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I have an old computer with a broken Miniscribe 8425SA hard disk. One of the capacitors has burned out, and need some help finding a replacement. Here are my questions:

  1. It appears there are similar capacitors on the board which are marked "-A- 22uF 16V 89 2 8" (see pics below). What does the "A" code mean? I think I understand the rest (capacitance, voltage rating, date code?)

  2. What ESR should I get? Is the lower the better?

  3. The capacitor appears to be 6.5mm X 4mm. So the size code would be something like 6540?

  4. Is there anything I can do to make this less likely to burn out in the future? Higher voltage rating, say 25V? Different capacitor type? It appears tantalum capacitors are finicky and fail catastrophically.

Images:

Top view with identical (?) component

Top View

Side view, it looks like the capacitor was connected to the 12V rail.

Side View

Length of duplicate, in mm.

Length mm

Width of duplicate, in mm. Width mm

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It looks like your fried cap is connected right next to the input terminals of the +12 V rail and GND. Here are the steps I would try to get the drive running again:

  1. Remove the cap. Power the hard drive, chances are it will work anyway because the cap just acts as a small filter for the incoming +12 V rail and the slightly increased ripple voltage on this rail will likely be tolerated by the rest of the hard drive. This test will also tell you if anything else has failed along with the cap or if you're lucky and the cap is the only bad part.

  2. If step 1 was unsuccessful, you can put pretty much any cap with at least the same capacitance and at least the same voltage in place of the fried cap. Maybe the drive will work now? If you just need the drive to recover the data, any half-decent electrolytic (including tantalum) capacitor will likely do the job long enough until you finally scrap the drive. Don't worry too much about the ESR. As the cap appears to be just in parallel to the 12 V input, it's not worth counting every milliohm. However, your're of course right: The smaller the ESR, the better.

  3. However, by the looks of it, the drive is so old that you value not only the data but the cool vintage hardware itself. Here's what I would do for a good, permanent repair: Sizes of SMD tantalum capacitors are standardized. Yours appears to be one of the bigger ones (C?, D?). Try finding a replacement cap with the same size and capacitance, and you're very right about the voltage - 25 V or more is a very good idea. There is a huge derating to be considered when using tantalum capacitors, and using a cap with twice the voltage it is subjected to in your application is not a bad idea at all. One last hint: While aluminium electrolytic caps have the mark ("bar") on the negative end, tantalum capacitors are marked on the "+" end!

  4. As we're aleready talking about derating and fried tantalum caps: Besides (even very short) voltage spikes causing tantalum caps to fail catastrophically, they are also very sensitive to current spikes (as they will appear when you hot-plug the power connector into the drive). If you have the space, using an aluminium electrolytic cap as a replacement will be more robust. If you want to go for a "good as original" vintage repair, try to stay away from hot-plugging your drive.

Example random size chart (it gets more confusing when you consider not only the length and the width, but also the height):

chart

Related: https://electronics.stackexchange.com/a/80458/930

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks a lot for your answer! I think I'll try to replace it with an aluminum electrolytic one, even though there's no chance of me hot plugging this drive. Since it appears the original designers didn't "derate" these very much, I think I will also replace the black 47uF/6V capacitor next to the fried one on the 5V rail. \$\endgroup\$ – Kaypro II Jun 23 '15 at 18:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KayproII It appears that an earlier version of the drive used Al-electrolytic capacitors, too - see the third picture here: starydysk.blog.onet.pl/2009/05/07/… \$\endgroup\$ – zebonaut Jun 24 '15 at 5:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ It worked! I ultimately went with a 35V automotive grade tantalum capacitor, since I didn't feel like I had the vertical clearance for the electrolytic ones (I ordered both). \$\endgroup\$ – Kaypro II Jul 10 '15 at 18:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KayproII Appreciate the feedback. Glad nothing else went "boom" and it was really only the tantalum capacitor. Had the same thing happen recently on an ancient serial/parallel card (ISA bus ;-) and just had to replace the capacitor. On a SCSI card, the Aluminium electrolytic capacitor was damaged mechanically (severely bent, pins torn halfway out). I just pulled it off the pins altogether, and the card works well without it... \$\endgroup\$ – zebonaut Jul 12 '15 at 12:20

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