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Dual Pentium Pro Build Thread

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First post, by JohnnySL25A

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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....

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Current processor is the gold-top Pentium Pro 200 / 256k.....

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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!

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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....

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Looks like this case was manufactured during that hot summer of 1996... wow nearly 20 years old already....

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And the motherboard was born August 27th 1997....

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The case is really heavy... made in a way that few cases are made now... really solid, thick metal everywhere. Probably needlessly actually 😀

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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.

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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 😀

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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 🙁

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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 😀

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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....

Stay Tuned!

Reply 1 of 123, by candle_86

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honestly I'd run windows 2000 on it, not XP but overall epic man truely great to see something like that

Phenom II X4 840T @ 4ghz - ASUS M3N72D-SLI - GTX 560 Ti- 4GB DDR2 1066 - 1TB HDD - Windows XP
Pentium 4 3.4C - MSI 865PE NEO2 - x850 XT PE - 2GB DDR 400 - 500GB HDD - Windows XP
Duron 1600 - ASUS A7N8X - 512MB DDR 266 - Radeon 8500 LE

Reply 2 of 123, by QBiN

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I used to have one of those Providence PR440FX boards. It's a fantastic NT machine. If it were me, I'd go with NT 4.0 SP6a with a Voodoo1 or 2 (or two in SLI) and a decent 2D card PCI card. Maybe throw in a goldfinch card in the ISA slot since the motherboard has the wavetable upgrade header. LAN and Crystal audio are already on the motherboard, so no need to worry about how few slots it has.

Candle does have a point, though. If you want DirectX, go with Win2k as NT will only do OpenGL and DirectX up to 3.0. Many late 90's 3D games required DirectX 5 or 6.

Reply 3 of 123, by luckybob

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NT4 is my OS of choice for pentium pro. Now if you can swing a pair of overdrives, and want USB, then i'd go with win-2k.

all my p-pro systems use SIMMS, but these dimms seem to be what you're looking for: http://www.ebay.com/itm/121374158152

anyway SEXY beast, i'll be watching you get it running!

It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.

Reply 4 of 123, by petro89

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Great story...thanks for sharing!

*Ryzen 7 2700x, 5700xt, Win10
*Ryzen 7 1700, Gtx1080, Win10
*FX 8370, RX 480, Win7
*Phenom IIx6 1100T, R9 380, Win7
*XP3000+, 9700pro, XP
*Dual P3 1ghz, Voodoo5, Win2k
*Slot-A 850, Ti4200, Win2k
*PPro 200 1mb, banshee, w98
*AMD 5x86, CL , DOS

Reply 7 of 123, by Skyscraper

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I do also run a system with this motherboard.
The board is great, even the USB works perfectly.

Here is a link to my project thread
Intel PR440FX Dual Pentium Pro 200

Main PC: Dual Xeon X5690@4.6ghz, Evga - SR-2, 48gb memory, Intel X25-M g2 SSD and a Nvidia GTX 980 ti.
Retro PC #3: K6-2 450@500mhz, PC-Chips m577, 256mb sdram, AWE64 and a Voodoo Banshee.

Reply 8 of 123, by chinny22

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2 socket systems are pretty useless until maybe late P3's and even then not really much use.
That said 2 (or more) socket systems are ultra cool! I have a duel slot 1 Prolient 1600 and a Asus P2B-DS motherboard I'm planning another build around.
I agree with what's already been said. Win2k is a better match for this then WinXP I think most early games wont have problems running on 2K? You can always duel boot into 9x for the games that refuse to work, even if the 2nd CPU sits idle.

Also like how you have a bit of history with this machine, gives the PC a bit more of a personality. Cant wait to see the finished product

Reply 9 of 123, by JohnnySL25A

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candle_86 wrote:

honestly I'd run windows 2000 on it, not XP but overall epic man truely great to see something like that

Thanks candle_86. Yes, I've been thinking about the OS for a while. I've considered Windows 2000, but really I'd like NT4 Workstation, (though I can't help feeling NT4 is going to be a bit too old and might limit me slightly in what I may want to to with the machine when it's built. I want this to be a well used machine!)

I may well go with 2000 Pro, like you say. Though another part of me likes the idea of seeing just how XP Pro would run on one of these, with 1Gb RAM and either a RAID 0 IDE array or a 10K SCSI drive... would it be useable? I'd like to find out 😀

Reply 10 of 123, by JohnnySL25A

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QBiN wrote:

I used to have one of those Providence PR440FX boards. It's a fantastic NT machine. If it were me, I'd go with NT 4.0 SP6a with a Voodoo1 or 2 (or two in SLI) and a decent 2D card PCI card. Maybe throw in a goldfinch card in the ISA slot since the motherboard has the wavetable upgrade header. LAN and Crystal audio are already on the motherboard, so no need to worry about how few slots it has.

Candle does have a point, though. If you want DirectX, go with Win2k as NT will only do OpenGL and DirectX up to 3.0. Many late 90's 3D games required DirectX 5 or 6.

Good advice QBiN. I like the idea of Voodoo 2 SLI, (I used to have dual Diamond Monster Voodoo 2's back in the day on my PII-300 Deschutes overclocked @ 450Mhz). Though with this build, I'm a little concerned I'm going to run out of PCI slots.... as I'm thinking of fitting a HighPoint RocketRAID 133 controller card too.

Have you got any experience of the Crystal Audio on these boards? How would it compare to an AWE32 or 64 in your opinion?

