VOGONS


First post, by dada

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Hey all, I've been thinking lately about building a new retro gaming pc. I haven't had a properly working one in some time, and I last looked into retro stuff was some years ago.

I've been looking through the System Specs forum and it seems there's just tons of options and I guess I could use a bit of a starting point.

My primary focus is running Windows 98 (probably with 98lite installed since I'm a fan of the lightweight 95 explorer) and playing DOS games. Something that's still compatible with earlier DOS games as well as later ones. Running later Windows games/XP is not a big requirement if it makes the former more difficult.
I'd be fine with something a bit later (like Pentium 3 or 4) but as I understand it there's a point where it gets less easy to get pure DOS games going on it, right? Also I'm not sure if there's a particular era where it's easier to obtain hardware.

I don't have much, but I do have the following:

  • Radeon 7000 64MB
  • 64MB RAM
  • ISA SB16 card from my o.g. computer in the mid 90s
  • A PicoGUS (this was actually the trigger for me to become interested again)
  • A nice beige ATX case with PSU
  • CRT display, CD/floppy drives/PC speaker

Any advice would be really appreciated, especially what I might be looking for in a motherboard as that's one area in particular where I don't really know anything. Maybe one that also lets me easily replace the battery if needed.
Also, I'm curious, what's used for flash storage these days? Do we still use CF-IDE?
Thanks for any thoughts!

Reply 1 of 14, by Disruptor

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Try to find a cheap 440BX based Pentium III mainboard and don't go for the best CPU.
Pentium IV just consumes so much power, like > 50 Watt even in idle state!

Reply 2 of 14, by dada

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Disruptor wrote on 2023-11-28, 13:02:

Try to find a cheap 440BX based Pentium III mainboard and don't go for the best CPU.
Pentium IV just consumes so much power, like > 50 Watt even in idle state!

Thanks for putting me on this track, I've been digging into it a little bit and it seems like this chipset should work pretty well. All I see is praise for it.

I'm finding quite a few 440BX based mainboards too. I'm guessing there isn't usually that much difference as long as it fits the case and has sufficient slots and such, right?
I'm seeing they come in both Slot 1 and Socket 370 versions, should I have any particular preference for either of those?
Sorry for all the questions, I'm just not very well versed in hardware in general 😀

Reply 3 of 14, by Shponglefan

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Another option to consider for a Windows 98 system is an Athlon XP build.

Less power hungry than the Pentium 4 systems of that era and offered solid performance.

486 DX4-100 with 6 sound cards
486 DX-33 with 5 sound cards
Ultimate Windows XP build

Reply 4 of 14, by Shadzilla

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dada wrote on 2023-11-29, 12:31:
Thanks for putting me on this track, I've been digging into it a little bit and it seems like this chipset should work pretty we […]
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Disruptor wrote on 2023-11-28, 13:02:

Try to find a cheap 440BX based Pentium III mainboard and don't go for the best CPU.
Pentium IV just consumes so much power, like > 50 Watt even in idle state!

Thanks for putting me on this track, I've been digging into it a little bit and it seems like this chipset should work pretty well. All I see is praise for it.

I'm finding quite a few 440BX based mainboards too. I'm guessing there isn't usually that much difference as long as it fits the case and has sufficient slots and such, right?
I'm seeing they come in both Slot 1 and Socket 370 versions, should I have any particular preference for either of those?
Sorry for all the questions, I'm just not very well versed in hardware in general 😀

Slot 1 would give you the option to run older/slower Pentium II CPUs if you wanted to down the road. Most Slot 1 boards support a 'slocket' adapter to run a Socket 370 chip too, so that covers later faster Pentium IIIs.

Reply 5 of 14, by florian3

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Shadzilla wrote on 2023-11-29, 16:03:
dada wrote on 2023-11-29, 12:31:
Thanks for putting me on this track, I've been digging into it a little bit and it seems like this chipset should work pretty we […]
Show full quote
Disruptor wrote on 2023-11-28, 13:02:

Try to find a cheap 440BX based Pentium III mainboard and don't go for the best CPU.
Pentium IV just consumes so much power, like > 50 Watt even in idle state!

Thanks for putting me on this track, I've been digging into it a little bit and it seems like this chipset should work pretty well. All I see is praise for it.

