VOGONS


My P4 Northwood gets a "facelift"

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First post, by JayCeeBee64

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This used to be my main rig from November 2011 to September 2013 (running WinXP SP3); by then, my Core i5 was up and running (now using Win7-64) and took its place. Not wanting to just throw it away, I decided to make it my Win9x gaming rig. After some reconfiguring and rearranging, this is what I ended up with:

LT8DJVGt.png pbVJf3nt.png ersElIgt.png HHDdkTJt.png 3WZdJJvt.png

It worked just fine, but wasn't much to look at; the power supply was also one of those "el cheapo specials" I picked up back in 2010 for about $19.00, and when fully powered up sounded like a jet engine revving up on the runway 😵 .

After 3 months, I got tired of it and began to plan a "facelift": get a new, modern black case and a more reliable, quieter power supply. By the end of January 2014, I had my final choices.

New case: Cooler Master Elite 330U

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New PSU: Seasonic SS-400ET Active PFC 400W unit

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The Cooler Master is about the same size overall as the old case, and Seasonic is renowned for making good, dependable power supplies.

After getting both items delivered, I began the painstaking task of slowly disassembling and removing the hardware from the old case. After 2 days of work, I ended up with the following parts:

Soyo P4I-845PE Socket 478 Mobo with Pentium 4 2.4GHz Northwood CPU, Thermaltake TR2-M12 CPU Cooler and 512MB DDR 333 RAM still attached

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Nvidia GeForce FX5500 256MB AGP video card, Promise Ultra 100TX2 PCI IDE controller, SB Live! Value PCI sound card

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80Gb & 160Gb WD hard drives, Lite-On DVD ROM & DVD-RW, 3.5 floppy drive

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And finally, several cables and screws.

Once I carefully put away the old case with all its related parts, I began to prep the Elite 330U to reinstall everything I had taken out (plus the new power supply and 2 120mm case fans). I went at it slowly, in order to minimize any mistakes I could make. After another 2 days of work, the end result was at hand:

CjnfzUxt.png S7lFOLUt.png aJCu74St.png

Cable management was nightmarish, but I believe I ended up with a decent, reasonable result.

Once everything was ready, I plugged in keyboard, mouse, monitor, sound and power cables, and pressed the power switch. To my relief, it came to life without any apparent distress:

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Everything appears to be OK ( just one of the fans doesn't register any RPMs, but it's working); even the Boot Menu shows up!

Finally, the Windows 98 SE desktop appears:

vCv2kbnt.png TaoBMEvt.png

After verifying with the SOYO Hardware Monitor that everything was in good working order, I shut the computer down, added a third 120mm fan to the component side door, connected it to the mobo, and closed the case:

V2PeSt2t.png mY4SyvDt.png VR8BxNMt.png

Powered it back up again, and once again it worked just fine. Tried a few games (Midtown Madness 2, Quake 2, Half-Life, Diablo, Starcraft, Warcraft 3) and they all worked as expected.

With the "facelift" done, this is the current configuration of my P4 gaming rig:

Soyo P4I-845PE Socket 478 Mobo
Pentium 4 2.4GHz Northwood CPU
Thermaltake TR2-M12 CPU Cooler
512MB DDR 333 RAM (2 256MB DIMM Modules)
80Gb & 160Gb WD hard drives
Lite-On 16x DVD ROM & 52x-16x-8x DVD-RW
3.5 floppy drive
Davicom 9102/A Ethernet Adapter (integrated in mobo)
Nvidia GeForce FX5500 256MB AGP video card
Promise Ultra 100TX2 PCI IDE controller
SB Live! Value PCI sound card
Generic 2-port USB 2 rear plate bracket
Seasonic 400W power supply
Coole Master Elite 300U mid-tower case
Windows 98SE

It's now both much more pleasant and quiet to work with than before, and with more games to install it will only make my retro-gaming all the more appealing and satisfying 😀 .

Ooohh, the pain......

