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Gaming Like Its 1999: Building A Legacy Windows Gaming PC

Author: Matt Smith
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer:

My Build, Buying Tips

 

Here’s the hardware I purchased for my legacy gaming PC.
 
Monitor: Sony Trinitron Multiscan 200sf 17” - $25
 
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My first computer was a Sony Vaio that came complete with a Sony Trinitron 15” monitor. It was a beautiful piece of equipment and I was overjoyed to find that a similar 17” monitor was available on Craigslist for just $25. I immediately went over to look at it and found it to be in mint condition with the exception of some marks on the top of the monitor where something hot obviously touched and melted the plastic. 
 
The 17” size worked for me, as well. It fits on my desk besides my other monitors. I may have been able to squeeze in a 19” but I am not sure it would have been comfortable.
 
Computer: Custom Built Used PC - $40 + $10 (For Windows 98 SE)
 
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Portland has a computer parts thrift store called Free Geek that, according to its mission statement, believes “reuse is the highest and best form of recycling.” They take old computer parts, refurbish them, and re-sell them. It’s hardware geek heaven.
 
There I found, after about a week searching elsewhere, a system that would be perfect. It was a no-name build in a no-name case that someone had obviously put together themselves. And they apparently knew what they were doing – it had an ASUS K8V-XM motherboard with an (unused) AGP slot, an AMD Sempron 2400+ processor, 512MB of RAM and a 40GB hard drive. 
 
Yes, this is a newer system than I had aimed for and you don’t need hardware this fast. But the price is what sold me. Forty bucks. What a steal! The only problem was that it ran Ubuntu, so I had to track down a copy of Windows 98 SE on Craigslist. Most computers will already have a copy of Windows installed.
 
Video Card: Nvidia GeForce 5600 MX 128MB - $5
 
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This fell into my lap while I was at Free Geek hunting for the PC. What sold me on it was the fact that Nvidia still had drivers compatible with Windows 98 available for download. Older video cards that are more accurate for the era are often hard to find drivers for.
 
Sound Card: Onboard
 
I picked up a Sound Blaster Audigy that supposedly had driver support for Windows 98 SE via an .iso available on a Sound Blaster fan site, but I could not get the card to produce sound. Fortunately the ASUS motherboard had a decent onboard solution and the official drivers were still available. I’m still on the lookout for a dedicated card, but the onboard solution will do for now.
 
Joystick: Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback 2 - $5
 
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Having a vintage joystick is an important part of this era’s gaming experience. Many titles only worked well if you had a joystick to play them with. I had originally wanted a Sidewinder 3D Pro, but I decided to give the Force Feedback 2 a try. Despite its 13 years of age the joystick’s force feedback motors still work, as do all of its buttons and inputs. I picked this Joystick up as Free Geek as well, but any Goodwill or other large thrift store is likely to have a few joysticks sitting around.
 
Keyboard + Mouse: $10
 
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A simple Microsoft mouse and a IBM keyboard - found both at Goodwill, which usually has a ton of old perpherials in stock. 
 
Total Cost Of Hardware
 
I ended up coming way under budget for the build. Let’s review.
  • Monitor - $25
  • Computer - $40
  • Operating System: $10
  • Video Card: $5
  • Joystick: $5
  • Total: $95
 
For less than one hundred dollars I had everything I needed for a vintage gaming machine. This figure may not impress you, but if you decide to go hunting for your own parts, your perspective will change quickly. 
 
You’ve Gained Experience! Purchasing Tips
 
Buy Local
 
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Image Credit: Jeff Kubina
When I first decided on this project I thought that hitting my budget goal would be a cakewalk. The real issue, I imagined, would be getting the computer to work properly.
 
Reality quickly humbled me. Some of the people who are in possession of old hardware seem to know what they have. At any time you can purchase a ready-to-go vintage gaming PC on eBay. But you’ll be looking at prices that range between $100 and $400 for the computer alone. And that’s before shipping. Vintage components are often at least $20 each.
 
It turns out that going local is your best bet. You don’t have to pay shipping, which automatically cuts money out of the budget. Prices are usually lower, as well. While you have access to fewer sellers, they have access to fewer buyers, and this balance seems to work out in your favor. 
 
Patience is required. While I lucked out on my monitor, I had to check Craigslist every day for a week and check twelve different shops (a combination of Goodwills, pawn shops and computer thrift stores) before finding an acceptable system at an acceptable price. Don’t let your impulses get the better of you. 
 
The Driver Tango
 
Sniping hardware at the right price is half the battle. The other half is sniping the right hardware – and driver availability is often the difference between right and wrong.
 
Manufacturers understandably discontinue driver support for old products. Unfortunately, they often take the drivers off the Internet and close relevant product support pages. And hardware is useless without the right drivers. 
 
Sometimes you will have to download a driver from a third party because the driver is no longer available on the official site and sometimes you won’t be able to find a driver at all. Checking for this issue before you buy will save you from wasting money. 
 
Be Prepared For Trouble
 
When I set out on this project I wanted to keep it within a certain budget. However, I also knew that I was dealing with older computer components with limited or no driver support. This meant it was likely that I was going to have to deal with hardware that isn’t working properly and may need to be replaced. There needed to be room in the budget to cover that.
 
I was right. The sound card that I purchased, a Sound Blaster Audigy, would not function after the drivers were installed. I simply could not get it to produce any sound or provide any indication that it was working. It was detected, and listed in the device manager as functional, but wasn’t doing its job.
 
Since I had bought the Audigy at a thrift store I was able to return it. But I could have just as easily experienced a problem with the $25 monitor sold on Craiglist by a guy preparing to move across the country. 

July 20, 2012 | 01:52 PM - Posted by Arb1 (not verified)

um just a thought wouldn't it be cheaper to say run win98 in VMware or something? being graphic's being what they were back then it should be more then fast enough.

