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Ideal PC for maximum old game compatibility?

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First post, by Carrera

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I just moved to a new place with more space and was wondering what PC/Laptop would allow me max compatibility to run old games. By old I mean something coded for a 386 up to earlier Win95 titles.
I figure specs would be:
Penitum 233 MMX (or similar)
64 MB RAM
2 to 8 GB Hard drive iwth at least one FAT16 partition
Real ISA soundblaster 16-bit sound card
15" Monitor
Any VESA compliant graphics card with a a nice voodoo add-on card, probably Voodoo 2
CD-ROM: The slowest I can find with the best error correction
OS: Windows 95 OSR2 and lots of DOS boot disks
Have I overlooked anything?
Is there a Laptop that would fit the bill that you know of off-hand?
Thanks..

Reply 1 of 61, by Dominus

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Pentium 233 might already be too fast and will require patches for that Borland or Turbo-Pascal (not sure which) speed problem.

monitor size doesn't matter, I'd say use as big as you can get.

OS: take care which direct X you install. Some games are said to have problems with newer DX versions.

I'm not sure if a laptop would be ideal. Some laptops have strange configuartions and EMS problems but that might just be problems with newer ones.

Reply 2 of 61, by Snover

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Tough one. You won't be able to run really old stuff with that box. Even relatively new old stuff will be a challenge.

My suggestion:
486/66DX2 or DX4, or P100. That of course would not allow many Win95 games to work, although I DID have Win95 installed on a P100 and it worked pretty decently (insofar that it wasn't excrutiating but still not fast).
64MB RAM. Good for pretty much everything. 32MB would probably be more than adequate as well.
Now, there are several problems with hard drives. Problem one is that some CD-ROM games have issues with CD-ROM drives that aren't on logical drive D: so you shouldn't have more than one partition. Problem two is that some games have issues with drives that are larger than 2GB. Problem three is that most early BIOSes have issues with hard drives larger than 8.4GB. I'd go with one 2GB drive and one 8.4GB drive, so that you could just unplug the 8.4 gigger if you had a CD-ROM game bitching about not being on drive D. (I have at least one -- The Last Dynasty by Sierra. Supposedly they would send an updated CD that didn't have this problem but by the time I got the game they were dead).
Sound Blaster AWE32 ISA. Wavetable MIDI, with full SB16 support.
Video card, doesn't really matter as long as it's VESA-compliant. I wouldn't recommend any Voodoo cards though, especially since chances are this box won't have any PCI slots.
CD-ROM: Four-speed is good. Really, you don't need a 1X drive, just try to find one that hasn't been used (or at least, used a lot).
Don't forget some cheap tinny stereo speakers to round out the experience. The AWE32 even has a 4W amp in it, so you can use unpowered ones.

Side note, as I watch television:
"Rock Your Body" by Justin Timberlake is one of THE WORST SONGS I'VE EVER HEARD next to Brandy's "What About All About!!" AGGH!

Yes, it’s my fault.

Reply 3 of 61, by Qbix

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a P100 with 16mb 😀
My dad got one of those.
win95 runs fine on it. (honestly) those were the good days
a pci videocard: with a nice oak bios on it (not too complicated:)

1 gb hd

an isa soundcard for max compatibility

Water flows down the stream
How to ask questions the smart way!

Reply 5 of 61, by Carrera

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Thanks for the info guys! Actually my first PC ever was a P75 with 8MB of RAM running Win95. At work we still had DOS and Win 3.11 for workgroups so I had to ride both highways for a long time.
A friend just offered me a P100 so I think I might go for it!
THANKS!
-Carrera

Reply 6 of 61, by Carrera

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A friend is offering me this:
Pentium PS processor running at 100 MHz
with 16 MB of RAM, cache = 256 KB & a 950 MB hard disk drive
with a quad-speed CD-ROM drive capable of playing music CDs (but without a burner)
and a 16-bit stereo sound blaster card
and a Diamond Stealth PCI SVGA graphics card with 1 MB memory
and a 14.4 Kbps internal fax/modem
with DOS version 6.22
and Windows for Workgroups version 3.11 and complete MS-Office package version 5.0
plus a black/white Canon bubble jet printer model BJ10e

Brings back memories...

