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QOTD: Worst Thing to Ever Happen to Your PC?

By , Marcus Yam, Tuan Nguyen - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 22 comments

Breaking something sucks but breaking it in a weird way at least gives you a great story to tell.

Earlier we posted two videos from Lenovo's official YouTube channel that showed people doing horrific things to a ThinkPad T400s. Running over your computer with a DOW truck or leaving them out to feel the full effects of a tornado isn't really something you can do by accident but it got us thinking about all the horrible things that have happened to our computers.

Jane: I used to work in a computer repair place so we got a ton of b0rked laptops. In one week we got water damage (which we fixed), a "sticky substance" which the customer insisted was beer but definitely wasn't (fixed) and "a roof fell on it," which we also fixed. On the Friday afternoon we got a lady on the phone who kept saying "something spilled on it" but she wouldn't say what. Considering the week we'd had, I said, "Trust me, we've heard it all. Just tell us what happened and we'll arrange a collection." Her answer? "My cat peed on it." I lied and said we couldn't take apart something like that because it might be a biohazard but really, I just didn't want to clean cat pee off of someone's mobo, which might not even work anyway. Yuck.

Marcus: Wow, it's been a while since I've seen anyone make use of the word "b0rked." Anyway, aside from the horrific hard drive crashes or power supplies gone bad, nothing terrible has happened to any of my desktop or laptops. I've never set myself on fire while shooting for an ambitious overclock (though the day is still young). So in this case, I'll defer to one of the most unique and interesting cases of notebook damage that I've ever heard of. As you can tell from Jane's story above, people get the weirdest things spilled on their laptops... and so, here's a reason why not to let your girlfriend come near your computer.

Tuan: Well, the worst thing that ever happened, happened to a PC I was using that wasn't really mine. [laughter] It wasn't loaned to me because I was writing a review at the time. I was reviewing a CPU at the time, and literally fried it. The CPU actually went up in smokes. As far as something happened to my PC? The worst thing is probably accidentally shorting out my power supply and then causing an electrical fire. I was plugging in a 3.5-inch drive power cable. Somehow, there was a short. The cable sparked and lit up in flames, also causing a burn to my hand at the same time--and damage to the system.

The question of the day is: What's the worst thing that ever happened to your PC?

