Compaqs to the rescue
I was given four Compaq Deskpro computers as donation via an internet forum. Three of them have a Pentium III 866 MHz processor and one has a Celeton 700 MHz processor. All computers have 256 MB of RAM, at least 10 GB of disk space, CD-ROM drive and a network card (model varies). The display adapter is integrated to the motherboard, but they all have a free AGP slot. I also found a few old AGP graphics cards from the same internet forum for these PCs.
My plan is to repair these PCs for our upcoming retrolan party, so that the new players can get right into action without using precious time configuring and installing games.
Inspecting the PCs
The PCs are externally in a good shape, but they are really heavy (which is a good sign, heavy duty hardware). There was a lot of fine dust inside the cases but it was easily removed with a vacuum cleaner. The network card were all of different brand and model and they were all in different PCI slots. The motherboards are all exactly the same. Every Pentium III PC also has a 80 mm fan installed (which is the most noisy fan ever…). The Celeron machine has a CD-RW drive.
The original plan was to install Windows 98 SE and all the drivers to the first Compaq and then clone the hard drive to the rest of the PCs. In practise it woudn’t have been practical, because the components are different in all the PCs and cloning would require detaching and reattaching the hard drive, So I ended up installing each machine separately. Luckily I had an old Samsung SyncMaster 940Fn monitor which has two VGA inputs. I used it while installing two PCs simultaneously.
I numbered the PCs from one to four (in no particular order) and started the installing process.
First, I inspected the BIOS settings. The BIOS had a surprisingly wide range of settings, which is a good thing considering the Windows 98’s pickyness about resource allocation. I disabled most of the integrated devices (USB, LPT, COM, Audio etc). and assigned IRQ 9 to the display adapter and IRQ 10 to the Sound Blaster. This way I’m pretty sure that IRQ 7 or 5 is left unreserved for the SB legacy device.
My goal was also to keep the resource allocations as uniform as possible to avoid additional problems.
Compaq nr. 1
So I started to install the first PC. This one had the Geforce 2 Ti as a display adapter and an Intel 8255-based network adapter. The installation went fine until I added a sound blaster to the last PCI slot. This gave me a ”Windows Protection Error” telling me to reinstall windows.
I reinstalled the Windows and tried to use GeForce3 Ti-200 as a display adapter. There was an I/O conflict with the network adapter.
I stopped the installation here and focused on the Compaq nr 2 which had been installing Win 98 at the same time. When I get all the other PCs working, I may return to work on this one (and maybe try another network adapter…).
Compaq nr. 2
Compaq number 2 was an easy setup and I had no problems with it. Yipee! This one had a GeForce 4 MX 440 as a display adapter and a 3com network card.
It’s worth noticing the the GF4 only has a DVI output for video!
Compaq nr. 3
Since the PC nr 2 had installed without problems, I thought this one would be easy too. Wrong! The difference was that this PC had a GeForce 4 MX 420 and an Intel network card. The Geforce MX420 and System ACPI had a I/O range conflict, which resolved by changing AGP aperture size from 64 to 32MB.
Compaq nr. 4
Since this PC is the slowest one, I decided to use my leftover Radeon 7000 32MB for it. I’m still missing a Sound Blaster, so maybe this one will never be fully installed :(
I’m still tweaking the PCs and trying to get the ”number one” to work, but it’s a lot of work. The randomness of I/O range conflicts and other problems is very tiring. I think I’ve installed Windows 98 at least six times during this process.
I ran some benchmarks with the PC number 3. It scored 6182 points in 3DMark 99 MAX and 3739 points in 3DMark2000. That’s OK for a PC this age. Quake III Arena runs quite smoothly at a constant 83 fps.
I think we will have fun with these PCs in the retrolan event on October 11th.