SUMMARY: IPX motherboard in IPC case

From: Donald Burr (
Date: Fri Oct 09 1998 - 00:53:04 CDT

A couple of weeks ago, I posted to sun-managers and Suns-AT-Home with a
rather unusual question:

Can a Sun *IPX* motherboard fit into a Sun *IPC* case?

Thanks to everyone who answered, including: (in no particular order)

"Bruce R. Zimmer" <>
"Robideau, David" <>
"Rodney C. Marable" <>
(Brad Young) <>
(BrandonButterworth) <>
(Thad MacMillan) <>
Benjamin Cline <>
Dave Floyd <>
Dean Moore <>
Frank Fiamingo - Columbus <>
Heidi Burgiel <>
Igor Kolker <>
Jay Hennigan <>
John DiMarco <>
Michael Maciolek <>
Rachel Polanskis <>
Raymond Wong <>
Sean Ward <>
Shawn Laemmrich <>

The vote was unanimous: Yes, indeed, an IPX motherboard can be fitted into
an IPC case. Quite easily, as it turns out.

In fact, Sun sold an IPC-->IPX upgrade kit, that basically included a new
motherboard, new memory, and a new face-plate for the unit (that says
"IPX" instead of "IPC").

The IPX uses a totally different kind of memory, however. (I believe it
uses standard 72-pin SIMMs, or something very close to that.) So if you
were thinking of moving your IPC memory to the IPX, forget it.

I'm sorry I delayed in posting this summary, but I think you'll agree with
my reasoning. I wanted to actually do the "upgrade" and report my results
in the summary! So, without further ado, here goes...

It was successful! I had no trouble with it at all -- the old board
slipped out easily, the new board went in just as easily, and the system
boted up and worked fine thereafter. In total, it took me just under 1
hour(!), that's including setup and teardown time. I tend to work pretty
quickly than average, so adjust this time accordingly depending on how
slow or fast you are at boardwork.

So, here's the procedure. First, the tools you'll need:

* A proper electronics workspace, e.g. anti-static mat, wrist strap, etc.
* Needle-nose pliers.
* A standard set of screwdrivers (I only needed phillips blades).
* A set of *small* precision screwdrivers. (Radio Shack sells, or at
  least they used to, a set of small silver screwdrivers in a blue box with
  a clear lid, and I've seen similar units at electronics stores like Fry's
* Several small bowls, medicine pill containers, ashtrays, or whatever, to
  hold screws and other odd bits of hardware so that they don't roll away
  from you.
* A good strong penlight, as well as good room lighting (or a spotlight
  over your workspace).
* SPARCstation IPC, and a IPX motherboard (of course).
* The proper type of memory for the IPX. (of course)

Now, the procedure.

0. BACK UP YOUR DATA!!! This includes reading and copying down your
    EEPROM settings (boot device, boot file and arguments, et al).
1. Lay the SPARCstation on your work surface. Unscrew the little screw
    thingie on the back, and remove it. Squeeze the two side tabs, then
    flip the top of the unit up and towards the front of the unit.
2. Disconnect the SCSI cable, floppy drive cable, and power cable from
    the unit. The power cable is similar to the type of cables that ATX
    power supplies use, and are removed by squeezing in a little tab on one
    side of the connector while lifting up. After doing this, the
    SPARCstation should now be in two pieces. Take the top part (the part
    that has the drives and power supply) and set it off to one side.
3. Disconnect the speaker from the motherboard, and remove it. (It's set
    into a pair of grooves on the side of the case, and is NOT glued in, so
    it will just lift right out.) Set it aside.
4. Remove any SBus cards or other expansions/customizations and set them
5. Flip the bottom part of the chassis up, so that the connectors on the
    back are facing you. Now, take your precision screwdrivers, and
    CAREFULLY unscrew the set of screws that are holding the SCSI connector
    in. These will require a small Phillips screwdriver. On my Radio
    Shack screwdriver set, the proper size screwdriver is labeled a "number
    0." Set these screws aside.
6. Next, unscrew the two screws adjacent to the Ethernet connector. This
    one is tricky, because the stupid Ethernet sliding clip gets in your
    way. I had to sort of bend mine in order to get the screw heads
    completely out. The proper size screwdriver for these screws is a flat
    blade, labeled "2.4 m/m" in my Radio Shack kit. Set these screws and
    the little slider thingie aside.
7. Now, unscrew the two thingies (what is the real name for these
    buggers, anyway?) adjacent to the 13W3 video connector. This is
    tricky, because they are almost flush with the plastic of the case.
    But, after some grunting and twisting with a good pair of
    needle-nose pliers, you will be able to get them loose. Once you have
    them loosened up, you can use your fingers to get them out the rest of
    the way (this makes it much easier). Set these aside as well.
8. Now, remove the motherboard. This is tricky, because there are
    several things in your way: some plastic retainers holding the
    motherboard in, the "light pipe" (a piece of clear plastic that
    refracts the light from the power LED to the power LED hole on the
    case). Just work at it slowly and carefully, and you'll quickly be
    able to free the board. Set the old board aside (if you want to keep
    it, you better protect it in an anti-static bag or something!).
9. Now, insert the IPX motherboard. The best way to do this is to insert
    the side with the ports first, and line the ports up with their
    appropriate holes in the case. Then, drop the other end of the
    motherboard in. Wiggle it around a bit until it is mounted flush
    against the bottom of the case. The IPX board uses a different type of
    "light pipe", which falls just shy of the power hole on the case, but
    you'll nevertheless get a usable, though dimmer, light out the front of
    the case.
10. Again, turn the bottom towards you so that the ports are facing you
    again. Using the appropriate tools, screw all pieces of hardware back
    where they came from. The little sliding thingie on the network port
    is again the tricky part; a little bit of wiggling around and possibly
    bending the metal thing will allow you to get it in. I, personally,
    never used the thing, and found it more of a nuisance than useful, so I
    just didn't put it back in. It's up to you.
11. Re-insert the speaker into the case, and plug it back into the
    motherboard. Also, re-attach any SBus cards or other customizations
    that you had in there before (assuming they are IPX-friendly).
    Lastly, re-attach the power cable, floppy cable, and SCSI cable to the
12. Snap the two halves of the now-IPX case closed, and re-attach the
    screw thing on the back.
13. Turn the machine on, set the EEPROM values to what they're supposed
    to be, and boot 'er up. You're all done!

Donald Burr <> *NEW EMAIL ADDRESS!*      | PGP: Your
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