First post, by the_ultra_code
- (6/6/2018): Today is the day where I can say that I have finished making several upgrades to my system. I had recently installed an ATI Radeon 9800 Pro 128MB GPU, as from what I can gather, this series of Radeon cards dominated over Nvidia's FX series of cards (I could easily see the difference in DirectX 9 games under XP, but also a bit under DirectX 8 games under Windows 98 SE); I had also replaced the stock heatsink with a cheap Chinese VGA cooler that obviously had more cooling potential than the stock heatsink (this idea was PhilComputerLab's: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zejKjmpUtWc 😀 ). And today I installed a Pentium 4 HT 550 (SL8K4) along with a Thermalright XP-90 (of new-old stock) with a Noctua NF-A9 FLX 92mm fan to cool it. This processor has three benefits over the Pentium 4 2.80A it is replacing: one, it is hyperthreaded, which, while Win98 cannot make use of that, XP can, so DX9 XP games should benefit from that and run better; two, the clock speed it 600MHz higher; three, this CPU has a higher FSB frequency of 800MHz, so now I can run the RAM in the system at its max potential of 400MHz instead of at 333MHz, which is what it ran at with the 2.80A (whose FSB frequency was 533MHz). Finally, because of the fact that the ICH5 southbridge lacks the proper ESD protection for the motherboard's front I/O USB2 connectors, as pointed out by PCBONEZ below, I bought the same USB2 PCI card that I used in my P3 build and installed it with a adapter cable so that the front I/O USB2 port plugged into it, so as to circumnavigate away from using the motherboard's connector.
At this point, asides from increasing the amount of RAM in the system (which I don't think is necessary at the moment), I have fully upgraded this system to be the best it could be, I think. 😀
- (6/12/2018): Added a StarTech 5.25" bay for hot-swapping 3.5" drives that currently now houses the machine's hard drive, so that, in the future, when I start making periodic backups of my retro PCs' hard drives, I can do so easily.
- (6/24/2018): Upgraded the fans that were in the system with with two Arctic F12 fans for front/rear and a Noctua NF-A9 PWN (basically a higher RPM PWM-controllable version of the NF-A9 FLX that I had in there) for my CPU heatsink. And boy, was it worth it. It dropped my idle temperature while sitting on the Windows XP desktop 10 degrees Celsius, down to the mid-40s!
- (9/28/2018) Cleaned up the financial accounting by removing parts that either didn't stand out as a "main" or "important part" or were not in the build anymore.
- (12/10/2018) Did a lot to the system. For one, I swapped the ATI Radeon 9800 Pro for a PNY Nvidia GeForce 6800GT with a custom modern cooler to keep it nice and cool. I also upgraded the RAM from 1GB to 2GB, swapped the locations of the optical drive and the hot-swappable 3.5" drive bay (redoing cable management a bit to help), and removed the Aureal Vortex 2 SuperQuad PCI sound card. Also cleaned up this post a bit, and added some new content. 😀
- (12/22/2018) Added benchmark results for 3DMark99.
- (9/30/2019) This PC has been rebuilt! Therefore, this post is now depreciated, and will not be updated anymore.
Inspired by PhilsComputerLab (a member of VOGONS and a YouTube "content creator") and to a lesser extent Lazy Game Reviews (also a YouTube creator), and from all of the help from the former and a many VOGONS members, I built this amazing machine over the course of a few months, then spent a few more months getting it "operational."
Check out my full Imgur album (titled Pentium 4 Windows 98 SE/XP Retro Gaming Machine) showing off this build from many different angles and ways. When I add to this machine of mine, I will periodically update the pictures in this Imgur album.
