Modifiying old machines

Discussion about old PC hardware.

Modifiying old machines

Postby Aragorn » 2018-11-13 @ 18:08

So i have for many years used modified OEM case parts in my builds, largely because i think they look pretty smart... Usually Dell, i think mostly because when i was about 15 i did some work experience at a place running Poweredge 1300's, and the Charcoal chassis with the prominent grille on the front really struck me as a cool design: ... /1300s.jpg

Unfortunately that particular model uses lots of non-standard components, making it not particularly useful for a custom build, though i did own a real Poweredge 1400 a few years later when they got super cheap, its since been sold on and replaced.

My "daily driver" is a modern i5/Asus B250H setup, built into the chassis from a Dell Poweredge 830. I also have a spare Poweredge 800 chassis which looks the same, which had another modern build in it, but is currently on the shelf.

However these boxes are somewhat too modern looking for a proper retro build. I have set out to build a "99-00" Gaming box, and what i really wanted was an Antec SX800/830 or SX600/630 chassis, as that was the quintissential box from back then, and i owned the larger full tower version of that case back then myself. Unfortunately they seem to be like rocking horse p these days. Pondering what to use, and realising beige cases are pretty rare, i jumped on ebay and started looking at Dells from that era.

Eventually i came across a XPS T500 which i liked the look of, and snapped it up for a mere £50. Spec wise its a little too early for what i want, but it is a pretty high end box for its time, running a P3 500, and a Diamond TNT graphics card and soundblaster live! I've bought an Athlon 1100, and a MSI K7T board for it as i feel thats a bit more fitting of the peak of y2k gaming.

I'm now getting pangs of guilt for some reason, about the thoughts of stripping this machine down and rebuilding it into something radically different. Not sure why, its never bothered me before, but this box is decidedly older than what i usually mess with. If the mods were non-destructive it wouldnt be too bad, but having a close look at it, i realise i'm going to have to remove the IO shield and modify it, to accept the full AC97 outputs of the K7T, as being a Dell chassis its not a standard IO sheild, and while dell have stuck with AC97, they've not fitted the second serial port or the onboard sound jacks. A fairly minor hack i guess, but still one that means its unlikely to ever be returned to its original self.

What are your thoughts on this? Finding cases must be pretty difficult so purchasing a machine and rebuilding it is perhaps often the best/easiest way to go, but your destroying a wee piece of history in the process?

Needing an AT case for an older build as well, and those are even more impossible than the ATX stuff!
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Re: Modifiying old machines

Postby skitters » 2018-11-14 @ 00:36

I wouldn't worry about modding an I/O shield -- especially if you can do a nice job.
If you really don't want to mod the original I/O shield, there was someone who made a custom I/O shield
And then there is always cardboard, if no one is ever going to see it.

Finding an AT case can be difficult.
Sometimes you can find an entire computer for cheaper than the AT case alone.
Sometimes the computer even works, which can lead to a difficult decision.
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Re: Modifiying old machines

Postby Mister Xiado » 2018-11-14 @ 03:49

Blank I/O shields aren't too difficult to acquire. As for an AT case, I got two AT towers at a garage sale, with stripped down 486 and Pentium boards in each. Since I got them locally, they were cheap, but I see them selling for quite a bit on evilbay, around $100 before more than half of that in shipping due to their tremendous weight, being thicker steel and all. Finding them via Craigslist is near impossible, as most people don't sell old systems online anymore, but wait for buyers to advertise instead. I asked friends and coworkers over the past fifteen years to keep an eye out for ANY old computers for me, and I got nothing out of it. Not even a false positive piece of garbage Dell.
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Re: Modifiying old machines

Postby chinny22 » 2018-11-14 @ 12:31

Here is a link on someone else using their Dell case with a standard motherboard with guides on the front panel as well.
I think what most people are missing is that you dont want to dremmel out the currant I/O Ports as its part of the case and not a bit tin clipped into place.

For keeping as is
The motherboard is an Intel SE440BX-3 the most stable of an already stable motherboard.
This Dell version of the motherboard has on board Yamaha XG sound card , great for Dos games (within Windows) and Midi
The BX Motherboards in general make great Dos/Win9x crossover PC's with the AGP PCI ISA slots

For Modding
The Motherboard/PSU isnt ATX Standard. This is easily modified but will always reduce the desirability of the PC.
It's your case to do with as you want!