July 22, 2012 | 02:50 PM - Posted by rrr (not verified)

True. Emulation is sufficient performance wise for such old games, and you don't have to bother with extra junk PC.

July 28, 2015 | 01:41 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Its not junk noob

July 22, 2012 | 06:46 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I initially went the VMware route. And the VirtualBox route. And the Virtual PC route. While in theory it sure does sound nice, many of these games were created in a chaotic time of hardware and their related drivers. Plus, with virtualization, the graphics and sound hardware that's emulated tends to stress more application compatibility, and aren't exactly optimal for virtualized Windows gaming.

MechWarrior II (at least the Titanium edition) on a very fast PC has weird quirks involving accel/deceleration, weight, and jumpjet capacity.

MechWarrior III in a virtualized environment has a tendency to randomly send vehicles flying several kilometers into the sky at breakneck speeds, eventually throwing them off the map and leaving you unable to complete missions.

Some games just don't want to run due to extensive hardware and DirectX utilization.

There's a substantial difference in classic Windows gaming and classic DOS gaming, with the older DOS gaming ironically far easier as it was far simpler to emulate via DOSBox.

May 10, 2015 | 05:42 PM - Posted by Aberran (not verified)

There is a VM specifically built for Mechwarrior 2 to run on modern systems and I have been able to run it just as well as my old Pentium 2 plus it upscales to higher resolutions and comes with modding tools built in.

I believe it is called MechVM.
I am currently collecting old games and trying to run them on my modern computer. An activity I come back to many of times. I try to make them run just as well if not better than they did on original hardware.

Currently struggling with Need For Speed 2 SE which runs either full speed with distorting/crackling sound or very slow with good quality sound. Not sure what I am doing wrong but it has taken a good deal of work. On the other hand I can't even get the Non-SE version to load on my computer and it is my next target.

I also have a retro machine that is currently dismantled since it started showing signs of death coming soon. I hope to have something patched together soon, but am really hoping emulators like PCEM pull off a miracle for me before all my old hardware finally dies.

July 23, 2012 | 12:48 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Or VirtualBox. 100% free and supports 3d acceleration on some Guest OSes

July 20, 2012 | 02:17 PM - Posted by Kev (not verified)

Im ashamed to say... "I remember those days".

July 20, 2012 | 02:39 PM - Posted by Vlad (not verified)

Why are you ashamed? Those days were awesome! I'm proud that I lived through that golden era of gaming.

July 20, 2012 | 07:31 PM - Posted by DreadStorm (not verified)

Golden era? Try Wolfenstein on a 386. heh

July 22, 2012 | 11:22 AM - Posted by Old School Gamer (not verified)

I built my first PC which was a 386-25 that was going to be a screamer playing Doom at net parties. Cost me damn near $2,000. Tired of losing because of lag.

July 20, 2012 | 02:26 PM - Posted by KngtRider

Audigy 1 does work on windows 98, I was dual booting 98 and 2000

The first cards shipped after XP went gold but before general avalibilty,the drivers bundled were for windows 2000(WDM) and 98(VXD) and had compatiblty issues with XP.

They did not support XP or had XP drivers in the box (august 2001, sep 2001 for AUS)
XP formally launched in October. The drivers were buggy on RTM Win XP and later fixed.

Windows 2000 was not too good at multimedia or gaming

Some older games especially if you want to access the native MIDI compatibilty of the game you'll need VXD not WDM drivers as different features are exposed. (For ANY sound card of th era - SB, Yamaha, Aureal, CMedia)

98/ME can use WDM drivers - ie shared drivers witrh 2000/XP but only in certain instances and many features missing

I cant find my Audigy 1 review (long story) but I did find a screenshot showing the driver properties
heres

AIDA32 showing the Audigy 98SE(or did I have ME?) VXD driver
2002

http://www.nitroware.net/images/stories/audigy1/aida32.gif

Audigy 2 ZS (2003) launch units came with partial 98 "VXD" drivers

There is a zip on the CD that included the 98_ME VXD driver, however you had to install it yourself manually no installer. Creative Download Packages did allow a choice of VXD or WDM but VXD eventually disapeard.

The situation is much worse with other brand cards especially Yamaha and Aureal as in some cases even SPDIF control or hardware MIDI was not avallible.

Thats not the half of it. NT 4.0 audio drivers. wow. Modern Technology.

I was a mod a popular pc audio forum called 3dsoundsurge, some of you old hats may remeber it.I spent too much time providing tech support in the various audio card sub forums.

Realtek have 95/98/NT drivers for their older chips still for download.

I personally think this system is too new for 'legacy gaming', in fact the hardware is too new for 98SE also.

July 20, 2012 | 09:55 PM - Posted by Matt Smith

I'll have to give it another shot when I have time. I really want to get an older sound card working.

The hardware is newer than I intended, but I outlined the reasons for that. If you want to go pure era hardware you by all means can, but you have to spend a lot more time looking for hardware, or you need to expand your budget. 

Functionally, I don't think the hardware I picked is at any disadvantage. I mean, I suppose it is true that the video card won't support some older rendering methods, but the system is more than quick enough to go with the software renderer in those cases.

August 29, 2012 | 01:38 PM - Posted by HeavyG (not verified)

You are right about the Audigy 2 drivers. I used 7Zip to pull out the drivers, then manually updated them with the files I extracted. They work perfectly fine.

July 20, 2012 | 02:38 PM - Posted by D1RTYD1Z619

I used to have a pc running win 98se just to play combat flight similator and mechwarrior 2 with my sidewinder forcefeed back joystick. Sadly I had to get rid of it due to space constraints.

July 20, 2012 | 09:56 PM - Posted by Matt Smith

Yep, space is a problem. I have just enough room. I suspect some people would go DOSBox or virtualization no matter the cost or difficulity of a system like this, just because they don't have enough room for it.

