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I have acquired a nice MS-DOS PC from EET Computer (I couldn't find any information about them).

It actually works, but I have two errors on boot:

  • Floppy disk drive controller failure;
  • CMOS Battery is low.

The motherboard itself is in good shape aside from the side with the VLB and ISA ports (I/Os) which has bluish-green corrosion that spreads across the motherboard and the ISA and VLB ports.

The corrosion also seems to be removing the thin green protective layer of the motherboard that prevents unwanted contacts.

Here we can see the corroded ISA slots, PCB and the CMOS battery Here we can see the corroded ISA slots, PCB and the CMOS battery]

The VGA VLB and Floppy disk drive controller cards also have corrosion on their connectors.

Corroded ISA card connector

The battery also seems to be rusting, it's completly stuck to its connectors. I have to replace it to avoid it leaking on the motherboard.

This is what is written on the CMOS battery:

VARTA | Ni/Cd | 3/V 60R | 3.6V 60mAh | 14h 6mA | 100+

How can I remove the corrosion and stop it from spreading? And how can I replace the CMOS battery, should I go for a coin cell battery?

  • Could you provide a photograph of the board? Close-ups of corroded components would help too. (Don't worry about the size of images in the question; if necessary I'll edit using the built-in thumbnail feature). – wizzwizz4 Jan 29 '17 at 21:06
  • In order to work out what battery to replace yours with, we'll need some close-ups of the battery. If there's lots of corrosion over the top, take a few photos during the process of cleaning, in case you remove some rusted writing and important markings. – wizzwizz4 Jan 29 '17 at 22:32
  • @wizzwizz4 I'll take photos and insert them in my question. – user2109 Jan 30 '17 at 4:38
  • @wizzwizz4 I have added photos and the CMOS battery specification to my question. Also, the CMOS battery is completly stuck. – user2109 Jan 30 '17 at 8:59
  • VLB puts this board squarely in the 80486 era, which might be reasonable for an ISA/VLB possibly EISA board, but the FDC living on the graphics card or even just having an off-board FDC frankly sounds just... weird. – a CVn Jan 30 '17 at 10:56
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Disclaimer: This answer is not known to be accurate.


From the information you've provided so far it's tricky to give complete advice, but here's a start:

Removing corrosion

The low CMOS battery error might be caused by battery leakage; from what I've seen of leaky batteries, they do appear rusty. This can cause significant damage to components. To neutralise the battery acid (which is actually alkeline), pour vinegar on the affected areas and leave it to soak for ten to fifteen minutes.[1]

To remove rust and corrosion, use isopropyl alcohol and something soft (e.g. cotton bud, toothbrush, other soft brush).[1][2][3][4] It can be more effective to soak the board, but you must ensure that the alcohol does not enter any speakers or other sensitive components.[2] It's possible that there could still be dissolved or loose residue on the board after cleaning; distilled water can be used to remove this (either by soaking the board in it or by pouring the water onto the board).[2]

Replacing the battery

From your description of the battery, it is a standard 3.6V rechargeable Ni/Cd battery.[3] For these instructions, I'm assuming that it looks something like this:

A leaky Ni/Cd battery

This is tricky to replace. The first step is to remove the battery. This can sometimes be done with side cutters,[3] but you can also de-solder the battery if this is too hard.[3][4] If there's glue still attaching the battery to the motherboard, gently rock the battery from side to side until it becomes loose.[4] Once the battery has been removed, you might want to clean the area some more so that the new battery isn't damaged by remaining leakage. Assuming that your board doesn't have a replacement battery slot, you can solder two wires to the gaps and connect them to a replacement NiCd battery that remains external to the board, so that the board won't be damaged when it leaks again.[3] As Richard Downer's answer says, ensure that you don't wire a non-rechargeable battery in such a way that it charges. It's probably best to go with a rechargeable instead, just in case.

