back to article Hard drive replacement sparks singed disk situation

Big data transfers can sometimes be painfully slow, but they shouldn’t cause you physical harm. Yet one Register Hardware reader feared he could have ended up in A&E after his new hard drive appeared to catch fire. Karl Sorrenson told us that he’d just finished transferring data from a Seagate hard drive onto a four-day-old …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    He rebooted?

    Seriously - he tried a reboot after "black smoke billowed out of his PC?"

    I wish I could put both Paris and the flame icon on this one - both for obvious reasons.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Similar experience with a maxtor drive

    I had the same sort of issue with a 120GB maxtor drive, the case was thankfully open as I was fitting a new fan. For the first few seconds I just looked at it burning with a nice blue flame, thinking it was just the reflection of a blue led on the fan. Then the smell hit me and I yanked the power. I was surprised that maxtor support didn't want the drive returned to investigate. It was out of warranty so all I wanted was them to pay shipping for it.

  3. Anonymous Coward


    Anybody who thinks rebooting is a good idea after seeing smoke should not be allowed near the innards of a PC. He probably didn't fit it properly and it was making contact with something shorting it out.

  4. Mark
    Gates Horns

    who wants to bet..

    that at the time it occured, the new drive was dangling out the side hanging by it's SATA cable, and it lightly brushed the side of the case moments before the blue smoke escaped...

  5. Craig Graham


    There seems to be rather a lot of solder on there. It's not like there's a reservoir inside to leak out when the chip pops..

  6. Knowledge

    That's nothing...

    I had a WD Caviar that actually set fire to its protective foam. Didn't help that WD put all their chips on the underside of the pcb for maximum heat!

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Mr. Blobby

    Why is there a large blob of silver soldier on the chip, shorting out a large number of legs? Looks like the sort of drop you'd get if somebody who didn't know how to solder got way too much solder on the tip of their iron and let it drip... I doubt it comes from the board, it appears to me be so large it probably contains more solder than the entire drive.

    If it is solder, of course. I'm sure somebody else will have an opinion on what it is/where it came from.

  8. Richie M


    This is news beacause?........

    also seems a hell of a lot of solder on that chip.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    It just goes to show ....

    .... what some of us have known all along. Modern electronic devices are powered by compressed smoke. Truly. Once the device develops a leak and the smoke escapes, it stops working. Don't believe me? I can prove it. Take two identical devices - one from which the smoke has escaped and one from which it hasn't. The smoked device doesn't work now, does it. Q.E.D.

    It's the anorak, thanks.

  10. Barry Tabrah

    I've seen this before

    About 8 years ago we had a similar problem with Quantum Fireball 6.4GB drives in our Gateway machines. We had about a 30% failure rate with scorch marks across a chip and quite often one leg of the chip was lifted off the board.

    No black smoke though. Kinda feel cheated.

  11. Steven Griffiths

    Not as pretty as this one...

    "It had a nasty rattle to it before we opened it"

    No shit...

  12. Name

    This is news?

    I had an IBM drive let the smoke out years ago. In the morning I found a shutdown PC and a nasty smell. Another time I had a Maxtor drive spend all night trying to turn one of its platters into aluminium dust.

    Electronics fails and sometimes burns up, modern PCs have plenty of available power to make small areas very hot but electronics is not very flammable. All those UL (underwriters laboratories) marks are there to show it isn't made from stuff that busts into flames.

  13. SmokeyMcPotHead

    No it's OK...

    "Anybody who thinks rebooting is a good idea after seeing smoke should not be allowed near the innards of a PC."

    It was OK he just added that well known command in AUTOEXEC.BAT: /nocrash /noburn

    All was OK after that.

  14. Brian Miller

    Not solder, its the chip's burned plastic

    I used to work for an OEM, you know, a real one with a fab line and pick and place machines. That isn't solder on the legs, its part of the chip's plastic packaging. Apparently that TI chip blew out its internal power and ground, thus the smoke. I saw something similar with Philips surface-mount capacitors. They would turn into ash when you weren't looking. Finally managed to catch one in the act, shut off the machine, and sent it back to Philips for analysis.

  15. John Browne

    TI chips......

    looks like a TI chip....

    There appears to be alot of excess material on the leads which would more than likely have caused the problem.

    All chips are encapsulated in fire retardant molding compounds. It would smoke but not flame so there would have been little chance of fire.

  16. Anonymous Coward


    From the smoke marks it looks like the hard disk was vertical with the connectors at the top - an unusual method of mounting. Could have been a tower pc on its side I suppose.

  17. vincent himpe

    thats not solder

    but carbonised chip packaging resin.

    Judging from where on the chip this occurred this looks like the destruction of one of the pole drivers for the motor.

    Most likely the motor shorted a phase short to ground . Harddisk motors are 3 phase brushless motors. The powercombo chip generates three pseudo-sinewaves using a pulse width mdulation technique ( it's not a real sinewave but a specific shape to yank as much current as possible through the coils , without too much power dissipation in the driver ) that are 120 degrees out of phase to drive the motor.

    Even a phase short would not cause such a catastrophic failure. ( the three phases are a star configuration. so even a phase short would still leave you with one coil in the loop ( there are always 2 of the coils in the loop. So a single phase short would not cause catastrophic failure. The chances of two phases shorting out are very small.

    Premature death. Send it back for an exchange. It's under warranty. Stuff happens. Always have 2 (yes TWO , not one but TWO) backups of critical data on DIFFERENT media / different hardware.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Similar Issue

    I had a very similar problem with an older model SATA-II 200GB Samsung drive.

    Turned the system on after screwing in the drive and I got a hissing noise and an orange glow for about 5 seconds.

    At the time I put the issue down to the fact I was using extra long screws that come with the Antec P180 case. The side screw holes on the samsung drive have no back to them meaning that you can keep turning the screw and it will just go in further and further in until its touching the PCB on the underside.

  19. MS
    IT Angle

    Blue smoke

    Yeah, sometimes the blue smoke gets out. It's hardly a fire hazard, but the blue smoke is not healthy to inhale.

    Why is this news? Was the editors porn on it?

  20. ryan


    "From the smoke marks it looks like the hard disk was vertical with the connectors at the top - an unusual method of mounting."

    I had an old dell where the secondary hard drive was mounted vertically.

  21. kain preacher

    The truth

    He had illegal music on the hard drive and the RIAA is testing out thier new hard driver killer.

  22. Anonymous Coward


    I also know of a few cases where the hard disks are mounted vertical. Couple of CoolerMaster Media Center cases are example.

  23. Ryan Stewart

    @AC Re: mounting.

    OR as it said before it could be caused by the fans. My drives in my old tower sat directly behind a fan that blew air over the drives towards the back of the chassis.

  24. Colin Tree

    old problem

    Releasing smoke is pretty severe but hard drives have been overheating for years. The usual result is read-write failure which only comes good after allowing to cool.

    Hard drive placement and cooling are increasingly important as data rates go up.

  25. Robert Fitzgerald

    Another Maxtor in my case

    I see another user above had this problem with a Maxtor drive...

    This also happened to me about 4 years ago with a brand new 120gb Maxtor drive, luckily it was replaced next working day by the website I ordered it from and luckily didn't cause any damage to any other components.

  26. Robert Fitzgerald

    And in addition to my previous comment...

    When this happened to me with the Maxtor drive, it wasn't a heat problem as it happened straight away when I turned the PC on so it couldn't have got hot in that time, I'm thinking it may have been a problem with the controller circuit or the motor.

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