A little retro PC work and upgrades

Last summer, I used my big box of PC bits’n’bobs to build myself a few retro gaming PCs, each genre with hot hardware for its time. I wasn’t restricting myself to being time-specific with the hardware available during the time at all, I just wanted to build myself some machines that ran the software of a particular type very well.

The DOS/Win3.11 machine is a Dell desktop with a P3-600 and 64Mb of ram, a tiny ancient 2.1Gb harddisk, a Matrox G400MAx graphics card, and an Audician32 soundcard with a great wavetable board on it from (). There’s a lovely floppy emulator that uses a  USB drive with floppy disk images on it, selectable on the fly. This pc plays the old Dos games brilliantly, with great sound output and nice sharp visuals. This is for games like DukeNukem3d, Descent, Tombraider, and others from the 1990-1996 era. I haven’t done much work into the slowing down of the cpu for the likes of Wing Commander, that’s for future work. I should also do an SD-card HDD replacement, makes it a bit easier to transfer files over, and I can have multiple profiles of software as well

The Win98 machine is a self-build Tualatin 1.13 on TUSL-2 motherboard, 512Mb ram, 16gb sd card harddisk, Nvidia GeForce4 Ti4200 graphics, and a SoundBlaster Audigy sound card. This system absolutely rocks early Windows games from 1995 through e.g. 2000. The Ti4200 really does outclass the Voodoo cards at Glide gaming with the nGlide wrappers, and I can enable things like AA in most games without penalty to framerates.

The Windows XP gamer is a little Dell SFF GX620, P4 640 (3.2Ghz, 1C/2T), 2 gb ram, Nvidia Quadro 600 graphics and a Sounblaster X-fi Extreme soundcard, and a 160gb harddisk.

I also have on hand another Dell SFF box saved from scrapping, an Optiplex 960 with an E8400 core2duo and some 4gb ram, using the onboard graphics and sound.

For the XP machine, I’ve sourced a very cheap P4-D 3.4 that should just drop in, giving me a bump in speed and bringing the system to 2C/4T which should make a bit of a difference in things. Unfortunately, it has appeared that the motherboard in this little box has suffered from the bad capacitors that has plagued the hardware industry.. It fails to boot with a lot of coloured snow on the VGA output during the POST process. So, I have a handful of caps en route from eBay to fix this one.

I have also sourced a nice LGA771 Xeon X5450 to put into the LGA775 Dell motherboard. This will require a little sticker that swaps two pins, and a shaving of the physical cocket. Unfortunately the Dell bios makes a check for the Xeon dual-cpu capability and fails to post with this CPU. Looks like I will have to just build myself another box to utilise the cpu :) In the interim, I’m putting the 960 into play as the XP gaming machine.

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