Improving a sloppy socket 7 build

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Improving a sloppy socket 7 build

Postby vvbee » 2017-10-30 @ 16:16

I have a pc here that's originally a rebuild of the first pc I had, apart from an amiga 500 and my parents' 286 that preceded it. It's not a fully accurate rebuild though, and I'm still not looking to make it so. The original pc had a riva 128, but I never liked it and later upgraded it to a voodoo 3, which was reflected in the rebuild. The rebuild also doesn't have the original first harddrive, but it is an original from a few years later. The pc first had an sb 16 for sound and about a year later got the sb live, the sb 16 kinda sucked I remember so I gave the rebuild the sb live as well. Not the original psu either, I still have it but definitely not going to put it to use. The motherboard isn't original but I can't remember which one I had and it doesn't really matter. Not sure if I originally had the k6 or the k6-2, but it was 300 mhz.

Original build
MOB PC Chips M577 (VIA MVP3)
CPU AMD K6-2 300 (3 x 100)
VID 3dfx Voodoo3 2000
SND Sound Blaster Live! PCI
HDD IBM Deskstar 25GP 25 GB
PSU Enermax EG365P-VE
FAN Yate Loon D12SH-12 @ 5 volts

Improved build
MOB PC Chips M577 (VIA MVP3)
CPU AMD K6-2 300 (4.5 x 66)
VID Matrox Millennium
SND Terratec Integra PCI
HDD Seagate Momentus 5400.3 80 GB
PSU Enermax EG365P-VE modded
FAN Yate Loon D12SH-12 @ 3~4 volts

The original build's problems
- a voodoo 3 with a k6 300 isn't so great, save for providing a particular type of image quality
- the system overall, esp. the harddrive and psu, is very noisy
- the sb live doesn't do dos so well
- for a first retro build it was kinda neat but with more machines around it's become fairly useless and lacks character

Goals of improvement
- fairly quiet and cool operation
- have generally usable dos and windows capabilities, with the post-mid 90s (quake era) in mind
- retain the first pc's nostalgia factor while giving the build better focus

The first batch of improvements is to cool and quiet down. For other reasons as well, I underclocked the cpu's fsb to regular k6 level while raising the multiplier to maintain the mhz. This likely lets several parts run cooler, and I'm not too fussed about a speed hit. With this, I assume I can replace the 120 mm system fan with a smaller, quieter one. The cpu runs without a fan of its own by the way, it gets incidental cooling from the system fan. Seems to run around 35-40 c with the 120 mm fan, but that's to be tested further later.

The psu has two fans, one at the back and one at the bottom, and they're noisy. I took out the larger bottom fan and taped the hole shut, so now there's a straight tunnel for air to travel from the back grille to the opposing back fan blowing out. Seems to work, and the load is pretty low anyway. I might replace the back fan at some point with a quieter one, but since the psu did about a dozen years of service 24/7 already in the 2000s, it likely won't last for too much longer now regardless. I think a year ago I measured the 12 and 5 volt outputs and they were in spec, and visually there aren't any bulging caps. It's decent quality so I'm not worried about it taking anything with it when it fails.

The mobo has a patched bios that allows for harddrives larger than 64 gb, so the replacement 80 gb model should work as is. Not replacing it for its size though but for noise. I know for a fact that when mounted 'properly' the momentus is effectively silent in all modes of operation. In this case, I might mount it on a block of foam, which is how I had it running for about five years in another pc.

