First post, by echothedolphin
I recently got an Aptiva 2176-C55 off of ebay in an unknown state for a pretty good price. It's the same model as the first Windows PC we had when I was 10. I learned quite a bit on this old system, including my first foray into GPU and RAM upgrades, lots and lots of software troubleshooting, and networking. One of my younger brothers and I have toyed with the idea of trying to find an old working one over the years, but never really gave it serious consideration.
I 'discovered' the retro community about a year ago through the Necroware channel on youtube and he does some really inspiring work on old systems. While I don't have the existing skills or experience other than my 20-year old knowledge, I found this ebay listing to be pretty timely, and a low level of investment to get started.
While I work in a technical industry, I don't work with microelectronics. I have an academic understanding, but I haven't touched a solder station in years, and most of my electrical knowledge deals with load budgeting and carpentry tools. I also have limited space and time. Space is really the big factor. While I appreciate having lots of parts, my days of having space for multiple bins of spares is behind me and my carpentry work takes up the rest of it. While money isn't exactly a factor, I'm just trying to get a mid-range IBM consumer grade system working, and MAYBE playing Descent 1, Sim City 2000, Roller Coaster Tycoon, and MechWarrior2 on it one day. I'm happy to take it slowly, take my monthly budgeted fun money and save it for a couple months, and buy a part here and there if it's a good deal.
What I've done so far:
I've read the A-level service manual, spec sheet, and consumer-level manual several times, familiarized myself with the basic supported components, quirks of the M-Wave sound card/modem, actually found a type A-1 motherboard for sale with a slightly faster CPU and the hard-to-find VRM module (current system has an A-2 with no VRM module,) and identified the add-in video card (ATI Rage II+DVD 2MB), though it either doesn't work or was disabled.
I've also started it up and booted into BIOS, which surprised me given the external appearance. I did check the inside out for blown/bulging caps or obvious damage and it looked very clean considering it had been in storage for at least 10 years. I tried to boot into Win95, but got some errors. I would like to eventually try to recover data from it on a 939 system own, but this will be a project for much further down the road.
The bad thing I did:
I was super excited that it appeared to work, the PSU didn't explode, and I got as far as the win95 splash screen. I had purchased a Startech IDE to CF board and a 2GB CF module and figured I'd make a bootable DOS CF card and see if it worked. Now for some flavor text: I worked as an aviation crewman about 10 years ago and know the importance of check lists, and for certain things how important it is to follow the checklist even if you feel like it doesn't matter or you have it memorized already. Naturally, I didn't follow my checklist when I detached the old HDD and put the IDE/CF module in WITHOUT unplugging the PSU. When I powered the system up with the IDE/CF module in, it didn't POST and I had no beeps from the motherboard. I tried cycling a few times but got nothing. I then removed the module and replaced the HDD, once again without unplugging the system, and then powered it up to a beep code of 1-1-3. This beep code, according to the manual, indicates "CMOS READ/WRITE ERROR." My understanding is the system keeps the (+?)5v rail powered at all times, so I'm guessing the problem would be related to that. Total guess though.
I have not reset BIOS/CMOS or attempted to reflash. I don't know if it's technically possible as I've only ever reflashed modern boards that were 100% working.
What I'd like to ask is for what you would do if an Aptiva 2176 in (semi)working condition was set at your feet, you had a motherboard coming that likely worked, and the existing motherboard had that problem? I plan on disassembling and cleaning the system as is, repairing the broken plastic parts, removing corrosion from the case and re-bending a few of the bent brackets on the case itself. What would you personally do or how would you approach it?
I appreciate your advice and wisdom in advance!