My Dell Dimension XPS 1997/1998 Build

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My Dell Dimension XPS 1997/1998 Build

Postby Gered » 2017-8-20 @ 01:17

Hello all,

First build I've posted here and I'm quite pleased with how it turned out. :) The original computer was a Dell Dimension XPS M200a with all of its original components except the hard disk (seller did not include one). So, it's not a "full" build in that this is based on an OEM machine, but even still, I swapped out / upgraded a number of things and cleaned the whole thing up quite a bit!

This computer is built to be pretty close spec-wise to my dad's computer from that time. Why? Well it was 20 years ago this year, and it holds a certain fondness for me. The computer technically was my dad's, but we (my siblings and I) were able to play some games on it too :). I remember my parents occasionally buying me an issue of PC Gamer and I would ogle over the articles and ads for different PC hardware. In particular I remember I really wanted a Voodoo graphics card. Then in 1998, I wanted a Voodoo 2. Of course we never got any such thing. :P I didn't get my first part time job until a few years later when I was a bit older so I had no money to buy these things for myself either. So this build is basically a combination of what I remember from that PC and some of the additional hardware I wished we had.

Specs

Pentium 233 MMX
Intel 437VX Chipset
64 MB SDRAM, 512KB Cache (COAST)
S3 ViRGE/DX Q5C4BB On-board Video 2MB
8.4 GB HDD Maxtor 90871U2
24x CD-ROM Toshiba XM-6102B
3.5" Floppy
Sound Blaster AWE64 CT4500
3Com 3C509B-TPO NIC
Diamond Monster 3D II (Voodoo2) w/ 12MB
Newton Power Ltd NPS-145PB-51C 145W PSU
Windows 95C

Sony CPD-100SX 15" CRT Monitor
Microsoft IntelliMouse PS/2
Key Tronic E03601QUSST-C Keyboard
Gravis Gamepad

IMG_20170819_180552.jpg

Missing is a pair of beige speakers. I stupidly tossed the set I had a few years ago. They were actually the original set used with my dad's PC back in 1997! D'oh!

This Dell originally came with a Sound Blaster Vibra 16C and a US Robotics 56k modem (forgot the model, sorry). The 56k modem would definitely be much more period accurate for 1997/1998, but has absolutely no use for me in 2017. So the 3Com NIC was swapped in. I swapped an AWE64 in simply because I had one. *shrug* I don't actually remember what sound card was in our computer back in '97-98. Some type of Sound Blaster anyway.

The Voodoo 2 is of course bottlenecked here by the 233 MMX CPU, but even still it performs quite well and I'm glad that 20 years later I finally own one. I actually finished a full playthrough of Unreal this week and even though this computer is definitely not ideal for that game, I personally thought it was quite enjoyable (the slower framerate was actually quite nostalgic for me). Quake 2 engine games obviously play great, as does anything from before that.

The CD-ROM drive in there now is the same model as what the computer originally came with, but the actual drive itself is a replacement as the original one had a lot of trouble reading CDs that worked perfectly fine in other computers. I wanted to see if I could get a replacement drive that was the same model, since it matched the beige colour of the case so well. Found one on eBay and bought it. When it arrived I discovered that I had not paid close enough attention to the photos in the eBay auction (dumb mistake!). The colour was most definitely not beige! However, since the original drive that wasn't working was in otherwise great cosmetic condition, I decided to just open them both up and swap the faceplates and CD tray and voila! Problem solved.

Since it was sold to me with no hard disk I had to put in my own. Luckily, even though a few years back I went on a "cleaning frenzy" and tossed out a bunch of old computer stuff (which I totally regret now), I did not toss any of my old IDE hard disks and still have a stack of five that all work. I decided to put in an 8.4GB drive. The next smallest IDE drive I have is 40GB and that doesn't seem too period-correct to me, heh. This drive is actually one I originally got with a P3 500Mhz HP Vectra computer that was actually my very first eBay purchase in 2003! (I wish I still had that computer :() In this particular Dell model, the hard drive was apparently put in this vertical little beige plastic cage-thingy at the bottom front of the case somehow. That seemed really bizarre to me so I decided to instead mount it in the empty space up near the CD-ROM drive.

