Troubleshooting Visual Workstations 320 and 540

sorrow

New member
Jun 23, 2021
6
2
3
Hi,

Please help with troubleshooting two SGI VWs - 320 and 540:

VW320 powers up when cable is connected to PSU. It does not react to power button. Its LED blinks indefinitely as if DIMM 2 was defective. But swapping and replacing memory does not help. Nothing on the screen. Reacts to reset button.

VT540 powers up when power button is pressed. Its LED blinks as follows:

- multiple blinks in one burst (under 1 second)
- 8 faster blinks
- multiple blinks in one burst (under 1 second)
- 16 slower blinks
- no more blinks, LED off

It does not react to power button but reset button restarts the cycle. Nothing on the screen.

Both workstations have connector to 1600SW LCD but since I do not have one working I only connect normal monitor to HD15.

Any ideas?
 

Elf

Storybook
Feb 4, 2019
478
129
43
It looks like both codes are RAM related as you say, at least according to the owners manual (which it seems like you have read, but I have attached for both just in case). If swapping the modules does not help, perhaps the socket has oxidation or corrosion? Or perhaps something further in has gotten zapped.

Someone can comment if they have had a successful resolution to similar issues, but otherwise it may just be failing electronics from old machines :(

If you have no success otherwise, you might try a reseller (e.g. Ian's SGI Depot, 3ddoc, Mashek) who may have encountered similar failures, or at the very least could have replacement parts available.
 

Attachments

CiaoTime

Public Enemy Number One
Jan 15, 2020
31
15
8
Oakfield, Nova Scotia, Canada
Could you perhaps take a picture of the internals of both? Both systems are fairly picky with regards to which components go in which slots, and there could be any number of simple things that might cause a failed POST. Hopefully that's all that's going on with the 320: for the 540, I' not so sure.
 

sorrow

New member
Jun 23, 2021
6
2
3
It looks like both codes are RAM related as you say, at least according to the owners manual (which it seems like you have read, but I have attached for both just in case). If swapping the modules does not help, perhaps the socket has oxidation or corrosion? Or perhaps something further in has gotten zapped.

Someone can comment if they have had a successful resolution to similar issues, but otherwise it may just be failing electronics from old machines :(

If you have no success otherwise, you might try a reseller (e.g. Ian's SGI Depot, 3ddoc, Mashek) who may have encountered similar failures, or at the very least could have replacement parts available.
Thank you. The short story a little bit longer:

VW 320 came with dead PSU. I replaced it with spare PSU that I received from the seller. The system powers-up but is "always on". There seems to be some issue with turn-on and turn-off signal.

Once on, the system gave me 4 LED blinks indicating problem in 4th memeory slot. I reseated all DIMMs and suddenly, 2 LED blinks appeared.

I rearanged the DIMMs first, then exchanged them for spare DIMMs (now they are in the second bank) and I also tried to replace the 2nd DIMM by other spare modules. But with no luck.

The questions that I have are as follows:

1) is the only interpretation of the blinking LED the problem with the memory (as stated in the manual), or some other (hidden) interpretation exists?

2) may the strange power-on and power-off behavior indicate some problem with the motherboard?

3) if SW1600 is NOT connected but the respective card is in motherboard slot - does the computer use HD15 as its default console?

As for VW540: there was not any evolution like in case of VW320 - I only reseated DIMMs. But the problem persists.

As for the manuals: AFAIK VW320 manual does not provide information about numbering of DIMM slots. I presume them based on VW540 manual. Further, I found the following on https://wiki.preterhuman.net/SGI_Visual_Workstation:

"The "Owner's Guide" contains some information about how to diagnose a Visual Workstation 540 when it's not booting, but it's not always accurate. Diagnosing the system is based on the blinking LED on the front of the Visual Workstation - the "Owner's Guide" in Chapter 8 contains most information on how to interpret these, but there are things you should know:
  • Just after starting the LED will blink twice for every populated memory group. This is not the "continous blinking" memory error code the Guide talks about, it's just information that memory is present. After that the LED blinks twice very fast and this is the moment the diagnostic blinks start to appear if there's something wrong.
  • If the LED isn't blinking after the startup blinks you might want to reseat the CPUs and clean their connector's."
This indicates to me that the manual may not be exhaustive as regards diagnostics LEDs and, therefore, there may be some other (hidden) meaning.

I wish that the serial port console or some other similar tool be available ...
 

sorrow

New member
Jun 23, 2021
6
2
3
Could you perhaps take a picture of the internals of both? Both systems are fairly picky with regards to which components go in which slots, and there could be any number of simple things that might cause a failed POST. Hopefully that's all that's going on with the 320: for the 540, I' not so sure.
Hi, I did not disassemble the workstations yet to check all parts. I removed and checked the DIMMs. I have also have checked all CPU voltage regulators and all CPU pins on the motherboard. In both workstations there are upgraded processors (not included in the manual) but was able to verify the pin-out against internet sources.

Also, according to the seller, the CPUs are in "last knows working configuration" and there should not be any problem with CPUs. But I did not reseat the CPUs yet.

I therefore attach the photos of assemled system. I have checked all the capacitors and did not find any obvious problem there.
 

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sorrow

New member
Jun 23, 2021
6
2
3
I have succeeded to POST the VW540. I remove most of the memory and I replaced CPU with 550Mhz version. Still no luck with 700/900Mhz CPU though.
 
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sorrow

New member
Jun 23, 2021
6
2
3
VW540 is up and running. 700Mhz CPUs (that I started with) are probably incompatible - 5/12V. Several RAM modules malfunctioned, some of them preventing the computer to POST.
 
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CiaoTime

Public Enemy Number One
Jan 15, 2020
31
15
8
Oakfield, Nova Scotia, Canada
I have succeeded to POST the VW540. I remove most of the memory and I replaced CPU with 550Mhz version. Still no luck with 700/900Mhz CPU though.
That's good news!

Looking at the pictures of your system, and it seems like everything in the 320 is where it belongs. One thing I'd noticed with my VW320 is that it refuses to boot newer processors unless it's running on the newest firmware; I'd had to use a couple of loaner Katmais in order to get it to POST, and once the firmware was tuned up then my Coppermines slotted in fine.

Might be worth a try on the 540. I'm not sure that the firmware files are identical for both, but I still have a copy of the 320's firmware and driver packs..... somewhere. Let me know if you need it and I can take a deeper look.
 
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Reactions: Elf

sorrow

New member
Jun 23, 2021
6
2
3
That's good news!

Looking at the pictures of your system, and it seems like everything in the 320 is where it belongs. One thing I'd noticed with my VW320 is that it refuses to boot newer processors unless it's running on the newest firmware; I'd had to use a couple of loaner Katmais in order to get it to POST, and once the firmware was tuned up then my Coppermines slotted in fine.

Might be worth a try on the 540. I'm not sure that the firmware files are identical for both, but I still have a copy of the 320's firmware and driver packs..... somewhere. Let me know if you need it and I can take a deeper look.
Thanks. I have the newest firmware disk but I do not have suitable (slow) processor. I will have the PSU inspected and I will get a CPU.
 

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