May 062010

My thifty ebay Mac SE purchased arrived recently and I finally found time to unpack it and power it up. I knew from the original auction description that it had an issue of booting to a flashing question mark. I figured that in the best case scenario I’d just have to reinstall the System software on it.

I wasn’t that lucky, unfortunately. When I power it on it sounds like the internal HD is stuck in a constant effort to read the drive and not finding any success. I will post a sound file so you can hear it. After reading the troubleshooting information at Chris Adams’ SE Support pages it fits the description of  drive “stiction” – a term I remember knowing many years ago.

The good news, however, is that the floppy drive works fine and I was able to boot the machine from an old 800k Norton Utilities Emergency Disk and from an older Apple Disk Tools floppy. Neither HDSC Setup, Disk First Aid, or Norton Disk Doctor were able to see or mount the internal HD, although the drive activity indicator on the front of the SE flashes.

So it looks like step 1 will be to replace the internal SCSI hard drive. Step 2 is going to be upgrading the RAM. I have not yet confirmed, but suspect that the RAM is only 1 MB since when I tried to boot from a System 7.5 Disk Tools floppy I got a dialog box that simply said “System 7.5 needs more memory” with no other option but to shut down.

I consulted the Adding RAM section of Chris’ SE Support site and after skimming the instructions discovered that it’s not just a matter of replacing four 256MB SIMMs with four 1 MB modules in the RAM slots. You also have to clip a resistor so that computer knows about the change in memory configuration.  That should make things more interesting!

Jan 052009

Inside the Macintosh Classic

I recently received a Macintosh Classic and Classic II from a fellow in San Antonio. While both were working before they were shipped the Classic II will not boot properly; there’s no startup chime and there are vertical stripes on the display.

To diagnose this symptom and plan a fix I found the following resources helpful:

I plan to replace the “power/sweep board” and have one on order that I found on ebay. With luck that will resolve the problem and the Classic II will be healthy again! I’ll keep you posted.

Nov 142008

The original Quantum 80 MB hard disk drive in the Color Classic web server finally called it quits after 15 years of service and as a result the site was offline while a replacement was located and installed. Since a hard drive replacement involves removing the rear case and exposing the high voltage CRT anode I relied on my skilled colleague Lowell who kindly devoted far more time than either of us expected to this task.

Locating a SCSI drive is not a quick and simple task anymore, but a donor Apple-labeled 160 MB Quantum drive was finally installed, formatted, and restored successfully. During the process Lowell put in a replacement battery and used canned air to remove plenty of dust that had settled inside over the years. Freshened and ready for action, the server was brought back online this afternoon and pointers set back to normal for the domain.

We encountered some interesting challenges in formatting the new drive and restoring the software which I will write about shortly. Needless to say when you don’t use troubleshooting skills for legacy machines you forget them completely. Thank goodness for the internet where you can search and find answers from others who have taken the time to document the unique aspects of working on a Color Classic in the 21st century!