VOGONS


First post, by draetheus

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This build was not borne of joy or nostalgia. No....this build was borne of the frustration of a lack of ubiquitous ways of getting Windows 9x games running well on modern hardware/OS. In fact I tried everything I could to avoid building this computer:

  • Emulation: I got nowhere with DOSBOX-X. I had much better results with PCem, but even my i7 6700k couldn't keep up with 100% emulation speed of a Pentium MMX during intensive parts of games. I didn't try boxedwine...maybe I should have, but I also felt like I would get trapped in a time paradox for running windows on linux on windows.
  • Compatibility Layers: I got quite far with dgVoodoo2 + built in windows compatibility, but something would always be slightly broken. Most frequently FMV playback.

After a few weeks of mucking around with the above solutions, I bit the bullet and started planning my build. As someone who obviously isn't a purist, my goal was to find the latest era components that had full chipset/driver support for Windows 98 SE. I'll give the component play by play in the order I received them.

Monitor:
I had hopes that this might be the one thing I could pick up locally at a thrift store. I was gunning for a 1600x1200 and what luck, I found a NEC Multisync 2190UXp for $10! I hooked up this bad boy to start testing and.....no signal from my desktop. I managed to get my raspberry pi working with it, but ONLY terminal white on black text. It would flicker, glitch, and eventually lose signal when actual graphics were displayed. Some kind of signal processing chip issue? Oh well, into the dump with you.

Next I ordered a Dell Ultrasharp 2007FPB since this is a more widely used retro gaming monitor. It has 3 dead pixels, which is unfortunate, but they are unnoticeable during gameplay. It otherwise has excellent color, contrast, and brightness. I might play the panel lottery again in the future, but it's good enough for now.

GPU:
I managed to score a great deal on a reportedly unused FX 5900XT that had just sat in someone's attic. No drama here, it works great! OCs to near 5950 speeds, but I keep it at 5900 speeds for stabililty.

Sound:
I was able to get one of the last NOS AOpen YMF744 cards before they went out of stock. Since my goal was Win9x gaming onboard sound would have been fine, but I decided to splurge for extra DOS compatibility. I'm glad I did, compatibility with the DSDMA TSR is excellent! I've tested a dozen DOS games, it has worked with almost everything I've thrown at it.

MB + CPU + RAM:
I had been debating between an Intel 775 build and an AMD 754/939 build for a while. My primary rig was a 478 P4 between the years of 2003 and 2009, so I wasn't terribly excited about the prospect of building another P4. I learned that a scant few 775 boards supported C2Ds while also maintaining chipset compatibility with Win 98! As you can guess by the title, my C2D build didn't work out, but here were the specs:

  • CPU: C2D E6700
  • MB: ECS P4M800PRO-M V2.0
  • RAM: 512MB DDR2 533

The motherboard arrived and....caps around the CPU VRM were bulging. Apparently not uncommon for Taiwanese boards of the era. I have soldered some really basic electronics years ago, but looking into it, I did not have the skill or equipment to solder a later era motherboard. Into the dump with you, again.

I watched ebay like a hawk for replacement motherboards, but given my requirements (C2D support, Win 98 chipset support) nothing was coming up in my country. At this point I started looking into 754/939 motherboards, and soon landed a good deal on a combo set:

  • CPU: Athlon 64 FX-53
  • MB: Asus A8V Deluxe
  • RAM: 512MB DDR 400

No bad caps (they appear to be higher quality), booted up on first try without clearing CMOS! I did run into a few minor issues that are almost solved pending parts arrival:

  • The onboard marvell NIC appears to be physically busted, as no port lights come on no matter what cable/switch/drivers I use. Waiting on a replacement Intel NIC to arrive.
  • The CPU HSF that came mounted was absolute garbage. Previously it ran at 45C idle, ouch! As it turns out, the AMD Wraith Prism stock cooler for high end Ryzens is fully compatible with 754/939. I have received and mounted one, and in addition to a little undervolting (1.5V -> 1.3V), the CPU now runs at a cool 30C at full 2.4Ghz. At 1Ghz and 0.85V, it runs at room temperature.

