VOGONS


First post, by Ahrle

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Finally put together what I hoped to be my new main gaming rig. Tyan Trinity S1854, PIII-933, 512MB PC133, MX440 64MB + SLi V2 12MB, and a CT4670.

Turns out to be quite a troublesome beast. System is hopelessly slow and pretty much nothing works as it should. The only game I've installed so far, Diablo II, is quite choppy with FastVid, and even slower with 440MX AGP 64MB (Detonator). Starting to give up at this point.

Issues at hand:

- Half the horizontal GPU lines disappear in DOS for unknown reason. Tried different AGP GPU's, different cables and different monitors. All have the same problem. Comes and goes. During 3 hours of formatting, lines came and went 4-6 times.

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- Very happy to spontaneously hang (except cursor, that still moves) without any obvious reason. Defragging freezes at 10%. 3dfx demo freezes upon exit. Windows doesn't boot or forces 640x480x16 if RAM is set to stock 133MHz (BIOS default: 100MHz, but all three are verified 133 sticks).

- Boot sector corrupted after installing 98 and drivers. Repairing with Scandisk made it much more difficult to shut down. HDD known good, but HDD LED is on at all times.

- CD drive does not always read discs. Tried several drives and they all behave equally. Cable replacing doesn't help.

- "C: uses MS-DOS-compatible file system" and "swapping in compatibility mode reduces system performance". Tried advanced settings and disabling the swap file. No difference.

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- Exclamation mark in Device manager, "Primary IDE controller (dual fifo)". VIA drivers installed, HDD and CD-ROM moved to same IDE channel, jumpers corrected. Formatted and reinstalled Windows 4 times. No difference.

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- Num Lock does not turn off upon shutdown anymore (ps/2 keyboard).

Must be something seriously wrong with this system. BIOS, bad PSU? IRQ trouble? Or are these boards just downright garbage?
Cheers

Main of 60 desktops: IBM PC300PL 6862 | Slot 1 PIII-750 | 256MB PC100 ECC | S3 Trio3D | PowerColor V2 12MB | AWE64 | MT-32 & SC55 MK1 | Win ME
I may have problems, but it's nice being set for life *nods to eBay*

Reply 2 of 16, by auron

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caps should be rubycon on this, so you'd think they'd be good, but what if the board sat without powering on for 20 years worst case? i don't know if they could be to blame in that case.

it's a via board so frankly i'd always expect more issues than on a 440bx or something. what 4in1 driver version did you use? 4.35 or 4.43 is recommended on this, from what i understand. also, did you check the memory by running both memtest and memtest86+? IRQ trouble - you should be able to see this yourself in device manager. bad PSU - could well be, units from the time were notorious for bad capacitors. a bios update is something you could of course try.

for diablo ii, it should run at a constant 25 fps in glide but will run choppily in D3D on that config, because that renderer was inefficient to a ridiculous extent. thing that a lot of people probably miss though, 25 fps will look stuttery on a lot of refresh rates. you'll want to run your monitor at 75 or 100 hz for it to look smooth - or run a LAN game instead of single player to avoid the limit. fastvid is actually of no relevance here because by that time windows graphics drivers had long taken over that job.

Reply 3 of 16, by Repo Man11

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I have two of those boards and they both have worked well with no issues. Via chipsets have been known to have issues with Creative cards; I would try a a clean install with no sound card and try using the onboard sound at first.

"I'd rather be rich than stupid" - Jack Handey

Reply 4 of 16, by Ahrle

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Thanks again for swift replies. Threw in other cpu's to see if 100 MHz FSB would make it more stable.

With a PII-450, it did initially not power on at all (first thought the power button had come loose). Second time, with jumpers corrected, it did power on but no POST.

