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Making Win3.x Computer

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#1
Hoko

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I'm betting somone here knows something about win3 and what it takes to make it work.  My first computer had Win 3.11 and 486DX2/66 and I am sorry I ever let that computer go.  Now their selling on ebay for hundreds of dollars.  I always thought the 86 chips were Intel but searching tonite I noticed Cyrix made them.  Anyway, I have an idea, tell me if it will work. 

 

I know it may take some fabricating but I found a Gateway MB with the 486 chip and 16mb ram on it tonite.  

http://www.ebay.com/...=item4874664008 (I hope this is not some kind of forum violation :whistle:

 

These are the seller notes, Seller Notes: “Powers on, and is able to boot into BIOS. 66MHz 486DX2 CPU w/16MB RAM Included. 256K Cache Module Installed. No corrosion on motherboard!. Battery module is not installed - CMOS invalid checksum. No further testing was done  Does this look like it's usable? I am thinking I could get an ATX case, mount it in there, mount a floppy drive and hard drive, power supply.  I have no idea what graphics card would be compatible with this.  It says it has VLB slots, what are those? 

 

Can a CD drive be used with this?  I'm assuming optical drives will not work?  I don't remember what the other types of drives are called. I have some old sound cards.

 

This part I have no experience with.  I think I would have to use DOS 6.22 and Win 3.  I don't know anything about loading the software.


Gateway eMachine eTower 466is - Windows 95c v2.5
Processor Intel Celeron 466mhz - RAM 256mb
HDD 120gb - Graphics Card Nvidia GeForce FX5200 256mb pci
Sound Card Sound Blaster 16 isa

Dell Optiplex GX150 Small Desktop - Windows 98SE
Processor Pentium 3 1GHz - RAM 512mb
HDD 120gb - Graphics Card Nvidia GeForce FX5200 256mb pci

IBM ThinkCentre - Windows XP Home Edition
ID# 814815U - Processor Pentium 4 2.8GHz - HDD 250gb
RAM 2.5gb - Graphics Card Nvidia GeForce 6200 512mb pci


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#2
Andrew T.

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It seems like only yesterday, computers of this era were being discarded en masse and were basically free for the taking. It almost feels weird to see a bare 486 motherboard go for $30...though the original purchase price could have been 100 times that!

The hardware sounds solid from the description. The capacitors aren't leaking. There aren't critical chips missing. The CMOS error ought to go away with a working battery. There's a bit of useful information on the board here.

The board has an AT form factor and power supply connectors, so it won't fit in an ATX case...though some late '90s cases were designed to mount either AT or ATX motherboards.

VLB or VESA Local Bus slots are the long connectors underneath the CPU sockets. It was a popular backward-compatible standard for video cards in the late 486 era; though eclipsed by PCI around 1995. Any VLB or ISA video card from the era ought to work, along with any off-the-shelf IDE CD-ROM drive. You'll also need a floppy drive to install or boot DOS and partition a hard drive.

DOS 6.x and Windows 3.1x would run well (as well as Windows 3's flaky self can run, that is) and be very period-accurate. Windows 95 would also be usable, but it would be a stretch.

All of these are things that would have been obvious to most computer users 20 years ago, but have been "lost" with the passage of time.
Andrew T.
"Now crush your computer into small chunks, add flour, and bake one hour."

#3
georg

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"Battery module is not installed" is a red flag.

I think you may find that the module is a Dallas DS12887 real time clock, a DIP with an IC, crystal and battery inside potted in epoxy.  Without it, you will only be able to boot from floppy and some of your BIOS settings, especially those for the hard drive, will be lost every time you shut down. With no part in the board to copy, you can't be certain what to buy.

Have been thru this. Was able to find replacement modules but three different tries all had dead batteries in them also. There is a hack to cut into the chip and solder wires from an external battery to the IC inside:

http://www.rottenegg...p_battery_hack/

Google ds12887 for more information if you can confirm that is the right part.



#4
Hoko

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Thx for that info, especially about that battery.  I think I'm going to pass on this board and look for another one that doesn't have that problem.   Nice to know VLB or ISA cards will work.


Gateway eMachine eTower 466is - Windows 95c v2.5
Processor Intel Celeron 466mhz - RAM 256mb
HDD 120gb - Graphics Card Nvidia GeForce FX5200 256mb pci
Sound Card Sound Blaster 16 isa

Dell Optiplex GX150 Small Desktop - Windows 98SE
Processor Pentium 3 1GHz - RAM 512mb
HDD 120gb - Graphics Card Nvidia GeForce FX5200 256mb pci

IBM ThinkCentre - Windows XP Home Edition
ID# 814815U - Processor Pentium 4 2.8GHz - HDD 250gb
RAM 2.5gb - Graphics Card Nvidia GeForce 6200 512mb pci

#5
Andrew T.

