• Please review our updated Terms and Rules here

Did Compaq EVER offer a computer in a non-proprietary form factor?

Andrew T.

Experienced Member
Oct 4, 2013
Thunder Bay, Canada
Compaq is a brand I've had contradictory experiences with. On one hand, their quality was often good: One of my two main PCs is a PIII Deskpro still running strong with its original capacitors and hard drive after 18 years. They've occasionally made concessions to compatibility and versatility: Compaq's EISA standard offered cross-vendor support and backwards-compatibility that MCA didn't, and Compaq computers supported legacy features like dual floppy drives longer than Dell's.

On the other hand, Compaq was notorious for "doing their own thing" wherever cases, basic dimensions, or form factors were concerned; which makes component upgrades and parts-intermingling an exercise in frustration and futility.

"Proprietary" seems to have been part of the Compaq formula from the very beginning: Even the first mid-'80s Deskpros inflicted users with non-IBM-style power supplies, front-mounted keyboard jacks with no case cutout for a rear jack, and proprietary monitor plugs. The myriad Prolineas, Presarios, and slimline Deskpros of the 1990s were an order of magnitude worse, and motherboards and power supplies were basically unswappable from one model to another; much less other brands. Compaq was also the first PC OEM to kick off the loathsome trend of integrating the floppy drive slot into the front bezel of the case, meaning that off-the-shelf replacements couldn't be swapped in without modification or a hacksaw.

So...did Compaq ever offer a computer conforming to industry form-factor standards in its history? Did they ever built and sell a box with a plain-jane XT/AT or ATX motherboard and power supply, plain XT/AT or ATX mounting holes, and plain drives with separate faceplates; even in their non-consumer-oriented offerings?
I think the closest I've seen a Compaq come to this is a machine made after the HP merger: the dx5150 minitower (probably doesn't count as vintage, since it can just about run Windows 10). It has standard ATX motherboard mounts, a standard power supply pinout and standard 3.5" and 5.25" drive bays (I know this because the other week one of the ones we've got at work blew its motherboard capacitors, and I was able to replace the board with an Intel D525MW).

Areas where it isn't quite standard: You can fit a normal floppy drive (or other 3.5" peripheral like a Zip drive or PCMCIA bay), but you end up with an ugly hole in the front panel and the drive recessed by about half a centimetre. Models supplied with the floppy had a special bezel to fill the gap. And the front panel LED/power button connector is all of a piece, so unless your replacement motherboard has the same pinout as the original it can't be used. Fortunately it's the same pinout that Intel use, so there are a lot of boards with it.
Interesting. The DX5150 minitower is a surprisingly-orthodox design, but it scarcely qualifies as a Compaq. (I don't even think the Compaq name appeared on the case, just HP.)
the newest Compaqs were pretty generic, but for vintage computing no, they were proprietary. Often need to have the reference disks, etc to get them running.

Compaq was huge in its day. The proprietary nature of its hardware and software will over time cause less of these machines to be supportable. It will thus seem like they were less pervasive than they actually were, causing some to think they were less important historically. Kind of a shame.
I've seen several HP/Compaq machines that used the same basic design of case: a 233MHz Deskpro, an Evo D510 CMT and an XW6000. (The Deskpro was white, the others black). Those are a bit less standard than the dx5150; the power supply has an ATX pinout but isn't quite the same size and the mounting holes are in different places, and instead of a 3.5" bay for the floppy drive there's a 1/3 height 5.25" bay.