VOGONS


First post, by ninkeo

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Been working on this for a while, and I decided to go out and grab some new parts for what I'll be calling the 'El Cheapo' build. The point of this build is to pretty much mimic what my old PC was back in the day, which used the same motherboard and family of CPU, and go from there 😀

Here's the beans:
- CPU: AMD Duron 1200 Morgan (with SSE)
- MOBO: ECS K7S5A Pro (rev. 5.0)
- RAM: 512MB DDR 400
- GPU: ATI Radeon 9250 (128MB / 64bit 😢 ) / Voodoo2 8MB (For 98)
- Sound: Sound Blaster Live! 4870
- HDD: 40GB WD + 80GB Maxtor
- Case: An old and abused Foxconn TH1
Running Windows 98 and XP SP2 for the widest range of games to run on it.

1. Getting the parts together
Now there's quite a story behind the parts I chose and used in this build. Firstly, the motherboard was a NOS one from the same seller that Phil used when he reviewed it in one of his recent videos. Luckily I happened to come across it a day before it got featured, since they were all cleared out in a few hours 🤣

The case was an interesting one too, found locally and in the original box it came in. I figured it'd be a good case to use and build in after seeing it online in various websites. Whoever had it before me went to the effort to re-wrap it with all the original packing materials along with the manual. It turned out that somebody had painted it white, with nicks in the paint and all 😕
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Still, a rather good case IMO with the tooless PCI slots and drive caddies. I did get some bonus goodies with it though, it came with a rather questionable 350w PSU with 32A on the 5V rail, which is what Socket A really needs. If anyone's got suggestions for a NEW PSU that can deliver close to the same amps, let me know since I'd rather ditch it sooner rather than later because the caps aren't in the best condition. Someone also left a yellowed but functional floppy disk drive in there as well as a card reader. They also left all of the drive sleds, which helped dramatically to get it all up and running. One thing I will say, not necessarily bad, but it is HEAVY! My god, it weighs a ton, getting it up off the floor to build the rig in was a bit of a pain 🤣

Everything else I used came from parts I had spare.

2. Maximising the graphics
Originally when I put this rig together, I used my old but trusty Geforce 2 Pro to handle all of the newer games I'll play on it. However, it proved to be a bit underpowered when it came to directx 8 era XP games. So to solve that, I threw in my Radeon 9250. While slow and with a 64 bit memory bus, it smashes pretty much all the games I'm willing to play on here, with some exceptions:
- Drivers are a bit crashy under 98, fine on XP
- The 64 bit memory bus presents stuttering noticeable during intense areas that have loads of polygons and textures on screen
- Possibly conflicts with the Voodoo 2 under 98 (probably a reason why the drivers are so crash happy)

At the moment I'll run with it, but I might try the Omega drivers to see if anything improves under 98.

3. Hard drive and sound card issues
This is something that's appeared over the last few days, but I've noticed that the old 40GB WD drive that has 98 on it is starting to fail in a couple ways, one being very slow and sometimes not being detected by the BIOS. What I'm thinking of doing is replacing both of them with a single 120GB SSD and partitioning it, using either an IDE to SATA adaptor or getting a PCI SATA controller that can boot SSDs.

The last problem that's been pretty persistent is the sound card. Under Windows 98 it works perfectly fine, but under XP it crackles and pops and farts. Even with updated creative drivers, it still does it. I'm thinking it could be something wrong with the card, or prehaps directx bugging out since it really only happens in games.

That's it for the moment, hopefully you'll be interested to see where I take this next. 😀

Reply 1 of 19, by sd_entertainmnt

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Sweet! I'm glad you're happy with the board, I did indeed sell out that day of the video. I probably put together at least a dozen builds using that case in the days, and also the black version of it with the same hardware you used too 🤣. Regarding the sound blaster live, there are so many drivers and crackling and no sound was a common issue with the wrong ones installed, so give others a try. Also try swapping the PCI slot it's in.

Reply 2 of 19, by PcBytes

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You can be relaxed about the PSU - it's Channel Well (CWT)'s ISO line. Just recap it and be happy.

Main: i5-3470, 16GB RAM DDR3, Gigabyte B75M-D3H
G.T.2: P2 266MHz, 256MB SDR, Zida/Tomato 6DLX "LX98-AT"
Shaman: P3 650MHz, 384MB RAM, Soyo SY-6BA+ IV

Reply 3 of 19, by ninkeo

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sd_entertainmnt wrote:

Sweet! I'm glad you're happy with the board, I did indeed sell out that day of the video. I probably put together at least a dozen builds using that case in the days, and also the black version of it with the same hardware you used too 🤣. Regarding the sound blaster live, there are so many drivers and crackling and no sound was a common issue with the wrong ones installed, so give others a try. Also try swapping the PCI slot it's in.

It's a small world isn't it? 😊
I've tried a couple more drivers for the sound card since but I still haven't got it working any better yet, same with trying it in the spare slots. If all else fails though, I've still got the onboard audio to try, but I've got a spare SB PCI 128 sitting around that might be better than the onboard.

