Restoring a 486 machine

Joseph F

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Jan 3, 2012
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Last year, I inherited a Packard Bell Legend 1136 "pizza box" desktop from my grandmother's estate, and I would like to get it back in working order to play some old games, such as Command and Conquer and Warcraft 2. The specs I can see from looking at the hardware are as follows:

Intel 80486DX 33MHz (socketed)
4MB of RAM integrated on the motherboard, with an additional 72-contact SIMM slot for expansion
Integrated LSI Logic (Headland?) VT 216 video adapter with 512K VRAM
Seagate ST3243A 214MB HDD
Iomega Ditto tape drive
Creative quad speed CD-ROM drive
Integrated mystery meat IDE interface
Megapower MP741A ISA multi controller (IDE, parallel, serial, fdd, and game port)
Three open 16-bit ISA slots for expansion

The machine will POST, but doesn't appear to have an operating system installed.

I am looking to put Windows 95 on the machine, and I am getting a 50MHz DX2 and a 32MB SIMM to help with the increased overhead over just running DOS on it.
It has been a very long time since I have used any hardware this old, let alone worked on it, so I have a few questions:

What sound card should I get on a $30 budget?
Is the integrated video accelerator capable of playing games on Windows 95, and if not, what should I get? (ISA only, no VLB or PCI slots)
Is a 66MHz overclock usually attainable on a DX2 50MHz?
Are there any good resources available to guide me setting the hardware and OS up properly? Thankfully, the inside of the case has a diagram showing how to set the jumpers for various FSB frequencies, disable integrated peripherals, and other things we take for granted with modern BIOSes, but I realize there may be pitfalls in the setup of these old machines that I am unaware of.

I'll keep you all posted and add pictures as I work on it, and I appreciate any advice or otherwise input [H] has to offer.
 

defaultluser

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Jan 14, 2006
Messages
13,547
Last year, I inherited a Packard Bell Legend 1136 "pizza box" desktop from my grandmother's estate, and I would like to get it back in working order to play some old games, such as Command and Conquer and Warcraft 2. The specs I can see from looking at the hardware are as follows:

Intel 80486DX 33MHz (socketed)
4MB of RAM integrated on the motherboard, with an additional 72-contact SIMM slot for expansion
Integrated LSI Logic (Headland?) VT 216 video adapter with 512K VRAM
Seagate ST3243A 214MB HDD
Iomega Ditto tape drive
Creative quad speed CD-ROM drive
Integrated mystery meat IDE interface
Megapower MP741A ISA multi controller (IDE, parallel, serial, fdd, and game port)
Three open 16-bit ISA slots for expansion

The machine will POST, but doesn't appear to have an operating system installed.

I am looking to put Windows 95 on the machine, and I am getting a 50MHz DX2 and a 32MB SIMM to help with the increased overhead over just running DOS on it.
It has been a very long time since I have used any hardware this old, let alone worked on it, so I have a few questions:

What sound card should I get on a $30 budget?
Is the integrated video accelerator capable of playing games on Windows 95, and if not, what should I get? (ISA only, no VLB or PCI slots)
Is a 66MHz overclock usually attainable on a DX2 50MHz?
Are there any good resources available to guide me setting the hardware and OS up properly? Thankfully, the inside of the case has a diagram showing how to set the jumpers for various FSB frequencies, disable integrated peripherals, and other things we take for granted with modern BIOSes, but I realize there may be pitfalls in the setup of these old machines that I am unaware of.

I'll keep you all posted and add pictures as I work on it, and I appreciate any advice or otherwise input [H] has to offer.
The 50 mhz should overclock pretty easily to 66 mhz. , according to this guide. And worst-case, if it fails, you can always fall-back to 50 mhz (still a bit faster than 33mh, even with the slow FSB!.)

https://www.techspot.com/article/922-memorable-overclocking-friendly-cpus/#intel-486dx240

Soundcard - if you're going to the trouble of setting up a Windows 95 on a 486 machine, you should get a ISA plug and play card - will save you the pain of jumpers!.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legacy_Plug_and_Play

You'll have to research if that Packard Bell BIOS is plug and play or not, but if does, it will save you time expanding the thing,This card is within your price range:

https://www.ebay.com/c/1103554264

Installing Windows 95 on such an old CD rom drive may prove tough (older drives tend to be picky about reading CD-rs), but worst case, you just have to buy an original disc (Or ask some friends of they have one).

