First post, by Joseph_Joestar
EDIT - this build has now been retired and parted out due to the motherboard becoming damaged. I will leave the original post up in case someone finds it useful.
- Athlon 64 3700+ (San Diego core)
- DFI LanParty UT Ultra-D (nForce4)
- 4x1GB Transcend DDR400
- Gigabyte GeForce 9600GT
- Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium PCIe (SB0880)
- SanDisk 240GB SSD (WindowsXP + SP3)
- Geil Zenith R3 240GB SSD (Windows7 64-bit + SP1)
- Lite-On SOHW-1693S DVD-RW
- Sony 3.5" floppy drive
- Seasonic S12 III 650W PSU
- Chieftec tower case
- LG Flatron L1753HR 17" LCD monitor (1280x1024 native resolution)
- Logitech X-530 Surround Sound Speakers (5.1 system)
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 get something newer. Nowadays, it serves as my primary WinXP retro rig, and I mainly 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.
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.
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.
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, excluding AA and AF, which are kept at moderate levels.
I have to admit, when I originally bought this PC, I used the integrated audio solution of the DFI motherboard. It was decent enough, 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.
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 temporary 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 drives.
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.