First post, by FAMICOMASTER
I return again to ask for some help with two vintage machines I am restoring, both HP Vectras, one a VE Series 3 5/120 (D4065A) and the other an XM Series 4 5/150 (D3978A).
Here are both machines:
The VE used to be my favorite vintage PC by far, just from the looks of it. It was a recycling yard rescue, and ever since I bought it back in 2017 it has been plagued by intermittent motherboard problems.
The machine has developed a disturbing personality over the years with various symptoms ranging from "I won't boot with a clock battery installed," to "I don't recognize optical drives," to "My diskette drive doesn't work even if it tests fine on other machines," and most shockingly "PCI Bus error with no devices installed on the bus."
The motherboard can be removed from the case, no devices connected and all BIOS devices disabled and it will still complain of PCI bus errors.
First time around I didn't really care and threw the motherboard and it's riser through a dishwasher cycle which made it happy for a few months. It then decided it had had enough and would not reboot if shut down. Perfectly stable in 98SE if you let it run for weeks at a time! But restart once and it no longer boots. Sometimes it would work after being left unplugged for several hours without it's clock battery to erase the CMOS.
After a while I finally tracked down a BIOS update and tried numerous times to install it with varying degrees of success, usually resulting in a red flashing "FLASH ERROR REBOOT WITH CRISIS DISKETTE."
One day it just... Worked. Update installed successfully. No rhyme or reason. The machine worked perfectly for another year before throwing a fit again and acting like it had no hard disk.
I parted the machine out and tossed it into storage for a while, but now that I've moved house I tried to get it going again.
To make a long story short: It's still acting up.
About a week ago, I was walking through my local electronics recycler and found another Vectra of the same case design! It's an XM Series 4 5/150.
This thing was no joke in it's day, I found it with 96MB of RAM, a 1.2GB Quantum hard disk (Bearings completely shot and click of death), the integrated network card, the optional 2MB VRAM upgrade, an Adaptec SCSI card and a 4.3GB Seagate Barracuda drive attached to it (Works). It had a CR-ROM drive as well.
It did include one rather interesting piece of hardware that immediately caught my eye: an HP IB interface board.
On the underside of the machine reads the following label:
Yep, this was a Unix workstation that ran a chemical spectrometer! No wonder it had been so souped up!
This machine, despite it's awful appearance, does work almost flawlessly. It had a bad power supply at first but swapping the VE's in (with some careful sawing of the fan shroud) made it happy.
However, it will randomly decide "I don't have an optical drive anymore."
The drive I'm using is an HP CR-RW drive which I know is good. Some boots the XM will act like it's not there. It will work indefinitely if left on. This is fixed by leaving the computer unplugged without a clock battery to clear the CMOS settings. Sound familiar?
Does anyone have any ideas on why this might be causing these problems for these machines?
I am also trying to track down a BIOS update for the XM. All I have been able to find are updates for the series 3, but I have a series 4.
If anyone has any information on where I could find a VRM module for the XM as well that would be great, I would love to upgrade it to an MMX or maybe even a K6-2!