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Ziggy587
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I Finally Got a Socket 7 Motherboard !

by Ziggy587 Sun Oct 30, 2022 10:56 pm

I Finally Got a Socket 7 Motherboard !

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Currently, my oldest PC is a Pentium II, which I use Windows 98 on. So any DOS games I have are played on that. But I've been wanting a PC just a little older for a proper DOS setup. The problem there is that 486 era stuff has really went up in price over the years.

I'm still kicking myself. I had a once-in-a-lifetime side of the road score, something like 10 computers! They were mostly 486, maybe some were 386 or Pentium, I can't remember. All of the CPUs and RAM were pulled IIRC, but that stuff was cheap to get on the used market at the time. It did have some HDDs, and each computer had random video, sound and controller cards, power supplies and disc/disk drives. Well, at the time, this stuff was basically worthless. I slowly got rid of it all, it was taking up too much space. I've been kicking myself ever since. If I held on to it until now, I could have cashed out pretty good on it. But I wished that I had held on to at least ONE of those computers for myself. By the time I realized I wanted a computer of that vintage, the prices had already started to go up.

Over the last few years, I occasionally would get my interest sparked and take a look on eBay for a motherboard. Then I would quickly become disenchanted by the prices. Once or twice I came ::this close:: to pulling the trigger on something, but chickened out. I have so many computers in storage... What the hell do I need another computer for?! LOL

So I must be crazy, but I just watched a 486 build video on YouTube (as I sometimes do) and decided to check eBay. I forget how I decided to check for this specifically, but I ended up stumbling upon this Biostar motherboard. I have a little bit of a soft spot for the Biostar brand, so I was immediately drawn to it. And the price was good, too! So I sort of loosely decided a while ago that if I ever do a real DOS machine, I think I'll go for a Pentium over a 486, just so I can do more with it in my own era of gaming. Which leads me to why Socket 7 motherboards are so awesome.

Socket 7 is kind of ridiculous because it can accept such a wide range of processors. Intel, AMD, Cyrix and more! It can even accept Socket 5 CPUs! (To put that into perspective, picture a motherboard today supporting rival CPU brands, and CPUs of the last generation). And because of the era, you're likely to find many things integrated on the motherboard. Like an IDE and floppy controller so you don't need a controller card. It was on the verge of a lot of things, so you may find SD RAM. You might even get an ATX power connector which is a real plus to have.

The board I just nabbed is almost perfect. It has floppy and IDE, DIMM and SD RAM (which is great because I have a ton on hand), a coin cell battery for the CMOS (some older PCs need to be modified to fit a battery), a PS/2 mouse port, and of course my fondness for the Biostar brand. The only thing I wish it had was an ATX 20-pin power connector. It actually has a spot on the motherboard for it, but it's not populated. I mean, I can make do with out it. But I wonder if I could add the 20-pin header. Anyways, it also comes with a Pentium 166 with the heatsink and a stick of RAM. I don't know the capacity of the RAM, but I don't really care since I have a huge pile of SD RAM (and I believe they're all backward compatible, so I should be all set). The CPU isn't crazy expensive or anything, but this auction was only $50. Usually you can't even get just the bare motherboard for that price, let alone with a CPU and RAM!

The side of the road PCs that I mentioned above, I had saved various parts from. I did save one single VGA PCI card that I held onto for years. I can't remember if I finally got rid of it, but I guess I must have because I just looked for it and couldn't find it. Since I'll need a video card to confirm this board works when I get it in, and since I apparently got rid of my only PCI video card, that means I had to get one...

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A Compaq branded S3 Verge/GX. I'm not sure if this will be the final video card for this build, but these seem like a good choice for a DOS machine and I was able to get this card for pretty cheap.

I have spare ATX power supplies on hand, so I picked up a cheap ATX to AT power connector. Again, so I can test the board right away when I get it in. I'm not sure what my final set up with be. I'll probably get a modern ATX power supply to use along with adapters. But if I ever come across a good brand AT power supply, I wouldn't rule out the possibility of recapping and using it. Although ATX is always going to be the safer choice, I suppose.

The big problem, as dumb as it seems, is going to be the case. I can't exactly shop locally for an AT style case. I've never come across one in a thrift store around here. And they're way too expensive on eBay. I might end up using an ATX case, if I can find one that looks right. Unless I can come up with some other idea.