Reply 11 of 123, by JohnnySL25A

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luckybob wrote:

NT4 is my OS of choice for pentium pro. Now if you can swing a pair of overdrives, and want USB, then i'd go with win-2k.

all my p-pro systems use SIMMS, but these dimms seem to be what you're looking for: http://www.ebay.com/itm/121374158152

anyway SEXY beast, i'll be watching you get it running!

Cheers luckybob, memory is ordered 😀

I've thought about PII-OverDrives, but in way I'd like to make use of my P-Pro 200/1Mb CPU's, at least for now. I bought the P-Pro 200's on Ebay 13 years ago, and still haven't really tested them... my seller is still awaiting feedback.... 😀

Reply 12 of 123, by JohnnySL25A

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Skyscraper wrote:
I do also run a system with this motherboard. The board is great, even the USB works perfectly. […]
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I do also run a system with this motherboard.
The board is great, even the USB works perfectly.

Here is a link to my project thread
Intel PR440FX Dual Pentium Pro 200

Nice... like the machine, gives me inspiration to see this one through....

Reply 13 of 123, by JohnnySL25A

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chinny22 wrote:

2 socket systems are pretty useless until maybe late P3's and even then not really much use.

I built a few dual Celerons for people when I was working for the company mentioned at the top of the thread, Abit BP6 as I recall... we used to do a bundle for the motherboard, two Celerons and some memory. I'd speak to the people a few weeks later, and ask how their new system was running. "Great, it's much better having two CPUs, my Windows 98 is really flying along now".... I would just sigh....

chinny22 wrote:

That said 2 (or more) socket systems are ultra cool! I have a duel slot 1 Prolient 1600 and a Asus P2B-DS motherboard I'm planning another build around.
I agree with what's already been said. Win2k is a better match for this then WinXP I think most early games wont have problems running on 2K? You can always duel boot into 9x for the games that refuse to work, even if the 2nd CPU sits idle.

Also like how you have a bit of history with this machine, gives the PC a bit more of a personality. Cant wait to see the finished product

Thanks chinny22. We used to supply ASUS P2B-DS on dual slot-1 builds. I remember building one for a local priest, he used to use it for writing his sermons on, ...why he needed dual processors I'll never understand.

Reply 14 of 123, by QBiN

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JohnnySL25A wrote:

Have you got any experience of the Crystal Audio on these boards? How would it compare to an AWE32 or 64 in your opinion?

I built my PR440FX back in '06 and it's already long gone, unfortunately. I recall the Crystal audio being completely adequate for all standard audio playback. It had no issues or excessive noise with WinAMP or GLQuake (two of the things I did most on my PR440FX) and the audio quality was fine. I can't recall what it did for MIDI audio... I'm thinking it was wavetable in 100% software.

That being said, I'm sure it can't compete with the EMU8k from an AWE32 or AWE64. For that reason, I'd recommend getting a CT-1920 goldfinch AWE32 "Upgrade" card and plugging it into the Wavetable header on the PR440FX. Or just disable the Crystal audio and replace it wholesale with your favorite AWE32/64. Either way, you're only down one ISA slot.

If you're worried about the number of PCI... maybe a Voodoo Banshee would work out nicely. 2D/3D (+good OpenGL/Glide) in one slot, RAID in another and you still have one PCI slot to spare.

Reply 15 of 123, by lolo799

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Give BeOS 4.5 or 5.0 a try if you've never used it before, dual (and more) cpu computers were the best it could perform on.
You can turn cpus on/off at will, and yes both off at the same time if you dare!

PCMCIA Sound, Storage & Graphics

Reply 16 of 123, by Unknown_K

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I have a PR440FX with dual 333 overdrives and 1GB RAM running Win2k. Just the other day I received a dual ppro board (Micronics W6-LI) that will probably be either a spare or a NT 4 box with my old dual 200 PPros.

Do you have the VRM for your board so that you can run a second CPU?

Collector of old computers, hardware, and software

Reply 17 of 123, by piportill4

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Look at those little short purple carps, those are Sanyo OSCONS!! , organic caps in 1997!!! , even mobos today refu$$$e to use 'em . That mobo rocks, could be working 24x7 till I die and would continue being up !

Reply 18 of 123, by JohnnySL25A

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Unknown_K wrote:

I have a PR440FX with dual 333 overdrives and 1GB RAM running Win2k. Just the other day I received a dual ppro board (Micronics W6-LI) that will probably be either a spare or a NT 4 box with my old dual 200 PPros.

Do you have the VRM for your board so that you can run a second CPU?

Yes I have the VRM, I bought it second-hand on Ebay back in 2002.....

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On the subject of having another socket-8 board, I was thinking of getting a single-socket board to run the gold-top P-Pro 200 / 256k that is coming out. It's just a question of having the space... I have a couple of modern tower systems, a mini-ITX box, an old-ish IBM ThinkCentre which is my Server, plus I've got another few old machines. (Dual Tualatin PIII-S 1.4's on an MSI DDR board, an Intel 486 DX4-100 VLB system, a Dual-Core AMD Opteron machine, and a Dual Xeon (Gallatin 3.2 / 2Mb L3) machine on an ASUS PC-DL Deluxe.

Any more PCs turning up and I'm sure my wife would kick me out 😉

Last edited by JohnnySL25A on 2015-04-19, 23:12. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 19 of 123, by Unknown_K

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I have a single socket PPro board as well but it needs recapped (parts are on the way). Now I need to find another chip for it.

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