Reply 1 of 26, by PcBytes

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Pretty nice,yet why did you install Windows 98 SE?512MB RAM is enough to run XP SP3 or even 7 if you add another 512MB stick in there.

"Enter at your own peril, past the bolted door..."
Main PC: i5 3470, GB B75M-D3H, 16GB RAM, 2x1TB
98SE : P3 650, Soyo SY-6BA+IV, 384MB RAM, 80GB

Reply 3 of 26, by Tetrium

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Definitely nice work! 😁

And don't worry about it having taken 2 days for you to rebuild your Northwood rig, I often take (much) longer with lots of breaks in between to build or rebuild a rig 🤣

Whats missing in your collections?
My retro rigs (old topic)
Interesting Vogons threads (links to Vogonswiki)
Report spammers here!

Reply 5 of 26, by Tetrium

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TELVM wrote:
From a distance these two guys look troubled: […]
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From a distance these two guys look troubled:

NB_Caps.png

EDIT - Most def there is cap trouble 🙁 :

NB_Caps_2.png

My god, well spotted! 😁

And usually I'm the one always on the lookout for bad caps 🤣

Whats missing in your collections?
My retro rigs (old topic)
Interesting Vogons threads (links to Vogonswiki)
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Reply 7 of 26, by Skyscraper

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Perhaps if the hardware in this system is not very valuble this could be a case where you could just ignore the bad caps.
The caps have probably died from heat and/or ripple from the cheap psu not heavy power draw and those issues should be gone with the new case and Seasonic unit.
The CPU VRM output caps looks to be in better condition than those having to do with the northbridge and AGP slot.
If you notice any instability at least you know why 😀.

I used to run HP Pentium 4 desktops with loads of bad caps. It was not ideal but those machines were not worth recapping and worked as long as they had to.
If you dont want to take any risks and dont want to recap then I would spend the money on an Asus i845pe or i865/i875 board.
I have never seen an Asus non OEM socket 478 board with visible bad caps 😀.

edit a ---> i

Last edited by Skyscraper on 2014-02-08, 18:32. Edited 1 time in total.

New PC: i9 12900K @5GHz all cores @1.2v. MSI PRO Z690-A. 32GB DDR4 3600 CL14. 3070Ti.
Old PC: Dual Xeon X5690@4.6GHz, EVGA SR-2, 48GB DDR3R@2000MHz, Intel X25-M. GTX 980ti.
Older PC: K6-3+ 400@600MHz, PC-Chips M577, 256MB SDRAM, AWE64, Voodoo Banshee.

Reply 8 of 26, by JayCeeBee64

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Thanks for the comments and suggestions everyone.

@TELVM, Half-Saint, Skyscraper: Yup, the caps are bad. I thought it was just my imagination, but a closer inspection says otherwise 😦 . And while it doesn't show any signs of instability, I certainly don't want to take any chances. I'll see which is more convenient for me - a full recap, or a new P4 mobo (At least this rig sees very little use currently, 2 to 3 hours every other day or 2 at best).

@Tetrium: You're right, taking your time to do a retro-rig build or rebuild is wise. And while it's unfortunate that I didn't really notice the bad caps problem earlier, it was still a worthwhile experience (it certainly beats pulling an all-nighter and having to go to work early the next day 🤣 ).

@PcBytes: I chose Windows 98 SE for a simple reason: full backwards compatibility with late 1990s - early 2000s games. And while Windows XP SP3 worked just fine for day-to-day operations (with 2Gb of DDR RAM and a different video and sound card), some games just didn't want to install or work properly - and I didn't want to use ACT or fan-made patches (not that I dislike using either, I just want to run the games as they were meant to originally).

Ooohh, the pain......

Reply 9 of 26, by PcBytes

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JayCeeBee64 wrote:

some games just didn't want to install or work properly

Tried compatibility mode XP has?

"Enter at your own peril, past the bolted door..."
Main PC: i5 3470, GB B75M-D3H, 16GB RAM, 2x1TB
98SE : P3 650, Soyo SY-6BA+IV, 384MB RAM, 80GB

Reply 10 of 26, by TELVM

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JayCeeBee64 wrote:

... it doesn't show any signs of instability ...

