A7V Mobo: Install Plan

First off, let me thank everyone on/in Tom's Hardware Guide, they've been a big help in helping me decide how to configure my new system. I will be assembling this new system shortly, based on the A7V mobo, and so I'm creating an installation plan based on the reports of 3D problems etc. by other posters on this board. If you can critique my plan in anyway, let me know. Specs first, then install plan:

Athalon 1Gighz Thunderbird CPU
Asus K7V Motherboard (revision/bios unknown, assuming 1.0)
Asus V770 Deluxe Geforce2 32MB DDR
2 x 128 MB SDRAM from Crucial.com (part # CT16M64S4D7E)
IBM Deskstar 7200RPM 100ATA 40.5 Gig HD (single partition)
Pioneer 10x DVD-114 (Firmware 2.03)
3Com 10/100 Homeconnect 3C450 PCI
Diamond Monster Sound MX300 (Aureal Vortex 2 chipset)
Hollywood Plus DVD Decoder Card (optional)
Elan Vital (Asus tech) T-10 Case (I love it)
300W Power Supply (brand/voltage/etc. unknown)

Windows 98 SE (for gaming compatibility)
DirectX 7

Primary Goal with Machine- (within my $$ limits)
1. Stability, especially in 3D games
2. Speed, especially in 3D games
3. Multitasking with lots of open windows
4. Video Capture from TV/VCR

Driver Installation Plan:
1. Power-On First Time, only with vid card installed, set HD specs in Bios (HD on the 33 IDE Channel initially)
2. Reboot, run motherboard 1.005a Bios update from floppy
3. Run Fdisk, setup HD partition
4. Install Win 98 SE
5. Install latest Via 4-in-1 Drivers
6. Install latest Promise ATA100 Drivers (switch to ATA100 cable)
7. Install 3Com Card, (then obtain latest drivers from web)
8. Obtain latest Detonator Drivers and install for Asus V770
9. Obtain latest Diamond MX300 & Aureal Reference drivers & install
10. Obtain latest Pioneer DVD drivers & install
11. Install optional Hollywood card

Card Slots-
Asus V7700 in AGP Slot (at 4x, default aperture)
PCI Slot 1 Empty
PCI Slot 2 3Com Netword Card
PCI Slot 3 Diamond MX300 Sound Card
PCI Slot 4 Optional Hollywood Card
PCI Slot 5 Open (for now)

Did I get it right? Please feel free to point me to sites/posts/guides with relevant information. The Diamond MX300 Sound Card will likely be replaced with an SB Live X-Gamer soon. If you have any IRQ recommendations (so they're no sharing conflicts) please let me know.

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  1. Nordy,
    I wish more people thought like we do. You have picked excellent hardware and your plan for installation is almost perfect. The only thing I would change is after step 7 and after you get your NIC working, do all the windows updates from the Windows Product Update page. This will put in IE 5.5 and all the critical updates. Then put on the video drivers and start adding cards and installing their drivers one at a time.

    Other than that, you should have no problems.
    More people need to follow your example of doing the research first, buying the right hardware, and how to put everything together.
  2. Hi Nordy,

    I really liked the way you thought out your plan for building an Athlon/A7v system.
    I recently built a system similar to yours.
    ASUS A7V rev. 1.02 mobo
    Athlon T-bird 1.1 ghz
    IBM Deskstar 75GXP 45 gig, ATA100, 7200 rpm. (connected to Promise ATA100 primary)
    Pioneer 16x DVD-105 slot loader (connected as master on ATA66/33 primary)
    HP CDRW drive (connected as slave on ATA66/33 primary)
    Hercules GeForce2 GTS 64 meg DDR
    SB Live value (PCI slot 3 .. only one that doesn't share resources)
    Zoom V90 PCI modem (I re-used my old one) (PCI slot 4)
    I've got a decent case, two case fans, and a 300 wt. power supply.
    NOTE: Try to get the power supply that draws air in from the bottom instead of the front. Some do, some don't. The PS sits right above the CPU, and if you get the bottom draw version, it will help cool your CPU. AMD recommends this.

    One thing I noticed that you hadn't mentioned in your post, was what CPU heatsink/fan you are planning on using. I think THIS ONE THING might be the most important of them all. The T-bird WILL run much hotter than other processors, especially with the 1004 series and 1005 series BIOS versions. I had a pretty good looking cheapo that I originally used, but I did some researching and settled on a Tai-Sol forged 742092 cooler. It's a big one, but it's quiet and very efficient. Take care installing it,and verify that you have a good fitup between the heatsink and the CPU. The t-bird can burn down in a matter of seconds if you don't get a good fit. Use a good thermal paste too. Artic silver ...