Replacing capacitors

Your floppy drive controller might be failing because the capacitors have failed. This is bad, not only because they require replacement but because they leak a corrosive substance that can damage the board.[5] To replace them, you need to de-solder them from the board. First, check whether they're actually bad. You can do this by testing the components, but it is sometimes easier to check visually (though not all capacitors fail visibly![8]). See if you can spot the failed capacitors in this image:

Spot the difference: Three failed capacitors (lower right) and three not failed capacitors (upper left)

After you've identified the faulty capacitors, you need some replacements. Find, buy, borrow, salvage or otherwise get your hands on some capacitors that have the same "stats" as on the existing ones. It's best to get a capacitor with the same capacitance and at least the same voltage,[7] but a higher capacitance also may work for many capacitors on a mainboard. A higher voltage rating is no problem, but don't go for less or it may explode![11]

On to de-soldering! There are a few ways to go about doing this; the one that I've found easiest (with other components) is melting the solder on one leg, pulling it out as far as it will go without breaking, then repeating on the other pin, alternating pins until it comes out. You might see some gunk near or underneath the capacitors; this can probably be cleaned off using the same method as outlined in the above "Removing corrosion" section, sans vinegar (I'm not sure whether this would neutralise the electrolyte or make it worse). If this doesn't work, gently scrape it off the board, taking care not to damage everything further.[7]

Often, solder will remain in the holes that you took the old capacitors from.[6][7] This can make it hard to push the new capacitors in without damaging them (don't try). There are a few different methods to remove the solder; they are listed here in one recommended order:[6]

  1. Melt the solder (adding a bit of new solder in the process if neccesary[10]) then suck it off the board with a solder sucker.[6][10] Do not do this more than twice; you risk damaging the board[10] (which is surprisingly easy to do in my experience).
  2. Place a de-soldering wick over the hole, put the soldering iron on top, and watch as the solder disappears.[6] This has the disadvantage of applying lots of heat for a prolonged period of time, so it's best not to use this if there are any components nearby.[6]
  3. Find a steel[6] / stainless steel[10] pin at least the size of the capacitor legs. Either heat the bottom of the pin whilst pushing it through[6] or melt the solder before pushing the pin through the hole.[10] You can twist the pin as the solder sets if you like,[6] but this should work without doing so. After the solder is hard, twist and pull the pin out of the hole, then brush away any remaining solder to leave an open hole.[6][10]

If the capacitor legs still refuse to go in for whatever reason (solder attached to the legs, the legs being too big, etc.) you can clean them with sandpaper so that they fit.[7]

When replacing the capacitors, make sure that they go the right way round, otherwise Bad Things™ may happen.[7][8] With any luck, your board will look like this:

A big circle on the board, with a line through the middle. One side is marked with diagonal lines, and the other has a + sign.

Usually, the negative side has dashed lines and the positive side is marked with a +.[6][9] However, there are some non-standard manufacturers who put the dashed lines on the positive side,[9] so make sure to check which side is which. Once you've identified this, put the capacitors into the holes the right way around. Capacitors are often marked with negative signs on the negative side[6][9] and the positive leg may be slightly longer.[6] After they are in the holes, trim the legs with side-cutters[9] so that they stick about 2mm out of the board,[6] then solder. If you solder then cut unnecessary stress may be put on the board,[6] but this is probably not enough to cause significant damage.

It is recommended to remove all capacitors of each type before replacing them.[6][10] It is also recommended to remove all capacitors of each type if one has failed, because they're probably from the same batch. It is also recommended not to do this unless you really know what you're doing.[6][9][10]