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  • 0 Hide
    the Innocent , 19 June 2009 09:22
    Destroyed my motherboard, processor and RAM while putting together my first build. They after realizing that it was all dead I destroyed my old motherboard, processor and RAM swapping back the parts. Both time I made the stupid mistake of plugging the in the Power Supply before connecting it to the motherboard.
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    Anonymous , 19 June 2009 10:04
    My parents bought me a new motherboard and processor for my birthday when i was 21 and for some reason or another I had disconnected the earth wire from the power switch. I had the computer half on my knee and half on my desk when i plugged in the power to test it and got a severe shock i think the only reason i'm still here is because I wasnt touching the ground... Luckily the pc was ok though :D 
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    ninjanik , 19 June 2009 10:30
    MY 2900Xt graphics card, lit on fire, causing a short in a powersupply(directly above it)wich then overvolted and exploded my dvd drive ????(don't even k now how this happed(there was a disk spinning up in it at the time)) and over volted the cpu wich exploded (athalon X2 3800) and then put a huge dent in my case cause the heatsink snaped the retention mecanizum on the mother board. (worst day of my life no joke) the worst part is didn't even overclock anything :( 
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  • 0 Hide
    tinnerdxp , 19 June 2009 15:20
    1. Chernobyl virus wiped out my BIOS back in the day... fixed it by reprogramming the original chip on another motherboard with hacked version of awdflash and swapping the bios chips while running the computer - worked like a charm :) 
    2. Burned my 300W PSU back in a day when DOOM 3 was released and I've tried it on my old PC - Athlon XP 1.9GHz + GF5600FX + 2GB + some HDDs. Low details in a game and 30 minutes of playing later everything just went off and I've noticed a smoke coming out of the PSU.... must have been burning with some sort of fire inside for a few good seconds as most of PSU's guts were literally burned... Swapped for 400W - and could continue the game (still low details though)...
    3. burned my first HDD in the amiga back in the day... had a WD Caviar 2200 HDD and was doing the power adaptor to fit 3.5" in the Amiga 1200... and obviously connected the 12V and 5V other way round... connected, little smoke... drive dead... Managed to borrow an identical (but working) drive off my mate, swapped the burned board with the good one and tada! - Copied all my data to another HDD. Job done! That was back in a day when 200MB drive was semi-big (the biggest were 540MB).
  • 0 Hide
    mi1ez , 19 June 2009 15:53
    Never had anything worse than a BSOD!
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    x3style , 19 June 2009 16:50
    I fix PC's for a living and there's a few things i've seen.
    I once plugged a soundcard on a ISA slot into a 486 montherboard while it was running because the damn thing wouldn't detect with another ISA card.
    It shorted and started smoking :) )
    Then i saw a friend plug in the FDD power cable into the HDD jumper pins, the cable melted and you don't wanna know how the hard drive looked :) ).
  • 0 Hide
    Nick_C , 19 June 2009 17:23
    PSU failure - 650W Akasa went phhhhhhuuuuut! Tripped the wall socket circuit breaker in the fusebox in the house. Typical smell of electronic burning emanating from the back of the PSU.
  • 0 Hide
    tinnerdxp , 19 June 2009 17:24
    To "x3style":
    Do you mind saying if you use some hardware/software to quickly detect hardware failures? I am running a service as well - usually just identifying the symptoms gives you the right answer... but was sort of hoping there is something to automate it so I can send trainees out and know they will act like a technician with 20y+ experience?
    If you don't mind sharing your knowledge -
  • 1 Hide
    LePhuronn , 19 June 2009 17:28
    1. Lucosade spilled into my laptop while I had the keyboard off for a clean, but it was my brother trying to be "helpful" and drying the motherboard and CPU with a large and very hot hairdryer that I think did the real damage.

    2. Had a Maxtor Quantum Fireball explode in a , well, quantum fireball after a big power surge about 8 years ago (cheap house + lousy wiring + poor student = no surge protector). The rest of the system seemed to be OK but a couple of chips on the control board had smoking holes in them! Never could replace the control board to retrieve the data - so much porn lost :'-(
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    Micropat , 19 June 2009 18:10
    I never had any major problems but last Monday I had a near miss. When I was shutting down my laptop at work I think I closed the lid too early (or I just closed the lid and never shut down). Then the lappy went into a briefcase which went into a backpack which I cycled home with. Then after eating/showering etc I went for my laptop. My bag was roasting hot. When I opened the briefcase I could barely touch my lappy it was so hot - with the fan on only pumping hot air around in the case. I couldn't believe there was no damage from that amount of heat.
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    ac3144 , 19 June 2009 18:12
    I was playing on an Amiga 500 with my mate, Gary, when he knocked over a full pint of milk he was drinking onto his keyboard.
    This caused such a burst of activity from him (in order that his parents didn't come in and discover his gaffe) to grab the upended milk bottle (in full dairy flow), that he knocked his CRT monitor off the back of the table. This caused a huge electrical sounding bang, at which point his mum and dad entered to find a dripping Amiga 500, a monitor with a broken screen, a son covered in milk and son's friend unable to speak due to involuntary rib centred laughter spasms.
    All in all, a great experience for me, less so for Gary.
    He was only allowed to play on his old megadrive for ages after that.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 19 June 2009 18:43
    omg thanks Marcus i thought i was the only one who had that happen to me (referancing to you link ofc) the only diference it was with an open cased pc... everything gott soaked...
    it was fun at the time though ^^
  • 0 Hide
    impy1980 , 19 June 2009 22:14
    A few years ago whilst playing Need for Speed we had a power cut, I turned on the computer my entire user account had gone, I mean everything, the login, all the files, I panicked like mad.

