Input on building a multi-boot multi-era PC

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Input on building a multi-boot multi-era PC

Postby Doomn00b » 2019-3-07 @ 18:00

Hi everyone! = )

So, just like Ruthan and Agent007:
viewtopic.php?f=25&t=60392#p674697
viewtopic.php?f=25&t=56460

I have the ambition to build a PC which would have native support for as wide of a range of games as possible - so, I have been looking into this, on several places online, and have found that you can indeed get QUITE a few games working if you just select precisely the right hardware and software.

So, first of all, I need to get Windows 98 working, and over on the MSFN-boards, there's a thread on boards released after Win98 was replaced by XP etc, which still support Win9x. I've been going through this, and have narrowed it down to a select few boards - however... now I've gotten stuck! I've been staring at so many parameters, pages, and builds, that I feel I need some outside input on how to proceed.

Only certain parts of the build is meant to be legacy, many parts are meant to be more modern.

I have found multiple confounding statements regarding various things, which I would like some feedback on:

Intel CPU's have more custom drivers than AMD
Intel manufactured motherboards are the worst when it comes to later Win9x support - one needs a board from another manufacturer
Award Bios is more compatible than AMI bios
Intel NIC's are better and more compatible than Realtek NIC's


Are these statements actually true? How much should I take these into account, when I select my hardware?

Games to run:
Dos -
Commander Keen 3-5
Crusader: No Remorse/Regret
Doom
Doom 2
Duke Nukem 3D
Shadow Warrior
Quake
UFO: Enemy Unknown
Indiana Jones & The Fate of Atlantis
Rise of the Triad
The Dig
Oregon Trail

Win9x -
Quake 2
Quake 3
System Shock 2
Command & Conquer
Cnc: Red Alert
CnC: Tiberian Sun/Firestorm
CnC: Red Alert 2
Starcraft
The Neverhood
Descent 2
Diablo
Diablo 2
Earthworm Jim (win9x is better than dos-version)
Jazz Jackrabbit 2
Unreal Tournament
Incoming
Battlezone
Commandos 2
Dungeon Keeper 2
ToonStruck
Fallout 2
Heavy Gear 2
Outcast
Silver
Soldier of Fortune


WinXP -
Unreal Tournament 2004
XIII
Doom 3
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Vista+/W10
GZDoom
Starcraft 2



Potential build WIP:

OS: FreeDos, W98SE, XP x32, W10 x64
MB: ?
CPU: ?
RAM: ?
GPU1: ?
GPU2: ?
SC1: ?
SC2: ?
SC3: ?
HDD: ?
SSD: ?
DVD: ?
FDD: SuperDisk LS-240
NIC1: ?
NIC2: ?
USB: ?
PSU: ?
CASE: ? (will be a modern one)
COOLER: ? (custom water-loop - may create custom-blocks for older cards, through CAD and CNC-cutting)
INPUT: ?


Mb candidates:
I have narrowed it down to 6 or so MB's, all with different reasons for being used - what can you all say regarding performance, compatibility, and STAbility of these boards? Are some of them known to be problematic?

https://1drv.ms/x/s!Asx8mx1KVNztjwf8JpB9kMT6e66S

G-card 1 candidates:
Cirrus Logic CL-GD5436
(PCI, 1-4 mb vram, 64-bit interface)

Macronix MX86200
(PCI, 1-4 mb vram, 64-bit interface,)

S3 Trio64V+[Aristo ART-64V+](86C765)
(PCI, 1-2 mb vram, 64-bit interface,)

S3 ViRGE/DX(86C375)[Genoa Phantom 3D/DX]BIOS version: 3.0 (1997-Jul-27)
(PCI, 2-4 mb, 64-bit)

S3 ViRGE/GX(86C385)BIOS version: 2.01.08.01-C1.07.03 (1997-Jun-05)
(PCI, 2-4 mb, 64-bit)


G-card 2 candidates:
GeForce 2 Ultra
(AGP, )

