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Is Your Computer a Fire Hazard Waiting to Happen?

Cliff posted about 12 years ago | from the smoke-alarms-and-fire-truck-sirens dept.

Hardware 518

whoppers asks: "I'm sure we've all had our share of computer fans die, but what happens if your box is running while you're at work and several fans go out? My in-laws spare TigerPC AMD K62-400's power supply fan just went out about two hours ago, and the thing was blazing hot. A little poke to the blade, and it started up again, but shouldn't these things be made to stop if the fan stops for any reason? I'm starting to wonder if I should start leaving my box off when I'm away for a few hours. Since it's usually wide open, I don't see too much harm, but these cheap boxes that never get opened and cleaned have to be a hazard right? I can't afford a halon system in my office just yet. The only link I found related to this is here and should a few more people read this, here's the cached version. Does anyone have any thoughts or stories related to this?" The fact that this article appears on July 4th, when most Americans will be lighting fireworks is purely coincidental. That doesn't change the fact that the submittor raises a very good point. A general rule of computers is: the older they get, the more dusty they are and dust bunnies and their denser cousins are highly flammable. Unless you can keep such machines clean, it' is probably safer to leave them off.

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[f (-1, Offtopic)

bahamat (187909) | about 12 years ago | (#3822786)

first post!

Keep your system clean! (2, Insightful)

ReverendRyan (582497) | about 12 years ago | (#3822826)

IF you dont let the dust build up by useing a vacuum onece a month or so, that drasticaly reduces the fire hazard. Of course, that doesnt mean your CPU fan wont fail, causing your CPU to burn right through your motherboard if you dont have overheat protection. ;-)

Moderation - Modbombers are worse than pedos (-1, Flamebait)

ringbarer (545020) | about 12 years ago | (#3822846)

Reposting again. Managed to get up to 50 Karma, posted ONE pro-Troll message, and got mod-bombed. This diatribe was truer than I thought. CLiT, I shall be honored if you accept me as a member!

Visitors to the website [] will by now have surely heard of the act of Moderation. This is where a contributor's post can be 'Moderated' either positively or negatively, depending on how the Moderator perceives the value of the post. There is a sliding scale of total moderation points, from -1 to 5, along with snappy summaries of the reason for moderation, such as "Funny", "Insightful", or the ever popular "Troll". An additional benefit offered to Moderators is the ability to ban a poster from contributing, by negatively moderating enough of his postings in a 24 hour period.

In order to retain some level of fairness for the Slashdot population, the Slashdot Editors (adopting the role of 'Benevolent Dictators') have implemented a scheme whereby regular users of Slashdot, chosen essentially at random, are given the ability to act as Moderators.

This underlines an inherent flaw in the system. Psychological studies have shown that in any community, no matter how small, should a random sampling of people be given the slightest grasp of power, they will immediately abuse it. There is a primal, evolutionary desire in Man to place himself higher than his peers by whatever measurement they can muster. Slashdot Moderation provides the ideal means for which a man can prove himself more equal than others.

At the risk of invoking Godwin's Law at such an early point in my thesis, I have no choice but to compare Slashdot Moderation to the systematic genocide of the Jewish community in 1930's Germany.

A bold statement, I admit, and deliberately designed to shock, but I feel the statement is necessary. I shall now offer a more rational explanation, as well as a comparison of the parallels between Slashdot Culture, and the National Socialist regime.

First, some history. National Socialism did not spring up overnight. It grew from a feeling of national bitterness and resentment at the war reparations Germany was forced to make after World War One. Germany was a broken country, populated by desperate starving people. And to the desperate, an extreme ideology begins to seem like a rational choice.

The advent of new technology forces a paradigm shift in the way the beholders of that technology think. The Christianity Meme was made wide spread by the invention of the Gutenberg press. And the rise of National Socialism was made popular because of the invention of Cinema. Here we had a new means to control the flow of information to the populace, that they are willing to unquestioningly listen to due to the 'novelty factor' of moving pictures. It is no coincidence that some of the best Cinematography of the early 20th Century came out of the National Socialist propaganda machine.

Why is this the case? It is yet another fault of man that a new means of distributing memes is perceived, due to the 'newness' of the medium, to have a greater 'validity' than older media. Those harnessing new inventions have the power to win control of the hearts and minds of others.

With the tools in place, who should the National Socialists target? Clearly, as a counterpoint to Man's desire to hold power over others, there is also a desire to resent the success of others. If someone is successful, they reduce the self-worth of their beholders. Although times were harsh in Germany in the prelude to World War II, there were still successful inhabitants of that country. Possessing shrewd business acumen as well as the contacts in other countries needed to maintain support in such a poverty stricken and broken land, who else should deserve the wrath of the populace more than the Jews?

Fast-forward to the latter quarter of the 20th Century. Computing technology is focused in niche markets, and limited to big successful companies like IBM and Microsoft. As the markets were limited, there were also limited opportunities for employment. This gave rise to a rising number of college dropouts, seething with resentment and unable to relate to society beyond the staccato clatter of keyboards and the pallid green glow of an 80x24 text display, and lacking the basic business skills (and a smart suit) needed to secure employment at one of these companies.

At this time, a new invention was beginning to take hold in College campuses throughout the world. The Internet. As with the Gutenberg press and Cinema beforehand, this new technology would grow to spread one of the most virulent memes of the modern age - Open Source Software, created as the antithesis of successful business practise.

So, the parallels between the birth of Anti-Semetic National Socialism and the birth of Open Source Software have been made. Of course, it is easy to claim that A=B without providing further logical evidence in support. So, the next task of my thesis is to provide further parallels, and bring this discourse back to the initial focus on Slashdot Moderation.

Slashdot was conceived, in it's original 'Chips 'n' Dips' incarnation, as a vehemently anti-corporate Open Source website. Roughly 10-15 years down the line from the birth of Open Source, it has become saturated with propaganda, and now forms the centrepiece of the Open Source Development Network. An authority in it's field, Slashdot's success is in no small part due to the ability of the editors to 'pick and choose' valid news articles submitted by users, and present the same old tired "Open Source Good / Closed Source Bad" rhetoric time and time again, dabbling with anti-copyright and the right of the 'common man' to remove an artist's ability to gain compensation for the work. In essence, this is similar to the 'paring down' of artistic worth in 1930's Germany. If no-one is willing to contribute valid and vibrant art to the community, then all art shall become harsh and functional, possessing a certain intimidating aesthetic.

Which leads onto Open Source's shining achievement - Linux. This diatribe is not aimed towards Linux in particular, as it is a well-oiled, well-tuned machine. A technically adept Operating System, it is worthy of admiration by any rational man. The point of this thesis is not to attack the art produced by Open Source coders, which in itself is worthy, but to enlighten all as to the political processes behind the OSS movement.

By the same scale, it is hard to fault Mercedes for the technical excellence of the vehicles which were used by the National Socialist party. But the politics behind the party are what taint the image of Mercedes' vehicles of the era. The Swastika itself is a benign symbol, found this day in such diverse locations as Pokemon cards, but is permanently tainted with the history of the acts made under its auspice. In the same way, companies switching to Open Source solutions will begin to regard the Penguin with the same trepidation as their profits fall.

It should be worth noting at this point that IBM, previously one of the world's greatest companies, has begun reporting servere financial losses, no doubt due to its adoption of Open Source practises. This epoch-making event was NOT reported on Slashdot, even though articles were submitted.