July 20, 2012 | 02:55 PM - Posted by collie (not verified)

this is an amazingly fun project that I have done myself 2 times, one for a windows 98 pentium 2, and one for a dos 6.2.2 486. I Most of what Matt says is true, correct and good advice...... Except for "As far as I know you could also use Windows ME without compatibility issues"
While compatibility would not be a problem, Windows ME is! It is the worst OS that Microsoft has ever released. Random Degradation starts on day one of install, all of the "New Features" it included, system restore in particular, were not ready for the consumer, and the blue screen of death was almost as common a sight as the desktop.
The legend is that Windows ME was only released due to the fact that Microsoft had promised a "New OS for the new Millennium" but "Whistler" wasn't ready, so they patched together an updated windows 98 that never realy worked properly, so they wouldn't look bad for promising a impossible to achieve release date, and What was supposed to be ME became XP, one of the best operating systems to date.

So the moral of the story is, NO WIN ME!!!!!!

July 21, 2012 | 12:22 AM - Posted by Collie man (not verified)

Side note, as of 5 mins ago I now have a full k-6 system to play with. Did somebody say DOOM?

July 22, 2012 | 11:24 AM - Posted by KngtRider

PCPER is a place of facts logic and reason not hate or hearsay which is why I like to frequent here.

Win Me came out because it was time for Windows release cycle. There is no conspiracy.

Roughly without aid of wikipedia

1995 Win 95 Gold/Retail/Upgrade
1996 95A and 95B
1997 95 OSR 2.X
1998 Win 98/98SE
1999 Windows 2000
2000 Win ME
2001 Win XP
2002-3 Win MCE, Server 2003/Win X64
2004-5 XP service Packs
2006 vista
2009 7
2012 8

Approx every 3 years = new major OS with minor OS in between and that excludes betas which void this rule.

Have people forgotten how many versions of WIn 3.x/NT there were too? some of these should have been free updates
Win 3.1
Win 3.11
Win 3.12* some claim it exists some dont
Win 3.11 for Workgroups
NT 3.1,3.5,3.51, NT4
MSDOS was as much as a clustef!@# too 3.x to 6.x and point releases mattered.

Windows 2000 was NOT a consumer oriented OS.

The only issue with winme for legacy gaming is they removed the exit to dos feature.

It even had USB mass storage support, 98se needs random drivers from random websites for mass storage.

98SE bsods on most systems let alone me. It also had the 'degrading' you speak of after a few hours. It is for this reason that 'professionals' used NT4.0 and later Win2000 for any system that had to be depended on.

There were many known issues for 98SE, such as issues with fast processors, high ram or large disks.

It does not support SMP let alone WinME. But winme has been a scapegoat for years when the finger should have been at the whole win9x family for being too directly dependant on hw/drivers and not being abstracted from a driver sense.

Its funny how many on the internet who criticise ME are obvilious to the fact that MS had to release 98SE to 'improve' 98 and 95a,b and a few more updates, some of which were not avalible as a download/covercd patch.

MS released some kernel updates for 95 (they never have since only full service packs)

And to this day I am still annoyed that MS didnt let 98 GOLD owners patch to 98 SE either free or cheaply

95 gold AKA 95A on CDROM was nasty in terms of its hardware support.

July 22, 2012 | 02:52 PM - Posted by rrr (not verified)

Entire 9x line was BSOD prone, that was inherent architectural fault, that couldn't be fixed with any service pack - that's why MS moved to NT kernel line, which was completely different beast.

July 22, 2012 | 06:42 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I hear ya', brother.

Back in the day, you tended to just by a machine with Windows rather than upgrade. 95 and 98 were interesting and still good OS'es, but they definitely had their share of crashes and BSoDs. I never got to use WinME until a few years ago while playing around with an older machine from 2002, but it was far less of a hassle than people made it out to be. Yeah, it crashed, but not any more than I remember in 95 and 98/98SE.

People tend to forget the days before WinXP and its giant cache of drivers that did its best to make sure your hardware would run.

March 2, 2015 | 03:04 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Have ME installed on an old Essential 433c I had laying around after upgrading the RAM to 192MB, and swapping out the OEM hard drive with one of my own hard drives, so as to save the OEM Win98 install and the data on it, no real problems worth mentioning yet.

July 20, 2012 | 03:08 PM - Posted by Finedaible

Ahh, I remember the days when I had a Windows 98 pc. My favorite game was Descent 3. I had even built various levels to play on. It was awesome!

July 20, 2012 | 03:28 PM - Posted by Octavean (not verified)

dude, I just tossed out a lot of old hardware that would have made for a good legacy gaming PC. I blame my Wife for this,..... ;-)

I must have tossed out three 17" Viewsonic CRT monitors. A couple of cases with PII / PIII motherboards (I kept the CPUs, HDD and RAM). All sorts of other nick-nacks.

Damn it!

July 20, 2012 | 03:40 PM - Posted by Luke (not verified)

Note that with an old school rig like this, you could install a 'Good Old Game' and copy the files to your rig, playing them 'au naturale'.

Good article! Props!
Luke

July 20, 2012 | 03:46 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

A couple of things:

The GPU you used is newer than the one in this system (5200FX)
When you partitioned the drive, did you run into the 32GB partition limit? I'm sure I remember this being a problem with FAT 32.
I find that booting into something like Ubuntu is a good way of testing nonfunctioning hardware like your sound card.

Very interesting read.

July 21, 2012 | 01:32 AM - Posted by Thedarklord

FAT32 is able to create volumes up to 2TB in size, you go around the 32GB limit during the (in this case) Windows 98 install, it will prompt you early on in the install for something like "enable large disk support" which will allow you to create volumes larger than 32GB. :)

July 22, 2012 | 11:31 AM - Posted by KngtRider

2000/xp/vista, not sure on win7 have a FAT formatting limit (versus volume limit) that is documented as a known issue-nofix by Microsoft. Third party disk/USB formatting tools overcome this issue.

