VOGONS


First post, by Joseph_Joestar

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System specs

  • Athlon 64 3700+
  • DFI LanParty UT Ultra-D (nForce4)
  • 4GB Transcend DDR400
  • Gigabyte GeForce 9600GT (passively cooled)
  • Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium PCIe (SB0880)
  • Sony 3.5" floppy drive
  • Seasonic S12 III 650W PSU
  • Chieftec tower case
  • Sandisk 240GB SSD (WindowsXP + SP3)
  • Western Digital Blue 1TB HDD (Windows7 64-bit + SP1)
  • Lite-On SOHW-1693S DVD-RW
  • LG Flatron L1753HR 17" LCD monitor (1280x1024 native resolution)

Introduction

I originally built this system way back in 2005, but I have been upgrading it steadily over the years. It was my daily driver all the way up to 2013 when I finally decided to upgrade. Nowadays, it serves as my WinXP retro rig and I mostly use to play games that came out between 2001 and 2006. And while it's possible to build a much more powerful PC for WinXP gaming, there's something nostalgic about using this trusty old machine for revisiting the games from that era.

CPU

This Athlon 64 3700+ CPU delivers fairly decent performance for most games that I play on this system. That said, it does become somewhat of a bottleneck for anything that came out in 2006 or later. I deliberately stuck with a single core CPU so that I wouldn't have to worry about setting affinity and whatnot for older games. Under full load, temperatures never go over 55C and that's with the stock AMD cooler.

Motherboard

I originally bought this DFI LanParty UT Ultra-D motherboard because, at the time, I was in awe with how much you could gain by overclocking a mid-range CPU. My interest in that waned over the years as I grew to appreciate stability and reliability over squeezing every single bit of performance out of the system. That said, I had zero issues with this DFI board over the years. No failed capacitors, no overheating or instability, it just works. The only thing that I replaced on it was the stock chipset cooler which got annoyingly loud after about 4 years of daily use. I installed a passive heatsink which is cooled by a Noctua 90mm case fan. This fan is installed on the side of the case and brings fresh, cool air onto both the chipset and the GPU heatsink.

Graphics card

This Gigabyte 9600GT works quite well, even though its heatsink is slightly banged up. The card delivers fairly decent performance, especially considering that it's passively cooled. The aforementioned Noctua case fan provides enough airflow so that temperatures never go over 75C, even after several hours of heavy load. It handles most games that I play on this rig with ease, providing 60+ FPS at the 1280x1024 resolution using the highest possible settings.

Sound Card

I have to admit, when I originally bought this PC, I used the on-board audio of the DFI motherboard. It was a decent solution, even providing some form of EAX, but it pales in comparison to the Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium PCIe which now resides in this rig. Quite a few WinXP games support EAX in some form. Since I missed out on EAX 3, 4 and 5 back in the day (on-board audio only supported EAX 1 & 2), I'm making up for it now by replaying the games that benefit from it. On that note, Doom 3 and Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory are true EAX showpieces in my book. For anyone with an X-Fi card, I can highly recommend trying those two games and experiencing their masterful sound design.

Operating Systems

I use two hard disks with two separate operating systems and select which one to run from the BIOS boot menu. Each OS is fully independent, so if I need to reinstall WinXP for some reason, Windows 7 will be completely unaffected and vice versa. Naturally, WinXP is my primary operating system on this rig, with Windows 7 being used mostly for maintenance purposes and file storage. I should note that this PC is kept completely off the internet, with GOG offline game installers being copied over as needed from external hard disks.

Conclusion

So why go with an Athlon 64 build for WinXP gaming instead of something more powerful? Mostly nostalgia in my case. I used this PC on a daily basis for so long that playing games from that era on anything else would feel unnatural to me. So, here's to another 15 years of gaming on this rig. 😉

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Last edited by Joseph_Joestar on 2021-04-03, 20:05. Edited 3 times in total.