I haven't done the math on the PSU yet to see if I'm anywhere near close to its capacity. One of the main problems with these OEM computers is that they typically come with underpowered PSUs. I probably should check into that soon. The adapters for Dell's proprietary connector are easily obtained, so getting something a bit beefier shouldn't be a big problem if it's needed.

I picked up a nice 3dfx case badge from someone on eBay. I think it looks great :). Though I wish the other (original) badges on the case were a bit larger to match its size. Oh well.

IMG_20170819_141922.jpg

IMG_20170819_142302.jpg

IMG_20170819_142407.jpg


I love this particular style of Dell case. Never really been a fan of Dell computers otherwise. The computer my family had back then actually was not a Dell, it was a custom build by the owner of a computer store in a nearby town we knew. However, when I came across this Dell computer for sale a couple months ago I figured "why not", since I didn't have a clear memory of what the case we had looked like anyway so would be picking something different anyway.

Not really any yellowing except for a little bit on some of the empty bay covers. There are a bunch of little nicks around the seams of the removable parts on the case, probably from previous owner(s) who didn't have a clue how to open it up. Can't say I'm completely unsympathetic, as these Dell computers aren't really super obvious as to how you're supposed to open them (even the manual is kind of poor at explaining it in a few places). Especially if you're used to modern tool-less cases.

The computer arrived super dirty, tons of gross dirt, parts of dead bugs, etc. Cleaned it up, scrubbed all the plastic parts down and I think it looks great now personally. Very happy with this computer!
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Re: My Dell Dimension XPS 1997/1998 Build

Postby squareguy » 2017-8-20 @ 02:11

I love that style of case too.

My Gateway 2000 Pentium 200 had that same Intel motherboard without the onboard video.

That is a very good setup for a lot of good ole gaming!!!
Gateway 2000 Case and 200-Watt PSU
Intel SE440BX-2 Motherboard
Intel Pentium III 450 CPU
Micron 384MB SDRAM (3x128)
Compaq Voodoo3 3500 TV Graphics Card
Turtle Beach Santa Cruz Sound Card
Western Digital 7200-RPM, 8MB-Cache, 160GB Hard Drive
Windows 98 SE
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Re: My Dell Dimension XPS 1997/1998 Build

Postby oeuvre » 2017-8-20 @ 12:59

Beautiful, in great condition too! Enjoy!
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Re: My Dell Dimension XPS 1997/1998 Build

Postby appiah4 » 2017-8-20 @ 13:06

Such a beautiful case and build. Its very similar to my MMX233 build of the PC I wished I had but never did in 1997.. but I went for a bit more overkill and did Voodoo 2 SLI.. Hehe.
1989:A500|+512K|ACA500+|C1084S
1992:HIPPO-VL+|DX2-66|8M|GD5428|CT2290|S2
1995:PCI597-1|P133|32M|Trio64|V1|CT3980/2M
1998:S1573S|K6-2/400|64M|RagePro|V2/SLI|CT4500/32M
2001:GA-6OXT|PIII-1200|512M|GF3Ti200|MX300
2004:K8V-D|3200+|2G|X1950P|SB0350
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Re: My Dell Dimension XPS 1997/1998 Build

Postby Gered » 2017-8-20 @ 13:58

appiah4 wrote:Such a beautiful case and build. Its very similar to my MMX233 build of the PC I wished I had but never did in 1997.. but I went for a bit more overkill and did Voodoo 2 SLI.. Hehe.


