ECN Electrical Forum - Discussion Forums for Electricians, Inspectors and Related Professionals
ECN Shout Chat
Shout Box
Recent Posts
Fujifilm Recalls Power Adapter Wall Plugs
by Admin. 01/16/18 07:04 PM
VDE 0100 to introduce AFCIs
by sparky. 01/16/18 06:36 PM
Air Compressor feeder conductor sizing
by Potseal. 01/15/18 09:08 PM
Under carpet cable?
by HotLine1. 01/15/18 09:57 AM
New in the Gallery:
Housebilding DIY wiring
SE cable question
Who's Online Now
0 registered members (), 19 guests, and 6 spiders.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
Previous Thread
Next Thread
Print Thread
Rate Thread
Ewww, That Smell!!! #131166
03/14/03 08:43 PM
03/14/03 08:43 PM
Scott35  Offline
Broom Pusher and
Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 2,708
Anaheim, CA. USA
Can't 'Ya Smell That Smell!?!?!?

In the spirit of that Lynyrd Skynyrd tune, this was similar to what my Wife and I said when we returned home last Monday Evening.

We left for about two hours. Returning home, went into our Computer Room and there was an extremely odd odor! Our Cats were in there also (along with their Cat Box), but that wasn't the smell! This was more like Vinyl. - Hard Emphasis on the word Vinyl!
Not burnt Vinyl, more like fresh from the Factory Vinyl.

So anyhow, I go to my Workstation to jump back on a CAD Plan Set. Notice the CD-ROM drive tray is out! (Drive is open). Upon further investigation, also notice that the front panel Power LED is dark (Powered Down).
Puzzled, I look at the Plug Strips to see if maybe the Cats had turned one off (which they do sometimes). Then look to see if all breakers are on. Everything is on. Try the Monitor - it powers up with an expected "No Signal" indication, since the CPU is down.
*** Did I mention the Cats are acting very strange and will not go anywhere near my Workstation?***

So I try to Power up the Workstation - no luck! Not even able to begin POST! Dead as a Door Nail!
That's when it hit me!!! The Smell, The CD-ROM tray, The Cats, The No-POST..... OH NO!!! BOARD / POWER SUPPLY FAILURE!!!

Opened up the case, and sure enough that smell was deep inside it! Cats are still keeping their distance!

First thing I try was the CPU fan (Slot 1 Type CPU). The Fan is stuck. Remnants of Smoke "Pops" on the sides, indicate loss of smoke from the CPU Fan (hoping smoke is still inside CPU!).

Next, I wanted to see if this might have blown the internal fuse of the Power Supply (The SMPS). Open it up, massive smell and "Smoke Pops" found around the cooling Fan, and the PCB appears to have been overheated. Fan inside Power Supply is totally fried! Will not spin for anything! Now I have two failed Hardware items.

Knowing firmly that when a Computer has problems like this, things happen in "Threes", so I look around for another failed item - still praying that the Motherboard and CPU continue to hold their smoke.

As I am doing a visual of the DRAM and Expansion Bus, I notice a little Barbecued edge on the SVGA Video Adapter. The Chipset is facing away from me, so I did not notice anything right away.

Removing the Video adapter, I found the 3rd Hardware Failure!!!

The images below should make you cry! (I almost did! Explanation to follow)

[Linked Image]

Image 1: An overview of the SVGA Adapter; notice the Barbecued VRAM IC on the lower right side.

[Linked Image]

Image 2: Closer overview of the Adapter. Barbecue marks can be seen much better now!

[Linked Image]

Image 3: This overview shows the little piece of VINYL (Poly VINYL Chloride) that I had seen, while the card was still in the Expansion Bus Slot and only could see the opposite side.

[Linked Image]
[Linked Image]

Images 4 and 5: These close-ups show the damaged VRAM and controller ICs on this SVGA Video Adapter. (I know, PCI Video??? It gets explained below)

Well, this Workstation was used to do my AutoCAD work, and had AutoCAD plus Plotter profiles setup and tweaked out nicely. That was the only downfall here!!! FINALLY LEARNED FROM MISTAKES!!! YAHOO!!!

After the previously experienced LAN / Hard Drive Fiasco, ALL work was saved to each Workstation on the LAN (total of 5 Workstations). Also, due to the last scenario, finally figured an alternate "Spare PC" was a good idea!
It took me about 4 hours to re-set everything on the LAN, plus get the "Spare" configured with AutoCAD and the Plotter, and that was taking my time!