Build #1: Celeron 466 / Abit ZM6 / Voodoo3 / AWE64 / YMF744 / SC-155
Build #2: AthlonXP 1700+ / Abit KT7A / GeForce4 / SBLive / ALS100
Build #3: Athlon64 3700+ / DFI LanParty / 9600GT / X-Fi Titanium

Reply 1 of 19, by Joseph_Joestar

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A couple of benchmarks:

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Game versions used:

  • FarCry v1.4 benchmarked using the "HardwareOC FarCry Benchmark" at the "Ultra Detail" preset
  • Doom 3 v1.31 benchmarked at the "Ultra Quality" preset using the built-in "timedemo demo1 usecache" console command
  • Splinter Cell Chaos Theory v1.05 benchmarked using the stock "Timedemo.bat" file. VSync and Anti Aliasing are turned off, all other settings have been fully maxed out.

Note: I only included the 800x600 benchmarks to showcase how CPU bottlenecked this build is. Basically, I'm getting the same frame rate at the lowest and highest resolution. 😁

Build #1: Celeron 466 / Abit ZM6 / Voodoo3 / AWE64 / YMF744 / SC-155
Build #2: AthlonXP 1700+ / Abit KT7A / GeForce4 / SBLive / ALS100
Build #3: Athlon64 3700+ / DFI LanParty / 9600GT / X-Fi Titanium

Reply 2 of 19, by chrismeyer6

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That's a very nice Athlon 64 build. Those Nforce 4 DFI boards were fantastic they still are. I wish DFI still made motherboards for consumer PC's instead of just industrial PC stuff.

Reply 3 of 19, by Joseph_Joestar

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Yeah, it's too bad DFI doesn't make consumer grade boards anymore. Their stuff was top notch. In hindsight, it's a bit strange reading about people who had so much trouble with nForce4 motherboards while I only experienced smooth sailing with mine. Even weirder considering that it ran an overclocked Venice A64 3000+ @ 2.2GHz for years, with just stock air cooling.

My only pet peeve with this board is the placement of PCIe slots. Basically, if you use a GPU with a large heatsink, it will block out the two slots below it, leaving just the topmost PCIe x4 slot accessible. Not very upgrade friendly.

Build #1: Celeron 466 / Abit ZM6 / Voodoo3 / AWE64 / YMF744 / SC-155
Build #2: AthlonXP 1700+ / Abit KT7A / GeForce4 / SBLive / ALS100
Build #3: Athlon64 3700+ / DFI LanParty / 9600GT / X-Fi Titanium

Reply 4 of 19, by chrismeyer6

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Same here I only ever used Nforce based boards in my builds. I have built a ton of systems based around all of the Nforce boards of the course of time for friends and family and never ever had issues with any of them. I also only used boards from Abit or DFI.

Reply 5 of 19, by border collie21

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Hahaha that motherboard box definitely screams mid-2000's.

And is that a Thermaltake Xasyr on the boxart?

https://imgur.com/a/L3I5b3M
Specs for my desktops + daily driver laptop.

Looking for
2GB DDR set of Corsair XMS Pro or Xpert (ones with LEDs or 7-segment displays)
Tualatin-compatible slotket adapter
4GB DDR2 DIMMs(?)
Matrox Parhelia PCI-X

Reply 6 of 19, by Joseph_Joestar

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chrismeyer6 wrote on 2021-01-16, 15:29:

I also only used boards from Abit or DFI.

Abit boards always worked great for me as well. My KT7A is still alive and kicking today, and I bought it back in 2001. And the ZM6 which I got later is in excellent condition too. Never had any stability problems and none of the capacitors on either board ever needed replacement.

border collie21 wrote on 2021-01-16, 21:19:

Hahaha that motherboard box definitely screams mid-2000's.

Heh, yeah they really went for that "rad" aesthetic on the box cover. I remember chuckling at the design even back in 2005. 😁

The box has some nice goodies though, and I'm glad I kept it all this time. The rounded IDE and floppy cables are neat, and the jumper puller is a nifty little extra too.