    Note: With the older BIOS (1003), the CPU ran much cooler. But the need to update the Promise controller's BIOS means using a newer BIOS. I am currently using a modified BIOS. yeah, I know that sounds scary, but it's working like a charm. I downloaded it from the net, and I've used 2 different versions. 1003e2 and 1003e3.
    I've used 1004a, 1004c, 1004d, 1005a, and I am having better results with my modified version. Actually, the only thing that got modified with this version was the Promise controller's BIOS. The 1003e3 that I am using has the same ATA100 BIOS as the 1005a BIOS. So.. I'm getting a cooler and stable CPU, and I'm still getting good ATA100 performance. The main thing is that my system is very stable. And of course it's cool.

    I am using all the newest drivers right now.
    1. VIA 4 in 1 4.26 (no problems with these)
    2. AGP 4.04 (got AGP 4x running smoothly)
    3. Promise ATA100 1.60 build 33 (no problems)
    4. Hercules vid drivers 6.35 based on the DET3 6.31 ref drivers.

    Nordy, I didn't have a problem hooking my IBM hard drive up to the ATA100 primary channel and starting up that way. But I have heard of others having problems. The drive did run slower, and bootup is VERY slow until you install the upgraded Promise 1.60 drivers.
    My system had the 1004a BIOS on it originally. Once I had the system up and running, I flashed to the 1004d BIOS which has a new Promise BIOS included. I noticed an increase in speed.
    I simply fired up my system with the video card, hard drive, and DVD installed, and the BIOS recognized my hard drive, I formatted it to FAT32, installed Win98 and presto.. I had a working computer. But then the problems started. <--- You knew THAT was coming, didn't ya? :)
    The A7V mobo has alot of devices. It also has alot of shared slots. Here's a breakdown...
    PCI slot 1 shares with the AGP slot. I would leave that one empty.
    PCI slot 2 shares with the Promise ATA100 controller. I orignally didn't know this and had my sound card in that slot with NO problems. I later changed it.
    PCI slot 3 has no shared resources, so this is a good one to put your sound card in. This is where I put my SB LIVE..
    PCI slot 4 shares with PCI slot 5, and they BOTH share with any USB controllers and devices that you might plan to use.
    So.. let's say you put your Monster sound in slot 3, avoiding slots 1 and 2. Whatever you put into slot 4 and 5 will have to share, so you might want to look into that. Many cards have no problems sharing.
    NOTE: There's no way around this either. You cannot manually assign different IRQs to these slots or to the USB controller. The mobo is made that way. So.. if you try, you'll find that wherever you put one, the others will follow.. lol.. it's really kinda funny.
    Before you go adding your other cards, you might want to think about disabling an IRQ or 2 in your BIOS. You'll have two serial ports. If you don't plan to use them both, disable serial port 2. This will free up an IRQ.
    Let the mobo's BIOS control assignments. Set the Plug and Play O/S to "NO" Win98 almost killed me after I took my computer apart and put my sound card in slot 3! It messed me up and caused major stress-related temper tantrums. I couldn't even get my computer to boot, because Windows reassigned everything and caused conflict after conflict. I should have known better.
    After you add another card or device, check the device manager and your hardware IRQ settings to see what is being assigned and where.
    Oh gosh Nordy, I could fill up a whole book if I keep on typing. I think you'll like your new system if you enjoy a challenge or two. If you don't like to tinker, you might find it too quirky. It's fast! It runs the hell out of games and flight sims. But new technology, new chipsets, and shoddy BIOS versions and problematic drivers can sometimes cause a headache. If you have any questions, just ask.. I'd be glad to help.

