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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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    Kirby (Level 13) Tanooki's Avatar
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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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    Guys, he's not looking for a PC to run old DOS games. He's looking for a PC that will pretty much run games from Windows 98 to Windows in 2015.


    Quote Originally Posted by Raconteur View Post
    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:
    [LIST][*]Can ONE machine cover these 15 years well (1999-2013)? Is it possible?


    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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    I think part of the problem though is that its looking like he'll need two computers, and one will have the potential to cover the earlier era anyway so he might as well go for it.

    I remember asking something similar on Vogons and that's pretty much what they told me.

    Here's that topic: http://www.vogons.org/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=41593

    It might help him, but essentially what I remember is that you'll need an XP machine for games from 199-2007-ish and then everything past that will need a second machine.

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    He doesn't need Windows 10 Guntz. Windows 8.1 would do.

    Quote Originally Posted by Edmond Dantes View Post
    I think part of the problem though is that its looking like he'll need two computers, and one will have the potential to cover the earlier era anyway so he might as well go for it.

    I remember asking something similar on Vogons and that's pretty much what they told me.

    Here's that topic: http://www.vogons.org/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=41593

    It might help him, but essentially what I remember is that you'll need an XP machine for games from 199-2007-ish and then everything past that will need a second machine.

    That'a why I suggested a dual-boot system. I did that with a Q9650 and a couple of GTX 460s in Sli back in 2010. I would run older stuff like the original StarCraft (DX8)with the Windows XP side, and games like Crysis 2 on the Windows 7 side with DX11.
    Last edited by Gamevet; 10-20-2016 at 01:34 PM.

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    If he wants his computer to have any future-proofing, he'll want to use Windows 10. But yes, 8.1 will also work.

    Your dual boot suggestion has a fatal flaw, in the form of UEFI and GPT. These are modern replacements for BIOS and MBR, respectively. If you see the term "Secure Boot" in your PC's "BIOS" settings, then you have a UEFI-equipped PC. It's being marketed under the pretense of being more secure, all that's really happening is soon you will have no choice but to use Windows 10 (or 8.1 for a limited time). You won't get older Windows or Linux due to Secure Boot. Even if you disable Secure Boot (which may not be possible in the future), you will still have to deal with the headache that is GPT. Windows 7 supports it, but GPT is difficult to work with. Windows XP has no support for GPT.

    If you want to avoid UEFI and GPT, you will have to use older, "outdated" hardware. If you want the latest and greatest, you are again restricted to Windows 10's legacy support, a Virtual Machine program or a 2nd older physical PC, much like how we all keep original consoles.
    Last edited by Guntz; 10-20-2016 at 01:55 PM.

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    He didn't ask for future proof. He cuts it off at last year.

    I also ran that dual boot with an Asus p8-z68 Pro board with a 2500K in 2012. Honestly, he really doesn't need Windows XP. He can run 2 Windows 7/8.1 partitions, with one using the older versions of DX for compatibilty for those late 90s and early 2000 titles, and the other operating system with the more up to date DX drivers.
    Last edited by Gamevet; 10-20-2016 at 02:18 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gamevet View Post
    That'a why I suggested a dual-boot system. I did that with a Q9650 and a couple of GTX 460s in Sli back in 2010. I would run older stuff like the original StarCraft (DX8)with the Windows XP side, and games like Crysis 2 on the Windows 7 side with DX11.
    There's still a potential hiccup with that though: the hardware.

    Let's say you have a very advanced video card that handles Crysis 2 like a champ.... but then, oops, the Windows XP partition doesn't recognize it. Or perhaps the actual games don't.

    Then again the idea mentioned elsewhere of just having two Win7 boot partitions might work.

    Still, if I were the OP I would instead build an XP machine for games from 1999-2006 then worry about later games.... well... later.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Edmond Dantes View Post
    There's still a potential hiccup with that though: the hardware.

    Let's say you have a very advanced video card that handles Crysis 2 like a champ.... but then, oops, the Windows XP partition doesn't recognize it. Or perhaps the actual games don't.

    Then again the idea mentioned elsewhere of just having two Win7 boot partitions might work.