Build #1: Celeron 466 / Abit ZM6 / Voodoo3 / AWE64 / YMF744 / SC-155
Build #2: AthlonXP 1700+ / Abit KT7A / GeForce4 / SBLive / ALS100
Build #3: Athlon64 3700+ / DFI LanParty / 9600GT / X-Fi Titanium

Reply 7 of 19, by auron

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i see a ton of what looks to be chemicon KZG capacitors here... assuming that's true and you care about that board long-term i would suggest to look into a recap, even if things are working fine now. it's a well-known defective series that has a tendency to leak through the bottom bung, even if the caps look fine from above. the issue can really just be spotted by looking at them from the side, on some typically the bung will be bulging out.

if you need more proof and pictures search the badcaps forum for that series.

Reply 8 of 19, by Joseph_Joestar

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auron wrote on 2021-01-17, 10:06:

i see a ton of what looks to be chemicon KZG capacitors here...

How does one identify those capacitors?

I went to the badcapps forums but I cannot view any photos there without registering. I can take a few close up shots of my board if it helps.

Build #1: Celeron 466 / Abit ZM6 / Voodoo3 / AWE64 / YMF744 / SC-155
Build #2: AthlonXP 1700+ / Abit KT7A / GeForce4 / SBLive / ALS100
Build #3: Athlon64 3700+ / DFI LanParty / 9600GT / X-Fi Titanium

Reply 9 of 19, by auron

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if you search for pictures of those caps, you should see where on the cap it should say KZG. note that there's many visually similar looking series like KY and those are all good to my knowledge, it's KZG and afaik probably also KZJ that should be replaced.

no need for a pic, actually the bottom bulging can be quite subtle from the ones i have seen a video card, if i wouldn't have read about this i probably wouldn't have given a second thought. well, apart from the electrolyte leaking out, but even that can be mistaken for dust at a glance. it doesn't matter anyway if they have already leaked or not, it's better to get rid of them sooner than later before that happens.

Reply 10 of 19, by Joseph_Joestar

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auron wrote on 2021-01-17, 10:43:

if you search for pictures of those caps, you should see where on the cap it should say KZG. note that there's many visually similar looking series like KY and those are all good to my knowledge, it's KZG and afaik probably also KZJ that should be replaced

I just took a closer look and I see a bunch of them with KY and a few with KZG marks as well. Visually, they look fine i.e. no bulging on the sides nor on the top.

However, if as you say the entire KZG series was bad, I will look into changing them.

Build #1: Celeron 466 / Abit ZM6 / Voodoo3 / AWE64 / YMF744 / SC-155
Build #2: AthlonXP 1700+ / Abit KT7A / GeForce4 / SBLive / ALS100
Build #3: Athlon64 3700+ / DFI LanParty / 9600GT / X-Fi Titanium

Reply 11 of 19, by auron

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it could be that the KZGs aren't placed in very stressful positions in the circuit or haven't seen excessive heat, which is said to accelerate the failure process a lot. electrolytic caps can definitely dry out without any signs whatsoever though and for KZG the evidence is certainly there to say it's a bad series.

Reply 12 of 19, by chrismeyer6

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Joseph_Joestar wrote on 2021-01-17, 06:56:
Abit boards always worked great for me as well. My KT7A is still alive and kicking today, and I bought it back in 2001. And the […]
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chrismeyer6 wrote on 2021-01-16, 15:29:

I also only used boards from Abit or DFI.

Abit boards always worked great for me as well. My KT7A is still alive and kicking today, and I bought it back in 2001. And the ZM6 which I got later is in excellent condition too. Never had any stability problems and none of the capacitors on either board ever needed replacement.

border collie21 wrote on 2021-01-16, 21:19:

Hahaha that motherboard box definitely screams mid-2000's.

Heh, yeah they really went for that "rad" aesthetic on the box cover. I remember chuckling at the design even back in 2005. 😁

The box has some nice goodies though, and I'm glad I kept it all this time. The rounded IDE and floppy cables are neat, and the jumper puller is a nifty little extra too.

I have a Kt7a-raid my parents bought me new and 3 years ago I built a system around it for my son to play with and it See's a ton of use and its just rock solid reliable.

