VOGONS


First post, by Kahenraz

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I was given an S3 Virge/GX that had been sitting in a box of random parts for several years. It was very dirty and covered in dust and grime. Despite multiple attempts to get it working and several reseats, it was confirmed dead.

I first tried to attack the problem by going after all of the low hanging fruit. This included a thorough cleaning in the sink, resetting the BIOS chip, and applying DeoxIT to the pins. The card was still dead.

The next and easiest choice would have been to try and replace the capacitors, but I've noticed that a common failure mode for cards of this age with large quad flat pack chips is for a defect to appear as a cracked solder joint on one of the legs. A very close inspection under a microscope revealed nothing out of the ordinary, although the break can still be impossible to see.

I applied a gratuitous amount of flux and cleaned off all of the legs before applying fresh solder. I then inspected the area several times for bridges and found some, cleaned the area with isopropyl alcohol and found some more, carefully cleaned and inspected the legs once again with a fine brush and found one more.

On the first boot, the card sprung to life. Another card saved.

Unfortunately, I didn't take any photos of this repair. So you'll have to use your imagination.

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Reply 1 of 10, by Tetrium

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Kahenraz wrote on 2022-05-05, 06:09:
I was given an S3 Virge/GX that had been sitting in a box of random parts for several years. It was very dirty and covered in du […]
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I was given an S3 Virge/GX that had been sitting in a box of random parts for several years. It was very dirty and covered in dust and grime. Despite multiple attempts to get it working and several reseats, it was confirmed dead.

I first tried to attack the problem by going after all of the low hanging fruit. This included a thorough cleaning in the sink, resetting the BIOS chip, and applying DeoxIT to the pins. The card was still dead.

The next and easiest choice would have been to try and replace the capacitors, but I've noticed that a common failure mode for cards of this age with large quad flat pack chips is for a defect to appear as a cracked solder joint on one of the legs. A very close inspection under a microscope revealed nothing out of the ordinary, although the break can still be impossible to see.

I applied a gratuitous amount of flux and cleaned off all of the legs before applying fresh solder. I then inspected the area several times for bridges and found some, cleaned the area with isopropyl alcohol and found some more, carefully cleaned and inspected the legs once again with a fine brush and found one more.

On the first boot, the card sprung to life. Another card saved.

Unfortunately, I didn't take any photos of this repair. So you'll have to use your imagination.

20220505_015711_resize_28.jpg

Nicely done! 😀

What did the microscope cost you btw?

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Reply 2 of 10, by Kahenraz

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I can't remember exactly, as it was several years ago. But I got it for a song; something under $250. Maybe $200 or even $150.

It's an Amscope and it's probably worth between $500-600 brand new. Many of the repairs I can do now would otherwise be impossible without a proper microscope.

Reply 4 of 10, by Kahenraz

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I don't have many early 90s PCI video cards, so it's a useful addition to my collection. I also wanted to see if the failure was the quad flat pack, as I imagined, which is why I worked in that next, rather than replacing the capacitors.

This gives me another good point of reference that this is not an uncommon point of failure. Keep this in mind if you ever have a Voodoo 1 or 2 die on you. This might be the problem.

Unfortunately, I do NOT recommend attempting this kind of repair without a microscope. You're guaranteed to end up with solder bridges between the legs and many of them already extremely difficult to spot, which is why I inspected, cleaned, inspected, double-checked, and inspected again. I've done this enough times to know not to trust a single inspection and to look over it multiple times from several different angles.

Reply 5 of 10, by Tetrium

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Kahenraz wrote on 2022-05-05, 14:52:

I don't have many early 90s PCI video cards, so it's a useful addition to my collection. I also wanted to see if the failure was the quad flat pack, as I imagined, which is why I worked in that next, rather than replacing the capacitors.

This gives me another good point of reference that this is not an uncommon point of failure. Keep this in mind if you ever have a Voodoo 1 or 2 die on you. This might be the problem.

Unfortunately, I do NOT recommend attempting this kind of repair without a microscope. You're guaranteed to end up with solder bridges between the legs and many of them already extremely difficult to spot, which is why I inspected, cleaned, inspected, double-checked, and inspected again. I've done this enough times to know not to trust a single inspection and to look over it multiple times from several different angles.

I assume you only do the checking itself using the microscope or do you actually use the microscope while doing the repairs? I presume the former?
Dang, I want one now 🤣

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My retro rigs (old topic)
Interesting Vogons threads (links to Vogonswiki)
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Reply 6 of 10, by Kahenraz

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I guess you haven't seen any of my other repair threads? Here is a picture of my microscope. A binocular microscope like this is often used for circuit board repair and inspection. Soldering under a microscope is very common and absolutely necessary for certain kinds of repair, especially with surface mount components.

You can find more photos of my repairs by searching for my name on the forum, often with keywords "repair" or "triage".

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Last edited by Kahenraz on 2022-05-05, 17:32. Edited 3 times in total.

Reply 7 of 10, by Kahenraz

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Some more photos from past repairs.

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Reply 8 of 10, by Tetrium

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I think I have seen it before.
I want this skill in my inventory before I perish xD

Whats missing in your collections?
My retro rigs (old topic)
Interesting Vogons threads (links to Vogonswiki)
Report spammers here!

Reply 10 of 10, by pentiumspeed

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This microscope is similar to what I use at work for device repair. Comes with the 1 tonne base. 😀

Cheers,

Great Northern aka Canada.