Building my Duron

Last Updated on September 30, 2010 by Dave Farquhar

I broke my own rule last night. Twice. You should never take down a working system to build its replacement. Get the replacement system working, then take down the system to be upgraded. If you’re cannibalizing parts from the old system, get the new one going as much as you can before you start stealing parts from the old.
Well, I never got around to ordering more cases and video cards, and I had this really fast board and CPU sitting here doing nothing while a decrepit K6-2 that’s needed reinstalling for two and a half years (another thing I never got around to) sat around taking up space. So I took down the K6-2, only to find it had PC66 SDRAM in it. I vaguely remember how that came about. So I took down my Celeron-400, which I thought had PC133 SDRAM in it. I was half right. It had a 128 MB Crucial PC100 stick and a 128 MB Crucial PC133 stick. Decisions, decisions. I put the PC66 SDRAM in the Celeron (it wasn’t happy about that–it took me 15 minutes to get those DIMMs to seat properly) and took both 128s and put them in the new PC.

I re-assembled the Celeron and hoped for the best. It powered right up and booted. It’s not as nice of a system now, with 128 megs instead of 256, but the speed doesn’t matter due to the Celeron’s 66 MHz bus.

So I tore down the K6-2, lifted out the old motherboard, dropped in the new FIC AZ-11 freshly configured with a Duron-750 and 256 MB of SDRAM set to run at 100 MHz (if I’d had two PC133 sticks I could have clocked it at 133 MHz and still set the FSB to 100 MHz–this AZ11 BIOS is very nice). I reinstalled my PCI SCSI, network, and sound cards and my STB Velocity 128 video card–yeah, it’s ancient but I love that card, and it’s still fabulous for a lot of tasks–and connected up all the front panel LEDs and switches. While I had the system open I decided to pull the CD-RW so I could put it in an external enclosure. Since I didn’t have the faceplate anymore for my PCP&C midtower, I scrounged around for something to put in that bay. A 12X NEC SCSI CD-ROM? Marginally useful. What else have I got? Hey, is that a 5.25″ 1.2MB floppy drive I spy? Why not? I haven’t had a 5.25″ drive in a production system in about seven years. And hey, I like retro. So I installed that drive.

I plugged the system into my KVM switch, crossed my fingers, applied power, and got nothing. So I ripped the system back apart and double-checked everything. It looked good to me. But wait… Why do I have two leads marked “Power Switch?” My manual for my case is long gone, so I went to PCP&C’s web site. That brown/white lead is reserved for future use. OK, ignore it. Hook everything up, still dead. So I crack out the manual, since the silkscreen on the board obviously is either not enough or wrong. Oh. The speaker and power connect one way, and the others, including power, connect perpendicular to that. How odd. I reconnected the leads, powered up, and everything sounded normal. Nice.

I connected up an external SCSI hard drive, because I didn’t want to touch any of the old drives until the system was up and running. I made a DOS boot disk with my SCSI drivers on it (since this SCSI card can’t boot off a SCSI CD), but I didn’t get too far getting a modern OS installed. The SCSI drive kept acting weird and refusing to boot.

Instead of really troubleshooting it, I opened up my drawer of 5.25″ floppies and started playing around. I found my old DOS 3.2 floppy. I went into the BIOS, swapped the floppy drives, threw in DOS 3.2, and… to my amazement, that disk still worked. My fire-breathing dragon booted into MS-DOS 3.2. So then I tried my Commodore-branded MS-DOS 3.3. That worked too. It was funny seeing Commodore copyrights all over the place…

I’ll have to see if I can get things working right later this weekend.

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4 thoughts on “Building my Duron

  • May 19, 2001 at 2:42 am

    Very senisible and pragmatic on how you build your systems.

    Recommendations on Cases and harddrives? Common Hdd’s in my area for retail are Maxtor and Western Digital. I perfer shopping Brick and Mortor since I can bring it back and "speak" to a manager.
    I have always wondered when I call a "800" number to speak to a manager that the person on the other end places you on hold and states, "Hey John, want to be a manager today, I have a live one!"
    Take Care.

  • May 19, 2001 at 3:53 am

    Between Maxtor and WD, go Maxtor all the way. Every time I’ve had a hard drive die at an inopportune moment, it’s been a WD. I’ll daresay I’ve seen more dead WDs than every other brand (Seagate, IBM, Maxtor, Quantum, Fujitsu, Samsung) combined.

    For cases, you probably won’t find PC Power and Cooling locally. I prefer those but rarely buy them because they’re pricey ($60 without a power supply for a mid-tower). I’ve had good luck with Antec, InWin, and Enlight cases–they’re sturdy, look good, usually come with a respectable power supply, and you won’t sever any body parts working on them. Pay the extra money to get a 300W power supply, because we usually cram far more into a box these days than a 250W power supply can handle.

    And I shouldn’t have said "tore down the system again"–of course you never replace the case cover until the system powers up properly and, if you’re using internal drives, boots properly. (That system’s still coverless at the moment, though I didn’t leave it powered on overnight). By "tearing down," I meant I changed some cables.

  • May 19, 2001 at 4:11 pm

    Thanks for the info!

  • May 21, 2001 at 2:51 pm

    Another good choice for a case is the Fong Kai FK603. Screwless side access & front bezel, rear fan duct system (incl), front fan mount (fan optional), snap-on floppy/hard drive brackets and an AMD-approved 250W pwr supply. Nice, sturdy case w/o any sharp edges to cut your hands. They have ’em at Directron ( for $63.00.

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