Digital Archaeology Expedition #2 – Compaq DeskPro EN 6333 SFF

This expedition only went as far as my own archives. I have a small form factor Compaq Deskpro that has been in my collection for a number of years. It had Windows 98 installed and I have on occasion used it booted into DOS mode to emulate a disk drive for my Commodore 64 via 64HDD. Just determining the exact model proved to be somewhat of a challenge.  I powered it up for the first time in a number of years and the BIOS message on the bottom of the screen identifies it as a Deskpro EN model. It had a 333 MHz Pentium II, 256 MB RAM and still booted into Windows 98 SE. There’s not a lot in the way of extra hardware in this machine and there isn’t room for much.  Video and networking are built in and there is a riser card that contains one PCI slot and one PCI/ISA shared slot. The only quick and easy upgrade I could do was to add another 128 MB RAM which I had laying around for a total of 384 MB which I think may be the maximum this motherboard will handle (a 512 MB stick didn’t work). I believe the model of this machine is a Deskpro EN 6333 SFF (the SFF is for Small Form Factor) though information about this particular model seems to be scarce on the internet.

Compaq DeskPro EN 6333 SFF

The first thing I usually do when I get one of these old machines up and running is to see if I can run BOINC and crunch some work units on it. To me it’s kind of fun to see what they can do and how they compare to the relative super computers of today. I found a version of BOINC that would run on Windows 98 but I couldn’t get any work units for that version with any of the projects I commonly use so I decided to see if I could get some version of Linux running on it. Normally when I go to install Linux on an older machine I use Lubuntu if possible. It has relatively low requirements compared to many other distributions yet it is still full featured and easy to use. There are a few much lighter distributions that will work on machines as old as a 486 but those distributions have their own challenges. While not ideal, the CPU and memory were sufficient to run Lubuntu but unfortunately, at only ~2.5 GB the hard drive was not.

I have a few spare hard drives but the smallest is 160 GB which I suspected this machine might have a problem recognizing. Sure enough, with the drives I tried they were either not recognized at all or recognized as 6-8 GB drives. I tried an ATA-133 PCI card thinking that might get me around the problem since those cards have their own BIOS. For some reason though, this computer did  not recognize drives as being attached with that card. I also have a SATA PCI card so I figured I would give that a shot. This card allowed the computer to recognize the drives I plugged into it but would then just hang on boot with a blinking cursor, even when I was trying to boot from CD. Oh well, back to the tiny drive and an attempt to find another Linux distribution that will work.

After searching for a smaller Linux distribution I settled on one called AntiX. It is Debian based like Ubuntu/Lubuntu and can use the same repositories, it has a live CD installer so I could try it, and it was designed to be installed and run using a hard drive unlike something like Puppy Linux which is designed more to run in memory after booting from a CD or USB device, and most importantly would still theoretically fit on this hard drive. Booting and installation went smoothly and everything was up and running in a relatively short amount of time.

BOINC could not be found when executing the typical “sudo apt-get install boinc-client” command. First, I tried downloading the Linux version from the BOINC website but there seemed to be a lot of missing dependencies. Finally, I figured out all I really needed to do was to go into the package manager and add some of the repositories that were not checked by default. After this, BOINC was found and installed successfully.

The three projects I most commonly use are SETI@home, Einstein@home and Rosetta@home. I only had a few hundred megabytes of disk space left and I found out real quick that wasn’t going to be enough to run Rosetta. I attached to SETI and work units downloaded and and started crunching away…

There was still one minor issue bugging me though. The screen refresh seemed incredibly slow. After poking around it looked like there was no hardware driver being used for the on-board ATI Rage Pro…and after some more research it appeared that Linux had dropped support for that chip some time back. It was not obvious to me that there was a reasonably easy way to get hardware support for this chip in a supported version of Linux. What to do? I decided to try Windows XP instead. Granted, it’s no longer supported but it’s still better than Windows 98 and there are hardware video drivers available. Also, it would fit on this small hard drive at least as well as AntiX did.

Windows XP installation was no problem but getting to drivers from whatever old IE version comes by default with Windows XP proved to be a challenge. I finally managed to get them to download and once installed the display speed was greatly improved. Now the trick is to get a reasonably useful browser installed that will work on this system. It’s amazing how resource intensive web browsing has become.

system01

system02

system03

I also got BOINC installed once again (there’s still reasonable support for Windows XP fortunately) and this system is once again crunching SETI@home work units.

As far as upgradability, there are some options. From the following messages found in a forum, it sounds like swapping out the processor is a reasonable option with up to a 550 MHz Pentium III almost certain to work, a 600 Mhz Pentium III likely to work and a 700 Mhz Pentium III possibly might work:

Hi,
I have a compaq descpro EN PII SFF unit without CPU. I do not know the exact model.
What is the best processor I can use, the latest BIOS, and how to set jumpers for this frequence?
Thank you.

09-18-2005 04:33 AM

Your computer will support PII processors from 300 to 450. It will also support some of the early PIII processors with the Katmai core, such as the 450+, 500, 550 and perhaps the 600. It MIGHT support the later Coppermine PIII processors, but I cannot recall anyone in this forum having tried it. I have not tried it, either.

Slot 1 processors are probably your only option. Your computer does not have enough internal space for adapters to install Socket 370 processors, so far as I know. That probably rules out Slockets, Lin-Lin adapters, PowerLeap Slot-T adapters and the equivalent Evergreen product.

