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Boltorano
05-21-2011, 07:54 PM
After watching some videos by Lazy Game Reviews on YouTube, I got the idea of resurrecting my family's first PC, a PII 266Mhz box made by Gateway 2000 in 1997.

Sadly, after years of neglect and moisture, the state of the hardware was simply, not so good. I had to toss out the case, power supply, video card and modem due to rust, but amazingly the motherboard, CPU cartridge and sound card look brand new. As far as I can tell the board boots up fine, I'm getting the beep code for "no VGA adapter".

So here's what I have to work with:

Intel PD440FX (I think this is the model, the manual says it should have an on-board sound chip, but the ports aren't included on this version.)
Intel Pentium II processor with MMX, running at 266Mhz
2 x 32MB sticks of Micron DRAM
Ensoniq AudioPCI 3974 sound card

The video card I had to toss out was a STB S3 ViRGE 2MB PCI.

I have a good amount of experience building my own PCs, but only in the past 7 years or so, and I have no real knowledge of audio/video cards from this time period. I'm looking to replace the video card, and probably the sound card too, with something better, but nothing quite so expensive as what Voodoo cards are currently going for on eBay.

I'm mainly looking to relive a specific time period of PC gaming, specifically the Windows95 and late DOS games from around 1993-1999. My favorites mainly things like Master of Orion II, SimCity 2000, SimCopter, Age of Empires and Civilization II.

Any thoughts/suggestions from the community?

calthaer
05-21-2011, 10:26 PM
Should have included a few more details...it doesn't look like your mboard includes AGP support, but I could be wrong - which means you really want to look for the best PCI video card you can get that has Windows 98 drivers (skip Windows 95 - 98 was more stable and fully compatible).

Video card is important, because there might be some Win98 3D games (Thief 1 & 2, System Shock 2, Quake 1 & 2, or others I can't think of of the top of my head) that you want to play, and if you do, you don't want to put up with choppy framerates.

This set of articles is a decent place to start, because it will tell you which chipsets support PCI:

http://www.techarp.com/showarticle.aspx?artno=88&pgno=8

This is the NVidia list, but there are lists for the other manufacturers, too. You probably want to stick with Direct3D cards, and not Glide / 3DFX stuff, which even by the late 1990s was kind of a minority thing, IIRC. It looks like you might be able to go all the way up to a GeForce 6 with Windows 98:

http://forums.nvidia.com/index.php?showtopic=58680

Just taking a stab here, a guess, based on the list - you might want to search for GeForce 4MX 440 cards. You can pick one up on the cheap for $20-30. Nothing else any worse than that will be any cheaper, quite frankly.

Make sure that whatever card you get will fit in your system, and that it doesn't require a faster PCI slot than you have on your mboard. I can't quite tell from the ready-to-find specs how fast they are, exactly - check a manual online or something.

Get a fast CD-ROM drive. Not sure if you need more memory - load it up with as much as Windows 98 will handle, honestly - that has to be cheap, too. Make sure that it gels with your mboard, obviously.

A case should be easy to score on the cheap. It obviously needs some other junk, but it should all be easy to find - unless you want something like a 5 1/4" drive, and even that I can't imagine would be too bad. What about a hard drive? Get the biggest one that your mboard and Windows 98 can handle (wasn't it like 1-2 GB or something? or 640Mb? I can't remember). I have some lying around, but I haven't cleaned them.

Last thing you might want is all of the patches for Windows 98. These are no longer available from Microsoft, but someplace might have them. I think I have them around somewhere - when they said they were going to discontinue downloads for Windows 98 I scored all of them from the site, and I think I still have those...somewhere. Might take a bit to find them, though.

Have fun in the golden age of PC gaming!

NayusDante
05-21-2011, 11:53 PM
The PII 266 is a great chip for what you're looking to do. I grew up with one, and it's still my retro rig.

