VOGONS


First post, by utahraptor

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Good day,

I would appreciate some advice on picking a board/CPU.

criteria:

CPU performance of at least Intel 66mhz
Motherboard with good track record (fearing capacitor or other problems)
Want to use awe 32 or 64
available parts (ebay?)

I plan to use usb floppy adapter and SD or CF to IDE as well.

I have went all through the wiki and viewed a ton of posts on here, but its hard to find a build guide for 486.

Where do you all source parts from? I feel like MB and CPU selection should be my first objectives, the rest should be easier.

I want to have a nice DOS and windows 3.11 build.

Reply 1 of 52, by JudgeMonroe

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The 486 occupies an interesting position in computer history, namely the transition to 32bit bus architectures which were needed to catch up to the capabilities of the post-286/386SX CPUs. The 386 limped along with a 16-bit ISA bus but the 486 had a smorgasbord of 32-bit bus options: VLB, EISA, MCA, and finally PCI.

This is part of the charm, I think, of a 486 build. PCI machines are bloodless; build a Pentium. MCA is right out. EISA is fiddly and relatively rare, so that leaves VLB -- the 32-bit extension bus they stapled onto ISA slots using connectors left over from the MCA bus but flipped around.

So find yourself a nice motherboard with 2 or 3 VLB slots. They are all over eBay. Just about all of them will support a DX2/66. Make sure it has cache. Avoid OEM boards that don't come in their native case.

Memory: 30 or 72 pin SIMMs. Usually one or the other, sometimes both. 30-pin boards should require 4 SIMMs to a bank for 32 bit data width.

CPU: Socket 3 boards are the easiest to work with and probably only have a single socket. Older boards with a separate "math co-processor" socket are just playing games with a 486SX upgrade path -- ignore it.

BIOS: A unicorn board might have a MR-BIOS on it. Otherwise you might not be likely to have LBA support for drives > 528MB. In the world of CF cards, I don't find this a significant issue on a 486.

IO Card: Find a VL SuperIO card that will support up to PIO4. DTC2278s are popular, I think.

Video: FInd a VL VGA card with a respectable chipset like CL542X. Avoid "windows accelerator" cards that ignore DOS performance. Windows will be fine anyway.

Reply 2 of 52, by Unknown_K

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486 boards don't have USB so you need a real floppy drive or GOTEK.

If you go with Vesa Local Bus (VLB) you will need a floppy/ide controller card as well as a video card.
If you go with a PCI based board then I/O and floppy, HD are built in and PCI video cards are easier to find and cheaper.

Either way you will need an AT style case and a AT style power supply.

Collector of old computers, hardware, and software

Reply 3 of 52, by Jorpho

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utahraptor wrote on 2020-08-07, 15:36:

I want to have a nice DOS and windows 3.11 build.

Decide what exactly you want to run on this computer and perhaps you will find yourself less "overwhelmed by selection". Otherwise, just pick something and call it "nice".

I might be inclined to suggest getting something with a Turbo button, but again, it depends what you want to do.

Reply 4 of 52, by chublord

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If you're just browsing at this point, why not find a nice board that supports the late 3.3v processors? Then you can put whatever you want in there. The cost difference between a DX2 and DX4/586 is basically nothing.

I would also get a board with the 72-pin memory slots. PCI is nice so you can use relatively new cards (that are also super cheap) but I didn't have much experience with VLB.

IBM Valuepoint 486 DX4-100, Opti 802G, 50 MHz FSB, Voodoo1+S3 864, Quantum LPS 540 MB + Seagate Medalist 1.6 GB + 4.0 GB Quantum Fireball, 128 MB FPM, 256k L2

Reply 5 of 52, by debs3759

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My preferred board for 486 is the Asus PVI-486SP3. It has ISA, VLB, PCI and onboard IDE, Floppy, serial, parallel and PS2 ports. It supports all 486 and 5x86 CPUs (except TI 486SXL2 - I don't know any boards that support that).

