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Vitoarc's picture
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Joined: 2010 Aug 15
Growing old with your old Mac -- the power supply question

For those of us experiencing the joys of old Mac games being played on their native platform, I wonder how many like me have concluded that we are just living on borrowed time. It's fairly certain that at some point in the not too distant future our old power supplies are going to fail. What are we to do? I prefer certain games on the real thing, not just for nostalgia but because emulation/latency and flying games don't mix. So I'd like to keep my old machine running for many more years.

I've got some ideas, but I'd like to know if any of you have some plans. Do you have a spare power supply? How good of a backup will that be if/when the time comes, considering that PSU's wear out over time? Is it a viable alternative to find a licensed professional to replace the capacitors/cooling fan on the PSU when the time comes? [Never service a PSU yourself unless you're a pro; they can literally kill you if you don't know what you're doing]

Let's discuss this important topic, I'm sure there must be some reasonable solutions to this daunting dilemma.

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MikeTomTom's picture
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Joined: 2009 Dec 7

Many parts can fail on an old Mac, a PSU is just one of them...
For me, its "salvage & swap out as needed". After that comes "beg, steal or borrow" Laughing out loud

I look or the cheapest solution. An old Mac lying dusty in the corner of a thrift shop, car boot sales, swap meets and even discards on the curb. If its really important/urgent to me, I'll try and find it on eBay.

As for PSU fixes. No. I'll resort to finding a replacement as opposed to repair. Cost is the big factor and I have found that even buying a whole old Mac of the same model on eBay can be a lot cheaper than having a PSU repaired by a professional. Plus you get a whole bunch of other potential spare parts. The Mac you pick up may even have a better looking case for example.

The best Mac I ever owned in regard to PSU fixes was the Beige G3. These are just a straight swap with an ATX PSU from a similar vintaged or newer PC, very easy to find one of those in a junk shop Smile

Longevity? Keep a close eye on cooling fans. Clear dust out of the PSU and from inside of the case on a regular basis. Any loud noise or excessive vibrations coming from fans, replace.

Balrog's picture
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Joined: 2009 Apr 24

If it's the capacitors (and it usually is), I just disassemble and fix the PSU. I had a Duo Dock II which needed this fix.

bertyboy's picture
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Joined: 2009 Jun 14

Keep my old SE shrinkwrapped when not in use (in the cupboard), so when I say it's collecting dust, it's not really.

Some models had "marginal" PSU's, some were ultra-reliable. IIsi was a 35W effort, extremely green by todays standatds, but prone to fail. IIci was reliable.

amatecha's picture
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Joined: 2010 Mar 10

This is why I will keep my PowerComputing PowerTower Pro forever. It uses a lot of standard PC components, so it's easier to find a replacement PSU, and PSUs using those standard connections are still made even now. I would recommend that anyone that wants to have a working classic Mac forever buy a couple of PowerComputing machines because their components are a bit more "standardized". At least, particularly the power supply.

That said, for the most advanced of us, we could reverse engineer the "pinout" of the power supplies and map that out and re-build a new PSU as needed (or find an appropriate match). That would be the most advanced work, only required many decades from now.

Still, I would like to be able to boot up a classic Mac some 40+ years from now, so I know where you're coming from!

bertyboy's picture
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Joined: 2009 Jun 14

I've left my BNIB G4 Cube to my (1yo) daughter in my will.

She'll probably curse me in 40 years for leaving her with something that requires an ADC or VGA monitor.

Thundersock's picture
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Joined: 2010 May 20

Make best friends with people who have them.

Vitoarc's picture
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Joined: 2010 Aug 15

Google and eBay can be your good, fairly cheap friends as well. Wink

Euryale's picture
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Joined: 2009 Jul 22

I worry about that with the Power Supply of my Apple //c
I don´t know where Im gonna get another huge brick like that,
here in Cancun Mexico.

maybe a technician could rebuild it for me

but for now, still works after all these years!

Vitoarc's picture
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Joined: 2010 Aug 15

Generally speaking, the less you've expanded your Mac, the longer the PSU should last. But that is a very general statement and there's many other factors like heat, dust, cat dander, brown outs, dirty incoming A/C, etc. etc. etc. A technician should be able to fix the PSU without much difficulty and right now, for me, that looks like my plan. But that is subject to change depending on what I learn here. Smile

MikeTomTom's picture
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Joined: 2009 Dec 7

@Vitoarc says:

A technician should be able to fix the PSU without much difficulty...

For under $20? For example: See this MacShack ad link

Vitoarc's picture
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Joined: 2010 Aug 15

The thing is, when you have a technician recondition your PSU, and it's a 112 Watt output like for the 7100 PSU, you can pretty much be assured that you're going be close to the original output when it's done. Buying a used PSU like the $20 deal is a crap shoot; it may only be putting out 75 Watts at this point (which may be plenty if you don't have the NuBus and other expansion slots filled).

Of course it wouldn't hurt having 2 PSU's, and using the spare if/when the other needs reconditioned. I've considered getting another PSU for this very reason. To hang on to for a "rainy day". Oh, and I found one the other day for $30. Looks like you sourced one cheaper. Smile

MikeTomTom's picture
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Joined: 2009 Dec 7

@Vitoarc:

Oh, and I found one the other day for $30. Looks like you sourced one cheaper. Smile

Keep Looking... Here; you can get three for $30". Was looking for something else and stumbled on "Jeff's Junkyard" Laughing out loud

MikeTomTom's picture
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Joined: 2009 Dec 7

@Mike mused:

...stumbled on "Jeff's Junkyard"...

Oh dear and then I noticed the "last updated in 2001" Sad
You have to check this place out tho' especially his 68k parts pages. Nubus video and network cards $5 - $10 SE/30 Power Supply/Analog Board's $10 - Loads of cool stuff. I wonder if he's still in business and ships to other countries?

Balrog's picture
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Joined: 2009 Apr 24

it's easy when you have enough experience to do the work of a technician (I do). Unfortunately most people don't.

I still have to obtain capacitors and fix my two SE/30 logic boards ... sigh

soudesune's picture
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Joined: 2009 Dec 19

Another thing that is worth keeping an eye out for is unsold new stock. You'd be surprised how many resellers still have 20-year old boxes down in their inventory room. I've come across a few shops online in my quest to upgrade my macs. I have good experiences with Data Memory Systems [1] (in the States) and with Shark Systems [2] (in Canada). eBay is also good.

[1] http://www.datamemorysystems.com/CLEARANCE_ITEMS/D_280
[2] http://www.sharksystems.com

Vitoarc's picture
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Joined: 2010 Aug 15

Great tip! Thanks soudesune! Smile