I initially considered going with a Voodoo 2 SLI setup with this computer... not for any practical reasons mind you, but just because it was something I remember reading about back then and thinking it was the coolest thing ever. Haha. :) Maybe I will eventually...
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Re: My Dell Dimension XPS 1997/1998 Build

Postby tizzdizz » 2017-8-20 @ 17:13

I dig it! I would love to build a system similar to the one I got for my 16th birthday in 1997. Looks like a really solid setup.
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Re: My Dell Dimension XPS 1997/1998 Build

Postby chinny22 » 2017-8-26 @ 14:58

I've got the later Slot 1 based XPS-T500 which has a different faceplate but inside is all the same.
Mine also didn't come with a HDD and mounted it same as you under the floppy but that's cause I didn't know that was the purpose of "the cage" till someone pointed it out here. Still thinks its dumb and left the HDD under the floppy.

The non standard ATX will get a lot of hate, somewhat justified, as it is a pretty crappy trick to still have the connecter work. but the PSU's themselves are undeniably good quality and not "OEM crap" and no amount of Voodoo's, sound cards, whatever will come close to the power needed for 4 old IDE drives which this would have at least been rated for.
That said I do have an adaptor put aside as nothing lasts forever and I'm not good enough at electronics to repair PSU's
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Re: My Dell Dimension XPS 1997/1998 Build

Postby oeuvre » 2017-8-26 @ 16:39

If you remove the filler on the front panel connector with a needle, it should fit in many mATX/ATX motherboards.
Dell Optiplex 745 Q6600, 8GB, AMD FirePro V3900, SSD + HD, 2000/XP/7
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Re: My Dell Dimension XPS 1997/1998 Build

Postby Biggie Z » 2017-8-27 @ 01:20

I've got a similar setup, except mine has a 200MHx MMX CPU. I also have the original Dell monitor, mechanical keyboard, and ball mouse that was bundled with the PC when purchased by my dad for work in 1997. I noticed that model # is M200a which would imply it came with a 200MHz CPU, was the CPU upgraded successfully? I have a XPS M200s and was told it could not be upgraded to 233MHz. It originally had W95 on it but I replaced the hard drive and installed W98SE. At first it ran noticeably slower than W95 did, but after I upgraded the RAM from 64MB to 128MB it now runs just as quickly as W95 did with 64MB. I am going to preserve the original 1.5GB hard drive as it has all my dad's old work files and a bunch of MS Paint stuff I did when I was a kid.
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Dell XPS M_s: Pentium MMX 233, 128MB PC-66, Matrix Mill II 8MB, AWE64 CT4380, Maxtor 6GB HDD, Dell AT101W, W98SE
IBM PC-350: AM5x86 133MHz, 16MB SIMMs, S3-805 VLB 2MB, SB16 CT1740, Quantum Fireball 1280MB HDD, IBM Model M, MS-DOS 6.22
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Re: My Dell Dimension XPS 1997/1998 Build

Postby Gered » 2017-8-27 @ 16:58

Awesome! Nice beige zip drive too, I like it. :)

And yeah, I apparently neglected to mention exactly what I upgraded from the original parts, but the processor was one of the things I upgraded. As you say, it originally came with a 200MHz CPU and I swapped it out easily with a 233MHz just to max it out that little bit more. I'm not sure why you were told that your M200s could not be upgraded, but it certainly can. I was referencing the Dell XPS M__s manual for my M200a (couldn't find the M__a manual anywhere!), mostly for the correct jumper settings. As you'll be able to see in there (page 1-15), 233MHz is a fully supported configuration by the motherboard. That's assuming that someone hasn't gone and made some significant changes or something with your M200s anyway, heh.

Interesting that you noticed a speed increase going from 64MB to 128MB. I guess Win98SE must have been swapping to disk a lot more and the extra RAM helped to keep that from happening? I thought I had read somewhere that this particular Intel chipset can only cache stuff in the first 64MB of RAM, and that upgrading beyond (e.g. to 128MB) could actually slow it down! Maybe I misread?

chinny22 wrote:That said I do have an adaptor put aside as nothing lasts forever and I'm not good enough at electronics to repair PSU's


Indeed, I was going to pick one up too. I'm in the middle of re-capping an Enermax PSU for a Socket A build and it started me thinking about the proprietary PSU in this Dell PC. Would rather have more options available to me should the PSU die for whatever reason down the road. Just in case. Those adapters aren't expensive anyway.
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Re: My Dell Dimension XPS 1997/1998 Build

