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Interest Check: Big heavy Pre-Dell Alienware Tower circa 1998 ***SOLD***

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A year or two ago I picked up a big hulking mass of metal which was an Alienware tower from around 1998. This is a tower that was sold by the Alienware company, before it was purchased by Dell. The tower was in somewhat rough condition. The thing smelled very musty as it was in a basement for the past 20 or so years. The CR2032 battery exploded (the first time I ever saw that happen), but it powered on and booted just fine. Over the coarse of the past year I have refurbished it into what I would consider a dream machine. The battery was of course removed, the board cleaned of any corrosion, a new battery installed and it works perfectly.

 

All parts were removed and cleaned. The memory (256MB onboard) tests perfectly. The CPU (an AMD Athlon 1.2Ghz Thunderbird) was removed along with the fan and heatsink, cleaned, new thermal paste applied. The power supply (which was a 400W I believe) was removed and tossed....even though it worked fine I did not trust it and it smelled musty. A new old stock 550W power supply was installed. The power supply is weird for this as this CPU draws from the 5V rail, so it needed a specific model that provided 30A on the 5V. I found that (again, new) and that was done.

 

I removed the old IDE drives (CD-ROM and hard drive) and moved everything to SCSI. I found a new old stock (sealed in box) Adaptec 2940UW card, installed that and then moved forward with a new old stock DVD and CD drives (both SCSI). I then added an SD to SCSI adapter and created a custom 3.5 inch front bay for it (3d printed) and added an industrial grade 64GB SD card which is running Windows 98 and everything on the system.

 

It also has a GOTEK installed that replaced the floppy drive with FlashFloppy firmware installed, so it will handle IBM .dsk images. You can boot from them, mount them, etc. I used it to make a virtual boot disk to update the motherboard BIOS as a matter of fact.

 

The system's video is a Matrox G550 which works excellently for 2d and 3d games of the period (Unreal Tournament and Incoming look amazing!) and there is a Soundblaster Live! with a front panel Live Drive! installed, and I have the remote for that.

 

Lots of software work too. The motherboard (an FIC brand) was upgraded to the latest BIOS which took a lot of wayback machine searches to recover, the Live Drive! remote software was the same way...a pain to find.

 

I am probably missing other work I have done...but this thing is one of a kind. Since it is an Alien machine, the casing has had some "alien" vinyl stickers applied (easily removed) with various "aliens" :) It also has an LGR case badge that Clint so kindly sent me.

 

 

It was nearly a year of work, and is the ultimate late 90's gaming PC. However, no matter all of the part changing, cleaning, etc....every now and then I still smell a musty smell when I first turn it on for a few minutes. There is one fan on the back of the case (small exhaust fan) that I never replaced since it was working fine...and I suspect that is the culprit. Everything is clean as a whistle...no bad caps...everything looks new. If not that, the musty smell has permeated the case somehow. It is not really bad and is gone literally a few minutes after the machine has powered on, but I have to note it.

 

Otherwise, works great and is a sight to behold. But, now that I am done....I rarely use it. So, I am considering selling it. The shipping will be killer I am sure...well depending on where you are. But before I even get into that I just wanted to gauge interest and see if it is even worth my time to list it here.

 

Let me know and I will get pics up of this monster! While I paid some good money for the parts (the SD to SCSI, new old stock PSU and new drives were not cheap) I am not expecting to sell this for an arm and a leg. I am thinking like either $300 shipped (if shipping does not run me over $100). Basically I would like to ultimately offload it and walk away with $200...which is about probably half of what I put into this thing already.

 

 

***SOLD***

Edited by eightbit
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All that tease and no pictures!? :P

 

That sounds like a great system, and it is awesome that you saved it from certain doom at the junkyard.

 

I envied those that had Alienware back then, I was way too poor for that though.

 

In 1998, I got my Compaq Armada laptop from 1995, that my Uncle bought when Lockheed Martin upgraded the employee PCs. I loved it, but it was no Alienware. ;)

Edited by Jinroh
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Just now, Jinroh said:

All that tease and no pictures!? :P

 

Ask, and Ye shall receive!

