PC100 M747 - The bane of my existence

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PC100 M747 - The bane of my existence

Postby TheMobRules » 2016-1-29 @ 03:15

Today while I was doing some cleaning in my house I found this, lurking in a dark corner like an ancient evil that is not to be disturbed:

Image

Yes, it's the heinous PC100 M747, a slot 1 motherboard from the late 90s made by PCChips under the brand "PC100". It is without a doubt the most wretched piece of technology I have ever possessed. :blah:

My story with this thing begins back in late 1998, when a friend of mine got himself a Voodoo 2 card and I saw what a game changer it was in terms of 3D performance at the time (I had a Mystique 220 in my socket 7 PC then so you would understand why I was underwhelmed with "3D" up to that point).

So, I decided it was time to upgrade and I was determined to get a Voodoo 2 and a slot 1 build with it. I was still in high school back then, so after saving enough money I got a Diamond Monster 3D II with 12 MB, one of those magically overclocking Celeron 300 processors and 64MB of PC100 RAM (I even got a new beige AT case to go with it :lol: ). Coupled with my Mystique and drives from my socket 7 PC, I was almost ready to go! All I needed now was a motherboard.

I hadn't much money left, and also prices being really inflated by taxes here in South America, I had to go with a low cost option: the M747. Big mistake. What should have been a thrilling time of 3D madness with Quake II, Unreal and all that was instead day after day of random crashes, lockups, resource conflicts and tears. :depressed:

The most annoying things I remember were 3D games randomly locking up with the sound looping and requiring a restart (Need for Speed 2 would always hang after playing no more than 10 minutes), and also the inability to use my old Sound Blaster card because disabling the crappy onboard sound of the M747 would cause every single game to BSOD. :dead:

It was a painful experience, so as soon as I was able to I ditched this thing and replaced it with a brand new P3 based system with a Voodoo 3 and from then on it was smooth sailing. For some reason I somehow lost the CPU but kept the motherboard, I think it's dead but I won't bother checking. However I have a proper Slot 1 retro build in progress with better stuff that I will share with you as soon as I get some parts I need.

Has anyone here more M747 or PCChips related memories to share? :lol:

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Re: PC100 M747 - The bane of my existence

Postby Tetrium » 2016-1-29 @ 06:29

Only memory I have is from 2 websites I visited long ago after I had found a cheap second hand "BX Cel" board (closely related to your board). Can't remember if I ever tried to make it POST, but after I had read someone's question regarding your motherboard on a German forum (basically told the user who was having problems with it to throw that piece of junk in the bin) and Redhill guide, I decided it was not worth the effort and I ended up spending my time on things that were worth more of my time (like building rigs based on motherboards that didn't seem to be as hopeless as that BX Cel board).

I still have that board I suppose, though I might've put it away in the furthest corner of my attic lol
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Re: PC100 M747 - The bane of my existence

Postby Davros » 2016-1-29 @ 09:41

I had a pc100 board super socket 7 (i think) I later found out it was designed to run the cyrix cpu which had a bus speed of 80mhz unlike the bus speed of 100mhz used by amd on the k6-2
so they customised the bios to have a 100mhz setting and to lie that it was running at 100mhz but when you tested it you realised that the board was maxing out at about 86mhz
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Re: PC100 M747 - The bane of my existence

Postby Skyscraper » 2016-1-29 @ 10:09

Back in the day I actually tried to use these SiS chipset PC-Chips Slot-1 AT boards with Celeron 300@450 CPUs to upgrade old AT systems I took as trade-ins when selling new systems. ~$200 for a board, a CPU and a stick of memory seemed like a killer deal. I still remember the yellow green line that would apeer in the middle of the screen when the system locked up. These boards are only reliable at 66 MHz FSB, even 75 MHz FSB is somewhat unstable. In the end I still used the motherboards for upgrading AT systems but I had to wait until the Celeron 400 was cheap enough and later I used the 533 MHz model on slotkets.

I have two of these boards now, one I bought back then and use in a Celeron DOS AT system and another I bought for 10 euro on AMI-bay as I wanted a spare! My boards are the model with AGP-slot but otherwise they look more or less the same.
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Re: PC100 M747 - The bane of my existence

Postby Malvineous » 2016-1-29 @ 12:14

That's interesting - I picked up an M748-MR ("Xcel 2000") cheap off eBay a couple of years ago as I wanted a reflashable BIOS chip and the board was cheaper than the chip.

I had no idea they were so unreliable, but I did wonder as I remember in the 90s anyone who had one of those hybrid AT/ATX boards was always having problems.

Here's a photo of it I just took.
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Re: PC100 M747 - The bane of my existence

Postby Skyscraper » 2016-1-29 @ 12:34

Malvineous wrote:That's interesting - I picked up an M748-MR ("Xcel 2000") cheap off eBay a couple of years ago as I wanted a reflashable BIOS chip and the board was cheaper than the chip.

I had no idea they were so unreliable, but I did wonder as I remember in the 90s anyone who had one of those hybrid AT/ATX boards was always having problems.

Here's a photo of it I just took.