PIII-500 POST'ed, same behaviour as the PIII-933 though. Forces 640x480x16 at 133 MHz, fails to load Windows at 100 MHz, and is generally unstable at 66 MHz (also autosets 1600x1200).

auron wrote on 2024-07-08, 20:31:

caps should be rubycon on this, so you'd think they'd be good, but what if the board sat without powering on for 20 years worst case? i don't know if they could be to blame in that case.

it's a via board so frankly i'd always expect more issues than on a 440bx or something. what 4in1 driver version did you use? 4.35 or 4.43 is recommended on this, from what i understand. also, did you check the memory by running both memtest and memtest86+? IRQ trouble - you should be able to see this yourself in device manager. bad PSU - could well be, units from the time were notorious for bad capacitors. a bios update is something you could of course try.

for diablo ii, it should run at a constant 25 fps in glide but will run choppily in D3D on that config, because that renderer was inefficient to a ridiculous extent. thing that a lot of people probably miss though, 25 fps will look stuttery on a lot of refresh rates. you'll want to run your monitor at 75 or 100 hz for it to look smooth - or run a LAN game instead of single player to avoid the limit. fastvid is actually of no relevance here because by that time windows graphics drivers had long taken over that job.

I can only speculate about its usage, only tested once during my 5 years but caps look great and came from an enthusaist.

I use VIA 4.43V from TheRetroWeb's board page. Haven't run memtest yet as it seems AGP is affected by RAM speed. BIOS is latest revision but I have no clue about all settings.

It's weird even 12MB V2 SLI struggles in Diablo II. Any sort of IDE interference seems to destroy the system. LAN is playable 5 minutes, then host hangs for 30-60 seconds and then briefly enters hyperspeed. This also if the other pc is host.

Repo Man11 wrote on 2024-07-08, 21:11:

I have two of those boards and they both have worked well with no issues. Via chipsets have been known to have issues with Creative cards; I would try a a clean install with no sound card and try using the onboard sound at first.

Interesting. Removed the Creative card (used solely for 3D Audio in Diablo II) and now get Windows protection error upon boot. Only way to get it back to Windows is reinserting the card (guess due to startup files). May reinstall and post the results.

Main of 60 desktops: IBM PC300PL 6862 | Slot 1 PIII-750 | 256MB PC100 ECC | S3 Trio3D | PowerColor V2 12MB | AWE64 | MT-32 & SC55 MK1 | Win ME
I may have problems, but it's nice being set for life *nods to eBay*

Reply 5 of 16, by auron

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Ahrle wrote on 2024-07-09, 11:57:

Really though. The GF4 MX 64MB should beat the crap out of V2, shouldn't it? I played D2 on my first PC, PIII-500 with integrated 8MB Rage Pro, and don't remember any issues. Even the 12MB V2 SLI struggles here, especially while entering maps (should lag a little but this is more). Any sort of IDE interference seems to straight away destroy the system.
LAN - for some reason - plays for 5 minutes, then the host hangs for 30-60 seconds and then enters superspeed with like 120fps. This applies to both this rig and the Thunderbird it's connected to. Could the 10Mbit only NIC cause this?

in terms of fillrate yes, but the issue is not that, but a CPU limitation under D3D, at least with 1.13. i've definitely observed this myself on a 1.1 ghz p3, comparing a ti4200 with a voodoo3 3000. judging by how abysmal it ran in direct3d (way slower than a p2 400+v3 3000), i'm guessing you probably need a decently fast athlon XP or p4 for D3D to run smoothly. i had a thought that maybe the original D2 versions were a bit lighter on the CPU requirements for D3D and they eventually piled up some overhead from compatibility fixes for it to run correctly as new GPU generations came along, but i can't say for sure. however, people have been using glide wrappers for years with the game and blizzard actually reinstated the switch for that some years after.

about the stutter on map loading, or when encountering new enemies, i think that's normal with the game too. it does it for me too on period HDDs but after the assets are loaded (the game can easily take advantage of over 256 megs of RAM with long play sessions), it's fine. IMO this game should have really had an option to preload all assets into RAM - i'll rather take a minute of a loading screen if it means uninterrupted gameplay. i've been meaning to test one day whether a RAID0 can help this game, because my single atlas V 7200rpm u160 SCSI drive from 2000 didn't really cut it. otherwise, use a faster drive or run the game off a RAM drive - in both cases you are probably well past period correct hardware anyway though.

as for the network game, i think you can just create a LAN game and play it as if it were a single player game, using your SP characters. the main difference is that maps are rerolled every time you leave a game, not just if you switch difficulties. oh, and i think players 8 doesn't work either, so you would probably need a mod for that.

for the issues with creative cards, found this thread: https://forums.anandtech.com/threads/any-deta … sb-live.554934/ though it would seem that the 4.43 driver already should have a fix for that, being from oct 2001. normally, the issues seem to be reported as audio crackling rather than more catastrophic system crashes.

