I posted earlier I oddly ended up running an OS/9 to cover some of the more 'modern' PC games and have an Amiga and ST to grab some of the earlier stuff. But it did dawn on me that there was a gap of about 3 years or so in between that was just a concentrated era of awesomeness. Also known as the 3DFX era. So I decided to put the feelers out and see if anyone had an old P2 kicking around (as usual all my old PC stuff had long ago been confined to the bin). My ideal spec being either a late P2 or an early P3, a Voodoo 3 and a Soundblaster.

 

A friend of mine found an old XPS-333 in his garage. It was a bit rusty but working.

 

XPS333.jpg

 

It didn't require a great deal of fettling at all, mostly just stripping and cleaning. FDD didn't work, but that when stripped and the heads cleaned burst into life. CD-Rom was toast however. It'd read TOC but that's about it. Swapped that out for an old Pioneer 110D which even matches the level of yellowing nicely. For the drive I snagged a 40GB (easily twice the size it needs to be) Fujitsu with only 24 days running time on it for about £8. Graphics were swapped for a 3DFX Voodoo 3, easily the most expensive part of the build at £40. Pulled one of the network cards (don't need it anyhow), replaced the battery, factory reset it all. Zip drive is probably toast, they were fragile as hell back in the day, so I just disconnected that. I picked up a NOS WYSE PS/2 keyboard (needed to operate the bios menus), found my original MX500 mouse from back in the day. The AWE64 has the benefit of an on-board amplifier, I found out the wiring and fettled a pair of Apple Pro speakers to work from it. Finally I grabbed a mint, freebie Taxan 17" VGA monitor. That's about it from the hardware side. All up I suspect it's cost me around £80, which is about what I seem to end up spending on these old systems (G4 and G5's totals were about the same).

I've bought a tonne of software (that's about half of it stacked on top). Unsurprisingly the period of 1997-2000, or thereabouts, is a very niche period and the software costs utter peanuts. Grabbed DOS 6.22, Win98 and a tonne of games. I built it initially as a DOS box, but it became apparent that 99% of the software I wanted to run was going to work under 98, so I stuck that on there. I can drop back to DOS and I've needed to a couple of times for some older titles. Nice to have the flexibility to do so. Getting the drivers for some of the things has been fun but it's 100% working now.

 

index.jpg

 

Terrible picture... But you get the idea.

On the whole, chuffed to bits with it. Just a few games left on the list to grab and install and it'll be done. Turned out way better than expected.



#141 Flojomojo ONLINE  

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Posted Thu Feb 8, 2018 2:04 PM

Heh, check out those vintage apple speakers



#142 eightbit OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Feb 8, 2018 9:34 PM

Amazing how these old machines are largely overlooked (for now at least...maybe!) for how inexpensively great game systems they are. You can spend a whole lot more on some 2000's game machine, controllers, games, etc and you'd still get a better deal with a vintage PC of the same era. I love my two machines (P1 180MHz and a PIII 850) and I'm constantly finding excellent cheap (and I mean cheap..like 50 cent) retail boxed games for them. Lots of fun...and when not gaming they make great audio media centers :)



#143 juansolo OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Feb 9, 2018 3:21 AM

There have been a few games that have cost more because they're the collectable original big box ones. But if you stick to the bargain label re-issues, they tend to be later versions of the game and are not much more than the cost of postage. The big boxes have been a last resort for me.

 

Some of these old computers are amazing, but they're overlooked because it can take quite a bit of effort to get them right. But then the costs are so much lower if you're prepared to do a lot of the work yourself because you can intercept stuff that would otherwise be headed towards the bin and resurrect it. Also this older kit tends to be of high quality. I was really impressed with the motherboard and PSU in this, all quality Nichicon capacitors and other good stuff. Though it has an Intel reference mobo, they're built to Dell's specs and Dell's proprietary PSU wiring is a bit of a pain. If you slap in a regular ATX it will kill both the PSU and the mobo. That would have taken some effort to wire around had the PSU been toast, but it can be done and the wiring diagrams are out there on the interwebs.



#144 landgraf OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Feb 9, 2018 8:36 AM

I happen to still have the PIII-800 I bought somewhen in the early 2000s, complete with Voodoo2 and SB Live, and to my surprise it still works. These days I mostly use it to transfer data to/from the Commodore 1541 drive with star commander + a selfmade XE-1541 cable, though.

 

The PII I used before has recently developed some memory issues, but it's still useful as a door stopper. :)






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