Third party tools are often faster or support boot also

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/314463

July 20, 2012 | 05:48 PM - Posted by Nilbog

Great article

I have to ask, how is this easier that just running games through DOSBox?
DOSBox is what GoG and Steam use to get these old games to run on modern hardware.
Its easy.

July 20, 2012 | 09:57 PM - Posted by Matt Smith

No doubt, DOSBox is easier than this, and cheaper too. 

March 7, 2015 | 03:38 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Buut its MIDI emulation sucks balls, and unlike FreeDOS if you want straight DOS (because the last standalone version of MS-DOS, 6.22, only supports FAT16, while FreeDOS supports FAT32), or Win98se/ME (because both support FAT32, while Win95 doesn't), it don't run all games, for example, from experience, Descent II won't run at all in DOSBox, while it runs without a hitch in WinME.

March 19, 2015 | 01:06 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Actually, Win95c supposts FAT32 so.

July 20, 2012 | 06:20 PM - Posted by TechXero (not verified)

WoW Awesome little Project man !

Seems am one of few lucky ones ! My dad, back in the Pentium III days bought me one as a gift ... I can now safely say he did well preserving it and still using it to this day as his office internet and faxing machine ....

Finally I can ask for it back since he got another machine he can use instead, to use it for this Memory lane project ...

Thanks for this ;)

July 20, 2012 | 11:18 PM - Posted by anonimous (not verified)

Would this work for ya?
http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml?product_id=0389068
it costs $99.99
AMD Athlon 64 Processor 3200 @ 2GHz
1Gb RAM
40GB Hdd
AMD Radeon X200
AC'97 Audio Chipset
Comes with XP Profesional instead of 98SE.
It's also on the first page of the catalog top left.

July 21, 2012 | 02:18 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Gee, I wish I had Total Annihilation 2!:P

You must be a little younger than I; these are games from late high school!

Amiga days were where it was at!

Were a few classics released around the time win95 introduced the directX stranglehold on PC hardware.(quake, duke3d,warcraft,few lucasarts adventure games,etc.) They were, of course, DOS games. Remember how bad 95 made your hardware seem? Why the fuck doesn't the next version of windows run better than the previous? More time to tweak it! I swear Microsoft is the most fucking

*rant detected: ABORTING*

July 21, 2012 | 02:58 AM - Posted by Atari6502 (not verified)

Wow, I was just thinking of doing this very thing with an old Shuttle w/ an AMD XP 2400. I knew there was a reason I didn't throw away my copy of Win 98se. :)
I have a bunch of old games still in their boxes.
I didn't think about having to patch them though.
Good advice of finding them on a separate system and transferring them over.

May 10, 2015 | 05:51 PM - Posted by Aberran (not verified)

I would love to have a shuttle if it is what I think it is with that chip in it be perfect for taking up little room and being able to hold whatever you need to throw at it from the days prior to windows XP that don't yet emulate well. Well and even a bit beyond those borders. I got a friend who has a shuttle box computer he used as an emulator machine till he got an ouya.

July 21, 2012 | 03:43 AM - Posted by Scott Michaud

You're dang right you originally wanted a Microsoft Sidewinder 3D Pro, Matt! :p

July 22, 2012 | 11:53 AM - Posted by KngtRider

Which sidewinder was it that needed a serial connection for the forcefeedback?

I remeber at the time there defintly was a sidewinder or more that used two cables and not just a single USB ?

I never liked the sidewinder because i wanted a real flightstick style grip not the knife handle stick that MS used.

There was a few variants of sidewinder, there was a wheel and there was a gamepad also.

Microsoft Fury3 #facepalm . That game wasnt that good. Port/spinoff/clone of Terminal Velocity.

July 21, 2012 | 09:40 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Actually there is a mistake in the article. The lowest Pentium III was clocked at 450MHz. I had one and it was awesome. Then along came the Celeron 300a to spoil the party. It didn't have as much Level 2 cache, but the cache ran at full clock speed unlike the PIII which ran at half the clockspeed. Not only that, but with a BX motherboard, it was a snap to overclock to 450MHz. Gone are the days when you can overclock a processor by 50% of it's original clockspeed.

July 21, 2012 | 10:33 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

All pentium 3's have full speed cache. Some pentium 2's didn't.

July 21, 2012 | 10:45 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

No your wrong the first pentium 3( Katmai) had half speed cache.

July 22, 2012 | 11:41 AM - Posted by KngtRider

Fun Fact:Back in the day With real apps such as compiling Java, using the same JDK Pentium III 500/VIA system compiled 3x faster for me than a Celeron 333 with BX and these were only simple apps.

I was timing them because I was working on Java code at university and at home.

Josh said in the podcast he liked the old celeron and many others too and thats fine but the realilty is the overclocked celeron setup was liked by many because they were too cheap or poor to buy a Pentium III even a Katmai.

I went with the P3 Katmai instead of the awful celeron or even worse dual celeron setups and i got heckled and abused in local enthusiast forums for doing so

At launch P3 was over 1000 which settled once the P2 was out of the picture. I distinctly remeber shopping for 800EBs in the $400 mark.

Dual Celerons without SSE and crippled cache sharing a common bus and RAM. REALLY?. 10yrs later can anyone HONESTLY say that was a good idea?

The 'value enthusiast' motherboard makers came up with that idea as an enthusiast gimic, to sell motherboards. Which later died by the dozens due to failure or badcaps.

And I go back to my earlier post - gee what OS was needed for SMP again? Oh thats right. NT. The same os that wasnt for the 'gamer' let alone had good support for the 'touchy' video cards, sound cards, other stuff of the era

It was not that long ago where new software required SSE2, excluding the SSE1 only K7s from the picture. Capcom Lost Planet 1 was an infamous example of requiring SSE2 just to load.

July 22, 2012 | 06:21 PM - Posted by Matt Smith

Yep, right there. I think I typoed that because I'm sure I read the first one was 450 MHz in my research.

