Gateway FlexATXSTC - saving a PIII system

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Michael Dooley
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Gateway FlexATXSTC - saving a PIII system

Post by Michael Dooley » Sun May 16, 2004 5:27 pm

Is it a good idea (economically) to renovate one of these PIII systems?

A friend of mine just bought a new computer and bequeathed me his small form Gateway box. It has a socket 370 board, a 90 watt PSU, a huge heatsink sits on the 800 mhz (Coppermine I think) CPU and the whole thing is cooled by the PSU fan only. There are USB ports for mouse and keyboard, a on-board modem and a 4 meg on-board video card. It came with 256 megs of PC100 ram but no hard drive. I installed an old WD400 into it running WinME to see how it runs.

I replaced the fan on the miniscule power supply with a L1A which made this thing begin to seem tolerable - so it has possibilities. The on-board video does not work well with my Planar LCD at all. Given that most of this machine was a freebee, which way should I go in restoring it to a useful life? I'm tempted to acquire a PCI video card, plug it in and hope that *that* would be enough but I wouldn't like to *have* to deal with the limited back panel of this machine for any length of time. No lpt1 port, no com ports at all, and no PS2 ports.

The other way to go on this is to replace the Gateway motherboard with something else and if so, *which* socket 370 motherboard should I get? I am not familiar with computer design at all. The on board video of the VIA C3 system I use for internet connection seems adequate enough - the Gateway suffers by comparison. The revived machine would probably be used for light word processing and web access only. You guys have any suggestions for me?

IsaacKuo
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Post by IsaacKuo » Sun May 16, 2004 7:44 pm

I would say that this computer is absolutely, positively, without a doubt NOT worth your time and effort. Please ship this worthless piece of junk to:

Isaac Kuo
7436 Shrewsbury Ave.
Baton Rouge, LA 70808

:)

Seriously, this is one fine piece of hardware you've got there. The crappy on board video should actually be more than enough for web browsing and word processing (not good enough for playing videos, even with an 800mhz processor--I've got an 800Mhz PIII system with similar crappy on board graphics).

Still, it apparently doesn't work well with your display. A PCI card makes the most sense. What resoluton is your LCD screen? I've got a spare Ati Rage64, or I might trade a Matrox MGA Millenium for 128megs of PC100.

The most economical way to upgrade is if you can scrounge up a suitable freebie PCI video card locally, though.

Michael Dooley
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Post by Michael Dooley » Sun May 16, 2004 8:20 pm

Isaac Kuo wrote:Still, it apparently doesn't work well with your display. A PCI card makes the most sense. What resoluton is your LCD screen? I've got a spare Ati Rage64, or I might trade a Matrox MGA Millenium for 128megs of PC100.
I was hoping you'd reply to this Isaac. The business of *having* to use USB connections for mouse and keyboard is something that I'm suspicious about. My main machine is a 966 mhz PIII Dell which seems to want to do everything I need to do. My business is 3D cad modeling and I need access to Dos or I'd be using the 1000 pound gorilla OS. And a more modern machine. Sigh.

The Planar (which may wind up *not* being the monitor used) has a resolution of 1280x1024 pixels. I figured that the revived machine needed to be able to handle that res. at a minimum. Perhaps this is unrealistic.

The guy in the local computer shop thought I was nuts to spend *any* dough on a machine like this. I had to get some ram that'd work though as my buddy robbed the ram out of this machine to feed his early Pentium machine at work. I like the small form, I like the everything included motherboard except for the miserable graphics. I don't know if the funky graphics is the *only* thing I need to overcome though. You guys (collectively) know a shitload more than I do.

If no one else pops up with a good suggestion as to what to do, I'll spring for a new (or used) PCI video card and hope that that'll do the trick.

I was expecting some of the system builder-types (you know who I mean) to suggest getting a minimally OK board and then expand from that - and that could be the way to go. But I don't know... I don't want to spend money *only* experimenting.

Thanks for your thoughts Isaac, I'm glad you weighed in. I'll see if anything develops further.

IsaacKuo
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Post by IsaacKuo » Mon May 17, 2004 4:11 am

1280x1024? No problem there! I've used 1280x1024 for years on a PIICeleron 300 with my old Matrox MGA Millenium PCI card. However. the old Ati Rage64 can't handle 24 or 32 bit color at that resolution.