    Good Luck
  3. Magento,

    Good point about the HSF.
    But I liked this better.
    "Try to get the power supply that draws air in from the bottom instead of the front. Some do, some don't. The PS sits right above the CPU, and if you get the bottom draw version, it will help cool your CPU."
    This is an excellent point. My Enermax 451 has the fan on the bottom drawing air up from the processor and out the back.
    Again, you make an excellent point that most people overlook.
  4. About the Heat Sink and Power Supply for my system:

    The case, Elan Vital 10-T is shipping with a yet unamed (300W Power Supply). This could be a good one, or a crap one. However, I do have an Antec PP-303X 300W Power Supply spare. This is rated up to Athlon 1000's and is a recommended AMD Power Supply. It does not appear to have an actual 'fan' on the bottom, but it does have a noticeable bottom vent leading directly to the power supply fan. I purcashed the Athlon 1000 Retail Box, so whatever heat sink it ships with I planned on using. Should I go ahead and order the Tai-Sol forged 742092 cooler now and not trust whatever HS the retail box includes? (The chip was ordere from MWAVE.com, which has reliable ratings on Bizrate).

    About IRQ's
    Given your recommendation, I will disable PnP OS and try this configuration first:

    AGP Slot - Asus V7700 Deluxe 32 MB DDR
    PCI Slot1 - Always Empty
    PCI Slot2 - Always Empty
    PCI Slot3 - Diamond MX300 Sound Card
    PCI Slot4 - 3Com HomeConnect 10/100 network card (for internet)
    PCI Slot5 - Optional Hollywood decoder card

    If you have any other recommendations on IRQ sharing resolves or ways to prevent conflicts in the setup, let me know. I just went through HELL on my old ABIT BE-6 system because my Linksys Fast Ethernet card was conflicting with the Diamond MX300 Sound Card. SB16 Emulation Drivers for the MX300 sound card seemed to damned HATE network cards, especially the Linksys Fast Ethernet. I had to take the Linksys card out, moved the Daimond card to PCI slot 3, reinstalled the SB16 emulator drivers, then re-install the Linksys card on PCI slot 4. Several others have reported similiar problems, Sound Blaster 16 emulation drivers seem to want to use the same resources as network cards. Hence my switch to a more expensive (and hopefully more reliable) 3COM network card in the new system.

    In other news, I have two sticks of 128 MB 7ns Micro-Q SDRAM (PC133) that I have no idea if its CS 2 or 3. Is Micro-Q stuff of any decent quality? I still plan on using Crucial SDRAM for the A7V sys, due to the popular recommendations on this board.

    I hope this configuration works, I've read several posts on athlonmb.com recently that said this near exact configuration was having 3D gaming problems. The last ASUS sys I set up practically installed itself, I hope the A7V doesn't give me hell.

  5. Hi Nordy,

    Your going to have a great computer system from what I can gather. I agree with Bubba. You've done an excellent job of planning and researching.
    Your case sounds like a really good one, and the power supply should work ok. My case is a "no-name" and my 300 wt. PS is the type that has the intake on the front instead of the bottom.
    The PS type I'm referring to has intake openings (not a fan) on the bottom versus the intake on the front. You'll see what I mean when you get her put together. The PS intake slots will be RIGHT above your processor, and this will help pull heat away from that area.
    Your retail box might come with a very good CPU heatsink/fan unit. See what you have there first.
    The retail CPU box should carry the full 3 year warranty, and I doubt they would offer that if they included a lame CPU heatsink.
    Do you actually run any DOS games? My SB LIVE has the same thing. SB 16 emulation, and this is really only for older DOS games or programs. I disable it in the Win98 device manager. It uses a precious IRQ and is one of the biggest causes of problems when it comes to assigning resources.
    I originally declined installing the DOS drivers, but when I upgraded to the new LIVEWARE 3.0, they installed automatically, and my computer wouldn't even boot. Many "safe-mode" safari trips later, I realized that I could disable it and not cause any problems. I've heard of similar problems with the Diamond Monster sound.
    I also wanted to note that when I first assembled and ran my system, I did have my SB Live sound card in PCI slot 2. I didn't have any problems. I ran the computer for 3 days like that. So.. if you find that slot 4, 5, and all USB might give you a problem, you could try that slot out and see if it helps any.
    I'm using CAS 3 PC-133 "name-brand" memory, and I can get it to run stable at CAS 2 in the BIOS.
    There are many memory speed options available in the A7V BIOS, so don't cheat yourself on memory. I wish I had invested a bit more in SDRAM, but at least I didn't get generic.. :) And if I had it to do all over again, I would probably buy 256 meg of PC-150 memory. Kingmax tiny BGA.. Just in case I wanted to try tweaking that Front side BUS a little..
    You might have a "quirk" or two regarding games, but I've gotten mine to smooth out. Many of these are with the GeForce card and it's drivers.
    Here's a link to an excellent FAQ that you should download and read.
    Good Luck Nordy,
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