I’ve had this old PC hanging around the place for some time, and recently I decided to do a revival job on it. It’s an Athlon X2 6400+, the result of a build I first did in early 2008. Back then the PC had the following specs:
- Athlon X2 3600+ CPU
- 2GB RAM
- 2 x 320GB Western Digital hard drives
- nVidia 7600GT video card with 256MB GDDR3
- Gigabyte GA-590SLI-G5 motherboard
- DVD rewriter
- Windows Vista
It was a pretty decent PC. I tried to rig it up using the onboard RAID so that if one hard drive failed the other could still be used, but I didn’t do too well at getting it working well, so I decided to use one drive for the OS and the other for swap and extra storage space.
Several upgrades later and the system now sports the following:
- Athlon X2 6400+ CPU
- 4GB RAM
- 128GB SSD
- 320 hard drive
- 2 x nVidia GTX560 Ti video cards in SLI configuration
- Windows 10 & Linux Mint 17.2
- Same motherboard and optical drive.
The Old PC – upgraded. The power cables need some tidying up. Note the two GTX560 Ti’s and the SLI bridge.
It was a fun build, and it will certainly function well as a backup PC, but for now I don’t have a great deal of use for it, other than to play around with seeing how games run on an older system, and to try out the odd Linux app.
I partitioned the SSD that Windows 10 and Linux Mint shared the drive – 64 GB each – and the hard drive was partitioned similarly so that each had about 160 GB for apps and swap. The SSD made booting nice and fast, once the PC had made it past the slow old BIOS. The SSD is SATA2, but that’s perfect for this build as the motherboard only supports SATA2 anyway.
SLI was simple enough to get going under Windows 10, but it was a different story with Linux Mint. Mint does not use the official nVidia driver, so I needed to install it manually. After trying others’ solutions that involved editing the xorg.conf file (which didn’t work) I came one that required me to completely delete all previous drivers and reinstall the latest nVidia driver, all from the command line (unfortunately I can’t find the post). Only to find out about the ‘broken’ state of SLI on Linux. Perhaps this at least partly explained why Borderlands The Pre-Sequel performed noticeably better on Windows than on Linux. Maybe I’ll do some benchmarking on games on Linux and Windows some day and post the results.
Networking is a little dodgy. The motherboard has two gigabit ethernet ports, but unfortunately I’ve maxed out the ethernet ports on the room’s 8-port switch. I decided to dig out an old 802.11g (54Mbit) wireless card I had lying around and install that. The PC is just out of range of the house’s wireless access point, so I utilised internet sharing over wireless on the iMac. This gives me a 20 Mbit connection, which is a bit naff for local file transfers, but acceptable for our 50 Mbit fixed-wireless NBN connection.
I am interested to know how much power the system is drawing. Although I haven’t fully checked it out, with two old nVidia cards and a CPU with a 125 watt power draw, during SLI gaming I daresay it’s straining the 650 watt PSU, though so far I haven’t had any problems. Though it does make a heater redundant during the winter with the other three or four systems going on (two PCs and two Macs).
To round out the system I connected a HP L2445w 1920×1200 24″ monitor, much like the one I use for my main desktop. I also used an old Microsoft optical mouse and a cruddy old Dick Smith keyboard, the keys of which feel pretty yuck under my fingers, but it’s adequate for what I use the system for. Sound is provided via my AKG K99 headphones. Unfortunately the onboard sound suffers from inteference, but I have an old Sound Blaster from the system’s original build lying around, so I might install that some time.
Anyway, it will be interesting to see if what uses I can come up with for the PC. No need to use it as a file server or jukebox, as those are taken care of by my Synology DS-211 server. If you have any ideas feel free to let me know