My Galaga Arcade Machine – A thrift store find
How I found it
It was a random Tuesday and my girlfriend and I were visiting up our normal stops, shopping at various thrift, resale, and video game stores when we came across this Galaga machine at a thrift store that we hadn’t been to in a while.
I wasn’t looking for an arcade machine (I was actually looking for Nintendo NES games) but when I saw this Galaga machine it definitely got my attention since Galaga is one of my most favorite arcade machines of all time.
The Galaga machine had a price tag on it of $495 which was not in my price range but since I was at a thrift store I figured the price was probably negotiable.
Upon inspecting it I noticed the back door was missing. The store was not very well lit so it was hard to see inside of the cabinet but I did notice that the power supply had been updated to a newer style switching power supply, which I liked. I also noticed the monitor didn’t have any burn in which is very common so I really liked that too.
I asked one of the employees if I could test out the game. He said “Yes, but if I remember correctly it had a bad video something or other”.
I was still interested and wanted to test it out so I asked him if I could at least power it on.
He said “Sure, lets plug it in and see what happens”. When he reached into the cabinet to pull out the power cord he noticed that it was cut in half so obviously I wasn’t going to be able to test it out.
To me this wasn’t a big deal since it’s an easy fix but I wanted to use this for my bargaining advantage. I told him that $495 was way too much since I couldn’t even turn it on to test out. I asked him what’s the best price he can give me keeping in mind the condition that it’s in. He told me that I could have it for $175. I thought that was a fair price so the deal was done. He told me that they would deliver it the next day for me too.
Cleaning & Inspecting
Once the Galaga machine arrived at my house it was time to see what exactly I had gotten myself into.
The first thing I did was vacuum out all the dust, dirt, and spider webs that had accumulated over the last 30 plus years. Once it was clean inside I got a better look at all the wiring and such in the cabinet.
I noticed that some of the wiring was done using butt connectors so I removed those and soldered the wires back together. This wasn’t really necessary but I prefer to solder wiring. I also soldered the broken power cord back together.
I removed the motherboard and began to inspect it. I was looking for burnt chips, cut traces and any other problems. From my research I realized that Galaga is notorious for having problems with the motherboard / video board. The reason is because there are a lot of socketed chips on the boards that are prone to failure due to heat, dirt, and low quality parts that were used in assembly. The chips have very fragile legs on them so you have to be very careful when removing them. It wasn’t my first time removing socketed chips but it was true these chips are fragile.
It was apparent the motherboard had been worked on in the past. It still had service stickers attached to it and it also some hot glue on the board from the service.
Cleaning the motherboard / video board
I carefully removed each of the socketed chips one at a time and cleaned them. I used a pencil eraser on the chip’s legs as well as some isopropyl alcohol. While the chips were out, I also cleaned out the sockets with isopropyl alcohol and compressed air. I took my time to make sure I didn’t break off any of the chip’s legs.
Time to power on!
After installing the cleaned motherboard I was ready to test out the machine. I pressed the power switch and I was happy to hear the familiar high pitched sound of the monitor coming to life. After a few seconds it warmed up and I saw that the game was playing.
Unfortunately though, the screen didn’t look right. The colors were way off as it was too red and in the top right corner it was green.
Luckily for me the fix was to adjust the pots on the back of the monitor’s neck board (see the pic).
After the fine tuning I also adjusted the focus so I would get a nice clear picture. The red monitor must have been what the salesmen was talking about it having a “bad video board”.
Extended testing AKA: Playing some Galaga
I started playing and made it to stage 20 and then all of a sudden the game rebooted on me. It then came up to an error screen where it said “RAM OK ROM 01” (Note: Errors are displayed in upside text when the Galaga machine boots)
From my research it indicated there was a problem with the rom chip at 3N so I removed the rom chip again and cleaned it some more and also cleaned the socket again.
I also read that the power supply voltage should be checked and adjusted if it wasn’t around 5.2 volts. My power supply was putting out 4.9 volts so after I adjusted it to 5.2
After the cleaning the 3N rom chip / socket and adjusting the power supply voltage I’m happy to say that I’ve had no problems at all with the game. It hasn’t rebooted on me or acted up at all.
Video of the end result
Next on my list is to install a marquee light because it doesn’t have one in the cabinet. I’ve already ordered side art and the kick panel art so that the cabinet looks complete. All in all I’m very happy with my Galaga game.
5 thoughts on “My Galaga arcade machine a thrift store find”
This was one of the first arcades that I remember being hooked on as a kid. I must have been 7 or 8. Talk about elegant simplicity!
You’ve got that right Andy! It was one of my favorite games growing up and a game I always wanted to own one day.
What chip puller do you use to get the chips out of their sockets? Yes they are very delicate.
I have a cheap chip puller I purchased from Amazon that I’m not that happy with. I just did a search for it and it’s called “Stainless Steel with Insulated Vinyl Grip IC Puller – ET-10”. I also use small flat blade screw drivers to lift IC’s.