I'm finding quite a few 440BX based mainboards too. I'm guessing there isn't usually that much difference as long as it fits the case and has sufficient slots and such, right?
I'm seeing they come in both Slot 1 and Socket 370 versions, should I have any particular preference for either of those?
Sorry for all the questions, I'm just not very well versed in hardware in general 😀

Slot 1 would give you the option to run older/slower Pentium II CPUs if you wanted to down the road. Most Slot 1 boards support a 'slocket' adapter to run a Socket 370 chip too, so that covers later faster Pentium IIIs.

But good adapters are not readily available.

Reply 6 of 14, by PhantomEight

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I'm not big on aiming for Windows XP with a retro build. Just about everything that runs on Windows XP will run on a current version of Windows, so for the occasional nostalgia hit, I keep around a Dell XPS M1710 that I bought after college when I landed my first real job. Of course there are random outliers of games, but I don't know any of them. I also have a Athlon X2 system for Windows XP also, but I never use it as it's more of a museum piece.

An Athlon XP based system, as others mentioned, is a great target but for a high end Windows 98/ME machine. The last Windows computer I built for Windows ME was in late 2001, it was my first year in college, just prior to the release of Windows XP. It was a jump from an ASUS CUSL2-C with a Pentium III 800Mhz EB to an ASUS A7V333 with an Athlon XP 2100+.

My goal has been to target DOS, Windows 3.1, and Windows 95/98 in a single machine and then rehab my A7V333/Athlon 2100+ for high end 9X. I have a Slot 1 MATX board and my goal is to use a Klamath based Pentium II 400Mhz as the Klamath based cores are multiplier unlocked. If I really need to and with the current board I have, I can drop the clock to a minimum of 133Mhz and disable cache's to slow things down. I have a Diamond Viper V330 (nVidia Riva 128 based) which has drivers that support Windows 3.1 and 9X and also a PCI Vood00 3 3000... but not sure if I'll use the Voodoo card at all or in this system.

Reply 7 of 14, by Joseph_Joestar

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PhantomEight wrote on 2023-12-01, 15:33:

I'm not big on aiming for Windows XP with a retro build. Just about everything that runs on Windows XP will run on a current version of Windows

One notable advantage of WinXP is native EAX and DirectSound3D support. Microsoft removed that in Vista and later Windows versions.

There are wrappers and other workarounds which can approximate this on modern systems (with more or less success) but to me, EAX always sounds better on real hardware. If you're curious about it, see this thread.

PC#1: Pentium MMX 166 / Soyo SY-5BT / S3 Trio64V+ / Voodoo1 / YMF719 / AWE64 Gold / SC-155
PC#2: AthlonXP 2100+ / ECS K7VTA3 / Voodoo3 / Audigy2 / Vortex2
PC#3: Athlon64 3400+ / Asus K8V-MX / 5900XT / Audigy2
PC#4: i5-3570K / MSI Z77A-G43 / GTX 970 / X-Fi

Reply 8 of 14, by dada

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I've been looking at various options. I'm thinking I'll probably keep it simple and just go with some P3 Slot 1. Couple things I'm looking at:

Asus P2B-S/PIII 850MHz
https://www.ebay.nl/itm/325899712694
https://www.ebay.nl/itm/276157446974

Asus P3B-F/PIII 1GHz
https://www.ebay.nl/itm/115919964588

Still I'm a bit worried because I'm also interested in DOS games, and I wonder how much flexibility I'll have for running those. I've been thinking about it and I think the DOS era is probably more important to me than the Windows 9x era.
I can understand if I can't play the really early ones but I'm wondering what the options would be for slowing the cpu down for like, 93/94 era games on a machine like this. If that's important for me am I maybe better off looking for a PII Slot 1?

From browsing older topics on Vogons I feel like even a PIII should be pretty good for most games except the very earliest (like pre 90s) and specific very timing dependent games though, so maybe it's not something to worry much about.

Reply 9 of 14, by Shponglefan

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Before getting too concerned about speed sensitive titles, I'd have a look at this list: List of CPU speed sensitive games

If the games you want to play aren't on that list, you'll probably be fine even with a faster Pentium III.

I have a Windows 98 build running an Athlon XP 2000+. I've tested with a handful of non-speed sensitive DOS games going back to the original Doom (1993) and it plays them just fine.