Reply 6 of 16, by momaka

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Sounds a like a lot of issues... in a rather complicated rig.

If it was mine, I'd start the troubleshooting in a much more different way.

1st: check all the hardware. That is, check the PSU and motherboard for bad electrolytic capacitors. Most likely, there should be none on the motherboard, since it's a Tyan, which were well-known for using good quality Japanese capacitors... and moreover, it's from the Pentium II/3 era, before the era of ultra-low ESR capacitors like Rubycon MBZ and MCZ, United Chemicon KZG, and the defective series of Nichicon HM, HN, and HZ from 2001-2005. The power supply, however, is very likely to have bad caps. Most non-OEM PSUs from that era came with non-Japanese brand of capacitors, so are quite prone to going bad after all this time. The OEM PSU manufacturers (like Astec, LiteOn, and very few others) did use good quality caps, though. So in that regard, it may be a good idea to take a picture of your PSU with its top cover removed and post it here for those of us familiar with old PSUs to be able to analyze it.

2nd: simplify the build. In that regard, I would say remove the SLi V2 12MB and CT4670. You can always add them in later when the system stability is proven to pass. Also, go with only a single stick of 128 MB or 256 MB of RAM, just to eliminate any issues with the RAM. That way, you can try the RAM in different slots too, to see if that does anything as well.

3rd: try a "better" / more stable OS, like Windows 2000 or Windows XP. From experience, I can tell you that XP (especially SP2 or higher, though I recommend nothing lower than SP2 for stability reasons) will be a little more sluggish on 128 MB of RAM, but should still install perfectly fine and run well enough to test the system.

When the system passes stability tests after doing the above, you can then add the rest of the hardware, one-by-one, to see if any of the issues come back. First add more RAM, as that should affect absolutely nothing for the OS configuration. Then add the CT4670 and re-test with games. Then add the Sli V2 12MB and see if that's OK too. If all is good with Win 2k/XP, but still glitches with 98, I'd imagine there's a driver issues somewhere. However, if system is unstable even with Win 2k/XP, I'd be more inclined to think there's a hardware problem somewhere. In that case, that only leaves the video card and HDD as the last two culprits. Replace those with something else to see if that fixes the stability in 2k/XP.

And that's about it.

In any case, I absolutely DO NOT recommend to do any BIOS flashing to anyone when dealing with an unstable/hanging/marginal system. All that will do is make it more likely to flash a faulty BIOS and "brick" the board.

Reply 7 of 16, by Repo Man11

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With Creative soundcards and early Via chipsets I've found that it's crucial to disable the onboard sound prior to OS/driver installation. I've learned that if the system hangs at some point after the OS and driver installation, moving the sound card to another slot often helps. I think it's best to install the OS and then add the card; this can help pinpoint what the issue is if you have one.

"I'd rather be rich than stupid" - Jack Handey

Reply 8 of 16, by Sphere478

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auron wrote on 2024-07-08, 20:31:

caps should be rubycon on this, so you'd think they'd be good, but what if the board sat without powering on for 20 years worst case? i don't know if they could be to blame in that case.

it's a via board so frankly i'd always expect more issues than on a 440bx or something. what 4in1 driver version did you use? 4.35 or 4.43 is recommended on this, from what i understand. also, did you check the memory by running both memtest and memtest86+? IRQ trouble - you should be able to see this yourself in device manager. bad PSU - could well be, units from the time were notorious for bad capacitors. a bios update is something you could of course try.

for diablo ii, it should run at a constant 25 fps in glide but will run choppily in D3D on that config, because that renderer was inefficient to a ridiculous extent. thing that a lot of people probably miss though, 25 fps will look stuttery on a lot of refresh rates. you'll want to run your monitor at 75 or 100 hz for it to look smooth - or run a LAN game instead of single player to avoid the limit. fastvid is actually of no relevance here because by that time windows graphics drivers had long taken over that job.

The truth is that electrolytic caps just don’t hold up even if they are the good ones sometimes, they all have a shelf life.