The Mendocino Celeron is definitly the CPU to use with these boards.

If I remember right the 100 MHz FSB was somewhat less unstable with a low power CPU like the P2 350 but totally hopeless with a P2 450 or a Celeron 300A@450. Increasing the voltage on the Celeron using a "pin-hack" only made matters worse.
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Re: PC100 M747 - The bane of my existence

Postby nforce4max » 2016-1-29 @ 14:13

Yuck the tears had to be real :o
At least you will have a proper slot 1 build soon ;)

PCCHIPS really did ruin lives back then.
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Re: PC100 M747 - The bane of my existence

Postby Tetrium » 2016-1-29 @ 18:01

Malvineous wrote:That's interesting - I picked up an M748-MR ("Xcel 2000") cheap off eBay a couple of years ago as I wanted a reflashable BIOS chip and the board was cheaper than the chip.

I had no idea they were so unreliable, but I did wonder as I remember in the 90s anyone who had one of those hybrid AT/ATX boards was always having problems.

Here's a photo of it I just took.

I'm reasonably sure mine was "BXCel", but I'll admit I simply might be wrong about that.
I still have the board, I may look it up tomorrow as the weatherpredictions seem to kinda force me to not spend a lot of time outdoors tomorrow lol!
Mine was definitely AT with both AT and ATX power connectors (still an AT motherboard though).
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Re: PC100 M747 - The bane of my existence

Postby Skyscraper » 2016-1-29 @ 18:59

Here is an image of my spare board, it's a PC-Chips M729 REV:1.2. The motherboard isnt marked with the model number so it may have been sold under a different brand name. I think my other very similar board is a PC Chips M726 using the same chipset but a sligtly different layout. All these PC-Chips Baby-AT Slot-1 boards seem to use the same "ATX form factor card" with USB and PS/2 connectors as my PC-Chips M577 SS7 boards, I have exactly one of these.

I think Im going to take this beauty out for a spin! :)
PC-Chips-M729.JPG
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Re: PC100 M747 - The bane of my existence

Postby Tetrium » 2016-1-29 @ 19:03

Skyscraper wrote:Here is an image of my spare board, it's a PC-Chips M729 REV:1.2. The motherboard isnt marked with the model number so it may have been sold under a different brand name. I think my other very similar board is a PC Chips M726 using the same chipset but a sligtly different layout. All these PC-Chips Baby-AT Slot-1 boards seem to use the same "ATX form factor card" with USB and PS/2 connectors as my PC-Chips M577 SS7 boards, I have exactly one of these.

I think Im going to take this beauty out for a spin! :)
PC-Chips-M729.JPG

This one looks a lot more familiar :)
Now I need to dig out the one I have but I'm pretty sure I put it somewhere far away lol
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Re: PC100 M747 - The bane of my existence

Postby TheMobRules » 2016-1-29 @ 20:33

Nice to see all those examples of PCChips legacy! They really infested the market with their garbage. :lol:

I assume the naming of the chipsets with stuff like "BXcel" or "BXPro" is a way of misleading customers into thinking that they're buying something that is comparable to Intel's 440BX right? They did a similar thing with the equally infamous Socket 7 "VXPro" (which I also owned before this one, of course :depressed: , though it wasn't as problematic to me).
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Re: PC100 M747 - The bane of my existence

Postby Skyscraper » 2016-1-29 @ 22:11

I just remembered that the BXCel chipset is an ALi Chipset , ALi Aladdin Pro II most likely and not a SiS chipset like the similar boards with onboard video use.

My M729 board Posted without issues with a PII 233 and Im installing Windows 98SE at the moment, the performance of this system will be totally awesome!
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Re: PC100 M747 - The bane of my existence

Postby torindkflt » 2016-1-29 @ 22:27

It's possible one of the numerous no-name 486 systems I briefly had in the late 90s could have been PCChips, but I don't remember. Thus, to the best of my knowledge I've never had a system with a PCChips branded motherboard.

That said, my first custom build did have an ECS motherboard (Same company AFAIK), a K7SEM. As I recall, it actually wasn't all that bad. I don't remember having any real problems with it...well, at least up until a I fried it by trying to power an external USB hub off one of the PS/2 ports :lol:

People like me in the early days are why the acronym "PEBCAK" was invented. :p
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Re: PC100 M747 - The bane of my existence

Postby PCBONEZ » 2016-1-29 @ 22:30

TheMobRules wrote:I assume the naming of the chipsets with stuff like "BXcel" or "BXPro" is a way of misleading customers into thinking that they're buying something that is comparable to Intel's 440BX right? They did a similar thing with the equally infamous Socket 7 "VXPro" (which I also owned before this one, of course :depressed: , though it wasn't as problematic to me).

Yes.
So I understand all those PcChips chipsets with cool sounding PcChips names were counterfeit knock-offs of someone else's chipset. In part they used those name so they could call them their own product which apparently worked towards avoiding legal problems. And of course there was the marketing side of it. They also supposedly weren't all exact copies so features and performance varied.