As Skyscraper says sometimes boards with bad caps can run apparently OK for some time. But that NorthBridge is walking on thin ice, those two busted output caps are flogging the VRM upstream of them. If the VRM goes south (literally, melting and drifting down) the NB bites the dust and the mobo is scrap.

With the fresh case and PSU there is now great cooling and decent power, these may mask the problem for a time.

Let the air flow!

Reply 11 of 26, by Half-Saint

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A recap is almost always worth it. Caps are cheap and you only invest your time. Judging by the photos, you'd only have to change 4-5 caps which shouldn't take you very long.

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Reply 12 of 26, by JayCeeBee64

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PcBytes wrote:

Tried compatibility mode XP has?

Yes, but it didn't solve most of the problems I saw (fluctuating frame rates, disappearing mouse pointers, CD copying protection, etc). Anyways, I'm set on using Win98SE. That's all.

TELVM wrote:

As Skyscraper says sometimes boards with bad caps can run apparently OK for some time. But that NorthBridge is walking on thin ice, those two busted output caps are flogging the VRM upstream of them. If the VRM goes south (literally, melting and drifting down) the NB bites the dust and the mobo is scrap.

Thanks for the warning. I also suspected that something like this would eventually happen, since the mobo I had in the old case before the Soyo P4 was an Abit KT7A rev 1.3 with an AMD Athlon XP 2000+; it went up in smoke (literally) in early November 2011 in a span of only 15 minutes - taking most of the hardware with it. Since I don't want a repeat of this awful event, I will keep the P4 build in cold storage until I figure out which way to go.

Half-Saint wrote:

A recap is almost always worth it. Caps are cheap and you only invest your time. Judging by the photos, you'd only have to change 4-5 caps which shouldn't take you very long.

Unfortunately, my soldering skills are horrible; a blind rhesus monkey with no right arm and only 3 fingers in its left hand would do a much better job of it than me - sad but true 😢 .

Ooohh, the pain......

Reply 13 of 26, by Tetrium

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JayCeeBee64 wrote:

Unfortunately, my soldering skills are horrible; a blind rhesus monkey with no right arm and only 3 fingers in its left hand would do a much better job of it than me - sad but true 😢 .

Same here. I gave it a couple tries, but I'm really terrible with it. So now I do have a couple boards and cards which often have only 1 bulging cap but as I'm a total n00b when it comes to soldering, I just keep them in storage till I figure out some other way (perhaps find someone by chance who is willing to solder new caps in exchange for something else, I really don't know).

Whats missing in your collections?
My retro rigs (old topic)
Interesting Vogons threads (links to Vogonswiki)
Report spammers here!

Reply 14 of 26, by JayCeeBee64

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(JayCeeBee64 casts a resurrection spell he just learned from Gul'Dan on his old thread, and is successful beyond his wildest dreams 😁 😊 ).

Okay, this took waaayyyyyy longer than anticipated; unfortunately, Real Life can be quite a bitch when you least expect it (Back you beast, back I say!! And quit nibbling on me, I already have enough holes to resemble a large kitchen strainer! 😖 ). But finally, My Soyo Pentium 4 board is fixed.

After looking around, asking others and making lots of inquires over the phone, I was told of a local guy that runs a small electronics repair shop in his home and could probably do the recap job. Went there, showed him my P4 board, and after looking it over for a couple of minutes he told me "Sorry, can't do it"; I asked him why, he said it was too much work. He did tell me about a computer repair center in the city of Van Nuys that did work on old PC hardware and gave free estimates, so I went there a few days later. The free estimate was the only good thing about that place - they wanted $185 to do the recap, would not tell me what brand of capacitors they used, and would take 4 to 6 weeks to do the repair work. I thanked them for their time and quietly left.