I'm also not sure what I'm going to do about a sound card. I have a Sound Blaster 16 Wave Effects ISA card, but I actually got it for my Windows 98 PC and I might want something more period correct for this. But I don't know, those Sound Blaster 16 cards are expensive!

For the OS, I actually have a new in box DOS 6.22 (I also have a boxed DOS 5.something). I was going to get rid of it, now I'm glad that I didn't! Years ago I had Windows 3.11, but I sold it to someone here. Oh well. I have a CD ISO image for 3.11 that I used in DOS Box, so I'm sure it'll work on a real PC. I'm not sure what I'm going to do for storage. I may want a real HDD in there, I don't have any period correct HDDs on hand though. I may also want a CF solution in there. It might be nice to have a CF card mounted in an external drive bay, that I can easily swap out to change OSes. For example, maybe have DOS and Win 3.11 on one, and fuck around with Windows 95 on the other.

I'll have to pick up another 5.25" floppy disk drive, since the only beige one I have I'd like to keep in my Windows 98 PC. And somehow I ended up with three black 3.5" FDD, so I'll have to find a beige one. Or possibly just a beige face plate that fits. I have a few spare CD-ROM drives, though they may need Retro Brite. I may have to keep an eye out for something more period correct, though.

So this will probably be a really slow build. I'll definitely test the board out right away after I get it in. But after that, it'll probably take some time for me to complete. So I'll post updates as I go along.
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Re: I Finally Got a Socket 7 Motherboard !

by marurun Sun Oct 30, 2022 11:15 pm

I have a classic AWE32 or some such ifn you needs it.
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Re: I Finally Got a Socket 7 Motherboard !

by opa Mon Oct 31, 2022 8:21 am

Cool project. Looks like the work is just starting. Good luck with the case. I'm curious what your ultimate solution will be.
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Re: I Finally Got a Socket 7 Motherboard !

by marurun Mon Oct 31, 2022 9:48 am

I remember carefully picking a quality budget socket 7 motherboard for my AMD K6-2 build back in the day. I think it was an ECS board. I had all sorts of IRQ issues trying to make sure the Sound Blaster, 3COM NIC, and SCSI card didn't fight with each other. Oh Windows 98...
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Re: I Finally Got a Socket 7 Motherboard !

by Ziggy587 Mon Oct 31, 2022 4:48 pm

marurun wrote:I have a classic AWE32 or some such ifn you needs it.


No rush, but next time you can a chance to dig it out, let me know the model number on the card!

opa wrote:Good luck with the case. I'm curious what your ultimate solution will be.


I put a little bit of thought into doing an open case, like those test bench "cases" or whatever they're called. But I think I'd rather have a traditional case. I had put some thought into making a custom case, but without a sheet metal press (is that what you call those things to bend sheet metal in straight lines at various angles?) I really wouldn't be able to make anything that would look as good as a store bought case. So I might end up having to buy a case. I'll keep my eye out for something beige, and especially something of the correct period. But I might just have to settle for a contemporary ATX case, although I would try and find the most 90's looking one (which is getting harder and harder every year).

marurun wrote:I remember carefully picking a quality budget socket 7 motherboard for my AMD K6-2 build back in the day. I think it was an ECS board. I had all sorts of IRQ issues trying to make sure the Sound Blaster, 3COM NIC, and SCSI card didn't fight with each other. Oh Windows 98...


Nice! What was it like picking a motherboard back then? Were you on the internet? Or were you comparing specs from a catalog or something?

So I've been reading a little about Sound Blasters, and I've heard several people mention that they prefer older non plug and play cards. Apparently with the plug and play cards, it'll sometimes have default settings that you don't want. And you don't have to worry about various devices conflicting with each other when you set them up manually. Of course, this isn't a problem with PCI cards, but people tend to hate on the PCI Sound Blasters.

Man, speaking of IRQs... When I was taking an A+ Cert prep class, we had to memorize the x86 IRQs for a test. The joke between IT professionals now though is that you don't actually need to know anything except how to use Google. Man, kids building computers today have it easy! Everything is keyed and it just works when you plug it in. Modern OSes automatically reach out the internet for a driver, you really don't have to do much if anything at all. In contrast to computers of this vintage, sometimes ripping your hair out trying to get a card to work. Or how about AT power connectors? You have to put black to black, but it isn't keyed so you ARE able to install them wrong and fry your computer!
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Re: I Finally Got a Socket 7 Motherboard !

by Ziggy587 Wed Nov 02, 2022 9:46 pm

So, of all things, I scored a keyboard for this build :lol:

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I only have two beige PS/2 keyboards now (all PS/2 keyboards will work with the AT style 5-DIN keyboard connector with a passive adapter). I had gotten rid of a lot of them over the years. Of the two beige PS/2 keyboards that I have, neither is really what I would want for a DOS machine. Earlier this year, I actually impulse bought this off Amazon...