HDD/SSD:
I had a few SATA SSDs lying around. The first one was a 120GB WD Green, which I had gotten free with another order. Performance was ok, but erratic at times. Occasionally the promise SATA controller wouldn't pick it up during boot. ATTO showed abysmal performance for files under the 4k sector size (despite alignment), and just generally slow write performance. Time to try a 500GB Samsung Evo 850, which is faring much better. I had ordered some X-25Es which I am still waiting on, but I am thinking I may not need them at this point since the Evo performs well, and I don't mind taking the drive out every now and then to TRIM it ( have a 2.5" removable bay ).

Other things I reused:

  • Case: Lian Li PC-A05NB
  • PSU: Rosewill Capstone 550W 80+ Gold
  • DVD: Some Liteon SATA drive via SATA -> IDE adapter (EDIT: got burned by my ignorance of how many games of the era use CD audio, ordered a Pioneer IDE DVD with analog and digital audio out)

Benchmarks and pictures forthcoming. I started out frustrated at the world, and I have to say, I'm quite happy now. I'm really amazed with the compatibility, as it has run every Win 9x or DOS game I've thrown at it so far (thanks to DSDMA and CPUSPD). As an emulation heathen, even I can admit the genuine OPL3 sounds damn nice playing back MIDI.

Update 1

I received and mounted the NV Silencer onto my 5900XT but it didn't seem like a perfect fit. Turns out I was right and I ran into instability when running benchmarks. It seems there are a few versions of die/IHS on 5900XT, and the NV Silencer is really only suitable for ones with a flat IHS, not rounded. I put the stock HSF back on, but at least I replaced the default thermal compound with arctic silver.

I also received a mouse (Kensington Pro Fit Full Size) on recommendation that it supports PS/2, but I could not get it to work via PS/2 in 98 or XP. I'm guessing they removed PS/2 support in later revisions...ugh.

At least my new keyboard (Filco Majestouch 2 TKL) is nice!

Update 2

So the Pioneer IDE drive came and it had pin headers for digital and analog CD audio. But....they don't work. Apparently this is common with very late era IDE drives that reused parts in manufacturing, so the pin headers are present but non-functional. Argh! I didn't want to wait another week for a fleabay order to troubleshoot, so I checked out a few local thrift stores and found a very cheap Dell P4 circa 2003. I was able to scavenge a Toshiba DVD ROM drive that works just fine. No RW support, but I can burn CDs/DVDs from my Windows 10 box so no issue there.

Side note: The Dell had a few other goodies things including a Matrox G400 MAX. Apparently a respectable performing 3D card for its time, but has issues with smooth scrolling/screen tearing in DOS so no use for me.

I had also ordered an Audigy 1 as I thought it would be nice to have better quality EAX support as well as a proper PC speaker header (something the YMF744 lacks). I spent 2 frustrating days trying to get that damn thing working and stable with my YMF744 and Intel NIC with absolutely no luck. Even with every onboard device (except the promise SATA controller) disabled and all PCI devices recognized and drivers installed, I experienced frequent stability and lock-up issues. I suspect this could be due to my newer motherboard which utilizes IRQ sharing. I definitely see why people recommend an ISA board for DOS gaming around here, but given this is the only system I've got, compatibility trumps fancy EAX and the Audigy is going back on fleabay.

As always, one good thing happened amid a series of bad things: I found a like new MX518 for very cheap, and after setting the PS/2 rate to 200hz, its absolutely butter smooth.

