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I have an old IBM PS/2 30/286, now sitting for a while on one of my desks.

I'm a bit afraid that it will stop working sooner or later, so what's the best way to keep it 'alive' ?

I fire it up every now and then, to make sure it's still running. First I do when it starts, is to check if the fan is running, then I start a program, windows' minesweeper, or Civ I, to see if all is fine.

What else can I do?

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    One common problem with very old kit is electrolytic capacitors drying out and then exploding when powered up — or simply failing to work properly.  So one bit of preventative maintenance is replacing all the electrolytics.  (Power supplies often use them.)  However, that's not easy if you lack the tools, parts, or experience.
    – gidds
    Jan 12 at 21:06
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    I wouldn't go as far as replacing electrolytics without the need, but I'd check regularly (every couple of years or so) for bulging / leaking electrolytics, dead or leaking batteries, cracked Rifas (power line filter caps), excessive power supply ripple, and such. Jan 13 at 11:13
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    There may be a battery powering the motherboard's real-time clock (RTC) and non-volatile RAM (nvram) chip when power is off. If the battery runs down, the computer can lose track of the date/time and also some of the BIOS configuration settings stored in the nvram. I.e., settings like the configuration of the hard disk drive, preventing the computer from booting up.
    – Sotto Voce
    Jan 13 at 21:44
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    Yeah. In fact, depending on the kind of battery, it may be a much worse leakage and corrosion hazard than any capacitors. I don't know what the IBM PS/2 30/286 used, but the Varta-branded NiMH batteries used by a ton of clone manufacturers around that era are infamous as motherboard-killers among retro hobbyists and replacing them with something more trustworthy is one of the first things you see people with experience working on motherboards doing.
    – ssokolow
    Jan 13 at 23:09
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    The old IBMs (specifically, XTs and PS/2s) were built like tanks, so the likelihood of it randomly dying on you is minimal. The motor on an old hard drive can get stuck sometimes and might need a gentle "knock" to free it. The floppy disks seem very resilient provided they're stored sensibly. Jan 30 at 18:13

1 Answer 1

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Maintenance (preventive and corrective) is the key.

The computer won't fail completely likely (unless a PSU failure burns the whole thing), so you will have to fix some single components over the time. I have a huge collection of 8-bit computers (some of them many years older than a PS/2 PC) and all are in working order.

Just follow these steps to improve chances of a long live for your beloved computer:

  • USE IT. As you already mention, it's very important that the computer has some activity. It's ok to power it up once per week.
  • Keep it clean, especially fans and any other mechanical part.
  • Consider getting a Flashfloppy or HxC drive to replace the floppy drive. It will fail sooner or later.
  • If you don't want to replace the floppy drive with a modern device, most floppy drive failures come from a rotten belt. Get a bunch of belts from Amazon or Aliexpress (they are cheap and come in different sizes and thinkness).
  • The hard drive in PS/2 models used to be ESDI (not even IDE). You'll be in trouble if the hard drive fails. Just in case, try to get a replacement now, even if the original drive still works. It'll end up failing.
  • Do a recap of the PSU and the main PCB. Electrolytic capacitors tend to fail over the time. Capacitors are cheap and easy to replace with a regular solder iron.
  • Get replacements for all the available parts now, before they become harder to be found

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