If you just want to play non-3D games, any old video card should do. Heck, my local CompUSA still sells 8mb ATI Rage PCI cards for about $10, so it shouldn't be hard to find a suitable card. If you want to play 3D games, however, I'm going to counter calthaer's advice and suggest a Voodoo 3. Since your board lacks AGP, your only option is PCI, and eBay shows a few for under $30 (http://shop.ebay.com/i.html?_trkparms=65%253A12%257C66%253A2%257C39%253 A1%257C72%253A5082&rt=nc&_nkw=voodoo+3+pci&_dmpt=PCC_Video_TV_Cards&_sticky=1&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14&_sop=15&_sc=1). My reasoning is that the V3 is enough to run games up to maybe 2000 and in Glide to boot. If you want to play in Direct3D, you're better off with whatever modern system you have.

As for audio, if the card you have works then it's probably not worth replacing. If you want to play the late 90s games with EAX, get a Live! card. If you want to play games with soundfont support AND play a lot of DOS games, get an ISA AWE64.

If you want to play the more demanding stuff from 99-2001, find a 256mb stick of SDRAM. Otherwise, what you have is fine.

Since you need a new case and PSU, I recommend getting something new, rather than something retro. PSUs don't last forever, so a newer one is preferable. Cases today are easier to work in and generally more attractive than older cases. Just because it's an old PC doesn't mean it can't look nice. My retro rig resides in an Antec Super Lan Boy (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811129145).

PC-ENGINE HELL
05-22-2011, 03:28 AM
A Pci TNT 2 M64 or PCI Voodoo Banshee or Voodoo 3 would be fine for that system, though the TNT 2 will be the cheapest. You wont be running much from the Direct X 7 timeline anyway on that setup due to cpu speed, and those cards will handle anything from prior to that real well. A ISA AWE64 or AWE32 would be best audio wise, but a Vibra 16 will run fine in Windows 98 also as far as Dos games are concerned. You will just be limited to SB 16 quality audio though with the Vibra.

Jorpho
05-22-2011, 08:37 AM
An Ensoniq AudioPCI actually has some advantages as far as DOS compatibility goes.


Just taking a stab here, a guess, based on the list - you might want to search for GeForce 4MX 440 cards. You can pick one up on the cheap for $20-30. Nothing else any worse than that will be any cheaper, quite frankly.

Make sure that whatever card you get will fit in your system, and that it doesn't require a faster PCI slot than you have on your mboard. I can't quite tell from the ready-to-find specs how fast they are, exactly - check a manual online or something.A GeForce 4MX might be a bit overkill for such an old system. But yes, its voltage requirements might indeed make it physically impossible to plug it in to older PCI slots.


Last thing you might want is all of the patches for Windows 98. These are no longer available from Microsoft, but someplace might have them. I think I have them around somewhere - when they said they were going to discontinue downloads for Windows 98 I scored all of them from the site, and I think I still have those...somewhere. Might take a bit to find them, though.Various unofficial service packs are still quite easy to find through mdgx.com and the like.


A ISA AWE64 or AWE32 would be best audio wise, but a Vibra 16 will run fine in Windows 98 also as far as Dos games are concerned. You will just be limited to SB 16 quality audio though with the Vibra.Well, they'll all sound more or less the same aside from MIDI, won't they? (Come to think of it, I think the AWE32 might include some sort of hardware reverb filter, but some people don't like that.)

Boltorano
05-22-2011, 08:58 AM
Thanks for all the replies and the suggestions, I haven't taken the time to look at all those options yet but it's more starting points than I had before.

Some additional info:

I do have a GoldStar 8X CD-ROM drive that was in the system, but I haven't been able to test yet since that would require a video card and I don't really feel like digging around in my regular PC to plug in an IDE cable.

I already have a case and almost brand new power supply that will work.

As far as a memory upgrade, there's quite a few "upgrade kits" on eBay that give you 4x64MB SIMMs (which is what I would need) with a Buy it Now of $39.95. Is this a reasonable price? I realize the stuff is old and hard(er) to come by these days, just curious.

Jorpho
05-22-2011, 10:58 AM
SIMMs in a Pentium II? Are you sure about that..?

