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Thread: What goes wrong the most on vintage computers? (Aside from capacitors)

  1. #31
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Principality of Xeon W-2140B the Great State of Central New Jerky


    There may have been residual moisture. Maybe they weren't sealed properly. I have stored cast iron lathes the same way. I don't recall there being any corrosion at all - if memory serves me. Maybe I'll try it out this winter. If it's outdoors or in a very damp environment, it needs to be twist tied in a tight knot, which means you have to use.the biggest bags you can find. Zip.ties could be hazardous, as they could possibly tare the plastic, or not provide enough of a seal.

    Now mind you I didn't put the cream of the crop outside. I was just overloaded with stuff one year. I'd put a monitor outside before a cpu. And I think I had a bunch

  2. #32


    *Much* better than hot air is a simple desiccant. You can get desiccant bags fairly cheaply. Otherwise just when you get them with new products, just put them in a small sealed bag until you need them.

  3. #33
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Principality of Xeon W-2140B the Great State of Central New Jerky


    That's a good idea now that you mention it. But especially when storing away cast iron, drying it all up with hot air seems necessary. Do both.

    I have a cheapo heat gun from Harbor Freight. Less then 10$, hasn't failed me yet (ymmv). The thing gets hot! That metal nozzle thing gets omg hot. I had a makeshift cardboard shelter I put out for a stray cat last year that got soaked by rain. I set the heat gun by the opening, the plastic casing only leaning against the cardboard. In 10 minutes that whole box was bone dry.

    Some might think hot air would create a static hazard. As long as you don't go nuts it shouldn't be an issue.

    As a bean bag sized bag of dessicant is what I would use for something the size of a computer or monitor.
    Last edited by tipc; August 15th, 2019 at 11:44 AM.

  4. #34
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Connecticut, USA


    Quote Originally Posted by KC9UDX View Post
    *Much* better than hot air is a simple desiccant. You can get desiccant bags fairly cheaply. Otherwise just when you get them with new products, just put them in a small sealed bag until you need them.
    Its true that is a great item to use. I collect them all the time; they come in equipment containers, medication bottles, new furniture boxes, etc. I throw a bunch in my gun safe, weekend car, anything I seal. I have a brown paper lung bag full to the brim with them on my industrial rack. Cant really use them with computers unless I put them in some container.

  5. #35


    Here's mine. I've broken it into two categories as the faults are dependant on the circumstances.

    When dealing with a vintage 'find' which hasn't been powered up in a while:

    1 - Battery related damage (damage to PCB/IC's due to leakage).
    2 - Rodents urinating on IC's / boards. Corrodes better than battery leakage.
    3 - RAM faults, although these are usually easily fixed by replacement.
    4 - Line filter caps popping; just had one go last week.
    5 - HDD's / FDD's failed; although the FDD's can usually be fixed by cleaning.

    In terms of a known 'maintained' machine that gets used semi regularly:

    1 - PSU related failures; especially in old macs due to bad caps.
    2 - FDD's fail; usually because of dirty disks. Easily fixed by cleaning.
    3 - HDD's fail; although this is usually limited to a subset of drives which were known to be bad back in the day.
    4 - Fans get noisy; usually limited to the mid 90's rubbish quality fans in the 486/586/686 era.
    5 - Random 'reseating' of cards required; especially VLB ones.

    I find the following is exceedingly rare in my experience:

    1 - RAM faults with machines that are cared for / used semi regularly.
    2 - Tantalum caps 'popping'; although this is probably more just luck on my part. I've had a couple; but beyond that never had issues.
    3 - ROM failures; only had one fail in an Apple IIE.
    System 80 Expansion Interface located! Thanks to all who helped out and the good people in the NZ vintage computer forums!

  6. #36
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    NorthWest England (East Pondia)
    Blog Entries


    On of the most common issues is I find is rechargeable battery failure/leakage.

    Old hard drives fail in all sorts of ways. Head Crash,Capacitor failure, dried up lubrication....

    Looking for Analog Computers, Drum Plotters, and Graphics Terminals

  7. #37
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Augusta, Georgia, USA


    They get thrown in the landfill by owners that don't value them?

  8. #38


    Defective power supplies and related circuitry can sllow incorrect voltages (and forms of current) to damage IC's and other components. AC might not get filtered off a DC line, or a voltage regulator might not be keeping voltages within proper range.

    I used to see a lot of boards that had the UART or serial RX/TX chips knocked out by voltages coming in through the serial ports.

  9. #39


    On a ZX spectrum, you will find the issues with the capacitors, but not in the way you may expect as it is not necessary to replace all the capacitors on a computer because of one faulty one on the board. Sometimes replacing capacitors for the sake of it when they are not causing problems can lead to damage to the tracks (traces) on the board or the solder pads themselves especially if you are replacing surface mount components with a standard soldering iron as there is a good chance you will also overheat the capacitor which will cause problems further down the road.

    ULA's on these machines have a habit of going deaf - which means you will not be able to load software from cassette tape. These are not available as a spare part so you will have to source one from another machine.

    The memory is easily fried through over-voltage of the PSU, which can still be obtained so it is replaceable. But remember Sinclair used chips that were not up to specification (faulty) when he manufactured the machines to save money so it is almost inevitable they would fail at some point or other. Remember the Spectrum was never envisaged to last over 30 years.

    Corrosion is also a problem with some PCB's and cleaning with alcohol can usually restore this (not beer lol) .
    RF modulators can start to fail, but a composite modification is probably the best way forward with very little work or physical modification the the board itself.

    If the Z80 CPU fails which it has been known to happen from time to time, they are - believe it or not still available and can be replaced easily.

    Each micro has their own problems and if you have any questions about any other, Id be happy to help.

    Have a look at this for other ideas

    or this for some opinions on the best starter classic computer - but I am sure everyone has their own views on this one.

    Cheers Phil

  10. #40



    The ZX Specrtum can have a few other problems and these include ULA's that go deaf, - they break down inside the package and stop 'hearing' data tones which means you can not load data from cassettes.

    The PCb's also suffer from corrosion to the tracks or traces and can cause continuity problems. This can be cleaned with alcohol (not beer lol) .

    The memory can fail - partly because Sinclair used 'faulty' or not up to spec chips (same as Jack Tramiel) in the machines and they never envisaged them to last over 30 years.
    They are easy to find and can be replaced.

    The Z80 Cpu can also fail but they are still available new and can be replaced.

    RF modulators also fail, but a composite mod is probably the best bet on these machines.

    Every micro has their own issues and I would be happy to help (also UK)

    YOU could look at these videos for further info and ideas into what fails on vintage micro's.

    Keyboard and PSU woes

    The best starter classic micro




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