First post, by JohnnySL25A
Hi, this is my Dual Pentium Pro Restoration / Build Thread!
Firstly a bit of background. From 1995 until 2011 I worked at a small-ish computer firm, supplying local companies and individuals with IT services, full PC systems, gaming systems, the whole thing. We built all of our own desktop systems, (no pre-built systems bought-in), and eventually I became technical manager, running the workshop, helping the guys, fixing problems etc.
It was fun working there, as I saw first-hand the development of x86 hardware through-out that time.... when I started we were still building 486 DX2 and DX4 systems, along with the early Pentiums. When I left we were on Core i5 and i7 etc.... quite a big change.
I remember when 3dfx started, I could see that the Voodoo was an exciting product... I asked the boss to order-in 20 x Canopus Pure 3D, (6Mb!!) Voodoo Graphics ("Voodoo 1"). He thought I was mad - we'd never sell any.... yet the cards were all gone in about 2 days 😀
Anyway I digress, we also supplied local businesses. One such company was a small engineering company, they did a lot of CAD/CAM work. The director knew me well and trusted me, so after about '98 they always got all their hardware from us. When I first visited their premises, they were still using three old Pentium Pro 200 machines, hooked up to some computerised cutting equipment, slicing and shaping various plastic and metal mouldings.... this had been pretty high-tech for the mid 90's.
The director said the Pentium Pro boxes had cost them £5000 each a couple of years earlier, as each machine had 512Mb EDO RAM. (I recall the average home desktop we were building in '98/'99 had 64Mb). However he felt they were now ready for an upgrade... we quoted them for three replacement Slot-2 dual Pentium II Xeon 400 machines, which they went ahead with.
When we installed the Xeon systems, I asked him what he would like to do with the three old Pentium Pro boxes... "spike through the drives, and the rest in the skip outside (dumpster)". I asked if I could take one away, "Sure no problem, you can take them all, just take the HDDs out first". By then (about '99) the P-Pros were old-tech and outclassed by most desktop PCs. But I knew they were fairly rare and had been very expensive a couple of years before, so I thought it might be fun to run one at home. So, I chose the one with the least dirty case, and binned the other two.
When I got it home, (late '99), I started stripping it down ready for cleaning/re-assembly, and examining what I'd got. The machine used an Intel Providence PR440FX dual socket-8 board. However only one CPU was fitted (P-Pro 200 / 256k), and there was no VRM. There were no hard-drives attached to the built-in Adaptec 7880, (I'd removed them at the premises), but there was an IDE DVD-ROM, a 3.5" FDD and a 2Mb Tseng Labs graphics card. No soundcard... they must have decided a soundcard was not needed for the machine's usage. (Though there is on-board sound available, and strangely an audio cable was plugged into it, they must have been playing music CDs whilst they were lasering the plastic sheeting!)
However, other projects got in the way, and so the semi-dismantled box ended up in the attic for a few years.
Then in 2002 I got it back out of the attic, and decided test it to see if it would still POST. ....Yes it did, and even the clock was still right! 😀 I was briefly enthused to start rebuilding it, and even bought a pair of Pentium Pro 200 / 1Mb cache CPUs for £5 each on Ebay, together with a VRM. But then I had other stuff to do, and so it went back in the attic, still in pieces.
Fast-forward to 2015, the recession had killed our computer firm some years earlier, (and killed the CAD/CAM engineering firm too). But during a house move I found the P-Pro once again in the attic, and as a further 13 years had now passed, I decided to see if it would still POST. ...Of course it did, and the clock/date was still almost right. Pretty impressed with the longevity of the BIOS battery...
So, I've decided to finally do the rebuild of the beige beauty. And also finally fit the black-top Pentium Pro 200's, and upgrade the memory, maybe upgrade the graphics card whilst I'm at it. (Original card was a Tseng Labs ET6000).... Didn't they disband and they all joined ATi?
Here's some pics so far... all of the outer case panels and the drive mounts were removed in '99, though fortunately I do still have them....
Current processor is the gold-top Pentium Pro 200 / 256k.....
I have a pair of heatsinks which I bought in '02 for the two black-top P-Pros, the original single heatsink I must have foolishly scrapped, as I can't find it!
The legendary 440FX chipset... possibly Intel's most reliable chipset of all time?! (Although maybe that accolade is for the 440BX... I built hundreds of machines based on the BX, and we hardly had any warranty problems from our customers, apart from occasional capacitor problems on a few Abits, - I recall Abit started using cheap capacitors). I remember an Abit rep visiting us once, and claiming they invented soft-menu (BIOS CPU clock adjustments, rather than jumpers), but we had used some QDI boards with BIOS clock adjusters a year before! Anyway, I'm swerving off-topic again....
Looks like this case was manufactured during that hot summer of 1996... wow nearly 20 years old already....
And the motherboard was born August 27th 1997....
The case is really heavy... made in a way that few cases are made now... really solid, thick metal everywhere. Probably needlessly actually 😀
Top left is the aperture for a standard 80mm case fan. There's an old fan in already, but I think I'll replace it with a Coolermaster or something, possibly with blue LEDs. Not for the visuals, but just so I can see what I'm doing if I'm delving into the case under the desk at some time. So I won't need a torch! / Flashlight! 😀
The right-hand side has pressings to grip a PC internal speaker, though this machine was never fitted with one... but I'll have to source one of them during the rebuild/restoration.
Here's a pic with the front panel attached, in all of it's beige splendour. The case is a little unusual, in that as you look at it from the front, the motherboard is mounted on the left side, rather than the more usual right-hand ATX side. Also, as you can see, the drive bays are at the bottom, (just so they can pick up a bit of extra dust I guess). I think the case designer was drunk when he created this, or was standing on his head whilst looking in a mirror 😀
This pic below shows the only place that cool air can enter the case when it's all back together, once the side panels are on. I'm expecting this machine to be fairly toasty with the dual P-Pro 200/1Mb's fitted!
The original outfit who'd supplied it (a rival!) had left the ATX back-plate off, probably to help with keeping it cool in the factory. Sadly this means I don't have the Providence's backplate 🙁
Original Pentium Pro decal... this will of course be staying on the case. I'll have to clean around it, don't want it to peel off 😀
So, that's it for now. I'll update as things progress. This PC hasn't seen regular active duty since the last century, so I'm excited to get it running and get it in regular use again. I'm thinking of using it as a games server, maybe Quake 2 / Quake 3, something like that. I'm intending to run Windows XP Pro with 1Gb EDO (50 n/s), should run OK if I'm careful with the services etc. Might have to upgrade the graphics, I'd quite like a Matrox card for primary, along with a Voodoo 2 12Mb, and possibly an AWE64 soundcard, but we'll see....