July 21, 2012 | 12:15 PM - Posted by RichS (not verified)

I did a similar project over 6 months ago. I was missing all of the old games I used to play, and constructed a vintage gaming PC.

Components:
I was given a Dell Optiplex GX150, had a bad CD-ROM and hard drive. This had a 933MHz. Pentium III, 386 MB RAM, and a 32GB Nvidia TNT2 graphics card.

From my stockpile of parts, I was able to replace the CD-ROM with a BenQ 52X CD_ROM drive, the hard drive with a Maxtor 40GB IDE drive, and a 256MB PC133 memory module to replace the 128MB one, making 2 256 MB modules in the computer for a total of 512MB, the most Windows 98SE can handle.

I put in a Sound Blaster Live! Value card also, and the driver disk I had installed the drivers for both DOS and Windows 98SE. I had a copy of Windows 98SE, and I used the product ID from the sticker that was still on the computer.

This is a great machine for when I want to go nostalgic and play some Duke or Doom, and it didn't cost me anything but time.

July 21, 2012 | 12:26 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

RAM: More is not better. 95/98 will not install on a system with more than 512 Mb. The installer will crash.

July 22, 2012 | 06:22 PM - Posted by Matt Smith

Hmm, are you sure? I've read of people installing with more than that. I've heard of random reboots with 1.5 GB of more.

I figure if you have more RAM than is allowed, you can always remove some from the system. 

July 22, 2012 | 06:43 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The magic number is 768MB for stable OS operations. You can technically install more if you want, but you'd have to manually set a boot parameter in Windows that would limit it to 768.

I've experienced random crashing and inability to boot at 1GB, and complete inability to boot at 2GB.

Also, might want to look into a bigger hard drive. Some of them ol' games were monsters that installed off of several CDs.

July 22, 2012 | 06:44 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The magic number is 768MB for stable OS operations. You can technically install more if you want, but you'd have to manually set a boot parameter in Windows that would limit it to 768.

I've experienced random crashing and inability to boot at 1GB, and complete inability to boot at 2GB.

Also, might want to look into a bigger hard drive. Some of them ol' games were monsters that installed off of several CDs.

May 10, 2015 | 06:03 PM - Posted by Aberran (not verified)

I had a 1024 MB Pentium 4 computer with a 9800XT GPU that had no problems with windows 98se ever. Had less problems than the Pentium II that I had that came with windows 95. I would say though only carried that to dual boot to xp for the gains in xp. 512 is all you need in a Win 9x computer I will admit. No reason to put more electricity, heat and general use through old hardware that is not adding to the experience. Save the other stick for when the first one dies is a much better plan.

July 21, 2012 | 02:54 PM - Posted by Hans (not verified)

Funny days! Building a rigg thoses days was fun but tough!
Thanks for sharing

July 22, 2012 | 01:08 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

For the browser I suggest using Opera 10 which supports Windows 98. Also have a look at www.dosgamesarchive.com

July 22, 2012 | 11:50 AM - Posted by KngtRider

Great Point about web browsers. Firefox would be supported up to a lower version.

OS 9 for the Macintosh has the same problem with finding a USABLE web browswer. I eventually found something called iCAB, I think that was what it was called which was a webkit browswer.

Media Playback and CODECs was a massive issue for 9x also. It took until Windows 7 (h264 and mpeg2 HD) to fix the problem and even now they are going backwards with win8.

Anyone remeber trying to get smooth hw ASSISTED mpeg-1 playback on their pentium using the vga bundled player, let alone mpeg2 DVD playback which did not come until much later.

I actually have a bespoke asian brand 43cm HTPC that used a 233MMX as its main CPU but thats not the kicker, the kicker is they used a hardware dvd board that was almost as big as the motherboard itself.

Many of you would have had this, or variants of this kit.

http://www.nitroware.net/images/stories/a6_i3/creative_dvd.jpg

That one used the external pass through cable in the DIN format.
This is useless now, literatly. Drivers, cables, software.

All its good for is legacy PC or a paperweight.

I have never even used it, literatly. I lost the passthrough cable.

July 22, 2012 | 12:08 PM - Posted by RichS (not verified)

Forgot to add: For graphics drivers, I used the 61.76 Nvidia drivers for graphics. You'll have to do a Google search to get them - I tried via Nvidia's site, and all they offered was the 70 drivers; they claim that it worked for the TNT2 card, but they didn't work for mine.

That was the most difficulty in installing drivers; the rest I found on Dell's site or driver disk in the case of the Sound Blaster Live card. I also installed USB flash drive support for Windows 98.

This helped in the next step, installing Windows Updates. I took a chance and downloaded and installed the Unofficial Windows 98SE Service Pack 2.1a, which I've had no problems with. The only other update I installed after that was the latest version of DirectX for Windows 98, which is the redistributable for June 2010.

What I ended up with is a stable machine that can play DOS games like Impossible Mission II, up to old DirectX titles like Alien vs. Predator very well.

July 23, 2012 | 12:08 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

All I have to say is VMware or a similar software package or hell why not just go to gog.com

July 23, 2012 | 12:08 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Now if I could only recreate that warm fuzzy feeling of sitting at my friends house playing Warlords 2 in hotseat mode with about 6 of us. Good times. :)

July 23, 2012 | 11:27 PM - Posted by Angry

Its nice to know Im not alone...
http://img3.imageshack.us/img3/6939/dscf1304s.jpg

The tower is what I play the original Starseige,(mechwarrior like)
and Redneck Rampage and many others.

Athlon Xp 2600+
768mb SDram
Geforce 2 mx (original, not mx200 or 400)
Windows 98 Se
I replaced most of the caps on the board, most had leaked, but the board still posted.

The rest of the stuff is a small part of my collection, I have lots more.

If Ken wants to see a K6-2 in the flesh, Id be happy to send one in heh.

