Dell Optiplex GX1 – Back to life?

Running DOS games and software in a Virtual Machine like DosBox is cool…. However…. Sometimes that itch for a decent physical DOS machine needs to be scratched. If the case is beige, then even better! My hunt for such a machine started. Got my Commodore PC10, which is cool (and beige) BUT that is an 8088 and underpowered for Doom and Quake. I do have a 286 motherboard and power supply that I know works (has an issue with the onboard Dallas RTC and CMOS batter module that needs replacing and it is a future project!) but that would not be quite powerful enough for what I would like, I also dont have a proper case for this. So, get a new machine?

I found a lovely Time machine mini tower online for a low price and bought that. Result! However, when it came it has been dropped and the case was badly cracked, also when I opened it up the CPU heat sink and fan were dangling, NOT a good sign. Powered it up and could access BIOS etc but could not get it to addresses any himem at all! It would crash out badly and reboot. Another future project perhaps (tried different RAM and CPU so I think the motherboard is bad, but that is another story)

Another search found a good condition Dell Optiplex GX1. It is a P-II CPU with 128Mb RAM… A desktop format case in lovely beige… Could be a winner! It came the other day and looks great. Finally got round to plugging it in and taking a look. It starts up but show the following message:

Normally that would be fine, just go into BIOS and all good, right? Ah, well no… No options shown and F1, F2, Del or anything other key does nothing. No other text is shown, so what is there to be done?

Well I have been here before and the first thing to do is to check the CMOS battery. Luckily this is not a stupid Dallas RTC module, soldered onto the board, it is a cell battery. Lets flip that thing out and test it:

Hooking this up to a test meter, the voltage shows:

Well thats rubbish! These cells are 3.6V so that is FAR too low to be of any use. I have a spare and put that in. Volla! I have CMOS options:

I can see the lovely BIOS screen:

That’s great, got a ‘working’ machine now. It starts to boot from the hard drive, but going to replace that anyway, so I have an ATA drive on standby that I know is good and have FreeDos installed already. (Always good to have these things ready to go)

Got some plans for this machine:


I have been looking for a desktop machine that will fit nicely on a shelf and has a 16-bit ISA slot as there is a lovely Sound Blaster AWE32 card ready to go in! I remember buying that new MANY years ago and recall it being AWEsome! So for DOS you need to install the Sound Blaster drivers and that also needs the PnP setup for the card to be recognized. I have all that working now. I will share the steps for that soon.

File Transfer

So you have a nice new beige (hopefully) DOS machine. How the heck do you get files onto it? Serial or parallel, perhaps?

Check this out


TCP/IP under DOS. The stuff of legend and mystery… But actually REALLY easy if you have the right drivers!


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