First post, by Wilczek_h

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A dream came true - my ultimate Pentium 1 build covering the 90's

Dear Vogons,

As my first post please allow me to share some details and pictures of my latest retro build. I say retro, however to me retro would be an XT PC build or something from that era; these P1 kind of builds still feel quite modern to me.
I started using PCs when XTs were king, the first PC I owned was an Olivetti branded 286 AT machine with a 20MHz Harris CPU. It had a whopping 1 MB of RAM, a huge 40MB HDD(!) and a 256kB Trident VGA card. It was a fantastic machine of its time.
Time went on and I built and owned all kind of PCs with all sort of CPUs, but the CPU that always fascinated me was the Pentium I CPU. It had - almost - perfect backward compatibility with the old world (DOS, 16-bit programs), could run software of the new wave (95/98) and if needed it could show its real power by running purely 32-bit OSs like NT. Therefore, whenever I build a retro machine I try to put together one that is powered by a P1 CPU.
My dream was to build one of the fanciest/most powerful P1 machine of early 98 and I came up with the following configuration:
- With my brother we saved a Daewoo CB54X-TX motherboard that sports the Intel 430TX chipset. We found it dumped in a barn. Despite how and where it was stored we saw no rust, no bad caps and no defect on the board. This motherboard is awesome, its BIOS gives a lot of options, you can really tweak and change every single bit of the board.
With this build I did not want to be authentic though, so I used memory cards as storage media of size that was not available at the time. But I guess, that is OK, my other P1 machine has a spinning rust (aka old HDD) in it (which I am always afraid to switch on as I worry about the HDD 😀).
- since the aim was to build one of the most powerful P1 machine I went for a P1-233MHz MMX CPU.
- the RAM: well, I know, I know, the TX chipset allows caching RAM up to 64MB, but still, I installed the maximum amount of RAM supported by the board, which is 256MB. I used brand new Kingston 128MB SDRAM modules. Some workloads really need a lot of RAM, like NT 4.0 + Quake 3 or Windows 2000 with Visual Studio 2005 when building a simple program (requiring around 224MB of RAM). I think uncached RAM is still a better option than swapping memory pages in and out.
- video card: I wanted to use a 2D video card that can be used under DOS+Windows for Workgroups 3.11, NT 3.51, NT 4.0, 98SE and under Windows 2000. I went for an ELSA Winner-3000-L 6MB(!) video card with a Virge VX chip. While it is not a top performer, it provides a decent enough 2D performance, works under all the above mentioned systems and supports extremely high resolutions with 24-bit color depth. Resolutions that I could not imagine in 1997-1998 😀.
- the 3D card: I guess it is not a surprise that I went for a Voodoo2 12MB card (Procomp). The thing that might surprise you is that I actually went for an SLI configuration, so I installed 2 Procomp Voodoo2 12MB cards. The SLI does not provide a lot of performance increase, but it allows me to run some games in 1024x768. And anyway, having an SLI configuration is awesome. The cards work fine under NT 4.0, 98SE and Windows 2000 using the latest reference drivers.
- storage: the primary IDE drive is a 16GB compact flash card allowing me to boot DOS 6.22, Windows NT 3.51 SP5 and Windows NT 4.0 SP6a. The secondary IDE drive is a Sandisk 32GB SD card allowing me to boot 98SE and Windows 2000 SP4+SRP. The BIOS lets me choose the IDE channel to boot from, which is really great.
- sound: I never had a card like this, but I always heard a lot about it, so I went for a Creative Labs AWE64 card. It is not the gold version though, but it is good enough and works under DOS, WfW 3.11, NT 3.51 (! with the stock NT SB16 drivers, but I had to change the "Plug n Play OS" to "NO" in the BIOS to get it working), NT 4.0 and under Windows 2000.
- as for the NIC, I chose a Realtek 8029AS PCI network adapter. It also works under all the systems just fine.
- mice and keyboard: nothing fancy here, just standard PS/2 stuff.
- floppy drives: a Panasonic 3.5" and a Teac 5.25" floppy drive. In the photos you might notice that for a while I had a Panasonic 5.25" drive, but I swapped it later on with a Teac.
- optical media: an LG 16x DVD-ROM with CD-R/W functionality, not at all authentic of the time, but I wanted no compromise when reading optical media. While under DOS, NT 3.51 and NT 4.0 I can only read CDs, 98SE and Windows 2000 support reading DVDs natively, which came in handy occasionally.
- PSU: whenever I build a retro ATX machine the first thing I do is that I install a brand new Chieftec PSU. This one got a 500W Chieftec GPS-500A8 PSU, a massive overkill, but I would not like to risk all the goodies using an old or unreliable PSU. This new Chieftec provides nice voltages to the components and can drive the computer easily.
- computer case: it is a random, noname case, according to the label it originally enclosed a P4 celeron build. When we found it it was already empty. It is not the best case, some bolt holes are misaligned, so the PSU is only held by 3 bolts, not 4. However, the backplate(?) is not bent, so it was easy to install the motherboard and the cards could be installed with ease too. All in all I am OK with it.