And what of the other great company mentioned above? Microsoft, aka Micro$oft, Mickeysoft, Microshaft, Kro$oft, and many other derogatory and undeserved names. Throughout the previous 25 years, Microsoft has grown from strength to strength, again possessing shrewd business acumen as well as providing products that people want. This makes them the number one target for the OSS movement. Incapable of standing by their own merits, the OSS zealot would rather attack Microsoft as a priority than produce anything of worth for their community.

Slashdot Moderators, crazed with their limited new-found power, exhibit this behavior. It is a sad state of affairs that the majority of article moderations are negative. Where is the positive feedback and sense of social contribution? Nowhere to be found. Moderators are too focused on putting their peers down to make themselves appear superior, rather than doing the hard work and becoming better on their own terms.

As the National Socialists required a scapegoat, Slashdot Moderators require a constant stream of Postings to label '-1, Inferior'. Once a posting is reduced to the score of -1, it becomes invisible to the casual user. Again, this is a parallel to the Ghettoization of Germany upon the election of Hitler.

In essence this would not be so bad, were postings to be evaluated on their own terms. However, alongside the moderation of their postings, each user has a 'Karma' value, namely the sum of their worth to the Slashdot community. As a user's posts are moderated up or down, so their Karma fluctuates. As Karma becomes negative, a user's default posting score is reduced, until they are posting at a default of -1. Again, ghettoizing PEOPLE, not just their opinions.

This ghettoization is reinforced with the often fake belief that a negatively moderated post, and therefore the poster, is a "Troll". (Is it any wonder that such a name has been chosen to describe these people, invoking mental imagery of facial disfigurement and hooked noses?) As the Jews were accused of fraud, dishonesty and being subhuman animals, so too are Trolls accused of FUD, Crapflooding, and obfuscated links. Quite often, these 'undesirables' are capable of providing a valid insightful comment on a topic, but because it is in opposition to the Political dogma of Slashdot they are moderated back into their ghetto. The person becomes moderated, not their opinion.

This is just the thin end of the wedge. Although, as memes are transient, it is difficult to silence an opinion, it is trivial to silence a person. Upon the rise of National Socialism in Germany, the populace were motivated by propaganda into entering the Jewish Ghettos en masse with the sole purpose of causing as much damage as possible to Jewish businesses and residences. The infamous Krystalnacht. This parallels far too accurately with the Slashdot Editor's non-discouragement of the act of IP-banning. As mentioned above, this occurs when an individual user's postings are repeatedly moderated down in a short period. They then become incapable of posting any contributions themselves. In essence, they have been silenced, regardless of the worth of their postings.

Of course, the editors claim that Meta-Moderation is the panacea to solve this clear abuse of moderating privledge. But if a Meta Moderator is presented with a list of moderations that they disagree with, such as this targetted 'silencing' mentioned above, they cannot note them as such without in turn becoming an 'Undesirable' themselves, as too many Disagreements with the Moderation groupthink also result in loss of Karma.

Throughout all of this, the Editors have claimed a false level of detachment from the acts of moderation. In a same way, as the National Socialists gathered their power and began working on their Elite Political wing, The SS, they too remained detached from the civilians working in their name. Why? Because after inspiring the populace to such acts of violence through their propaganda, they could then claim that they were only giving the people what they want.

And then began the next stage of the atrocities. The Gestapo, Germany's secret police, were recruited from the best and the brightest of Germany's elite. As is the case now, the best and the brightest of society were often shunned and ostracized in society. In essence, the Gestapo were a tightly controlled 'Geek Army' of intelligent young men with a burning, seething resentment of normal society. The perfect psychological profile for the cause.

After all, give a normal man (with an active sex life) a gun and he will use it responsibly in self defence. Give a geek a gun and he will behave according to his sociopathic logic and hatred of the world he arrogantly presumes to be distant from. Ask yourself why Slashdot flat-out justified the murder of innocents at Columbine. And then ask yourself why, even for a brief moment, you almost began to sympathize with the killers after Jon Katz' manipulative and pseudo-emotive Hellmouth articles.

How this relates to Slashdot is clear. The majority of Slashdot posters are Sociopathic OSS zealots, unable through lack of social finesse or personal hygiene to mate regularly. Sexually and emotionally frustrated and with grudges to bear, incapable in their blinkered sense of self-righteousness of accepting any dissenting opinion than the OSS cause. Now give these people the opportunity to Moderate these dissenting opinions. Of course they are going to want to silence them, by any means necessary.

Now, the Slashdot Editors have admitted taking this silence of opinion into the next stage, by moderating whole swathes of 'undesirable' posts negatively. And then permanently banning anyone who moderates said posts back up from moderating EVER again! The result of this new policy? The few Moderators with any sense of fairness and decency are removed from the moderation pool, leaving the power ENTIRELY in the hands of the zealots. Clearly, positive moderation is discouraged under this regime, which is a direct parallel with the way the National Socialists moved their own sympathisers into positions of power throughout Europe.

So how does this compare to the genocide performed in Auschwitz and their ilk? I would like at this point to explain that in NO way do I wish to belittle the horrors that were performed in the name of National Socialism. The six million innocents killed were a cry of anguish from which humanity may never recover. And a vast distance in time and scope from a few banned posters on some shitty "My Favourite Links - now with comments" website. But these stories need to be retold before the horror is lost forever.

For the only thing that we learn from history is that we never learn anything from history. Time and time again, the St. Vitus dance is played out, we make the same mistakes, and we perpetually fail to see the warning signs.

So, moderators, the next time you moderate a rational, insightful post down, maybe because you disagree with it or because it's posted by a 'Known Troll', just ask yourself this...

"Am I really contributing to the Slashdot Community, or selfishly destroying it?"

Re:Moderation - Modbombers are worse than pedos (1, Offtopic)

sgage (109086) | about 12 years ago | (#3822953)

Somebody mod this asshole down please. :-)

Re:Moderation - Modbombers are worse than pedos (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#3822978)

"I have no choice but to compare Slashdot Moderation to the systematic genocide of the Jewish community in 1930's Germany. "

I may not be jewish , but i am a human. And i conside that statment an insure to us all.

Re:Moderation - Modbombers are worse than pedos (1, Offtopic)

josh crawley (537561) | about 12 years ago | (#3823010)

---" Reposting again. Managed to get up to 50 Karma, posted ONE pro-Troll message, and got mod-bombed. This diatribe was truer than I thought. CLiT, I shall be honored if you accept me as a member!"

Yeah, if you post something that doesn't get approved with the group-think of the Nazi -Moderators, you're modded to hell and back. I posted an article about being for the Spammer in the recent article and explaining why I dontt want congress involved. I was on topic and everything else, but some fuck-wad Thought I was a troll. Guess he doesn't have the mental capicity to understand other viewpoints. Still, Ringbarer, if you think you got mod-bombed, talk to "negativekarmanow tm" about his post [] .

This moderation evidently shows that MANY people wanted to see it, however, the thread was being bitch-slapped by moderators applying -1 to every article continously. Here's the totals...

Moderation Totals: Offtopic=377, Flamebait=4, Troll=27, Redundant=5, Insightful=98, Interesting=205, Informative=49, Funny=12, Overrated=11, Underrated=63, Total=851to every article continously. Here's the totals...

Before modding me down, if this isn't news, WHY WOULD K5 treat this as a story??? [] Perhaps editors, you shouldn't CENSOR people. You're who we look up to..

I think they already have it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#3822798)

At least my bios has an option to automatically shut down if it's too hot.

Re:I think they already have it (1)

iONiUM (530420) | about 12 years ago | (#3822821)

I've heard of CPU and/or motherboard temperature checking in the bios, but I've yet to hear of power supply temperature checking.. What motherboard do you have?

