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Old 30-12-2006, 02:19 PM   #1
Grinder
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Okay, as many of you (win98, horseman, racer, omuletzu and the whole gang) might remember, I have a colorful past when it comes to building custom DOS PCs. Be it my moderate technical knowledge or the mix-up of internal parts and unfitting drivers or blablabla, every DOS PC I built until this point has bitten the dust. And now I'm back for more!

What I'm trying to do with this thread is build up a guideline on how to build a custom PC. This involves setup howtos, technical specifications, hardware recommendations, the whole shebang. I hope the technically more experienced among you can aid me in this quest for......the ultimate DOS machine!

bam bam bam baaaaaam.

Over the course of this (hopefully successful) thread, I want to take down notes and comments and the like in a single document so as to build up the DOS machine howto that I intend to write. So I'm calling for your help/opinion/knowledge, anything you have on this subject. Now let's get started!

My basic specs would be:
Pentium 166MHz processor
24MB RAM
2x1GB Harddrives or HD partitions
SoundBlaster compatible Soundcard

This is what I would start out with, and I know it might not be the most perfectest rig you'll find, but mind you, I'm trying to keep it simple and affordable here. And now for your suggestions!
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Old 30-12-2006, 03:13 PM   #2
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Wow! Great topic! Are you the techno Henning??

<div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(Henning @ Dec 30 2006, 03:19 PM) [snapback]272805[/snapback]</div>
Quote:

Pentium 166MHz processor[/b]
I think that's a really good choice, but it's much faster than you need. If I recall correctly, DOOM ran at the proper speed on a 486 with clock speed 66Mhz.

Quote:
24MB RAM[/b]
That will definitely work, but it's far more than DOS programs can use. Just for DOS stuff, 640K base, and a meg or 2 extended, plus a meg or 2 expanded, would make a killer DOS machine I think. We used to have one like that at home ages ago.

Quote:
2x1GB Harddrives or HD partitions[/b]
The more the better. 2 Gigs is way more than adequate! k:

Quote:
SoundBlaster compatible Soundcard
[/b]
OK, this is the exciting bit. I would recommend that the perfect DOS machine MUST have a motherboard with ISA slots, so that you can put a genuine 8-bit or 16-bit (not Vibra if 16-bit) Soundblaster card, because this has the genuine almost-obsolete Adlib chip that many DOS games sound really bad without. But no "compatible" Soundblaster card, unless we know the exact specs and they're not junk imitations (i.e. they have the genuine chipset).
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Old 30-12-2006, 03:27 PM   #3
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Okay, I don't know who the techno Henning is, but I know that I myself am a pretty cool kind of Henning

First of all, I have found that 120-133MHz is perfect for pretty much all games, anything beyond that would trigger timer problems in Space Quest and the like. I had a PC with 75MHz which was a tad too slow. 90MHz might just be enough, but I prefer being on the safe side.

As for RAM, I always figured 32MB to be perfect until I found out that some games have problems with more than 24MB. 24MB was also the amount that was considered ideal in my previous PC-building threads (ages ago). Maybe we could incorporate game reports regarding performance/setup etc. in this document of mine

I agree that ISA is an absolute must for any DOS machine. I have tried the basic SB16 on various occasions and found it to be adequate. However, I have also used a Compaq ES1868 in the past, and from my experience, this particular model is simply the best among SB16-compatibles. But, I'm open for suggestions!
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Old 30-12-2006, 07:42 PM   #4
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Well the gang is back but any way moving on to the topic.
Have you thought about the video card 512k-2mb should be enough for most if not all games. I have an old 233mhz hp pavilion with a recovery disk so it runs hardware that is mainly oem and I have been planing to ditch the souncard it has and chuck in an old trident sound card that I have and then run windows98 on it for older windows and some dos games. Since the current sound card is conencted to an amp card so it is quite weird. It's summer holidays over here so i'll do it when I get the time in early 2007.
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Old 31-12-2006, 10:48 PM   #5
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I was planning on using one of these run-of-the-mill graphics cards, I forgot their name. Didn't give much thought to that.
Question: what is OEM?
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Old 01-01-2007, 11:33 AM   #6
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<div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(Henning @ Jan 1 2007, 12:48 AM) [snapback]272889[/snapback]</div>
Quote:
I was planning on using one of these run-of-the-mill graphics cards, I forgot their name. Didn't give much thought to that.
Question: what is OEM?
[/b]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origina...t_Manufacturer