Reply 7 of 61, by HunterZ

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I think I would like a couple of different rigs for playing old games, depending on how new the games are:

For really old games I'd like:
CPU: something between a 386DX-33 and a 486DX4-120. Most of the games made for 286s and lower would run fine using slowdown utilities or other hacks.
RAM: somewhere around 16MB would be fine.
Video: a 512KB ISA SVGA card at minimum, 2MB PCI/VLB at maximum (with VESA 2.x support)
Storage: probably somewhere between 512MB and 1GB would be fine because the CD-ROM games back then didn't need to use much hard drive space. A 4x or higher CD-ROM drive would be good too, along with 5.25" and 3.5" high-density floppy drives.
Sound: i have lots of old sound cards, so I might put in a SB16 or an AWE64 Gold. I could even use one of my SB16's as a controller for a CD-ROM drive I think (I don't know how good the IDE controller on those is though because I've never tried to use them)
OS: DOS 6.2x and maybe Windows 3.1 or 3.11 for the few Windows games that existed back then.
Other: A nice old 15" monitor should suffice, since old DOS games didn't use anything higher than 640x480. 320x200 graphics look super-blocky on 17" and larger monitors 😉 Serial or PS/2 mouse (2+ buttons) and AT or PS/2 keyboard.

For newer old games I'd like:
CPU: something between a P133 and a P266. A bit lower might work but I wouldn't want to go higher because games like Daggerfall can't deal too well with it even with slowdown utilities.
RAM: 32MB should be about right. 64 at maximum.
Video: 1MB PCI at the very least, but a 2MB or better card would be nice (they're cheap anyways). It may even be fun to throw in a 3dfx Voodoo2 for the DOS Glide games I missed out on.
Storage: 1GB at the very least because I'll almost certainly want to do full installs of one or more CD-ROM games. Maybe an old 6GB drive would do nicely. A 16x or higher CD-ROM drive would be good too, as well as a 3.5" floppy drive.
Sound: Same as the other computer. I might consider putting in a PCI card (like an SB PCI128 or SB Live! Value) if it doesn't give me too much trouble (that way I could play Win9x DirectX games and MP3s)
OS: Win9x (95 OSR2, or 98SE probably) on a FAT32 partition, and maybe a dual- or floppy-booted DOS 6.2x with a FAT16 partition in case some games or hardware can't deal with DOS 7 or FAT32.
Other: At least a 15" monitor...Might want to be able to do 800x600 or even 1024x768 in a few games and in Windows. PS/2 mouse (2+ buttons) and keyboard.

Other toys I'd like to have: A Roland MT-32 synth module, a Gravis Ultrasound (GUS) ISA card, and one of those ISA Roland Sound Canvas-like cards (or maybe an external Sound Canvas synth module). Some fancy joysticks might be fun, although I've never been too much into flight simluators (except for stuff like the X-Wing series). Connecting everything via a LAN would be handy too (although getting a DOS box, a Win9x box, a WinXP box, and who knows what else to talk to each other would probably be quite a challenege on the software side). Oh, a Dolby Pro Logic decoder would be fun to play with too because a lot of the video sequences in games are recorded in Dolby Surround (I had a cheap Radio Shack surround decoder once and the opening movies for the Baldur's Gate games and Icewind Dale sounded mega-cool with that third sound channel in the rear)

Reply 8 of 61, by DOS_Boy

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I'm waiting for Dosbox to be perfect, so i can run all my old games on my athlon 2200... It's almost there!!!

"But listen to me brother, you just keep on walking, 'cause you and me and sister ain't got nothing to hide..." - Scatman John

Reply 9 of 61, by DOS_Boy

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I'm waiting for Dosbox to be perfect, so i can run all my old games on my athlon 2200... It's almost there!!!

"But listen to me brother, you just keep on walking, 'cause you and me and sister ain't got nothing to hide..." - Scatman John

Reply 10 of 61, by DOS_Boy

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Alright, I'm getting there... I just got an almost pretty new 486 DX4-100 from my cousin... It's loaded with 8mb Ram, 700mb HD Quantum and a Sound Blaster 16 ISA PnP... AWESOME MACHINE!!! 🤣
I installed DOS 6.22 and Windows 3.11 for workgroups on it... Man.. Thoses really were the gold days...

"But listen to me brother, you just keep on walking, 'cause you and me and sister ain't got nothing to hide..." - Scatman John

Reply 11 of 61, by DosFreak

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Why Win 3.11? Why not Windows 9x?

