A new old computer - how to restore, discover and diagnose a unknown machine

Because this page has grown too much, I decided to split it into chapters. But it doesn't mean that you have to read them one after the other. Just use the chapter you need when restoring a computer.

    This text is about restoring an old computer to its working state. If the computer is not known, it discusses discovering its basic components and its principle of operation. Also there are information about typical problems with different components of old computers as well as procedures to restore such components.
By the old computer I understand the machines manufactured in 1980s and early 1990s. This text is not about mainframe computers (in which different diagnostic methods are used) or modern PCs manufactured since mid-90s.
This text is in no way exhaustive and it shows only simple workflows when restoring asn old computer. For specific machines, specific instructions in manuals or websites will apply.

  1. Computer inspection and cleaning
  2. Power supply unit
  3. Fans and cooling
  4. Mainboard, discovery of a system
  5. Video output
  6. Keyboards [Update: Repairing]
  7. Mice
  8. Joysticks
  9. Monitors
  10. Tape recorders and tapes
  11. Floppy drives
  12. Other devices
  13. Mainboard
  14. What next?


Other FAQs on my site:
 - Apple computers
 - Media: Tapes, magnetic and optical discs
 - PCs


Additional resources on the web (not computer-specific):
 - Usenet FAQs - source of information on many topics, look for e.g. "Commodore" or "8-bit".
 - Old-computers.com - a source for basic information about many 8-bit computers.
 - TOSEC in Internet Archive - if you need old software.
 - Computer Magazines in Internet Archive - sometimes a good source of knowledge not only for restoration, but also for historical research.
 - [POLISH] Jerzy Sobola's page - about discovering of unknown computer.
 - A PC Motherboard Study guide for discovering abilities of unknown (usually AT or ATX) PC.
 - [PDF] Preserving Computing's Past - an article about preserving mainframe computers, from ca. 1996. Much emulation information is not up to date, but restoration methods are still the same.


Table of contents

Chapter 1: Computer inspection

MCbx, 2016 [Last Update: 2019-12-07],

Back to home pagehacks
Back to hacks