The Windows 98SE RestoMod RetroPC Build
Oh, what joy and fun we have. A older Socket 5 computer was brought to me and I could not help myself from making some changes, hence how it has become The Windows 98SE RestoMod RetroPC build. I can never just leave things alone, and this Windows 98SE computer is no exception. I finally got to do a few upgrades to a retro computer that I have been wanting to do for a while now.
Looking at these components, and as some of the items are newer than the CPU, means that this system has seen several upgrades over the years. My best guess is this Pentium 200 has seen at least 2 complete rebuilds. Which is typical of an older system that a doctor wants to keep running. Newer components have been swapped in as older components have failed. Over all this computer was well maintained.
The New Owner
I was brought this Pentium 200 MMX Windows 98SE computer that he had picked up at a yard sale. From what he could tell, it had been previously owned by a doctor. This system had no rust, and was pretty clean on the inside. The Case is a full tower with a AT motherboard, with all of the common components of this era of computer.
System specs were fairly decent for this beige box. The CPU was a respectable Intel Pentium 200 Mhz with MMX. Motherboard was a AZZA Socket 5 AT Motherboard. Ram consists of two 32 MB PC 100 DIMM sticks for a total of 64 MB. Hard drive is a Western Digital 30GB IDE Hard Drive and the CD-Rom is a 24x IDE. Not one of those fancy cd burners either! Graphics was being handled by a “Thunder” S3 Virge 4MB PCI Graphics Card. Sound was rounded out by ye old Sound Blaster Live! PCI. What I found surprising is that there was no dial up modem, but for network connectivity it did have a D-Link 10/100 Network Card. The full tower case seemed to have the its original 280 Watt AT power supply from when it was built or possibly rebuilt.
The New Old PC
When RetrObsessed brought this computer home, he decided to install a fresh copy Windows 98SE as a clean slate. He wasn’t familiar with the OS, and not much worked. As many of us who used Windows 95/98/98SE when it was current would know that when you install the OS, you are only half way done with your work. Hunting and finding drivers was unfamiliar territory for him. He messaged me letting me know his find, and that he wanted to know if I could “Load the drivers for him” for his new find. If anyone knows me, I jumped on the chance to get my grubby paws on this retro pc rig.
He brings me the tower and of course I can’t leave things alone. I don’t even fire the thing up before I hit Amazon and Ebay for upgrades for this retro box. The core of the system is great, but a few changes had to be made before it would be able to leave my bench.
Under no circumstances was there any way I was going to let this system leave with the old tired power supply. There were two options, tearing down the old AT power supply and recapping it, or using an adapter to install an modern ATX power supply into this. I went with the 20Pin ATX to 2-Port 6Pin PSU Converter so we can install a modern ATX power supply that way if by any chance he needs to replace the power supply, they are readily available.
I wound up building this with one of my bench power supplies, but it is nice to know that he can easily order a 400 Watt power supply from any online retailer, and plug it into his case with no issues. A 400 Watt would be massive overkill for this computer, but it would help for a very reliable system. Most modern name brand power supplies are going to be a better design than any older AT style power supply, even recapped ones.
The Western Digital 30 GB hard drive was old and tired. Yes it worked, but not at the performance it once did. It was obvious that it was an upgrade from the original computer build. I wanted the drive to be easily backed up, and easily replaced. For that I went with 32GB Sandisk Extreme CF Card, plugged into a Syba IDE/PATA to CF Adapter. This would allow for easy access to the hard drive (to quickly plug into another computer to copy files). It also adds the convenience of plugging the CF card into a system and imaging the CF card. I left the 30 Gig drive in the case, but it was not plugged in.
After I finished the build, I made an image of the CF card and copied it to my backup server. If the CF card ever dies, I can copy that image to a new CF card, and he will be able to boot off of that. Trust me, we all wish we had this level of simplicity back in the day.
Lets not forget about the performance increase with that CF card was very noticeable. I realized after a few boots that I wasn’t hearing the sound of the “corn grinder” hard drive. I watched the OS load seconds faster, and games loading almost instantly, so I was able to get used to the silent operation. Trust me, the CPU fan makes enough noise.
Originally I wanted to upgrade his 4MB graphics card to a Voodoo card. Those currently are in high demand, and the prices have gone up far more than we wanted to spend. Instead I opted to go a different route to really set his computer apart. I went with a Matrox Millennium G200 G2+/DUALP-PL 16MB graphics card. Where we didn’t go with full on 3D powerhouse we went for a dual monitor card. Several of the games he wanted to play on this box were the DOS/95 variants like Quake 1, Doom, Blood, Command & Conquer, and those mostly software games, not 3D accelerated (accept for Quake, but GLQuake didn’t come on the disk, and that is what he wanted to play). The Matrox cards were “new old stock” so just to make sure, I went ahead and purchased 2 as they were only $15, rather be safe than sorry.
Now he is trying to find dual matching CRT monitors for this setup. I did give him, probably a year or so ago, a old LCD touch screen that connected via VGA and used Serial to communicate for the touch input. I am trying to convince him to use that, but we will see.
Originally I found some ISA studio quality sound cards from Ebay. If you watch the video, you will see that I could not get this card working. Due to this I decided to go back to the Sound Blaster Live card. Even though the drivers loaded with no issue, and windows did indicate sound, I was not hearing sound. I went to my collection and I continued the build with my Echo Mia Midi. After 2 weeks, RetrObseesed picked up a Sound Blaster Compatible sound card. To be honest, I was more hoping for a Sound Blaster EAX (sound acceleration FTW) but this card will get the job done. But new old stock that supports Windows 98SE is a plus. We have had conversations and is already looking at possible upgrades down the road.
Being as I was adapting modern hardware in a retro AT computer, I decided called this build a “RestoMod”. Normally RestoMod is a term applied towards cars, but I find the term quite fitting in this build. I chose to use a few modern parts in a retro build due to my focus on builds. Longevity and usability in preference to restoring the computer back to all original parts. As someone who used these computers in the past, I have no problem with this. Give him a retro gaming computer that he can enjoy, but not have to stress to find vintage parts that may or may not work.
List of parts:
Matrox Millennium G200 G2+/DUALP-PL 16MB
Sound Blaster Compatible PCI Sound Card
SanDisk Extreme 32GB CompactFlash Memory Card
Syba IDE/PATA to CF Adapter
20Pin ATX to 2-Port 6 Pin PSU Converter Power Cable
HP LFH / DMS-59 to Dual VGA Y-Splitter Cable 338285-008
uxcell Desktop Computer 6-32 Multi-Purpose Screw
There are several sites that I you can go to update older versions of windows or obtain older software. I did not mention them in the video, but I did want to make note of them. I highly recommend using Auto-Patch for Windows 98SE as that will perform all of the OS patches in just a few short reboots. OldApps is a great resource for older software for older operating systems.
Old Windows 98 Software (OldApps)
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