Quite frankly I'm running out of time and energy to endlessly tinker with hardware, I just wanna play some damn games! Almost every type of DOS game scenario works except CD audio in real DOS mode, and this seems to be a limitation of the YMF744 from looking at other people's posts. Hell, that doesn't work on a MiSTer AO486 either! If some ISA hardware happens to fall into my lap, I won't turn it down, but I'm done chasing perfection with this build and consider it done.

Final Specs

System:

  • CPU: Athlon 64 FX-53
  • MB: Asus A8V Deluxe
  • RAM: Samsung 512MB DDR 400
  • GPU: Sparkle GeForce FX 5900XT
  • SND: AOpen AW744 II (YMF744)
  • NIC: Intel PRO/1000 GT
  • SSD1: Intel X25-E 64GB
  • SSD2: Samsung 850 EVO 500GB
  • ODD: Toshiba SD-M1712 DVD-ROM
  • PSU: Rosewill Capstone 550W
  • Case: Lian-Li PC-A05N

PXL-20210214-162322835.jpg

Peripherals:

  • MON: Dell Ultrasharp 2007FPB
  • SPK: Dayton Audio MK402BTX
  • KB: Filco Majestouch 2 TKL
  • MS: Logitech MX518
Last edited by draetheus on 2021-02-15, 01:33. Edited 9 times in total.

Reply 1 of 18, by Namrok

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Sounds like you had a very similar begrudging acceptance of the necessity of a retro build to myself.

I think my failed experiments with PCem/86Box were the final straw. I wanted to play my original install CDs, and the performance with those in PCem was atrocious. Images worked much better, but then making those images proved a hurdle with some of the more creative copyright protection schemes. And that's putting aside that PCem is really only viable for speed reasons to about the 1997-ish era? Which is a great era, but doesn't quite capture what I wanted.

If anything, as close as PCem got me to a satisfactory experience was what finally teased me enough to just buy a damned retro pc instead. If I'd never messed around with it, I may never have done it.

Reply 2 of 18, by draetheus

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Namrok wrote on 2021-01-25, 19:22:

Sounds like you had a very similar begrudging acceptance of the necessity of a retro build to myself.

I think my failed experiments with PCem/86Box were the final straw. I wanted to play my original install CDs, and the performance with those in PCem was atrocious. Images worked much better, but then making those images proved a hurdle with some of the more creative copyright protection schemes. And that's putting aside that PCem is really only viable for speed reasons to about the 1997-ish era? Which is a great era, but doesn't quite capture what I wanted.

If anything, as close as PCem got me to a satisfactory experience was what finally teased me enough to just buy a damned retro pc instead. If I'd never messed around with it, I may never have done it.

You are absolutely right. If I had not gone down the rabbit hole and gotten sooooo close, I don't think I would have bothered.

Reply 3 of 18, by SScorpio

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I recommend getting a SB Live or Audigy 1, you'll get better quality EAX which many games of that era support. You can keep the YMF744 for DOS gaming if you want.

In my A64 Win98 build I'm actually using a SB Audigy 1 and Diamond MX300. I have the digital out from the MX300 to the Audigy's CD Digital In. I have the CD drive's digital out going to a Live's TOSLink 2 input (don't ask, the MX300 doesn't work going to Live drive with an Audigy, but it did with a Live 5.1).

For DOS I use the Audigy's SB16 emulation most games are either CD Audio, or support MIDI so I run external MIDI modules so Adlib isn't a large concern for me. For older games where Adlib matters I have a AMD 5x86 133 with YMF719 and SB Vibra 16. For older stuff I have a MiSTer FPGA running ao486. There is a bit of a gap from the 5x86 133 -> A64, but I thankfully haven't run into games running too fast on the A64 and too slow on the 5x86.

Reply 4 of 18, by bZbZbZ

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Yes, it is amazing that the in-box coolers for many generations of AMD processors still fit on socket 754/939 motherboards from 17 years ago!!! This is particularly useful because I expect a lot of people with new Ryzen builds are using a 3rd party cooler (Liquid, Closed Loop, big air, etc). The stock 125W Wraith cooler might not be the best thing for a Ryzen 9 3900X or an AM3FX, but it's perfect overkill for s754/939 CPUs!