Re:I think they already have it (-1)

k0osh.CEOofCLIT (582286) | about 12 years ago | (#3822872)

you are really starting to bother me...i cant tell if your comments are trolls or you are just that fuckin stupid

Re:I think they already have it (-1, Flamebait)

iONiUM (530420) | about 12 years ago | (#3822900)

That's great. Don't read them then. Oh, and honostly, if you have nothing better than to flame people on slashdot... slashdot of all places.. jesus... "hey im a geek but i like to flame"? What? Parent's won't let you outside? Maybe you can do them some "favours" and they'll give you a few minutes of time out of your room.

It's happened to me.. (1)

iONiUM (530420) | about 12 years ago | (#3822800)

I've had my fan die before. I could only tell because a sick stench began pouring out of the power supply about an hour after it had stopped. I immediatly turned it off, hit it, and it was fine after that. Dust is a major concern, but just general life will cause fans to begin to fail I think..
I think a solution might be hard to find, as most would require a temperature check. But there's probably a power difference when the fan stops, so it might be easy to just put in a fuse that would break the power supply if the fan stopped.
Of course, this would mean crashing the computer... but perhaps at the cost of saving your power supply/not having a fire it might be worth it..

Re:It's happened to me.. (-1, Troll)

Ignorant Cocksucker (584160) | about 12 years ago | (#3822871)

The UL Mark [] on a product means that UL has tested and evaluated representative samples of that product and determined that they meet UL's requirements. In addition, products are periodically checked by UL at the manufacturing facility to make sure they continue to meet UL requirements.

From their website. I think this is what we need to avoid our power supplies gonig up in smoke.

Re:It's happened to me.. (2)

gmack (197796) | about 12 years ago | (#3822933)

Actually most OS have can be rigged to do a proper shutdown if the fans stop provided the motherboard supports it.

Re:It's happened to me.. (1) (317514) | about 12 years ago | (#3822946)

Last week, my power supply went, taking with it all hardware attached to the board(video,audio,ide,eth,etc). I didn't see any fire, but smelt something funny for a few seconds. I'm amazed, though I had never thought about it before, that there was no protection of the devices. I have much more respect for power supplies now, and will worry about dust there, not just in the case.

At least I have an excuse to get a new pc now, I just wish I could have kept the data(note to self-back up more than once a month)

Second Post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#3822801)

Second Post Bitches
You may all proceed lose

no more halon (1)

koehn (575405) | about 12 years ago | (#3822803)

I'm pretty certain that if you live in the US you won't be getting halon ever again. Due to it's nasty effects on the ozone layer, and the fact that you have to change/test the system once a year, halon was banned in about 1994. I think existing installations can get it, but no more new ones.

I'd go for carbon dioxide. It's cheaper, and much less likely to kill you. Or you could just turn off your machines when you leave, or monitor temperatures via s/w (don't most modern systems allow this?).

Hmmm (5, Funny)

shr3k (451065) | about 12 years ago | (#3822805)

The only link I found related to this is here and should a few more people read this, here's the cached version.

A link to the cached version? Come on, this is Slashdot. What's the worst that could happen?

Re:Hmmm (2)

josh crawley (537561) | about 12 years ago | (#3822842)

Google could get slashdotted, or maybe even Slashdot itself could be slashdotted.

Re:Hmmm (1)

ndevice (304743) | about 12 years ago | (#3822890)

the canadian government could be slashdotted. Now that would be something - and on July 4th too no less.

And if the server loads go up too much, maybe the dust in them could go up in smoke too - and that'll be irony for you.

Warning: troll article (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#3822809)

If I wanted to see stories like this, I'd watch Fox News!

So what??? (3, Funny)

josh crawley (537561) | about 12 years ago | (#3822812)

Yeah, old comps do get dusty inside. However, even if the fan quits, it's still not a problem. That bit of dust is flammible, but the metal aint. There's a fireproof box around those bunnies. ANd once it smolders some, it'll burn out most of the O2 (since the fans dont pump air cause of dust). There goes your "fire hazard"

The only thing is it's a boring news day.

Re:So what??? (2)

scott1853 (194884) | about 12 years ago | (#3822892)

I don't know about you but the face plate on my box is plastic and I usually have other things sitting on the box like jewel cases and maybe some papers.

not so (1)

sigxcpu (456479) | about 12 years ago | (#3822935)

Consider what happens if only the cpu fan stops (thay are often simpler fans = more prone to failure)
you have a fire inside you case and the case fan is stil working, giving us lots of fresh O2.
most cases have plastic parts that burn quit well.
you could easly start a cascade the will end up in a nice office fire.
(water cooling shuld help thogh..:)

A site for Angry folks (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#3822815)

Come to ANGRYdot [] for progressive discussion and ideas. Remember, you fucking retarded libertarians are not invited. Same goes for idiot conservatives.
Rot in hell you smelly assfuckers!

Re:A site for Angry folks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#3822845)

Seig Heil, AngryDot!

ASUS (5, Informative)

selderrr (523988) | about 12 years ago | (#3822817)

the new ASUS motherboads have COP : CPU Overheating Protection, which switches off the machine when temp goes baloony.

And they're damd fine MoBo's too...

Re: ASUS (3, Interesting)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 12 years ago | (#3823014)

> the new ASUS motherboads have COP : CPU Overheating Protection, which switches off the machine when temp goes baloony.

I have an ASUS board a bit over a year old. I do intensive number crunching on my home machines, with some jobs running over a week of continual 100% CPU time. Being AMDs, they tend to run kind of hot, too, so sometimes I put a room fan blowing along the wall behind the boxes' exhausts.

At any rate, one warm day I had the A/C set kind of high and the room fan aimed elsewhere, and one of the boxes overheated while I was out to lunch. But the board halted it for me. When I came home it was making a horrible alarm sound, and unfortunately I had to reboot because I couldn't figure out how to make it restart after the alarm, but at least I didn't get a fire, nor even any overheat damage to the CPU.

BTW, Linuxers/BSDers who have temperature sensors on their motherboards may want to run lm_sensors [] and a display such as gkrellm [] in order to keep an eye on your system temperatures when you are around.

If your power supply is UL/CSA approved (5, Interesting)

shepd (155729) | about 12 years ago | (#3822818)

You have nothing to worry about. They test for things like the fan stopping.

Eventually, when the heat gets too high, the power supply will either shut off or destroy itself.

The UL/CSA logo (if its genuine -- many cheap power supplies don't put on genuine labels) "guarantees" the power supply won't be dangerous to you. A flaming power supply would be, obviously.

Hope that allys your fears!

Re:If your power supply is UL/CSA approved (1)

Skreech (131543) | about 12 years ago | (#3822952)

either shut off or destroy itself.

Destroy itself? Hopefully it wouldn't destroy itself in a firey ball of flame...

Fire insurance discounts? (2)

dstone (191334) | about 12 years ago | (#3822820)

Maybe insurance companies should offer discounts to those of us with common sense enough to buy and configure motherboards that have a "Power Off on High Temperature" option in the BIOS. Haven't these motherboards been available for a long time?!

Had a computer catch on fire in the office... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#3822828)

First smoke started coming out then (as we watched) a chip on the board ignited and started licking the plastic on the top of the case. We quickly pulled the power at this point and all was well.

It's interesting to note that the case side panel was off. We figure that if the case had been closed and there was no one at the office it wouldn't have been too much of an issue because it would've been contained. With the case side open, though, there were flammables in the vicinity that could've easily caught fire.