Software: I wanted to cover the 90s. I knew I wanted to run 16-bit, 16/32-bit and pure 32-bit OSs. As mentioned above, the CF card allows me to boot DOS 6.22 with Windows for Workgroups 3.11, NT 3.51 SP5 and NT 4.0 SP6a. NT 3.51 is a really interesting operating system. It is undoubtedly NT, it feels NT, yet it has a 3.11-like UI. However, it is easier to handle its UI than the UI of WfW 3.11. A lot of built-in programs already sport the newer controls, like the file manager. A lot of dialogs and windows also use the newer controls introduced in Win95. And the funny thing is that for productivity purposes it is still quite a capable system. I can run programs like IrfanView, Office 97, WinAmp and a very simple FTP server (it comes as an optional component with NT 3.51) on it. I think the computer feels the fastest under NT 4.0, I can play low resolution mpeg-2 videos fullscreen on it, under NT 4.0 everything starts instantly. While 98SE is fast, it does not feel as responsive as NT 4.0.
From the SD card I can start 98SE and Windows 2000. 98SE, well, I was never a fan of the 9x line, but 9x provides good DOS backward compatibility and also runs glide and OpenGL games fine. Windows 2000 is my favorite OS from the Windows line of that era (I never liked XP, but Windows Server 2003 SP1 was awesome). It boots fast and runs fine, disk access is definitely the fastest under Windows 2000, however, it puts a "little bit" more pressure on the components. I cannot play mpeg-2 videos on it in fullscreen (most probably it is only a driver issue) and I loose a couple of FPS in games like Q2. However, it is still the go to system next to NT 4.0 if no DOS games need to run. Under 2000 I can run Office 2003 with the Office 2007 compatibility pack, read DVDs, run more modern software, I can even use Visual Studio 2005 😀. Well, the SP installation of Visual Studio took around 10 hours, but the computer did it.

You might ask, what the purpose of this computer is: one thing is that me and my kids really enjoyed putting it together. I could experience top performing HW I could not even think about back in the days. Installation of the 5 systems with software was hard, but fun. I loved the computing of the 90s and this computer can take me back to any era of the 90s (DOS, new wave, pure 32-bit OSs). Another important factor is: preservation! Last, but not least, it is a great machine for young kids, my son loves Commander Keen, SimCity Classic, The Incredible Machine, SimEarth, Street Rod, Stunts and Railroad Tycoon, just to mention a few. These programs can also help my kids to learn some English. (As you might have noticed - just like my kids - I am not a native English speaker either, but computers helped me back in the days to get familiar with the language.) We can run Encarta, Encarta Atlas and the Encarta English dictionary. They can learn basic Office stuff and I do not have to worry that they mess up a system that we use daily. And well, they also learn some history, they love handling floppy disks too 😀. They know that a floppy is not just an icon for "save" in programs.

