Description

Reposted with more, better pictures. What is cable management? Someone please enlighten these old prebuilt cases. And yeah, I know it's kind of dusty and gross in there. I'll clean it out properly soon.

Intro

I've been watching a few retro computer channels lately, such as LGR, The 8-Bit Guy, etc. So, I've had some old parts, systems, and games lying around for a while, and I got the inspiration to make my own Windows 98 retro PC. How hard and expensive could it be? So after disassembling some systems and ordering a few parts to put it together, here's the result. It's trash, and ridiculously overkill, and it all came together pretty well. I love it.

UPDATE: Switched it to Windows ME and it's somewhat more consistent and stable now. ME is actually pretty good if the drivers are up to speed.

Specs

  • CPU: Intel Pentium 4 531 (Prescott, 3.0 GHz, single-core w/ HT, LGA775)
  • GPU: ATI Radeon 9200 (128 MB VRAM)
  • Sound: Creative Sound Blaster CT4810 (Ensoniq AudioPCI-based)
  • Memory: 2x256 MB DDR-400 SDRAM
  • Storage: Crucial BX300 120 GB SSD
  • Mobo: Foxconn 865G7MF-SH
  • Case: Sony VAIO PCV-RS630G
  • OS: Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition

Build notes

Sourcing vintage, period-accurate parts for Windows 98 (and Windows ME) is very expensive in 2019, and increasingly difficult. So I decided to go the cheaper route. Pentium 4s are abundant, and a number of the boards are still compatible with these older operating systems. A fringe benefit of this is that the resulting PC is also much faster. Replaced a lot of the screws, too, most notably the original case screws with thumbscrews.

This case sucks, as is typical for prebuilt cases around the mid 2000s. I went into more detail on that in this build, but the tl;dr is: No cable management, and lot of proprietary crap. At least it accepts standard mATX motherboards.

All the front panel stuff - the USB ports, the power button, etc. uses proprietary connectors. I've been using an external power button with this case for a while, but finally decided that I wanted to actually get the front panel working. For the power and HDD LEDs, I swapped the original blue and yellow ones with red and green ones that have standard connectors. This causes the VAIO logo to be lit up in red, which is where the name of the PC comes from. For the power button, I cut up some wiring and electrical taped it together to get a standard connector. It's garbage, but it works. I also gutted the front panel I/O entirely, so there's some empty space left that I might want to play with.

I'd wanted to add in a standard 3.5" floppy drive, not because I need it necessarily, but just because I wanted it. It technically fits, but the front panel won't snap in all the way with one installed. So I ended just covering the hole with electrical tape. Sigh. Maybe I'll cut a hole in the case later.

Other thoughts

In BIOS, I set SATA mode to SATA only, and disabled Hyperthreading for Windows 98 compatibility. There is also a SATA combined mode in BIOS that I tested a bit, which runs the SATA ports in IDE mode and allows both SATA and IDE drives to be used for a total of four drives. However, the stock drivers in Windows 98 didn't play nicely with this when I tried adding more drives. I may tinker with it again now that I have the chipset drivers installed. EDIT: It totally does; now I have two optical drives connected to IDE via an IDE/SATA adapter. Make sure to install your chipset drivers! This applies for Windows ME, too.

A few games don't seem to work on this hardware, which isn't too surprising.

Part Reviews

Storage

This is much better than the newer BX500 - it's got DRAM, it's way faster, and the expected lifespan is longer. If you can find it for a good price, buy it.

Optical Drive

I like the little motor rev sound it makes when the PC boots? IDK what to say about it, it's just a generic DVD drive.

Case Fan

Imo, kinda overrated tbh. The accessories it comes with are definitely useful to have, though.

Custom

Scavenged out of an old Dell for the secondary DVD drive. It's a tad loud, but it works fine and is fast enough.

Custom

Board's alright. I chose it because it has Windows 98 drivers, as well as an AGP slot for graphics instead of PCIe.

Custom

Cheap, easy to find, and overall just a good performer for an old system. Athlons perform better, but I had this lying around already. Definitely consider these if you want to build a retro PC.

