Building a new Ultimate Windows 98 Retro PC in 2020

As mentioned in the previous post: One of the biggest challenges facing games over 20 years old is to get them to run on modern computers with Windows 10.

Why don’t you get a new Windows 98SE PC? If you are technically minded, it is perfectly possible to build a Retro Pentium 4 PC. I’ll show it in this post.

Hardware & Price:

  • Thermal Paste: Arctic Silver 5 (new) – € 8,-
  • Power Supply: be quiet! System Power 9 400W (new) – € 46,-
    • Note: 250 / 300 watt is sufficient for this build. But at the time of writing, the price difference is negligible.
  • Fan: 120MM Coolermaster (new) – € 7,-
  • Case: Sharkoon VS4-S USB 2.0 version (new) – € 34,-
  • CPU: Pentium 4 (3.0Ghz) Prescott (refurb) – € 6,-
  • Memory: Daska DDR – 1 GB 400Mhz (new) – € 4,50
  • Motherboard: Intel 865GV unbranded with 2 SATA 2.0 ports (new) – € 50,-
    • Note: 100% identical to the ITZR/Esonic motherboards from China.
  • CPU Cooler: Thermaltake P4 Volcano 478 (new) – € 8,-
  • Storage: BX500 240 GB SSD with Garbage collection (new) – € 29,-
  • Graphics Card: NVIDIA FX5200 256 MB Club3D (used, as good as new) – € 15,-

The power supply must be efficient and reliable (80+, high-quality capacitors etc.). That’s why I chose the be quiet! System Power 9 in this build. If we add everything up, we are going to spend € 207,50 / $ 235,-.

Socket the CPU into the motherboard and put a small amount of thermal paste on the CPU. Mount the CPU cooler and add max 1 GB memory in slot 1.

Check the PC case, install the I/O shield, power supply and SSD. Lay the motherboard down inside the chassis and connect the cables to the motherboard. You can install (optional) the graphics card and the 120mm fan. Some cables of the power supply are very short 🙁

Turning it on! And oops..  The motherboard can’t save the BIOS settings & time without power. Problem solved by replacing the CMOS battery.

BIOS Settings:
SATA Only (after the Windows 98SE installation)
VGA Onboard disabled (still detected in 98 and 2000)
USB Mouse Enabled
USB 2.0 controller disabled (Does not work well with multiple USB devices.)

I temporarily connected an IDE DVD player to install Windows 98SE. fdisk could only recognize 32 GB of the 240 GB SSD. I installed Windows 98SE with a 32 GB partition. This is sufficient for the OS. Then I discovered that the DVD player and USB ports did not work in Windows 98SE.

I took the SSD out of the case and made 2 new primary partitions with EaseUS Partition Master from a Windows 10 PC. A 50 GB FAT32 Data partition and a 80 GB NTFS OS partition. I copied all drivers directly onto the FAT32 partition for Windows 98SE and Windows 2000.

The operating systems on this PC are quite old and there is no TRIM functionality. To extend the SSD lifetime it is important to set at least 10% unallocated with consumer SSDs, like the BX500.

After creating the partitions, I put the SSD back in the case and installed the drivers in Windows 98SE. The 80 GB NTFS partition is reserved for Windows 2000. A second OS can be useful for troubleshooting. Windows XP is also possible. But I still prefer Windows 2000 on this Retro PC.

Windows 98 Fixes:
– If you have more than 512 MB of RAM, a VCache maximum of 524,288 KB is recommended.
Add MaxFileCache=524288 in system.ini.
– Install the USB Storage driver (nusb36e.exe) for USB 2.0 support in Windows 98.

It was fun to do! Do you have any tips or comments? Leave a comment below.
The motherboard, memory and processor are available on eBay or AliExpress.

Update 1 – Interference
The audio cable (Motherboard AC97 > Front HD Audio) and graphics cards are very close together as you can see in picture 3. This causes interference when, for example, moving the mouse. You can hear buzzing. By keeping the cable a little further away from the video card, the problem disappears.

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