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Link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08F3WBFP1

That's a modern USB keyboard in a "retro" console scheme. But I love those beige keyboards that are grey / dark grey. Very 80's / early 90's looking. Perfect for a DOS machine. I figured I could use one of those USB to PS/2 adapters that use to come with keyboards and mice, I have several on hand. But guess what I just found out... Those things don't work with ALL keyboards/mice. The keyboard or mouse has to specifically support both PS/2 and USB protocols for those adapters to work. So it seems like most USB keyboards for the longest while DID support both PS/2 and USB, so there's many USB keyboards that these adapters work no problem for. I guess that's why it's such a massive misconception. But as it turns out, sadly, that above Perixx USB keyboard does NOT work with a PS/2 adapter. Bummer! I might find some other use with it with the Pentium III build (that board has USB, so if the BIOS can use a USB keyboard that I'll probably use this). It has a modern Windows logo on the Windows key, which I think would have looked too odd on a DOS machine anyway.

Of course, I would just get an IBM Model M and be done with it, but they cost an arm and a leg. I always keep an eye out in thrift stores, but I have never once come across one. In fact, I rarely ever see vintage PC stuff (my theory is that all the good stuff is already picked clean by the time I roll through a thrift store because LI is so overcrowded).

Soooooo, I started to casually look on eBay for a keyboard that would fit the bill. And I came across something near perfect for me. It's an Acer Accufeel, brand new in box, and I got it for $16.50 plus shipping. It has the AT style connector on it, too! It has the grey / dark grey color scheme, which I definitely dig for this build. Personally, I don't like that style enter key with the smaller backspace key. I had a keyboard like that once, and I always ended up hitting the forward slash key when I meant to backspace LOL. But you use to ALWAYS see this style keyboard on computers of this era. So I don't know, it feels sort of appropriate. It does have the Windows key, but it's the Windows 95 logo. Although I primarily plan to use DOS, I might also screw around with 95 so I will like having the key.

So a keyboard update might not be so interesting to some people. But then again, we have had multiple threads just about boards, so maybe some people will find this interesting! Either way, future updates so be about more entertaining parts. Although I'll have to see about a mouse at some point. :lol:


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In other news.... I was doing a little reading about the S3 Verge/GX video card that I got. It's perfectly fine for 2D, but the 3D apparently sucks. In fact, some people go as far as to call it a 3D graphics DEcelerator LOL. Well, it was cheap and it's fine for 2D and light 3D stuff. I just needed a video card straight away in order to test the motherboard when I get it in. I was never planning on this being the last video card for this build anyway.

It would be awesome to get some 3dfx card, but those go for crazy money!

I'm still holding out hope of finding an actual AT case for this build. But I also had another idea. If I come across a modern (or modern-ish) case that's black or something, but boxy, I could also refinish it in beige/grey. So I guess I've expanded my search for more of shape and style, and I can sort of look past the color if I think I can refinish it well.
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Re: I Finally Got a Socket 7 Motherboard !

by opa Thu Nov 03, 2022 5:34 am

cool keyboard
unicomp still makes the model m-style but they're pricey
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Re: I Finally Got a Socket 7 Motherboard !

by Ziggy587 Fri Nov 04, 2022 7:31 pm

The motherboard has arrived. I tested it, and it works!

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Here's some quick takeaways from it...

The board looks really good and really clean. Luckily that S3 VGA card and the AT/ATX power adapter had already come in, so I was able to test the board straight away. It powers on and POSTs, and I was able to poke around in the BIOS. I installed a CR2032 and it's holding the date and time.

The electrolytic capacitors all look fine, but this board is roughly 25 years old. So the question always is, recap or no recap? Some people say be proactive and do it. Some people say if it's working, then don't recap because it's not worth the risk of damage.