Fortunately, only lost two completed CAD pages, which were not saved to the LAN W/S, but were Plotted just before the failure!

The failed SVGA Video Adapter was for PCI Bus. When I built this machine in early 1998, I wanted to use AGP Video card, but Frys was out of them - so I settled for the PCI card. It worked fine until the Smoke fell out this week. The Resolution and Pixel Depth was 800x600 @ 16 Bit from 1998 to around mid 2001. This was due to using a simple 14" SVGA Monitor, and the machine was an Alternate W/S + Server (if that makes any sense!). When my original P5-166 machine died, I began using this Workstation as primary W/S. This machine is AL440LX Based Board, with a PII 233 MHz CPU.
Used the Monitor from the old P5 machine, which is a nice 19" SVGA, so I bumped the Graphics up to 1024x768 @ 16 bit.

Also, all Workstations and Servers are Powered Up 24/7/365 (On Always). Had found this to be beneficial, but after this situation, my thoughts are changing!!!

Moral of story: We were gone only Two Hours, and this Chaos occurred! Everything was fine and the machine was working before we left. Never underestimate the laws of Murphy!!!
Fortunately there was no fire, and we left windows open while we were gone - this kept the Cats from being subjected to the Smoke.

Now its time to visit Frys again!!!

I am thinking this was the chain of events:


[*]The CPU Fan stalled and fried - possibly stalled long before all the other resultant failures,

[*]This caused the CPU to heatsink into the Motherboard, which found its way through the SVGA card, and the heat dissipated through the edge of the card,

[*]The extreme heat caused the VRAM ICs to fail,

[*]All this stuff failing caused the Power Supply to produce extreme heat, plus the Fan inside the supply was subjected to extreme heat,

[*]This lead to the demise of the Power Supply

[*]Prior to complete Power Loss, the machine went through some "Odd States Of Being", causing the CD Tray to eject, and possibly odd noises to be produced - judging from the Cats' reactions!

Anyone have thoughts on this???

Scott35 S.E.T.

Scott " 35 " Thompson
Just Say NO To Green Eggs And Ham!
Tools for Electricians:
Re: Ewww, That Smell!!! #131167
03/14/03 09:15 PM
03/14/03 09:15 PM
Bjarney  Offline
Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 2,527
West-Southern Inner-Northeast ...
Scott, the cupholder deployed because the workstation needed a fresh glass of cooling water. ;-)

Re: Ewww, That Smell!!! #131168
03/14/03 10:04 PM
03/14/03 10:04 PM
Bill Addiss  Offline
Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 3,888

I have a Computer that wouldn't boot up the other day and was making sounds like a PacMan game was going on. Haven't had time to look at it yet.


Re: Ewww, That Smell!!! #131169
03/15/03 02:43 AM
03/15/03 02:43 AM
SvenNYC  Offline
Joined: Aug 2002
Posts: 1,691
New York City
Scott. I've got some power supply fans if you need some....

I pull them out of old computers I find in the trash.

Had to replace the one on my new 200 MHz Pentium power night I came home and hit the switch it started squealing, so I dug around in my sack o'fans till I found the correct sized one.

Good luck....good thing the whole device didn't go up in flames (guess the tin cabinet helped a lot).

[This message has been edited by SvenNYC (edited 03-15-2003).]

Re: Ewww, That Smell!!! #131170
03/15/03 09:29 AM
03/15/03 09:29 AM
Scott35  Offline
Broom Pusher and
Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 2,708
Anaheim, CA. USA

Scott, the cupholder deployed because the workstation needed a fresh
glass of cooling water. ;-)

LOL!!! That's about what it looked like! Sure glad I didn't need to jam the hose end of a Fire Extinguisher in the drink holder!
Have two "A/B/C" type extinguishers in the Computer Room, fortunately none have been used yet!


I have a Computer that wouldn't boot up the other day and was making
sounds like a PacMan game was going on. Haven't had time to look at it

No POST, or no Boot to operating system?
If you start smelling Vinyl, grab the garden hose! [Linked Image]


Scott. I've got some power supply fans if you need some....

I am thinking of installing an additional muffin fan inside the case. Since I am going to buy a new SMPS, will look for one with plenty O' power output to drive additional fans and all the PC stuff.
Have one "Intake" fan already installed, so this additional would be placed somewhere nice and used for exhaust.


