Kipper2k 8MB+IDE vs ACA500!

This is an installation guide for the Kipper2k board, and a comparison between these two recent hardware products for Amiga 500 that expands its RAM and lets you use a CF card as harddisk.
Update: I'm having trouble with the Kipper2k board popping off the socket at the slightest move. I will add some text on how to ensure it doesn't when I get more info. If you've solved it let me know!

I call these expansions enablers, because it used to take quite a bit of work and money to find the right hardware and building up the knowledge to set up a "harddisk system". Also, various transfer methods for getting files onto the harddisk was a pain to get working.
Now, two products made in 2013, costing 50 or 80 EUR ($68 or $107) allow you to do both these things, saving a lot of hassle!

The ACA500

I reviewed the ACA500 some months ago - it's an external board that you plug into the side of the Amiga 500, insert a CF card, and you're ready to go! It has 2MB RAM and a 14MHz 68000 CPU.
Read the review to find out more about ACA500's features. I wanted this article to show how to install Kipper2k's expansion, step by step with pictures.

Kipper2k's 8MB+IDE

This expansion has 8MB RAM and is an internal expansion that uses your existing 7MHz 68000 CPU.
This means you have to open your Amiga - with a Torx #10 (2.5 metric) screwdriver.
I've written some text to make the guide complete, but don't be afraid - it's really not very hard to install this board.
In summary, these are the steps to upgrade your Amiga 500 to a "harddisk" system with lots of memory:
  • Plug the board into the CPU slot, and put the CPU on the board
  • Solder a two-pin connector to the motherboard
  • Partition and Amiga-format a CF card and install Workbench on it

1. Open the case, remove the shield

Disconnect all cables from your Amiga.
If the steel RF shield is covering the motherboard, it needs to go. Otherwise the board will not fit. Use a thin, flat screwdriver to raise the flaps holding it straight up, and remove the screws holding it.
Take this opportunity to check for battery leakage! If you have an A500+, there's a barrel battery next to the trapdoor connector. If you have a trapdoor RAM expansion installed that has a battery, check that also. If they have leaked, remove them and clean any residue with alcohol. Your Amiga runs fine without a battery, and later you can get a replacement battery.

2. Remove the CPU, straighten its pins

Put first a small flat screwdriver, then a bigger one, between the socket and the underside of the CPU, wiggling at either end. When it's coming loose, make sure the CPU goes out of the socket as straight up as possible - put a finger on the chip to prevent one end from rising too much.
To fit easily in the new socket, the pins must be 90°, like in the small closeup. If they are more like 100°, bend the pin row carefully against the table, put the chip on that pin side, hold it vertically with both hands, and push away from you gently. If a pin is bent sideways, bend it back gently with flat pliers.
You may want to take this opportunity to upgrade your Kickstart ROM chip! If you have Kickstart 1.3, you will need to boot to the harddisk from a floppy disk. Kickstart 3.1 is the best choice and allows you to run the latest Workbench with recent add-on software.

3. Insert board into CPU socket, insert CPU into board socket

The sockets of this board use round pins and holes, so you must use both care and a little force. Insert the board into the motherboard CPU socket, matching up the U-shaped notches. Press down firmly and make sure you don't get a bulge - all pins should go equally deep into the socket.
Place the CPU into the board's socket, again matching up the end U-shaped notches, and just put your fingers lightly onto the CPU. Make sure all pins match up to the holes - guide them with a tiny screwdriver if necessary - and then press the CPU down into the socket.
Note the two-pin header left of the Amiga - the IDE signal patch cable must be connected before we can start the Amiga.

4. Solder the two-pin header to the motherboard

This is a view of an upside down Amiga, seen from the expansion connector with the flap open.

Here, I put the header back on the cable, so it would be easier to see how I should orient it before I soldered.
Orientation is important! The cable uses two colored wires. Look at the wire color to the frontmost pin on the board. Make sure the same color is connected to the frontmost pin when the header is soldered to the motherboard. These pictures show it in more detail.

Then I held it, flipped the Amiga for easy soldering, and bent the legs a little to prevent the header from falling out.

5. Insert a CF card and power on!

These pictures show the specifications of the Kipper2k 8MB+IDE.
Now, preparing an Amiga-formatted CF card is a separate chapter that requires more knowledge than this hardware installation. You could a) buy such a card pre-formatted from Amigakit, eBay, etc., or b) buy a CF card separately (I recommend SanDisk Extreme III 2GB), remove PC partitions from it (if necessary), and follow FitzSteve's video tutorial or Retrosofer's simpler one.
Then, you'll have enabled your Amiga 500 to run Workbench with lots of memory and even launch games from Workbench!

So, which board is best!?

The gist of it comes from my first impressions of each card: The ACA500 is super great, but why only 2MB, and why no cover to protect it?? And for the Kipper2k: You mean I have to open the case just to put some files on the CF card, and why can't it boot to the CF card with kick 1.3, like my very old harddisk expansions??
The ACA500 is super easy to install and has lots of modern features. Kipper2k requires soldering and some hardware knowledge and does exactly what it says on the tin, you get a CF card slot and 8MB RAM, and that's it.

Quick comparison:

CF slots12
CPU boost1.33x4x
CF speed833 KB/s1970 KB/s
CompatibilityPerfectVery good
Extra FeaturesNoneMany


The ACA500 is the better board for WHDLoad games and Workbench productivity. Kipper2K has two major features that utility users and programmers like me like a lot: The CPU and RAM stays exactly at the original speeds (so you can code programs for the A500 on your A500), and there's enough RAM to work on bigger projects.
By installing a Kick 3.1 ROM chip, the ACA500's 2MB might be juust enough for most of what you want to do, and it does allow using a 512K trapdoor as extra chip RAM.
I see Kipper2k's board as an exact internal replacement for the old harddisk boxes you plugged into the side of the A500. This is great for coders, not to mention people who don't want a board (or harddisk-box) sticking out of the side! But I think most users will be happier with the fast, easy-to-use ACA500 and its useful features.
I'm a coder though, so I'll be using the Kipper2k board in my Amiga 500 for some coding to try it out properly!