The PII EN SFF used the BIOS or ROM known as 686T5. According to the download page, it supported EN SFF computers up to the P700. Download the latest, here:

http://h18007.www1.hp.com/support/files/deskpro/us/download/9249.html (link no longer works)

The jumpers do not need to be set. They have no effect. The multiplier they were designed to control is fixed on the processor.

Source: http://h30499.www3.hp.com/t5/Business-PCs-Compaq-Elite-Pro/Compaq-Descpro-EN-SFF-PII-CPU-upgrade/td-p/570247#.VVpHJvlViko

The difference in the three options comes down to a difference in voltages required by the CPUs but one person claims to have gotten the PIII-700 to work:

09-26-2005 08:42 AM

I have a Deskpro EN SFF 6350 (DPENS P350) and a Deskpro EN SFF 6300/3.2 both running with a PIII@700.

The 6300 displays a message like “the current processor is not supported on this system”, which can be accepted by pressing F1. It then boots like the 6350 without any problems.

The processors have the big “passive” aluminium heatsink, I removed the part which is supposed to hold the {hard disk|floppy|optical} drives as I boot over network. Otherwise there would not have been enough space for the heatsink…

On another forum, someone claims to have a PowerLeap adapter with a 1.4 GHz Tualatin Celeron working in these machines:

Just got a Powerleap adapter (PL-iP3/T) + Celeron 1400 (Tualatin)
package in the mail today, and found out it that it does indeed work
in my Deskpro EN SFF. I wasn’t sure it would, since Powerleap’s
compatibility database did not have a listing for this adapter on the
SFF Deskpro.

Quite an upgrade from a PII-350.

I’m using the heatsink that came with the package, which means that
the flip-down tray holding the HDD/Floppy does not close fully. I’ll
be cutting out a section of the tray so that it will close – this
means that the floppy drive can no longer be used in it’s current
position. I plan on mounting a slimline floppy drive on a bracket
attached to one of the PCI slots, so it’s accessible through the back
of the PC.

For those interested, here’s some details:

* Powerleap PL-iP3/T adapter (Revision 2.0) – voltage set at 1.5V
* Celeron 1400Mhz (Tualatin)
* Compaq Deskpro EN SFF, Slot 1 CPU connector (motherboard is marked
as being capable of handling 700Mhz)
* BIOS Version 99-08-21 (Downloadable from Compaq (or, rather HP’s
site))

The BIOS recognises the CPU as a Pentium-III 200! However, booting
into Gentoo Linux 1.4, I can see that it is correctly recognised as a
Celeron 1400Mhz CPU.

I also have another Deskpro mainboard, this one is marked as handling
a maximum of 550Mhz or so. I’ll try the Powerleap in that one soon,
and post a followup on the success (or otherwise) of that test.

Cheers,
MW
Dec 3, 2003

I have just tested the adapter/cpu with the other Deskpro EN SFF motherboard
(P1547 25GUIRS 009583-101 REV B/E) which is actually marked as having a max
CPU speed of 450Mhz. BIOS ver is 686T5, 99-08-21.

At startup, system complains that “Processor is not supported”, but upon
pressing F1, system boots up normally. Gentoo Linux 1.4 still correctly
recognises the CPU as a Celeron 1400Mhz.

Apart from the minor inconvenience having to hit F1 at each boot (especially
is system is to be used a server), I can safely report that the Powerleap
PL-iP3/T Rev 2.0 + Celeron 1400 (Tualatin) works with this Deskpro EN SFF
motherboard too.

Cheers,
MW

MW, Dec 4, 2003

Source: http://www.motherboardpoint.com/threads/success-powerleap-upgrade-for-compaq-dekspro-en-sff.37474/

Unfortunately, I don’t have any of those available and am not quite willing to invest money in this computer so I’m not able to try any of these. There are a few issues to be aware of though. First, the case is quite small and a special low profile heatsink is used on the CPU that is there. I’m not sure how easy it is to swap this heatsink with another CPU. You don’t have to do this but you will not be able to close the case without other modifications if you don’t. Also, the memory can not be expanded beyond 384 MB (or possibly 512 MB) no matter what CPU you use. Finally, if my experience is any indication, you may have a difficult time getting a decent size hard drive to work.

At any rate, for now I’ll let this machine crunch a few SETI@home work units and maybe eventually put DOS/Windows 98 back on it so it can go back to its old job of emulating a hard drive for my Commodore 64.

Some more pictures:

image
A view of the motherboard from above. To the left is the rear of the machine. At the bottom you can see the slot for the riser card. To the right you can see the edge of the “drive cage” that holds the CD-ROM, hard drive and floppy drive. You can also see part of the custom low profile heatsink for the CPU and part of the two RAM slots. At the top you can see the edge of the power supply and fan.

 

image
Another view from farther away so you can see the whole machine. The riser card with bracket has been installed now.

 

A view of the riser card with 1 PCI slot and 1 PCI/ISA shared slot
A view of the riser card with 1 PCI slot and 1 PCI/ISA shared slot

 

image
Another view from above with the drive cage flipped open. Now you have a full view of the entire cpu heatsink and ram slots.

 

image
Close-up of the on-board ATI Rage Pro Turbo video chip.

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