Now, for a list of its specs:
- Intel Pentium 4 HT 550 SL8K4
- Asus P4P800 Motherboard w/ 865PE chipset
- G.Skill F1-3200PHU2-2GBNS 400Mhz DDR 2GB Kit (2x1GB) RAM
- PNY Nvidia GeForce 6800GT 256MB AGP Graphics Card
- Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 250GB 7200RPM 3.5" SATA HDD
- Toshiba Samsung Writemaster SH-S202J IDE CD/DVD Optical Drive
- GOTEK 3.5" USB Floppy Drive Emulator (SFR1M44-U100K)
- Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS (SB0350) PCI Sound Card
- Deepcool Tesseract White ATX Mid-Tower PC Case
- Corsair CX450 80+ Plus Bronze 450W Power Supply
For a complete list of nearly every part in my build and the cost of each part check out my "Financial Accounting for Pentium 4 Windows 98 SE/XP Retro Gaming Machine" Google Spreadsheet.
The Rough Beginning
Now, for those who don't know, if the title was not obvious, this is not my first RGM (retro gaming machine) rodeo. My first build, a Pentium 3 build (which you can find here), was intended to be a late DOS/early-to-mid-Win98 RGM (as has done its job wonderfully). While I planned for that build, I also had planned for another build that encompassed games that came out during a very small period of time, from 1999 to 2003-ish. This build would become this Pentium 4 build here today. (If you are wondering why 2003, its because that's when the last GPU line released by Nvidia that supported Win98 a lot legacy graphical effects effectively was the FX 5xxx line, and hence I only "trust" this build to handle games comfortable that came out before 2002).
After I got my P3 built, set up, and happily put through its paces, I finished gathering up the parts for this build and over a week or two built this PC. Everything was going great, until I got to setting up the operating systems. You see, to my chagrin, setting up a Windows 98 SE/XP dual boot system is not easy. Well, setting up a Windows 98/XP dual boot system where each OS existed in their own "C drive," that is.
I spent hours and hours and hours, trying again and again to "jank-ly" create that ideal dual boot environment by trying different orders and methods of installing the OSes, and even trying PLOP (to disastrous effect), but all for nothing. Because of this, this poor build sat stored away, while I waited and searched for a solution to this conundrum (or at least one that I could successfully implement, unlike the PLOP method).
Finally, luck struck. A very nice VOGONS member of the name of "schmatzler" shared their method of how they set up their "C drive-centric" Win98 SE/XP dual boot setup on my VOGONS topic on the matter (here's his post), and thanks to him, I was finally able (after months since its initial inception) able to create such a dual boot set up. I got a copy of FreeDOS's newer FDISK, replaced the FDISK of a Win98 bootdisk with that newer version, used that to set up the partitions, installed Win98, changed the primary partition using the newer FDISK, installed XP, installed the Boot-US boot manager through the Windows XP program, and "voila - I can easily boot into both systems." 😀
From there, things (slowly) took off, and after a month or two, I am here to share my story and more. In total, I spent 4+ months on just getting this damn RGM to where it should be. But finally, now that it is done, I can sit back, rejoice, and actually start playing some exciting games from that period that I spent +$300 on this machine for. 😀
Gaming-wise, it seems to be doing its job just fine. I just spent around 2 hours (1 more than I originally intended) playing the beginning of the just-plain-fun Deus Ex GOTY edition under Windows 98 SE, and have played some of Serious Sam: The First Encounter and Hot Wheels: World Race under Windows XP.
Unlike with my first RGM, I chose to not to overclock the GPU because it would be just a lot of work to do so, especially to get things just right under both Win98 and XP.
I ran into a bit of a disappointment regarding the BIOS. You see, my guess was that this Asus motherboard was originally sold in a MaxData pre-built (hence the "MaxData" logo upon POST). I believe it is because of this fact that I am unable to update the BIOS with a newer BIOS straight from the Asus website because the BIOS (and maybe thus the motherboard) is ever-so-slightly different from just a retail P4P800 board.
