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Cheapest "retro" gaming PC you have?

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First post, by harddrivespin

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Creating this thread as proof you don't need to spend the US gold reserves on a 9x/DOS gaming PC. My cheapest is my SS7 9x gaming PC. It has a fairly standard Super Socket 7 AGP Ali5 motherboard, Cyrix 6x86MX @ 333mhz, a Rage 128 (with VGA, video, and composite video output), 262mb of PC100 SDRAM (the 2x 64mb sticks cost 6 bucks, 132mb stick was already installed), some Creative AWE64 card, a 4.1gb PATA HDD, a bog-standard 1.44mb FDD, an ATX 350w PSU, and a RICOH MP9060 DVD drive which Windows 2000 does not want to detect.

I removed the original ASUS 50 speed since the molex connector broke and added the RICOH from a free, dead PC. I also added a 350w PSU instead of a 250w one to make sure I got all the power I needed. I also added a Modem PCI card and two extra sticks of ram. This entire PC was bought and altered for the hefty price of 13 bucks. Note this guy was bought off **ebay** (I kid you not) so it is really unusual to find old PCs so cheap.

What cheap retro PC do you guys have?

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Reply 1 of 25, by cyclone3d

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You actually have 256MB of RAM.

RAM goes like this.

8 bits = 1 Byte
1024 bytes = 1 Kilobyte
1024 Kilobytes = 1 Megabyte

256MB = 268,438,456 Bytes, or 262,144 KB (which is what your POST screen will show)

Last edited by cyclone3d on 2017-12-20, 17:09. Edited 1 time in total.

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Reply 3 of 25, by sf78

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All my retro PC's are cheap. Most I've ever paid was 20e for a Compaq Portable II and in hindsight even that seemed a bit too much. Most I'm usually willing to pay is 15e for a working desktop/tower and 10e for untested one if it comes with all the basic cards and drives (ports, display, floppy etc.). If i was to put one of the midi cards in them then yes, the price would quadruple, but on the other hand I could as well use one of the cheaper Sound Blaster cards that didn't really cost me anything if I bought a box of them for 15e. As I've had a lucky streak this past year I still believe there are some great finds out there if you check your local recycling center and classifieds.

Reply 4 of 25, by Katmai500

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Free. I started collecting old computers in the early 2000's when 486 and Pentium systems were being thrown out or given away like crazy. I also worked at an electronics retailer in 2007~2011 that offered free electronics recycling and had pretty much carte blanche to take any interesting parts I wanted. Unfortunately by that point most computers being recycled were early XP-era machines. I ended up with a few boxes worth of motherboards, RAM, CPUs, and expansion cards from that job. Storage was a bit of a problem at the time, so I never saved any of the cases. 😢 It was actually shocking to me to discover recently how rare AT cases have become. I get sad thinking about all the AT cases I'd save if I could go back in time.

Reply 5 of 25, by Unknown_K

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It is pretty easy to find older rigs cheap/free if you are not too picky about what is inside them. Over the years I have snagged a ton of machines for free or little money but most of them would not be gaming rigs. For gaming rigs I tend to need specific audio and video cards so there is some searching and money involved finishing them up (until I get bored and redo them).

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Reply 6 of 25, by clueless1

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Almost all of my retro PCs were free. Really the only time I spent money on a PC was for my 486 (because, 486!). I got lucky and bought a motherboard/cpu/ram combo for $38. I spent maybe $40 more here and there to get it up and running. And I did buy some PCI video cards for my Pentium PC (mostly for benchmarking purposes). Everything else was free or was mine from back in the day.

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Reply 7 of 25, by xjas

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I tend to get systems for free and then spend the money on making them work. Maybe those "freebies" aren't such a good deal after all...

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Reply 8 of 25, by gdjacobs

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Most of my parts are free pickups. I tend to use IDE-SATA adapters, so I've purchased one for most of my machines.

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Reply 9 of 25, by KCompRoom2000

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harddrivespin wrote:

What cheap retro PC do you guys have?

Due to living in a town that rarely seeks any retro systems being given away for free, I've only gotten a few of my systems for free (although only one is "purely retro"), everything else was bought at a cheap/reasonable amount of money. (You guys are lucky to have gotten most of your stuff for free. 🤣 )

Here are some stories about a few of the cheapest retro machines that I've come across:

- iMac G3/DV 400 - Was given to me for free by a friend who bought a new computer, it was originally graphite but the owners painted a leopard pattern on part of the case (I don't mind that modification), the only real issue was the DVD-ROM drive's eject mechanism is broken so I have to run a paper clip through the slot to make it eject. It's still a great little OS9 machine.

- Compaq Presario 2100 (the desktop from 1997, not the early-2000s laptop in case you were wondering) - Was bought on eBay for $5, it was in beat-up condition when it came, but it still works great, the only repairs I had to do were rebuild the front panel and replace both the floppy and CD drives (because you know the stock CD-ROM drive was complete shit due to not being able to read CD-Rs). It was a pretty lucky score considering those systems are rare and sought after.