  • 1
    OP has edited the question to state that the battery is marked NiCd. You may want to adjust your answer in response to that edit. – a CVn Jan 30 '17 at 11:01
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    OP will also likely have to check for leaking capacitors, as boards of this age are failing from this problem too. The cleanup process is much the same as for battery leakage – scruss Feb 2 '17 at 19:53
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    so long as the voltage is the same and the new capacitance is at least the old capacitance it's probably OK ...my EE background says nope. On capacitors, the voltage rating is the maximum voltage. So, the voltage rating of the replacement has to be at least as high as the original or may be way higher. OTOH, whether you can use a capacitor with a higher capacitance as replacement depends on the circuit it is in! Most electrolyte capacitors on a mainboard are used to smooth a signal (then you can use a higher capacitance), but for timing-related circuits, the right capacitance is crucial. – orithena Jun 27 '18 at 13:24
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    I was only referring to capacitors, batteries are a whole different chemical story. Capacitors take on the voltage they are given -- they charge and discharge fast. The max voltage is just the voltage where they just do not explode yet. They stop taking on energy when they're full. Rechargeable batteries charge slowly and discharge slowly, but can store a whole lot more energy than capacitors. They need a dedicated circuit to prevent overcharge (i.e. damaging the battery), which needs to be calibrated to the chemical type of battery. The chemicals involved also determine the max voltage. – orithena Jun 28 '18 at 11:23
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    @wizzwizz4 I've got another proposal for that corrected sentence: "It's best to get a capacitor with the same capacitance and at least the same voltage, but a higher capacitance also may work for many capacitors on a mainboard. A higher voltage rating is no problem, but don't go for less!" – orithena Jun 28 '18 at 11:32
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wizzwizz4 has a good answer about cleaning up the corrosive chemicals to stop the damage getting any worse, so I won't duplicate that information. But here are a few more suggestions. My experience is with the Amiga computers, where the retro computer enthusiasts speak of Varta with howls of anguish - the damage you have seen here has affected thousands of vintage Amigas in the same way. Hopefully much of the advice would apply to your mainboard too.

The good news is that the damage is often repairable. Components such as the sockets can often be desoldered and replaced. The chemicals may have corroded some traces to the point that they are broken, but patch wires can often be used to bypass the damaged area and restore connectivity. This is a specialist skill so you may need to find an expert in vintage computer repair to do this work for you.

It is probably possible to replace the NiCd battery with a coin cell (CR2032 or similar). However you must place a diode in series with the new battery - otherwise the charging circuitry will try and charge up the non-rechargeable battery. Ready-made coin cell adapters with the same footprint as the rechargeable battery and the necessary protective diode can be bought for Amigas (example), and it's likely they would work just as well on your PC mainboard.

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    Thanks for this answer; the point about rechargeable vs. non-rechargeable is very important to prevent dangerous malfunctions. – wizzwizz4 Jan 31 '17 at 23:43
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The fluid leaking from the battery has likely spread out across the board in a general radius away from the battery. In photo 1 you can see the exposed copper trace above the slots is corroded at least 10cm to the left of the battery.

The controller card itself shows damage to the full length of the edge connector, so likely all the adjacent unused slot sockets in at least a 10cm radius from the battery have been similarly damaged.

You will need to desolder and replace all of the slot connectors, which is exceptionally tricky due to the high pin count on the bottom of each. If any one pin is still attached even partially, you will not be able to budge the damaged slot connector. Though since it is damaged already, you might be able to crush the plastic card-edge connectors and remove the old soldered pins in segments.

The integrated circuits near the main power connectors may be hiding damaged board traces underneath them, so you are also going to need to desolder these to inspect what is below them.

Chips do not tolerate heat very well so there is high risk of damaging them during the desoldering and resoldering process. There are clamp-on heatsink tools available that grab onto the pins to dissipate heat before it enters the chip casing and damages the silicon. This tool is very inexpensive but must be moved to the next pin so the board must be repeatedly flipped over during desoldering.

A random Google search result: https://www.circuitspecialists.com/ht-156.html

A metal document binder squeeze clip, also called a bulldog clip can also work as a ganged pin chip heatsink for soldering and desoldering.

If you are going to go through all this work, it is reasonable to consider installing chip sockets where direct-soldered chips are removed. Though desoldered chips may not plug easily into new sockets due to solder residue on the pins, making them irregularly shaped.

  • Salvaging an undamaged slot connector from a donor board will be a little trickier , since you can obviously not just destroy it and remove pins one at a time. Hint: heat gun. Mind that plastic connectors, though, are usually MORE heat-intolerant than chips even... – rackandboneman Nov 2 '17 at 12:32

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