Nice work!

Reply 5 of 18, by border collie21

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If you haven't yet I'd definitely repaste that GeForce card, as heat seems to have killed a lot of cards from that generation.

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 18, by draetheus

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SScorpio wrote on 2021-01-25, 21:03:

I recommend getting a SB Live or Audigy 1, you'll get better quality EAX which many games of that era support. You can keep the YMF744 for DOS gaming if you want.

In my A64 Win98 build I'm actually using a SB Audigy 1 and Diamond MX300. I have the digital out from the MX300 to the Audigy's CD Digital In. I have the CD drive's digital out going to a Live's TOSLink 2 input (don't ask, the MX300 doesn't work going to Live drive with an Audigy, but it did with a Live 5.1).

For DOS I use the Audigy's SB16 emulation most games are either CD Audio, or support MIDI so I run external MIDI modules so Adlib isn't a large concern for me. For older games where Adlib matters I have a AMD 5x86 133 with YMF719 and SB Vibra 16. For older stuff I have a MiSTer FPGA running ao486. There is a bit of a gap from the 5x86 133 -> A64, but I thankfully haven't run into games running too fast on the A64 and too slow on the 5x86.

Yeah, I am thinking of picking up an Audigy 1 or 2 and a stereo line mixer (to avoid any weird routing). The YMF744 is great for compatibility but I do wish I had something with a higher SNR and better EAX.

Reply 7 of 18, by draetheus

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border collie21 wrote on 2021-02-01, 23:54:

If you haven't yet I'd definitely repaste that GeForce card, as heat seems to have killed a lot of cards from that generation.

I have an NV Silencer 3 coming from another country so it will happen eventually. In the meantime it can OC to 475/900 on the stock HSF, so I'm not too concerned with running it at default clocks (390/680) for now. Its really frustrating that it doesn't have a temperature sensor though.

Reply 8 of 18, by kjliew

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I will tell you that you didn't try hard enough. Since you already mentioned DOSBox-X, PCem etc. you obviously wouldn't mind the route through emulation. You had probably missed out QEMU and its potential with Windows 98 VM 3D acceleration. A word of caution though, it could turn out an even bigger frustration to get QEMU working. 🤣 That's all I would say and wish you having funs with the build of real machine. 😀

Reply 9 of 18, by draetheus

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kjliew wrote on 2021-02-07, 04:06:

I will tell you that you didn't try hard enough. Since you already mentioned DOSBox-X, PCem etc. you obviously wouldn't mind the route through emulation. You had probably missed out QEMU and its potential with Windows 98 VM 3D acceleration. A word of caution though, it could turn out an even bigger frustration to get QEMU working. 🤣 That's all I would say and wish you having funs with the build of real machine. 😀

Yeah I did not really give the Linux based solutions like WINE and QEMU a try. Maybe at some point just for fun but I'm too deep down the hardware rabbit hole now.

Reply 10 of 18, by Almoststew1990

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The cooler situation with 754/939 is another reason I prefer it over 478 for single core builds. I bought a cheapo tower cooler and it is much cooler and quieter than any 478 cooler I have come across! I could if I really wanted to hook up my H100i to a 754 PC!

Ryzen 3700X | 16GB 3600MHz RAM | AMD 6800XT | 2Tb NVME SSD | Windows 10
AMD DX2-80 | 16MB RAM | STB LIghtspeed 128 | AWE32 CT3910
I have a vacancy for a main Windows 98 PC

Reply 11 of 18, by Hoping

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The socket 478 cooler retention system is from my point of view one of the worst, I've replaced a lot of then because they broke even with the intel stock cooler.
But maybe some motherboard brands used low quality plastic, I don't know.

