12

I have acquired an old motherboard with a socket 462 and a AMD Duron (I think its a "Spitfire" model 3).

The copyright on the CPU is from 1999 and it apparently doesn't require a dedicated CPU fan as the motherboard only came with a heatsink.

After a quick search, I found that it is a 600 to 950 MHz CPU, I also read that it was a "low-end" CPU at the time.

I plan on building a retro DOS/Windows 98 gaming rig with an ISA SoundBlaster 16 sound card and a Voodoo 2 graphics card.

Can I run Windows 98, games from the era (1998 Half-Life, 2000 Sacrifice...) and older MS-DOS ones (1993 Syndicate, 1993 Protostar, 1994 Myst...) efficiently on this processor?

20

A Duron of this era is a cut-down version of a Thunderbird Athlon, and is broadly comparable to a Coppermine (Pentium III) Celeron. Paired with the right audio/video hardware, it's absolutely capable of playing most 1990s DOS games, although a few (and an even larger number of 1980s games) may have trouble with it running too fast. It will also run Windows just fine (probably Windows 3 through Windows 2000, perhaps XP), Linux, and OS/2.

I would definitely not suggest running a Duron fanless; they have TDPs from 30 to 40 watts depending on speed (about 10 watts higher than contemporary Pentium IIIs), and it would take a rather substantial heatsink to keep it cool without forced airflow. I know that some manufacturers back then were still just strapping on a tiny heatsink and no fan in budget machines, but I also remember those machines being very crash-prone, and "repairing" a number of them just by adding a modest HSF.

  • @RowanHawkins, yeah it can be a thankless job to resurrect an old question, especially if it looks like it will never be marked answered. Still, your answer adds a dimension I think is only touched on by others, and you have what I consider critical additions to the site: actual first-hand knowledge and experience. – user12 Feb 2 '17 at 21:54
  • You simply can't run a Duron without a fan. AMD explicitly said that heatsink and fan were required for these chips. The Athlons and Durons of this generation were extremely hot running, and you will fry them in a matter of moments if you try to run with merely a heat sink. They don't even have thermal protection, so you actually will fry them. I worked in a repair shop in this era, and I had a number of junior techs scorch and smoke AMD processors doing quick bench tests! Expensive lessons. The OEMs that used small heatsinks had case designs with fans blowing directly on the heatsink. – Cody Gray Feb 12 '17 at 18:50
  • Late '90s AMDs definitely ran pretty toasty. I had an HP laptop with a K6-2, and it would overheat and turn off if I tried to play Worms. Having a small desk fan blowing across the vents at the rear of the keyboard helped somewhat. – db2 Feb 13 '17 at 15:16
  • XP is the best for it, so why "perhaps"? – Anixx Mar 3 '17 at 22:12
6

I had one of these for quite a while (better part of a decade) running in a box that I used as a household print/file server. I had it running Fedora Linux (started with Core 5, upgraded to 9 later on) without issues. It did have a (small) CPU fan. I got the machine second-hand from a garage sale, so I probably added the fan myself (it's been a while, can't remember exactly).

I did play a few games on it (before it was relegated to server status), mostly older Linux-based titles (like Armagetron), as well as some of the older Sierra adventure games (Space Quest 1-3, Police Quest 1-2) with DOSBox. But at one point I did get it to run Unreal Tournament (via WINE), just to see if it could do it (it could, but not well).

So yes, I think it should run Windows 98 and early/mid 90's games just fine.

NOTE: It should go without saying, but I'd be really careful these days going on the internet with Windows 98. Might be a good idea to see if it'll run a newer version of Firefox, just in case you need to go and download something.

  • 3
    Windows 98 it so old that most attacks don't work, and most malware won't run. – Mark Sep 26 '16 at 17:07
  • 1
    @Mark how did you determine that? Just because newer attacks have surfaced year-over-year doesn't mean the old ones just vanished. They may not be an active target but I would bet there are still hundreds of thousands of them running today and many of them probably still get online sometimes. – cbmeeks Feb 2 '17 at 19:56
  • 3
    @cbmeeks, I collect viruses. It's been years since anything Win 9x-compatible arrived in my email, while the malware in Internet ads usually targets APIs that don't even exist in Win 9x. 9x by default doesn't open any ports, so the self-propagating attacks that bedeviled 2k/XP have nothing to target (not that those are common, either -- it's been almost four years since the last Code Red attack showed up in my server logs). – Mark Feb 2 '17 at 20:05
  • 2
    @cbmeeks, yes, they're largely immune to non-targeted attacks. As noted in this question, though, targeted attacks are a different matter. – Mark Feb 2 '17 at 20:12
  • 2
    @Mark well, your original statement may lead some people to think that it's safe to run Windows 9x on the Internet because it's so old. Plus your statement is getting up-votes which further confirms your statement. But it simply isn't accurate. Targeted or non-targeted isn't the issue. EVERYONE is a target. Your statement would have been a little more accurate if you mentioned that the likelihood of 9x being attacked has dwindled but is still there. – cbmeeks Feb 2 '17 at 20:38
5

I was a system builder in that era -- '90s. Probably the only MS-DOS games you'll have trouble with are '80s ones in CGA or EGA which were dependent on system clock speeds. Nibbler is an example of this type of game, which used the time that it took the screen to redraw to slow down the game.

The fix for that 286-era game was the 'Turbo' function of the 386 processor. What turbo actually did was halve the clock speed of a 386 when you disabled it. So, Turbo speed was normal, and no turbo was half. Without that speed cut Nibbler was close to impossible to play.

