IBM Netfinity: fixing “RF-ID Tag has changed” issue

When I booted my old IBM Netfinity 3000 the first time after about 20 years in storage, I was greeted with a bang and smoke!
I was afraid the server just died, but luckily it still booted.

Well, kind of…

It seemed to pass the initial hardware checks and BIOS. But soon after it shows some strange messages:

  • The RF-ID Tag has changed.
  • System-security – Keyboard is locked.
  • 176 The system has been tampered with.
  • Turn power to your system OFF and then ON.
  • Your system is now locked.

After a little bit of Google magic, I found this hint in an online forum.
It seems to have blown three capacitors:

IBM motherboard has 3 bad capacitors that need to be replaced.
Board component locations are C345, C346 and C380. The values
that should be used for all three are 560uF @ 25Volts.

And indeed, those three capacitors were blown, as you can see in the photo.
So I ordered some new caps and while waiting for the delivery, I tried to find out how to get the mainboard out of the server case.
There wasn’t an obvious way to remove the plastic handle or the sides to get to the back of the mainboard. So I had to google the manual…

The mainboard can be removed by unscrewing the bottom of the server!
First remove the two feet on the back. Then remove the two screws below the feet. Now the bottom of the server can be removed! Below the mainboard there’s a lever, pull that to release the mainboard. Slide it down to completly remove it from the case. No need to remove the PCI/ISA cards, as they are connected to the riser and not directly to the mainboard, nor are the power cables. Very thoughtful design!

Now it was just a matter of soldering the old capacitors out and the new ones in. They are quite large, so it was pretty easy to access and without breaking something else on the board.

And the server is happily booting forever after.

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