VOGONS


First post, by RJRC

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Hello there.

I decided to take the plunge and get a retro build put together because my work was chucking out a beautiful old beige box and I wanted to rescue it from the skip. I am fairly new to retro PC-ing; my previous retro systems have all been Atari STE varieties. Turned out to be a Celeron SL633 with a bulgy-capped board that didn't work. In fact every part other than the case and the power supply and the stick of RAM was broken, so I got the bits together and assembled my machine. I'm going for a sort of Christmas 1997 build, though at that time I had a 200MMX with no 3D graphics card.

- Intel SE440BX-2 motherboard
- Pentium II 300MHz (I plan to do the overclocking with sliver of tape business later on)
- 128 MB RAM, single stick PC133
- ATI Rage 128 graphics card
- Soundblaster AWE64 (assuming one comes up at a worthwhile price)
- Startech IDE to CompactFlash card (8GB).

I had to replace the floppy drive and optical drive. The former would read disks occasionally then thrash and pack up, the latter was totally gummed up and the motor was burnt out. And couldn't be recognised half the time. Then again, it was literally from a skip so I'm not too surprised.

Eventually once the replacement drives are in place, I find my old Windows 95 install floppy and burn a Win95 OSR2 install CD. It doesn't work because the Win95 boot floppy HAS NO CDROM DRIVER ON IT. I copy across a driver from a DOS boot disk I have that does work, rename it to sample.sys like it is in the config.sys, put in the appropriate MSCDEX call in autoexec.bat, and it now recognises as drive D.

I reboot. It recognises all the drive and the CF card and loads d:\win95\setup.exe just fine. I get to the ersatz Win 3.1 looking install screen. It partitions the CF card successfully and formats it but only to 478 MB for reasons I can't fathom. It tells me "Setup is now preparing the install wizard" with the progress bar. As soon as that gets to 100 percent, I get an error:

"WINSETUP has performed a Segment Load error at (address)"

I continue that and get "SETUP has performed a General Protection Fault at (address)"

Bombs to text mode and tells me to remove all floppy disks and hit key to reboot.

I tried a Win98 install CD as well. This gives me the same error at roughly the same point but from SUWIN rather than WINSETUP. And bombs likewise.

I did some looking around and I find out that faulty RAM may be to blame. I don't see how, the RAM recognises just fine every time at post. I still get a fresh stick and put that in. Same errors.

I am absolutely stuck. Does anyone know why it won't work? It will install and run DOS just fine, and run programs in DOS, but not Windows 95 or 98. Is there any way I can get around this? Is there not, say, a pre-installed Win95 partition anywhere that I can just save out to my CF card with a card reader? Also why won't any fdisk.exe I have let me have more than 478 megabytes on said card even though it's an 8 GB card? Am I just wasting my time?

Incidentally, I have no way of saving new floppy images. I have one of the USB floppy drives on my modern PC and no other systems to do that with. Those USB floppies are worse than useless. They corrupt everything they touch, honestly.

Reply 1 of 15, by jheronimus

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It does feel like you have bad RAM — you're getting errors even before you start to do anything with the hard drive. BIOS doesn't really check the memory for data read/write errors, unfortunately, at least not too thoroughly.

The better way to confirm would be to use memtest (they still host a floppy image for old computers). However, since you say you can't write floppies, maybe just get a different RAM stick to confirm?

As to installation procedure — first, you don't actually need a boot floppy for your system, you can just boot off the install CD — there should be an option for that in your BIOS.

Second — you can actually perform an install from your HDD. Use one of your boot floppies to format the CF card and make it active using fdisk and format. Then use your modern computer to copy the contents of WIN95 or WIN98 directory from your Windows disk to any folder on your CF (I prefer C:\WINDOWS\OPTIONS\CABS, but something like C:\WIN98 will work as well). Actually I prefer doing that with all my PCs as this means that if Windows ever asks you to put in the installation CD after setup, you can just point it to that folder.

Then use your boot floppy (or any other DOS boot floppy), cd to your folder and run setup.exe. You don't need a CD drivers for that as well, because you're not using a CD drive. Windows setup will proceed as usual. The benefit here is that you remove the chance of CD-ROM failure.

Reply 2 of 15, by leonardo

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RJRC wrote on 2022-05-04, 18:17:

...
- Startech IDE to CompactFlash card (8GB).
...

Did you use the Win95/98 FDISK to partition the CompactFlash Card with a FAT32 primary partition? If you have OSR2, FDISK will ask if you want to enable large disk support when you run it. If you have the original release of 95, it will not support a disk that big.

478 MB sounds dubiously close to what the maximum is for FAT16...

[Install Win95 like you were born in 1985!] on systems like this or this.

Reply 3 of 15, by weedeewee

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Did you replace all the electrolytic capacitors?