We now enforce a policy at the office to keep cases closed at all time.

monitor fire hazard (3, Insightful)

eagl (86459) | about 12 years ago | (#3822829)

At work they made a policy that ALL computers will be completely shut down at night after a monitor caught fire one night and burned out an office. Normal hardware shouldn't catch fire even when old/crusty but there's NO guarantees when the hardware is defective to start with.

Fire hazard (2, Interesting)

SpatchMonkey (300000) | about 12 years ago | (#3822831)

Many modern motherboards power automatically power down when the CPU gets too hot, but that is just the CPU .. I think the greatest danger in modern computers is the power supply.

At work we recently had a problem where a paperclip fell inside the grilles in the power supply and shorted something out, causing power surges which trashed the rest of the computer, which wasn't nice.

But what was worse was the smell of the thing, it was really nasty. When capacitors burn due to having too much current put across them, they release all sorts of nasty toxins and also fibres which can stick to your clothes and make them smell for ages. Or even worse, stick to you skin and eyes and burn or blind you.

It's not just fires that are a hazard. Computers, and indeed most electronic devices, consist of many environmentally unhealthy and hazardous chemicals.

My CPU Fan is on my Left. My CPU, on my right. (5, Funny)

Anaplexian (101542) | about 12 years ago | (#3822836)

If I had a webcam, I'd post a link to a photo.

I'm running Win 98 on a Cyrix M2 233MHz overclocked to 300MHz (came when I bought it).

I paid 2500 rupees for the processor, [ 1 US$ = 48 Rupees - do your math], and thus don't really care much about it. :)

Anyway, it's 40 degrees here in Delhi, I don't have an AC, and my CPU Fan's bust for *over a week*. And it's happened several times before.

What do I do? I take off the Hood, Put my ceiling fan to "Maximum" and keep on Photoshopping.

I'm a comp Sc student, and I know what I'm doing is insane.

but, Hey, As long as it's running, Who cares?

Re:My CPU Fan is on my Left. My CPU, on my right. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#3822927)

and I've got three scantily clad women with big palm leaves cooling my TRS80...

It seems to be working though it feels a little warm in here.


Re:My CPU Fan is on my Left. My CPU, on my right. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#3822936)

Holyshit, man. You must be lying. The hottest day I ever had to endure was 35 in Taejon, Korea. I go nuts even when it hits 28... Damn, man.

sometimes just needs cleaned (0)

cyberbob2010 (312049) | about 12 years ago | (#3822838)

I have an old E-machines 466id that i just mess around with and it used to sound like a jet engine. It's AMAZING how much dirt those thing suck up. I'm not gonna go into detail but many problems could probably be avoided with proper mainenance. I've been in so many old dirty computers with spider webs and dead bugs, dirt and dust etc... just keeping it clean does a world of difference

Re:sometimes just needs cleaned (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#3822998)

I started putting my computers on a rack and found that the amount of dust my system picked up dropped quite a bit.

32nd post! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#3822839)

oh yeah, in your face!

auto turnoff (0, Redundant)

nilstar (412094) | about 12 years ago | (#3822840)

My machine (using a Tyan mobo) turns off when it heats up. I was actually confounded once when I tried to turn on my machine & it repeatedly turned off... the cpu cooling fan wasn't working.

I guess this functionality is built into a lot of "workstation" mobos.

Call me ignorant if you like... (0, Flamebait)

Ignorant Cocksucker (584160) | about 12 years ago | (#3822843)

But I thought all PCs were certified by Underwriter's Laborotories to make sure they wont go up in smoke.

Correct me if I'm wrong (I'm not) but I think the Insurance company would be well within its rights to withhold payment if your house burned down as a result of your Linux Zealot teenagers overclocking habit :-)

Or maybe I'm just ignorant.

Re:Call me ignorant if you like... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#3822993)

I don't remember anything in my house insurrance mentioning exclusions for anything other than intentionally setting fires.

So Nyah, you're wrong.

AMD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#3822847)

Plus if you have an AMD, you CPU which just proceed to melt down within a few seconds. One of my friends installed a new fan, but didn't plug it in properly and began smelling smoke within 10 seconds.

Always open? (5, Interesting)

Amarok.Org (514102) | about 12 years ago | (#3822850)

Since it's usually wide open, I don't see too much harm, but these cheap boxes that never get opened and cleaned have to be a hazard right?
It should be noted than a open computer case will likely run hotter than one properly closed up.

Fans are designed to move air - like any fluid motion, air will move along the path of least resistance. In the case of a case fan, where the case is left open, you're pulling air from a very small area right in front of the fan before exhausting it out the back. The heat generating components (CPUs, hard drives, video chips, etc) tend to be far enough away from these fans that you'll see almost 0 airflow over them.

I used to work for a major hard drive manufacturer, and would get complains from users who said our drives were running too hot. Quite often, they said "I even leave the case off, and it's still too hot!". Many times, just putting the case on solved their heat problems. By creating essentially a duct for the air to flow through, the fan was able to pull air from the front of the case, across the heat generating components, and then exhaust it out the back.

In the case of components with their own fans (CPUs, video chips), this is still important - while you've exhausted the hot air from around the component, without a properly functioning (read: case on) case cooling system, that hot air is never removed from the general area around the component, and just gets sucked back in on the intake side of the fan.

Just my $.02.

Re:Always open? (1)

dmarien (523922) | about 12 years ago | (#3822996)

very very *very* insightful.

When i threw in my scsi drive for the first time, i left the case off, and when I went to switch bays the next day it almost burnt my fingers. i did nothing but move the drive, throw on the case, and add a few (8 more fans), and voilla!

my case []

only if it's a well-ventilated case (3, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | about 12 years ago | (#3823000)

Which a great deal of them aren't. With most of the computers I've owned, if I took the side panel of the case off, the CPU ran a full 8-10 degrees C cooler than with the case fully closed. This is primarily because the poor case cooling meant that the air inside the case was 10 C or so hotter than room temperature, so removing the side panel let the CPU fan suck in cooler outside air to blow on the heatsink (since the CPU fan is at 90 degrees to the motherboard, it's good at sucking air directly from outside if the side panel of the case is off).

A good point though (3, Funny)

dalassa (204012) | about 12 years ago | (#3822851)

Even if the computer never over heats dust and oils and other icks can still kill a computer. I once was trying to fix a women's computer that had stopped. I opened up the case and the entire motherboard was covered in oil and fur. Turned out she let her cat sleep on it all the time and never cleaned it. All that direct exposure to animal bits just killed it. She had to buy a new computer.

I now religiously check the dust levels of my computers.

Not likely. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#3822853)

Most computers have circuitry to shut themselves off when they get too hot or a fan breaks down. P4s slow down drastically and generate less heat if they can't dissepate the heat. Newer Athlons and Athlon motherboards are supposed to do this too.

That said, IF a fire starts, it's contained in a metal box. Unless you've got a stack of papers directly behind the fan intakes or CD drice openings, the most damage you'll sustain is a fried computer and a few melted cables. There isn't really all that much to burn in there either, so the unlikely fire won't last long anyways.

Re:Not likely. (2)

dmarcov (461598) | about 12 years ago | (#3822889)

...and in fact the author of the article states as much. Apparently the real concern is that the plastics/dust in the case will set off a smoke alarm, thus diverting firefighting resources to something that is apparently not "life threatning" ... unless someone is keeping gasoline in their case, I don't think is something we need to lose sleep over.

New stuff is dangerous too (1)

big_pianist (563663) | about 12 years ago | (#3822859)

Forget dust-bunnies in older equipment; new equipment can have it's fair share of problems as well. After a recent experience with a brand new d-link switch powersupply that caught fire, I realized that I may be a little too trustworthy of things I leave plugged in unattended even if they were designed to be run continuously.