FAT16 or FAT32 on HD?
which DOS version?
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Old 01-01-2007, 11:00 PM   #7
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Either FreeDOS or MS-DOS 6.22, which was my OS of choice on past systems.
As for the filesystem, I'm not sure which one is better. What would you suggest?
Also, thanks for the link.
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Old 02-01-2007, 07:36 AM   #8
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DOS 6.22 supports FAT16 only, don't know about FreeDOS.
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Old 02-01-2007, 10:54 AM   #9
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AFAIK, FreeDOS supports FAT-32. So does DOS 7.1.

RAM of 16 to 24 MB will do. I see in your other thread that you already have 2x8 MB of EDO RAM - get 2x4 MB sticks and that'll be your desired 24 MB (Pentium systems require paired memory... unlike 486).

As for Video card... 1 MB - at least. That's good for DOS and sufficient for most Windows games too.

If you're going for FAT-16... DO NOT USE 1 GB PARTITIONS!!! Never-ever!!! With FAT-16 filesystem, cluster size goes up to 20-30 kb. If you have few files but large ones, it'll do. If you have a smattering of small files, you'll end up with a gross waste of space. (been there, done that).

If you want to use both DOS and Windows on this machine, dual hard drives are preferable to a single one, especially if you couple that with a Midi Tower case (3x 5,25" drive bays, so that you still have space for a CD drive) and two internal drive racks (each attached to a different IDE channel). That way, you can quickly shutdown the machine, swap the racks and start the other OS.

As to soundcard compatibility... duh, my personal favorite is ESS 1887, primarily because one of them has been with me for ages and I have no reason to complain. Full Sound Blaster 2 compatibility, stereo sound, built-in volume regulation, MIDI/game port... the works. Personally, I prefer SB2 to SB16... some of the MIDI music in the games sounds way different between the two types (vide Flashback... particularly the outro).
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Old 03-01-2007, 03:03 PM   #10
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<div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(the_fifth_horseman @ Jan 2 2007, 12:54 PM) [snapback]272997[/snapback]</div>
Quote:
Pentium systems require paired memory... unlike 486[/b]
I think that might be what brought down my first windows machine.
Quote:
If you're going for FAT-16... DO NOT USE 1 GB PARTITIONS!!! Never-ever!!! With FAT-16 filesystem, cluster size goes up to 20-30 kb. If you have few files but large ones, it'll do. If you have a smattering of small files, you'll end up with a gross waste of space. (been there, done that).
[/b]
FAT-32 it is then. So that makes it FreeDOS
Quote:
If you want to use both DOS and Windows on this machine, dual hard drives are preferable to a single one, especially if you couple that with a Midi Tower case (3x 5,25" drive bays, so that you still have space for a CD drive) and two internal drive racks (each attached to a different IDE channel). That way, you can quickly shutdown the machine, swap the racks and start the other OS.
[/b]
okay, swap racks might be complicated, but I definitely favoured 2 hard drives over one partitioned HD.
Quote:
As to soundcard compatibility... duh, my personal favorite is ESS 1887, primarily because one of them has been with me for ages and I have no reason to complain. Full Sound Blaster 2 compatibility, stereo sound, built-in volume regulation, MIDI/game port... the works. Personally, I prefer SB2 to SB16... some of the MIDI music in the games sounds way different between the two types (vide Flashback... particularly the outro).
[/b]
I did some research today (not very thorough) but couldn't find anything on the differences between those ESS models. I prefer the 1868 for the same reasons, but I suppose the 1887 would be better, since it seems to be a successor of some sort.
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