VOGONS


First post, by NSX

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I'm planning to start up the old PC again (hasn't been turned on for 15 years), any general advice? Recapping the motherboard and/or graphics card, getting new PSU?

My goal is to make the ultimate AMD Socket 7 3dfx + SCSI machine that will run (on two partitions or maybe HDDs) both DOS/Win98SE and XP Home (although I don't expect stellar performance with XP).

The specs are as listed

Chaintech 5AGM2

AMD K6-2/400, acquired K6-III+ from ebay for almost 3 digit price, the only that was on sale, seller says it works at 2.1V, the motherboard works at 2.0V(undocumented tho)

3x64MB RAM, acquired3x128MB SDRAM which is maximum for the board (all 3 are different unfortunately but I hope they will work at PC100 speed)

Voodoo 3 2000 AGP 16 MB (looking for a 5 5500 at a normal price), last time it ran clocked at 166 MHz without problems

Creative sound blaster (I dont know the model but it's not one with OPL3 chip), I have on offer CT1600 and CT1790, which one would you choose?

160GB Hitachi IDE HDD, acquired PCI Adaptec SCSI Card 19160/29160N and Seagate ST318406LW (10.000RPM) for 20 euro, got Seagate Cheetah 10K.7 ST373207LW/LC as a gift, they won't fit in an AT case so maybe an external rack(s) would be a good idea?

Mini AT case 200W PSU

standard floppy

Samsung keyboard

Genius mouse

CD 32X Teac + Creative 52x writer, acquired Plextor Ultraplex 40x SCSI reader for 20 euro + shipping

any things you'd add or sources to read about setting up SCSI on old Windows ?

Reply 1 of 7, by Doornkaat

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Hey and welcome to the forum! 😃
First that system is going to be a lot of fum for Win9x gaming.👍
Still I would advise against WinXP. You already know it won't perform well but after SP1 it'll probably be nothing but sluggish.
A Voodoo3 2000@3000 is also a great choice for K6-2+/III+ CPUs. Don't forget to get some extra airflow across the card. The case probably isn't that great for airflow.
Upgrading to a V5500 is wasted on any SS7 CPU. The card is heavily bottlenecked by the K6, it really deserves a faster CPU. Instead it's more reasonable to upgrade to GF4 MX plus Voodoo2.
CT1600 is an awesome card for earlier DOS gaming but CT1790 should do everything the CT1600 does and more. Still for Win9x I'd add an SB live! or better for 3D audio in later games.
For the 160GB IDE HDD you may need DDO software or a PCI-IDE controller card since the board is probably limited to 128GB IDE drives.
Recapping >20yo hardware is generally a good idea if you know what parts to choose and have decent soldering skills. In most cases capacitors can't be checked in circuit and once they're out why not just replace them? The parts are plenty and inexpensive.😎

I personally don't fancy SCSI that much and have little experience with it so I can't really comment on that. All I know is that SCSI drives are said to run hot so I'd also prefer an external case with active cooling to the micro AT case.

I hope any of that helps. 👍

Reply 2 of 7, by NSX

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Thanks very much for your response.

I would run Windows 98 on one SCSI HDD and why not try XP on another 😁 now I found out that this motherboard actually accepts some 256MB modules so I'll try with 2x256MB, at least they are dirt cheap (still), around 5 euro per module 😁
I already have Win98SE installed on that IDE HDD but who knows what state it's in, I'm too afraid to turn it on to check until I review the motherboard 😁 that IDE would serve only as backup of sorts.
V5500 should still give advantage of 4xFSAA without any performance hit and if I find bigger CRT (I currently have 17" at 1024x768 resolution) it might yield a noticeable difference because at higher res CPU doesn't play part that much if I got that right from the benchmarks.
Thanks for the sound card advice and I actually might already have SB Live! in the system (although I didnt check).
And yes I plan to buy external case for SCSI drives because mini AT case won't accomodate 2 SCSI + 1 IDE HDD (+2 CD writers)anyway 😁 Running hot is also associated with 24h server running, I don't think these will be used that much 😀

Reply 3 of 7, by bZbZbZ

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In my opinion it might not be worth your time/effort to recap unless you see visible bulging or leaking of the existing capacitors. If you happen to be a novice at soldering (like I am) there is also a possibility of turning working hardware into non-working hardware.

Perhaps the greatest risk would be the AT Power Supply... if it has been turned off for 15 years it should be safe to open the power supply casing to clean out the dust and inspect the capacitors in there. If they aren't visibly bulged or leaking, you could proceed to do some rudimentary tests on the power supply using a multimeter and a hard drive you don't care much about.

Since your case (and probably motherboard) are AT, it'll be difficult but not impossible to find a replacement AT power supply.

Finally, I suggest using all of the same original parts in the system for a test boot before you start swapping things out. If you recall this system working fine the last time you used it 15 yrs ago, and you are comfortable with the condition of the power supply, this is probably your best shot at a smooth first boot. If there are any issues you can then trouble-shoot; there'll be plenty of time to perform upgrades.

Reply 4 of 7, by NSX

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smart advice thanks, I didn't think about tinkering with capacitors myself but taking it to the service, last time I used soldering iron was long ago 😀

the MoBo has both AT&ATX PS connectors so I might upgrade the PSU as well to a newer ATX one

Reply 5 of 7, by bZbZbZ

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Great, if your mobo has a 20-pin ATX power supply connector you could test it using a modern ATX power supply (you may need an ATX power supply with a detachable 20+4 pin ATX cable. O if you're lucky the last 4 pins of the modern 24-pin ATX connector might be able to hang off your motherboard without clashing with anything nearby. The power button on your AT case probably won't work with an ATX power supply, so you'll need to find the ATX Power Switch pins on the mobo and briefly touch them together with a screwdriver to power on.

If you want to reduce your risk even more, you could remove the Voodoo3 and put in a less valuable video card. In the unlikely event there is a problem which kills some of your hardware. I think a Voodoo3 2000 PCI goes for upwards of $100 on eBay these days.

Reply 7 of 7, by Doornkaat

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bZbZbZ wrote on 2020-10-25, 17:27:

In my opinion it might not be worth your time/effort to recap unless you see visible bulging or leaking of the existing capacitors.

I do not agree with this. Electrolytic capacitors can degrade and fail without visual indication. Visual inspection is not suitable to determine the condition of a capacitor.
Out of spec capacitors will often put additional stress on transistors, for example when they're part of the VRM circuitry, and can cause cascading failures. It is not worth waiting for complete failure because that may result in damage to other components.

I do not claim that it is required to periodically change electrolytic capacitors on curcuit boards - some are well within spec even after 50 years - but most retro PC hardware was never meant to last this long. For most components there's no reason to fail anytime soon as long as they're operated within specification. Electrolytic capacitors age comparatively quickly and in most cases they're the weakest link.
It is at least sensible to check them now that many of them are nearing the end of their life expectancy. And getting them out of circuit to check them is already half the work.😉
With all that in mind and given their low cost replacing wet electrolytical capacitors with quality parts roughly every twenty years on sporadically used systems appears sensible to me.👍