Reply 6 of 52, by Socket3

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utahraptor wrote on 2020-08-07, 15:36:

Motherboard with good track record (fearing capacitor or other problems)

That's a toughie... keep in mind these boards are 25-27 years old... those electrolytic capacitors don't last this long. If you want reliability, you're gonna have to get it re-capped. Caps aside, I've seen mosfets begin to fail on newer machines. In fact most of my socket 3 and socket 7 stuff has either capacitor issues (although the caps look fine, testing them with an ESR meter proves most are not in spec) or the VRM's are starting to fail.....

Reply 7 of 52, by LewisRaz

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Depending on where you live it could also be an option to find a whole system. Just try to avoid OEMs with odd form factors.
My first VLB 486 was a fair chunk of change, but still cheaper than buying it as parts and it meant I already had an AT case and PSU. I actually sold the soundcard that came with it which covered 75% of its cost!

I have since been able to use that as a nice base and configure it to my wishes.

Some advice I might pass on from my 486 tinkering:
Make sure to get a board that supports 3.3v CPUs else you are locking yourself out of the top 486 cpus. (unless you are willing to spend $$$ on rarer cpus)
If using CF adapters make sure the board can auto detect the parameters else it can be annoying trying to get them. Also stay under 2gb with your CF for an easier life.
Dont buy a board with no cache on it as its not always cheap or easy to get good cache chips.

I am no expert I have just been learning as I go. Above are some problems I have encountered in my playing around with 486s.

After all of my messing around with them I sort of wish I had got a PCI board and a dx4 and been done with it. I do plan on clearing my 2 VLB setups to get a PCI board when one comes up at the right price.

Reply 8 of 52, by fitzpatr

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I will add to this by pointing out that, if possible, get a board with a CR2032 battery on it. Anything with a soldered battery has the risk of having been damaged by a leaky battery. This damage can be obscured in eBay auctions by providing poor pictures, so be mindful

This auction is a good example where they give high-res pictures of all areas except for the battery, which is showing significant corrosion.

Also be aware that some 486 boards have the battery integrated into the Real-Time Clock (often a Dallas DS1287 or DS12887 chip). These have no easy way to replace the battery, and some boards will not POST without a battery.

MT-32 Old, CM-32L, CM-500, SC-55mkII, SC-88Pro, SC-D70, MU2000EX
K6-III+/450/GA-5AX/G400 Max/Voodoo2 SLI/CT1750/MPU-401AT/Audigy 2ZS
486 Build

Reply 9 of 52, by kalohimal

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Agree with fitzpatr. 486s with coin cell battery are less common, but if you could find one then go for it. Otherwise, check carefully in the area where the barrel battery was for sign for corrosion. Avoid boards with integrated RTC battery like he said, unless you're skilled with a soldering iron and could replace the RTC module. But there are hacks available for it though, where you could disconnect the internal battery and add an external one, but that is another story...

Electrolytic capacitors plaque is one thing you need less worry about. During the 486 era it was the tantalum caps that were most common, along with exploding tantalum caps if the board had not been powered on for a long long time. It was not until the Pentium era that they started using electrolytic caps, and the plaque begun during the Pentium 2 time. Tantalum caps are attention seekers and want lots of love, if you ignored them and not powering the board up for many years, they will explode 😁 So if the seller is showing pictures with the board working, the tantalum caps will most probably be fine.

But the most important thing IMHO is the availability of the manual. 486 boards have tons of jumpers on them, so you would want a board that comes with a manual. Otherwise, at least find a board that's common enough and has jumpers information on sites like TH99. If not, you'll have tons of headaches trying to figure out which jumpers are for what functions, making upgrades close to impossible.

And don't worry too much. If you're like most members on this forum, once you started on this path you'll be collecting more and more, so it's not that important which one you start from 😂

Slow down your CPU with CPUSPD for DOS retro gaming.

Reply 10 of 52, by waterbeesje

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With al good tips from the other members you could also ask yourself if you want the easy setup or you want the bigger challenge.

VLB generally comes with challenges of getting things stable. For me this is a goal on its own, making the system more 'mine'.

