After helping me fix the issue with the ROM chips a few weeks ago, my son got to play Gremlins on the Apple IIe.

    Is your computer truly yours?

    It is remarkable how contemporary technology is built around the loss of control over our devices. In contrast, the Apple IIe, which is considerably older, is so open to experimentation and modifications.

    One or two years ago, I wanted to try ChromeOS Flex and decided to install it on my old MacBook Air 2012. I enjoyed the process of installing it and had fun with the OS. Now I needed macOS back on the computer to be able to use it on the Apple IIe restoration project, but when it came time to reinstall macOS, things didn’t go well at all.

    macOS Recovery

    If you start macOS holding command + r, you’ll be prompted to reinstall the OS. I was counting on this when I decided to try ChromeOS Flex. Anyway, I tried all possible variations of the command + r command, but at some point, near the end of the process, a glitch would always stop the installation.

    Another issue was that the countdown to the end of the process would display a huge negative number, which would also result in an error message. I searched online and found out that the negative number was related to a network problem, but my network and internet connection were working perfectly well.

    I also tried to reinstall macOS by holding the option key. This is how you tell the Mac to search for external drives when it starts up. However, I was unsuccessful there as well. I was probably doing something wrong because the system would never recognize the installation disk on connected drives. It is also possible that the bootable part of the disc was damaged during the installation of Chrome OS Flex. I don’t know. Regardless of the reason, I am puzzled as to why I was encountering such difficulty. After all, it is my computer.

    Downloading macOS

    We are provided with downloads of older versions of the operating system, but I challenge you to try installing it on a computer with a dead or new hard drive. One must go through numerous workarounds to make it work. By the way, during my saga I also learned that Apple does not provide any official instructions for how to install an older OS over a newer one. Even worse, it tells us that we cannot do it.

    Carbon Copy Cloner

    After jumping from one website to another and failing miserably, I remembered that my wife didn’t get rid of her old Mac mini from 2012. My new plan was to clone the Mini hard drive using Carbon Copy Cloner. Of course, I had problems there as well. First, I had to find an older version of the program that worked with macOS Mojave. Next, the mini drive is 500 GB, and the Air’s is 64 GB.

    To make a square fit into the circle, I created a new admin user (me) on my wife’s computer, and on Carbon Copy Cloner, I unselected her user and all the non-essential files before cloning. Of course, figuring out what are the essential files is easier said than done. After lot of trial and error, I was successful, but I would not be able to use this same strategy on a slightly newer Mac. My 2012 machine has a removable SSD, and I happen to have the correct USB enclosure. In other words, I could remove it from my computer and connect it to my wife’s Mini via USB.

    My computer finally started, but the OS was extremely slow. It would take several minutes to boot, and the mouse was jumping all around the screen every time I moved it. Thinking that some issue could have occurred during the cloning process, I repeated it several times, but I had no success. It was time to take a break, like I usually do when I get stuck.

    The next day, I remembered that macOS has an Activity Monitor. I ran it, but to my surprise, the total CPU load was over 90%, even though no software or process was taking more than 5% of the CPU time. Back to Google!

    Resetting PRAM and SMC

    In the end, there wasn’t anything wrong with the cloning process. The issue was with the different computers. Using Carbon Copy Cloner to make a copy is like transplanting a brain from one person to another. The new brain in my MacBook Air was from a Mac Mini. To put it simply, I had to help it adjust to its new body.

    I don’t have enough technical knowledge to explain this, but there’s a way to reset basic macOS configurations called PRAM and SMC. I reset them, and the OS started working like a charm.


    Anyway, all this was just another step in my Apple IIe restoration project. I could finally install the ADTPro software on the MacBook Air to copy old software to the IIe. Of course, I hit a new brick wall. But this is a story for another day.

    The Disk II arrived

    The case and cable were filthy, and the rubber feet were super sticky, as if they were melting constantly. I cleaned the case and cable with isopropyl alcohol and temporarily added wire tape to the feet. I’ll replace them in the future.

    The next step was to open it and peek inside. Good news! Everything appeared impeccably. Furthermore, the PCBs are in excellent condition, and there are no signs of capacitor corrosion.

    Finally, I hooked it up to the computer, making sure the ribbon cable was correctly connected. Be cautious here. Unfortunately, because of the cable design, it is possible to connect it incorrectly and burn the drive.

    Anyway, after typing the PR#6 command, I could verify it was at least spinning. But I will only know for sure if it is working properly when I receive the floppy disks I ordered a couple of days ago.

