Shelf life of Electrolytic Capacitors

any electrolytic capacitor engineers here?

i have electronic devices that use electrolytic capacitors (Snes, PS2 Slim consoles, CRT TV) some of these devices and electrolytic capacitors were manufactured in the early 90’s but I don’t know the brands of these capacitors

my doubt is about long-term storage of these electronic devices will cause failures and problems in these electrolytic capacitors?

That was a fun era for electrolytic capacitors:


A discourse on electrolytic caps can be found here.

My recommendation for preservation of such artifacts, so far as the electrolytic caps therein are concerned, would be to store them in a cool, dry place, and use them one in a while.

Dry-out of the electrolyte solution is a phenomenon that follows an Arrhenius relationship, which predicts roughly a doubling of process rate for every 10°C increase in temperature. Hence, keeping things cool and dry helps. The dielectric in such caps is formed electrochemically, and when unused for extended periods, 'lytics can self-cannibalize to a degree. Using them periodically helps to minimize this effect by engaging their self-healing mechanism, and limits the possibility that the dielectric will weaken to a point that failure will occur when an item is next put into service.

In short, treat your vintage electronics like something you care about and want to preserve, and enjoy them in the process.

No risk of failure in the electrolytic capacitor due to disuse What is the maximum interval period of time for me to use power on my devices that have electrolytic capacitors (electrolytic capacitors made from the early 90’s, various brands and mounted inside the electronic circuit)

here where I live the temperature varies between 32-35ºC

Try to keep them around 15 to 20°C to prolong the life.

Fortunately the products you listed were built before the capacitor plague of 1999-2007 and are not PC’s where the vast majority of shorter than normal life capacitors were installed. So your devices could very well keep going for a decade or more to come. My oldest working devices with their original electrolytic caps are a few pieces of mid-70s audio gear.

Determining optimal exercise schedules for equipment longevity is a rather complex science; there’s no way to be confident of what’s ideal without a lot of very in-depth investigation.

I would suggest that a few hours of on-time every six months or so would be a good starting point. Eventual failure is guaranteed however, though electronic devices tend to cost less to repair/restore than other things, such as ships or steam locomotives.

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While google-ing this topic, I found an interesting wiki page that would help any user looking to replace the capacitors on legacy consoles, they have a pretty nice database of all the parts on the console:


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I don’t know if I have devices with the plague of electrolytic capacitors I know my oldest devices are from 1990/91 but some of them were manufactured in the early 2000s the devices are Snes consoles, MegaDrive, PS2 Slim 90000 and CRT TVs. they are from my collection and i keep them in storage but i have read that if i dont use them regularly i will have problems with the electrolytic capacitors but i look for some way forward to use them in the maximum possible time interval without compromising the capacitors at all electrolytic

unfortunately I don’t use air conditioning the temperature in my city in Brazil varies from 32-35ºC

can any engineer in electrolytic capacitor help me? the electrolytic capacitors of my devices are used, the oldest ones were made in the early 90’s and I don’t know the brands and they are inside the devices soldered on the board

i have doubt

You’ve had three engineers with broad experience in electrolytic capacitors try to help you out. Based on the wording of your replies, I think there may be a language barrier making it nearly impossible for us English only engineers to help you further. If English is not your native language I recommend you find a technical forum in your native language and ask there.

I’m from Brasil and here there are no electrolytic capacitor engineers, I’m just looking for a tip for a safe interval without using these electronic devices that have electrolytic capacitors from the early 90’s or early 2000’s it is necessary to use it every month because I don’t know the manufacturer of the capacitors and they were manufactured in the early 90’s and early 2000’s and assembled in electronic circuit

my devices are snes, megadrive, ps2 slim 90000, crt tv

i confused my sittuation

Hi @cloudff7 , sadly there is really no such thing as “safe interval”, they will eventually fail, no matter what you do. Just enjoy as you see put, and realize there are a lot of resources available which you can use to eventually fix them down the road…


i know they will fail but i want to extend them to the maximum with good range and secure storage i have a collection of snes consoles, megadrive, ps2 slim 90000, TV CRT and they all have electrolytic capacitors so i want to understand what happens in electrolytic capacitors in the long-term storage of these electronics and using them before the storage causes electrolytic capacitors to fail

From Wikipedia’s article on Capacitor Plague:

Premature failure[edit]

All electrolytic capacitors with non-solid electrolyte age over time, due to evaporation of the electrolyte. The capacitance usually decreases and the ESR usually increases. The normal lifespan of a non-solid electrolytic capacitor of consumer quality, typically rated at 2000 h/85 °C and operating at 40 °C, is roughly 6 years. It can be more than 10 years for a 1000 h/105 °C capacitor operating at 40 °C. Electrolytic capacitors that operate at a lower temperature can have a considerably longer lifespan.

The capacitance should normally degrade to as low as 70% of the rated value, and the ESR increase to twice the rated value, over the normal life span of the component, before it should be considered as a “degradation failure”.[19][20] The life of an electrolytic capacitor with defective electrolyte can be as little as two years. The capacitor may fail prematurely after reaching approximately 30% to 50% of its expected lifetime.


I referred to storage of electronic devices that contain electrolytic capacitors and not in operation

We’ve given you generic examples, and ways you can extend the life of the device.

There are no “exact” time frames, some manufacturer where better then others 20 years ago, thus we can not say: “Do X and Y and we guarantee 10 years”… I would bet, that some of your devices have capacitors that are already starting to prematurely fail. It would be best to carefully open up each device and actually inspect the capacitors for failure.

PS, One system that comes to mind, is the original XBox, if you have one, this device has an RTC circuit that uses a Capacitor, that is known to “fail” and actually take out the main board from the materials in the Capacitor:

In the end, we can only recommend procedures to protect your device, but unless you open it up and properly inspect them and personally maintain the PCB, it might not be for nothing…


I have electronic devices from the early 90s and 2000s and i want to long term storage them but i have read that if they go a long time without use there are problems with the electrolyte capacitors so i will use them before that happens but i dont know how long they do not use them


I think there is a lot of good information in this thread. Unfortunately, there are no defined time limits to store installed caps without power before failure. It is even harder to estimate when ideal conditions are not met and we are not sure the manufacturer of the capacitor. With that information, you could possibly contact the manufacturer for more information or suggestions.