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Mac SE Restoration Project -- seeking advice!

RedJacketPress

Well-known member
A functional Mac SE (FDHD) was passed along to me, and this has set me along the winding path of a restoration project that I’ve had in mind to try for some time.

I’ve replaced a few faulty RAM modules to get it properly working again, and I’ve also disassembled and cleaned the Floppy Drive and replaced a broken eject gear. The battery had not leaked, but it has been removed for the time being.

I had the very good fortune to purchase a Raspberry Pi and set up RaSCSI – eventually, that will all be mounted inside the case.

Current plans call for disassembly, cleaning and retrobrighting the case (I’ve had success with this before with other projects), and I’ve been thinking, at that time, I might also replace the capacitors. My understanding is that the Mac SE is much less prone to damage from leaking capacitors -- but still, they’re what – 30 years old at this point? My soldering skills are basic, at best, but I’m good at following explicit instructions, and this seems like a task I should be able to handle.

Initially, my thinking was I’d try to do everything all at once – replace all the caps while the Mac has been disassembled for cleaning – but I don’t want to get myself in for more than I’m prepared (or have the spare time for).

I’ve been wondering – how might I prioritize this project, in terms of what maintenance is likely to be more important in the short term? Should I work on the Analog Board first, as removing that is much more complicated? Or are the components on the Logic Board more prone to failure?

I’m interested in advice and guidance from others who have been down this path!
 

joshc

Well-known member
The SE is, in my opinion, the most robust of the compact Macs.

Assuming the machine is fully working at the moment, there's no pressing need to do anything, as it is a very repairable machine. The capacitors in the SE don't leak badly at all, they are higher quality than what was used in later Macs. I've never seen an SE analog board or logic board with visibly leaking capacitors. The SE/30 logic board is a different story as it used cheap surface mount electrolytic capacitors.

So really, my advice right now would be to leave it alone until you start to see problems. You may still wish to recap the analog board, clean the fan or replace the fan with a quieter alternative. The other common problem area on these is the solder joints on the analog board can become dry/cracked/weak caused by heat and temperature changes over time - dry solder joints on the yoke connector joints will cause an intermittent picture/wobbling/no picture. I desoldered and resoldered the yoke conncetor on all my SE/30 analog boards, just as a preventative measure.

The other problematic area is the power supply, which is a separate unit plugged into the analog board. The power supply, be it Sony or Astec, sees a lot of strain, especially with a loaded/upgraded SE, and you can either recap it or do an ATX PSU conversion (putting a PC ATX power supply into the original SE PSU enclosure and matching the wires up as the SE does not use the ATX pin out). Again, if voltages are strong/stable at the moment, then there's no pressing need to do anything with it. I've chosen to convert two of my SE/30s as a preventative measure, but also because they are full of expansion card, memory and drive upgrades.

That's just my take. So there's no harm in replacing capacitors, but if you're not trying to solve a particular problem, it may be unecessary. What you can also do is remove capacitors and measure them with a component tester (or similar device) that tells you the capacitance and voltage loss of a capacitor. If it's still within the manufacturer's tolerance, then it should still do its job. I've removed a lot of old capacitors from machines, but when tested they are actually OK. That's not always the case, and my advice would be completely different if you were dealing with a Macintosh Classic, which used very cheap leaky capacitors on its analog board and logic board.
 
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RedJacketPress

Well-known member
I was thinking that doing this work -- slow and steady -- on an already-working Mac (even if it's not necessary, strictly speaking) might be good to gain experience and confidence for more complicated projects. I'm hoping to find an older compact Mac, but I don't expect I'll be able to find one that won't require some repair.

Appreciate the advice!
 
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