"The USB drive melted in my hand..."
This is one that we've experienced first hand. Max, our esteemed Editor-in-Chief, had routinely
plugged one of his USB flash drives into a Pentium 4 system to transfer data when *
pop * off went the computer in a silent flash of nothingness. Needless to say
the motherboard, processor, and all the optical drives were toasted. As for the USB key... well, we've
never had the courage to try it again.
had Windows XP systems crash on me a couple of times after I've inserted USB
devices, though the systems suffered no apparent damage,
USB mishaps and
short circuits seem relatively rare next to some of the other entries in this
list, but we did receive quite a few letters about
them. The defining factor with these incidents seems to be the sheer randomness. A
device might work perfectly for months or even years with a given system,
then kill it the next time it is plugged in.
with USB is that it transfers more power than most other I/O interfaces, so a short
circuit can have disastrous consequences for the rest of your computer if the motherboard
is not properly outfitted with board level fuses. Another possible
cause is that the 'hot pluggable' nature of USB interfaces means that they are
plugged in and unplugged much more than other I/O devices, leading to increased
wear and tear and more chance of an electrical mishap.
How Not to Kill Your Computer This
Actually, there's no easy way to avoid this besides not
using USB devices, which is not something we'd recommend. Taking a little time
and care when plugging and unplugging your devices is probably the best path
to safety. As an aside, several of our readers mentioned having problems specifically
with devices that provided front-mounted USB ports, so you might want to
reconsider using one of these if your computer case does not normally
have front mounted ports. My recommendation is to put a USB hub
on the desk, or use a USB port extension cable when plugging in devices
"...I was rearranging my speakers on my desktop,
when I pulled out my knife to cut the wire ties. I heard this tone like when you
unplug something. Turns out I cut my optical mouse cord. It shorted out my
onboard USB ports as well..."
Sometimes we really are to blame when our computers kick the bucket.
This category belongs to users who, through negligence, accident or direct
physical violence, caused their systems to die.
"...I remember killing a 512mb stick of ram. It
wouldn't quite fit in the slot, but a little filing of the
notches and voila... nothing... ever again!"
It really must be difficult being a computer system in a world filled
with owners who can carelessly inflict such damage on innocent digital
devices. Oh the humanity!
"...I was leaning over the case to take a look at
the motherboard when I dropped my travel mug full of hot coffee inside. Sadly,
the lid did not hold..."
I really don't think we need to explain why any of the above actions would
cause a computer to cease functioning, do we?