First post, by VDNKh
Like some of you, I saw MattKC's video What's the fastest (officially supported) Windows 98 PC? and it captured my imagination. "I'll bet I can build one better than he can".
So I began picking parts of my own. While I couldn't find any motherboards that support the C2D E8600 and Windows 98, I did find a few that support the Pentium E6800 which single core performance was just as good (without overclocking). My main goal for this build is 98 gaming, as I'll describe in the parts I picked below:
Motherboard: ASRock 4COREDUAL-SATA2 R2.0
This ponderous thing has both PCI-e 4x and AGP 8x, both DDR and DDR2, and supports the E6800 I want to use. Technically it doesn't officially support Windows 98, but the VIA chipset has 98 drivers, as well as the NIC and USB 2.0 (Woo fast transfers). The on-board audio isn't supported (I'm using a sound card anyway), and neither are the SATA ports. They may work with RLoew's patch, and maybe works in RAID mode with RAID drivers, haven't tested it.
Edit: Works in RAID mode, but not with EMM386 loaded!
Edit2: EMM386 works with D000-D3FFF excluded.
CPU: Intel Pentium E6800
Highest single core performance without overclocking that this board supports. This motherboard's FSB overclocks pretty poorly, and an X6800 can be expensive. A QX6800 would automatically downclock my motherboard's FSB by 5%, but since I'm only using one core I could feasibly raise the FSB back up, and get that sweet 8MB cache. For now this is what I settled with. With a pretty small TDP, I have an ARCTIC Freezer 11 LP CPU cooler. With only a single core ever active the temps are very low, around
50 60 C, even when running Prime95.
RAM: 2x256MB Kingston KVR667D2N5/256
In an effort to avoid patching, I'm sticking to 512MB of RAM to keep it kosher. They're actually clocked to 533MHz (1:1 ratio) since I read that this chipset's memory controller seems to prefer 533MHz over 667MHz. Haven't gone too deep into optimizing the memory timings yet.
Side note: 256 MB sticks of DDR2 are hard to come by these days.
Edit: Timings are now 3-3-2-5 tRFC: 15T CR :1T 4-way interleave @ 576MHz.
Edit 2: Previous timing was slightly unstable. Loosened to 3-3-3-5 fixed it.
Alt. RAM: 2x1GB A-Tech DDR2 PC-5300 667MHz
Timings: 3-3-3-5 tRFC: 21T CR: 1T 4-way interleave @ 576MHz.
GPU: Gainward FX5950 Ultra Gold Sample
This is the second fastest FX series GPU you can buy, the fastest being the liquid cooled variant of this card. Caught it on eBay when looking for GPUs on a whim, I don't want to say how much it was. I went with the FX series over the 6000 series for better game compatibility. I edited the 45.23 Nvidia drivers to work on this card to maximize compatibility as well. This was a requirement for the NFS games and Thief.
When it first arrived I benchmarked it to see if it was defective or not. While the electronics were fine, the original thermal paste was way past its prime. I was getting temperatures of above 110 C. Very carefully, I removed the epoxied thermal blocks and cleaned off any residue on the card and blocks. I had to soak the blocks in acetone to get all the epoxy off. After that fresh paste was applied and it was benchmarked again. The fan's bearings were also worse for wear. They had to be popped back into their correct position by squeezing them into the shroud. I guess years of spinning upside down will dislodge it slowly. Cleaned out the used grease with WD40 and left it at that. Now I get temps in the 90 C range.
Edit: Installed the ARCTIC NV Silencer 4. Temps are still around 90 C, but at least its quiet.
Alt. GPU: XFX 7950 GT
Storage: 64GB KingSpec IDE SSD
Another technical oddity in this build. Apparently these were made for some high end ThinkPads back in the day. Mixed reviews online about their reliability but so far it's been working great. All the benefits of an SSD without messing with SATA patches or a PATA to SATA converter. All I needed was a special adapter to go from the slim laptop IDE form factor to the regular desktop form factor. 64 GB to keep it a kosher as possible with 98's installer.
Sadly the adapter I have has a 40 pin ribbon cable instead of an 80 pin so I'm losing out on a lot of bandwidth. I've ordered a different adapter that doesn't include the ribbon cable already attached. Once I get it I'll post benchmarks.
Sound Card: Creative Sound Blaster Live! 5.1 Sb0100
Got this on recommendations that it was very widely supported and easy to acquire. It works great... After I battled with getting the drivers and BIOS and IRQ settings to work in harmony.
I used the drivers PCL recommended initially, but that caused a BSOD whenever I tried to install the SB16 emulator. Commenting out the SB16 driver from the .ini file did the trick but now DOS games don't have sound. Eventually I installed the drivers for the Audigy outlined in this thread, which fixed the SB16 issue, after fiddling with the IRQ allocations. With custom soundfonts to boot too. The other issue this card had was lots of popping and clicking whenever EAX was enabled. Resolved that issue (after LOTS of trail and error) by locking the PCI bus' clock.
Edit: The audio popping and clicking was only an issue with the drivers from PCL's site. Audigy drivers are fine with the PCI bus synced to the CPU clock.
Edit2: Had some audio screeching whenever it was playing sound while accessing the hard drive. Fixed by reverting "V-Link Speed" from Fast to Normal.
I still can't get CD audio to work. VxD or WDM drivers both produce no sound, not even with CD digital audio that WDM drivers offer. Windows will detect an audio CD and play it, but no sound is made. The analog audio cable I know is good after I tested it with a multimeter. So now I'm wondering if it's an issue with the card or with the DVD drive I have.
Edit: This ASUS drive cannot read Redbook audio CDs.
Case: Cooler Master MasterBox E500L
Not a lot to say, other then it looked kinda like a retro-futuristic late 90s computer case. I think it looks awesome, and unique amongst the army of black monolith style computer cases we have now. The 2 front USB 3.0 ports are wired to the motherboard with a 3.0 to 2.0 adapter. Both ports work perfectly.
Optical Drive: NEC ND-3550A
A pretty generic 48x CD DVD RW drive with a 2MB cache.
Optical Drive: ASUS DRW 22B2S
Not a lot to say here either. It matches the color of the case. It's a good IDE DVD drive. CD audio might be broken though.
Work to do
I think the coin battery is dying, it looses time pretty quickly. I need a better adapter for the SSD so I can use an 80 pin IDE cable. The rear system fan is powered by a molex adapter attached ahead of the 5950, I'm getting a fan splitter cable to make the interior a little neater and (maybe?) give the 5950 more stable power. I also want to get a SATA power to molex adapter (that feels wrong typing that out) so the 5950 doesn't get (possible) power interruptions from the DVD drive or SSD. I'm also going to try S/PDIF out on my DVD drive to try and get CD audio working. New cooler for the GPU (NV Silencer 4 when I can find one), replace grease in the bearings on the stock cooler. Acquired.
Second KingSpec SSD for an alternate 98 install maybe?
Diagnose AGP/GART memory issue in 98.
Experiment with PCIe cards in Windows 98. (6800 GS or GT) GeForce 7950 GT works great!
Get a new sound card. Probably an Audigy 2.
I know you want them. I'll run more once I dial in better memory timings and higher clocks on the CPU and GPU. I'll also post hard drive benchmarks once I get an IDE adapter that supports an 80 pin ribbon cable. For now this is what I got.