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Thread: Past-proof PC?

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    Question Past-proof PC?

    As most PC builds discussed here tend to focus on Win 95 or DOS era, I thought it would be best to start (yet another) thread.

    I’m curious about building a “past-proof” machine covering games from the late 1990s to 2015; a rig that would be most suitable (nearly flawless) for games released between 1999-2013.

    My main questions are:
    • Can ONE machine cover these 15 years well (1999-2013)? Is it possible?
    • Would it be enough to go with a late-2016 “budget build” or is there anything unique that a typical 2016 “budget build” will not consider?
    • What OS would be the best choice here? Would it be optimal to have two operating systems installed? What would they be?
    • Would new technologies such as SSD compromise older games or actually help them run better (faster loading times, for example)?
    • Anything else to watch out for? Any and all advice welcome!


    To clarify, I’m not looking for the cheapest build possible, or the best bang for the buck, but a build that will run most 1999-2013 games accurately (and to their best potential). Unlike most builds out there on the net, I don't care to future-proof this machine at all. I want to past-proof it.

    Thanks for any feedback!

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    Default Some examples

    Below is a breakdown with some examples:

    Primary objective:
    -Playing games from 1999-2013 problem-free, on best settings.
    From: Age of Empires 2 (1999), Deus Ex (2010), C&C Red Alert 2 (2000), Arcanum (2001)
    To: StarCraft II (2010), Deus Ex: HR (2011), Mass Effect 3 (2012), BioShock Infinite (2013)
    Would be nice to:
    -Play games from 2014-2015 with playable frame rates, on ok settings
    The Witcher 3 (2015), Fallout 4 (2015)
    -Play games from 1996-1998 with few bugs, glitches, problems
    Duke Nukem 3D (1996), Age of Empires 1 (1997)
    Not required to:
    - Open any games released prior to 1996
    - Handle any games released in 2016 or later (no future-proofing)

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    Not sure really without digging on hardware but if you want to approach 2013 you'll need something that runs XP with it's final service pack to ensure you can still throw almost any Win9X/DOS level stuff at it along with the modern 2013 releases you'd care to mess with. Once Vista/64bit anything rolled out stuff, even MS's stuff like Age of Empires 2 rolled over and died pretty badly which was annoying along with anything 16bit installer based (original Civ and Sim City for Windows for example.)

    Hardware I'd probably try and figure out what the best thing in 2013 you'd want to play at a medium level and work back from there. The faster and beefier you get on hardware the harder time you'll have with the 90s and earlier-mid 00s stuff running right if at all. Like for instance I'd probably look no better at an old quad-core or dual core intel CPU stuff if that, again depending on what you want. Your problem here is you're looking at such a wide range of years you're asking for trouble since there isn't a DOSBox type catch-all for Windows stuff for so many years which GoG.COM heavily relies upon along with working with the old developers or their own coders to bring stuff back to life so it runs right (and maintains it.) You'll be stuck doing that foot work.

    If you want to toss something like Witcher 3 in there, you can forget it. The horsepower needed for that game is crazy if you want it to be like back of the box quality or even semi-respectable.

    My suggestion perhaps find a cut off point, make two machines but hopefully have the ports (monitor, audio, mouse, keys) interchangeable so you just have to swap between the cases. I haven't dug quite the way you have but I've been beating around the idea of a pre21st century computer since the old stuff isn't so happy on the newer, a win98se centric device so USB isn't out of play. But that's before what you want. You're asking kind of the impossible because on one box you're asking to have 64bit only apps and 32bit and 16bit all run, that's a stretch.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tanooki View Post
    My suggestion perhaps find a cut off point, make two machines but hopefully have the ports (monitor, audio, mouse, keys) interchangeable so you just have to swap between the cases.
    Thanks for the insightful response. This is exactly why I came here. Given my lack of experience, there are probably many things I haven't considered. I had a hunch, however, that asking for a "1999-2013 machine" might be asking for the impossible.

    Given that I took your advice Tanooki, and split this project into two separate machines, how would you proceed? What would the two machines look like, and what years would they cover?

    I would really like the machine #2 to go up to at least 2013 and play these games well (on best setting, not medium)

    What do you think?

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    In my view, your best bet might be to find the most system-intensive system from any given era and build a PC that handles that and everything prior. Crysis was well-known as a resource hog back in 2007; and the requirements were:
    OS - Windows XP / Vista
    Processor - Intel Core 2 DUO @ 2.2 GHz or AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+
    Memory - 2.0 GB RAM
    GPU - NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS/640 or similar

    Maybe building something that could handle that might take you from 1996-2007. Even this might have some trouble with some 1996 titles.

    Then, from 2008-2013, you could build a modern-day box running Windows 7.