- Dell Inspiron 8000 - Was bought a RE-PC (a local recycling center) for $20, all it needed were parts to make it complete since it was missing the hard drive, floppy drive, RAM, and RAM cover, the store had a few of the needed parts (specifically the RAM cover, the hard drive caddy & connector, and the modular bay floppy drive) in stock, everything else was already in my parts bin. Once I got it up and running, it became a nice little Windows ME gaming laptop.

Reply 10 of 25, by brostenen

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The cheapest I have, is my Unisys PW/2 Series 300. It is an old 286/640k-Ram/20mb-MFM/EGA-gfx.

It is also the most complete system that I have. It is 100 percent original, down to the original optical mouse and a mint condition original manual with system disks. As of now, it is upgraded with parts, yet I still have the original parts if a default configuration is needed. I can always just change it back to original configuration. Also reason why the EGA monitor is the only CRT that I own. Else I use LCD/TFT monitors.

It was free, and is the only system that I have gotten for free. Everything else in my collection, is something that I have paid for. Shure I have gotten parts for free, here and there. Yet a complete free computer, is something that I rarely have gotten.

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Reply 11 of 25, by Deksor

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All my PCs are cheap as well, the highest price I'm used to pay is 20€ for a system (though I can do some exceptions, and the price of a system can increase with the upgrades.)

The cheapest system must be my 386SX (given to me, I only had to pay shipping. Then I added a hdd, a better video card and a sound blaster 2.0 with cms chips) or my 486 DX33 (was given to my family 15 years ago. All I did was to replace the dead hdd, add a sound blaster pro and a 3com network card as well as cache and double the VRAM)

Or maybe that's just the other 486 DX 33 I own, but I don't really count it as I never use it. It's an IBM ps/value with no l2 cache, no sound card and a working maxtor hdd that I got in a lot with 5 other systems, some expansion cards (like a 6MB voodoo 1), mobos , etc that I paid 70€ in total. So if you divide the price, it goes down pretty quickly.

It can be as well one of my two slot 1 (p2 266 and p2 300 from 1997) that I got in a lot with a mac g4, a pentium system (that I sold), with many things like a high end CRT with almost no wear, 5"1/4 floppy disks, scsi disks, an iomega jaz drive, many many sound cards (including a boxed awe64), etc ...

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Reply 12 of 25, by alvaro84

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I cheat so I'm not sure it counts but I work at an e-waste recycling company so most of my retro builds are free. Except when I put one in a case. Cases in good condition are rare to say the least. Nothing's handled with care (understatement of the year) so HDDs and CPUs with bare cores (especially ceramic K7s, they seem to be the most fragile) are way too often damaged.

So I have only two "permanent" builds, a 286 in an AT case I received from a forum mate (it wasn't free so it can't be the cheapest) and a VIA 694T Tualatin P3 in an old ATX one that was just lying around here. Technically it wasn't free either because once we had to buy the PC that used to be in there.

But my test beds are from the scrap.

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Reply 13 of 25, by DeafPK

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I have done my share of cheating aswell, I drove a semi truck for a recycling company and I have hawled tons of e-waste. Sadly most of it was in a rough condition, ranging from three weeks of rainy outdoors to obviously hammered to bits by paranoid ex-owners. I got to nick some goods every now and then, the best being a powerful stereo system from the 80's and a mint and complete 486 VLB with a 21" Eizo from 1993.

The cheapest system in my hoard that I paid for like an honest citizen is the 478 Pentium 4 w/ 9800 pro. Price tag was an ice cream, sandwich ice cream that is.

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Reply 14 of 25, by probnot

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Cheapest system was free (actually the first retro PC I picked up, when I got back into this)... PII-350 in a generic Inwin case.

All other systems have been relatively inexpensive, as I'm not interested in dropping a lot of $$$ into this hobby. Most expensive was a 486 DX4-100 for $60, but that thing is mint and original to when it was bought and was pretty decked out for the time.

Reply 15 of 25, by gdjacobs

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probnot wrote:

Most expensive was a 486 DX4-100 for $60, but that thing is mint and original to when it was bought and was pretty decked out for the time.

Good price for a 486 in working condition let alone mint.

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Reply 16 of 25, by notsofossil

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if laptops count, paid hardly anything for my Thinkpad i1411, Thinkpad 600 (no screen), Toshiba Portege R100 (no screen) and Apple PowerBook G3. My DOS/9x desktop didn't cost much either as the Voodoo 1, ATX case and drives I already had. I can't remember exact prices for the new PSU, SB16 card and ATi Rage II+DVD were, but I'm sure it was under $70 at least. The MT-32 was the best of all, paid $50 for it several years ago.

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Reply 17 of 25, by probnot

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gdjacobs wrote:
probnot wrote:

Most expensive was a 486 DX4-100 for $60, but that thing is mint and original to when it was bought and was pretty decked out for the time.

Good price for a 486 in working condition let alone mint.

My frugality is strong.

Reply 18 of 25, by SW-SSG

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The ThinkPad A30 was originally my brother's, who palmed it off to me after he finished university.

The 440BX desktop was something like ~$130 total for the case, PSU, and NOS board; everything else in it was scavenged from curb'd PCs over the years.