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I think you may find that the module is a Dallas DS12887 real time clock, a DIP with an IC, crystal and battery inside potted in epoxy.  Without it, you will only be able to boot from floppy and some of your BIOS settings, especially those for the hard drive, will be lost every time you shut down. With no part in the board to copy, you can't be certain what to buy.


From the pictures and description, this board uses an external battery pack connected to jumper J24...much easier to work around than a dead Dallas chip.
Andrew T.
"Now crush your computer into small chunks, add flour, and bake one hour."

#6
Hoko

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From the pictures and description, this board uses an external battery pack connected to jumper J24...much easier to work around than a dead Dallas chip.

 

Actually the sellers message reads "Battery module is not installed - CMOS invalid checksum."  Did you see an external battery pack?  I studied it but didn't see one.  I did study up on replacement batteries last night and found this one that plugs into the motherboard so it looks like an easy fix.  So it plugs into J24 on the mb?

ExternalBatteryPack_zps37ffd3c1.jpg

http://batteryguy.co...vJyuBoCjVHw_wcB

After looking at a bunch of motherboards from this era I noticed all of them had the blue barrel shaped Nicad batteries.  It looks like someone desoldered it from this board.


Edited by Hoko, 12 December 2014 - 12:20 PM.

Gateway eMachine eTower 466is - Windows 95c v2.5
Processor Intel Celeron 466mhz - RAM 256mb
HDD 120gb - Graphics Card Nvidia GeForce FX5200 256mb pci
Sound Card Sound Blaster 16 isa

Dell Optiplex GX150 Small Desktop - Windows 98SE
Processor Pentium 3 1GHz - RAM 512mb
HDD 120gb - Graphics Card Nvidia GeForce FX5200 256mb pci

IBM ThinkCentre - Windows XP Home Edition
ID# 814815U - Processor Pentium 4 2.8GHz - HDD 250gb
RAM 2.5gb - Graphics Card Nvidia GeForce 6200 512mb pci

#7
Andrew T.

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Actually the sellers message reads "Battery module is not installed - CMOS invalid checksum." Did you see an external battery pack? I studied it but didn't see one. I did study up on replacement batteries last night and found this one that plugs into the motherboard so it looks like an easy fix. So it plugs into J24 on the mb?

That's the type of battery I'd expect this would have used, yes. You could rig up a homebrew replacement with AA cells, a holder, and some wire.
Andrew T.
"Now crush your computer into small chunks, add flour, and bake one hour."

#8
georg

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Personally, I would find something like this more interesting:

 

http://www.ebay.com/...=item4875a74772

 

With effort you can find one in the world outside of eBay with a hard drive and manuals.



#9
Hoko

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Personally, I would find something like this more interesting:

 

http://www.ebay.com/...=item4875a74772

 

With effort you can find one in the world outside of eBay with a hard drive and manuals.

Yes, I agree with that!  I have that one and another one on my watch list. :yes:  Also going to check goodwill and craigslist.


Edited by Hoko, 13 December 2014 - 08:31 AM.

Gateway eMachine eTower 466is - Windows 95c v2.5
Processor Intel Celeron 466mhz - RAM 256mb
HDD 120gb - Graphics Card Nvidia GeForce FX5200 256mb pci
Sound Card Sound Blaster 16 isa

Dell Optiplex GX150 Small Desktop - Windows 98SE
Processor Pentium 3 1GHz - RAM 512mb
HDD 120gb - Graphics Card Nvidia GeForce FX5200 256mb pci

IBM ThinkCentre - Windows XP Home Edition
ID# 814815U - Processor Pentium 4 2.8GHz - HDD 250gb
RAM 2.5gb - Graphics Card Nvidia GeForce 6200 512mb pci

#10
georg

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(quoting Hoko) "Also going to check goodwill and craigslist"

This is a social engineering task. Tell absolutely everybody about your interesting hobby and get them involved in making you happy.

Goodwill is not very good. They often have a contract with the recycling center and just act as a collection point.  Church sponsored thrift stores are better. Find out when new donations normally arrive. People donate everything together but much is lost when it is put on the shelf. They tend to put the monitor in one section, the printer in another, etc. Try to be the first to see it.

Use craigslist to identify persons who regularly sell computers. Look for people who bid on estates and lots at auction. Try to establish a friendly relationship that results in a call when what you want shows up in a new lot. They need to quickly sort through what they've bought and get rid of most of it right away. They know exactly what they can get on craigslist or eBay. You have to pay their net expected profit while saving them the trouble of photos, listing, shipping, etc.