It reminds me of a scene from an episode of The Simpsons:

Krusty: [touches clock] Ouch!
Marketeer: I forgot to tell you that clock gets extremely hot if you leave it plugged in.
Krusty: Um... That's okay. In fact, all of these products is fine. [motions to venerable death-traps]

Cheers, slashdot (1)

awx (169546) | about 12 years ago | (#3822861)

A general rule of computers is: the older they get, the more dusty they are and dust bunnies and their denser cousins are highly flammable. Unless you can keep such machines clean, it's probably safer to leave them off.

*runs around work turning off every VAX and Alpha in the datacentre* No, it's OK! Slashdot told me to do it!

They get dirty (1)

RubberDuckie (53329) | about 12 years ago | (#3822862)

We had an employee bring back her loaner computer from home. I opened it up, and it must have been at least a 1/4 inch of dust coated inside. The fans were so clogged I'm surprised they were even running. As to actually cooling anything, forget it. There were even dead potato bugs in the computer. Bottom line: clean your computer now and then.

MB Protection (1)

Psx29 (538840) | about 12 years ago | (#3822864)

Most boards I have seen recently have a temperature warning setting in the BIOS that will automatically shut off the pc if it gets too hot, my board(KT7-RAID) also has a setting to not function if no fan is connected/if the fan dies. Of course this won't save you from all fire hazards, but it will lower the chances of anything happening.

Simple Solutions. (1)

ShwAsasin (120187) | about 12 years ago | (#3822866)

Take your PC to your garage or a gas station and use an air compressor on it to clean it. It's simple and quick. I do it to my machines and their clean so it take a very long time to get it dirty.

For heat, simple, buy a steal ball-bearing fan which is about $20-30. Then place many smaller fans inside. If your crazy like me you can hook up 32" fans to the side of computer tower but it looks aweful.

Re:Simple Solutions. (5, Informative)

rehannan (98364) | about 12 years ago | (#3822932)

Use an air compressor on your computer if you want a fine mist of water sprayed over all your expensive electronics. Air compressors have drain plugs for a reason!

Your much better off just buying cans of "compressed air" (it's actually not air per se).

Re:Simple Solutions. (2)

autocracy (192714) | about 12 years ago | (#3822983)

Air compressors are so much fun for cleaning computers. Try aiming the output directly at a fan. Spins faster than it was ever designed :). Yeah, I know it's not smart... but it's FUN!

Just make sure the air compressor isn't spitting some liquid out with the air (many spit some water vapor as well).

Re:Simple Solutions. (1)

Munelight (192694) | about 12 years ago | (#3822989)

"Take your PC to your garage or a gas station and use an air compressor on it to clean it."

Definitely check on the quality of air they've got coming out of the nozzle before you do this... Otherwise you may end up spraying a nice amount of rusty water all over your computer along with the air. :)

OR.. (2)

I_redwolf (51890) | about 12 years ago | (#3822868)

Just like anything else give it a simple cleaning. I'm sure every now and then you take a simple duster to some of your stuff. It's very easy to buy a can of compressed air and then use the compressed air to clean out the dust bunnies. Once every 6 months or so and you should be fine. There are also cases that prevent this very thing, as it's too hot for me to be on my computer right now I'll just explain the case I have. I have a Lian Li that I bought from thinkgeek it has a filter system in the front. A filter is placed above two high speed fans (who's speed can be set) that catch dust and that is removeable and cleaneable. Dust still gets in the case but it's alot less and my cleaning time is really only annual if I want. Even if you don't have fans in your case electricity can attract those dust balls at the foot of your box very easily so it's not just a matter of fans or moving parts it's really just a matter of cleanliness.. Smoking, dustballs, dirt, etc can all cause problems.. but a regular dusting helps.

speaking of fans going out... (1)

chronos2266 (514349) | about 12 years ago | (#3822869)

The power supply fan on this computer has been giving me trouble for sometime. Right now it sounds like a car engine, and I've tried everything possible to fix it(besides getting a new PS). When the thing does stop, i usually need to hit it a few times with a pen or something to get it going again. During that time, however, the power supply gets real hot real fast. This is one of the weaker PS's too, I can't imagine what sort of fire hazard the higher wattage power supplys will be when they start to go bad. Also, what about the computer illiterate? I know tons of friends that are using old computer made by packard bell, dell, etc.. and they don't even realize when their fans go out. This could end up being a VERY serious problem.

old cache chips & serial cables (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#3822877)

We used to play jokes on new guys at work by giving him a "dead" motherboard to fix / rma, what we would do is stick in the L2 cache sram chips backwards; they would get unholy hot and explode like gunshots. Dumb i know but good for a laugh. Anyone remember those old ASUS mobos that would catch on fire if you plugged in the wrong type of serial cable?

Moo - post (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#3822879)

It is 10pm Do you know where your karma is Right Let us get startedIn order to get maximum karma from Slashdot posting you can follow a few simple guidelines The University you go to Regardless of where you actually study saying that youre at MIT automagically gains you 2 Slashdot like the glorified student notice board that it is has a special place in its heart for anything from MIT whether it be a teddy bear stuffed with a switch or some wankers wrapping a yellow banner with elvish text around the main dome Even if you didnt go to university qualify every comment with a My professor told me to bask in the warm fuzzy glow of 2 Insightful Linux The basis of the Slashdot Experience Claiming you run Linux also gets you 1 Interesting It doesnt really matter if youve never actually installed it or your Red Hat box still doesnt have PPP running after 2 years of reading FAQs The important bit is Youre part of the community You can bathe in the refelected glory of years of shoddy buggy code You are exempt from the Microsoft penalty see below as of course your Win 98 install is only used for playing games And reading Slashdot And using MS Word And Photoshop And Microsoft Slashbots and the editors hate Microsoft Period Use of a symbol in every iteration of their trademarks gets you a 4 Funny Even though it is far from original it still manages to raise a grin in those people reading Slashdot between episodes of Cowboy Bebop You will get a 1 Flamebait or Troll for any post even hinting that Microsoft products are any good useful intuitive user friendly You will also quickly be shot down with replies about how good GNOME and KDE are which Slashbots and the editors hate Microsoft Period Use of a symbol in every iteration of their trademarks gets you a 4 Funny Even though it is far from original it still manages to raise a grin in those people reading Slashdot between episodes of Cowboy Bebop You will get a 1 Flamebait or Troll for any post even hinting that Microsoft products are any good useful intuitive user friendly You will also quickly be shot down with replies about how good GNOME and KDE are which

Can see the headlines now: (2, Interesting)

cyberfoxz (207499) | about 12 years ago | (#3822880)

They are screaming:"Computer nerd started fire and takes down entire block of houses!"
I've always questioned this myself since I always leave my computers running and the athlons keep getting so hot. My parents used to hate it when I left home and left the computers running, but now I've got my own place it's much bigger an issue than before. I do like the fact that most of my Macs hardly use their fans, or don't have fans at all. This keeps me a little less paranoid when I'm not at home. It's also a bit of a problem that in my place (small town in The Netherland) does not have broadband access and I have no possibility at all to check up on my systems when I'm away. Anybody got a few hints fow me?

Re:Can see the headlines now: (2, Informative)

znu (31198) | about 12 years ago | (#3823006)

I believe all Mac models made in the last few years will automatically switch themselves off if they overheat. This dates back to the Blue & White G3, where you could invoke thermal shutdown by running too long with the case door open (which prevents proper airflow over the processor).