    In all of this, your mileage may vary, It really depends on which specific titles you want to run. Find the most finicky game out there and build to that. Even so, I'm not sure you'll be able to entirely avoid DOSBox.
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    Like he spotted you above there, that would be prime material right there for a 20th century computer into the early 21st. Windows 98 and before era had a mixed bag of games that didn't properly speed throttle or were really bitchy and need particular software and hardware API calls that fail on (a few) Xp machines, but definitely will fail on Vista, 7, 8 and 10. Your best bet would be that box for hte older, and the few that still suck, find a speed throttling program for old DOS stuff if you go back that far (or just limit it to GOG.com stuff on either box.) Then for the Witcher3 level (PS4) heavy stuff you need a nice i5 or preferably i7 chipped computer with a very solid within the last 3-4years nvidia card such as the 980 or 970 with 6-8GB of RAM on it and another 16+GB of RAM inside as well.

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    I'd recommend getting a two HDDs for a dual boot system. I did a dual-boot system back in 2010 with a Q9650 and 2 GTX 460s in sli. You have to install Windows XP, before you can install the more modern operating system on the 2nd HDD. I put Windows 7 on my second drive to play more modern games.

    Try picking up an i5-2500k on the cheap, with something like a GTX 970, 8 GB of RAM, a 500 Watt PSU and maybe an SSD for some of the more modern games. You can always run Dos-Box, or get older titles from Steam that will run through Dos-Box with everything setup for you. I have an i5-2500k rig in the living room with an EVGA GTX 670 FTW 2GB (pretty much a GTX 680); it runs games like the Witcher 3 just fine on medium to high settings.

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    I love a VM myself, is that an option?

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    I think you could go either way but in all honesty I would go 2 computers over a dual boot.
    your going to run into software and compatibility issues with the old stuff, some of the turn of the century stuff has a problem recognizing a "compatible render device" in a newer computer.

    plus with the hassle it would almost be worth it to scavenge really SUPER CHEAP parts for your old school machine and then build a halfway decent modern machine
    I think for your old school machine you could probably get away with something with DDR2 and a 1st gen pci express video card. that combo puts it pretty squarely in XP compatible era albeit near the end.

    just remember to get a KVM so your not having to swap cables around all of the time

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    Quote Originally Posted by Niku-Sama View Post
    I think you could go either way but in all honesty I would go 2 computers over a dual boot.
    your going to run into software and compatibility issues with the old stuff, some of the turn of the century stuff has a problem recognizing a "compatible render device" in a newer computer.

    plus with the hassle it would almost be worth it to scavenge really SUPER CHEAP parts for your old school machine and then build a halfway decent modern machine
    I think for your old school machine you could probably get away with something with DDR2 and a 1st gen pci express video card. that combo puts it pretty squarely in XP compatible era albeit near the end.

    just remember to get a KVM so your not having to swap cables around all of the time
    Windows 7 will run 99% of all software and peripherals from 1999 on. I was using a USB MS Sidewinder stick with Windows 7 just fine.

    The only reason I was suggesting a dual-boot with XP was for that other 1% unknown, and to run an older version of Direct X.
    Last edited by Gamevet; 09-30-2016 at 05:31 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Daltone View Post
    I love a VM myself, is that an option?
    It is if you can setup GPU pass-through. Just remember that a VM has overhead.

    Also, Win9x will run like shit inside a VM.
    Last edited by RP2A03; 09-30-2016 at 10:57 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gamevet View Post
    Windows 7 will run 99% of all software and peripherals from 1999 on. I was using a USB MS Sidewinder stick with Windows 7 just fine.

    The only reason I was suggesting a dual-boot with XP was for that other 1% unknown, and to run an older version of Direct X.
    there will come a time soon that windows 7 wont be the one to have and 10 will be whats needed and 10's backwards compatibility blows.

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    The occasional random game can be a source of great headache. Shadow of Destiny has a reputation for being completely broken on systems too new.
    Lum fan.

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    I would build a Windows 10 machine. Then start installing the games you want to play. Many games have patches or workarounds to get them to run on a modern machines, and some just work. Basically decide what games you want and google them to see what the community has created. I have multiple machines myself. I find playing some games with ridiculous frames per second is a little inauthentic.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Niku-Sama View Post
    there will come a time soon that windows 7 wont be the one to have and 10 will be whats needed and 10's backwards compatibility blows.
    He cut it off at 2015.

    Yeah, I'm not the biggest fan of Windows 10; I've installed it on 2 PCs because it was free. I still have 1 PC that I've kept Windows 7 on, because I know it will still support older devices and software that 10 will neglect.

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    Sometimes I second guess why I did it, but then I realize I was coming off Windows 8.1 so it's not like I was making things worse.

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    Quote Originally Posted by theclaw View Post
    The occasional random game can be a source of great headache. Shadow of Destiny has a reputation for being completely broken on systems too new.
    Apparently someone at old-games.ru finally licked that problem.
    http://www.old-games.ru/game/downloa...=15049&modal=1
    http://www.old-games.ru/forum/thread...2#post-1321849
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    Quote Originally Posted by RP2A03 View Post
    It is if you can setup GPU pass-through. Just remember that a VM has overhead.

