A large portion of your computer's well being depends on the quality of the
power being fed to it. Power surges, blackouts, brownouts and defective cables can
all contribute to making your beloved system's stay on earth a short one.
"So one day, there was a short somewhere in the
house, and the only place that there was a ground, was.... you guessed it, my
computer. Mom smelled smoke and went running down the stairs to find a thick,
black cloud floating in the living room. My computer had flames coming from the
top fan hole about 10 inches high..."
Now it could be argued that this category could also be lumped in with power
supply failures, but we wanted to make the distinction that lousy power can make
even the best power supply turn into a demon.
How Not to Kill Your Computer This
Every computer system should be covered by a surge
protector at the very least. Better to buy a UPS if you can afford one. For maximum protection, buy a UPS that
conditions power to make sure that the voltage being fed to your precious
system stays consistent. A good UPS costs a little over a hundred dollars, how much
does your entire PC cost to replace?
Common sense rules also apply here. If there is an outlet in your house
that has been unreliable with other electrical devices, don't plug your system
into it. Avoid the plugs that have that telltale smudge of smoke on the
wall above them too.
The Short Circuit
(Number 5 may be alive, but your system is DEAD).
As we mentioned above in the 'assembly issues' category, using the spacers
that come with your case when mounting the motherboard is a good idea. The
reason for this is that some parts of your computer are just not supposed to
touch other parts. Given the miniscule tolerance for current that most
integrated circuit components have, creating a short circuit to them is really
not the best thing for your system's health.
"...a power cable had fallen from the bundle of
un-used power cables that I tie-wrapped to the chassis frame and had was sitting
on the video card. The electrical contacts of the power cable are insulated,
however, this particular cable had dropped perfectly on a somewhat "raised"
solder joint on the video card. bang !"
Short circuits in computer systems are generally caused when a component of
the system is installed incorrectly, and metal from one component ends up
touching the circuit traces or electronic parts of another. This allows
current to pass between them, possibly bypassing any of the normal safeguards
that might be built into either components circuit path. A common source
of these incidents is lost screws which tend to get lodged in all sorts of wacky
places. A screw making contact between the wall of the case and your
motherboard can have disastrous consequences.
How To Avoid Killing Your Computer This
If you are assembling your system or adding new components, take a moment to
ensure that everything is in place and that no components or unshielded cables
are touching the motherboard (excluding components plugged into the board of
course). Make sure to retrieve lost screws promptly. Forget about
them and you might well regret it later.