Once back home, I went to the only place I had left to get my P4 board fixed - Badcaps.net. I filled out the Request Service form and sent it; Chris answered me the next day, told me what he would do, how much it would cost, and how long it would take. Including the cost of shipping the board to him I still came under $100 for the recap work, so I told him to go ahead and send me the info needed to get started. Sent the Soyo P4 board out on 3/5, Chris got it on 3/11, by 3/26 he told me it was done and shipped it back on 3/27, and by 3/30 the board was back at my home with a bunch of new caps in place. I was both very happy and impressed 😀

Now for some pics. Here is how the Soyo board looked when I sent it to Chris back on 3/5:

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Not very good looking, I must admit 😵 . All the caps are Sacon brand. Incredibly, the board was still fully operational - no crashes, sudden reboots or blue screens, and all voltages were still within spec. Who knows what still held it together in one piece 😮

Now here is the same Soyo board with new caps in place, as it was delivered back to me on 3/30:

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As far as I can see (and count), 35 caps have been replaced 😳 ! Most are Nichicons, with a few Rubycons added to the mix 😁 . No wonder the local guy said it was too much work. Looks like 27 or 28 original small Sacon caps are still in place.

Here's the back of the board (divided in 4 separate shots), showing the areas where the old caps had been removed and replaced with new ones:

ge3oXNum.png omZhKRvm.png
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I can easily tell you that even if I knew how to do this kind of repair work (and I most definitely don't), I would still hesitate to do it myself. It just looks daunting 😐

As of now the motherboard is back in its original box, waiting for my next move. I have a few ideas as to how to proceed, will have to sort them out once the time comes (I'm even considering Linux as a possibility ^^). I will create a new thread as well. I'm just really grateful that Chris @ Badcaps was willing to do what I considered improbable at one time and just can't thank him enough; now I know where to go when one of my motherboards needs this kind of work done 😊

Ooohh, the pain......

Reply 15 of 26, by ODwilly

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Very nice! I need to get around to finishing and posting my Soyo P4 system. My suggestion if you are keeping the configuration as previously mentioned is to swap a Voodoo2 or two in there for some SLI action 😉

Main pc: Asus ROG 17. R9 5900HX, RTX 3070m, 16gb ddr4 3200, 1tb NVME.
Retro PC: Soyo P4S Dragon, 3gb ddr 266, 120gb Maxtor, Geforce Fx 5950 Ultra, SB Live! 5.1

Reply 16 of 26, by JayCeeBee64

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ODwilly wrote:

Very nice! I need to get around to finishing and posting my Soyo P4 system. My suggestion if you are keeping the configuration as previously mentioned is to swap a Voodoo2 or two in there for some SLI action 😉

I did have a V2 SLI setup in the Pentium 4 build installed and working:

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😁 😁 😁

Here are 3DMark99 and 2000 scores as well (couldn't get 2001SE to work reliably):

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I even got Unreal working in Glide mode, but didn't do a timedemo (couldn't remember how at the time 😅 ):

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For now the "twins" are stored inside the Voodoo 2 retail box I have, waiting until they are needed again 😀

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Ooohh, the pain......

Reply 17 of 26, by ODwilly

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Love this build alot 😁

Main pc: Asus ROG 17. R9 5900HX, RTX 3070m, 16gb ddr4 3200, 1tb NVME.
Retro PC: Soyo P4S Dragon, 3gb ddr 266, 120gb Maxtor, Geforce Fx 5950 Ultra, SB Live! 5.1

Reply 18 of 26, by JayCeeBee64

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If I do rebuild the Pentium 4 back the way it was and add the Voodoo 2 SLI setup again, then placing one of these on the Elite 330U case would add a nice touch as well:

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😁 😁 😁 (great, now I can't wipe this silly grin off my face 😊 )

Ooohh, the pain......

Reply 19 of 26, by RacoonRider

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If you want to move a girl, show her a cute kitten. If you want to move one of us, show us some delicate 3dfx stuff 😁

Seriuosly, man, I'm touched 😊

But $100 for a recap job... I would sooner learn to solder 😀