I forgot to mention that I probably still have an older ATI PCI video card that I might be willing to part with, and probably an ISA Sound Blaster of some sort. I'll have to look.

Are you sure the video card is no good? As it's not made of steel, it's not something that will "rust", technically.

Boltorano
05-22-2011, 11:38 AM
To quote the manual that I scrounged up here:

http://downloadcenter.intel.com/Detail_Desc.aspx?agr=Y&DwnldID=17778&ProdId=214&lang=eng&OSVersion=OS%20Independent&DownloadType=Documentation

The motherboard supports 72-pin tin-plated EDO SIMMs running at 50ns or 60ns, single or double-sided, up to 256MB (4x64MB).

As for the video card, it was already out in the garage in my box of broken PC parts, and specifically the metal around the VGA port was rusty. I did try plugging it in to see if it worked, and all I got was some angry beeps from the motherboard and no video output.

PC-ENGINE HELL
05-22-2011, 05:33 PM
Well, they'll all sound more or less the same aside from MIDI, won't they? (Come to think of it, I think the AWE32 might include some sort of hardware reverb filter, but some people don't like that.)

If the game supports AWE 32 audio, and you have the card, the sound is indeed much better as far as the music is concerned. There is a bit more audio samples and such going on in AWE32 mode making music sound fuller then it does on SB16. It doesn't matter though unless the game supports it. The key to that though is that a ton of the more popular games from the mid 90's do, which is why I will never part with my AWE32. The SB Live, 512, and 128 can sometimes be problematic on some games, but compatibility mode is decent none the less.


SIMMs in a Pentium II? Are you sure about that..?
Some Slot 1 and Socket 7 boards had dual ram support, though I myself would never use anything other then PC100-133 Sdram. Doesn't make much sense to run anything slower unless you're dead set on using a 486 on down.

Boltorano
05-23-2011, 02:29 PM
Yes, it is a Slot 1 motherboard.

Edit:

I managed to scrounge up an IDE hard drive that still manages to work, however it is 120GB. Would I encounter any problems trying to format a drive of this size to use with Win98?

SAV2880
05-24-2011, 03:45 PM
The number I seem to remember as the cutoff point for those old systems was 32GB. Most likely, you'll be able to plus that 120GB in but only be able to use a Max of 32GB. There were tools, loaders if you will, that would let you work around this, I haven't a clue where they might be now though.

NayusDante
05-24-2011, 05:39 PM
You can trick it into recognizing big drives, but I don't know the exact process. If your boot disk can recognize large disks and also run the Windows installer, you should be able to pull it off.

gravitone
05-24-2011, 05:43 PM
For the best of both world scenario (DOS/windows 9x) in terms of video and sound you should get 2 of each to cover each scenario. Lets start with video, for late DOS titles that use SVGA modes, you want to look for something that is highly compatible with the high-res VESA modes, as well as bugfree mode 13h for older dos games (no matrox cards qualify because of this) S3 trio64v+ or Virge cards fit the timeperiod and other hardware the best. You want to look for a 2 or 4mb DRAM version. For late DOS based 3d titles, the original 3dfx voodoo card is the only way to go. Pretty much all the DOS games that support some form of 3d acceleration have glide patches. It also works great for early direct3d titles and windows glide games. These can be picked up for $2-5 Go with a voodoo2 if you wish to play at resolutions higher then 640x480. No single card will offer the perfomance, compatability, and stability that this 2d/3d combo offers.

In terms of sound, you want to cover two fronts once again. Directsound acceleration (and maybe general midi) in windows, and soundblaster+general midi in DOS. Two soundcards is really the only way to go. The soundblaster 16 (non-pnp) is great for pretty much every dos game out there, and an add-on midi daughterboard plugged into the sb16's feature connector will provide wavetable playback for midi files instead of the meagre fm synthesis. Yamaha sb50xg and roland SCC based solutions are favourites in terms of sample quality, in fact the SCC was the defacto midi standard on which almost every game tune was composed, so naturally they give the most accurate reproduction. As for windows, a PCI based card with a decent soundchip will provide plenty of hardware accelerated channels for directsound 2d and 3d. I always use a aureal vortex2 based card because of its excellent positional audio. Soundblaster LIVE works too, but you get no positional audio, instead EAX compatability ensures you get some low quality reverb, and a few other effects. both cards can use soundfonts for midi playback, or if you prefer (since its windows) you can just route it through your ISA soundcard by setting the midi output device to that. Looping one cards output into the others line-in will eliminate wire clutter.