98SE runs alright on a DX4100 with 98lite ran on it.

DOSBox Compilation Guides
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PC Game Compatibility List
How To Ask Questions The Smart Way
Running DRM games offline

Reply 12 of 61, by DOS_Boy

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Way too slow dude, don't forget it's got great 8mb of RAM... 🤣... heheh

"But listen to me brother, you just keep on walking, 'cause you and me and sister ain't got nothing to hide..." - Scatman John

Reply 14 of 61, by Sintan

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i'm also building a retro machine.
what about motherboard?
whats the best mobo to use with a 486dx4-100?

"I suppose your wandering why your lying in a bath of rare herbs and spices" - Bad Taste

Reply 15 of 61, by HunterZ

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DOS_Boy: I ran Win95 of an AMD 486DX4-120 w/16MB of RAM (or maybe it was more like 20?) for a while and it worked fine. I was able to play Daggerfall from Win95 while my BBS ran in the background 😀

I remember though that I couldn't play games like Dink Smallwood on it because it was too slow for what passed at the time for high-end Windows games. It might have been the Diamond Viper VLB card that I had, but it was just as likely the fact that everyone else had Pentiums by that time.

Sintan: Anything you can scrape up should work fine, although I'd recommend a board with PCI slots and the ability to support as much RAM as possible (I don't know what the max is for a 486, but you'll want 16MB as a bare minimum)

Reply 16 of 61, by CraigG

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I recently got given 4 old ACER desktop PC's.
2 of them are Pentium 233 MMX machines, with integrated ATI Rage II c video, perfect for old DOS games. 128Mb, Vibra 16 soundcards, and 2 gig HD's.
One of the other machines is a Pentium 2 266, 128Mb, same Rage II c as above, vibra 16 soundcard, 2 gig HD.
But the real gem of them all is a Celeron 300, 256Mb, 4 gig HD, same integrated Rage video. No sound, so I stuck in my old huge AWE32 + Yamaha DB50 (one of THE best midi cards ever), and my old Diamond monster Voodoo2 8Mb. But the real gem of this PC is that it's totally passively cooled, even the PSU. And the only sound coming from it is from the spinning HD. A far cry from the above PCs, which have very loud, knackered fans.

I've hooked it up to my old Sony 14" almost flat screen monitor, a wireless MS PS/2 mouse + keyboard, and shoved on Dos 6.22, and Win98.
I can then sit back and relax, a few feet away on my armchair, and fire up some POD. Marvelous 😁

Athlon 64 3000+ stock
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Reply 17 of 61, by HunterZ

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That sounds cool... I think I might want to go for something older though, like a Pentium in the double-digit CPU speed range so that I could play some of the DOS titles that are just a little beyond DOSBox's range. I should turn my PIII-550 into a DOS box though so I can run Battlespire 😀 It's too fast to run Daggerfall properly though.

Reply 18 of 61, by DOS_Boy

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A little update for my l33t. I was blessed with a cry from heaven too. and what was given me from above is, and this is real l33t, an AMD K6 266 with 32mb(SDRAM PC-66) and a 1mb PCI Trident on it. i just need some low 20gb or lower hard disk to put on it. And this time it's gonna be filled with the all mighty win98se for my old games. 😁

"But listen to me brother, you just keep on walking, 'cause you and me and sister ain't got nothing to hide..." - Scatman John

Reply 19 of 61, by Karpo_007

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I too have considered putting together a real Dos Box. I have a few questions, I hope someone can answer.

I'm hoping to put together a box wich could run classic adventure games from Lucas and Sierra and also be able to run games like the Crusader series smoothly. I used to have a 486 DX4 100mhz with 24mb of Ram and I remember crusader having some slowdowns with it. So I'm looking to get a faster CPU, maybe a P75 or P100. Would that cause problems with older games, and if so could those problems be solved with slowdown programs?

What kind of Video card would be suitable? I found a PCI card, Diamond Stealth 64 3200 with S3 vision 968 chip on it, would this card do the job?

If I have understood correctly, I should get an ISA soundcard. Is there any soundcard that would have even nearly as good midi support as MT-32 synth? How does Awe 64 or Gravis Ultrasound compare?

Finally, how does the MT-32 device work exactly? You connect it to the midi port of your soundcard, and then speaker to the MT-32?