July 24, 2012 | 09:35 AM - Posted by madhatter256 (not verified)

I have an HP Pavillion PC with 366mhz Celeron. No AGP slot, only onboard vga or I can upgrade via PCI. The trouble I have is trying to get a hold of a good PCI card. Voodoo3 2000 PCI cards are expensive on ebay last i checked.

One more thing.... you forgot an important hardware from PC gaming back in the late 1990s.... The Gravis Game Pad....

July 25, 2012 | 01:04 PM - Posted by Jon K (not verified)

I still have a IBM PS2-P70 running win 3.11, rocking a orange screen in storage.

July 26, 2012 | 03:59 AM - Posted by cyow

the sad thing is I don't need to build one.

I got like 3 I can put my hands on in like 2mins store under my house I just don't thought system away that easy never know when you need one.

got love windows 98 dam it I may just have to go get one and play old game now so much for my new Ivy Bridge system lol

July 27, 2012 | 12:24 PM - Posted by Troy (not verified)

Hay guy`s Just thought I`d chime in and say Windows ME (opps) the best of both worlds, Dos reboot and windows 9x;)

August 6, 2012 | 09:00 PM - Posted by Thordrune (not verified)

Great article, I'm a fan of legacy and oddball systems myself. I still have my Packard Bell for the same reasons. It currently has a Pentium 233, 64 MB RAM, onboard S3 Trio64V2 + Voodoo 1 4 MB PCI video, 3 GB Seagate hard drive, and 98SE (still have the key memorized!). It runs my older games pretty well. I have enough spare parts to build a Coppermine P3-based machine, with a 16 MB Vanta. I have a K6-2+ as well, but no motherboard to put it in.

I found that with some onboard audio solutions that using the "Sound Blaster or 100% compatible" option sometimes works. I had good luck with it and Mechwarrior 2.

I tried dualbooting 98SE and XP once on my Athlon XP machine, with 1 GB RAM. I installed it, changed a couple of settings, installed a driver (video I think), and rebooted. I was promptly greeted with a "Windows is corrupt. Please reinstall Windows." message. Reinstalling 98SE with 512 MB RAM, then capping it to that through msconfig fixed it.

Some (relatively) newer games will run on 98. I remember vanilla WoW did, and could run on 512 MB RAM. Now it needs XP, and 2+ GB RAM is a good idea. I tried Far Cry once on my Coppermine P3 before I dismantled it. It was more of an experiment than anything. 600EB, GeForce 6800 GT, 160 MB RAM. When it wasn't thrashing the hard drive, it ran smooth as silk.

August 29, 2012 | 01:47 PM - Posted by HeavyG (not verified)

This article inspired me. I had a few components laying around, but I purchased everything else on eBay. The whole build cost me $150, with $75 of that being from a Silverstone mATX case. I am running the following:

Windows 98 SE
AMD Athalon 1000
ASRock mATX Motherboard
Creative GeForce2 GTS 32MB
Creative Voodoo2 12MB (For games that won't run on the GeForce2)
1GB PC2100 Memory
Creative Audigy2
WD Blue 250GB Hard Drive (only partitioned 50 GB to save time during install)

I am actually using my Viewsonic 19" LCD monitor, and things look pretty good. I have had a blast playing GLQuake, SiN, Deus Ex GOTY Edition, System Shock 2, my Need for Speed collection, Motocross Madness 2, and many other games. I even fired up Unreal Tournament for a bit. I am actually gaming more on my "retro" rig than my main gaming rig at the moment.

October 11, 2012 | 05:41 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

do have a 630i dell computer. thankyou

August 26, 2013 | 02:10 PM - Posted by Anohitono (not verified)

Here's what I did http://anohitono.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/building-a-retro-pc-gaming-com...
* Off for some retrogaming on REAL HARDWARE!:)*

March 23, 2015 | 01:36 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Have an Essential 433c that I upgraded and put WinME on for retro graming purposes, 433MHz Mendocino-core Celeron isn't a bad little chip for being 15 years old, and I also have an AL440LX board that I may upgrade either to a 333MHz Deschutes-core P2 or a 433MHz Slot 1 Mendocino-core Celeron that has an AGP slot so that I would be able to put a decent GPU in it, although I'd first have to get that Slot 1 Mendocino and 512MB PC100 RAM for it, as well as a good PSU and case to support it, and a CD-ROM and floppy drive that matches the case color.

Upgrades to the 433c (WL810E board) include the stock 64MB RAM upgraded to 192MB because I had a 128MB PC100 stick sitting around unused and an unused SB Live! 5.1 SB0100 soundcard. Also swapped the stock hard drive with the OEM Win98se install out with my own IDE hard drives and installed WinME on the 8GB while the 10GB is used for game storage. Also installed my Propad 6 controller.

Only upgrades the AL440LX board would require are a CPU upgrade, a decent amount of RAM, and a good AGP GPU, as it has a Yamaha YMF715E chip for onboard sound.

January 30, 2014 | 07:26 AM - Posted by Rodimus80 (not verified)

I like where your head is at but your system is just too new. If you are serious about classic PC gaming you are going to need a few systems. I have the early 90s covered with a 486DX 2 PC I have. Mid 90s I'm using a old Gateway G6-333 with a Pentium II. Video is handled by a nvidia Mach64 and a Voodoo 2. Sound is handled by a Creative AWE64 Gold. When it comes to the late 90s, early 21st, I have a few systems. A couple Pentium IIIs and a AthlonXP system. You would think that changing PCs all the time would be annoying, but it just geeks me up!

January 30, 2014 | 07:26 AM - Posted by Rodimus80 (not verified)

I like where your head is at but your system is just too new. If you are serious about classic PC gaming you are going to need a few systems. I have the early 90s covered with a 486DX 2 PC I have. Mid 90s I'm using a old Gateway G6-333 with a Pentium II. Video is handled by a nvidia Mach64 and a Voodoo 2. Sound is handled by a Creative AWE64 Gold. When it comes to the late 90s, early 21st, I have a few systems. A couple Pentium IIIs and a AthlonXP system. You would think that changing PCs all the time would be annoying, but it just geeks me up!

