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Abit BP6 Coming Alive...

October 15, 2020 at 7:50 PM
Category: Hardware

Abit BP6 motherboard with original capacitors

Here's a little something special that never had a chance to make it into Bigeye... the Abit BP6 is a dual Socket 370 motherboard released in 1999 specifically to exploit the SMP capabilities of Intel's Mendocino-based Celeron. It was never meant to be used in such a configuration, but as with the Celeron 300A being so easily overclockable to 450MHz (though my experience with that is not promising), it's just another little amazing secret of this core hidden by a lot of budget systems. It may be possible to get SMP Celerons loaded in most dual Slot 1 boards with Socket 370 adapters; this board is just specifically designed for the cheap hardware.

It's a very intriguing board for sure, and one that left a serious impact among hardware enthusiasts... but like many Abit boards from around this time, it has a major problem... this was the year the capacitor plague was set in motion, and Abit was early to adopt notoriously faulty electrolytic capacitors that failed prematurely. It just so happens that the one I got was listed on eBay pictured as working (for a much better price than normal, mind you), but arrived showing no sign of life. I never gave the seller any slack for this knowing Abit boards are pretty failure-prone. Should you decide to get one yourself, do be prepared for an inevitable failure with decent soldering equipment and skills.

Hakko FR-301 desoldering gun nozzle moving towards capacitor pin

Recapping motherboards isn't necessarily so hard if your hands are steady... when it comes to removing capacitors, my Hakko FR-301 desoldering gun can melt all the solder surrounding a pin and suck it away by pulling the trigger! There is a little issue here... at the factory, motherboard manufacturers do highly professional soldering jobs, using only as much solder as needed to have the capacitors make contact with the board. Unfortunately for me, this often makes it difficult to remove the capacitors with my tool, so I have to put a little extra solder on the pins in order to have the desoldering gun make contact with the rest of it. This may not be the most reliable option, but it works.

Soldering 1500uF capacitors on Abit BP6

Once that's out of the way, I take a cone-shaped soldering tip and use it to clear out excess solder from the holes where the capacitors were. After that, it's just a matter of putting the new caps in. A nice little thing about a lot of motherboards is that they clearly indicate how polarized capacitors should be installed; the stripe on a capacitor is to land on the solid side of the outline on the board. I don't have any painter's tape handy to hold the capacitors in place, but bending the leads out far enough is enough to keep them in place.

Abit BP6 POSTs with single 366MHz Celeron and 128MB of RAM, some new capacitors in place

Okay, replacing these capacitors was much more tedious than I would've liked it to be, given the difficulty I had in ensuring the solder would flow into the holes properly. In fact, I still don't have absolute certainty they make full contact all around, but given the 1500uF capacitors were in place, I figured I should check my work to see if it's any good... yep, Abit BP6 is back from the dead, all right! This is far from my first soldering job I've accomplished, as I have previously added DIP-24 sockets to many boards with Dallas RTCs. Still, I hold skepticism over whether it will fully handle two 533MHz Celerons or not, as it is my first recap, to say the least.

I still have to get the other capacitors in place, but may follow up on this later if that turns out to be a successful effort. Certainly, dual CPU workstations are not talked about all that much in the retro tech field since very few games even try to make use of SMP, but you might find SMP workstations to be a lot of fun if you load one up with Windows NT Workstation 4.0 and an old version of 3ds MAX. In the meantime, I'd like you to see this video from Scan Lines of him building his own dual Pentium III workstation!

(Addendum 1/5/2023) I've come up with better techniques for removing excess solder that gets stuck in the holes. Please don't use a cone-shaped tip, that can really go one of two ways, and it'll hurt if it goes the other way.


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