Why not just go with the PCI audio card? Dos games are hardcoded to access soundblaster cards on specific ports, and rely on low level code to transfer audio. It was physically impossible to map these into the PCI bus, so ugly TSR's that trap the call's to these ports had to be written and loaded. As you might figure, this method was highly incompatible and rendered most dos games silent or buggy.

Jorpho
05-24-2011, 09:33 PM
The number I seem to remember as the cutoff point for those old systems was 32GB. Most likely, you'll be able to plus that 120GB in but only be able to use a Max of 32GB. There were tools, loaders if you will, that would let you work around this, I haven't a clue where they might be now though.It's actually entirely possible to create a FAT32 partition larger than 32 GB; it's just not a very good idea. All the information is told in excruciating detail at http://www.dewassoc.com/kbase/hard_drives/hard_drive_size_barriers.htm .



Why not just go with the PCI audio card? Dos games are hardcoded to access soundblaster cards on specific ports, and rely on low level code to transfer audio. It was physically impossible to map these into the PCI bus, so ugly TSR's that trap the call's to these ports had to be written and loaded. As you might figure, this method was highly incompatible and rendered most dos games silent or buggy.Um... No?

The only problem with the PCI DOS Sound Blaster driver is that it requires expanded memory. Yes, some games are incompatible with expanded memory managers. Otherwise it works perfectly fine. Besides, if you start digging into older sound cards, what you might gain in compatibility you could lose in actual audio quality.

The vital question – and the one that really doesn't get asked often enough in threads like this – is, what is the goal? It is possible to spend months on end amassing a huge pile of hardware that can be put together in a multitude of different configurations and play absolutely everything that was ever released, but why bother if one is only interested in a couple of games that will quite happily run in a way that would be entirely acceptable to the game's designers on hardware that is readily available?

PC-ENGINE HELL
05-25-2011, 01:54 AM
Yeah honestly gravitone, your all in one solution really wont work for everyone, or it will be overkill for many. And to be honest, most games your going to run on a 400mhz cpu on down, except for a slim few, are not going to use A3d or EAX, since they will be from early 1998 on down mainly. For games from late 1998 on up, you might as well start off using a Voodoo 3, TNT2 Ultra, or Geforce 256 on up with a P3 or Athlon cpu instead.

SAV2880
05-25-2011, 04:06 PM
It's actually entirely possible to create a FAT32 partition larger than 32 GB; it's just not a very good idea. All the information is told in excruciating detail at http://www.dewassoc.com/kbase/hard_drives/hard_drive_size_barriers.htm .

Oh I know it's possible to do that, I actually was thinking of BIOS limitations moreso than file system limitations there. With some motherboards I think it was 32GB, with newer ones 128GB was an issue point, i'm going all off of memory, but I'm definitely thinking you may need the software that came with the hard drive if it's too large to "fool" the motherboard into accepting the larger platter.

Boltorano
05-25-2011, 09:46 PM
I am currently working on getting a 10GB hard drive, so thankfully I won't have to worry about that problem. I also have a video card on the way, that I got on the cheap, but at the moment I'm too ashamed to admit which one it is until I make sure it works.

I would like to get a Voodoo card eventually, but at the moment they're a bit beyond my budget.

In another week I should have all the parts together to see if things work, so hopefully I'll have more to update on then.

Boltorano
06-02-2011, 02:25 PM
Update:

Ended up getting a 8MB ATI Rage XL card (for now) along with a 10GB Quantum Fireball hard drive. Loving that old hard drive churning sound that you don't get on the modern quiet drives.

Just waiting on my copy of 98SE to show up so I can dig into some old Maxis favorites again.