Buying a PC

JimmyD

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May 19, 2019
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Hi, I have been looking for a "new" old PC on ebay but have not had much luck finding it.
I would prefer a 386 or 486 laptop with a color (VGA) screen. My budget is around $60-$70 including shipment.
Is my budget really that low or am I just not using the right search words? ("386 laptop", "486 laptop", "vintage laptop", "retro laptop")
 

Speedy

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May 19, 2019
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I don't really advise searching the kind of queries you used - you might get the rare person who knows the laptop specs and has a fair price, but you'll generally get people baiting for people new to the computer collection scene.
What I recommend doing is looking for models that fit what you want, and then specifically searching for those models. That way you'll find, say, some older person listing their old Toshiba T1900 for cheap, instead of someone who knows they can get a few extra bucks cause it has a 486 in it. Not to say the T1900 is cheap (it really isn't :p), but that's how I search for computer parts and synths nowadays and it's given me good luck.
 

KC4BQK

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May 21, 2019
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It takes a lot of searching to find the right deal. I have bought many that were not working or needed repair. Many of these were really working but the owner was not familiar with it. The rest have ranged from simple repair to parts for the junk box.
Jim
 
May 22, 2019
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I’ve basically given up on having a retro DOS machine. Instead, I’ve been enjoying using DOSBox to run MS-DOS programs.

You can certainly build a retro DOS system, but it’s going to be more like $200-300 to set up a 386 or 486...
 

msxenix

Honeydew is the money melon
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May 19, 2019
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I did an AMD K6 dos machine, which later became a win98 box. I found a secondhand pentium pc.
It was free. Then i bought a $5 AMD K6, sdram for $1 plus shipping, a $10 sata raid controller (which surprisingly worked in DOS but not windows 9x), a $10 Sound Blaster 16 (was mislabeled as an AWE64), and secondhand dvd and hard drives.


I dumped the RAID controller, and now run win98 with an Aureal Vortex card instead of the SB card. I play 90s Dos and Windows games on it.
 
May 22, 2019
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What's funny (to me anyway) is that I have a perfectly good Shuttle PC sitting on the desk behind me... that I keep forgetting is there. One of these days real soon, I'm going to figure out precisely what's in it and probably set up a retro system with DOS, Windows 3.11, and Windows 95.
 
May 22, 2019
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If it's old enough, like as in Pentium 3/4 era, I would probably go with Windows 98 (SE Preferred). You'll have the best luck with drivers and still have Real DOS support.
Yeah, there's no reason to go with Windows 95 over 98SE... I'll probably end up doing 98. I just don't want to go any newer than that, since I'll lose the ability to boot straight to the DOS prompt, and I'd like to keep that system as DOS-friendly as possible.

As it turns out, this system is a 1GHz AthlonXP with 1GB of RAM. It's way overkill for DOS era gaming, but it's definitely in the latter part of the WIn98 days. Now to see if I can boot this system from CD-ROM...
 

JimmyD

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May 19, 2019
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Well, all of a sudden things took off. I have now bought a Toshiba T2110 and a Okano NBA 386 SK-25.
Now, if only the postal services would go ahead and get my new machines to me :)
It is going to be fun to see if any of them will run
 

msxenix

Honeydew is the money melon
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May 19, 2019
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Yeah, there's no reason to go with Windows 95 over 98SE... I'll probably end up doing 98. I just don't want to go any newer than that, since I'll lose the ability to boot straight to the DOS prompt, and I'd like to keep that system as DOS-friendly as possible.
Exactly, plus you'll want Fat32 support. Win95 didn't support this until OSR2.


As it turns out, this system is a 1GHz AthlonXP with 1GB of RAM. It's way overkill for DOS era gaming, but it's definitely in the latter part of the WIn98 days. Now to see if I can boot this system from CD-ROM...
Yes, with that era of computer, you should be able to boot from a CD. I know my 2000 HP Celeron (Pentium 3) based machine supported booting from CD, so that shuttle box should be able to as well.

As for memory, yeah definitely overkill. You may run into problems with Win98 having too much memory.


You may need to do one of the fixes listed.
 
May 22, 2019
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Exactly, plus you'll want Fat32 support. Win95 didn't support this until OSR2.




Yes, with that era of computer, you should be able to boot from a CD. I know my 2000 HP Celeron (Pentium 3) based machine supported booting from CD, so that shuttle box should be able to as well.

As for memory, yeah definitely overkill. You may run into problems with Win98 having too much memory.


You may need to do one of the fixes listed.
So far, Windows 98 runs, but I haven't set up graphic drivers or really do anything other than confirm it boots. My intent is to make this thing a DOS computer, anyway.

However, I'm not 100% convinced I'm going to be able to use this for the purpose I had in mind. I may still just go with a DOSBox solution on a Pi. I really want to make the computer fit inside my Altairduino case...
 
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thunderdabest

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Jun 9, 2019
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My goodwill has had some retro, found a few things like a Compaq portable 2, IBM aptiva e5u 2139, thinkpad 755c and a nec versa 4050h. These are some decent finds I do say so myself.
 

Heatvent

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Sep 19, 2019
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My goodwill has had some retro, found a few things like a Compaq portable 2, IBM aptiva e5u 2139, thinkpad 755c and a nec versa 4050h. These are some decent finds I do say so myself.
Goodwill's by me don't accept computers anymore, just LCD screens and keyboards mostly but no CPU's. Salvation Army on the other hand doesn't have an issue with it and even sells the computers with the hard drive if it was dropped off that way. I picked up a 486 Toshiba laptop from SA for $15. Not a bad deal. However, it didn't really scratch the retro itch. So I looked around some more and found an old 386 on ebay from a local seller that would let me do local pickup. Got it for $25 and surprisingly the thing booted right up to DOS. I also picked up a CRT looking around locally which are hard to come by since again Goodwill and SA stopped taking these because of the recycle costs if they don't sell. That cost me $20. You just have to look around (locally), be persistent, don't be afraid to thrift, search Ebay creatively or look to Craigslist. Eventually you will find something.

Anyway, having an actual PC to play with vs a laptop or a more current system with DOS loaded (which I tried) better recreates the experience I had with my old 386. One last comment, anytime (or more like 80+% of the time) I use the word Vintage or Retro when searching on Ebay or Craigslist, I get nothing but things that are WAY overpriced.