PcBytes wrote:

You can be relaxed about the PSU - it's Channel Well (CWT)'s ISO line. Just recap it and be happy.

Thats good news, CWT made some of Corsair's RM series PSUs, which are still great PSUs to use in modern builds. I had a hunch it wasn't like the other cheapo ones I've had before, it felt heavy in comparison to a crap codegen PSU I've got kicking around. I'll definitely get my mate to recap it for me though, since I'm not game fiddling with high voltage parts. He's done a few PSUs as well as a CRT monitor and hasn't blown them up yet.. or himself! 🤣

I didn't really show it that well of the pic I took of all the hardware, but in the very bottom slot is a D-Link G520 WiFI card, with support for 98 and XP. I didn't bother installing the drivers for it until I took it to a retro LAN party recently. Didn't snap any pics of it, but MAN it was awesome to have 4 people play CS 1.3 on period correct hardware. Seeing a conference table stacked full of CRTs and a mixture of beige / black boxes makes me quite happy inside 😀

Reply 4 of 19, by ninkeo

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Made some more progress with the rig over the last few days. I stripped the case and took it to my old man's place where we got the paint colour-matched, and proceeded to reapply it. Unlike whoever painted it before, this time it came out looking rather nice 😀

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The keen eye of you may have noticed that I've added a second DVD drive and swapped the floppy for a Gotek. This is pretty much the end-result after a car boot sale, but that's not all the loot I grabbed. I snatched an FX5200 for 50 cents, originally destined for one of my low-profile P4 machines. I tried it in this build and it was about on par with the 9250, since both of them have a 64 bit bus. Not fantastic but the only high end GPUs of this era that were available were way overpriced for what they were worth 😢 . With the DVD drive I also got a pair of these things for free;

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For the un-initiated, this is essentially a resistor designed to slow down the fan speed if your motherboard won't do it automatically, or just to quiet it down a bit. I threw one on the case fan and the CPU fan, since they don't need to be running 100% considering how little power and heat the system uses. Not pictured but I also grabbed a CMI 8738 for a dollar, since the SB Live I had in here previously gave up the ghost and my SB PCI 128 was nowhere to be found.

Reply 5 of 19, by ninkeo

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After trying out the FX 5200 properly with most of my games, I've gone ahead and decided to leave it in there since it plays nicely with the Voodoo2 under 98, and provides just enough performance on XP to be worth keeping around. A full 128-bit version would rock since in the newer games I can tell that the memory bandwidth holds things back. Wouldn't be too much difference but it'd give a smoother experience.

The sound card on the other hand works OK in Windows, but DOS games are a total bust with it unfortunately. My particular one has Ad-lib but no sound blaster sound no matter what drivers I give it or what I configure in autoexec.bat

Reply 6 of 19, by ninkeo

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Considering its been almost 6 months, I figured I may as well give an update on things.

The system as it was ran for around 3 months, until I ran into issues with the board freezing up and crashing. It took me a good while swapping components and running at the bare minimum before I realized it was because of the chipset overheating. I ripped off the northbridge heatsink, cleaned up all the sticky goo stuff that was stuck on. That in itself was a mission, it took me at least 20 minutes with some orange power / desolvit and a small blade to lift up enough to pull it all off in one go. Some thermal compound and a dab of glue in the corners later and we were back in business. No more crashing, and I even decided to flash the HoneyX BIOS onto it to try and eke out some more performance.

After that spot of bother, I ended up removing the 40GB drive and installed Windows ME (don't laugh, it actually works properly on this unlike 98, although that could've been the chipset overheating too 🤣 ) onto the 80GB drive because of the CPU bottlenecks I kept running into under XP. I also removed the FX5200 and reinstalled the Geforce 2 GTS and the Voodoo2 since I much prefer the dedicated 3DFX card instead of half-assed emulation, thanks to the FX5200. The setup has remained pretty much the same, with a spot of cable managemend and reinstalling the SB Live a mate managed to revive.

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After repairing my parent's old Dell monitor (it involved cutting the tape holding down the metal rings and cleaning them), I decided I may as well use it for a while to try out some of my new toys I got for christmas.
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Much to my mate's disappointment, I found a logitech G710+ mechanical keyboard and G602 wireless mouse from my local op shop for pretty much nothing (5 bucks for both, MAN that was a great deal) yesterday. Makes my retro gaming adventures on here feel and look great in a modern sense.

Reply 7 of 19, by detritus olentus

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ME represent. I find it to be more stable than 98 for my purposes but that also gets me laughed at as well. But then I've never been a big DOS gamer so I never missed that bit. Also really like those speakers.

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https://archive.org/details/@detritus_olentus
Philly Burbs.

Reply 8 of 19, by ninkeo

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Cheers, yeah the speakers were op / thrift shop finds as well just like the keyboard and mouse. A little while ago I replaced the drivers in them because the original ones in them were blown.. 4 inch car stereo speakers work wonders in that enclosure 🤣

Reply 10 of 19, by ninkeo

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oeuvre wrote:

May I please have that wallpaper? thanks

Sure thing, to be perfectly honest I have no idea where it came from, just that it looked cool.