My notebook story (2)

dstone (191334) | about 12 years ago | (#3822884)

I have an IBM Thinkpad A20P. Great machine, but one day I was typing on it and felt unbelievable amounts of heat coming off the top of the keyboard. Just as I was remarking to my coworkers about it, the machine halted to a black (no, not a blue screen; I can't remember if I was booted into Linux or Win2K at the time). Anyways, I power-cycled, and the BIOS halted again with a "Fan Failure" error. Aha. So I whistled it over to the service depot (under warranty) and they found that a long human hair had been sucked into the air intake and wrapped itself around the fan, halting it.

Thank you IBM, for building systems that watch for this kind of thing. One step friendlier could have been a user warning (through a BIOS video overlay) that said "HIGH TEMPERATURE ALARM - POWERING DOWN IN 10 SECONDS" or something, to allow a user (if present) to save some of their work. Anyways, at least it didn't keep running and cook my CPU, hard disk, and everything else they pack into such a small space on these notebooks.

Two conversations from a place I used to work (2)

putrescence (588712) | about 12 years ago | (#3822895)

I used to work in an engineering shop. The place was dirty and dusty as hell which caused computer equipment in the engineering office (read "big shack in main building") to become dirty and dusty as hell. One day something was giving off a burning plastic smell...

Phil: What's that burning plastic smell?

Fred: It's your monitor, it's on fire.

Phil's monitor had caught fire. Of course the monitor was destroyed but people were around to put it out and keep anything really bad from happening.

Two months later...

Phil: What's that burning plastic smell?

Fred: Your monitor is on fire again.

Phil's replacement monitor had caught fire. That was the last computer monitor fire they had that I know of. It didn't stop Phil from leaving his monitor on every night when he went home from work.

home internet gateway (1)

TTimo (253584) | about 12 years ago | (#3822896)

I've had a computer power supply fail on me a few years ago. The thing started to smoke and burn, and would probably have burnt the flat if I wasn't there to stop it at the time.

I've been extremely careful since then when leaving computers unattended. Specialy when it comes to do-it-yourself boxes with cheap power supply.

The critical point here is the internet gateway / file server at my house. Always a bit worried to leave it unattended for several days. After all .. nothing happened in 249 days uptime .. why would it happen now ..

In any case, I just make sure I open the box and clean it regularly, and it's stored far enough (hopefully) of any other inflamable pieces.

Dying fans... (2)

Papineau (527159) | about 12 years ago | (#3822903)

I too had my share of dead fans in the past 2 months. 3 fans (out of 4) died on my 3 years old computer: PSU fan and both CPU fans (dual setup). Only the front fan survived (as of yet).

The thing is, even without sensors, I still have caught the failing PSU fan. When it stopped, the PSU got hotter (as what happened to the poster in-laws), but after reaching a certain temp it just shutdown itself. And I couldn't get the computer to restart immediately after (before knowing what was causing the trouble), since the temperature was still too hot for the PSU to allow power to flow. I'm talking about a cheap 250W DTK ATX power supply from 3 years ago. After letting it rest a little, I retried, and while booting it shutdown again. The third time I tried to access the something on the back, and then noticed that no airflow was going out of the PSU.

For the 2 CPU fans, the motherboard RPM sensors saved both my CPUs (and the fact that I was watching them at the right time).

On a modern computer (where fans can and will die given enough time), a plethora of programs can be run in the background to check the RPM of fans and the different temperatures in the system. Just make it alert the user (or shutdown if no action is taken in x time) in case of one parameter going outside it's normal range. Check overclocking sites for info on that, since they usually tend to have more problems with that then plain desktop users.

Also, the MTBF for cheap DC fans is usually around 20000 hours. That means a bit less than 2 hours and a half. Either replace them beofre, check them cautiously before that mark, or get some higher quality fans (which will tend to be quieter, too).

Another solution is to go with watercooling (but then, if there's a spill AND you're fluid is conductive, the fire hazard is still present). You've only got a pump and a fan (for the heat exchanger) which can die, rather than 3+ fans in a typical computer case (yea, I know, SPOF, but they're more robust).

Similar Experience (1)

GigsVT (208848) | about 12 years ago | (#3822904)

I once had a computer at work that wouldn't boot up, and I couldn't tell if the power was on or not (sometimes we don't hook up the front panel LEDs if we are busy). I did what all of us do, I reached around and felt for air coming out of the power supply. Painful mistake. The fan had quit and that thing was hot enough to burn me instantly, which means it was probably near 100C. One plus is that the case itself acts like a heat sink in a case like this.

My cluster at home is powered by a stack of bare power supplies, I always worry if one of their fans go out, there will be less heat sink in the form of a case that normal supplies have.

Other adventures at work involve cracked IEC connectors that short out when you pull on the plug on the power supply side, and monitors with fire and sparks (monitors are much more likely to arc over because of higher voltages internally than computer power supplies).

Don't view it as a fire hazard, view it as adventure! After all, how often does a geek's house burn down? :) (Slashdot editors excepted)

Danger with Old PCs (5, Interesting)

shr3k (451065) | about 12 years ago | (#3822905)

My friend has an old IBM PS/1 that's a 486 with a Pentium Overdrive chip that he uses as a print server. While he's been away, I've had to fix the machine. It was scorching hot to the touch and I thought the power supply was going bad.

After considerable effort, I removed the power supply with the intention of replacing it with another AT one that I found. Unfortunately, the power supply had extra proprietary connectors and the replacement one didn't, so I was left to figure how to fix the original one.

I took a closer look and I saw nine (9) years (!) worth of dust clogging the power supply fan, thus blocking its motion. Ignoring printed warnings as "Caution! Shock Hazard" and "Warning: No User Serviceable parts inside", I carefully opened the power supply and removed the fan. Fortunately, the fan had a plaster connector for easy plugging/unplugging (as opposed to being soldered directly to the board).

So I removed the fan with easy and scraped (yes, SCRAPED!) the crap off of it and wiped it down. Then I applied WD-40 to the bearings to get the fan blade with more ease. I had to help the WD-40 spread by using a screwdriver to turn the fan both directions. Finally, after 20 minutes of effort, the fan blade was turning reasonably well with I'd tap it, so I put it back in, reconnected it, and reassembled the power supply.

Once the computer was put back together, I turned it on and felt for heat. Not alot. For the first time in a while, there was ventilation coming from the back of the power supply and the system was running much cooler than before.

So, let this be a lesson to you. Make sure you regularly (yearly?) clean your fans off, removing the dust before it cakes on. Make sure that you do this to any older PCs you have or are about to obtain.

Otherwise, your system will run dangerously hot and only bad things can come of that.

Re:Danger with Old PCs (2)

Sludge (1234) | about 12 years ago | (#3822968)

Is wd40 flammable?

KAAABOOOOOM!!!! (2, Interesting)

MrIcee (550834) | about 12 years ago | (#3822912)

While many computers do have thermal shutdown circuits (which can themselves be annoying)... in my experience it isn't the computer itself that is the most dangerous component.

Twice I have had a (rather large) UPS explode. When a UPS goes, it goes spectacularly. Really explodes. Smoke, fire, huge BANG. Talk about dangerous. We actually had one UPS disintegrate into pieces... luckly nobody was close at the time.

Monitors can also be pretty spectacular. Where I live we get 150 to 200 inches of rain a year... needless to say, it's frequently damp. I've had monitors, when turned on, explode (luckly never the screen though, only the power supply). We tend to leave all our equipment on, and baking, to avoid this - but still we go through a monitor a year (we are starting to replace them with LCD, we'll see how those stand up to the elements).