Why do I say this? Well, I tried to flash the latest 1021.006 beta BIOS onto the motherboard, but every time the board POSTed, I got "CMOS Settings Incorrect" (paraphrase) errors, even after changing BIOS settings and time and "saving" it (which it refused to save). As it turns out, the motherboard's original BIOS and the one from Asus's website have different "ROM IDs," so therefore the motherboard "refuses" the BIOS, I guess. (Guess that explains why the "Afudos.exe" DOS utility gave me a "ROM ID" error and refused to flash the BIOS, forcing me to use the motherboard's built-in EZ-flash flasher, eh?). Thankfully, I had made a backup of the original BIOS, so I was able to restore it without issue.
To make things more sad, I couldn't get any help directly from MaxData's reincarnation to find the latest BIOS they had released for the board because, as stated by support for MaxData's current incarnation, I quote:
Due to the MAXDATA AG Insolvency in 2008 we are unable to provide you with more information on the old systems then the ones located on our ftp server at ftp://ftp.maxdata.com/. Other options are unfortunately unavailable as we don't have access to materials from the old MAXDATA AG.
The brand MAXDATA was purchased by Maxdata GmbH (01.10.2008) and is currently owned OMEGA Handelsgesellschaft m.b.H.
The earliest boards they have any software for are the newer Asus P5 motherboards, obviously not my beloved P4P800 motherboard, so, oh well.
But, as I said, directly. VOGONS user PCBONEZ below was able to find in the Maxdata archives a complete collection of all of the BIOSes released for the board, and it turns out, I have the latest one, so I'm actually good to go. 🤣
I'm going to give a shout-out to the GOTEK floppy emulator in this build, like I did with my first RGM. Suggested by PhilsComputerLab ("GOTEK USB Floppy Emulator Simulator Review Tutorial"), it helped me get Windows 98 SE installed and set up the machine's dual-boot environment, and I would suggest it highly myself, even though it's not "true" floppy emulation I think. Regardless, it works, both reading and writing to floppy "images" on a USB stick I am using for the purpose, and that is all that needs to be said, I would think 😀.
I also enabled USB 2.0 support under Windows 98 using "nusb36.exe" (check out my guide here to get the download link for the executable and maybe to learn something new 😀 ), but it is not like I use my USB ports much, since I mainly due any file transfer to and from the machine over Ethernet (if you have not already connected your RGM to a home network and enable file sharing in the installed OS(es), then I would say get to it, because you are missing out; it changes your life to one of great convenience 😀 ).
Finally, I would like to note that I am using HimemX to limit the available RAM to 0.5GB under Windows 98 SE, just in case, even though I had no problem installing the OS or necessary drivers with the full 2GB installed RAM.
Okay, it would not be my kind of build-post without some benchmarks, so here are the benchmark results for the following benchmarks:
Under Windows 98 SE:
- 3DMark99 (all of the tests enabled and with "maxed-out" options at 1280x1024) - 20076
- 3DMark2000 (all tests enabled, "maxed-out" @ 1280x1024) - 19072
Under Windows XP Professional SP3:
- 3DMark2001SE (all tests enabled, "maxed-out" @ 1280x1024) - 14025
- 3DMark03 (all tests enabled, "maxed-out" @ 1280x1024) - 5169
- 3DMark05 (all tests enabled, "maxed-out" @ 1280x1024) - 3232
- Roadkill's Disk Speed Version 2.0
- CrystalDiskMark 6.0.0
If you want to run the exact runs of the graphics benchmarks I ran, you can find them in this public Google Drive folder of mine named "P4_WIN98SE/XP_RGM_Grapics_Benchmarks". There, you can find the associated ".3dp" and ".3dr" files, as well as a file named "GBQRDT.txt", which lists the results for all of the graphics benchmark runs as stated above.
If you want to go to where I store anything I have linked from my Google Drive here click here. That link will take you to the "root" directory I created to store all of my "public" files and folders for this post of mine.
If you are looking for a way to see the results of any 3DMark2000, 3DMark2001SE or for that matter even the older 3DMark2001, you can find the executables for all three of those Result Browsers for those suites here in my Google Drive. There, you can find the latest version of the Result Browsers, straight from Futuremark's servers (find out more here 😀 ).
Again, a big shoutout to PhilsComputerLab and VOGONS members for making this possible!