Right to repair is fundamental. You own it, you're allowed to fix it.
How To Ask Questions The Smart Way
Do not ask Why !

Reply 4 of 15, by RJRC

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I have swapped out the RAM. Same error. The stick of RAM that arrived today was new in box. Same errors.

The fdisk on my Win95 boot floppy won't let me enable large disk sizes I'm afraid. It has a copyright of 1996 on the label though. Similarly when I tried to install Win98 it did the fdisk for me and only did it to 478 MB without giving me any choices whatever.

I have tried both Win95 and Win98 CDs. Both have exactly the same errors.

Would it hurt to use Windows 10 on my current year PC to partition the CF card to FAT32 and then install to that? Or would that just make things worse?

It has been about 20+ years since I attempted an install of Win9x on any system I'm afraid and I forget a lot of things.

Reply 5 of 15, by bZbZbZ

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I think it wouldn't hurt to use your modern PC to format the CF card as FAT32. You might need to use FDISK to set your active partition though.

Actually, my preferred method of installing Win9x is to copy all the installation files (eg the "Win98" folder from the Windows 98 CD) to the hard drive. Then in the retro computer, boot using a Win98 boot disk, navigate to C:\Win98, then run setup.exe. I started doing this back in the day when many of my optical drives were flakey but there are other advantages too (eg when Windows 9x looks for drivers after OS install it won't bug you to insert a CD).

It might be worth using your modern PC to copy the Win98 folder (or 95 equivalent) to the CF card. If it doesn't work out you can still reformat the card and try something else...

Finally, I believe certain older version of FDISK might not support newer features like FAT32. I recommend using a Windows 98 SE boot floppy, even if you're installing Windows 95. You can grab a Win98SE boot floppy here:
https://winworldpc.com/product/microsoft-wind … boot-disk/98-se

Reply 6 of 15, by Horun

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Hmmm there are so many smart members that have dealt with adapting CF to different older systems that think there should be a complete thread on it, or maybe not.
Just spinning ideas around 😀

Hate posting a reply and then have to edit it because it made no sense 😁 First computer was an IBM 3270 workstation with CGA monitor.

Reply 7 of 15, by chinny22

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Sounds more like the CF card been identified incorrectly then ram issue if your only seeing around 500Mb.
First off what size does BIOS think the "hard drive" is? If that's saying 478MB, that's your problem. You can try Autodetect in a newer system to find the geometry or you can use whatide on the machine itself
https://archive.org/details/whatide

Once BIOS has the correct setup fdisk should also report the correct size. Not that it matters for a small 8GB drive. If you use Win98's Fdisk your guaranteed to have the option of been able to setup Fat16 or 32. I prefer doing the partitions myself beforehand then running setup then trusting Win98 setup

Reply 8 of 15, by RJRC

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Okay, I think I've cracked it. For some reason, in the BIOS, the CF card device was defaulting to Logical Block Addressing being disabled. Hence why even Win98 FDISK never gave me the choice to do a FAT32 partition.

Once I'd set that to enabled, restarted, and similar I was able to make a full sized 8GB partition and Win95's installer isn't crashing. Though I needed to insert a product key first but that wasn't a problem.

Now all I need to do is find Rage 128 drivers for Win95 because that wasn't on my Win95 CD. Then find a sound card at a reasonable price and get that podged in. Then a nice period accurate CRT. And then clear some space to put it (I might have to shovel my Mega STE across a bit and get another desk) and then I'll be ready to go!

Thanks lads.

Reply 9 of 15, by bofh.fromhell

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RJRC wrote on 2022-05-04, 18:17:

- Intel SE440BX-2 motherboard
- Pentium II 300MHz (I plan to do the overclocking with sliver of tape business later on)

Before doing the B21 taping make sure your P2 is actually capable of reaching 450MHz.
If its a Klamath then forget about it, Deschutes on the other hand and your good to go.
The sSpec number is printed on the CPU casing:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Intel_P … microprocessors

And while your in there reading on the CPU you should check if the memory can handle 100MHz.
There might even be a sticker on the RAM stick(s) noting what it is.
"PC66" and there's a chance 100MHz will be unstable.

Reply 10 of 15, by RJRC

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bofh.fromhell wrote on 2022-05-06, 20:13:
Before doing the B21 taping make sure your P2 is actually capable of reaching 450MHz. If its a Klamath then forget about it, Des […]
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RJRC wrote on 2022-05-04, 18:17:

- Intel SE440BX-2 motherboard
- Pentium II 300MHz (I plan to do the overclocking with sliver of tape business later on)

Before doing the B21 taping make sure your P2 is actually capable of reaching 450MHz.
If its a Klamath then forget about it, Deschutes on the other hand and your good to go.
The sSpec number is printed on the CPU casing:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Intel_P … microprocessors

And while your in there reading on the CPU you should check if the memory can handle 100MHz.
There might even be a sticker on the RAM stick(s) noting what it is.
"PC66" and there's a chance 100MHz will be unstable.

