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Thinkcentre S50 RAM woes

IBM or Lenovo Desktops, Workstations, ThinkStations, etc. Recent vintage, hardware/software..
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Garlic Bread
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Thinkcentre S50 RAM woes

#1 Post by Garlic Bread » Wed Jan 18, 2023 6:03 pm

I was gifted a Thinkcentre S50 (Model 8184) by my workplace the other day, yay! A chemist had been keeping it around in a cabinet for a decade because it contained a PCI controller card for an ancient piece of lab equipment, but as the equipment was decommissioned the PC became useless to the company, and I was allowed to just take it and do whatever with it.

The system has two PCI slots available and I have a spare Aureal Vortex sound card and a 256 MB Radeon 9250 PCI GPU sitting around, so I am of course going to build a glorious Win98/WinXP dual booting retro gaming PC with this treasure. For this purpose I have acquired two sticks of 1 GB DDR PC3200 RAM to match the Pentium 4 3.0 HT CPUs base clock (Win98 will require some finessing to work with more than 512 MB of RAM, I know), and this is where my problems start. The system boots into XP just fine with either stick, but when both sticks are in all I get is two short beeps and a black screen.

According to the documentation I was able to find the system should support 2 GB of RAM, and while it shipped with PC2700U RAM I see no reason why to shouldn't support faster memory that matches the bus speed of the CPU. Did I goof it up by getting 3200 RAM instead of 3200U? Does the use of faster RAM mean that I have to ultimately use less of it? I seem to remember that I had to leave one of three DIMM slot unused back in the Pentium III days because I used faster stuff, but I don't exactly have the manual for the S50 mobo to tell me if this is the case. At any rate, I thought that I would ask you guys for ideas before I ordered the 3200U DIMMs.

Another thing to try would be to flash the BIOS, but I can't find a good source for it. Does any of you know a good source for the latest of best BIOS version for this system?

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Re: Thinkcentre S50 RAM woes

#2 Post by theterminator93 » Thu Jan 19, 2023 4:05 pm

I have a pair of S50s in my basement for old XP gaming systems. I rescued them from a client site many years ago, who procured a hundred or more of them, refurbished, when they were still relatively new. I installed a Northwood 2.8 in one, and the other has a Northwood 3.4 (the highest clock speed you can find for a Socket 478). They will support Prescott up to 3.4 as well, if you need SSE3.

It's possible it's an issue with one RAM stick having a mismatched SPD with the other, not being able to run at 333 MHz with the other. If you can, get a known good matched pair to try. I have used both PC2700 and PC3200 DIMMs in mine, but of course they only run at PC2700. I install matched pairs, but these systems are NOT picky about memory, generally speaking. When the client I got them from still had them in service, we upgraded them all to 2 GB using a mixed lot of used DIMMs off eBay to extend their life a bit. I don't remember any of the systems doing what you describe when we installed them.

These systems do, however, suffer from chronic capacitor problems that plagued many machines of all manufacturers produced during that era. When the caps start to go bad it manifests as odd issues; freezing, rebooting, integrated components (e.g. sound or NIC) not working, failing to boot at all etc. Both of my S50s worked when I saved them from the scrappers 5 or 6 years ago, but this winter I had to replace many of the capacitors due to bulging or leaking, which eventually progressed to preventing them from booting. I would check yours to be sure the caps are good and replace them, and go from there.

You can find software and such for the S50 on Lenovo's end-of-support product page: https://download.lenovo.com/eol/index.html
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