Finally, the pictures (hopefully the links will work):
1. the CPU is in the board 😀:

2. heat sink added (with paste):
3. fan added, not really meant for the given heatsink, but it does the job:
4: ahh, I hate this part so much 😀:
5. components waiting for resurrection:
6. a closer look at some components:
7. a closer look at some other components:
8. the PSU is installed:
9. my living room the way I like it 😀:
10. trying out the CF card:
11. success:
12. the CF card takes its place as well as the first Voodoo2 card:
13. AWE64 and the network adapter are added too:
14. the first set of systems are installed: DOS 6.22 + WfW 3.11, NT 3.51 and NT 4.0:
15. NT 3.51 in action: do not let the UI fool you, it is driven by a pure 32-bit OS:
16. stock FTP server with an active connection:
17. a kind of magic indeed: mpeg-2 video under NT 4.0:
18. Q3A under NT 4.0, it works on this build 😀:
19. ready to install another card on the secondary IDE channel, this time an SD card:
20. so far so good:
21. it works!:
22. second set of systems installed on the SD card: 98SE and Windows 2000 Professional SP4+SRP:
23. fun with the kids, we put together a little DOS program to practice addition and subtraction:
24. getting ready for the SLI experience:
25. the second Voodoo2 is in place:
26. the inside of the final build:
27. the second Voodoo2 is installed under 98SE:
28. SLI detected under 98SE:
29. the second Voodoo2 is installed under 2000: note: the 3Dfx panel is not installed with the reference driver for Windows 2000, therefore I had to manually add the SSTV2_SLIDETECT "1" string value to the registry under 2 keys to enable SLI. It works as the 1024x768 resolution is available in games:
30. SLI is detected under NT 4.0:
31. Q2 in the mighty 1024x768 resolution 😀:
32. extra: before installation, picking the right Windows versions for the machine 😀 (I have more Windows boxes and other versions + editions, but the bed was full of boxes already 😀):
33. extra: picking the right "3D applications" 😀 for the new build:
34. extra: last but not least, a picture of my 166MMX build with the initial set of software to be installed:

Thank you for reading and checking out the pictures. I hope you enjoyed the story and the pictures as much as I enjoyed putting the build together.

Take care and best regards,

Last edited by Wilczek_h on 2021-09-07, 09:12. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 2 of 23, by pshipkov

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Great stuff.

Every time I read XT somewhere I get a massive itch. Must resist 😀

VS2005 is too much for this class hardware. 6 will be better I think. It does the job at fraction of the consumed resourcess.

retro bits and bytes

Reply 3 of 23, by PC-Engineer

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Did you thought about a VIA/ALi/SiS Board with caching Option for 256MB RAM? Within Win98 you lose up to 20% Performance with non cached RAM.
To max out your P1 desire you can take a 266MHz Tillamook (you have to patch it a little for S7) - and overclock it to 300MHz.

1994/1995 - Socket3 - ASUS SV2GX4 / POD 100MHz / 64MB / SCSI - Windows 95

Reply 4 of 23, by Caluser2000

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Thanks for sharing Wilczek_h and welcome to the funny farm mate.

There's a glitch in the matrix.
A founding member of the 286 appreciation society.
Apparently 32-bit is dead and nobody likes P4s.
Of course, as always, I'm open to correction...😉

Reply 5 of 23, by drosse1meyer

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Very fine build... nice big box collection too 😁

P1 Build: Packard Bell - 233 MMX, Voodooo1, 64 MB, ALS100+
P2 Build: Dell Dimension R400 - 400 Mhz, GeForce2 32 MB, 128 MB
P3 Build: PIII @ 1 Ghz, 128 MB, GeForce2 GTS 64 MB
Macintosh: Performa 630CD - 6300 board @ 120 MHz, 64 MB, triple boot

Reply 6 of 23, by Wilczek_h

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@Hezus: thank you 😀. Would you mind sharing some details about your 233 MMX build? (board, cards, installed systems, purpose of your build)

