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Thread: How long will it last? Compaq Presario 425

  1. #1

    Question How long will it last? Compaq Presario 425

    I somewhat-recently acquired a Compaq Presario 425 all-in-one 486 machine, upgraded to a 486 DX-2 50 Overdrive and 8 MB of RAM. Nice retro PC.

    I really like it. The fact that it's an all-in-one monitor + computer (and even a modem and speakerphone - how about that! ) is special to me, and it can be easily moved, whereas with conventional towers you have to set up the monitor along with the PC, which, in my current under-desk plug situation, is simply impossible. Everything is nice and cozy on one plug.

    So yeah, obviously I would hate to lose it. I know Compaq built these things to last and it certainly shows. Many of these are still working beautifully today, and they don't have any notorious hardware issues, like leaking batteries (it's got a CR2032 socket).

    So my question here is, what are the chances of it surviving at least 3 to 5 more years? I don't use it too often and haven't because I just recently learned about the dreaded AC line filter capacitor, however these tend to fail more in late 70s to mid 80s, and I have never heard of an instance where any Compaq from the era my 425 is from releasing its magic smoke. Maybe I'm just neurotic, but I do love this computer too much (and my fear is strong enough) to let it go up in smoke. I mean, I can easily just replace the cap or just take it out entirely, but still. Think of me as the younger equivalent to uxwbill. It's a "smoke test!!!" pretty much every time I plug it in, even though it always comes to life gracefully and functions beautifully. Again, maybe it's just me, but should I be afraid of the filter capacitor, or does it have a good one (not RIFA) or even one at all?

    As for the monitor, well there is barely any dust inside which shows me that the owner must have taken good care of it, for the most part. I do believe it should last. It seems healthy in pretty much every way. Interestingly, it seems to have been made by Panasonic, as my flashlight revealed through the vents.

    And then the motherboard. Well, under good circumstances and considering I treat it well and dust it regularly, the only part that could really fail is the hard drive, but that's not super likely (it is in superb health) and it wouldn't be the end of the world as I already have everything backed up onto floppies. It also seems to have been replaced around 1995 or so, which helps. I'm not really worried about it.

    So like I said, my main concern of this computer surviving is the power supply, especially the filter capacitor if applicable. (If anyone has any photos or diagrams of the power supply board in the 425/433, please let me know!)

    All advice appreciated!

  2. #2
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    So my question here is, what are the chances of it surviving at least 3 to 5 more years?
    With typical maintenance and the light use you implied, I don't see why it wouldn't last at least another 20 years.
    = Excellent space heater

  3. #3

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    I wouldn't worry too much about mains filter caps. It's not directly age related. More that particular bits of equipment tend to be notorious for them failing (eg if you have an IBM 5154 monitor or a BBC Micro, they will inevitably go). A Compaq 425 has no such notoriety and it is unlikely to fail. Even if it did, it won't literally go up in smoke or be totalled as a result. You just need to replace it (or in many cases, just remove it) and it'll all be fine again (although be prepared to spend days getting the smell of smoke out of your house!).

    It should also be just old enough to escape the 'caps plague' of the late 90's/early 2000's which killed a lot of PCs from that era.

    The most likely part to fail is the hard drive, although even with that most of the drives that were destined to fail once outside of their planned service lives have already done so, the drives left running today are the 'toughies' that somehow were the right side of the engineering tolerances to have lasted. My oldest working hard drive is a 20MB MFM unit from 1986. It's useful services life was over in 1991. Yet in 2018 it's still working perfectly when 99% of such drives are dead or dying. If you've got a 1995 drive with no bad sectors that is still running it'll probably stay that way given light use, good storage and careful treatment. And if it did fail, I wouldn't worry too much anyway. Hard drive failure is more of a problem on pre-IDE equipment where your options to replace a failed drive are limited. When you can use a standard IDE drive, you've still got a good selection of reasonably priced working replacement drives available.

    And whilst personally I don't like putting solid state storage into old computers as I feel that the sound of the hard drive is part of the experience, if you did want to go that way it's dirt cheap and easy to do where you have an IDE controller because you can just use a cheap CF card and a cheap adaptor, both readily available.

    I think you're worrying too much. That thing has likely received two decades of appalling treatment before entering your loving hands. If it has survived that, it'll be fine now it's being treated with the respect that a vintage computer deserves

  4. #4

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    You never know. Nothing is guaranteed. Just enjoy it while it lasts.

  5. #5
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    Had this argument yesterday with a guy at work. He wants to go out and buy a new modern, energy saving, low water clothes washing machine. I urged him to just repair the pump on his old unit as the older they are the more reliable they are. He wouldn't have it.
    So he will enjoy a few years of mediocrity before total failure. My 1993 Kenmore will still be running just fine.

  6. #6

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    The more I think about it, the more sense it makes. I've never heard of any particular notorious issues with these things, and I've only ever heard of spectacular failures like that in either one of two machines. A BBC Micro or IBM 5154 monitor like you said, as well as the Trash 80 model 4, Apple IIGS - which all PCs from the 70s/80s era, or a more modern PC with a bad Chinesium power supply.

    Quote Originally Posted by cwathen View Post
    I think you're worrying too much. That thing has likely received two decades of appalling treatment before entering your loving hands.
    That's true - it seems to have been dropped at least once - of course these things are built considerably well so it only received a small crack in the plastic. But still,
    Thankfully though, it'll never see such drops around here. In fact, it's been in the same place right next to me in my office since it arrived

    About the hard drives - a good word of wisdom is to never move it unless you absolutely have to, especially in older machines like the IBM PC AT/XT series as well.
    If it ever does fail for some reason, I do have an extra 210 MB Conner hard drive laying around somewhere which I do believe works, just in case.


    Quote Originally Posted by NeXT
    With typical maintenance and the light use you implied, I don't see why it wouldn't last at least another 20 years.
    There are 30-something year old computers still going strong today. Why? Because they're in the hands of retro computing enthusiasts that take great care of them.
    We also can't forget that Compaq did not cheap out on these things. Panasonic monitor, Nidec fans and high-quality capacitors, not to mention the steel metal frame inside.


    Quote Originally Posted by PeterNC
    You never know. Nothing is guaranteed. Just enjoy it while it lasts.
    This can be said about anything, even the computer I'm typing this on, a modern (200 HP!

    Quote Originally Posted by VERAULT
    So he will enjoy a few years of mediocrity before total failure. My 1993 Kenmore will still be running just fine.
    My grandmother moved recently. At her old place, she had a 1996 Kenmore washer/dryer set, likely built by Maytag or another OEM. Aside from a small leak once, the washer/dryer pair never gave anyone crap and worked beautifully. To the best of my knowledge, the units are still there to this day, seeing use. Meanwhile, she now has a new Frigidaire washer/dryer set, from February 2017. It's already showing some problems. How sad is that?

    Also, about water saving, I say if it isn't spewing water all over the place, don't worry about water efficiency.

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