If it was me, and the fact your going for Y2K I would leave as is, its not peak but it'll do most games from that era just fine
BX Motherboards in general do support overclock to 133FSB, but not sure how much Intel boards go as they went with stability over features
I've got mine pretty maxed out without overclocking.

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Re: Modifiying old machines

Postby torindkflt » 2018-11-14 @ 16:19

About 12 years ago, I modified a Compaq Presario 5000 series case to be ATX-standard, which primarily consisted of just replacing the power supply and rewiring the front panel & USB connectors (Everything else about the case was already ATX compliant). Worked fine, aside from some USB devices not wanting to work properly in the rewired front ports (I'm guessing it had something to do with trying to use ports originally wired as USB 1.1 on a USB 2.0 header).

Honestly, I didn't feel as though I were "destroying a piece of history" by doing so. Yeah, the Compaq Presario 5000 case looked neat, but back then (and still today) I held Compaq in very low regards, and in all honesty I had a "good riddance" attitude towards junking the original internals (The factory-original power supply was rated only 95W for crying out loud!). That seemed to be typical of consumer-grade Compaq hardware from the late 90s-early 2000s; neat looking on the outside, but crappy hardware on the inside. Save the case, junk the rest, it's just not special enough to be treated any differently IMO (in regards to Compaq, at least). :-P
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Re: Modifiying old machines

Postby Aragorn » 2018-11-14 @ 21:27

Yeh its currently in the "fairly worthless" category, and i think i will just continue as planned. I was just generally wondering how folk thought about these things.

The IO shield is a separate piece, but its not a standard size, so a "normal" one wont clip in. I'll just take the drill/dremel to it and it'll be fine.

The board doesnt have onboard sound (if it did, i'd have much less dremelling to do!), the machine had an SB Live in it instead, but i did note it was a nice looking intel board. Maybe i can sell that on and recoup some of the cost, though the abnormal power connector and dell bios isnt ideal for retrofits.

I've started eyeing up some of the plastic parts in the front bezel to install a decent intake fan. Machines of this era seem noisy, mostly it seems due to relying on a single fairly small high speed rear fan to provide all the cooling. I'm thinking some chopping of the plastic drive carrier, and a bit of metalwork would see a nice 120mm fan installed, drawing in thru the existing grille on the front panel.

I could upgrade whats there, but i'd like an AMD box rather than an Intel one. I'll re-use some of the bits, and the rest can get swapped out :)
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Re: Modifiying old machines

Postby oohms » 2018-11-15 @ 00:49

your best bet would be finding an ATX motherboard tray with the whole backplate in one piece, then using your sheet metal skills to put that in

otherwise you can get an ATX case and frankenstein the whole rear panel (including the ATX power supply cutout) plus motherboard tray into the shell and front of the poweredge case
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Re: Modifiying old machines

Postby Baoran » 2018-11-15 @ 10:53

I got this old computer last week for 20 euros just because I liked the case and I thought I could use the case in my build. When I got home with the pc and checked it out, I noticed it was all original, all the parts were from same time period and all the badges on the case matched with all the parts inside the case. I did really feel bad about taking the pc apart, but I got the pc for something I was building and I didn't see much retro gaming potential in it.
With heavy heart I took it apart and removed the badges to make room for my build. I did save the badges, but I doubt I will ever need them, but it made me feel better about taking apart an old all original pc thinking that at least I could put it back together the way it was if I wanted.
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Re: Modifiying old machines

Postby Aragorn » 2018-11-15 @ 12:24

oohms wrote:your best bet would be finding an ATX motherboard tray with the whole backplate in one piece, then using your sheet metal skills to put that in

otherwise you can get an ATX case and frankenstein the whole rear panel (including the ATX power supply cutout) plus motherboard tray into the shell and front of the poweredge case

It is all ATX, its just that instead of the standard 1.75" x 6.25" IO panel cutout, it has a slightly smaller hole with a metal insert clipped in. I will try to modify the standard shield, if i cock it up i'll just need to get the heavier tools out and enlarge the hole to the correct dimensions to take a standard IO panel.
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