If you are planning on playing speed sensitive titles, particularly games from before 1993, then you might want to consider a Socket 7 build with a Pentium MMX or K6-2/K6-3 build. That will still give some overlap with the Windows 9x era of gaming, while giving you more throttling options for speed sensitive DOS games.

486 DX4-100 with 6 sound cards
486 DX-33 with 5 sound cards
Ultimate Windows XP build

Reply 10 of 14, by dada

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Shponglefan wrote on 2023-12-01, 22:22:

Before getting too concerned about speed sensitive titles, I'd have a look at this list: List of CPU speed sensitive games

Thanks, I've been looking through this list. I feel like I'm definitely more interested in the earlier end of DOS/Windows games, so maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to look into PII first.
Most of the solutions for these games is SetMul but I feel like the options are probably too limited to make it work if you have a PIII that's decently fast.

There are PII Slot 1 builds as well though, would you say that a Socket 7 is still better in that case?

Reply 11 of 14, by Shponglefan

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dada wrote on 2023-12-02, 14:25:

Thanks, I've been looking through this list. I feel like I'm definitely more interested in the earlier end of DOS/Windows games, so maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to look into PII first.
Most of the solutions for these games is SetMul but I feel like the options are probably too limited to make it work if you have a PIII that's decently fast.

There are PII Slot 1 builds as well though, would you say that a Socket 7 is still better in that case?

I haven't experimented too much with Pentium II builds, but my understanding is that they can be less flexible when it comes to throttling compared to Socket 7 builds such as Pentium MMX or K6-2+/K6-3+ systems. I believe it depends on the specific models of Pentium II, as earlier models offered unlocked multipliers compared to later models.

There are also games like the Build engine games (e.g. Duke 3D, Blood, Shadow Warrior) which perform better on a Pentium MMX compared to an equivalent Pentium II.

So if you're looking to cover the DOS era of gaming in the 1990s, a Pentium MMX or K6-2+/K6-3+ build will be your best bet. You'll be able to throttle down to 386/486 speeds for early 90s stuff, while still having enough performance for later DOS games from 1996 and 1997. Add in a 3D accelerator for early Win9X 3D games, and you've got a decent system which covers most of the 1990s.

Once you get to the 1998 to 2000 era of gaming, that's when I'd go for a fast Pentium III system.

486 DX4-100 with 6 sound cards
486 DX-33 with 5 sound cards
Ultimate Windows XP build

Reply 12 of 14, by chinny22

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One thing to keep in mind wit BX motherboards is earlier revisions max out with a P3 600 Katmai. Personally I don't find this to be a problem as anything requiring a faster CPU is better on my XP rig anyway but still worth been aware of.

I find a P3 600 (but doesn't hurt to go faster) covers all my WIn9x era gaming and most of my dos gaming as well.
Biggest issue is the Runtime 200 error but this is easily patched. I don't bother with downclocking or slowdown utilities.

For the remaining games that refuse to work, I build a PC to the games demand or just use dosbox. problem is depending on your library its impossible to make every game happy and I find this approach gives me the least messing around if I just want to start playing a game.

Reply 13 of 14, by dada

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I've done a bit more digging the past two days, and I'm thinking of maybe going with this:

PCPartner VIM897S
https://www.ebay.nl/itm/256271755337
It seems nice, it's ATX so it should be compatible with the PSU in my case, it has one ISA slot, and I think I can fit an AMD K6-2 in it.
Although originally I was gonna go for something faster, just thinking about it more I feel like a bit slower build probably fits me better.
For the CPU I'm probably going for something around 266mhz/300mhz, but I'm still looking around a bit.

Reply 14 of 14, by PhantomEight

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Joseph_Joestar wrote on 2023-12-01, 15:56:
PhantomEight wrote on 2023-12-01, 15:33:

I'm not big on aiming for Windows XP with a retro build. Just about everything that runs on Windows XP will run on a current version of Windows

One notable advantage of WinXP is native EAX and DirectSound3D support. Microsoft removed that in Vista and later Windows versions.

There are wrappers and other workarounds which can approximate this on modern systems (with more or less success) but to me, EAX always sounds better on real hardware. If you're curious about it, see this thread.

I completely forgot about EAX and I was one who always had the latest Sound Blaster with the 5.25 bay.