I probed the ATX 20-pin footprint on the motherboard (the actual Molex connector is missing but it has the footprint for it) and it's connected to the AT power input. Since there seems to be no missing components around the connector, and it's mostly electrical the same as the AT power connected (3/5/12v) I see no reason that I can't install the ATX 20-pin connector. It'll just be easier since it has the soft power on feature, I wont have to wire up any custom cables/switches.

Interestingly, the fan connector for the CPU fan is only 2 pin, but the footprint has three pins with a trace on the missing 3rd pin. I think I can swap it out for a 3-pin fan connector. But IIRC all that 3rd pin does is allow you to read the fan speed. I'm not sure I have a reason to do that.

This board has a USB header! I keep forgetting how new this board actually is. I'll probably connect it since I have a 2-port USB PCI bracket with the header adapter on it, but I'm not sure how much use I'll get with it. I've heard about using USB sticks in DOS, but I'm not sure if I'll do that. I'm not reaching around the back of the computer to plug in a stick, and I don't think I want to bother with front USB ports. I have other ideas for file transfer anyways.

BUT, when I was poking around in the BIOS (since that was all I could do until I set up a drive and install an OS) I noticed that there was an option for USB keyboard. Which means I might not have needed to get a new keyboard, that Perixx USB keyboard (I posted about it above) might work with this PC. Although, the BIOS option for USB keyboard is off by default. So I still would have needed a PS/2 keyboard to at least go in and change that option. And USB keyboards can sometimes be a pain in the ass with old computers and OS, sometimes not working. It'll just be easier to stick with the true blue PS/2 keyboard. And I have no regrets with the one I bought since it was brand new, I like the aesthetics of it, and it was a good price.

The eBay auction for this mobo only listed the included CPU as Pentium 166, but I wanted to know exactly what model it was. And since I figured it wouldn't hurt to replace the thermal compound, I decided to remove the HSF.

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So looking up the A80502166 code, it looks like an OEM model. I was kinda holding out hope that it would an MMX model, but no, just a Pentium 166. I might keep an eye out for Socket 7 CPUs, and I may pick up additional models if I find them cheap enough. I kinda wanted the MMX model, just because. But I don't know, if I found a Cyrix it might be fun just to play around with it. I never had a PC CPU that wasn't AMD or Intel. There's no real need to change this CPU out, aside from messing around.

opa wrote:unicomp still makes the model m-style but they're pricey


I've seen those. They aren't a ludicrous price, but they don't make them in any good colors. Personally, I don't like the black casing with the white and grey keys. It's like halfway between the modern and classic color schemes. They should just make one all black, then a traditional color. It's neat that they offer an option for PS/2 instead of USB, but the colors wouldn't look good with most classic PCs. And it has the modern logo on the Windows keys. If they offered an option to swap out for Windows keys with a classic logo, and if you could get a grey housing instead of black, I probably would have already ordered one!
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Re: I Finally Got a Socket 7 Motherboard !

by opa Sat Nov 05, 2022 11:15 am

Looks like this ps/2 is in stock. classic color.
https://www.pckeyboard.com/page/product/UNI0416
heck, I may get myself one for christmas if they stay in stock LOL
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Re: I Finally Got a Socket 7 Motherboard !

by Ziggy587 Sat Nov 05, 2022 12:49 pm

Whoa, nice! I didn't realize they had that one. I would actually prefer the 104 model...

https://www.pckeyboard.com/page/product/UNI0446

The stock picture on that page, it's low res, but it looks like the plastic is yellowing LOL. But I watched a few review videos of the 104 and it looks fine in them. So I'm guessing that's just the lighting? Kinda of weird that they have such crappy photos for what is NOT a cheap keyboard. Also, I guess they figure the reputation precedes the keyboard and doesn't require and description? I want to know if the USB version will work with a passive PS/2 adapter (not all USB keyboards do). If it does, I'd order the USB version. But if not, then I absolutely need the PS/2 version!

I like that it has the classic logo on the Windows keys. Unlike the Perixx keyboard that has the modern logo, it just looks weird.

From watching a few review videos, it seems they aren't perfect but still really good. Apparently they are still using the same plastic molds from when they first acquired them, or so says some YouTuber. So the plastics aren't molded perfectly. For example, the gaps in the cutouts are larger than an original Model M. One review I read said that the keys have rough edges and needed to be trimmed with an X-Acto knife.

I totally wouldn't have bought that AT keyboard had I know they had this Classic 104 model, but then again I didn't spend all that much on it.
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