But the worst were definatly the UPS - especially since they are near your feet - they can be very dangerous indeed.

Yes they can be, (1)

Robug (13053) | about 12 years ago | (#3822914)

We have this kid that comes in to our computer shop all the time, He calls himself Tweak Monkey [] and he is alway installing a new mod of some sort. The day after his installed a fan switch mod that had 4 3 position switches that turned his fans of and on in too many combinations to be usefull, he came in all excited and said he almost burnt his house down. He said he his alarm woke him up early in the morning. He tried to shut it off but it would not go off. When he got out of bed he realised his fire alarm was going off and smoke was poring out of his computer.

Multiple Fans ? (2)

Quazion (237706) | about 12 years ago | (#3822919)

My computer has three fans, i installed some extra since the one fan on the power supply died and my computer started to become unstable. I started to get Compile errors, i destroyed half of my Memory or so memtest86 told me. machine temperature got over 50 degrees in the box, the cpu was at 70 degrees celsius.

I bought two extra fans and a new power supply the machine is running like a charm ever since :)

You wont see three fans die at once, better save then sorry.

Dust filters (5, Insightful)

scott1853 (194884) | about 12 years ago | (#3822920)

How come nobody has made a case with an air filter on it so you only have to brush off the filter every month instead of taking a can of air to the box?

Re:Dust filters (1)

GigsVT (208848) | about 12 years ago | (#3822976)

The "Evercase" cases from newegg, at least the one I got, has a case fan mounted on a swivel above there the CPU generally is, and it comes with a layer of that black open cell foam air filter material on it, that can be removed and cleaned.

I looked for other places to buy that air filter foam, and the only place I found was Grainger, and the smallest amount is a huge 25 foot roll of it for about $30. I got the maintenence department at work to order the roll for me to use at work, and there is plenty if I want to take a few inches home too.

The only problem with an air filter is that it must be cleaned regularly or it will cause the problem you are seeking to avoid, overheating to due lack of airflow.
Generally at home in my smoky environment, it should be cleaned at least once a month or two, at work in our pretty clean server room, they rarely get dirty at all. Luckily it's easy to clean in the Evercase from newegg becuase the case is almost totally screwless.

Not a great hazard (2)

FurryFeet (562847) | about 12 years ago | (#3822923)

I don't see a great fire hazard here. Sure, dust bunnies are flammable, but it would take an extremely hot processor to ignite them, and even then it would be more of a quick flame than a real fire. I just can't see the electronics or the case catching fire.
Bottom line: You might lose your PC, but it will be a very quick and self-contained fire. And considering how extremely unlikely it is to happen, I'd say don't worry.

It just ocurred to me that water cooling might double as a great fire-extinguisher... since a fire in the case would probably sever the hoses. Then again, if you're water cooling, your processor will never get that hot... never mind.

Fire hazard indeed. (1)

Skreech (131543) | about 12 years ago | (#3822924)

This is the exact reason why I make house-calls to my parent's house to clean their computers out. A shop vac and can of compressed air can get the job done rather quickly. I also built their computers in Lian-Li cases that have two intake fans that pull through some filters that filter out the larger stuff, although I must note that air filters are not recommended unless they're cleaned regularly, hence my regular visits (which you should visit your parents regularly anyway, damit).

However the article notes simple fan failure. This is why I like redundancy. Two intake fans and an exaust fan ensure that airflow in the body of the case doesn't simply quit, and the power supplies have one intake and one exaust fan as well. If any of them die, I'll catch it soon enough, and any one failure isn't a big problem. The computers don't make much noise, either, despite the fans. I also have the computers set up so they stop if the CPU fan dies. I think some BIOSs do that, but I know there are userland programs for Windows that achieve this.

Quite frankly, I don't know how people can get by without regular maintence/inspection like this. Many normal consumers who buy their computers from Dell or Gateway, I feel, have living, wurring Athlon XP timebombs.

Protected already? (2)

quantaman (517394) | about 12 years ago | (#3822925)

Seeing as how you have an AMD I'm thinking your motherboard doesn't have buil-in protection against overheating. I'm not too familiar with hardware but isn't the chip the only thing that gets really hot? If so when the fan goes off either your chip should slow by its self or the motherboard should slow it down for you, in either case your chip shouldn't overheat.

As to the dust being a fire hazard and assuming it is still a risk at normal operating temperatures (which your box should not exceed by much for the previously stated reason), the only real solution would be to clean it out.

Don't worry, be happy... (1, Troll)

Ali Jenab (565034) | about 12 years ago | (#3822926)

I am a certified MCSE with over 15 years' experience in the computer industry. In those years, I have seen some small fires occur, but never in the way that the article mentions. Let's take a look at some facts and mitigating circumstances that can help explain why the "safety digest" article is dreadfully wrong:
  • All computer power supplies have temperature sensors. These are bona fide safety devices that shut the supply down when it overheats - regardless of cause. Some of them permanently disable the supply (under the assumption that once they're triggered, enough damage has been done to make the supply unsafe for use). Others disable the supply until it is unplugged and the obstruction is cleared. I have seen dozens of power supply fans fail on very old, dusty PCs, and not a single one has caused any sort of smoke or fire.
  • Fire suppression systems do not respond to smoke. According to the current national fire code, the presence of smoke shall not be used to trigger fire alarms - only local smoke detectors. Why? The cause is simple: the ratio of burnt toast to uncontrolled fires is about 200:1. The resultant false alarms would overwhelm fire departments and cause a public safety nightmare.
  • Computer fires almost never leave the case. Nothing inside a computer is particularly flammable. The threat of dust fires is overrated - dust is not sufficiently dense to ignite anything else, and when ignited it burns up within seconds. Computers do not contain much wood, paper, or any other inflammable substance. Face it folks - metal doesn't burn, and plastic doesn't do much besides smolder.
Now let's take a look at some actual computer fires that I have witnessed:
  • My younger brother, a developmentally disabled individual, plugged in a PCI card backwards and the motherboard burned up. Several members of the chipset were burned beyond recognition. No water or other measures were needed to put the fire out; it fizzled on its own within seconds.
  • I have seen several laptops overheat because of poor cooling designs (especially Dells). Typically this means that flames leap out of the keyboard and melt the LCD. Again, this fire is contained, and unless the laptop is being operated in a hazardous area, nothing happens.
  • One of my "hax0r wannabe" co-workers thought he understood electrical engineering, and caused a brick transformer to catch fire because he had wired the + and - sides of the output together to "double the power." The transformer was destroyed, but since almost all power strips are flame retardant, nothing else caught on fire.
The truth of the matter is that it is extremely difficult to start a destructive fire by accident. 90% of home fires in the country are caused by stupidity such as kitchen incidents and smoking in bed. There is no reason to suspect that your computer is any more of a hazard than leaving your VCR plugged in all the time.


happy july 4th! (-1)

Anonymous Pancake (458864) | about 12 years ago | (#3822930)

I'd like to wish a happy july 4th to the country that funds Israel's terrorism, created the DMCA, and generally wipes it's ass on the rest of the world.

Happy July 4th you filthy pig fuckers.

Re:happy july 4th! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#3822984)

Well maybe if the europeans wheren't a bunch of anti-semetic racists there wouldn't have been a need for the creation of Israel in the first place...

The eurotrash should just be happy America is taking all the blame for the problems 20th century european emperialism has left as a legacy for the rest of the world...

Don't try and play innocent now after all you've done for the last 500 years or so...