For example, I own an Aquarius MB4DUV that has approximately ten million jumpers to set CPU type, voltages, bus speed, cache stuff and VLB wait states. Getting that to work without blowing things up is tricky without a manual. The board is on TH99 so setting it up was doable. With a DX2-66 and CL 542x VLB graphics it outperforms most other DX2-66 system I own in this class.

Another board I've got is the Intel Ninja with PCI. Almost foolproof to set up, just choose SX/DX/DX2/dx4, voltage 3,3v/5v and the bus speed. The only "disadvantage" is the Dallas RTC. It had a dead battery and I had to mod it while sitting on the board (as it is soldered, not socketed). Perfectly doable with basic soldering skills and a steady hand to grind away plastics on the Dallas' side.

On the other hand: if 486 is not the goal on itself, you could look into a Pentium 100 / 133 / 166. Infinite DOS power and you can get totally overkill graphics and ram to run every game on max settings. Plus good early Win95/98 support for games like Need for Speed II.
Try running Duke nukem 3D or Slipstream 5000 at high resolution on any 486 and watch the slideshow.

Stuck at 10MHz...

Reply 11 of 52, by Socket3

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waterbeesje wrote on 2020-08-08, 09:28:

Try running Duke nukem 3D or Slipstream 5000 at high resolution on any 486 and watch the slideshow.

Most 486 class PCs struggle to get an average of 20FPS in duke3d even at 320x240....

Reply 12 of 52, by Intel486dx33

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I once worked with a guy from England in Silicon Valley.
He said he went to the super market the other day and could not believe the selection.
There where at least 5 choices for every type of item. That was back in 1990's.
Today there are at least 10 choices for every type of item.

He said in England it is simple "You have one or two choices and that's it".

Reply 13 of 52, by Anonymous Coward

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It's not that complicated. If you want a period correct 486, any old 5V board with VLB will be just fine for a DX/2-66.

"Will the highways on the internets become more few?" -Gee Dubya
V'Ger XT|Upgraded AT|Ultimate 386|Super VL/EISA 486|SMP VL/EISA Pentium

Reply 14 of 52, by The Serpent Rider

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AMD 5x86 133 Mhz, LuckyStar LS486-E or "clones". Can't go wrong with that.

Get up, come on get down with the sickness
Open up your hate, and let it flow into me

Reply 16 of 52, by utahraptor

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Ok thanks for all the advice! I have been reviewing the release system requirements for the games I most want to play:

Settlers II Gold edition: 66 Mhz 486 (I purchased and played this as a kid on a 33 Mhz and it ran a bit slow (cost a lot of allowance!))
Heroes of Might and Magic II 66 Mhz 486
Total Annihilation 100 Mhz
Warcraft2 (sort of want to play) Pentium 60
Full Throttle 33 Mhz
Pinball Dreams Low?
Aces of the Pacific 25 Mhz
Amazon Trail 486
Sim City 2000 Intel 386 25
Sim Tower Intel 386 25
After dark and Jurassic park expansion (must have) unknown CPU requirements

Based on this list I don't think I need the Pentium, I am not set on needing Warcraft 2.

Reply 17 of 52, by Chadti99

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This is a great list! I think a 66Mhz 486 will serve you well. Honestly you might try buying a working OEM system on eBay to get up an running quickly unless you enjoy the whole build process and frustrations that come along with it. And if you do I think you’re in the right place!

Reply 19 of 52, by chublord

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The original Warcraft 2 only required a 486/33 processor (not sure if it even required a FPU, SX-33 may have worked). The Pentium 60 requirement is for the Battle.net edition. Even so, I don't think it would care that much about the FPU speed, it's not a 3D game.

If you found an old 5V board that allowed a 40 MHz FSB, you could have a DX2-80, and that would be fairly close in integer performance to a Pentium 60. DX4-100 would have no problem.

IBM Valuepoint 486 DX4-100, Opti 802G, 50 MHz FSB, Voodoo1+S3 864, Quantum LPS 540 MB + Seagate Medalist 1.6 GB + 4.0 GB Quantum Fireball, 128 MB FPM, 256k L2