 

I forgot to add that the front of the case has this door that covers everything and a button on top that makes the door slide down all slow and alien-like. :)

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Beautiful. ❤️

 

Even better than I imagined!

 

The Alien decals are kitschy, I like it. x3

 

It has a SCSI to SD for the HDD? How do those run? Pretty well? I have a few other SCSI HDDs that died, so I am curious as well.

Edited by Jinroh

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13 minutes ago, Jinroh said:

Beautiful. ❤️

 

Even better than I imagined!

 

The Alien decals are kitschy, I like it. x3

 

It has a SCSI to SD for the HDD? How do those run? Pretty well? I have a few other SCSI HDDs that died, so I am curious as well.

 

The SCSI to SD for the hard drive runs flawlessly. Just make sure to use industrial SD cards...they last forever :) I can image and re-image....test and test. They keep on ticking. These in particular:

 

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07B9KTLJZ/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

 

I have had zero issues for a year. I have installed and played dozens of games and have used it like a "computer" ;)

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This is VERY interesting. I've just recently got interested in these mid-late 90s PCs, and now I'm seeing more and more nice builds for sale here on AtariAge!

 

P.S. That's also a very nice build. Good luck!

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I have shipped items heavier than this before so I am confident I can get this anywhere in the USA without damage....it's just going to cost. If anyone is truly interested, PM me with your address and I will try to get a good estimate of the cost. I still have to weight this thing. It is quite heavy!

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10 minutes ago, bluejay said:

This is VERY interesting. I've just recently got interested in these mid-late 90s PCs, and now I'm seeing more and more nice builds for sale here on AtariAge!

 

P.S. That's also a very nice build. Good luck!

 

It is tempting to me as well. It is such a nice build! 

 

10 hours ago, eightbit said:

 

The SCSI to SD for the hard drive runs flawlessly. Just make sure to use industrial SD cards...they last forever :) I can image and re-image....test and test. They keep on ticking. These in particular:

 

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07B9KTLJZ/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

 

I have had zero issues for a year. I have installed and played dozens of games and have used it like a "computer" ;)

Thank you so much for the info! My Unix machines need to come back to life with some new SCSI drives. :D

 

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This is the SCSI2SD I purchased:

 

https://store.inertialcomputing.com/SCSI2SD-V5-1-bundle-with-white-3-5-bracket-p/scsi2sd-v5.1-bracket-white.htm

 

But the included faceplate did not work for me as it only has two mount holes and when I put it in it sat too deep into the PC case. SO I had to design and print a new one that would work for this machine. Wasn't happy about that!

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15 minutes ago, eightbit said:

This is the SCSI2SD I purchased:

 

https://store.inertialcomputing.com/SCSI2SD-V5-1-bundle-with-white-3-5-bracket-p/scsi2sd-v5.1-bracket-white.htm

 

But the included faceplate did not work for me as it only has two mount holes and when I put it in it sat too deep into the PC case. SO I had to design and print a new one that would work for this machine. Wasn't happy about that!

Oh righteous that was the one I was looking at as well. :) Glad to know it works well!

 

That is a bummer that the front plate did not work out so well out of the box. 😕

Edited by Jinroh

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The faceplate that comes with that is nice in that it is injection molded, but it is just not thought out well. Only two screws hold it on. So even if it were to have sat correctly it would have teeter tottered. I emailed Inertial and told them but no response. Oh well...I just wish I know so that I didn't spend extra for it!

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31 minutes ago, Crazy Climber said:

but does it play Pinball and freecell?

No, but it does play Pincell and freeball!

  • Haha 2

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5 hours ago, eightbit said:

The faceplate that comes with that is nice in that it is injection molded, but it is just not thought out well. Only two screws hold it on. So even if it were to have sat correctly it would have teeter tottered. I emailed Inertial and told them but no response. Oh well...I just wish I know so that I didn't spend extra for it!

