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It seems that for a time during the early and mid 1990’s PC manufacturers felt they needed to do a lot of experimenting with PC case design. These days when you buy a PC you generally know what the inside will look like. Sure there is some variation here and there but in general it’s fairly standardized, not so much in the early and mid 90’s. Some PC’s case designs were downright odd and some were like figuring out a Chinese puzzle box to open up. One mild example that I covered earlier was the Packard Bell S605 and its somewhat unorthodox case. The Compaq Presario 9546 much like the PB S605 is also a Pentium 1 based PC and coming from the same era it also is an interesting experiment in internal case design.

from the outside it looks pretty standard and yes it could use a good scrubbing. We have the standard 1.44MB floppy drive and that is the CD-ROM drive that was installed when I purchased it and I assume its not the factory drive. I do kind of like the blue rectangle power button on the right. it also sports some legs that spout out at the bottom presumably to help prevent your tower from randomly toppling over. I suppose that’s a little handy and they don’t really interfere with the operation of the computer

and from the back its pretty standard looking. as you can see if you look at the expansion slots I have installed a video and sound card due to the fact I could not get either of the onboard video or sound working after I reformatted the hard drive and installed a different OS but I’ll get to that in a moment. The ports are all labeled nicely and one thing I do really like are the large tabs on each side that easily unscrew and allow access to the left and right sides of the PC. I kinda hate always breaking out a screwdriver and unscrewing a ton of screws to open a PC and the easy tabs are kind of nice. I should also note the top comes off as a separate piece to give access to the upper drives as well as the PSU. The PSU also seems to be a propitiatory design.

and here is where you may notice the non standard internal design. See, rather than the motherboard laying flat against one side of the case there is a metal divider that goes through the center with the motherboard on one side and the expansion slots on the other and to be honest it’s not really a bad design in some respects and at least on this side it feels like you have plenty of room to get to things. The 9546 uses the AT power connector which was standard for the time as well as a 100mhtz Pentium 1 CPU which is an excellent performer for a fast DOS based PC  or for windows 3.1 and 95. Mine came with 57MB of RAM installed but the 9546 can take up to 136MB according to the spec sheet I found online and this should be more than enough to run anything from the period. The expansion card in the lower right corner is a standard modem I believe of the 14.4kb variety. The onboard video is the ubiquitous S3 Trio64V2, the DOS era video standard which has 1MB of video ram expandable to 2MB. The onboard sound is powered by the Ensoniq chip, same as in the Ensoniq AudioPCI card which is a PCI card that actually offers pretty good DOS sound capability and commendable Windows sound. This computer originally came with Windows 95 pre-installed on its 1GB hard drive and also sported a special Compaq BIOS. Throwing caution to the wind I decided to format the hard drive and install DOS 6.22. which has had some odd affects first of which is this on boot up.

After hitting F1 and booting into DOS everything works fine except I cant get the on-board sound or video running. I’m completely aware this is possibly a driver and hardware conflict but it’s not really a huge problem and there is probably a way around this issue if I played with the BIOS but again, not really a priority since it works fine with the other cards I have installed under DOS.

This would be the opposite side of the case where we have our expansion slots (2 PCI, 4 ISA 16 bit) as well as the IDE connections for the various drives.  despite the seeming openness and space on this side it’s actually a lot more restrictive than a regular PC case as far as securing the expansion cards. The problem is that a standard screwdriver is to tall and will not fit to screw in the screws that secure the cards to the case so you have to use a smaller screwdriver like I have in the picture laying next to a regular sized screwdriver.

This is the Video card I had lying around to replace the Trio64V2. It is a 4MB PCI Trident Providia 9685. I don’t really like Trident cards, they tend to be low end and well…low end. This card is kind of so/so and seems a little better than most Trident video card offerings. Other than VGA it also has a composite as well as S-video connection allowing use of  TV in the case you don’t have a VGA monitor around which is actually pretty useful if you don’t mind taking a substantial video quality hit. Also according to the writing on the top center section of this card it is “stuffed for EDO RAM”, nice.

For sound I’m using a Creative Sound Blaster 16? the model is CT4520 which would make it a AWE64 value but DOS detects it as a sound blaster 16 though I would assume it would see it as a AWE32 or even as it is, an AWE64. Not really the optimal card to stick in this machine but again all I want for it is basic sound and this is what I have lying around, I’ll save the good sound cards for machines I’ll be using.

Conclusion: The Compaq Presario isn’t a bad machine. The Pentium 1 100mhz is a solid CPU and the RAM amount is enough for the time. The case design is actually pretty convenient except for the screwdriver length issue. My biggest problem is the Compaq BIOS that gave me issues when I tried to reformat and install pure DOS. As a windows 95 PC it’s quite passable but there are better more powerful choices.

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9 Comments

  1. hello I have a compaq presario 9546, I would like to reinstall but labeled them on the side of the computer with the serial number is deleted. is it possible that you sent me yours. I still have the license numbers 95 windows (on the book) thank you

    • I am also looking for the reinstallation media. Do you still have it David? Please get back to me. I realize that time has passed. Thanks.

      • Hi, sorry. I haven’t had this machine for some time now. Unfortunately it was destroyed in an accident but I never did have the install media for it.

  2. i have this computer, i’m looking for that platform game that comes with it

    • what you are looking for?
      I have two cds cd installation of Windows 95 and the accompanying CD
      you want me to send you the disk images?
      By cons I have more serial numbers that is listed on the panel of the computer, it is clear. and can you send me yours?
      thank you
      david

    • You’ve got to be talking about Load Runner: The Legend Returns. You can find it on abandonware sites.

  3. Wow… that was my first computer, all the way back in 1995. 90MHz, 700MB HD, 8X CD-ROM, 14.4 modem, 8 megs of RAM. With an extra 8MB of RAM it was able to play Quake. With a 120Mhz CPU, Win95 and a 2 gig hard drive it soldiered on as the family computer until late 2000. The internal layout is instantly recognizable, but I’d forgotten how odd it was after so many years of ATX motherboards. Thanks for sharing this.

  4. wow, that’s a long time for someone to keep a P1 PC to in common use around the house. nice.

  5. Wow, I remember Load Runner. That was a cool game for the time. The 9546 was the first PC I owned. 100Mhz P1, 1.6 gig HD and a 28.8 modem that I bought new at a local auction as new old stock.


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