Just make sure that the graphics card you get can handle the color depth you want at 1280x1024.

Michael Dooley
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Post by Michael Dooley » Fri May 21, 2004 1:18 pm

I bought a cheap Nvidia geforce2 card that has 32MB DDR on it and it seems to do quite nicely apart from the miniscule fan that cools the memory and adds its noise to the PSU fan. It was a good thing that I had this box handy as my VIA ME6000 went toes up in the graphics department a day later. Axion agreed to RMA the board and I have shipped it to Houston for a replacement.

Because this Gateway has only USB ports, does that mean it *must* react slower to mouse movements or keyboard commands? Just curious... All of my printers are LPT connected so I'm out of the business of printing from the Gateway at least - a small pain. Searching for socket 370 motherboards is a major pain in the butt too. I can see why no one volunteered a replacement mobo as a lot of them are no longer stocked.

Thanks for your help Isaac.

Ralf Hutter
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Post by Ralf Hutter » Sat May 22, 2004 5:14 am

As one of SPCRs "PIII affcionados" I would have jumped right in except that:

1) Unless you're willing to go to ebay, you will not find a decent S370 board for sale. And I've found that most people (with some good reason) are very hesitant to shop ebay and therefore limit themselves to some third-rate VIA type of S370 board that they can find NIB from some second-rate vendor. IMHO, the last readily available I815 S370 board was the Soyo TISU and they seem to have pretty much disappeared off the face of the earth by now.

2) I'd be real leery about trying to replace a Gatway mobo with a regular ATX board. I've heard (although I have no first-hand experience) that Gateway, like Dell, has a lot of proprietary hardware in their systems. So you may well have to work around non-standard mounting points, PSU connector, front panel connectors, I/O panel, etc just to do a "simple" board swap.

Michael Dooley
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Post by Michael Dooley » Sat May 22, 2004 8:37 am

While the Soyo Sy-Tisu may be a good board for a Pentium II, I think that it'd be overkill as a Gateway mobo replacement. Besides, I don't think an ATX motherboard would fit in this small case. Knowing zilch about motherboards, and I mean absolutely nada, I went searching using Pricewatch and Google for some kind of information that might prove useful in selecting a possible replacement.

I finally found this. I don't know if PC Chips is a good or even adequate manufacturer but the SiS chipset used on this mobo appears as if it out performs the VIA chipsets and *might* make a good replacement board should it come to that. And being a microATX, it'll fit in the Gateway case.

I'm leery of proprietary hardware just like you Ralf. After investigating my Dell machines, I was amazed to find that the older Dimension 4100 had some kind of non-standard power hookup but that the newer 8250 had what appeared to be a standard ATX power hookup. I don't want to get bit by this kind'a nonsense at all.

As far as non-standard mounting, etc., after getting the VIA ME6000, I built a case from old sheets of acrylic plexiglass found *way* under the house in the spare parts department. I found out all sorts of things about an item that *looks* deceptively simple. Interesting, but I don't want to do it again real soon.

Thanks for the education gentlemen. I'll let you know what happens next.

flyingsherpa
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Post by flyingsherpa » Sat May 22, 2004 8:38 am

i know you can buy a cable that 'converts' a LPT printer to a USB one, but i have no experience with them so i don't know if its a headache or not.

failing that, i know you can also go the other way around: getting a dongle that converts a USB port into an LPT port. again, no experience here. either one of these might be worth a try if you need to print from that machine.

Ralf Hutter
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Post by Ralf Hutter » Sat May 22, 2004 10:23 am

Michael Dooley wrote: I finally found this. I don't know if PC Chips is a good or even adequate manufacturer..
PCChips is generally considered the lowest of the low in mobo-land. It's hard to find a worse board.

Your experience looking for a board is exactly what I was referring to in my post above when I said:
Mr Ralfie wrote:some third-rate VIA type of S370 board that they can find NIB from some second-rate vendor
:D :D

Michael Dooley
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Post by Michael Dooley » Sat May 22, 2004 10:37 am

PCChips is generally considered the lowest of the low in mobo-land. It's hard to find a worse board.
Your experience looking for a board is exactly what I was referring to in my post above
Dang! I knew it was too good to be true. Your advice is to go Intel, right? How about an Intel 440 board? I will assume that Asus is a well regarded mobo manufacturer.