Your other option would be to burn the CD-R at the lowest speed possible on you r burner (have heard this helps with ease of reading)
 
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defaultluser

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Also, this may come in handy getting things up and running, as you will need a Windows 95 boot disk that contains the CDROM driver.

https://www.amazon.com/Gotek-SFR1M44-U100-1-44MB-Floppy-Emulator/dp/B0762NCHC6

It's too bad they can't make the partition larger than 1.44mb, or you could copy the entire Windows CDROM on there, or use the non-standard Microsoft archive disk DMS-formatted images for Windows 95.

Here is the boot disk image:

https://winworldpc.com/product/microsoft-windows-boot-disk/95-osr2x

And here is the os image:

https://winworldpc.com/product/windows-95/osr-2
 
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defaultluser

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Messages
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Is this the system, or similar?

LINK TO SYSTEM
That teardownn is even more helpful, because the poster links to the motherboard manual on this wonderful page:

http://www.uktsupport.co.uk/pb/mb/410.htm

They have a quick lookup page for every Packard Bell Pre-Pentium motherboard ever released, so it should be easy for the OP to find their exact model of motherboard. but I can't find any other models excetpt the above that coime with Headland Tech videp!

http://www.uktsupport.co.uk/pb/mb/pbmb1.htm
 
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DogChainX

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That teardownn is even more helpful, because the poster links to the motherboard manual on this wonderful page:

http://www.uktsupport.co.uk/pb/mb/410.htm

They have a quick lookup page for every Packard Bell Pre-Pentium motherboard ever released, so it should be easy for the OP to find their exact model of motherboard. but I can't find any other models excetpt the above that coime with Headland Tech videp!

http://www.uktsupport.co.uk/pb/mb/pbmb1.htm
Yeah, i was looking for more info on the Headland. On that page it says its connected via local bus so that is a big plus for Windows 95. I think he tested it out and said it was faster than ET4000AX, which is one of the best ISA for DOS. Windows on the other hand.....with only 512K of VRAM...Meh! Such an old design, definitely NOT for performance.

-Windows 95 on 4mb of RAM is going to be painful with a lot of games. Try at least 16MB upgrade SIMM for 20MB of RAM, but could find an inexpensive 32MB module for 36MB of RAM. Pig out on RAM if its cheap, though anything past 16MB or 32MB might not be cacheable, depending upon cache limits and write-through (WT) and write-back (WB). Many designs had 128k cache = 16MB for WB, 32MB for WT (i think...). You can upgrade the cache to 512K, though 128K will probably be more than enough for such a low-end system.

-CPU is upgradeable. Plug in a 486DX2-66 for cheap, and you won't really need a heatsink or fan, though you can put one one for safety sake. OD processors are typically $$$ on ebay, especially Pentium-types. If you're needing more CPU power, invest in a different system such as a Pentium or Pentium II. You can go up to PCI and AGP at that point.

-Hard drive is the suck. Keep with it for nostalgia. Or get a CF-IDE adapter and a 256MB or 512MB CF card and see if you can get it to work with the BIOS. 1GB on up CF cards might not work due to BIOS limitations. Yes yes, CF and write cycles over time will get it killed, but we're talking a couple of years here of nostalgia at best.

-Headland is 512K. That's going to limit resolutions and color depth. Upgrading to 1MB will help. It don't know if interleave is going to be a concern, but if you upgrade the VRAM you might see a performance increase. But that's more $$$.....