The actual manufacturer was Hsing Tech who owned PcChips. PcChips was just a distributor.
They sold them "white box" to dozens of other companies who re-branded them as their own.
Some companies ordered them without BIOS chips and used their own. Others just modded the Hsing Tech BIOS.

I actually saw a small computer chain (maybe 6-7 stores) trying to sell PcChips boards as their own brand.
.
Last edited by PCBONEZ on 2016-1-29 @ 22:42, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: PC100 M747 - The bane of my existence

Postby PCBONEZ » 2016-1-29 @ 22:36

torindkflt wrote:It's possible one of the numerous no-name 486 systems I briefly had in the late 90s could have been PCChips, but I don't remember. Thus, to the best of my knowledge I've never had a system with a PCChips branded motherboard.

That said, my first custom build did have an ECS motherboard (Same company AFAIK), a K7SEM. As I recall, it actually wasn't all that bad. I don't remember having any real problems with it...well, at least up until a I fried it by trying to power an external USB hub off one of the PS/2 ports :lol:

People like me in the early days are why the acronym "PEBCAK" was invented. :p

PcChips and ECS merged in Oct 1998.
I think Hsing Tech is still the parent company but they have always avoided the public eye.
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Re: PC100 M747 - The bane of my existence

Postby gerwin » 2016-1-30 @ 00:41

I have 'mixed' memories of a board from that same family: The PCChips M729.
Actually it wasn't as bad on itself, compared to the M747 mentioned above. It was slow but reliable. Until later it somehow got damaged; and got this lock up whenever larger files were transferred over the ethernet card. The chipset was of ALi brand, and it had horrible AGP compatibility. But at least it did not waste much time: a graphics card either did not work at all, or it worked. After a few failures I found a TNT2 that worked :). It came in a box with a red sticker: "Do not use with ALi chipsets" :lol:
The soundcard is called "SoundPro", and it is actually the C-Media CMI8330 SB16+WSS clone on the ISA Bus. At least for DOS games it is a nice chip, for windows... not so much.
The board came in a flimsy but still razorsharp case. It originally had SiS 6326 AGP graphics. That Graphics card died within the warranty period after briefly trying 3D acceleration in Half-Life.

Edit: Hey Skyscraper has one ! Mine was scrapped, except for that "BXcel" heatsink relic.
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Re: PC100 M747 - The bane of my existence

Postby Skyscraper » 2016-1-30 @ 01:00

gerwin wrote:I have 'mixed' memories of a board from that same family: The PCChips M729.
Actually it wasn't as bad on itself, compared to the M747 mentioned above. It was slow but reliable. Until later it somehow got damaged; and got this lock up whenever larger files were transferred over the ethernet card. The chipset was of ALi brand, and it had horrible AGP compatibility. But at least it did not waste much time: a graphics card either did not work at all, or it worked. After a few failures I found a TNT2 that worked :). It came in a box with a red sticker: "Do not use with ALi chipsets" :lol:
The soundcard is called "SoundPro", and it is actually the C-Media CMI8330 SB16+WSS clone on the ISA Bus. At least for DOS games it is a nice chip, for windows... not so much.
The board came in a flimsy but still razorsharp case. It originally had SiS 6326 AGP graphics. That Graphics card died within the warranty period after briefly trying 3D acceleration in Half-Life.

Edit: Hey Skyscraper has one ! Mine was scrapped, except for that "BXcel" heatsink relic.



You diddnt happen save the "ATX form factor card" with USB and PS/2 ports or the audio bracket? I only have one of each but at least 4 differnt PC-Chips boards that can use them.
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Re: PC100 M747 - The bane of my existence

Postby Robin4 » 2016-1-30 @ 01:12

I have the version with the socket 7 on the board.. Came out of one of the systems i did bought in a lot.
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Re: PC100 M747 - The bane of my existence

Postby Robin4 » 2016-1-30 @ 01:15

Davros wrote:I had a pc100 board super socket 7 (i think) I later found out it was designed to run the cyrix cpu which had a bus speed of 80mhz unlike the bus speed of 100mhz used by amd on the k6-2
so they customised the bios to have a 100mhz setting and to lie that it was running at 100mhz but when you tested it you realised that the board was maxing out at about 86mhz



http://www.ebay.com/itm/PC100-VIAGRA-SU ... 1616294322

Its a viagra motherboard. Image
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Re: PC100 M747 - The bane of my existence

Postby Skyscraper » 2016-1-30 @ 01:35

Robin4 wrote:I have the version with the socket 7 on the board.. Came out of one of the systems i did bought in a lot.



Many of PC-Chips Socket-7 boards are decent, not even the VX-Pro is as troublesome as these boards.




I have now installed Windows 98 SE on my PC Chips M729 test system, Im using a P2 233 running at 3.5x66 MHz and Im using PC133 CL2 memory. The motherboard lets me change memory timings but that isnt of much use as it dosnt even post with CL2 set at 66 MHz! :D

I will try to flash a newer BIOS tomorrow to see if that improves the memory compatibility.


The onboard "SoundPro" CMI8830 audio chip works but stutters a little when playing the startup sound when booting Windows. The USB ports work perfectly fine with my USB sticks.
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