    Apple II 5.25 floppy disks specifications

    Although 5.25 floppy disks are still available for purchase, there are different specifications, and not all of them work with the Disk II drive. For example, the more “modern” high-density (HD) disks will not work. The correct specification is:

    • Double Density (DD)
    • Single Side (SS) or Double Side (DS)
    • 48 tpi

    Whether you choose Single or Double Side, it doesn’t matter. But DS means that both sides of the disk can be used, and that’s why I always buy and use Double Side. But there’s a catch.

    How to use both sides of a floppy on a Apple Drive II

    The Apple Disk II drive is capable of reading only one side of a floppy disc. To use the other side of a Double Side (DS) disk, you need to flip it like a vinyl record. However, only flipping won’t do the trick.

    All 5.25 floppy disks have a cutout on the right-hand side which tells the drive they can be written on. However, if you flip it, there will be no notch, and the drive will not be able to write on that side.

    In the past, we had a tool called the Floppy Disk Notcher. But for inexplicable reasons, it became too expensive, and in the end, all you need to do is cut the disk in the right spot.

    I use an X-ACTO knife, but if you’re careful, you can use a good pair of scissors as well. To tell where to cut, I use masking tape (see image below) and trace the line by flipping another disk on top of the one I’m cutting.

    Understanding the Apple IIe keyboard mechanism

    It took me a while to understand the key mechanism because it was different from the one shown in the first video I watched about this topic. Anyway, after several tests and with the help of my son Fernando (yes, he’s helping 👏), we figured it out.

    NOTE TO SELF: If I had watched this other video, I would have understood it in minutes. But what’s the fun in that? 😄

    How it works

    1. The small square (1) inside the key is actually made of two metal pieces sandwiched together.
    2. When a key is pressed, key holder (3) moves down and pushes the center of the metal piece that looks like a Y (2) against the center of the square (1). That’s what closes the circuit and registers the key press.
    3. There’s also a spring (not shown in the picture) that brings the key holder up again after the press.


    In most cases, the solution is simply to bend the Y-shaped metal (2) piece back to its original shape. I think it gets flatter and flatter over time, and the key holder ends up not being able to press it with enough force agains the piece (1).

    Why not an Apple Watch or Wear OS?

    Before the Apple Watch, there was the Pebble (image below). I loved that smartwatch, but the end was inevitable, the company eventually went bankrupt, and was sold to Fitbit. The final nail in the coffin was the watch being discontinued, and the servers turned off.

    Without the servers, many features would stop working, and the experience wouldn’t be the same. To save us, a group of enthusiasts created Rebble to bring life back to the Pebble. I appreciate what they did, but it’s not the same. Our watches would inevitably get old and parts would break.

    Long story short, I could never find a smartwatch alternative that would check all the boxes: waterproof, buttons instead of touch screen, e-ink display, long-lasting battery, health sensors, and good quality build. I ended-up moving to a G-Shock, that I absolutely love. However, it was not a complete experience. I was constantly missing the health sensors.

    It was only recently that I came across an alternative from Garmin. Yes, I completely missed the original Instinct release. But that’s ok. I recently got the Instinct 2, and I’m thrilled. Not only it checks all the boxes, it looks like the G-Sock I was wearing.

    A new old Apple IIe

    The Apple II was the first computer I ever used. This is a IIe I recently got on eBay, but unfortunately, it is not working. When I plugged it in, I saw smoke coming from what, I think, is a capacitor on the C15 position on the board. Next step, figure out what that part actually is and order a replacement.

    I have no experience with electronics, multimeters etc. This is definitely going to be a long-term adventure.

    Apple IIe keyboard layout

    To able to put all the keys back together, I took a picture of the Apple IIe keyboard before taking it apart to clean it up. I hope that the picture below will help someone who forgot to photograph the keyboard before disabling it. The layout is European, from Germany. However, if you look closely, you will see that the US layout letters are also on the keys.

    Apple IIe RIFA Capacitors

    There are two RIFA capacitors in the Apple II power supply unit, a.k.a. PSU, that are prone to blowing out and a fuse that may or may not need to be replaced. After watching so many restoration videos, I came to the conclusion that replacing these capacitors should be the first repair done if you intend to embark on a restoration journey. You’ll find below the specifications and a video from lmull3 explaining how to do it.


    • 0.1uF 100nF 275 Vac CLASS X2 CAPACITOR
    • 0.47uF 470nF 275 Vac CLASS X2 CAPACITOR
    • GLASS FUSE F2A 250V

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