GeForce 7800 GTX


S-card candidates:
Aztech FM

ALSFM

SB Audigy ZS SB160
SB !Live CT4830

NIC-candidates:
Intel 1000MT
Last edited by Doomn00b on 2019-3-08 @ 20:25, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Input on building a multi-boot multi-era PC

Postby detritus olentus » 2019-3-07 @ 18:21

As far as motherboards go I can speak highly of the Asrock 775i65 (which is still pretty easy to find as the r3.0 version) and the Conroe865PE (which is a little harder to find but supports 4GB of ram. If you're going for multiboot with modern stuff you'll probably want to get your hands on Rloew's ram patch for 98, I've had good experiences with it anyway.
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Re: Input on building a multi-boot multi-era PC

Postby dr_st » 2019-3-07 @ 18:42

Doomn00b wrote:I have the ambition to build a PC which would have native support for as wide of a range of games as possible - so, I have been looking into this, on several places online, and have found that you can indeed get QUITE a few games working if you just select precisely the right hardware and software
It's generally a bad idea; you'll waste a lot of time, work hard, and will not get ideal results.

The best thing, generally, if you wish to minimize the number of machines is to find a system that can dual boot Win98SE and WinXP, and yet powerful enough to run the simple DOS games in DOSBox and run the newest games that will run on XP. If you also wish to cover newer games, get another system with Win7/Win10.

Alternatively you can get just a Win7/Win10 machine, run all the DOS games in DOSBox, and find game-by-game basis workarounds for the games that work on Win9x/WinXP and don't natively work in Win7/Win10.

And now, after I laid down the pragmatic approach, go ahead, ignore me and do whatever you want. Make sure to have fun! :cool:
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Re: Input on building a multi-boot multi-era PC

Postby Doomn00b » 2019-3-07 @ 18:45

detritus olentus wrote:As far as motherboards go I can speak highly of the Asrock 775i65 (which is still pretty easy to find as the r3.0 version) and the Conroe865PE (which is a little harder to find but supports 4GB of ram. If you're going for multiboot with modern stuff you'll probably want to get your hands on Rloew's ram patch for 98, I've had good experiences with it anyway.


Ey, cheers for the input. = )
I have updated the first post with a quick rundown of the MB's I'm thinking of pursuing btw - could you please have a look and give me your thoughts on them?

And oh yeah, I've had a look at Rloew's patches - I'm guessing I'll be using at least 2 of them, to get the most out of the build.


For quick ref, here are the MB's:

Asus M5A97

MSI 970A SLI Krait

MSI Z87-G41

AsRock 890FX-Deluxe5

Gigabyte GA-870A-USB3 Rev 3.1

Gigabyte GA-EX58-UD5

Gigabyte GA-P43-ES3G

Gigabyte GA-P31-ES3G

Asus Rampage II Extreme


I'm guessing you might be an ASrock fan, and would gravitate towards that board? Btw, I've heard on multiple places that SUPPORT-wise, AsRock is the #1 mb manufacturer, going above and beyond with helping users to solves problems, even on legacy stuff. Is this correct?
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Re: Input on building a multi-boot multi-era PC

Postby agent_x007 » 2019-3-08 @ 07:28

If you want to go PCI card for DOS video, you should drop Rampage II Extreme from your list.
It doesn't support "First Display Init." function, so basicly it's not possible to boot DOS on PCI card when PCI-e ones are installed.

How much do you want to pay for this ?
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Re: Input on building a multi-boot multi-era PC

Postby ynari » 2019-3-08 @ 16:10

Unless you are running XP in order to get EAX, but not through Alchemy compatibility, I wouldn't bother running it on a retro system. Run all your XP/Vista games on your modern system, they'll run fine and be a lot faster.

That way you can use older graphics cards, and a much wider variety of systems.

I'm not sure I'd bother with Quake, either. Base Quake is so much worse than GLQuake, which will run on a modern system. Likewise, whilst you can get Duke Nukem 3D to run fine, eDuke32 really is very good.

