Not sure about a fan for the FDD, Part of me thinks anything to help reliability, on the other hand maybe the slightest breeze will create a bad sector 😜
But yeh, your builds are never fast but they are always well done and different.
I'd believe the bad sector part given my luck today.
Yes, I felt like doing something today. So I just went ahead and flashed the BIOS. If worst came to worst, I'd pull an EEPROM from another PC I'm not doing anything with and go hot flashing.
What I thought would start as a 30 minute setup ended up being a four hour ordeal - as is tradition with retro hardware. Let's let my hastily taken and sparse amount of pictures in comparison to the amount of text show you all.
First - a bit of background. I bought this XP55T2P4 on eBay. Seller pic showed it getting stuck on PnP Init. Nothing too uncommon, and nothing I haven't seen on old ASUS boards before. Was worth the risk to me for the benefits I'd gain.
Right, so BIOS flash. Use either UniFlash or PFLASH from ASUS, back up the current BIOS, flash the new BIN file, all will be groovy. For that, we need to prepare a DOS boot disk and a disk with UniFlash, PFLASH and the new BIN file.
I don't have a USB floppy reader and most of my PCs are packed away, so I had to pull out the closest and most easily accessible PC I had around with a FDD header. That was a Pentium 4 from the old family business and decided this is what will prepare everything I need.
Can anyone guess where we originally got this from? 🤣
However, it's always wise to test new items when they arrive, so that's what I did. Using the PSU from the Pentium 4 (a 100% known working and stable machine), I grabbed some memory, a CPU (Pentium 150) with a cooler already applied, the Matrox card I found on the side of the road awhile ago (and tested), set the jumpers and powered up the XP55T2P4.
It survived the shipment process and turned on successfully. As expected, it got stuck on PnP Init Completed..., but I could access the BIOS menu just fine so I wasn't concerned.
I can also see that it's running BIOS firmware 0109, one of the BIOS versions from '97. This isn't one that supported all the features of the board, so it certainly needed an upgrade.
With that done, I unplugged everything and put the power and video card back into the Pentium 4 and grabbed a floppy drive, cable and handful of floppies. At this point I also removed the battery from the T2P4 to clear the settings the lazy way.
This is where the first problem arose. I forgot I wiped the hard drive when I grabbed it since it had sensitive information on it. No worries, I'll just install XP SP3. It would have been new enough to have drivers for all the hardware. 40 minutes or so passed during the installation process and that was complete. So far so good.
Now we need to make a bootable DOS image. Right click A:, format and create bootable DOS disk, right? Wrong. It wouldn't even read the disk. That's fine. Floppies are old. I'll try another. No luck. The same issue occurred with the third, the fourth, the fifth and so on. They can't all be dead, so I must have just grabbed a dodgy drive. A quick shutdown and drive swap later, I had a little bit more luck. Disks were sometimes reading, but not consistently. So I grabbed another drive and the same issue.
By this point I figured all my spare drives and disks can't be faulty. The next culprit was the cable - and the cable it was. Silly me for using an old UV reactive rounded floppy cable instead of a reliable, trusty ribbon cable right?
So by this point I'm back into XP with the newest floppy drive I own from 2008 which came from a full tower Lian Li case I've had for awhile and will one day build the ultimate Vista/Late XP Core 2 Extreme system inside.
Format a disk as a bootable DOS disk. Wonderful. It works. Restart PC to test it, great! No photo here, but I think you all know what DOS looks like 😁
Except it wasn't right. Uniflash needs an older version of DOS. XP puts on whatever ships with ME. That's fine. I'll just download a bootable DOS disk and write the image.
Now for whatever God forsaken reason, this wouldn't play. I've done it 50 times before and this time it just didn't want to. It wasn't my lucky floppy day.
By this point, I was hopefully understandably frustrated and mildly butthurt by my seeming inability to do something I'd done so many times before. Then I remembered - I now had the Gotek emulator. I'll just use that and not deal with the nonsense that old used floppies of unknown origin and condition can be.
I grab the ipcas floppy manager tool along with the BIN file, PFLASH and UniFlash and put it onto a USB drive and copy it over onto the XP machine. A quick search around led me to another spare 1GB USB drive that'd be perfect, so I set it all up by formatting the USB within the tool -- which lets you create bootable DOS images. Great.
Now that all 100 images have bootable DOS, I copy over UniFlash, PFLASH and the BIN file. My reasoning being if PFLASH doesn't work, UniFlash will work.
Of course, after I copied all this over I realised I'd been so caught up in "floppy disk fever" that I was, in fact, not using a floppy disk but a USB drive and I could have done all this from my main PC instead of transferring files over by USB, but that's neither here nor there at this point.
XP machine was shut down and this monstrosity was born. I didn't want to pull everything out from the Pentium 4 and use a screw driver to power it on again, so the PSU left inside the Pentium 4 machine, the ATX power cord pulled out the back and into the T2P4. The EPS connector removed from the motherboard on the Pentium 4, and the PWR_SW cable borrowed from the Pentium 4 and plugged into the T2P4. The Gotek drive was plugged in and the CPU cooler was connected. The floppy power was extended with an old UV reactive floppy power extender from back in the day. I finally found a use for it again! This whole setup was awkward and unruly, but it worked.
Also visible - the floppies from hell, water cooling project measurements and cutouts, a GPU backplate, an ESP8266 and the other memory I was going to use if this set I put into the board didn't work.
Unsurprisingly, the board was now in better shape with the CMOS cleared and actually progressed to drive detection. That didn't matter because we had a job to do.
First good sign - I can boot into bare basic command.com using what the replacement Gotek software set up.
A quick press of the button on the Gotek and I was into the drive with everything I needed for flashing. The image was backed up and I proceeded to flash a new image.
The happiest words any BIOS flasher can see - Flashed Successfully. Well, happy as long as it reboots afterwards!
So I powered off the machine and powered it back on.
BIOS 0207-2 Patch J.2. Everything worked. I referenced PCEm using the same BIOS image to make sure it looks as it should, and it does. The board has successfully been flashed to the modded BIOS, it now passes the PnP init since CMOS was cleared and looks ready to go. Of course, I still have to test it with the 233MHz CPU and everything, but I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be working.
All in all, it was productive and it all worked out. It would have been a lot smoother if I had all my known-working hardware on hand but I didn't. That's fine though. What mattered was I did what I set out to do. The T2P4 is updated and ready to be used whenever I have some more free time.
I'll hold off ordering those EEPROMs since I no longer require them at the very moment. I bought another 80GB IDE drive from CeX for $6 delivered, and that should arrive some time.
I don't want to set up Windows or anything else until I'm satisfied that I have everything ready, tested and the final hardware config settled on because I don't want to deal with any unnecessary reinstalls or issues from hardware swapping. I'd like to set it up once with drivers and no software, test stability and image the drive and go from there.
With that said, now that the board has arrived and the (hopefully) final hard drive is on its way, all that's really left is to make the power cables for this build, get a fan controller and set it all up.
In terms of the power cables, I don't think I posted about that: Since I'm using a modular PSU, I'll be making some custom cables for it. Yellow, red and black wires of course, none of that sleeved nonsense! I need more Molex than the PSU provides, and since it has four peripheral outs on the PSU, I can make correct length cables with all the connectors I need, instead of adapter and splitter spaghetti.
This will include a 4x Molex for the top four HDDs, a 3x Molex for the two optical drives and one spare for versatility in case I add another 5.25" item of some type, and a 2x Molex & 2x Floppy for the front. The fourth will be either a single Molex or SATA depending on what the fan controller I pick up uses.
So yeah. Actual progress today. Happy days.