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Refurbishing a Pentium-75

Remember that Pentium-75 I worked on a couple weeks ago? It’s back. I love problem-child PCs. Not. But its owner couldn’t be nicer about it, so that makes it better to deal with. This time I’m doing what I should have done in the first place: clean reinstalling Win95 with a minimalist setup. It works so much better that way.
She’s really funny about it. I guess she’s been driving around with it in the trunk of her car since Friday, so it’s been a few places, like the park. Taking the computer to the park for some fresh air… I guess it couldn’t hurt, though I can’t say I’ve ever tried that. “Not the way I drive,” she said. I see…

I’d better see if I can get some stuff written, and maybe put the computer up on the bench and see what I can get it to tell me.


Whooee! Talk about one sick puppy! I dredged up the motivation to pop that computer up on the bench (so to speak–I’ve got a real Tower of Power going here now, with three minitowers stacked on top of one another, cascading off a KVM switch–I do wish I had a digital camera right about now so you could see). Well, I fire up, and Windows takes a week to load (warning sign #1: this computer may be old, but it’s not a 486SX/25). When that annoying Windows screen finally goes away, I get a Windows protection error while initializing device VAUDRV. Obviously some kind of audio driver. Veree strenge, as Chief Inspector Clouseau would say. (I find myself wanting to type grep -r vaudrv * to hunt down that file, which just indicates I’ve been getting way too much Linux time lately.) I boot in safe mode, nuke the audio drivers, reboot, and…. same error. Let’s look around a bit more. The root directory is littered with stuff that doesn’t need to be there, but nothing causing problems. I see multiple installations of the sound drivers, which isn’t helping but shouldn’t hurt–they’re in separate directories. I see a directory with a weird name, but that turns out to be DOS-mode CD-ROM drivers. A quick scan of autoexec.bat/config.sys reveals they’re not active, so they’re out of mind, if not totally out of sight. Then I notice the disk space: 390 megs free. What’s she been doing? A quick dir /w /s reveals 406 MB used. No way. Scandisk. No problems. Huh? So I run FDISK and… learn that this computer thinks it has an 813 MB drive. What? I reboot, go into the BIOS, and autodetect the drive. No, it’s a 1.6 gig. OK. Reboot, go into DOS, and… 813 MB.

I’m starting to wonder how many problems that’s causing.

A dir /s *.doc turns up very little, so it doesn’t look like she has any data on the machine. I’m thinking visit Maxtor’s site, get a low-level format utility for the drive to wipe out whatever Windows decided to do to that poor drive’s partition table, and start over. But I’ll have to ask before I do that, just in case.

Hey, I wonder if SpinRite would have anything to say about all this? So I run SpinRite. The model number it retrieves from the drive suggests it’s an 850-meg drive. Hmm. Maybe I misread the BIOS? Might as well let SpinRite finish at this point. It thinks it’ll only take a couple of hours on a drive this size. I can go read, or switch over to one of my other PCs and write for a while.

I still think I want to low-level format and start over from scratch. We’ll see if I can get this P75 to outrun the P233s at work. I’m betting I can. (Part of it is that I’m good, yes, but a big part of it is the sorry state of those P233s.) I’m gonna whip this underachieving heap of silicon into shape.

Still later:

I was misreading the drive parameters last night. I’m not used to working with machines with the AMI BIOS. It was reporting the number of sectors where I expected to see the drive size, hence the 850 MB/1.6 GB confusion. So I haven’t found something totally out of the ordinary after all.

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7 thoughts on “Refurbishing a Pentium-75”

  1. Can you plese tell me how you overcame the Vaudrv error on the older machine you fixed up for the nice lady? I
    am having a similar problem with an older (1998) IBM designed for Windows 95 that only had Windows 3.11 for
    Workgroups installed on it.

    Aparently the company that had it never used it, so I got a Windows 95 upgrade CD and during and after
    installing am getting the same error message.

    I have searched the internet, in vain, hoping to find out how to get rid of the error, so my husband can have his
    very own internet e-mail computer and I can work in peace.

    Please help!


    Linda Vidal

  2. Suggestion: Reformat the drive, install Windows 95 from the upgrade CD (without first installing WFW 3.11) and when it prompts you for the earlier version insert the diskettes from 3.11. That way you get a completely clean installation of Windows 95 without having the clutter left over from Windows for Workgroups 3.11.

    Make sure you download the latest drivers for your hardware from the manufacturers’ websites.

    And just some advice: when it’s all over download a copy of Mozilla Firebird 0.7 from here. Microsoft hasn’t seen fit to allow Internet Explorer 6.0 to be installed on Windows 95 and Mozilla Firebird is a better browser anyway.

  3. Oh thank you ever-so-much for your infinite insight into the woman’s problem, D. Please note the bleeding sarcasm.

    Not everyone places priority on having high-end hardware. What she seems to want is a computer that will browse the World Wide Web and possibly check e-mail via POP3 or IMAP. A 75 MHz Intel Pentium is more than adequate for such a task.

    So why should she use her hard-earned money to buy a pricey computer instead of using one that’s perfect for the job and cheaper?!

    You reek of troll… Why don’t you go away?

  4. well, when she starts to spend countless hours trying to get the “old horse” to race once again, i think that she will move to reconsider her decision on using the PC.

    it cost me less than 300 to build this machine that i am using, so there isn’t anything pricey about it. Computers are getting cheaper and cheaper if you haven’t realized. Time is money, and why waste it on a 75 mhz pentium. Sure as hell not cheaper.

  5. Linda, I’m with Dustin; a reformat and clean install using the Win95 CD will at least get you a cleaner running system. If it’s an IBM, circa 1998 or so, I’ll bet it has a funky sound card in it. Check IBM’s support page for your particular system (it wants the 7-digit machine type and model, which is usually on the front of the machine on a sticker smaller than a typical return address label–for example, my IBM is a 2645-51U) download and install any drivers, especially sound card drivers, you may find. You might try that first, just to see if it makes the problem go away, but I’d still recommend a clean, non-upgrade install for maximum speed and stability.

    Please also accept my apologies for‘s belittling behavior. I can vouch for Dustin’s expertise. And as a published author, I run across people like all the time. Everyone who’s built his own PC is the world’s foremost expert.

    I may not know everything like he does, but I’ll bet you can have your IBM up and running in a couple of hours. I did the same thing with a funky old Compaq about two weeks ago. Runs great now.

  6. Thanks for the compliment, Dave. You really made my day. ๐Ÿ™‚

    And to add a bit of humor – I had this really wacked out dream about solving the VAUDRV problem… ?

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