Reply 13 of 18, by Tetrium

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This is a good rig! 😀
I wasn't even aware of the FX5900* having different GPU IHSs (or I knew and had forgotten about by now xD 😜 ), but this is good to know. I only ever worked with 2 of them of which one I never bothered to remove the stock HS of and the other having a Zalman VF-700CU iirc. And no, it won't run FEAR as I found out the hard way 🤣!

Your Lian Li PC-A05NB case seems weird as pics from the net showed it mounting the motherboard upside down or something?

Have you managed to track down a working PS/2 mouse?

Hoping wrote on 2021-02-07, 13:12:

The socket 478 cooler retention system is from my point of view one of the worst, I've replaced a lot of then because they broke even with the intel stock cooler.
But maybe some motherboard brands used low quality plastic, I don't know.

Despite the shortcomings of the s478 HSF mounting system, at least it was (in a way) an improvement over s370 (and perhaps s423, though admittedly I don't know much about the s423 CPU HSF mounting system because these are relatively uncommon) due to it being easier to design larger HSFs for it and thus perhaps also somewhat more silent. And perhaps as it seems easier to install when compared to s370.
The pushpins are an obvious weakness of this design. I can imagine them being fairly easy to break. I do remember having had issues with one such board which turned out to be a broken pin which we hadn't picked up right away (was one of the bottom pins).

The s754/s939 CPU HSF design is the obvious better one.

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My retro rigs (old topic)
Interesting Vogons threads (links to Vogonswiki)
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Reply 15 of 18, by draetheus

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Tetrium wrote on 2021-02-18, 20:16:
This is a good rig! :) I wasn't even aware of the FX5900* having different GPU IHSs (or I knew and had forgotten about by now xD […]
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This is a good rig! 😀
I wasn't even aware of the FX5900* having different GPU IHSs (or I knew and had forgotten about by now xD 😜 ), but this is good to know. I only ever worked with 2 of them of which one I never bothered to remove the stock HS of and the other having a Zalman VF-700CU iirc. And no, it won't run FEAR as I found out the hard way 🤣!

Your Lian Li PC-A05NB case seems weird as pics from the net showed it mounting the motherboard upside down or something?

Have you managed to track down a working PS/2 mouse?

Its not upside down but its an odd compact ATX case where the power supply sits at the front bottom with very little clearance for a full ATX board in the back. Also the intake goes back to front rather than front to back. I wouldn't recommend it if you have a large GPU but its a nice way to fit a full ATX mobo in a small tower.

Yep, got a Logitech MX 518, its quite nice!

Reply 16 of 18, by draetheus

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mothergoose729 wrote on 2021-02-18, 21:32:

Ruthlessly pragmatic. I love it!

Just so you know, PCem can now emulate slot 1 computers. My 4.0ghz haswell PC is capable of emulating a PII@300mhz pretty well.

Yeah I tried using the latest build of PCem with a PII. Some games ran fine, but more intensive games like Quake 3 would experience emulation speed drop and then I'd get weird graphical or audio issues. This was on a 4.2 ghz skylake 🙁

Reply 17 of 18, by kjliew

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I don't know the list of games that you would be playing with the retro build, but with a Core i7-6700K, QEMU KVM/WHPX would have made it redundant if you have Windows 10 or modern Linux. Unlike the other PC emulator, QEMU would have blown away the FX5900 in Quake3 even with the Intel UHD 530 on the Skylake.

Reply 18 of 18, by The Serpent Rider

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Previously it ran at 45C idle, ouch! As it turns out, the AMD Wraith Prism stock cooler for high end Ryzens is fully compatible with 754/939. I have received and mounted one, and in addition to a little undervolting (1.5V -> 1.3V), the CPU now runs at a cool 30C at full 2.4Ghz. At 1Ghz and 0.85V, it runs at room temperature.

That's a common problem for early Athlon64, due to degradation of thermal paste under IHS. You can scalp IHS and change it.

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