@pshipkov: thank you 😀. Regarding VS2005: I was curious how - if at all - this build would handle software whose HW requirement is way above than this build. Actually, I expected the setup program to fail. However, it installed VS2005. That was a surprise. The next thing was to start VS2005 and see whether it could build something. I thought that the IDE (devenv.exe) or the compiler would crash. But no, it did start , it was quite usable and could compile a simple program. I was impressed! I went even further and I installed its latest service pack that took around 10 hours. I was really amazed that this computer was able to install and run this software that should run on a much-much powerful configuration. Under NT 4.0 I have Visual Studio 6.0 service pack 5 with the processor pack installed. (The other P1 build I showed in the pictures runs Visual Studio 6.0 Service Pack 6.). VS60 is really fast on this computer and consumes only about 8MB of RAM without a workspace being loaded. The situation is the same with Quake 3 Arena: it is far away from being playable on this machine, but the fact that it works on this config just amazes me. 😀 By the way, under Windows for Workgroups 3.11 I have Visual C++ 1.52 installed, which also runs fine obviously 😉.

@PC-Engineer: yes, I considered motherboards with VIA chipset, but somehow always 430TX boards surfaced 😀. Tillamook, huh, that would require quite some hack to provide 1.9V to the CPU and Tillamook CPUs are quite rare compared to desktop P1 CPUs.

@Caluser2000: thank you and thank you for welcoming me on Vogons. I noticed ".. and nobody likes P4s .." in your signature. In picture #9 the rightmost case with a blue frame/stripe houses a nice P4 machine. I had experience with 1.8-2.0 GHz builds back in the days, but I did not like them. However, I wanted to revisit the P4 experience around 2 years ago (as the boards and CPUs were collected for recycling) and use a quite late P4 CPU model. In the case there is a build driven by a 3.0GHz P4 CPU. I chose this model as it supports instructions that enable the installation of modern Windows OSs (8.x or 10) too. Again, this was an experiment and I wanted to see how backward compatible such a build was with the old world (DOS), how well it handles modern stuff (32-bit Windows 8.1.1 with modern software and internet) and see what SW environment would be the sweet-spot for the build. Surprisingly, it runs DOS stuff really well, and it remains absolutely usable with Windows 8.1.1 with Office 2010 and with the latest Edge browser. It can play low-resolution YT videos too. The most used OS on it is a 32-bit Windows Server 2003 w SP2, which is incredibly fast on it. We play games like Cossacks, Serious Sam, Railroad Tycoon II on it. Under Windows 8.1.1 we do some internet browsing and lightweight stuff. I was skeptical about its performance before putting it together, but I am really happy to have this P4 machine, which is used quite often. 😀 Fun fact: the HDD in this machine is a 250GB IDE drive that I pulled from the e-waste bin in Ikea. It looked good, so I took it home to see whether it would work or not. I thought that in the worst case I would take it back to the e-waste bin. Surprise, surprise! It was in perfect condition (according to the S.M.A.R.T. attributes); it was used in a Mac and stored only movies. I formatted it and threw 3 OSs on it. It has been serving us well for 2 years now.

@drosse1meyer: thank you 😀

Last edited by Wilczek_h on 2021-09-05, 09:11. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 8 of 23, by Joseph_Joestar

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That's quite a collection of vintage software that you have! Kudos for keeping the boxes in such great condition all these years. Very nice work on the system as well. Amazing that the machine can run all that. I have an MMX rig too (see signature) though mine is geared mainly towards retro gaming.

If you haven't seen it already, I recommend checking out this video by Phil where he demonstrates how to slow down a Pentium MMX to 386 and 486 speeds. It's quite useful if you want to play some of the older, speed sensitive games like the original Wing Commander.

PC#1: Pentium MMX 166 / Soyo SY-5BT / S3 Trio64V+ / Voodoo1 / OPTi 82C930 / AWE64
PC#2: Celeron 466 / Abit ZM6 / Voodoo3 / AWE64 Gold / YMF744 / SC-155
PC#3: AthlonXP 1700+ / Abit KT7A / GeForce4 / SBLive / ALS100
PC#4: Athlon64 3700+ / DFI LanParty / 9600GT / X-Fi Titanium

Reply 9 of 23, by Caluser2000

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The sig about P4s is a joke. I've a number of 3.x P4s including this one and it performs just as my daily driver....😉

Using 32-bit Linux Mint Debian Edition on it. Jumped of MircoSoft band wagon fifteen years ago. Best thing I ever did personally.