The second batch of improvements is wrt. performance balancing. The riva 128 is a better match for the k6, and though I was never a fan of its 3d image quality, it might be better for the nostalgia factor too. I haven't plugged it in yet, but if it turns out to have poor 2d image quality, it'll be ejected. In that case I might favor a matrox millennium, which would also weigh the build more toward the mid 90s I guess. The terratec sound card has an fm801 chip and is a leftover from another build. Has decent hardware sb pro support for dos and a bunch of support for windows. Though the motherboard has an isa slot, I think the terratec card might be good for the focus of this build in particular. Remains to be seen.
Last edited by vvbee on 2017-11-07 @ 19:19, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Improving a sloppy socket 7 build

Postby Kamerat » 2017-11-01 @ 07:16

Is your motherboard without the CMI 8330 "SoundPro" sound chip? The CMI 8330 is a capable chip for DOS usage, great FM synth and SB16/Pro compatibility.
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Re: Improving a sloppy socket 7 build

Postby jheronimus » 2017-11-01 @ 09:10

Just my two cents: you don't actually have to use only one soundcard. I had a similar issue with my AMD K6-3+ build — it could run late 90s games decently, but SB16 didn't sound too good. I'm not sure why, but playing Unreal on it felt like listening to a low bitrate MP3. Which is why I added a Diamond Monster Sound MX300 and daisy-chained SB16 into MX300's line-in port. That way I get perfect DOS compatibility and a Waveblaster header, but also a better sounding card for Windows with A3D surround features.
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Re: Improving a sloppy socket 7 build

Postby fitzpatr » 2017-11-01 @ 15:38

My first instinct is that you're baking up the wrong tree here.

You say the performance is underwhelming and you want a cool system. From what I can tell, your system would support a K6-III+ CPU. This will provide a large set of benefits because it is lower voltage, lower power draw, more cache, and cooler. I would do this before anything else. You can do at the FSB and multiplier down if you wish or require.

Your PSU was not designed to operate with one fan...especially not with the intake taped up. Either replace it with a better one or live with the noise. You risk causing issues to the rest of the system if your PSU becomes unstable.

Your video card soul be fine in comparison to the rest of the system.

As jheronimus said, use 2 sound cards. A Windows one such as your SB Live!, and a good DOS card, such as the SB16.

Hard Drive is personal taste. I like a boat hard drive to a point, but if you don't, look for a 40GB Seagate. By then, they were very quiet. Or go whole hog and get an SSD with an SATA to IDE adapter.

You've mentioned nothing about RAM, so I'll tell you that you would ideally want PC100 or PC133 with a CAS latency of 2. With your current processor, you should keep it to no more than 128MB. 256MB if you get a new K6-III+ because of what is called cacheable memory limits.

You can see a very strong Super Socket 7 build in my signature. Your Voodoo3 2000 is reasonably similar in capability to the Voodoo2 in SLI, just a small bit slower, but it also has good 2D quality and DOS compatibility.

Good luck
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P4EE 3.4GHz/P4C800-E/4GB Ballistix Tracer DDR-500/HD3850/Audigy 2ZS Platinum
PIII-1.4S/TUSL2-C/Voodoo5 5500/MX300
K6-III+/450/GA-5AX/G400 Max/Voodoo2 SLI/CT1750/MPU-401AT/Audigy 2ZS
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Re: Improving a sloppy socket 7 build

Postby vvbee » 2017-11-01 @ 16:17

Rather than this build trying to be as great as socket 7 can in windows and/or dos it aims to be a more enjoyable recreation of the original pc than the original rebuild was. The original pc wasn't a perfect socket 7 machine, so by that nature this build can't accept the best parts, but ones that let it stay true to the overall experience in terms of performance and certain subjective matters while culling out some negative aspects like noise.

The original pc had only one sound card, so this build should ideally have just one, and indeed one rather than onboard. An ssd is an acceptable deviation from the original since it cuts out noise, but at the same time I'm not looking to 100% eliminate io bottlenecks - the original's performance was nowhere near ssd level in seek times etc. The 2.5" harddrives I have laying around are about as silent as an ssd, they're closer to the original in performance, and they don't generate as much heat as the older 3.5" ones. The psu should be fine, check out silent pc review's article on quieting down this particular psu. http://www.silentpcreview.com/article15-page1.html
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Re: Improving a sloppy socket 7 build

Postby candle_86 » 2017-11-01 @ 16:31

so go with Combat Flash instead they are silent and slow lol
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Re: Improving a sloppy socket 7 build

Postby vvbee » 2017-11-03 @ 06:51

Slowly putting the system together, but I'll save the combat flash for my dos laptops.