Good luck....good thing the whole device didn't go up in flames (guess the
tin cabinet helped a lot).

I am still wondering why we didn't come home to a Silicon / Plastic Sandwich, inside a Tin Barbecue Pit! The video adapter was definitely burning!
On the 4 ICs that got roasted, the internal "Chip" on each is outlined around the top of each DIP. They popped upwards from the DIP's base, and penetrated the uppermost part of the DIP.
Also, when they popped upwards, the heatsinking white grease blasted outward, ending up on the backside of the LAN Adapter (NIC)!
Looked like Digital Pimples! [Linked Image]

Scott35 s.e.t.

Scott " 35 " Thompson
Just Say NO To Green Eggs And Ham!
Re: Ewww, That Smell!!! #131171
03/15/03 10:06 AM
03/15/03 10:06 AM
George  Offline
Joined: Feb 2002
Posts: 375
I have found that the best investment is good fans and cases.

We build all of our own equipment.

All of our workstations have server cases with 3 or 4 80mm fans. The CPUs have Antec (sp??) fans.

I think you can set the BIOS on new mother boards to shut down when a certain temp is reached.

Re: Ewww, That Smell!!! #131172
03/21/03 09:00 AM
03/21/03 09:00 AM
strangedog  Offline
Joined: Aug 2002
Posts: 35
Dayton, Ohio
More likely course of failure:

1. Surge Supressor gave (up 50% after one year 95% after 2 years)

Surge supressors generally use Metal Oxide Varistors to absorbs surge current. These are sacrifical components and they wear out from everyday surges (the fridge cycling, etc.) The "protected" LED has a much higher fault current than the MOVs. Some exotic surge supressors do not use MOVs but most degrade into pretty power strips in a couple of years.

2. Power Supply failure

Something in the power supply failed catastrophically resulting in an overvoltage on the 5v or 12v rails (120v and 24v are avialable in different parts of the powersupply). Usually a short caused by leaking electrolyte from a blow capacitor. The Caps usually die either from excessive heat or from the cumulative effects of power problems. As this was a slot 1 machine it was probably at least 3 years old (likely 4-5). All the other damage was secondary. Envision the machine sparking, beeping and smoking (with the cd drive tray moving in and out) for 20 – 30 seconds and you will understand the cat’s reaction.


1. Powersupply fan failed

2. See step two above

It is best for a leader to be both feared and loved. But since this usually cannot be done, it is safer to be feared.
Re: Ewww, That Smell!!! #131173
03/21/03 09:30 AM
03/21/03 09:30 AM
resqcapt19  Offline
Joined: Nov 2000
Posts: 2,148
Have two "A/B/C" type extinguishers in the Computer Room, fortunately none have been used yet!

I hope that they are not dry powder type. The application of dry powder to electronic equipment often causes as much damage as the fire, especially to the parts not already involved in the fire. Not only does the powder get everywhere, it is also on the corrosive side and can destroy all of the card and other plug-in connections. CO2 is one of the best for electronic equipment, and if something is just running hot you can use the CO2 to cool it down. There is an old story about an overloaded neutral conductor in a computer power panel for a major bank. This was many years ago and the effects of harmonics on 3 phase grounded conductors had not been accounted for. The bank has started a computer run that needed to continue for about 20 hours. A few hours into the run, they smelled the smell of hot plastic. It was traced to the grounded conductor in the power panel. Maintenance was called and they told the computer people that the power had to be shut down. The computer people said "no way". Someone came up with the idea of using CO2 extinguishers to keep the connection cool enough to complete the computer run. Every minute or so for the next 15 hours, a short blast of the -78°F CO2 was applied to the connection. This kept the connection from failing and the computer run was completed.



2017 Master Electrician Exam Preparation Combos
2017 NEC Electrician
Exam Prep Combos:
Master / Journeyman


Member Spotlight
Anaheim, CA. USA
Posts: 2,708
Joined: October 2000
Show All Member Profiles 
Top Posters(30 Days)
sparky 23
Admin 19
Potseal 13
Popular Topics(Views)
243,514 Are you busy
180,311 Re: Forum
170,804 Need opinion
Powered by UBB.threads™ PHP Forum Software 7.6.1
(Release build 20180101)
Page Time: 0.031s Queries: 14 (0.007s) Memory: 1.0033 MB (Peak: 1.1639 MB) Zlib enabled. Server Time: 2018-01-17 01:07:07 UTC