Reply 13 of 19, by chinny22

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I'd choose sentimental link over outright performance every time.
Fire a game up on this and your back in the early 2000's, where as if you did the same thing on say a S775 PC your now just playing a game form 20 odd years ago.
Helps the hardware is really nice to start with.

I was also surprised how much difference the X-Fi made although I went the other way and temporally stole the card for another build. onboard sound was just flat and lifeless.

Reply 14 of 19, by Joseph_Joestar

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chinny22 wrote on 2021-01-18, 10:00:

I was also surprised how much difference the X-Fi made although I went the other way and temporally stole the card for another build. onboard sound was just flat and lifeless.

It really is amazing. Truth be told, experiencing proper hardware-accelerated EAX is one of my main reasons for replaying XP era games.

I recently completed Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory on this rig, and from the very first level I was blown away by the EAX effects. Specifically, when you exit the caves and enter the area with all the tents and it starts raining. When you enter one of those tents, you can really feel those raindrops bouncing off of the roof, especially when using headphones. Kudos to the developers!

Build #1: Celeron 466 / Abit ZM6 / Voodoo3 / AWE64 / YMF744 / SC-155
Build #2: AthlonXP 1700+ / Abit KT7A / GeForce4 / SBLive / ALS100
Build #3: Athlon64 3700+ / DFI LanParty / 9600GT / X-Fi Titanium

Reply 16 of 19, by Joseph_Joestar

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gerry wrote on 2021-01-18, 10:47:

looks great, I can't think of a 2006 game that wouldn't run on this

Oblivion struggles a bit in towns dropping to around 30 FPS. Most likely bottlenecked by the CPU since it happens in lower resolutions too.

It's still fairly playable though, and in dungeons the frame rate is usually in the 50-60 range.

Build #1: Celeron 466 / Abit ZM6 / Voodoo3 / AWE64 / YMF744 / SC-155
Build #2: AthlonXP 1700+ / Abit KT7A / GeForce4 / SBLive / ALS100
Build #3: Athlon64 3700+ / DFI LanParty / 9600GT / X-Fi Titanium

Reply 17 of 19, by mastergamma12

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chrismeyer6 wrote on 2021-01-15, 21:48:

That's a very nice Athlon 64 build. Those Nforce 4 DFI boards were fantastic they still are. I wish DFI still made motherboards for consumer PC's instead of just industrial PC stuff.

Same, that's basically why I picked up my X58 Lanparty board back in Sept.

c98bnZn.png

The Tuala-Bus (My 9x/Dos Rig) (Pentium III-S 1.4ghz, AWE64G+Audigy 2 ZS, Voodoo5 5500, Chieftec Dragon Rambus)

The Final Lan Party (My Windows Xp/7 rig) (Core i7 980x, GTX 480,DFI Lanparty UT X58-T3eH8,)

Reply 18 of 19, by nd22

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2006 games would not run great on that CPU but any game up to 2005 would run perfectly fine with max settings! Also the GPU is from 2008 and is seriously better than anything in the Geforce 7 or Radeon X1K series. I tested FEAR on a 19 inch monitor with 1280*1024 resolution with 6800 ultra and it struggles at max settings; same with 7800gtx but with 8800ggtx it runs just fine!

Reply 19 of 19, by Joseph_Joestar

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Yup, the CPU is the main bottleneck.

That said, 2006 was somewhat of a transition year, with Vista coming into the picture and removing EAX hardware support. Fortunately, most games released from that point onward tend to work fine on newer systems, with EAX being handled through ALchemy / OpenAL, if applicable. So, anything that's too demanding for this rig, I can likely play on my modern PC.

Build #1: Celeron 466 / Abit ZM6 / Voodoo3 / AWE64 / YMF744 / SC-155
Build #2: AthlonXP 1700+ / Abit KT7A / GeForce4 / SBLive / ALS100
Build #3: Athlon64 3700+ / DFI LanParty / 9600GT / X-Fi Titanium