Sun Microsystems SPARCServer 5

I acquired this machine after it had been retired from use within the Tardis Project at the University of Edinburgh.  The hard drive caddy was missing and the only hard drive was a ~500mb IBM SCSI connected to the CD-ROM drive’s SCSI connector.  Thankfully I found the appropriate caddy on eBay in Russia so was able to buy that and install a more suitable 2gb SCA SCSI drive.

The SPARCServer 5 is essentially the same as the SPARCStation 5 workstation except that it didn’t include an optical drive, floppy drive or framebuffer card (although mine has obviously had a Framebuffer card installed by a previous owner).  The firmware even reports it as being a SPARCStation 5 when it starts up.

The specifications are as follows:

  • 70MHz Sun Microsystems microSPARC-II
  • 64mb RAM (ECC)
  • 2.1GB Seagate ST32171WC SCSI Hard Drive
  • SBUS CG6 Framebuffer Card
  • Running SunOS 4.1.4



Booting with dead NVRAM battery

Unfortunately the NVRAM battery in my machine has failed and since it is built into the NVRAM chip, it is difficult to replace – You essentially need to cut into the chip to wire in an extra battery.  I’d rather not risk my otherwise working chip to do this!  Instead I have settled for manually executing some commands at the bootloader to set the MAC address and Host ID so that the system will boot.  This was with the help of the documentation here: ( Without the NVRAM contents, the machine will refuse to boot into an OS as the Host ID and MAC Address will be invalid.

The following commands will set the Host ID to “800e0e0e” and the MAC address “8:0:20:e:e:e” – They can be modified to your preferred values based on the link above however this is sufficient to get the machine to boot and operate on the network.

1 0 mkp
80 1 mkp
8 2 mkp
0 3 mkp
20 4 mkp
0e 5 mkp
0e 6 mkp
0e 7 mkp
0 8 mkp
0 9 mkp
0 a mkp
0 b mkp
0e c mkp
0e d mkp
0e e mkp
0 f 0 do i idprom@ xor loop f mkp

To run these commands, Press Stop+A while the machine is booting to drop to the “OK” prompt then enter them.  When done run “reset” which will restart the machine without powering it down (thus not risking losing the IDPROM contents).

Brittle Plastic

With age, the plastic has become somewhat brittle – Two out of the three “hooks” at the front of the lid have broken off as shown.  I thankfully still have one of them (it was rattling around inside the machine when I got it) however superglue doesn’t appear to hold it on – I need to investigate other ways of sticking it back on.

At any rate, if you are opening up any of these machines, be very careful of these clips when removing the lid and take care/avoid fiddling with other plastic parts such as the drive blankers.