    Also, Win9x will run like shit inside a VM.
    Yeah, if you plan to use 9x you're better off with legit old hardware.

    I've mentioned my Mazinkaiser before. Here's what it has:

    Motherboard: Epox-8KTA
    Processor: AMD K6-2, 700mhz (tho the mobo could actually handle up to 1ghz)
    RAM: 512mb of PC-133mhz (this is something you'll have to be conscious of because there are indeed different kinds of ram and its not all universally compatible, so make sure what kind of memory your mobo takes)
    Video card: Voodoo 3 2000 (the Voodoo 3 can handle all three major APIs--Glide, OpenGL, and Direct3D. It's the only one that can do all three).
    Sound card: Soundblaster 16, ISA slot version (ISA slot sound cards work natively in DOS, while PCI ones will require extra tinkering. If you don't plan to ever use real DOS then this won't matter).

    Game range: Can technically play anything up until late win98 era, so... 2003-ish? Which is a little below what the OP was asking, but from the sounds of it he'll need two computers for the entire range of games he wants anyway.

    I myself have never been able to figure out what a good build for an XP computer would be, as apparently even in just XP's time on the market the requirements for games changed radically. That's just what I've heard though, and I've never tried to build one (not enough money).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Edmond Dantes View Post
    Yeah, if you plan to use 9x you're better off with legit old hardware.

    I've mentioned my Mazinkaiser before. Here's what it has:

    Motherboard: Epox-8KTA
    Processor: AMD K6-2, 700mhz (tho the mobo could actually handle up to 1ghz)
    RAM: 512mb of PC-133mhz (this is something you'll have to be conscious of because there are indeed different kinds of ram and its not all universally compatible, so make sure what kind of memory your mobo takes)
    Video card: Voodoo 3 2000 (the Voodoo 3 can handle all three major APIs--Glide, OpenGL, and Direct3D. It's the only one that can do all three).
    Sound card: Soundblaster 16, ISA slot version (ISA slot sound cards work natively in DOS, while PCI ones will require extra tinkering. If you don't plan to ever use real DOS then this won't matter).

    Game range: Can technically play anything up until late win98 era, so... 2003-ish? Which is a little below what the OP was asking, but from the sounds of it he'll need two computers for the entire range of games he wants anyway.

    I myself have never been able to figure out what a good build for an XP computer would be, as apparently even in just XP's time on the market the requirements for games changed radically. That's just what I've heard though, and I've never tried to build one (not enough money).
    I have an old HP Windows XP computer that I'd bought in 2002. I didn't know about AGP, at the time, so I ended up using PCI based graphics cards like the GeForce 2, Geforce 4 MX440 and finally the FX 5200 Ultra. It has a 2Ghz Celeron CPU and 756 MB of RAM. I believe the HDD is only 250 GB. I was running games like Halo, Doom 3, Star Wars Galaxies, Star Wars: Empire at War and GTA: Vice City. The only game that it really struggled with was Knights of the Old Republic, and it was because of how badly that game ran, that I bought an Xbox in 2003.

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    You don't have to use desktop PC hardware, there are a lot of really great laptops from the early 2000s, many of which can support Windows 9x with just a little driver elbow grease.

    Generally speaking, you can't go wrong with most Dell models as they usually have Intel chipsets that are supported by Windows 9x. Try to look for a Latitude or Inspiron with a Pentium III, Pentium 4 or Pentium M. The Dell Latitude D600 in particular is excellent, usually has an ATi Radeon 7500 or 9000 video chipset and are very inexpensive. With some Dell laptops, you may luck out and find one with an Nvidia chipset.

    2nd place would be IBM, but that's mainly because a lot of Thinkpads use Intel integrated graphics. That said, if the Thinkpad was made before the Lenovo sale in 2006, there's pretty good odds it will at least have an ATi chipset. I have a Thinkpad T42 which has a Radeon 7500 chipset, it works fantastically.

    I do not recommend anything by HP or Compaq, mainly because most use AMD chipsets which are poorly supported by Win9x. That and at least in the middle 2000s, HP made a lot of poorly built laptops, mostly dying from overheating and melting solder all over the board. I haven't had much experience with Toshiba to really recommend them.

    Don't be discouraged by a bit of driver hunting, often times you'll be able to find Win9x drivers right at the manufacturer's website, Dell still has pages for their early 2000s laptops, for example. Even if that's not the case, there have been efforts by fans to compile driver packs. I have previously put together driver packs for the Dell D600 and Thinkpad T42 over at VOGONS.org.

    By the way, if you are at all interested in using contemporary PC hardware for older games, you need to sign up at VOGONS.org, it's a great resource.
    Last edited by Guntz; 10-15-2016 at 06:08 PM.

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