It is a Klamath. SL2HA.

Bugger.

I might be able to, once I've got all the drivers etc, put it up to 333 MHz in the BIOS just to eke a little bit more from it. I think I'd assumed that since it was supposedly in effect the same part as the Celeron 300A which you could do that with and which was notorious for it to the point that it cannibalised full fat Pentium II sales.

Oddly enough it has the weirdest cooler I've seen. The heatsink was big and made of looping fins rather than the stubby fins that most Slot 1 PIIs I've seen had, and the fan went on the side. It wouldn't fit in the slot because of the side mounted fan (interfered with the stands) so I took the fan off and lashed it to the front of the cooler instead. I've never seen anything quite like it to be fair.

The RAM is PC133 though. It was the one usable part from the skip machine other than the case and power supply. I've replaced it anyhow though just to be on the safe side.

Reply 11 of 15, by Meatball

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Getting Compact Flash to work on the SE440BX-2 board is a pain if you aren't aware of its quirks. Review this thread in which I supplied exact instructions on how to get it working. The instructions are on PAGE 2 but read the thread in its entirety to avoid needless headaches. In short, you need to disable LBA support after formatting (and IDE autodetection for the Compact Flash card completely). You can ignore the 473MB report from DOS/FDISK.

Can't make Compact Flash work on Intel SE440BX2

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Reply 12 of 15, by RJRC

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Thanks Meatball, I made it go just fine now. Win95 working and Rage 128 drivers downloaded and podged on.

I think I'll put it into hibernation until the sound card etc is in place. And I've a place to put it to show it off.

Reply 13 of 15, by bZbZbZ

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RJRC wrote on 2022-05-07, 09:54:

Thanks Meatball, I made it go just fine now. Win95 working and Rage 128 drivers downloaded and podged on.

I think I'll put it into hibernation until the sound card etc is in place. And I've a place to put it to show it off.

Nice! Glad to hear you solved the issues. 😀

Reply 14 of 15, by AlexZ

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Sometimes rather than overclocking a low speed PII it may be better to get a PII 400 and set FSB 66-100 based on your need. You can get PII 266 for DOS games that need it or PII 400. PII 400 is very cheap. Due to low speed, PII 400 is suitable for early Windows games only up to 1999. PIII 600 extends that limit by one year.

I would get Riva TNT2 for that rig as it has better DOS compatibility than ATI Rage 128 and is faster in Direct 3D.

8GB isn't much for PII. Old BIOSes will have 32GB limit which is much more acceptable. One can use two HDDs if needed.

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Reply 15 of 15, by RJRC

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AlexZ wrote on 2022-05-07, 21:33:

Sometimes rather than overclocking a low speed PII it may be better to get a PII 400 and set FSB 66-100 based on your need. You can get PII 266 for DOS games that need it or PII 400. PII 400 is very cheap. Due to low speed, PII 400 is suitable for early Windows games only up to 1999. PIII 600 extends that limit by one year.

I would get Riva TNT2 for that rig as it has better DOS compatibility than ATI Rage 128 and is faster in Direct 3D.

8GB isn't much for PII. Old BIOSes will have 32GB limit which is much more acceptable. One can use two HDDs if needed.

The 200MMX I had at the time had a 3.2 GB hard drive and that machine lasted to roughly September 2001 when we got our first WinXP box. I don't recall it running out of hard drive. Though by about 1999 it was struggling a little bit. It had difficulty with Unreal Tournament though it could comfortably run Tiberian Sun, Alpha Centauri, and Tomb Raider 4. Baldur's Gate II and some other 2000 and later games were right out though.

My plan is to get this sorted then maybe in a couple years once the 2000s are considered truly "retro" to see if I can beg my mother for her gorgeous old WinXP box from 2003 that she still has laying around but not using. Pentium 4 Northwood and Nvidia Geforce 4. It was one of those prebuilts that was from what I call the Grey Era. When PCs had stopped with the beige of the 1990s but hadn't settled on the ubiquitous black of current year. They were usually dark grey or silver, and in really chonky cases usually with twin optical drives (one DVD read only and one CD-RW) and a custom faceplate with a gap for the floppy or a sort of flap arrangement over the drives. Though I may consider rejigging that with an Athlon of some sort. I had a first-gen 1.5 GHz P4 in that 2001 WinXP system referred to above and it was a painful experience and made me do the Crying Behind Mask Wojak as it got its pants beaten off by my mate's 800 MHz Athlon.

God the Pentium 4 was awful.

After that I had a succession of craptops until building my first "modern" desktop in 2012.