Neoware Thin Client Dumpster Dive

A few weeks ago, I got lucky while poking around in the skips at the back of a local business that’s undergoing refurbishment. They’d just upgraded their IT hardware and had thrown out their old thin client PCs.

I asked if I could have them and I was duly allowed to take them.

They’re mostly Neoware CA9 thin clients purchased between 2006 and 2009 if you date them according the earliest PAT stickers they had plastered over their sides.

Their spec is:

  • 800MHz Via processor
  • 512MB RAM
  • 512MB DOM (Disk On Module – a flash drive plugged directly onto a 44 pin IDE motherboard header.)
  • 3x USB (2x front, 1x rear)
  • Mic in, Line out
  • 2x PS/2
  • 2x Serial
  • 1x Parallel Port
Neoware CA9 Thin Client

The spec doesn’t look too bad – if you think of them as a step up from a Raspberry Pi, They’re both 800MHz, 512MB machines, but the Neoware has the advantages of a built in PSU, i686 architecture and the ability to boot from a proper hard drive connected to a proper hard drive interface.

If you want to know more about thin clients, there is an excellent site here: http://www.parkytowers.me.uk/thin/

The immediate problem was that they were all dirty and a very lengthy cleaning and de-stickering session followed. It was a case of

“Don’t turn it on! Decontaminate it!”

Piles of PAT stickers, asset tracking stickers in triplicate, motivational slogans, the 10 step checklist that employees were supposed to follow before switching the PC on each morning… all had to be removed along with a thick film of dirt and after all that it turned out that they were silver machines, not matte grey! Thankfully though, the thin clients are fanless, so despite all the external muck, the insides weren’t bunged up with 8 years worth of fluff and hair.

After cleaning them, the joy I felt at getting my first big dumpster dive score in ages started to fade as I tested them all and rapidly discovered that around 50% were either dead or too unreliable to use. An up-to-date PAT sticker on the side was no indication that the machine would actually boot.

However I’ve started the process of repairing the faulty ones and with the exception of one unfortunate machine which bore the tell-tale scars of having been dropped from a great height onto a hard surface, the fault with the others has always been a failed capacitor (or two, or three…) in the power supply.

More to follow!

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