Dosbox isn't always absolutely 100% the same as hardware, and does need a faster machine, but I have to say I can't tell the difference between Commander Keen on Dosbox and real hardware.

Your sound card choices may be a problem for DOS games. PCI soundcards don't always fare well under DOS, and non Creative ones aren't always compatible.

Indiana Jones FoA is a great game, but weigh up running it 'for real' in DOS, with sticking it in ScummVM with built in MT-32 emulation, which can be costly to do for real in sound modules.

Intel network cards are a lot more compatible than Realtek, but for your purposes here it probably won't make any difference.
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Re: Input on building a multi-boot multi-era PC

Postby keenmaster486 » 2019-3-08 @ 16:29

Some quick tips:
  • Stay away from ATI cards for EGA games.
  • Use Windows 7 instead of Windows 10; it's less resource-intensive and Win10 won't offer you anything better than Win7 on this machine.
  • Same thing with Windows Vista, Windows 7 offers you a better experience than Vista with less resource usage.
  • You will have to deal with RAM limits for 9x and XP, but not DOS (FreeDOS JEMMEX will take care of it for you).
  • Speaking of DOS, consider using real MS-DOS instead of FreeDOS (FD is great, but it's only as good as a clone can be. If you have issues with games, it might possibly be because you're not using genuine MS-DOS)
  • Use the Trio64 for DOS - although it might be better if you were to use something like a Voodoo3 PCI for DOS+Win9x, and something much more modern for NT5/6/10. Ironically enough, however, you will have better luck with DOS on a very modern video card than you will on Win9x.
  • You will also have to deal with drive size limits for DOS and Win9x (both limited to 137 GB. Consider using the FreeDOS FDISK for better partitioning capabilities.)
  • For sound: use an early PCI sound card that has DOS SB emulation drivers and a real FM chip on it. It will not be ideal, but it will probably work for a lot of things. For any DOS games that don't work in pure DOS, Win9x might save you.
  • Any CD/DVD combo drive will do.
  • You can use USB drivers in DOS; the PnP ones that are out there only support UHCI though so you should make sure you have a USB card that has a UHCI chip on it.
  • Intel NICs are good for compatibility; they still write drivers for them in DOS, believe it or not.
Everyone who is suggesting DOSBox, I'm pretty sure the OP knows DOSBox exists. If he was interested in using DOSBox he wouldn't have made this thread in the first place.
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Re: Input on building a multi-boot multi-era PC

Postby dr_st » 2019-3-08 @ 18:14

keenmaster486 wrote:Use Windows 7 instead of Windows 10; it's less resource-intensive and Win10 won't offer you anything better than Win7 on this machine.
I don't agree that Win7 is less resource-intensive that Win10 in general, but it does run better on contemporary hardware where appropriate, optimized drivers are available. On modern hardware, the reverse is true. I agree that for a (semi)-retro system, Win7 is the way to go.

keenmaster486 wrote:You will have to deal with RAM limits for 9x and XP, but not DOS
For XP you don't have to deal with RAM limits (not that I know of, at least). Assuming one runs the 32-bit edition, it will see as much as 4GB RAM (minus PCI space), but if you have more, it will simply ignore it and there will be no issues.

keenmaster486 wrote:Everyone who is suggesting DOSBox, I'm pretty sure the OP knows DOSBox exists. If he was interested in using DOSBox he wouldn't have made this thread in the first place.
Most people know DOSBox exists, but some of them decide that they still want to build "Retro" systems because it will somehow give them "better experience". I am here to tell them that they are wrong, least as long as the goal is to enjoy retro video games. If their goal is just to have fun wasting their time on their hobby, that's another matter. :happy:
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Re: Input on building a multi-boot multi-era PC

Postby keenmaster486 » 2019-3-08 @ 18:45

dr_st wrote:I don't agree that Win7 is less resource-intensive that Win10 in general, but it does run better on contemporary hardware where appropriate, optimized drivers are available. On modern hardware, the reverse is true. I agree that for a (semi)-retro system, Win7 is the way to go.