Google retirement community computer club for your area. Visit them and listen to their stories. Describe what you are looking for and what you are willing to pay or trade. Put it in writing and include your contact information so it can be pinned to the bulletin board.

The system you really want is in the attic, basement or storage locker of someone's grandparent. They don't want the trouble of selling it, or packing it up to donate, and don't think it is worth anything. If you are introduced by someone they trust, offer a minimal payment and will do all the work of packing it up and hauling it away they will be glad to get rid of it.



#11
Hoko

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Sounds like a good system georg.  Reminds me of episodes of American Pickers on Discovery channel.  :w00t:  Is that how you do it?


Gateway eMachine eTower 466is - Windows 95c v2.5
Processor Intel Celeron 466mhz - RAM 256mb
HDD 120gb - Graphics Card Nvidia GeForce FX5200 256mb pci
Sound Card Sound Blaster 16 isa

Dell Optiplex GX150 Small Desktop - Windows 98SE
Processor Pentium 3 1GHz - RAM 512mb
HDD 120gb - Graphics Card Nvidia GeForce FX5200 256mb pci

IBM ThinkCentre - Windows XP Home Edition
ID# 814815U - Processor Pentium 4 2.8GHz - HDD 250gb
RAM 2.5gb - Graphics Card Nvidia GeForce 6200 512mb pci

#12
georg

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Yes. Good working complete systems from each example, and from other places not mentioned due to the growing length of the post. Seek and ye shall find.



#13
dencorso

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Another place which uses to have interesting stuff is recycledgoods...



#14
georg

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Interesting indeed.
AT&T 2500MMGB-87215 Single Line Telephone $44.10
http://www.recycledg...mmgb-87215.html
They are in Ventura, CA, about 70 mi north of Los Angeles.
I would love to see the monthly report of what sold, and who bought it.



#15
Drugwash

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@ georg: Thanks for the tip on the Dallas chips, I have three boards around that use such chips, one of them was put away long ago probably due to the failing Dallas. Unfortunately that one chip is soldered to the motherboard so I'm not sure I'll be able to revive it. We'll see.

 

@ Hoko: Please bear in mind there is a slight possibility that certain version of Windows 3.x might not install or run (properly) on certain machines. I have my first computer, an IBM PS/ValuePoint (originally SX25MHz, modified by me to DX66MHz by replacing the quartz crystal) that used to operate Windows 3.1 without a hitch but would not accept 3.11 for some reason lost in the mist of time. Sure, this may be a rare situation but if possible, try to find out it the machine you purchase is/was able to run the specific version of Windows you want/have.

 

Also try to find a machine that already has a decent amount of RAM installed because these old beasts would sometimes refuse one type of memory in favor of another (EDO/FPM) and buying extra RAM sticks may be tricky. Not to mention some sticks run at 5V while others at 3.3V and when mixed memory slots are available, RAM voltage may have to be manually adjusted through a jumper on the motherboard. Easy to miss, easy to fry a few RAM sticks...

 

Oh and don't forget 486 BIOSes at that time would usually limit HDD capacity at 528MB unless there was issued some BIOS update in the mean time and hopefully was already applied to the motherboard. If you buy a HDD-less machine you may have a hard time finding a suitable HDD with no bad sectors and the right capacity.

My IBM has a 528MB-limited BIOS, so one trick I used back in the time was installing an ISA sound card (ESS1868) that had a built-in IDE controller, to which I had attached a 1.2GB HDD that stored the data, however the main (bootable) HDD was still a small one. At that point I was already using Windows 95OSR2.1 but I guess it might work with 3.x too.



#16
georg

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Drugwash - the mod is not as difficult as it looks in the photos. I used a fine tooth Xacto saw instead of a Dremel and cut either side of the pins, 3/16 inch or so into the epoxy, then scraped the material away with a small screwdriver. The heat from soldering is confined. You can get lithium AA or AAA cells.



#17
Drugwash

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It wouldn't be (too) difficult if there wasn't another IC right next to the Dallas on the side that needs operated on. I don't have any precision tools, will have to find something appropriate. No problem with the replacement battery - a CR2032 (classic BIOS battery for newer PCs) would be fine and I do have a few dismantled boards where I can take the battery holder from. AA or AAA cells would be overkill - not even the two 286 boards I still have around use such large batteries. :-)



#18
georg

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So many projects, so little time.  :-)



#19
Drugwash

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Plenty of time, not enought focus. And oblivion getting in the way. Growing old too soon. :}






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