Exploding PC...?

  ptrafc 07:30 23 Sep 09
Locked

Hi,
I left my PC in hibernate mode (something I never usually do) while I watched TV. Then about an hour later something 'popped', like something blew inside the tower. After unplugging it I pulled the side off the tower and there was a smell of burning coming from the PSU area, but on closer inspection I can't find any scorch marks and there was no smoke, just the burning smell, which went after a few minutes.
Strangely tho, the PC still operates fine, and there's no more burning smell.
Any ideas what could have 'blown'?

Thanks in advance.

  mooly 07:38 23 Sep 09

Was it a burning smell or a "weird smell"
Electroylitic capacitors can "pop", the top will look bulged out. They are the round cylindrical "cans".
If it was a genuine burning smell hat sounds like a resistor or semiconductor but something should be inoperative. Are cooling fans etc still OK?

  mooly 07:41 23 Sep 09

Bad capacitors image here,
click here

having spent all my working life in electronics repair you get to know every kind of failure and smell that goes with it lol

  ptrafc 08:11 23 Sep 09

I did just pass it off as a burning smell, but it could have been something a little different.
All of the fans are still working fine, and I checked that everything else was working.
I shall check the capacitors when I get home, something I never thought of looking at!
If I do find a bad one, will this cause other problems?

Thanks.

  mooly 08:20 23 Sep 09

See what you find first. Caps that explode can leave a corrosive mess behind that attacks circuit boards etc. Bit hard to explain how it all works but other caps in parallel with a failed one will now be more stressed (passing a higher ripple current) that will lead to their failure.
Caps are just one possiblity. A resistor (safety type) can make a sharp crack if it fails (but there's usually a reason for it... like a fuse) and something would be inoperative... like a DVD drive etc, or audio stages and so on. Test everything.
Semiconductors, again sharp crack, definitely something wouldn't work then.
Ordinary resistor in power supply fails... loads of smoke usually.

  morddwyd 08:26 23 Sep 09

While you're in there have a look for fried creatures (spider, cockroach etc.).

It has been known.

  Chegs ®™ 10:38 23 Sep 09

I once had a very large capacitor(in a valve amplifier)explode whilst I was looking inside,result was a mess of papery substance all over the insides of the amp & my hand covered in a "nicotine" stain.

  skeletal 10:51 23 Sep 09

Another one is surge protection/mains filter devices. These will be in the power supply very close to where the mains power comes into the power supply unit.

As before, look for scorching/mess/broken/charred parts.

The thing with some of these components is that they can fail completely, but the computer will function completely normally afterwards, possibly for many years. BUT, if you happened to get a mains spike, the spike would not be “stopped” by the now broken part, and could then do more damage which will wreck the computer.

Also, there is the small chance that the computer will now interfere with other electronics near by (e.g. your radio may start making funny noises if the computer is switched on).

Skeletal

  ptrafc 12:49 23 Sep 09

Thanks for the suggestions guys, I don't recall seeing any kind of mess at all inside the case, however I was only looking for scorch marks so it could have easily been overlooked.
I also use a surge protector, which does seem to be functioning normally with it's usual lights etc, but I didn't take a closer look since the smell almost certainly was coming from the PSU area of the case. I shall check that out properly however.
A mate of mine suggested looking for a fried spider, something I'd have never thought of doing!

  skeletal 15:09 23 Sep 09

Ah, sorry for the confusion. The surge protection components I meant are inside the computer’s power supply and to the untrained eye (don’t take this the wrong way!) will just look like any other “thingy”. It’s just that when such components fail, they won’t have any immediately noticeable effect on the computer’s performance.

The external surge protector that you have bought is based on similar technology but can handle bigger spikes. It is possible it may have “gone” in the same way, but clearly, if you can smell something from the computer, the problem is much more likely to be there.

Skeletal

  octal 19:28 23 Sep 09

I'll go along with skeletal's theory of the surge protector component, this is what happens when it pops click here the appliance usually keeps working if the fuse is replaced.

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