In my experience it has been less resource-intensive. It might just be the fact that you cannot turn off the fancy themes in Win10. But by and large every new OS is more resource-intensive as the programmers add more and more extra features that load by default, so you have to do more tweaking if you want a lean system.
dr_st wrote:For XP you don't have to deal with RAM limits (not that I know of, at least). Assuming one runs the 32-bit edition, it will see as much as 4GB RAM (minus PCI space), but if you have more, it will simply ignore it and there will be no issues.

I think you are right about this. Although I have heard about patches that allow XP to see more RAM, I don't know whether they work or not.
dr_st wrote:Most people know DOSBox exists, but some of them decide that they still want to build "Retro" systems because it will somehow give them "better experience". I am here to tell them that they are wrong, least as long as the goal is to enjoy retro video games. If their goal is just to have fun wasting their time on their hobby, that's another matter.

I will take a 486 over DOSBox any day. It does not matter how perfect the emulation is. With an emulator, I know what the computer is doing under the hood, and I don't like it. At least this is the way I see it. The OP's project is to figure out how many games he can get to run on a native system, which explicitly excludes emulators. Maybe it is a time-wasting project but that's why this is a hobby and not a career :lol:
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Re: Input on building a multi-boot multi-era PC

Postby dr_st » 2019-3-08 @ 19:01

keenmaster486 wrote:I will take a 486 over DOSBox any day. It does not matter how perfect the emulation is. With an emulator, I know what the computer is doing under the hood, and I don't like it. At least this is the way I see it.
Well, duh; your chosen nickname tells us all that a 486 has a special place in your heart. It's probably because you grew up in the era when they were relevant, maybe it was your first PC, I dunno. :lol: Objectively, there are very few advantages to running old games on a 486 versus DOSBox on a modern system, and most of them have nothing to do with the emulation part, but more with the other hardware, like the look of the game on a real CRT (which is a pain to connect to a semi-modern system) or the availability of specific audio synthesizers (although DOSBOX+GeneralMidi+SoundFonts/Munt(MT32) pretty much cover all useful bases).

However, the discussion here is not on a 486 vs. DOSBox, but real DOS vs DOSBox on modern hardware. That's an entirely different equation. :happy:

keenmaster486 wrote:The OP's project is to figure out how many games he can get to run on a native system, which explicitly excludes emulators. Maybe it is a time-wasting project but that's why this is a hobby and not a career :lol:
It's possible that this is his project, although, that is even more of a time-waste effort, seeing as ruthan and agent_007 have already done extensive research (and he is aware of their work); so what's the point in repeating it? Unless he wants to help them fill in some of the gaps in the knowledge base - that may be a worthwhile endeavor in itself.
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Re: Input on building a multi-boot multi-era PC

Postby keenmaster486 » 2019-3-08 @ 19:33

dr_st, I think you are making assumptions about what is "useful" that the OP probably doesn't care about.

People just want to have fun!

This is off topic but as for the 486, I grew up in the 2000s. My childhood was filled with XP-era hardware, which I am not a big fan of. I like 90's era stuff because of the groundbreaking technology that was being made, and because of the software - I am a user interface geek and 90's software has UIs I like better than modern (mainstream) stuff.
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Re: Input on building a multi-boot multi-era PC

Postby Doomn00b » 2019-3-08 @ 19:43

dr_st wrote:
Doomn00b wrote:I have the ambition to build a PC which would have native support for as wide of a range of games as possible - so, I have been looking into this, on several places online, and have found that you can indeed get QUITE a few games working if you just select precisely the right hardware and software
It's generally a bad idea; you'll waste a lot of time, work hard, and will not get ideal results.

The best thing, generally, if you wish to minimize the number of machines is to find a system that can dual boot Win98SE and WinXP, and yet powerful enough to run the simple DOS games in DOSBox and run the newest games that will run on XP. If you also wish to cover newer games, get another system with Win7/Win10.

