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When did "re-capping" become a thing?

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Every other preservation topic on here seems to talk about re-capping old boards. I understand the idea, that capacitors don't last forever, and it's a smart way to bring old things back to life. What surprises me is how often it comes up in conversation here, much more than in the past, so I'm curious about why.

 

Is it because ...

 

A. Some of these electronics are just that old, such that even a relatively new thing like a Sega Genesis is likely to need new caps just due to age; or

 

B. It's the go-to troubleshooting step 1 for bad hardware, like restarting a PC?

 

I'm sure it's a little of each, but I'm interested in your thoughts, as always.

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It's not just about caps leaking, that is a factor, but they deteriorate over age, and either leak, or fail to function as originally intended.

 

It's a relatively cheap and easy thing to do too, especially if you're handy with a soldering iron.

 

I've watched Ben Heckendorn do a few repairs on old equipment, and cap replacement always comes up as a good point to start.

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Seems like it's an issue for some systems in particular (gives side eye to NEC and Sega) which makes you wonder if they cheaped out to begin with on capacitor quality.

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It wasn't like someone at Sega was thinking, "You know, I bet people are still going to be playing with this toy a quarter of a century later." Longevity probably wasn't a huge concern. Beyond that, the technology was primitive. I'm sure the color handhelds of today aren't just superior, but more reliable, too.

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There was also a big brouhaha in the late 90 when, rumor has it, a rogue "cap/chem engineer" from Japan escaped to China with a new electrolytic formula (from his previous employer) and then espionage from Taiwan copied part of it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capacitor_plague

 

Now once you know that you start questioning how long the electrolyte would last (bad formula or not) and so may as well replace the whole caboodle and be done as they are the cause of many problems (especially AV related, but sometimes stability in general as many caps are between Vcc and GND to give a quick jolt of charges [current stabilizers] when the power consumption spikes too fast and the Voltage Regulator cannot keep up).

 

All my retro consoles got the treatment (aside from a PCE Duo-R that I have not had the time yet) just because .... not much changed as far as I can tell but I sleep a little better knowing "I did my part", after the 3rd board is not that fun but it kind of help learning to solder better, faster, inhaling less fumes, not charring ones finger .... all good stuff!!!

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They weren't made to last 25-30 years.

I think the manufacturers say 20 years for just shelf life (unused).

 

Found in audio forum:

"Most vintage audio caps are rated at 1000 hour @ 85 degrees Celsius at rated voltage and ripple current , which equates to 64000 hours in real-world terms (using the rule of double the lifespan for every 10 degree reduction in temperature) this translates to 64000 hours at 25 degrees celsius, which is a tad over 7 years of straight use (no power off).

The lifespan is further extended if the cap is not subject to the maximum specified voltage and ripple current, as is often the case with many caps.

Edited by R.Cade
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They weren't made to last 25-30 years.

I think the manufacturers say 20 years for just shelf life (unused).

 

Found in audio forum:

"Most vintage audio caps are rated at 1000 hour @ 85 degrees Celsius at rated voltage and ripple current , which equates to 64000 hours in real-world terms (using the rule of double the lifespan for every 10 degree reduction in temperature) this translates to 64000 hours at 25 degrees celsius, which is a tad over 7 years of straight use (no power off).

The lifespan is further extended if the cap is not subject to the maximum specified voltage and ripple current, as is often the case with many caps.

7 Years of 24/7 usage easily translate to 70Y of 2h30m a day usage ... so I believe the issue is just with components decaying (plastic/rubber decaying,causing leaks, corrosion of the metals etc...) rather than wear and tear.

 

[i am not sure the 25C thing makes complete sense as the caps warm up way past room temp in the consoles, hardly reach 85C for sure, but I wouldn't be surprised they hover over 35+ and that alone halves the lifetime according to that quoted rule, still I don't think I played any console for 2h30m straight every day for the past 35Y, now modern consoles with Netflix etc... is a different ballgame]

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My motto has always been, "If it's not broke, don't fix it"

 

Unless you are starting to have issues with an item, it' may be best to leave things as is.

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Bad advice in this particular case. You can't wait until they fail...

 

If you don't replace them before they leak, it will slowly destroy the board. Even if the machine is still working, they are leaking right now and eating it away.

 

It's like not getting termite service on your home because you've "never seen any". This is a big mistake. By the time you see one, they have eaten through into your house!

Edited by R.Cade
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Bad advice in this particular case. You can't wait until they fail...

 

... they are leaking right now and eating it away.

 

 

If you have visibly leaking or bulging capacitors, by all means, you have an issue, and of course they should be replaced. But just replacing all the capacitors in a computer for the heck of it? I'll pass on that. One risks damaging the circuit board in the operation and the new components can cause added stress to other old and weakened components and that can sometimes induce other problems.

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Alright then... best of luck to you on your equipment. Granted there are some caps and some equipment that are worse than others- for example audio caps seem to go bad far more than power supply caps. However, replacing them all on 30 year old equipment (IF you have the means and skill) is not bad advice.

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The concerned caps here are electrolytic capacitors; the issue with them is that they contain a thick conductive goop. So they cannot be sealed by enclosing them fully - electrolytical and "paper" capacitors (which are made of a paper sleeve with one side covered in tinfoil, all coated in oil). They use rubber and/or other compound to avoid leaking; usually, those sealing are the one failing, and when the capacitor electrochemical heat up and expand, it pop the dried sealing off and you get capacitor leakage.