I put in the 2.5" momentus hdd, just lazied out and screwed it vertically on the side of the hdd cage with some padding in between. I can feel vibration being transferred from the drive onto the case so a better mount is to be done later, but even now the noise is down considerably. A sponge as I originally wanted to mount it on would maybe take up too much space, so I might just cradle the drive with some elastic bands.

The psu fan noise was reduced further by adding a variable speed adjuster besides the one it has built in, since the motherboard is supposed to soft adjust the speed anyway and I don't have it plugged into the motherboard. Still generally enough airflow going through I'd estimate, and still not quiet enough. I don't think I'll replace the psu fan though unless it starts to annoy me, as absolute silence is currently not a goal for this build.

I decided I don't want the riva 128 in there, not least since I already have a win 98 build that does everything windows 3d better than the riva could. The riva's nostalgic in its way but also just a stopgap. Instead, I put in the matrox millennium, which angles this build for dos 2d/3d and windows 2d. I might be content with that niche, depending on how it works out.
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Re: Improving a sloppy socket 7 build

Postby chinny22 » 2017-11-03 @ 16:25

This is the problem with Nostalgic PC's
I still have my very first PC, A VLB based486 DX2 66, I also have a PCI based 586 133 that out performs everything the DX2 can do.
But the 586 just doesn't have the same memories attached. I got round this by making the DX2 my Roland PC, gives me an excuse to use it.
If you find a "special use" for the PC it'll give you an excuse again.
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Re: Improving a sloppy socket 7 build

Postby vvbee » 2017-11-06 @ 05:18

I look to have builds that don't need excuses, hence this rebuild.

I cradled the hdd with some hair bands I found that have a silicone anti-slip strip. That and screws for feet on the hard drive means the drive isn't going anywhere. The basic silent mount. Not the best place to put the drive in the case since it's about ear level, but whatever.
Image

I decided to keep the 120-mm yate loon fan and just bring it down to 3~4 volts. Air from the somewhat inward-angled fan blows across the cpu, chipset, graphics card (mid left) and sound card (top left) and out the back where one day may be proper ventilated slot covers. I kludge the fan in place with friction from strips of foam rubber pressing against the case and fan.
Image

The cpu maxes out at about 42 c as measured off the outward bottom of the heatsink.
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Re: Improving a sloppy socket 7 build

Postby vvbee » 2017-11-09 @ 19:26

Capture of some games running on the system. Audio capture isn't ideal, adds some hiss etc. but good enough for this purpose.
DOS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BobPDuOBXRg. Adventures of robin hood ('91), rally-sport ('96), ultima 7 ('92), and deluxe ski jump 2 ('01).
Windows: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmqd83Ze7Zk. King of dragon pass ('99), delta force ('98), thief 1 ('98), and the curse of monkey island ('97).

The dos list includes some picky games, but with user intervention even they run without much hassle. For rally-sport, I hacked the game to have it run at about early pentium speed. For ultima 7, I hacked the game to have l1 cache disabled. For robin hood, I disabled l1 and l2 cache to have screen transitions closer to original in speed, but it's not really needed.

Of the windows games, 2d stuff runs at a good speed. The 3d delta force runs quite playably also at 400 x 300 with 16 million colors. Blocky and pixelated is how these voxel games were meant to be played. Thief at 512 x 384 is to an extent sluggish, still playable but I'd generally use my faster win 98 machine for this stuff, so it can be ignored for this build.

Good image quality, good dos compatibility, good windows 2d performance, plays some windows 3d titles too, and should be a good platform to benchmark any retro 3d software engines I write. Overall, the build successfully meets its goals. The psu I'll replace at some point, but that's a drop-in thing.
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