Alternatively you can get just a Win7/Win10 machine, run all the DOS games in DOSBox, and find game-by-game basis workarounds for the games that work on Win9x/WinXP and don't natively work in Win7/Win10.

And now, after I laid down the pragmatic approach, go ahead, ignore me and do whatever you want. Make sure to have fun! :cool:


Believe me, I do hear you - I have actually already scrapped the project once before, once I realized the difficulties and potential costs involved. It all started with me wanting to create something called the "DoS Classic" - aka, a powerful yet size-efficient package that could do all of this - it was supposed to be a gift for a friend, whom is a super-collector of video-games - he's got tons of consoles already, yet no active PC - he's been wanting to get into PC gaming though, after I got him started - problem is, he's got an entire HORDE of stuff - he really doesn't have room for multiple PC's. And neither do I, really. In theory though... It might be possible to condense the various OS-es into only two or so Mini-STX builds... heck, in theory, one could even make THREE such mini-systems take up as much space as a single mega-system like these builds!

I'm kind of satisfied with using emulation myself, or modifying games to make them work, BUT... my friend is hardcore, and he loves authenticity - as such, he doesn't accept stuff like DosBox or PCEM - it's real or no deal for him. And since I rather like doing PC builds, I figured I'd combine the two things and go above and beyond! = )

Emulation-solutions like PCEM and 86box are rather disappointing btw - it's clear we have a very long way to go, before we can actually have proper virtual PC set up, for Win9x - the various builds I have tried, even the ones of 86box which have been compiled to be faster for my specific processor-type, are still not fast enough to actually give an enjoyable experience. And forget about XP-systems... Virtual PC and various other such virtualization solutions do not really give the right proper experience either, since they are highly limited in graphics and sound simulation.

Anyways, tinkering and building stuff is fun, so that's a reason in and of itself to do something like this. (how the heck does Phil do it btw...? he's got like 10,000 builds - even if he takes them apart and swaps parts around, it should surely end up with a ton of stuff in the end anyways??)

agent_x007 wrote:If you want to go PCI card for DOS video, you should drop Rampage II Extreme from your list.
It doesn't support "First Display Init." function, so basicaly it's not possible to boot DOS on PCI card when PCI-e ones are installed.

How much do you want to pay for this ?


Hmm, yes, that could be a problem... I do believe that's why Ruthan is against using it?

Regarding cost, I'm not entirely sure? 480 U.S dollars, I suppose? I am looking at the long-game with this though. 480 dollars is because RagnarGD told me he paid something like 240$ for his build, and that one should be prepared to pay double for everything because of all the potentially busted parts one would find.

How much did yours cost? Got any specific tips on when one should push forward, and when one should drop the whole thing, cost-wise? Now that I think about it... 480 dollars is quite steep.
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Re: Input on building a multi-boot multi-era PC

Postby agent_x007 » 2019-3-09 @ 11:29

Indeed. I bought FX 1300 (PCX 5700 class), to bypass that issue - but it didn't worked out for my specific application. Also, RIIE only has one PCI slot (must pick between Sound PCI vs. VGA PCI).

CPU + MB = 240$
RAM = 80$ (I bought 4x 4GB, used 3x4GB for triple)
GPU1 = Bought new in 2014 (0$) ;)
GPU2 = 30$
AV2 + Dreamblaster = 150$
X-Fi Forte = 90$
NVMe = 70$
PSU = Bought in 2015 (0$)
Raptors = ~80$ (combined)
GOTEK = 40$ (bought locally)

Overall, I spent around 800$ in late 2017 [exchanged from PLN] (that's with shipping and adding less important bits).
Keep in mind, it's value with two major components rated as "0$" and no Case as well :D
Time : It took around three months to reach end result.
All parts worked from the start (no DOA ones).

Point of no return should be based on Your wallet, and will power to do it.
Check market prices for essentials, like Sound cards you want to use, HDDs/SSDs, any adapters, and then drop budget for key components. Based on that, see what platform you can get for reasonable price/performance.
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