Solid state caps do tend to hold up better with the occasional tantalum throwing a tantrum but all these different capacitors have differing ESR, resonate frequencies frequency response, etc. but for what we use them for, I’ve often wondered about making pcb stacks that had a bunch of tantrums on them and maybe a low ohm resistor to chill out the resistance as a replacement for retro mobos to make them not need to be recapped so many times over the coming decades.

Sphere's PCB projects.
-
Sphere’s socket 5/7 cpu collection.
-
SUCCESSFUL K6-2+ to K6-3+ Full Cache Enable Mod
-
Tyan S1564S to S1564D single to dual processor conversion (also s1563 and s1562)

Reply 9 of 16, by auron

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an ESR tester can give some data on that, with even in-circuit measurements being possible (capacitance usually fails in that case, but ESR can be still readable). being able to find a bad cap before even picking up a soldering iron can be potentially pretty useful.

Reply 10 of 16, by momaka

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Sphere478 wrote on 2024-07-09, 16:54:

The truth is that electrolytic caps just don’t hold up even if they are the good ones sometimes, they all have a shelf life.

While true that electrolytic caps do have a limited shelf life (and also endurance), it's not nearly as short as some people on the internet (and here on Vogons) make it out to be. I don't know why this myth keeps on spreading that all caps die after X many years. That's not true at all.

The real truth is: high quality Japanese caps can last for at least 2 decades and often surpass 3 decades as well... sometimes even longer if they're not in a stressful application. My experience from restoring old Japanese audio gear is that most large(r) caps were actually close to pristine spec when pulled out for a test. It's the really small ones that tend to drift more in terms of impedance and capacity over time due to drying out faster. But even then, I found most of these to be OK. Only ones that seem to suffer more often are those very close to high heat sources. In CRT TVs and monitors, for example, it's often the small caps on the neck board that dry out and go high ESR. And on motherboards, so far I have not seen Japanese caps go bad, provided they weren't from a series known to have issues pertaining to heat sensitivity or long storage life. With that said here's a full list of the brands and series of Japanese caps known to suffer from this:
Rubycon MCZ (heat sensitive)
Rubycon MFZ (custom series for Xbox 360; 2700 uF parts in older series known to go bad after extended periods without power / electrolytic layer breakdown)
Nichicon HM, HN, and HZ series with H01xx through H05xx date codes (6.3V parts known to go bad with or without use; H05xx parts are from a transition year - some tend to be OK, while others aren't; 16V parts from H05 datecode seem to be OK overall)
United Chemicon KZG (don't like long periods of storage without use... by long periods, I mean a few years; 6.3V 3300 uF, 6.3V 1500/1800 uF, and 6.3V 820 uF parts all known to go bad with or without use, though they do seem to last a little longer with use; 16V parts seem to fare better/a-OK, but occasional failure still possible.)
United Chemicon KZJ (same as with KZG above, but seem to do a little better overall)
United Chemicon TMV (go bad after a while, no matter what, so AVOID this series)
Panasonic FL (soft rubber bungs on bottom, making them prone to leaking if physically abused with force or excessive heat from soldering)
Sanyo WF (go bad after a while, no matter what, so AVOID this series too)

And that's about all of them off top of my head.
Note the pattern: all of the above listed series are ultra-low ESR series, most of them emerging around or after the Pentium 4 / Athlon XP era. Anything Pentium II/3 and older will NOT use these series as they came after. Thus older gear with Japanese caps is typically safe from cap-related failures.

Sphere478 wrote on 2024-07-09, 16:54:

but for what we use them for, I’ve often wondered about making pcb stacks that had a bunch of tantrums on them and maybe a low ohm resistor to chill out the resistance as a replacement for retro mobos to make them not need to be recapped so many times over the coming decades.

You won't need the low-Ohm resistors for this. The long "leads" of the stack itself will typically have a few mOhms of resistance, which will be enough. And moreover, most motherboard buck regulator circuits aren't usually sensitive and won't object to the even lower ESR of Tantalums and solid polymer caps. The exception is a few ECS and similar cheap boards that used a TL494 / KA7500 PWM chip for the CPU VRM (e.g. K7S5A, K7SEM, and etc.), because these actually are built to work with a minimum capacitance spec. Also, probably older socket 3/5/7 boards may fall in this category, as some of them used linear regulators throughout, and linear regulators may sometimes oscillate with too low of an ESR. But then, it's also worth noting that linear regulators don't really stress the capacitors that much either (exception being newer boards that have hot-running linear regulators that put high stress on the caps with the extra heat they generate). So recapping these old boards with a quality Japanese brand of electrolytic capacitors should provide another 2-3 decades of service, at the very least.