Yes, easy enough to engineer a new one, but yes, an injection moulded one would have been nicer. 😕

 

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12 minutes ago, Jinroh said:

Yes, easy enough to engineer a new one, but yes, an injection moulded one would have been nicer. 😕

 

 

It came out nice so I was pleased with it. Having the "hard drive" accessible from the front was a must for me. It's really nice as I have multiple cards with different OSes installed on them and changing the hard drive is as easy as swapping a card (when it is off of course, it is not hot swappable)

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neat tower.  I laughed when I read big + heavy..... as I gutted an Alienware tower that was in an ewaste pile where I worked at the time.

 

Turns out a bad video card sidelined it.... but it was over 2 years ago, and the case weighed a ton.  Id had special vents at the top, it had a custom controller setup to control fans, vent openings/etc/etc.

 

I took the mainboard with cpu, 2 Radeon graphics cards (they were top end units back in the day), memory.  I should have taken the optical drive (specs show it should have been a blue-ray)... and the hard drives were gone.

 

One of the graphics cards was bad.  But in the end I got a 4.0GHz overclocked i7 with memory, 1000 watt power supply, one (older) high end radeon card, and some other misc parts.... for free....

 

I could have never taken that alienware tower home via the train.... way too big and heavy. 

 

Seeing this old Alienware is interesting.  Had no idea they used FIC boards and what appears to be a cheaper case with custom front on it.

 

Is it badged Alienware on the back and was that the original mainboard ?  Or does it just have the logo up front.

 

You have it nicely setup as well.

 

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1 hour ago, cwilbar said:

neat tower.  I laughed when I read big + heavy..... as I gutted an Alienware tower that was in an ewaste pile where I worked at the time.

 

Turns out a bad video card sidelined it.... but it was over 2 years ago, and the case weighed a ton.  Id had special vents at the top, it had a custom controller setup to control fans, vent openings/etc/etc.

 

I took the mainboard with cpu, 2 Radeon graphics cards (they were top end units back in the day), memory.  I should have taken the optical drive (specs show it should have been a blue-ray)... and the hard drives were gone.

 

One of the graphics cards was bad.  But in the end I got a 4.0GHz overclocked i7 with memory, 1000 watt power supply, one (older) high end radeon card, and some other misc parts.... for free....

 

I could have never taken that alienware tower home via the train.... way too big and heavy. 

 

Seeing this old Alienware is interesting.  Had no idea they used FIC boards and what appears to be a cheaper case with custom front on it.

 

Is it badged Alienware on the back and was that the original mainboard ?  Or does it just have the logo up front.

 

You have it nicely setup as well.

 

 

 

Thanks for the comments! It is a true Alienware and has the logo in front and and this on the back. This apparently came with Windows ME as well (there is a serial number ME sticker below this on the case). I can find next to zero info on it, but the couple I got it from said they ordered it directly from Alienware. It had an ATI PCI video card initially...with the AGP port going unused!

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Nice LGR badge on the front too.  :)

 

Well crap, that was in your long description that I didn't read all the way through.  Hah.

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Doing a bit of research, this appears to pre-date the Area 51.  Athlon processors were released in June 1999 but were slot A processors.  Socket A processors weren't released to 2000.

The best guess I can come up with is this may be an Alienware blade that someone upgraded the mainboard and processor (and probably other parts inside).

 

The wayback machine shows March 2000 the website was citing praise they were receiving for the Area 51.  Sadly the wayback machine's archival of that site has all the graphics broken, and looks like much information was embedded in the site graphically.

 

The service/etc sticker on the back is not consistent with what I found pictured from an early area 51 system, so it would pre-date the Area 51.  More evidence that it's guts were tampered with at some point.

 

Too bad, but it appears the only verifiable genuine part is likely the case itself.  Still, pretty cool no doubt.  If it was mine and I could determine that not much remained of the original, I'd keep it for the case and make it more modern (w/o cutting/etc it) or make it a vintage rig I'd use.... either way it would 'show off' the early Alienware case.

 

 

Edited by cwilbar
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That is one very nice casing. I'm still rocking an earlier model Alienware myself. Mine has the full front "shield" style door and I'll use this thing til it falls apart. Alienware has always had the sleekest computer housings, IMO. GLWTS. I'm sure it will be a quick sale to right person.

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Very nice old rig. I don't see many of these early alienware much anymore. I'd be interested but I'm sure that shipping is a killer. Besides I have far too many computers already. 

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