My Experience (1)

bic2k (140221) | about 12 years ago | (#3822931)

In the past three years I have had my power supply fans fail twice. The first time it happened it actually started a fire while I was away from home. Since metal doesn't burn that good the damage was kept mostly to the case and power supply unit. The other occurence was a fan failure in the power supply again, but this time I caught it before much damage was done.

While I still leave my computers on 24/7 to this day, I have invested in power supplies with fan headers (Enermax). In the even of a fan failure in the power supply my computer is set to shutdown. As an extra prevention I air intake filters in my case to protect against dust which can lead to fans seizing.

As a side note, water cooling has become a very reliable way of cooling computers. Not only has it be shown to be quiter but in most cases requires less maintaince. I seem to be replacing case cans every year or so. Fans seem to get noiser with age. Anyways, thats my canadian beef about the matter.

The Intel Processor (2)

SGDarkKnight (253157) | about 12 years ago | (#3822934)

Thats one thing that i like about the Intel Pentium III and IV processors. If the CPU fan were to die on the PIII chip, the processor would simply halt all processing if the chip temp. got to high. In the Pentium IV processors, if the fan dies, the CPU will actually down clock itself until it reaches a safe temp. to keep running at. Although I dont know what you could do if the PS fan were to die; i wonder if you could rig something up similar to the fail safe in the P3 chip that would simply shut the power off if the temp. got to high. In any case, the one thing that i did that helps keep all those dust bunnies out of my case was to install washable filters [] on all the fan spots. That makes it a hell of a lot easier to clean, plus i dont need to clean out the inside of the case anywhere near as much anymore.

the only problem is: (2)

Indy1 (99447) | about 12 years ago | (#3822960)

What if the power supply fan dies, and the power supply itself overheats and dies? Thats a bitchen place to have a fire, as you have a nice high voltage (120ac) high current enviroment to feed it. Thats why i own a portable air compressor (one of those 150$ jobs). Its great for showing up at the client's site and blowing out all their machines.

Another quick note... (1)

shepd (155729) | about 12 years ago | (#3822937)

I should have tacked onto my other post.

You can repair some older power supply and CPU fans that won't turn anymore by removing the sticker on the backside of the fan (the non-moving part). Get some thin grease or silicone spray and squirt it into the hole. Clean off the area and put some tape over it. Now, turn the fan by hand for a few minutes to get it loose and you're all set.

Poll (4, Insightful)

Kingpin (40003) | about 12 years ago | (#3822938)

Instead of chasing windmills, let's have a poll on this.

Spontaneous computer combustion:

( ) Seen it
( ) Heard of it
( ) Heard of someone who heard of someone who...
( ) Nope

My point is, is this really an issue to worry about?

Re:Poll (1)

zazas_mmmm (585262) | about 12 years ago | (#3822967)

You forgot---

( ) Thought I smelled it, but it was in fact Cowboy Neal's lunch

Could've been a disaster (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#3822944)

I had gotten back from vacation, (when I worked in a bookstore), when one of the other employees informed me that a computer was getting hot. Sure enough, the power supply fan had died. It had been running that way for at least a week. Quite possibly it could have started a fire, on a flammable wooden counter, with thousands of flammable books around.

Fireworks from the back of my case (1)

Gribflex (177733) | about 12 years ago | (#3822945)

Last year I had a similar experience with my power supply.

I'd just finished off a huge term paper, hit the lights and crawled into bed. 45 seconds later, I hear a sound -- like someone hurling golfballs at the back of my desk. (Being scared out of my wits) I bolted up to see what was happening, and was treated to a very nice light show as my power supply exploded, blew all of its capacitors, and burst into flames.

I told this story to peole for bauot 6 months before someone was finally able to tell me what happened.

I'd been having problems with the fan in the power supply (loud... very loud... and then very very quiet). It had chosen that day to just die outright. With no fan running to cool the capacitors inside, they overheated and blew up. The larger ones starting a chain reaction in the smaller ones.

Looked real cool at the time. But scared the bejeebers out of me.


Moral: Don't by the cheap power supply, spring for one that is quality and has proper bearings on the fan such that it won't die in the middle of the night.

Had there been anything aside from old coffee cups, tea bags, and kraft singles living inside my case, I would have been calling the fire dep't.

- Grib

This happened to a friend (1)

PhilHibbs (4537) | about 12 years ago | (#3822949)

They had build an AMD Duron 800 system with a cheap lightweight 250W PSU. One year later, it started pumping out black smoke and hissing. We replaced the PSU with a 350W, and it works now - and crashes less often.

My Motherboard (2)

JohnHegarty (453016) | about 12 years ago | (#3822962)

My motherboard (kt7) shuts down the computer if it gets too hot. I assumed this was a common feature on *most* new motherboards.

Consider Apple's XServe (0)

alchemist68 (550641) | about 12 years ago | (#3822969)

Apple's rack-mount XServe has redundant power supplies, redundant cooling fans, and redundant hard drives. While this is not the low cost PC compatible that you're probably looking for, it is an option to consider if keeping a system up and running is important to you. As far as I know, Apple's XServe can even notify you through email if and when a component fails or will potentially fail. You can even keep tabs on the RPM's of the cooling fans if that is a concern for you.

No, if the fans die... (1)

AsnFkr (545033) | about 12 years ago | (#3822979)

If a critical fan dies, the unit its supposed to be cooling usually fails and shuts down the system. Im a PC tech, i see it all the time..especially from Tyan motherboard CPU fan plugs failing.

If you are worried about dust bunnies bursting into flames, open the case and blow it out.

Solution (1)

YahoKa (577942) | about 12 years ago | (#3822980)

Invest in a good power supply.

Fan/Temperature monitoring and shutdown (1)

frozenray (308282) | about 12 years ago | (#3822986)

If the motherboard supports temperature and fan monitoring (and the power supply and processor fan supply a fan clock to the monitoring circuit) you can install an utility like MBM [] (Windows) or lm_sensors [] (linux) together with a shutdown utility like "ShutDown NOW!" ( according to my link list, but the site seems to be down).

If a temperature, voltage or fan speed exceeds the limit set by you or falls below it, the system is shut down after a warning.

Cheap Crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#3823005)

I've read through many of the postings here and something is now apparent:

You guys buy crap.

That's why you have failures. That's why you have to replace fans every year. You buy crap.

Either spend some real money and buy quality components are just stick with a Mac.

You're getting what you deserve.

The reason you can't find any info (2)

pete-classic (75983) | about 12 years ago | (#3823012)

is that there is very little risk.

1. If the fan stops, airflow basically stops. Air contains oxygen, which is required for oxidation (!). There isn't very much air in a typical case.

2. Fire requires fuel. If you have two ounces of dust and three ounces of flame resistant insulation in your case you don't have much of a fuel source. You aren't going to reach temperatures to cause a metal fire. Fiberglass doesn't burn.

3. The third element of fire is heat. Paper burns at 451 degrees F. The burning point of your draperies is probably higher. Your CPU will fail, and at least temporarily stop generating heat, well below that temperature. I expect a power supply would as well.

So, the bottom line is that you could probably contrive a set of circumstances that would produce a "PC fire," but the odds of one happening spontaneously are virtually nil. Perhaps on a similar scale with the odds of your alarm clock/radio shorting out and catching your nightstand on fire. Undeniably possible, but undeniably remote.


Are my PC's a fire hazard? (1)

dmarien (523922) | about 12 years ago | (#3823015)

Why, yes they are [] !

Thanks for asking!

My Suggestion (-1)

OklaKid (552472) | about 12 years ago | (#3823017)

is that everybody capable, to open the cover on your computer and use a vaccume and a small paint brush for cleaning out all the dustbunnys from the inside of your computer atleast once every 3 months...
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