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Reply 12 of 19, by ninkeo

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Time for a bit of an upgrade!
Over the last few weeks I've managed to score big time for upgrading this rig to pretty much max it out. First up is the CPU, an Athlon XP 2400+.
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Out of this lot, this was the only ebay purchase. For 5 aussie dollarydoos, I'm not complaining. The 2400+ on its own pretty much supercharged the build to being able to play most XP era games without breaking much of a sweat. Surprisingly it stays nice and cool on my stock AMD heatsink, only gets to 45c when getting flogged hard. Now for what I reckon was the best find I've had in a long time...

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That's right, it's a 256MB Radeon 9600 Pro! For the price of absolutely nothing! Found in one of my friends old computers he was throwing away, I ran off with it after confirming it indeed works. It complements the CPU upgrade nicely and pretty much maxes out both the LCD and CRT screens I have for 99% of my games. The only game that gives it trouble is Trackmania Sunrise maxed out, but that's a hard game to run for a build of this era.

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For the moment, I figured I'm gonna leave the voodoo2 in there just because having a hardware glide card seems to be better when running on Win9x. On XP I can use the 9600's power to emulate glide but for now it'll be only on ME. It's almost overkill now for 9x era games, but oh well, that's part of the fun 🤣
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Reply 14 of 19, by ninkeo

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oeuvre wrote:

what is honey X?

It's a modded bios for the K7S5A which enables more options related to overclocking and general system stability. Not really worth using it to try and overclock the FSB but it does allow for fastwrites to be enabled or disabled, something the stock bios couldn't do.

Reply 16 of 19, by ninkeo

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I kinda miss seeing that logo in the corner, it's more nostalgic with it there than the honeyx thing. Oh well, just something you gotta put up with when you mod the BIOS 😀

The build is pretty much at its end game now with all the upgrades, about the only thing I could do is swap the board to a VIA KT-400 based one but that's for another time. Now I can game in peace, rage quitting at NFS III after races with friends and rounds of UT99 🤣

Reply 17 of 19, by DankEngihn

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ninkeo wrote:

I kinda miss seeing that logo in the corner, it's more nostalgic with it there than the honeyx thing. Oh well, just something you gotta put up with when you mod the BIOS 😀

The build is pretty much at its end game now with all the upgrades, about the only thing I could do is swap the board to a VIA KT-400 based one but that's for another time. Now I can game in peace, rage quitting at NFS III after races with friends and rounds of UT99 🤣

My main PC for retro gaming and distraction-free writing has the energy star logo in the corner at POST, and it's almost obnoxiously big. (AWARD BIOS)

Reply 18 of 19, by ninkeo

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Time for an update, it's been a while since I've visited with real life stuff going on. I recently installed a Canopus DVStorm RT capture card into the machine, which worked wonderfully for a little while.

At least until the K7S5A started to become unstable. I don't think it was temperature related, as the heatsink always had plenty of warm air coming from it, nor did the thermal gun I used show it getting excessively hot. Being ECS, it'll more than likely be bad caps, which I'm on the fence about replacing, might be a good candidate to polymod if its possible. It eventually got to the point that I got sick of it crashing constantly after the usual troubleshooting steps, something had to be done about it.
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Out it comes, into storage until I can figure out what to do with it.

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So at this point, I had an entire system sitting around with no motherboard. It sat around in a box for a couple months until I finally had the time to play around with this stuff again. I promptly dug out my old MSI motherboard I had hiding, an MSI 6738. Better known as the KM2M Combo-L, it's based on the KM266 chipset. While being an m-ATX board, it still fits everything I want to use this system for, while providing a little more grunt than the SiS735 based K7S5A.
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Being that this board also has a 12V P4 connector, I'm not limited to old power supplies in this build unlike with the ECS board, making it a bit more practical for me personally. I've also made a few more subtle changes, including swapping to a PSU that has the P4 connector, going back to the GF2 instead of the 9600 Pro, bumping the RAM up to 1GB (really beneficial for using the Canopus card, 512MB wasn't enough as it functions the best under XP) as well as swapping to a 160GB WD SATA hard drive. I also tossed on some inline resistors for the fans, just to shut them up a bit as the cooling capacity of the heatsink is more than adequate (copper slug in the base).

oeuvre wrote:

BRING BACK ENERGY STAR

It's baaack 😀
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Reply 19 of 19, by ninkeo

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Quite fitting I return a year later to give a bit of an update on this project...
I have been using the MSI with the 2400+ and GF2 up until recently, when I finally found the case I was looking for with this machine originally (I made a thread on Vogons with attemps to identify this case to little to no luck)

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It is due to arrive tomorrow, so I'll be dusting off that ECS and Duron 1200 combo and putting it into this case. Who knows, I may even get the Philips monitor out that my parents had with this setup, and take a family photo with it 🤣
Stay tuned, I may be turning this from the 'El Cheapo' build into the 'Cheap Nostalgia build' 😀