Holy Grail: The Mac IIfx

Originally published 06 June 2000 as a Mac Daniel column for Low End Mac.
Revised slightly 31 July 2003.

Well, I finally picked up my Holy Grail of desktop Macs a couple months back — two Mac IIfxs, one with 32 MB of memory and one with none. Both had video cards and floppy drives. The two of them cost me $50 from a friend in Ann Arbor. I dropped a 400 MB hard drive, a SuperMac Spectrum 24 Series IV accelerated video card (a great card, by the way), and ethernet in the one with 32 MB, and "Stealth" is now happily running on my home network. I also picked up another IIfx at a university surplus auction recently for $3, this one with 20 MB of memory, ethernet, and a 250 MB hard drive. That one's sitting idle right now, but it will soon be put to use.

I really wrote this article about the third one, the one with no memory. When I got the third one from the university surplus auction (which I call "Lucky," because I got such a great deal on it), I immediately decided to see if the second one from Ann Arbor worked. (I'm calling it AA2 just for clarity.) I swapped everything off Lucky's motherboard and put it on AA2's, including the PRAM batteries. AA2 started right up but gave me a flashing question mark, and the hard drive sounded like it wasn't spinning up. At first I thought maybe the drive was bad, so I swapped everything back into Lucky and tried it. Lucky booted right up, so I knew something was wrong with AA2's motherboard. I tried some various drive and power cable combos, thinking maybe one of the cables or the hard drive had issues with that IIfx motherboard (knowing that the IIfx is subject to all sorts of strange SCSI voodoo).

Upon a closer inspection with the motherboard removed from the case and all the RF shielding removed, I noticed that capacitor C1 on the motherboard, a 47 microfarad, 16V capacitor (thanks to Steve Strahm for that information), was completely burned out. There was a substantial amount of sooty powder and other assorted debris on the motherboard in the immediate vicinity, which I blew off. I removed the remnants of the capacitor and set the motherboard aside. Some quick inquiries found that the capacitor would be in the neighborhood of $5 to replace with the trouble of tracking it down and shipping and all. With IIfx motherboards going so cheaply on eBay, coupled with the fact that I already have two working ones, I decided to turn the (only slightly) nonfunctional board into a wall hanging. I gave the case and power supply away, and for $53 I now have two very nice, fast IIfx boxes. Lucky and Stealth send their greetings to all you faithful readers!

copyright ©2000-2004 by Chris Lawson