I bought the W3107 from Walmart in 2005. It came with a slow 1.8GHz AMD Sempron 3100+. For those who are not familiar with computers, the Sempron is the scaled down version of the Athlon, just like the Intel Celeron is to the Pentium.
As the years went by, it started to slow down. I tried to upgrade this system but the problem I faced was this motherboard uses the early 754 socket. There are not many Athlons that will fit. Most are the next generation using 939 socket. The W3107 was set aside while I configured a new pc using Intel’s Pentium D.
Upgrading the CPU
I eventually found a 754 Athlon 64 3200+ and swapped out the Sempron. This Athlon is clocked at 2.2GHz, which helps to speed up the pc. It would have been great if it is a 3.0GHz but that’s the fastest I could find. The next upgrade was the memory.
The W3107 has a fairly decent FIC K8MC51G motherboard within. As with all the computers of that time, it uses the ancient 184 pin DDR type rams. Again, there are not many around. The newer DDR2 memory sticks are 240 pin and they will not fit. With some perseverance, I found one stick of 1GB, bumping up the total to 1.50GB. This is a massive boost from a pathetic 512MB that the system came with. That’s what manufacturers do with budget systems. Cut corners everywhere. Imagine running Windows XP with 512MB of ram and a Sempron.
Upgrading the Graphics
Even though the motherboard has integrated graphics, it surprisingly has a PCI-Express x16 slot. This offered me the opportunity to upgrade the video. I went through my collection of graphics card and chose an entry level nVidia GeForce 8400gs with 256MB of ram. There’s no necessity to use a powerful card because it will bottleneck with a slow processor.
With the Geforce 8400gs, I have digital output through a DVI connector. This will be a huge improvement over the analog VGA from the motherboard. I can look forward to a superior display quality and a faster refresh speed.
Upgrading the Audio
The last improvement is the sound. I inserted an Asus Xonar DG PCI sound card to replace the on-board audio. The Xonar DG is a moderately priced, high quality audio card that’s up to hi-fi standards. It is powered by a Cmedia Oxygen HD CMI8786, a high performance audio processor and supported by a Cirrus Logic CS4245. With a 24-bit D-A converter on board, the analog playback sample rate is at 44.1K/48K/96KHz. Resolution for all the sample rates is at 16/24-bit. It can do Dolby Digital and DTS for movies. For those who are more interested in audio, it supports ASIO 2.0.
The Xonar DG THD is impressive. The Output THD+Noise at 1kHz is an astonishing 0.0025% (-92dB). Frequency Response is 10Hz~40kHz (-3dB with 24-bit/96kHz input). And lastly, what really attracted me to this card is the Input and Output Full Scale Voltage. It is capable of 1Vrms (3V peak to peak). That’s a nice hot signal, not some wimpy 0.3Vrms.
Installing Windows XP sp3
I usually forgo Windows OS nowadays but for this pc, I made an exception. Obviously, Windows 7 onwards is out of the question. The processor is too slow for that. The only option is Windows XP, which is what this system was originally released for.
The XP installation went smoothly. After that, I installed the drivers for the Geforce 8400gs and the Xonar DG. When I tried to play some music with Foobar2000, all I got through my Grado SR80 headphones is distortion and noise. Could it be that my Xonar DG is broken?
I restarted the pc and went into the BIOS. I remember I switched OFF the On-Board audio because I didn’t want it to conflict with the Xonar card. I turned it back ON and hoped for the best. What this means is that the motherboard’s Realtek AC97 drivers will be installed with the Xonar when XP boots up.
I launched Foobar2000 again and this time, wonderful music came out of my Grado. Owners of this Grado SR80 will agree with me that the SR80 is exceptionally sensitive to treble. If the audio processor and the drivers are not good enough, the high frequencies will sound abrasive. Nothing of that sort with the Xonar DG. The music flowed out with smooth, natural sounding treble. Tonally, it’s very well balanced too. Vocals stand out clearly and the bass is tight and dynamic. This is the kind of reproduction I strive for in designing loudspeakers.
Accessing the Internet
Getting the internet to work is always an issue with old pcs. More so with Widows OS that are no longer supported by Microsoft. With Windows XP, all the browsers are already deprecated. I believe the last one was Firefox ESR. Does that mean there are no browsers for the internet?
Fortunately, there are folks that recognize the dilemma. Enter Slimjet. It’s specially meant to support old pcs like this eMachines W3107. It works on 32-bit Windows XP fabulously. In fact, I’m on Slimjet now writing this post. At the same time, I’m into eBay. No problem scrolling the pages on eBay. Slimjet doesn’t hang or stutter like others. This browser is a godsent. And it’s FREE.
Now that I’ve determined Windows XP can still function with this pc, I turned my attention to Linux. I installed Linux Mint 19.2 alongside Windows XP. I wanted to see how the Mint performs with this W3107.
This is what the hard drive looks like after installing Mint. The partition on the left is ntfs. That’s Windows XP. The one on the right with the ext4 file system is Linux Mint. And below is the Mint desktop. Exactly like Windows XP. Users who are brought up on Windows XP will have no problem with Mint.
Ausus Xonar DG with Linux
One of the main reasons for installing Mint is the Xonar DG sound card. I wanted to see whether the are drivers for the Xonar DG within Mint. To my relief, it did. This solved a huge problem for me. Now, I don’t have to depend on a Windows platform for my Xonar DG. I can use Mint exclusively, or any other Linux distros that have Xonar DG drivers.
How demanding is Mint? Having used it for a few days, I was surprised that the W3107 manages it quite well. It is not as light as say, antiX Linux but certainly less intimidating. When the computer is at idle, the Athlon cpu is hardly working. With a few applications in use, the cpu doesn’t flatline at 100%. When that happens, the pc is in “hang” mode. As for the memory, I have already used 1GB out of 1.4GB. Swap is at 465MB. The beauty of Linux swap which is Virual memory in Windows, is it’s seamless. The system doesn’t stall like when Windows XP runs out of memory..
a W3107 on steroids
At the end of the day, my eMachines W3107 is working better than when I first bought it. The Windows XP is faster with the upgrades but more importantly, I discovered that there are Linux distros that support the Xonar DG. This means I can use the Xonar DG and my Grado SR80 as a reference when I design speakers. Windows XP will go the way of the Dodo but Linux is eternal.
January 8, 2020Computers