And all in all, you can't really avoid the use of electrolytic capacitors. PSUs will always have at least a few in them.

auron wrote on 2024-07-09, 19:20:

an ESR tester can give some data on that, with even in-circuit measurements being possible (capacitance usually fails in that case, but ESR can be still readable).

Anyone who's serviced motherboards will tell you this is a bad idea.

Motherboards tend to have multiple capacitors in parallel to get a larger overall capacitance and lower overall impedance / ESR. This is especially the case for the CPU VRM. If one capacitor has failed, you will NEVER see it, because the other ones, even with marginal ESR/impedance will mask the dead cap's poor/bad ESR. Unless you read the particular cap's datasheet and do precise calculations to see if the readings you get on the ESR meter actually match up with the overall parallel capacitance and ESR spec, you won't see a bad cap. And even if you do the calculations, you still won't see it. That's because capacitor ESR/impedance spec tends to vary quuuuite a bit with temperature. Mix in the 20% tolerance (which is typically only the stated tolerance for capacitance... impedance spec can vary as much as -300 to +50% at very high or very low temperatures, respectively) and it's pretty much an exercise in futility to catch a bad cap with in-circuit readings. Perhaps if a motherboard rail has only one or two caps and one is very badly failed, only then you *might* see it. But overall, don't count on it.

The best bet to mobo "bad cap hunting" is just to see what brands and series of capacitors you're dealing with and then go from there. Most non-Japanese brands are not worth a squat and should be replaced at this point, especially on the retro hardware we're dealing with that is 20+ years old now.
That said, even I have a few motherboards myself still with the original shoddy electro caps on there. But these tend to be low-stress, cool-running boards (a few Pentium 3 era boards, a Pentium board with a linear reg for the CPU, and similar.)

Reply 11 of 16, by Sphere478

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agree,

I have some 40 year old equipment running originals. I'm sure they are out of spec but they still work so I still use them, not all are created equal.

the other day I had friend over nerding out and they wanted to make a slot A build. It was a Cap Plague board. I selected about half of them, (the ones showing physical deformation) and replaced those. it was enough, and the board fired right up, I'm sure the rest are shortly behind it. I'll get to them when I get to them 🤣. but for now it is working again.

Sphere's PCB projects.
-
Sphere’s socket 5/7 cpu collection.
-
SUCCESSFUL K6-2+ to K6-3+ Full Cache Enable Mod
-
Tyan S1564S to S1564D single to dual processor conversion (also s1563 and s1562)

Reply 12 of 16, by Repo Man11

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Repo Man11 wrote on 2024-07-08, 21:11:

I have two of those boards and they both have worked well with no issues. Via chipsets have been known to have issues with Creative cards; I would try a a clean install with no sound card and try using the onboard sound at first.

And this was a typical result with both of them.

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Reply 13 of 16, by Skorbin

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Just to pipe in about TYAN boards: Not all of them had high quality caps.
My TYAN Tiger 200T (S2505T) did have low quality ones, so don't automatically assume that TYAN boards are allways free of this problem.
After a recap it now runs stable with 2 kings and 4 x 1 GB registered SDRAM (yes, the Apollo Pro 133T chipset does indeed support that!).

Reply 14 of 16, by MikeSG

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I would try different RAM first. Had multiple RAM failures over the years and it's always random. Sometimes video errors as well.

Hard disk bad sectors can cause crashes but it's not so random. It may cause the HDD light to be on more often and slow the system.

Reply 15 of 16, by auron

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momaka wrote on 2024-07-09, 23:12:
auron wrote on 2024-07-09, 19:20:

an ESR tester can give some data on that, with even in-circuit measurements being possible (capacitance usually fails in that case, but ESR can be still readable).

Anyone who's serviced motherboards will tell you this is a bad idea.

you may well be right, and i've never actually used that method on motherboard VRM caps. nevertheless, in other cases the meter was able to show leaked SMD caps as bad.