First post, by appiah4
I've had a Compaq Deskpro EN-SFF lying about for quite a while now. Lately I decided to use it as a daily retro driver PC, so I gave it some upgrades. The CPU at 1GHz Coppermine is good enough, though I am debating replacing it with a Tualatin P3 1.2GHz anyway. I upgraded the RAM from 2x128MB sticks to 3x128MB (the system would stubbornly not POST with any of the 256MB sticks I had, and of the dozen 128MB sticks only two of them worked. It's a quirky board, but more on that later.) I also replaced the 20GB Seagate HDD with an 80GB WD one, added a Matrox G450 PCI, a Terratec i512 Digial and a VIA USB 2.0 PCI card. Here is the weirdness that ensued.
1. I booted the PC using the onboard i752 video graphics adapter and everything seemed to be working aside from the 24x CD-ROM on the thing, which was dead. So I removed the drive and replaced it with an LG 16x DVD-ROM.
2. I booted the PC using the Matrox G450 PCI (which, to my knowledge, was working fully well the last time I used it, a year ago) but regardless of VGA or DVI out, I would get image on the screen for about 5-10 seconds, after which I would get either nothing, or vertical bands of static color. I chalked this up to the card dying (I have yet to test it elsewhere but I will, tonight) and replaced it with a Radeon 9250 PCI.
3. I booted up the PC using the Radeon 9250 PCI, and the system stopped detecting the DVD-RW. Removing and replacing the IDE cables got the drive detected again (although not reliably) but eventually I got it apparently working, and proceeded to install Windows 98. After the initial boot and during the copying of system drivers, something odd happened: the drive got stuck at maximum spin speed but the activity light was gone and the system locked up. I rebooted and.. the drive was no longer detected.
4. I binned the DVD-RW and replaced it with another one of the same make and model that I knew was working. Initially it worked just fine, but when trying to install Windows 98 I started getting weird, weird things happening. The first is that when using the Windows 98SE FDISK, I can't seem to access or manipulate beyond 10GB of the 80GB HDD I have in there. Even with LBA support on, the maximum total size of partitions I can create was 10GB. I chalked this up to Windows 98SE weirdness (but I know this is not the case, I partitioned and installed Windows 98SE on larger disks) so I booted GParted. The graphic boot menu had slight weird shaky/blurry corruption but the ISO booted to desktop at 1920x1080 resolution just fine, and I could partition the drive just fine into 4/62/8 GB partitions.
5. I booted back into Windows 98SE install, this time it insisted on checking the drives and complained about not being able to read the last cluster of Drive D (it completely ignored Drive E, which was formatted to NTFS in preperation for a Windows 2K install later) and proceeded to surface scan it.. All 6GB of it?? It was obviously not seeing the drive right so I interrupted the scan and the install terminated. I rebooted to command prompt and a directory listing of Drive D returned a whopping 62 MB (not GB) of free space.. So I fired up FDISK and deleted the Logical partition completely, deciding to create the other partitions later.
6. I also formatted Drive C with a /q switch and started setp with the /is setup to skip the scandisk procedures. At the Boot Disk Creation screen, attempting to skip the process again resulted in a soft reboot. Attempting to create the Boot Disk resulted in an error about not being able to access the first sector (or sector zero or some such.) I went "Hmm", rebooted into BIOS and tried the Save to Floppy Disk option and that also gave me an error about not detecting a disk or disk being faulty. This is not true, so I pulled it apart, reconnected the floppy ribbon cable, attempted the BIOS procedure again, and it worked. I could even boot from the floppy just fine.
7. I tried to reinstall Windows 98SE, but the boot disk issue persisted. Now, when the PC locks up I get weird crawling white dots at the rightmost edge of the screen and the corruption persists across the screen after a soft reboot, but they went away after a cold reset. I decide something on the PCI bus may be responsible for all my issues including the one with the G450, and I pull out the most likely culprit, the VIA card. I also remove the 128MB RAM stick I have in there in the case it's messing with stability. I reboot, and although the graphics are fine now the DVD-ROM is not detected. Again.
8. I reason that I may be having multiple issues, so I pull out the DVD-ROM IDE ribbon and replace it with a known working one. And the DVD is recognized, the boot is clean, I smile smugly to myself, close the case up, reboot and the DVD-ROM has again disappeared. Now about to tear my hair out, I try to see if the controller or the cable is at fault, so I connect the hard drive with its own chain to the Secondary IDE controller, and unlike the DVD-ROM it's immediately recognized. I use the Hard Drive's working IDE ribbon to connect the DVD-ROM to the motherboard, and it's again not recognized. At this point I'm getting really frustrated so I put the 128MB ram stick back in and assemble the DVD-ROM and Hard Drive with their original cables, reboot, still no DVD-ROm detected. I sit and think for a moment..
9. I go to HP's website, download the latest BIOS Rompaq (3.14A vs 2.12 on the system), I boot to it from the floppy drive (pretty brave of me considering all the IDE issues I've been having, I know) and flash the BIOS. Everything goes butter smooth, I power down, reboot, and the DVD-ROM is detected.
At this point it's 3 o'clock in the morning and I go to sleep. I did not try a Windows 98SE install after all this, neither did I try the G450 in the system again. I'm almost dreading that the fix I think I found is still not a fix, but I will find out tonight I guess.
Anyway, I thought I would share this weird experience. Your inputs and insights on the matter would be very very welcome.
Retronautics: A digital gallery of my retro computers, hardware and projects.