Building a Windows 95 PC

Discussion in 'Retro & Arcade' started by iMic, Oct 19, 2017.

  1. iMic

    iMic Member

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    So, I decided to build a Windows 95 PC. Not exactly as a retro build either, but a daily driver machine (for some applications, at least).

    I set out sourcing components for the build. I had decided on a 486 system, but after difficulties finding a suitable AT case, I shelved the 486 parts for a later machine build and settled on something different instead:

    • Octek Rhino 15 Socket 7 AT/ATX Mainboard
    • Cyrix 6x86MX 166MHz Socket 7 Processor
    • 32MB 72-Pin SIMMs
    • Trident PCI Video Adapter
    • 3DFX Voodoo2 3D Video Accelerator
    • 2GB Quantum Fireball HDD
    • 3.5" 1.44MB Sony Floppy Disk Drive
    • 5.25" 1.2MB Teac FD-55GFR Floppy Disk Drive (+1 Spare)
    • AOpen CD-ROM Drive
    • Creative Labs Sound Blaster 16 ISA Sound Card
    • 3Com Etherlink III ISA Network Card
    • AOpen ATX Power Supply
    • ATX Horizontal Desktop Case

    All set. Time to start assembling.

    I immediately forgot the screws. The very components that hold the machine together, I completely forgot to source them. So now I'm looking for a supplier within Australia that can supply a couple of 50-packs of M3s and 6-32 UNCs.

    So, instead I decided to test the components I did manage to source, and what a clusterf- this turned out to be:

    • The Trident PCI Video Card doesn't work. It detects, the machine POSTs, but no video is ever displayed.
    • The 3Com Etherlink III has a broken transceiver bracket.
    • Both Teac FD-55GFR drives have stripped out screw threads - every one, on both sides!

    So I went hunting for some replacement components yet again, and came across some less desirable parts that should work...

    • S3 PCI Video Accelerator
    • SMC ISA Network Card
    • YE Data 5.25" Floppy Disk Drive

    Feeling somewhat discouraged about the entire build so far. Perhaps after I source the screws I'll go looking for another set of cards. Or forget the Cyrix machine entirely and return to the Am486 build I'd planned on doing to begin with.
     
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  2. Ratzz

    Ratzz Member

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    Jaycar have a useful selection of small M3's. Never had to source any 6-32 though, good luck with them :)
     
  3. DarkYendor

    DarkYendor Member

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    A 486 for Win 95 would be pretty slow wouldn't it, the 486 was really Windows 3.11 territory. Pretty sure we had a Pentium 200 for Windows 95.

    Next time I'm at my parents, I'll see if there are any old PCs in the garage.

    Just wondering what you're planning to do with it? As you can't really use it for internet (HTML 5 browser running with 32MB of RAM?), and Office 6.0 isn't exactly up-to-date for word process, I'm wondering what the use is?
     
  4. OP
    OP
    iMic

    iMic Member

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    One of my earliest computers was an Acer AcerMate 486 running Windows 95 back in the late nineties. It's mostly about rebuilding my old machine setup from back then, and running some older applications like Office 95 and whatever games were current around that era (SimCity 2000 SE).

    It's also a bridge system for transferring data back to the IBM XT, converting data stored on 3.5" floppies to 5.25" 320k floppies for easier transfer.

    Internet access won't happen, but if it can connect to something like IRC, BBS or even Hotline, I'd consider that a success.
     
  5. power

    power Member

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    I agree, Pentium era will give you a much better Win 95 experience.
     
  6. adz

    adz Member

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    I get what he is saying, sometimes it is about recreating an experience, no matter how bad (subjective) it may be.
     
  7. power

    power Member

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    So do I, I will say recreating the experience at the next level is like having your dream machine at the time. His choice though. :) Sometimes recreating the experience too faithfully sullies the memories too.
     
  8. adz

    adz Member

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    I concur, but that's when you hit eBay looking for "upgrades" :p

    As you would be aware, with the builds I've done of late, I'm all about recreating the experience on the hardware I dreamed of having at the time :thumbup:
     
  9. power

    power Member

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    if I made a win 95 machine I'd go and get a Bitchin' Fast 3D 2000 to put in it. :D

    This guy used ME, so yeah doin' it wrong.

     
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  10. adz

    adz Member

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    That is GOLD! :lol: :lol: :lol:

    If he'd used Win 95 he would have scored more BungholioMarks :thumbup:
     
  11. OP
    OP
    iMic

    iMic Member

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    I should have enough components to build both a 486 and a Pentium class machine. (Just not enough cases.)

