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  1. #1
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    Flaming computer

    <img src=/S/meltdown.gif border=0 alt=meltdown width=15 height=15>

    Anybody out there ever had a computer go up in flames? My niece called us today with this tale of woe: Her three-year-old Hewlett Packard computer seems to have self-ignited. She turned it on this morning, only to see some sort of error message (something about it couldn't boot until she fed it a specific disk--I'm thinking the restore disk or some such). She turned the computer off, waited, then tried again. This time, she saw smoke coming outta the tower!

    She's asked me to help her. OK, my first guess is the power supply went bad. I'm not a computer technician--anybody have any suggestions as to what to look for when we pop the hood? What are the chances we'll be able to salvage this beast? Should she start shopping for a new computer? (My guess is yes--new ones are sometimes cheaper than the repair! Besides, the hard drive is probably still OK...yeah?) <img src=/S/thewave.gif border=0 alt=thewave width=225 height=33>

  2. #2
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    Re: Flaming computer

    Hail Caesar3!

    First things first, from your description of the error message, it sounds like she may have switched the machine on with a floppy disk in the drive. Not finding the required boot information on it, the computer requests that she either insert a valid boot disk or ejects it to allow booting from the hard drive after a restart. Could be right, could be wrong.

    Now the fun bit. Smoking 3-y-o HP's are a rare thing. In my experience they tend to be put together with a better quality of bits and pieces than you're average beige box generic. The PSU is the most likely though - electricity and three years of dust don't mix <img src=/S/meltdown.gif border=0 alt=meltdown width=15 height=15>.

    Look for obvious short circuit material (loose screws, paperclips etc.) and loose connections on the motherboard. I wouldn't bother looking inside the PSU. There's pure mains voltage running through that thing and it bites <img src=/S/electric.gif border=0 alt=electric width=15 height=15>. If there is a problem, it could cause the PSU casing to become live. Besides, you might take the cover off, find nothing apparently wrong, boot up successfully and think everything is fine. Then some time down the line, the problem comes back - this time when it's been left on overnight or when 'just down to the store for ten minutes'... <img src=/S/fire.gif border=0 alt=fire width=15 height=15>

    If there is a reputable PC technician <img src=/S/doctor.gif border=0 alt=doctor width=32 height=16> near her, get them to have a look. Tell her to mention it may be the PSU - it may make them pause to think before rushing in.

    The hard drive -should- be OK, but without further investigation I can't say 100%. I'm sure someone else has some good pointers.

  3. #3
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    Re: Flaming computer

    Thanks, Fish! Now, uh-h...PSU is the power supply, right?

  4. #4
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    Re: Flaming computer

    First - Unplug this and don't plug it back in except in a controled environment! Do it *now*!

    I used to work for a computer repair shop. Now I run a network for a 20 mil a year company. Please... Take this to a pro. I like to help people do things themselves. Most times the solution is simple and the worst case scenario is that nothing gets fixed. This is not that. You're looking at a fire hazard and it's just not worth the risk of a house fire. Many small repair shops do free diagnostics. Take it to one of them. Heck, pay some shop an hours labor to tell you what is wrong with this.

    Also, have the owner contact her home insurance agent. This is probably covered or at least is deductable.

    Not worth the risk. Not worth the risk.

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