March 4, 2014 | 08:32 AM - Posted by Fatal (not verified)

You all are fools, where are the 3dfx cards? Look at mine 98 BEAST!:

-ASUS P2B-F Intel 440BX
-Intel Pentium III Slot1 Katmai 500MHz@FSB: 120MHz (124MHz possible, but AGP too fast)
-Hynix 512MB(4x128MB) 133@115MHz CL2 Fast
-ATi Rage 128GL 32MB AGP 2x
-2xAtrend 3dfx Voodoo 2 SLi 12MB PCI (1024x768x16=TOP!)
-Creative SoundBlaster 128 16Bit PCI
-D-Link DE 530 CT+ 10Mbps LAN
-Adaptec AHA-2930U SCSI
-Dual Quantum Atlas 18.3GB Ultra 160SCSI
-DVDR,CDRW,FDD 1.44Mb
-WDC 205BA (on ISO game files) in 5,25" tray
-Apex 300W ATX
-EIZO F67 19" CRT
-Logitech Cordless Wheel Mouse M-RK45 PS/2+Simple PS/2 W98 keyboard and Creative 2.1 repro

March 5, 2014 | 02:24 PM - Posted by Retro Gamer (not verified)

Good afternoon, I know this is a bit of an old article but I went through and set up a 98SE box:

MB : ASUS A7V333
RAM: 1x256MB DDR2700
CPU: AMD Athlon XP 2600+
VID: Voodoo 5 5500 AGP
HDD: Maxtor 40GB ATA133
FDD: Sony
ZIP: IOMega 100
DVD: LG 16X DVD-ROM
AUD: Sound Blaster 16 PCI
NIC: 3COM 3C905-TX-NM
MOD: Creative Modem Blaster DI3631-1
AUX: SATA1 RAID Controller SIL3112
AUX: ASUS Tuner TV880
PSU: 350W

And it seems very happy however, whenever I put in more than 256 MB of RAM 98 freezes at the splash screen everytime. I have tried 3 different 2x256MB sets and various cominations of each to no avail.

Sets tried:
GEIL Golden Dragon 2x256MB DDR400 Dual Channel Kit
GEIL Value Series 2x256MB DDR400 Dual Channel Kit
Micron 2x256MB DDR333 Singles

I set the VCache size to 524288 and even tried changing Max and Min FileCacheSize to 65536. I set the AGP Aperaturs size from 128 to 32 and same thing.

Any ideas how to get this beast to boot with more than 256MB?

I would like to get it up to 768MB RAM. I know I did it back in the day but I don't remember having to edit any system files or it being this complicated.

March 5, 2014 | 02:39 PM - Posted by Retro Gamer (not verified)

Update:

Monitor: Dell Trinitron 21' CRT

Currently I am running a 1080P LED LCD TV @ 1920x1080.

March 5, 2014 | 02:39 PM - Posted by Retro Gamer (not verified)

Update:

Monitor: Dell Trinitron 21' CRT

Currently I am running a 1080P LED LCD TV @ 1920x1080.

March 5, 2014 | 02:40 PM - Posted by Retro Gamer (not verified)

Update:

Monitor: Dell Trinitron 21' CRT

Currently I am running a 1080P LED LCD TV @ 1920x1080.

July 4, 2014 | 12:16 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

What do I need to find drivers for if it's a prebuilt with a wiped hard drive? The mobo, gpu and what else?

September 5, 2014 | 01:43 PM - Posted by StriderTR

I just ran across this article, very nice read. =]

I did this back in 2009, and just updated my "Retro Gaming PC" again in 2014.

My main difference was I went with Windows 95 OSR 2.5 since it gave me much of the hardware support of Windows 98, with less bloat and better performance.

If you want to be bored with a build log and specifics, you can check it out over on my blog. =]

http://hardblogtech.blogspot.com/p/retro-gaming-pc.html

September 16, 2014 | 02:06 PM - Posted by Splinter (not verified)

Great article!
I've got three retro PC's and regularly tinker with them.
Virtual Box is a million miles from actually building an old PC and getting games to run on a decent 3dfx machine is half the fun.
This is a very popular pastime actually.

September 16, 2014 | 06:27 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I miss these old days with games like Need For Speed 1 2 and 3,Doom and many of the fun education games like Logical Journey of the Zoombinis,Oregon Trail 5 trying to get you're wagon not to tip when you caulk it and float.

We still have the CD for the Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego Deluxe early 90s version that has Warran T Robot and the funny travel agent.

The new games are either stupid party/hidden object games that are all the same or hack n slash games.

I wish a company like BroderBund would reappear to set a new standard for family gaming as they knew how to NOT be stupid.

My absolute favorite title of BroderBund was an obsecure one called "Create Artist" which could've been a lot better if they adapted to email so you can email what you created and download additional stuff but instead they choose to let it dye.

September 16, 2014 | 06:31 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

My favorite newer game is strangely Battle for Middle Earth 1 and 2. I like the graphics of 1 better as the trees are much more alive looking while 2 looks like Eastern Europe after WW1.

The 2nd game has much more options such as Elves/Dwarves and Goblins which the latter is the best with the tunnel networking system to quickly transport units but the AI is more stupid as they always ignore my troops going after a far away resource structure.

Even IF I purposely attack a battalion instead of turning around to face me they continue on their way to attack the resource structure which is usually the one furthest away ignoring even other buildings on their path.

And don't get me started on my frustrations of the AI never using walls or wall hubs. They rarely ever set up defensive towers.

January 21, 2015 | 05:18 PM - Posted by Rick Carman (not verified)

I'm toying with the idea of breaking out the old games. My question is if I use a program like DOSbox, is there any way to utilize my old Thrustmaster analog hardware? I was a beta tester for Bob Carter and Co. and have quite a collection of flightsticks, throttles and rudder pedals. I can't afford a $600 Warthog system, but I don't know how to hook up my equipment to the new system.