    But after calming down I logged onto one of the other user accounts which was untouched, looked around the net for a data recovery program and after a few hours managed to recover everything.

    I'm just glad I was tech savvy enough to deal with it.

    Had no real hardware disasters (touch wood), not even when I've built and rebuilt the Koolance water cooler system into my last 2 builds.
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    Clintonio , 19 June 2009 22:59
    There was that day when all I wanted to do was put a new HDD into my PC and install Ubuntu.

    The day started fine, I put the HDD in, and it worked. Then I installed Ubuntu. It worked... or so I thought. Ubuntu had unknowingly destroyed my RAID1 setup. I then tried to use the inbuilt re-build. Which subsequently failed and one of the two drives was now empty. Then the second drive errored and I accidentally erased that too. So, all 500GB of important documents was gone in a puff of smoke. So I spent a while trying to recover it, but, I also damaged the boot drive in the process and Vista stopped working, then that also stopped me being able to use the GRUB installer. So, at this point I had gone from having 3 full HDDs to two empty ones, and one screwed up one, and another one with a non-working Ubuntu on it. I also had no working OSes anymore and all of my personal data was lost.

    I spent TWO DAYS solid, with like 3 hours of sleep, recovering everything, reinstalling everything and planning my future security. I gave up on securing my data that day. Now I have only one up-to-date copy of my files, and a second month old backup. I may re-RAID. Unlikely though. Those two days sucked.

    There was also that day when I was 16 that I got angry and kicked the innards of my PC when it was off. The side panel was also off and I caught my X1600 ATI card, and it must have fried, had to RMA it about a week after I bought it.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , 19 June 2009 23:39
    My grandparents, god rest them, decided when I was visiting them with the kids, to wash, yes wash my laptop in the sink with the dishes as they thought it was dirty. £2800 quite literally down the drain!!!!
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    Anonymous , 20 June 2009 00:20
    i was pissed and thought it would be a good idea to sort my partitions on my hardrive out, i ended up delting the wrong one and lost 7 years of everything i have ever done, :( 
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    Anonymous , 20 June 2009 05:29
    i came home pissed one night and took my computer apart, it was still on, i didn't notice until i plugged the 12v cable back into the motherboard, managed to fry everything except the two hard drives and a stick of ram which weren't connected. even the dvd rw died.
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    plasmastorm , 20 June 2009 22:23
    Work in a computer repair shop myself, had some funny things happen in the past from a Laptop that had been put in a dishwasher by 'the wife' because it was dirty. To a Apple Titainium that had been in a car fire and then put out (we still got all the data from it). One time we even had a lawyer who had formatted his drive (not a clue why) and lost 12 years of case files. Lucky for him we got it back (and lucky for us he had deep pockets hehe).
    On that side the worst (or funniest) was a computer that came in to us with the customer complaining of a burning flesh smell.
    Turned out to be a small mouse that had gotten into the PSU and fried, must have thought it was nice and warm so decided to stay.
    The reculting surge killed everything else in the machine except a dvd drive.
    Personally the worst thing that has happend to my won computer was a 120g HDD failure about 9 years ago. Luckily it was only my games drive and they could all be re-installed.
    God help me if one of my TB Samsungs went down these days. Would'nt look forward to trying to salvage all that data >.
  • 1 Hide
    plasmastorm , 20 June 2009 22:28
    Oh, we also regularly get folks with homebuilds (one was about £2500 wort of kit) who build it all up then turn it on and only get fans spinning.
    You can guess why can't you.
    No mobo spacers /facepalm.
  • 0 Hide
    CBillo , 22 June 2009 03:20
    A friend of mine had a lovely shock off of a laptop screen inverter which burned his fingers to a nice brown crisp on the ends. I personally had a few mishaps with my oem Athlon 1.2Ghz as the cheap ass mobo i had (ecs) kept overclocking it by default and the local computer shop refused to change it after the third time and made me have a retail boxed 1100 duron with a certified cooler as they blame my heatsink for the overheating, I was not a happy bunny!!
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