To cut down on support calls many builders would put a hard jumper on the motherboard forcing the system to be in normal mode. Accidentally hitting the button with no knowledge of what it was for was a more problematical support issue. Your Duron motherboard will not support 'Turbo' since they had long given up supporting odd edge cases of poorly coded applications which that feature addressed. For any game you are likely to want to play none of this will even be an issue.

The larger key is not getting XP on a system which loses direct access to hardware. XP was the first consumer line which has a Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL). That is what broke most of the games of that era which you want to play, Shogo, Myst, Shadow Warrior, Early Doom, and Quake.

98 SE (Second Edition) is probably your best choice if you can find install media. It has the best rudimentary USB support. Some people online have reported problems with partitions larger than 40GB, I have not seen any problems on a good Motherboard. However if you have lots of small files, smaller partitions will help with slack space losses.

Due to BIOS (hardware) limits of the day ATA drives of the day over 137GB may not work.

My own retro system is a First Motherboard AZ11E/Duron 1000/ 256M RAM and a Diamond Viper II Z200(32m) video card. You might want a better video card since I don't ever want to play Myst again. I love Civilization 1.5 which is MS-DOS based. My OS partition is 20G and I have 2 full 50GB partitions for games and other junk.

These old systems are especially power sensitive. If your board supports the Duron it likely also supports the Athlon. As every one else has mentioned, yes it wants a big fan.

You also do not want to install Windows ME, or Millennium Edition. ME doesn't have the Hardware Abstraction Layer, but it was so buggy that you want to Run From It, not run it. ME follows the every other version rule for Microsoft OS's. They get it right every other generation. (Google image search for "Windows CEMENT")

Lastly the fact that your board had no fan could be because it was from a chassis that had a large 80mm or 120mm fan hooked to a plastic duct on the back of the chassis. All of the large manufacturers toyed with this build technique to save on custom components, but probably went back to putting the fan on the heat sink after the hassle of customers losing the processor after they lost the plastic shroud.

  • I find the claim that Windows 98 doesn't support partitions larger than 2 GB to be dubious. Windows 98 introduced support for FAT32, and 2 GiB is a FAT16 limit (when used with 512-byte sectors and 64 KiB clusters). Additionally, >2GB drives were reasonably common when Windows 98 came out. – a CVn Feb 6 '17 at 8:25
  • You are correct, I'll update my answer later today. I was thinking of Windows 95 which was still 16Bit. 98 and 98SE have trouble with partitions larger than 32G and support for drives over 137G because of limitations with the ATA BIOS caused by that generation hardware, not the FAT. If you have a different controller, say a parallel SCSI controller that the drives are mounted to, then you can go up the the 8TiB limit of FAT32. – Rowan Hawkins Feb 7 '17 at 20:21
  • 95 OSR2 introduced support for FAT32, so the problems are only on 95 RTM (95-A). And, of course, the limitations of your BIOS. I don't know what you mean when you say that Me "doesn't have the Hardware Abstraction Layer". The HAL was introduced with Windows NT (and was there since the very first version of NT, NT 3.1). No Windows 9x platform supports a HAL, and that doesn't have anything to do with stability. – Cody Gray Feb 12 '17 at 18:54
  • NT was designed for business, not home use. XP was the first home OS that used a HAL. That's why it broke some old games. I said nothing about HAL affecting stability. WindowsME affected stability, but the HAL has nothing to do with that. Windows Millenium Edition was just poorly written. – Rowan Hawkins Feb 12 '17 at 20:03
  • 1
    ... In fact, it turns out that the 80386 isn't a static design and has a maximum clock period of 125ns, i.e. it isn't possible to operate it slower than 8MHz. So unless it was a clone, the display was lying to you. – Jules Jan 4 '18 at 16:48
4

Depending on the heatsink quality, I'd be hesitant to run the Duron fanless.

This would be equivalent to a low-end PentiumIII - I'd expect W98 to run ok and run period games ok.

  • Thank you for the quick answer! Do you think it also can run MS-DOS games without having them running too fast? – Informancien Sep 24 '16 at 20:46
  • Yeah, it should be perfectly fine for that. – Joe Sep 24 '16 at 20:57
  • 3
    Most 90s DOS games should run fine, they cope with a wide range of CPU speeds. With a Voodoo 2 you can run many 3Dfx variants of DOS games with excellent results (GTA, Tomb Raider, Screamer 2...). You'll only have difficulty with much older DOS games which were specifically designed for the original PC or AT; and for those, your Duron is probably too fast even with something like Mo'Slo. – Stephen Kitt Sep 24 '16 at 20:59
  • 2
    @StephenKitt, key word: most. Descent and Descent II, for example, got most of their timing off the system clock, but some of the effects, most noticeably the camera bob, were keyed off the frame count, on the assumption that most players would adjust their quality settings for a framerate between 20 and 60 fps. Modern computers can generate hundreds of frames per second at even the highest settings, leading to a wildly shaking camera. – Mark Sep 25 '16 at 1:29
  • 1
    @Mark yes! But a Duron hardly counts as a modern computer, and isn't capable of generating hundreds of frames per second in Descent. (I used to play it on a 750MHz Athlon without any trouble.) – Stephen Kitt Sep 25 '16 at 3:53
4

Yes, you certainly can. A typical Duron 800Mhz processor can run even Windows XP excellently, given you provide it more RAM than you would a system with Windows 98.

Anyway, such an option as you propose is the best possible one for MS-DOS era games and the first vectorial games ever created like Half-Life or Blood 2. Try to stick 512 RAM on a Windows 98 with that Duron and the Voodoo and you'll have the perfect old era gaming rig.

But do add a FAN to the CPU. It is not designed to run without one and will end up overheating (and lock down if BIOS CPU overheat protection is active).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.