It's why it's even more harmful to leave a system unpowered than powering it on a regular basis.

 

Also, advance in capacitor technologies allow us to have "dry" capacitors that were once only available as electrolytical one - a vaccuum tube radio/amplifier of the 50's or 60's used almost only paper and electrolytical caps, today you can replace 99% of them by dry caps - ceramic, mylar, tantalum.

As such, reccapping a console is not only a reasonnable move for preserving it - by replacing the chemical caps by dry ones, you ensure that their shelf life extend for dozens of years : radio sets of the 1920's contain funny disc shaped mica capacitors, and those are still use-worthy as of now despite being almost 100 years old.

capa_3.jpg

Edited by CatPix
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My motto has always been, "If it's not broke, don't fix it"

 

Unless you are starting to have issues with an item, it' may be best to leave things as is.

Yup.

 

It's basically a fad. It started in the audio world, as far as I can tell. But if you get on one of the real hardcore audio forums, like audiokarma, most of the guys there will say don't do it. If a cap goes bad, fix the bad cap. Otherwise, leave things alone.

 

Look at it this way. The chances of a cap failing on any particular day is probably 1 in 10,000. The chances of *you* screwing something up replacing all the caps on that day, though, is probably more like 1 in 100 or even 1 in 10, depending on how experienced you are. If you're really good, maybe 1 in 1,000. Either way, your odds are better just leaving well enough alone.

 

I have replaced plenty of caps in audio gear... when they've gone bad. Most of the caps I've replaced have actually been perfectly fine, even after 50 years; it's just often hard to identify what cap is bad until you take them out (unless you have expensive equipment). So I've learned how durable these things really are. Of course caps go bad, but it's not like your game console's going to explode on some pre-determined date. I've never had one die because of a bad cap, ever.

Edited by spacecadet
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Well now, if you are talking old antique or classic radio/audio and television equipment from the valve/tube era or even the discrete solid state component era into the mid 80's, sure. I believe I was reading a message that was talking about a 7 year old device? That is like 2009, chances are the components are modern, small, dry and surface mount, not easily replaced.

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My rule of thumb is anything from the early 90's to about 2010, there's a good chance of cheap crapacitors in there before then and after then you are usually decent

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So it seems there are 2 sides here .... go figure.

 

Side 1) Don't wipe before you poop

Side 2) Get the flu vaccine not the virus

 

Both point of views are right as they compare different things.

 

If we account for throwing away the item once the caps are bad and replace it then 1) is sound, but if you want to keep it (maybe because it is rare etc....) then 2 (called prevention) is also good advice.

 

Wrt 2 nobody suggested to an unskilled individual to "DIY", nonetheless proper "prophylaxis" may be required.

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The problem with waiting until it breaks, is that this is corrosive liquid. Once you detect that there is a problem, it has gone pretty far, may be difficult to fix, or may be irreversible.

 

That's like not getting cancer screenings and just waiting until you feel pain. By then, it may be too late.

 

There are things in this world that require preventative maintenance. This is one of them.

Do you want until your car doesn't run properly anymore before you check the oil level?

Edited by R.Cade

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Do you want until your car doesn't run properly anymore before you check the oil level?

 

no it usually starts making a racket before it stops running :0

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no it usually starts making a racket before it stops running :0

 

I promise you it will be too late by then. :)

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Well, many of us here open up our classic computers on at lest a semi annual basis to clean, modify or upgrade. I always check things over with a magnified lamp before re-assembly.

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I'm glad I asked ... it definitely does seem to be a new thing, and there does seem to be a difference of opinion.

 

Not that anyone cares, but this is where I choose to come down on this decision ... note that I have no soldering skills nor an extensive retro collection. If anything, this helps reinforce my preference for emulation in most cases.

It's basically a fad. It started in the audio world, as far as I can tell. But if you get on one of the real hardcore audio forums, like audiokarma, most of the guys there will say don't do it. If a cap goes bad, fix the bad cap. Otherwise, leave things alone.

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I'm glad I asked ... it definitely does seem to be a new thing, and there does seem to be a difference of opinion.

 

Not that anyone cares, but this is where I choose to come down on this decision ... note that I have no soldering skills nor an extensive retro collection. If anything, this helps reinforce my preference for emulation in most cases.

.... but but but then:

http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=857527

 

so at least for XBox (the first one) it's wise to be proactive.

 

I'm not sure if GC/PS2 are impacted, I believe all Pioneer LaserActive PAC have been deemed to fail

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Understood! If I wake up in the middle of the night worrying about my 2001 Xbox (I think I might have 2 of them), I'll get right on that.

 

But since online play was turned off years ago, and most of my beloved games are available elsewhere, it's unlikely I'll care.

 

Kudos to all the people who take better care of their stuff and want to preserve the old electronics, no disrespect intended.

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Understood! If I wake up in the middle of the night worrying about my 2001 Xbox (I think I might have 2 of them), I'll get right on that.

 

But since online play was turned off years ago, and most of my beloved games are available elsewhere, it's unlikely I'll care.

 

Kudos to all the people who take better care of their stuff and want to preserve the old electronics, no disrespect intended.

Now you got me riled up .... no disrespect intended :)

 

As the OP of the topic are you asking good reasons why people do it or good reasons as to why you shouldn't care to do it?

It's not clear. Obviously if you don't care about old clunkers rot then the question seems a bit pointless, nobody replaces caps on a new contemporary item if it is not broken, that much is certain.

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