-Sound card...Hmm. DOS gaming? Or just Windows95+? You can get an AWE64, that way it has wavetable (not the best, not the worst) and you'll have DOS SoundBlaster/Adlib support. There's many cheap options for sound cards though. Opti chips sets, etc. Though I would at least take a look at ESS AudioDrive cards with a possible wavetable header. Some come with a true OPL3 chip for good sounding FM synthesis. see: ESS AUDIO DRIVE REVIEW

Honestly, this is probably one of the worst-case scenario 486's to upgrade and maintain. No VLB, no PCI, all sockets need to be upgraded with RAM, cache, VRAM and even the CPU. Hard drive is crazy slow. Though you'll learn a lot about the system's ins and outs! Good luck!
 

FSCDiablo

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Jul 3, 2003
Messages
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Sorry I can't be of much help, but this thread was a walk down memory lane. I had a PB 486 SX25 back in college those days. I was so jealous of my friends DX33 at the time as the math coprocessor on the DX, and higher speed, meant I could calc my financial spreadsheets in minutes on his machine vs the hours it took on mine. Seriously minutes vs hours.

In 95 I worked at a tax software company in systems support dealing with hardware issues and could reconfigure/optimize users autoexec.bat and config.sys files easily over the phone in my head. LOL, that ability is long lost.

Unfortunately 10 years ago or so I finally tossed all the floppies/hardware I had saved for decades or I could pass on lots of fun to someone with the nostalgic desire.

Cheers for the memories of a grinding Commodore 1541 floppy drive, listening to your code playing on a TI 99-4A cassette tape, gaming on an Apple 2e and anyone wanting to relive those experiences!
 

w1retap

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With this being an all-ISA system, you'll probably want to stick with DOS 6.22 and Windows 3.1, although Windows 95 will work, but slower. Windows 95 won't be super useful on a DX2/66 -- you'd be better off with a DX4-100 or Pentium for that. You'll likely get under 25fps in Doom / Doom 2 using a DX2/66. For RAM, 16MB is plenty for even Windows 95 on an all-ISA system. For graphics, I would go with a Tseng ET4000 ISA SVGA card. For sound I would go with an Aztech Sound Galaxy Pro 16 or another 1st gen Aztech card for maximum compatibility and low price -- it supports sound blaster, adlib, disney sound, covox, etc. For MIDI, you can plug in a wavetable to the sound card's wavetable header. (i.e. Dreamblaster S2 or similar) You can also do MPU-401 output from the joystick port on the sound card to another newer PC using a USB-->MIDI connector and running MUNT. As far as storage goes, an industrial CF card will last for many years of continuous operation. I've been running DOS, Windows 3.1, Windows 95. and even Windows 98SE on Industrial CF cards with zero issues. If you need an awesome retro forum, check out vogons.org :)
 

defaultluser

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Messages
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Yeah, I forgot just how much of a DOS workhorse the Tseng ET4000 was. It performed a minor miracle over the ISA bus, wih it's onboarrd I/O processor!

You're not going to get smooth framerates out of Doom, but lots of other DOS 3D games should be within reach::Tie Fighter, MechWarrior 2, Wing Commander 3. There's a whole lot of other SVGA DOS-era adventure/simulation games that will all play fine on that beast.

You can even play Fallout 1 on that ancient system!

And every other VGA-era classic should be painless to run. I should know, because I ran them all on my 486 DX2 50!
 

cjcox

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I did this very thing many, many, many (10-15years?) ago. Old Packard Bell 486-SX. Spent about $800 so I could take it up to 2MB memory and I overclocked the CPU. Put in a 10mbit ISA ethernet board. At the end of the day, you get a really really really really really really really slow computer that can do basic text web browsing. At the time, I chose Puppy Linux, I believe.

Probably tried to use it for a day.... then chalked it up to "lessons learned" (don't).
 

narsbars

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I still have a DX2-66 on a shelf, pulled from a P.Bell years ago. Good luck.
 

Fenris_Ulf

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If you do go the Win 95 route with a CF disk (highly recommended), be sure to turn off the page file or you'll wear out the CF fast. Voice of experience here. I might even have a ISA to CF adapter kicking around somewhere.
 
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