    Still, if I were the OP I would instead build an XP machine for games from 1999-2006 then worry about later games.... well... later.
    It's as easy as swapping out your video card. It's still much better than having 2 PCs vying for you desk space. I do know this though; I could remove my GTX 780 Classified from my main rig, and throw in my old GTS 250, and it would work fine with Nvidia's drivers.

    I don't think that having a modern graphics card, or sound card, would be a problem though. Origin hands out free old games all the time that are running through DOS Box. They've ran fine so far, though I think some of that old stuff wound be better on a crt. The problems I've had with running older games usually had to do with Direct X not supporting some of the features of older DX titles, and that is where having a secondary operating system with older drivers works out better.

    I do have an old PCI NVidia FX-5200 Ultra I could throw in my 2009 HP Pavilion PC (Windows 7), to see if it would actually work with NVidia's modern drivers. The Intel onboard graphics could pretty much run anything from before 2000 quite easily though.
    Last edited by Gamevet; 10-21-2016 at 09:11 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gamevet View Post
    Guys, he's not looking for a PC to run old DOS games. He's looking for a PC that will pretty much run games from Windows 98 to Windows in 2015.
    That's not really possible. If you have a 2015 PC running Windows 10 and capable of running Steam which is a massive resource hog, you're going to have a very difficult time running anything from 10 years ago and older. Sure, some popular games can still work on Windows 10, but many more had trouble even with Vista and 7, those games usually don't work on 10 because it has even less legacy support.

    The problem stems from whether the game in question once relied upon Windows 9x, which was only ever partially supported in Windows NT over the years. Windows 2000 was pathetic, XP was vastly improved but still not a complete replacement. Vista, 7 and onward kept reducing 9x support. The problem got worse when 16-bit EXE support was dropped thanks to the move to 64-bit. Even some (supposedly) 32-bit 9x games don't work properly anymore.

    DOS is very easy thanks to DOS box. Win9x is a bitch and a half by comparison. Your choices consist of legacy support built into Windows 10 (which isn't very good), a Virtual Machine running XP or Windows 98SE/ME (requires an obscenely powerful PC, to the point of just being a waste of money and hardware) and lastly an older physical PC (I highly recommend this).

    Yes, not everyone likes older technology ruining their modern lives, but if you want to play Win9x games, you'll have a tough time getting them to work on PCs from this decade.

    In case anyone doesn't know, Win9x and NT are not the same thing, at all. Win9x is built on top of MS-DOS and consists of the Win32 API, the 16-bit subsystem and the MS-DOS Manager. It is essentially a heavily modified front end for DOS, think of it as the Genesis and 32X. Windows NT is a completely unrelated OS that has no subsystems or underlying DOS-like architecture, its Win32 API is also entirely different. One complaint I often hear from Win9x fans is WinNT has no emergency backdoor for fixing the OS, due to the lack of DOS.

    I'm seriously tempted to list one of my Dell Latitude D600s fully loaded with drivers, games and all that good stuff, just to prove that retro PC gaming can be a thing too.

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    If you have certain games in mind check and see if they have fan or official patches for Windows 7+. There are more than you could imagine. I would go with the two machine option. i5 or i7 with 970gtx if in the budget will play just about everything maxed at 1920x1080. I would go with Windows 10. I think almost everything from 2007 (vista) will work, and some older stuff randomly works. Core2Duo with XP for the second machine. Should run most other stuff. May even make a boot disk for DOS gaming, but DosBox will work on either machine. I have not tried a VM in awhile but it was too much hassle and graphic cards were not supported well enough.


    If a game does not run, search the web - someone may have found/created a solution.

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    Actually I'd avoid Windows 10. It has some compatibility problems between the switch up from 7/8.1 to it. I had some stuff that 10 would just laugh at and blue bar over and throw the wall up over that 8.1 was happy and fine with. I get loathing on the 8/8.1 interface as off tablet/phone it's awful, but that's what "Classic Shell" is for so you can re-skin the whole OS to be like 7 or even XP if you desire.

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    I've never run into any old software problems on 10

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