Custom

You can find these and similar Ensoniq AudioPCI-based cards very cheaply on eBay. It's completely unremarkable, but it does the job just fine and has pretty good compatibility. Isn't that all most of us need?

Custom

Does what it says - it converts an IDE port into two SATA ports. IDE drives are hard to find these days, so this is useful for older boards that lack SATA ports.

With this particular model, an important thing to keep in mind is that the SATA port further from the power connector is the IDE master drive, and the one in the middle of the adapter is the IDE slave drive.

Comments

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

Does that psu really have a dc jack on the back?

  • 4 months ago
  • 1 point

It totally does. I don't actually know what it's meant to plug into.

  • 4 months ago
  • 1 point

DC out 12V 1.2A could probably plug speakers psu in there

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

I could recognize that noctua fan immediately

at least their fans are recognizable, if ugly

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

Haha, yeah. Kind of wasted in this PC since the rest of it is so loud.

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

Now this is epic. If it can run minesweeper at 60 fps i'd be happy

  • 4 months ago
  • 1 point

Oh, it can do so much more than Minesweeper at 60. :D

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

I had a old athlon + R9600 Pro build, it had 2GB of DDR1. I think I still have the sticks.

  • 4 months ago
  • 1 point

I wanted to try an Athlon here, but the board I ordered for that didn't work correctly. I already had the P4 lying around, anyway

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

Very clean setup! Amazing!

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

the nostalgia tho.

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

Is that Lego on the left corner on your desk? If so, very naise.

Very nice build though, how many system did you disassemble to assemble this?

  • 4 months ago
  • 1 point

Yep, that is some LEGO Rock Raiders stuff there.

how many system did you disassemble to assemble this?

I took apart an old OptiPlex that I wasn't using for the Pentium 4, and also took apart the system that was formerly inside this case.

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

I always love seeing retro builds. Also thank you for being the first person to tell me that the VAIO logo is V-A-I-O. I don't usually see it often but when I do I think "the hell is that supposed to be?"

  • 4 months ago
  • 1 point

My family used to have quite a few of these systems, so I became pretty familiar, haha. It rhymes with "bio."

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

Fantastic! Thanks for sharing. I miss seeing machines like this. Took me back a few years :)

  • 4 months ago
  • 1 point

Old computers are fun

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

you think you could get a copy of half-life up and running? it's quite the quintessential 1998 game

or the original unreal tournament (though that's 1999)

just some ideas for games

  • 4 months ago
  • 1 point

I'm definitely looking for more games to run on it, yeah. We'll see

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

This just goes to show how far we have come in hardware since then. Single core CPUs have died off many years ago and the IPC difference is huge. Not to mention many other technologies in a PC has changed since then too.

Looking at that old case it also shows inside the case how far designs have come too. The motherboard does not sit up flush against the back of the case but is offset inside to moved the back O/I ports further in. Not to mention the shape of the mesh on the back fan too. All cases today have that flat. Speaking about I/O it has been ages since I have seen the serial and parallel ports. I used to use controllers and printers that plugged in that way.

I have had P2 and P3 systems that never had onboard audio and had to use a seperate sound card in a PCI slot. Well I do remember having AGP video cards too.

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

Honestly, I miss cases like these. But I wouldn't ever wish for them to come back, hahaha.

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

good attempt at cable management +1

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

Lol, what attempt? Thanks for the upvote

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

Interesting thing, hella OP for this OS.

Have you thought about a hot swapable HDD/SSD cage for changing OSes fast? Win XP will be just running fine on this thing.

If you want to check out my own retro build with a HS HDD cage have a look here: https://pcpartpicker.com/b/sy3bt6

Cheers!

  • 4 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks! The case isn't very conducive to a hot-swappable 5.25" cage, butI have thought about using one of those SD card adapters, which would be mounted with the PCI cards.

  • 1 month ago
  • 2 points

A floppy drive should fit in this. Did you try removing the faceplate on the drive? These older cases usually didn't have drives with faceplates, since you'd never see the internals and messy bits in the drive, anyway.

  • 1 month ago
  • 1 point

I did succeed in that a couple months ago, actually. Worked out fine, the button is way too short though.