Which will be easier: Building a vintage system, or getting everything to work on the current one?

March 11, 2015 | 02:00 PM - Posted by Phil Causey (not verified)

Ive got to say these older setups work quite well, though I went with an old 15in LCD 1024x768 due to size constraints. But I'm quite content so far with what I have running.

First - For Windows XP gaming

Pentium 4 3.2 -- 1gb DDR 400 -- X800XT -- Windows XP Home SP3

Second - For Windows 98 Gaming

Athlon XP 1700+ -- 512mb DDR 266 -- Geforce 6200 -- Windows 98 SE

Third -- For Windows 95

Pentium II 333 -- 128mb PC66 -- Riva TNT 2 -- Windows 95B

Forth -- For Dos Gaming

Intel Pentium 133 -- 32mb EDO -- Riva 128 -- DOS 6.22

Im quite content so far lol

March 13, 2015 | 12:55 PM - Posted by Hasse Andersson (not verified)

Great article, even if it was written in 2012 it is still up to date more or less... So I thought I would provide som info/hints on my WinME system.

I felt a bit nostalgic and took an old DELL Optiplex GX60 (originally installed with WinXP)

2.14 GHz
1 GB Mem lowered to 999MB
200 GB IDE HD
SoundMax Integrated Audio
still using original desktop case so no gfx card -yet! no space.

Had a hard time to find drivers and stuff for ME as Dell itself did not have much beside XP and higher. But I found the stuff needed, drivers for sound, gfx, chipset and network all working OK now.

I tried to mostly build the software as I had in my computer way back then (even if I do not use most of the software nowdays)

notations
KEX = KernelEx v4.5.2
NU = Not Used, only for testing if it works
BAD = not working well, looking for alternatives
OK = it do what it is supposed to.
YEA = Working very well...

Development ->
Delphi 7 (NU) (YEA) (I had v4 then - but it seems to be lost),
Visual Studio 6 (NU) (YEA).

Media ->
Winamp v5.621 (KEX -> Default Compat Mode) (OK -> folder DnD fail),
Windows Media Player 9 (YEA) *WMP9 is used for streaming with the radio tuner*
Digital Orchestrator Pro 3.02 (YEA), *midi sequencer*

Office ->
Office XP (NU) (BAD),
Photoshop 7 (YEA),
Foxit PDF Reader v2.3 (YEA)

Internet ->
ABC Torrent Client (OK),
IE 6 - outdated (BAD),
FireFox 10 (KEX -> Default Compat Mode) (OK -> Slow),
Opera 12.02 (KEX -> 2000 SP4) (OK -> missing taskbar icon though),
K-Melon 1.6 Beta2 (KEX -> 2008 SP1) (YEA - HTML5 support)

System ->
MagicDisk 2.7 (YEA),
Cobian Backup 7 (YEA),
Kerio Personal Firewall 2.1.5 (YEA),
StartupRun v1.22 (YEA),
7-zip v9.2 (KEX -> 2000 SP4),
Norton Utilities v5 (OK -> but some things do not work with HD),
FastCopy v2.11 (YEA)

Games -> (work in progress as i just got the system up and running)
Arkanoid (BAD -> very slow)
Centurion (OK)
Doom (YEA -> first and all variants)
TrackMania Nations - ESWC (YEA -> a little boring though)

April 5, 2015 | 05:58 PM - Posted by TONYNINER (not verified)

My 1st was an Asus SP97-v with 256mb EDO ram which houses an AMD K6-III+ 450 cpu clocking at 500MHz running windows 95.

My 2nd is an old IBM 2170 with 512mb pc100 sdram with an AMD K6-2 550MHx cpu running windows 98 (original version, not 98se.

My 3rd is my favorite! ASUS P2B-F Slot 1 running a slocket adapter with an Intel PIII-s 1.4GHZ, 1GB pc133 sdram running windows 98se.

My 4th is an Asus cuv4s-ea socket 370 coppermine board using a socket 370 Tualatin adapter with a PIII Tualatin 1.2GHz cpu, 1GB pc133 sdram running windows me.

All these computers are able to play the majority of the game I have from windows 3.1 up to windows xp ( being backward compatible games)

April 8, 2015 | 04:32 PM - Posted by Kragle (not verified)

I am glad to be part of this era too... This is why I have made up 2 computers to run Windows 98SE. I am glad people are still interested in doing this, and to be honest, everytime I do it I have great fun trying to get the drivers to work.

I don't own any graphics cards so it was all onboard! And let me say, working with old Pentium 4 processors with onboard chips is quite hard indeed. The drivers just are not there, you have to make do with very old drivers before Windows XP and ALOT of trial and error to see if it works.

I just got a Toshiba A30 laptop running Windows 98SE and in the end I had to resort to using Intel Extreme Graphics 2 driver from before Windows XP era. Which was very hard to find, but it did work!

My first (new) build was a desktop with integrated parts, sound, graphics ect.. Luckily, I had a spare Yamaha soundcard, which supports the Gameport port.

It is fantastic, I wouldn't ever go virtual for old games, it really is not worth the hassle. Find yourself an old computer from at least 2003 and then hunt online for the drivers by researching the motherboard!

Happy gaming :)

April 8, 2015 | 04:36 PM - Posted by Kragle (not verified)

oh... to add on, if you really are going to do this properly. Make sure you download the all in one 2007 patch that was released a while back. This helped greatly with internet issues.

A very very helpful website can be found here: http://www.mdgx.com/web.htm#AP98

Unofficial Windows 98 SE Auto-Patcher v2.60 installs all Microsoft + most Unofficial Updates + Fixes, 98 SE SP2, DirectX 9.0c, MS IE 6.0 SP1, MDAC 2.8 SP1, WMP9, .NET Framework 2.1, 98SE2ME (English) Download 2007, then upgrade 2008! Enjoy!!!!

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