Postby looking4awayout » 2017-8-27 @ 20:09

These old Dell Dimension XPS series had a very beautiful case, in my opinion. It's probably one of my post-classic favourite designs. I believe the case of my Dex Pentium 3 system has been significantly inspired by the one of the XPS, which proves how fresh and modern was its styling even in the late 90's and early 2000's. Congratulations for the catch.
Proud owner of the >Tualatinator< alive and computing since year 2000!
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Re: My Dell Dimension XPS 1997/1998 Build

Postby Biggie Z » 2017-8-27 @ 21:42

Thanks for the info, I'm definitely gonna be upgrading the CPU now. You don't by chance know if any of the faster AMD K6 CPUs will work? Mine has the original 4MB Matrix Millennium II GPU which seems to work fine for all the games I play on this PC. I find the Zip drive to be invaluable on this PC, I installed a PCI-E IDE controller on my main PC which is hooked up to a Zip drive which I use to easily transfer data onto the M200s and an IDE hard drive rack that fits into a 5.25" bay, that way I can easily access data from old hard drives. Since the M200 only has USB 1.0, the best way to transfer data to and from the PC is via Zip disks. This way I don't have to burn CDs every time I want to move something.
Dell XPS M_s: Pentium MMX 233, 128MB PC-66, Matrix Mill II 8MB, AWE64 CT4380, Maxtor 6GB HDD, Dell AT101W, W98SE
IBM PC-350: AM5x86 133MHz, 16MB SIMMs, S3-805 VLB 2MB, SB16 CT1740, Quantum Fireball 1280MB HDD, IBM Model M, MS-DOS 6.22
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Re: My Dell Dimension XPS 1997/1998 Build

Postby Gered » 2017-8-27 @ 22:04

I'm unsure what support the motherboard has (if any) for K6 processors unfortunately.

For transferring files, I actually use the network which is super convenient. My HTPC / file-server PC is running Linux with a Samba server running and this Dell PC was able to connect to it out of the box due to the 3Com NIC having drivers included with Windows 95.
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Re: My Dell Dimension XPS 1997/1998 Build

Postby Biggie Z » 2017-8-28 @ 04:04

Gered wrote:I'm unsure what support the motherboard has (if any) for K6 processors unfortunately.

For transferring files, I actually use the network which is super convenient. My HTPC / file-server PC is running Linux with a Samba server running and this Dell PC was able to connect to it out of the box due to the 3Com NIC having drivers included with Windows 95.

OK, I think I'll just play it safe and pick up a 233 then.
Dell XPS M_s: Pentium MMX 233, 128MB PC-66, Matrix Mill II 8MB, AWE64 CT4380, Maxtor 6GB HDD, Dell AT101W, W98SE
IBM PC-350: AM5x86 133MHz, 16MB SIMMs, S3-805 VLB 2MB, SB16 CT1740, Quantum Fireball 1280MB HDD, IBM Model M, MS-DOS 6.22
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Re: My Dell Dimension XPS 1997/1998 Build

Postby 0101000000110101 » 2017-8-30 @ 21:04

That PC is so pretty, I don't know what it is, perhaps the AT style front vents that get me....
1995 Gateway 2000 P5-120
Intel Pentium P5 120Mhz
16MB EDO RAM
1MB Trident 3D capable GPU
250GB Western Digital IDE drive
OS(s): Windows 98/Windows 2000 SP1
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Re: My Dell Dimension XPS 1997/1998 Build

Postby Gered » 2017-8-31 @ 11:38

0101000000110101 wrote:That PC is so pretty, I don't know what it is, perhaps the AT style front vents that get me....


Yeah, I know exactly what you mean! I've never been into Dell machines, 'nor have any nostalgia or anything for them (the only Dell anyone in my family has ever owned was a 2003/2004 laptop which I don't remember the model of ... it was pretty unremarkable overall though). But I just love the look of this case for whatever reason. :)
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