My 2001 Dream Machine

2017-03-26 18:03

This is a project I started working on last year partly out of nostalgia and partly out of a desire to play all these great old games I’ve had lying around that don’t run so well on modern systems. The CPU and GPU both technically came out in 2002 but this was the kind of build I was dreaming about in 2001.


  • CPU: Intel Pentium III-S 1.4ghz 512k “Tualatin”
  • Mobo: ASUS TUV4X w/ KT133 chipset
  • RAM: 1GB PC133 with Win98 modified to accept more than 512
  • GPU: NVIDIA Quadro4 900 128MB, workstation equivalent to the GeForce4 Ti4600 with a few more GL functions.
  • Storage: Repurposed some old Intel SSDs, my ancient 80GB Gen2 X-25M and a 60GB 330 Series. The 60GB boot drive is via a PATA adapter and is split into two 30GB FAT32 partitions. The 80GB is SATA via the PCI card and is a single NTFS partition using a Win98 NTFS driver. This is an anachronism but I don’t want to deal with spinning rust.
  • Optical: An RPC1-flashed Pioneer DVR-106A and a Plexwriter 12/10/32A
  • Removable: 3½” floppy and an internal ATA Zip 250
  • Sound: Soundblaster Live! 5.1
  • Other cards: Brooktree BT878 capture card, VIA VT6421A SATA/ATA card, Netgear 10/100 NIC
  • Input: IBM Model M Space Saver and Logitech MX500 optical mouse
  • Controllers: Gameport Interact PC Arcade stick and USB MS Sidewinder joystick
  • OS: Windows 98 SE + Unofficial SP3 + some 98SE2ME components
  • Games: yes

This build took nine months or so to finish up because I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on such an old computer. I scavenged as much as I could from old builds, friends, and thrift stores and sniped a few eBay auctions when I wanted a specific part.

  • Motherboard: $70 on eBay (the most expensive part)
  • CPU: $20 on eBay
  • RAM: Leftover from a Power Macintosh.
  • GPU: $10 on eBay
  • SSDs: Leftovers from a few main PC builds that served their purpose and were either upgraded or broken down. The X-25M was my first SSD ever from way back in 2009.
  • Optical: $17 for a lot with two other great Pioneer drives, a DVR-108 and a DVR-109. I went for the DVR-106A because it was the only beige one and was more era-appropriate. This system isn’t really meant for DVD playback but I flash RPC1 firmware as a matter of principle. The Plexwriter is from a recycled PC.
  • Capture card: already had it since it was natively supported by FreeBSD, but my FreeBSD desktop doesn’t have a PCI slot any more.
  • SATA card: $15 on Newegg a decade ago for flashing Xbox 360 DVD drive firmware.
  • NIC: Free from a recycled PC.
  • Model M SSK: free back in like 2004 from a family friend in exchange for helping move a pile of equipment to the recycling center.
  • Arcade stick: $5 at Goodwill, boxed.
  • Sidewinder: $3 at a different Goodwill in the box for a much better stick. I was disappointed but bought it anyway because I can upgrade in the future.
  • OS: Free I guess because I have an MSDNAA license from back in college, but I don’t think anyone will bust you for pirating Win98 :)
  • Case: Free from a recycled PC.
  • Sound card: Free from that same recycled PC.

The fifteen or so years since I’ve used it made me forget how brittle Windows 9x really is, especially when you delve into the world of unofficial service packs. I started a little collection of Windows 9x compatible software and retro PC game patches and cracks that I will hoard forever.

Desktop screenshot of my Windows 98 PC with WCPUID open

Final desktop and CPU into

Windows 98 logon screen

a e s t h e t i c

Descent II installer

Tonight's mood: CRAZY

Microsoft JVM removal tool

Hey it's that thing they got sued over

Windows 98 SE Unofficial Service Pack 3 installer

This is cool

98SE2ME installer script

Windows ME isn't all bad, and you can put some of it into 98.

Windows file dialog in Device Manager

awwww!~ *nuzzles u back and pounces on u and notices your retro gaming PC*

There’s still some software work to do installing and patching games, but now that the actual build is done I can put the case together and get it up on a desk. I’d like to kind a KVM solution that lets it live alongside the Blue & White Power Mac.