I may have to plain give up the search for a new board and deal with ebay. Sigh.

Let me know what you think. Thanks Ralf.

Ralf Hutter
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Post by Ralf Hutter » Sat May 22, 2004 11:06 am

The 440's were great boards, that's for sure. If you can find one with a good pedigree you'd probably be fine.

I'd probably go with an 815 board though. If you need m-ATX, think about the Asus Cusl2-M or Tusl2-M, or one of the real Intel m-ATX boards. They're all real bulletproof.



-Keep in mind-

The blown caps issue. S370 boards are from the era when this was most prevalent.


EDIT - Wait a minute. Is this a flex-ATX board we're talking about, or an m-ATX? There's a difference.

Michael Dooley
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Post by Michael Dooley » Sat May 22, 2004 1:07 pm

The Gateway seems to be a flexAT but how would I know? The model on the back says "FLEXATXSTC BRO Essential" so I took this to mean it has a flex AT board. And that a micro board would fit. Well, lets take a look.

I just pried the case off this thing, popped up the CD and floppy drive bay and measured the mobo. It appears to be just a tad wider than 9" and about 7 1/2" deep. So flex ain't the same (or similar) as micro eh?

To reiterate, I know zip about motherboards. "Socket 370" is an entirely new expression to me. Thanks for any light you can shed on this Ralf.

2nd Edit: This

Image

is the motherboard I have at present. At least it looks the same without disassembling the computer. It has the same number. Whattaya think?
Last edited by Michael Dooley on Sun May 23, 2004 3:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Michael Dooley
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Post by Michael Dooley » Sat May 22, 2004 3:02 pm

:oops: Oops! I see a problem. MicroATX boards are 9.6" x 7.5". FlexAT boards are 9" x 7.5". It looks like I'd have to get another case to use the PIII with any other type of board - all of them being larger than the Flex style. I better start planning on living (temporarily) with just USB ports. Maybe I can find some sort of dongle to allow the hookup of my LPT printers.

Sorry to be the cause of a wild goose chase folks. Thank you for your assistance.

Ralf Hutter
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Post by Ralf Hutter » Sun May 23, 2004 5:20 am

Hmm, your link to your current board isn't working so I can't see it. It does sound like you need a Flex-ATX board though. Meausre yours ccarefully so you can tell if it's 9.6" or 9.0". AFAIK, you can get S370 Flex-ATX boards from Shuttle at least.

"Socket 370" is the nomenclature of the socket that the CPU plugs into. In this case it refers to the 370 pins on the bottom of the PIII CPU. Other variations of this are "Socket 462", "Socket 478", "Socket 939" and more. All of these refer to the number of pins that are used in the CPUs that fit into those sockets.

Of course it's not all standardized (surpirse!). There's also "Socket 7" which has nothing to do with the CPU pinout. There's also many proprietary formats, as well as slot type CPUs and the new BGA Prescott/Tejas CPUs where the pins are in the socket and the contacts are little gold-plated nubs on the CPU itself.

Michael Dooley
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Post by Michael Dooley » Sun May 23, 2004 7:55 am

The mobo is described as a "Gateway Brookings MS-6312" Flex ATX built by MSI and, yes, it is 9.0" long by 7.5" wide. At motherboard.org, the flex AT style was described only as being smaller than Micro ATX. So I found that I was in a "standardization" loop. Its funnier this morning than it was yesterday afternoon.

I've got some old CPUs floating around in the desk somewhere so I think I have a grasp on at least pin number variations for those little devils. And I learned a lot about another arcane corner of the world, for which I'm grateful. I just never really looked at motherboard configurations before. Correction.

The last time I paid any attention to mobos, I was trying to make a decision on which 386 board to buy but wound up buying from a local builder - ARM systems. I bought a 486-25 that set me back over $4200.00 in January of 1991. RAM at that time went for $75.00 per meg. My experience is/was slightly dated, eh?