There's a glitch in the matrix.
A founding member of the 286 appreciation society.
Apparently 32-bit is dead and nobody likes P4s.
Of course, as always, I'm open to correction...😉

Reply 11 of 23, by Wilczek_h

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@Gmlb256: thank you 😀. What did you upgrade in the machine?

@Caluser2000: 😁, cool to hear about a P4 as a daily driver. Regarding Linux: I tried Debian really a long time ago (when Thunderbird 1400MHz CPUs were king), but it really gave me a hard time. The distro I found quite user friendly and it also run fine on the config was SuSE Linux. Time went on I tried Ubuntu (even with KDE), but I got rid of it and I have recently installed openSUSE (just for fun), which I found a very nice distro.

@keropi: thank you 😀

@Joseph_Joestar: thank you and thanks for the video link. I do not have CPU speed sensitive DOS games installed at the moment, but I remember that TD3, Sherman and Barbarian gave me headaches even on a 286 with a 20MHz Harris CPU.

@those who are interested in Windows 2000: let me share some pictures of one of my crown jewel boxes that you might not see often. This is the Windows 2000 Professional Commemorative Edition box that was given to the MS developers who worked on it. No, I did not work on 2000 😀, I bought this box on ebay. Inside there is the regular RTM copy of Windows 2000, but the box is special. Enjoy (click on the images to get the bigger versions of them):




Interesting thing: the RTM disks were holographic discs with a gray base color, like this one above. However, late retail releases (that included a service pack slipstreamed) switched to a COA label that resembled the XP SP2+/2003 style COAs as well as the disc design changed to use the XP/2003 style. The discs remained holographic, but used an orange-ish base color. If anyone is interested let me know and I will post the pictures of my late retail version as well.

Reply 13 of 23, by Gmlb256

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Wilczek_h wrote on 2021-09-06, 07:27:

What did you upgrade in the machine?

The upgrade was going from P233MMX to K6-2+/450 using a voltage adapter and a motherboard BIOS that can work with it, this was for versatility reasons. I don't like using an actual Super Socket 7 motherboard for this CPU as I like the Intel chipsets for reliability despite the cacheability (the current CPU I'm using can mitigate this problem) and FSB disadvantage.

Prior upgrading the CPU I was also overclocking the P233MMX to 262 MHz by setting the FSB to 75 MHz (if the motherboard has the option). 😁

Reply 14 of 23, by chinny22

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That was a long (but enjoyable) intro 😀

I'm like you and enjoy maxing out hardware components like RAM even if it hurts performance.
Truth is that small percentage isn't going to be the difference between something been playable or not and even if it is, I've always got another faster build to use instead.
I wouldn't have been able to resist and gone with SLI setup as well 😉

Also like you I agree about Win9x. It's a great OS been able to cover both dos and Windows gaming.
But unless I have computability issues (only about 5 games) I now prefer to use Windows 2000.

I've a soft spot for NT4 even if it's not the most useful OS in this day and age.

I used NT3.51 for the first time last year and enjoyed playing around with it. My plan was to use it to deploy software to a Win95 PC as that came out in the same year but life got in the way.
NT3.51 Just turned 25 Today!

As you seem to like experimenting you know the Virge gives you S3D and the few games that support it and good match for a Pentium MMX
3D Accelerated Games List (Proprietary APIs - No 3DFX/Direct3D)

NT3.51 Just turned 25 Today!

Reply 15 of 23, by dr_st

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Very nice system. /me is jealous. 😀

I still have a P200 MMX CPU, but no working motherboard to put it on, and probably not much to do with, if I had...

https://cloakedthargoid.wordpress.com/ - Random content on hardware, software, games and toys

Reply 16 of 23, by Tetrium

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May I ask what the blue "Handcrafted" box is in your pic of big box Windows packages?
I can't remember ever having seen such a thing.