    The Am486s would be interesting though. They're Am486 DX100s, which I recall even outperformed some of the earlier Pentiums. Wouldn't be as fast as the Cyrix machine, and the Cyrix machine fits inside an ATX case (with ATX PSU) which means it still has the advantage in this build.
     
  12. Phido

    Phido Member

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    That was literally my Windows 95 PC from back in the day. Except I had a 420Mb IDE HD, no Voodoo2, no 5.25 and its was a tower.

    Ran 95 nicely, 32MB was good for Win95.

    It replaced my 386DX25 with 4Mb. It used to take ~ 30 minutes to boot into Windows. It ran 3.11 quite nicely and was fine in Dos.

    A mid level 486 was still like a ~5 minute boot into windows and was generally not very usable unless it had more than 8Mb.

    Only issue with the 686 was running Quake in software mode. Everyone complained about it. But it was a lot faster than my 386 running quake (I had a 387 but at 25Mhz was half as fast as this video).


    With a Voodoo, it was less of an issue again.
     
  13. OP
    OP
    iMic

    iMic Member

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    Resumed working on the machine this evening. I had a working and good condition Teac FD-55GFV with a black faceplate, so I transferred the beige plate from the FD-55GFR and that issue is resolved. (Of course I'll fix the 55GFR later - there are M3 thread insert kits to sort that one out.)

    The hardest part now is making the IDE cables fit. I'm running into situations where the cables are too short, no matter how they're oriented. This is particularly true for the Floppy cables, which reach either the 5.25" drive or 3.5" drive, but not both at once. I've made the cables connect to their respective drives, albeit with some strange twists and less than desirable bends. Maybe it would be better to custom make the cables to fit instead. Or just move everything to a tower case, where it would all most likely fit fine.
     
  14. adz

    adz Member

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    How do you have it assembled at the moment?
     
  15. miicah

    miicah Member

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    Why wouldn't windows 95 be able to connect to the internet? It supports TCP/IP out of the box, or are you referring to the actual browsing experience?
     
  16. adz

    adz Member

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    Win95 can connect just fine, finding a modern browser that works would be a challenge, I fired up IE6 on my NT4.0 box the other day, I couldn't even get the Google main page to load, even the OCAU welcome page was missing several elements.
     
  17. flu!d

    flu!d Ubuntu Mate 16.04 LTS

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    I can just browse the web using my Pentium III Tualatin based system and Windows 2000. Finding networking hardware with working Windows 98 drivers was damn near impossible, bugger trying to find working drivers for Windows 95.
     
  18. adz

    adz Member

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    It is a somewhat pointless endeavour, but it can be done, Intel Pro 100, Realtek 8129 and 8139 cards work a treat even going back to DOS 6.22 and Win 3.1 and the drivers for these chipsets are still readily available.
     
  19. OP
    OP
    iMic

    iMic Member

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    Came across this machine on Gumtree. An IBM Aptiva 2161-E84. This machine has a Pentium MMX 166MHz, 16MB RAM, a 3.16GB HDD and ATI onboard graphics. Possibly a Mach64, with 2MB VRAM and memory expansion headers (like these) on the board. An ISA modem is installed, along with a Crystal based ISA sound card.

    It's in good condition for its age. I've already taken the machine apart and cleaned it inside and out, including inside the power supply, serviced the fans and replaced the CMOS battery. The machine could still use some cable management, and maybe some extra cards. I'm looking for some extra RAM as well; thankfully the slots appear to be standard SDRAM.



    Unfortunately - and there has to be one - this model has the slide-down front panel. It looks neat, but the mechanism has problems. Several clips are broken on mine, and there are hairline cracks running throughout the door tracks. I doubt it's fixable, given the broken and missing clips.

    The computer is extremely well built otherwise, made from thick gauge steel, which makes it all the more frustrating. The door assembly makes up most of the front panel, including the lower portion, so with it removed, the front of the machine is bare metal.

    So close to a perfect machine, but as is almost always the case, it wasn't meant to be.

    I'm still undecided on whether to keep it or not. The hardware is pretty decent, so it's good for something. Most 95-era software should run fairly well. But in recreating that authentic mid-90s computing experience and aesthetic, having a broken or incomplete case puts a fairly decent damper on it. Maybe there's an alternative solution. I'll sleep on it and revisit it tomorrow.


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2019
  20. badmofo

    badmofo Member

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    That's disappointing - pretty excellent specs for Windows95. This could all be in my mind but people are more likely to hang on to nicely build OEM's that probably cost a bomb back in the day - maybe it's worth posting a WTB on the WTB forum and see if someone has a replacement bezel?

    If you're going to junk it then I'd happily buy that Crystal sound card off you, I've become a collector of those it seems.
     

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