I'll work on getting this machine a little quieter in the meantime and let the port issues go. I'll use this machine only until I get my C3 back up and functioning again and then pass it on to one of the kids. Maybe they'll have a USB printer?

alglove
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Post by alglove » Mon May 24, 2004 5:09 pm

Michael Dooley wrote:Because this Gateway has only USB ports, does that mean it *must* react slower to mouse movements or keyboard commands?
Actually, a good USB mouse can have a higher sample rate than a PS/2 mouse. For example, the $25 Logitech Mouse Wheel Optical (blue or black) has an 800 dpi optical sensor, which is twice the resolution of lower models. I have one, and I can feel the difference.

Concerning the graphics, I suggest something like a passively cooled Radeon 9200SE with a DVI port. Since you mentioned Axiontech, something like the Powercolor R92P-C3S ( http://www.axiontech.com/ratings.php?ac ... IPCR92PC3S ).

Michael Dooley
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Post by Michael Dooley » Mon May 24, 2004 5:28 pm

flyingsherpa wrote:i know you can buy a cable that 'converts' a LPT printer to a USB one, but i have no experience with them so i don't know if its a headache or not.
I found something that *looks* good at NewEgg. This looks like it'll do the job. What a relief. Although this Gateway is still going to be passed to one of the kids - eventually. After I put the quiet on it some more.

Thanks flyingsherpa. Do you drive cargo aircraft? :)

Michael Dooley
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Post by Michael Dooley » Mon May 24, 2004 5:39 pm

alglove wrote:Actually, a good USB mouse can have a higher sample rate than a PS/2 mouse.
WinME thinks that this Logi USB Marblemouse is a PS2 device. I stuck an old hard drive in and haven't reconfigured WinME yet. Thanks for the help though. Everytime I remove a mouse from WinME, I have to go through the device detection business which I detest but I'll get a round toit pretty soon.

Thanks for the graphics tip too. Is a Radeon AGP card (thinking slightly ahead of myself) a good passive choice in general? I seem to recall that this is about the fastest (or whatever) card you can get without going to a fan.

alglove
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Post by alglove » Mon May 24, 2004 8:44 pm

Michael Dooley wrote:Thanks for the graphics tip too. Is a Radeon AGP card (thinking slightly ahead of myself) a good passive choice in general? I seem to recall that this is about the fastest (or whatever) card you can get without going to a fan.
You mean a Radeon PCI card, right? (looking at your mobo) :wink:

From reading posts on the Visiontek forum, I see that some people have problems with the passively cooled 9600, usually due to poor case ventilation. Improving the case ventilation usually solves the problem, but it is probably not the best solution for your FlexATX case. So yeah, the 9200 series would probably be about as high as I would go on the ATI front.

Regular 9200 (non-SE) should probably also work OK passively. I myself have a passive 9200 PCI in one of my computers. The main difference is that the SE model has a crippled pipeline and memory interface, so it is cheaper.

By the way, anything more than 128 MB on these graphics cards is a marketing gimmick and not worth the money. This is because any games that require this much graphics memory are too demanding in the processing and bandwidth departments, so the extra memory is practically useless.

aidanjm2004
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Post by aidanjm2004 » Mon May 24, 2004 11:07 pm

Ralf Hutter wrote:I'd probably go with an 815 board though. If you need m-ATX, think about the Asus Cusl2-M or Tusl2-M, or one of the real Intel m-ATX boards. They're all real bulletproof.
I got an Asus CUSL2-C on ebay.

At the moment, I have a fanless 566Mhz coppermine Celeron in it (only 12 watts :) ) which is fine for email and web-browsing in near silence.

The CUSL2 seems to have some undervolting and underclocking options in the bios, too, although I haven't looked to closely at that.

meditator54
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Re: Gateway FlexATXSTC - saving a PIII system

Post by meditator54 » Wed Jul 22, 2020 12:46 pm

I just got one of those computers on eBay. However I would like to know how to open the case as it needs cleaning inside and out plus it is missing a hard drive.
Anyway, aside from all the changes I would prefer to try. I still have the issue of not being able to open this computer. Has it got something to do with those tabs on the side of the computer or is in behind the front bezel which can be removed but I don't see anything which make me able to remove anything else.

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