Same thing with the Commemorative Edition, really nice to see!

Afaic feel free to share more pics of your Windows boxes 😜

Whats missing in your collections?
My retro rigs (old topic)
Interesting Vogons threads (links to Vogonswiki)
Report spammers here!

Reply 17 of 23, by Intel486dx33

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The 1990's was a Magical time in Silicon Valley. Any computer company who was anyone had to be there.
But It all came crashing down with the Dot.com bust of 2000's.
MONOPOLIES brought down Silicon Valley Tech sector.
Silicon Valley Never recovered since then.

Reply 18 of 23, by Wilczek_h

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@gerry: thank you 😀

@Gmlb256: I see, thank you for the response. If I may ask: why did not you just build another computer with the K6-2+ CPU and also keep the P1 machine? 😀 Btw., did you experience issues with some software when you used a 75MHz FSB speed?

@chinny22: thank you 😀. I enjoyed very much your NT 3.51 thread, you conducted a really cool experiment. In one of your comment you mentioned that quote: "I'm surprised how many people are saying their schools had a NT3 server. Did the education system get it cheap?". Our secondary school was originally on Netware, sometime later everything was migrated to NT4 Servers and Workstations. The whole network and the computers were not maintained by the teachers, but by a MS employee. Later the government made a deal with MS that those who work in the educational sector and students could get MS software for a symbolic price. There were programming competitions sponsored by MS, so if you were good you could win really cool MS big boxes 😀. University students learning computer science also got MSDNAA licenses for free. I do not know how it is nowadays though.
Thanks for the S3D link too.

@dr__st: thank you 😀. You can still get a nice consumer Socket 7 board as well as SDRAMs dirt cheap. With a P200 MMX CPU you would have a lot of options, you could build a very nice DOS gaming machine, or if you like experimenting, you could build a retro server, experiment with other OSs of its time. Or, maybe you would like to push it to its limits and see what the latest software is that it can handle, etc. I think you would have fun once you get into building it 😉.

@Tetrium: that is yet another ebay find, the Windows Vista Ultimate Commemorative Edition. Here are some pictures (click on them to see the larger versions of the images):


Click on this one to see the larger image and read the message on the bottom of the "black" box:

I have a soft spot for Vista (NT 6.0). Even though it was not a commercial success, but under the hood there were tons of improvements and it had most of the things that later made Windows 7 (NT 6.1) successful.

Here is the late W2k release I talked about earlier:

Last, but not least: here is my Windows 1.04 release, still in shrink wrap. This box is huge and very heavy. For comparison I put it next to a 15" MacBook Pro to put it into a perspective:




Intel486dx33: true, however, I think the situation is even worse today. I really do not like where we are heading, the cloud focus, the dependency on online services (even in case of things that you could have offline some years back) and the Google and Apple duopoly (is it really a duopoly?) in the mobile segment. Do you remember Symbian, Blackberry, Windows Mobile 5.0/6.x and then the new iOS and Android platforms? You could choose from 5 OSs at least. While on one hand today's mobile stores give you a somewhat safe and easy distribution of software, but software can be pulled any time from the store or store access can be revoked any time too. With my WM6.0 powered HTC TyTN 2 for example I can just execute the CABs (installer) of the software I used back then after a potential reset and call it a day (and I could still write sw for it if I wanted to). And yes, I even bought software for WM6.0 back then, so it was not impossible to distribute software without a store and I can still have the installer for later use 😀. I am also not a fan of online stores that require you to run a client. GoG from this perspective is awesome. But these are just my 2 cents, feel free to disagree 😀.

Reply 19 of 23, by Caluser2000

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Them dayz youz hadz real manualz.

There's a glitch in the matrix.
A founding member of the 286 appreciation society.
Apparently 32-bit is dead and nobody likes P4s.
Of course, as always, I'm open to correction...😉