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Computer caught fire


bondisdead

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My Windows Home Server 2011 DIY computer caught fire early in the morning the other day. Good thing the fire alarm went off, and that we were home to take care of it. :eek:

 

The fire was somewhat localized to a small area in the bottom of the case, so I was able to more the computer to the back yard and simply blow out the fire. There was alot of damage to cables, lots of ash and globs of melted plastic. The smell was terrible (and still is 3-days later). Anyways, I am trying to diagnose the problem to make sure that things don't repeat themselves (my wife is now skeptical about me rebuilding a new server and leaving it on all the time!).

 

The system was composed of the HX620 PSU (620 Watts), which is about 5-years old. I have an ASRock H67 motherboard, Intel Core i3-2100T and 8GB of RAM. It's a headless computer, but it does have built-in Intel HD2000 graphics. It has eleven 3.5" hard-drives and two 2.5" hard-drives. When I look at the Kill-a-Watt, it typically uses between 100-130 Watts, depending upon what the server is doing at the time.

 

Fortunately, the motherboard / CPU / RAM boot up just fine, and all the hard-drives are also okay (albeat a bit black from the soot and melted plastic). I used a PSU tester on the HX620, and it tests out okay. I am afraid to use the PSU again on this motherboard, or another, for obvious reasons. There does not appear to be any damage to the PSU itself.

 

At this point, I am not sure what really caused the fire. At the end of one of the molex plugs, there was a Molex-to-SATA adapter, and it is completely melted into a large glob. This was not connected to anything. In addition, at the back of a Kingwin KF-4001-BK hard-drive cage where the SATA *data* cables connect, there is also a large melted glob of plastic. The fire either started at the Kingwin (which is on top of the case) or at the end of the Molex-to-SATA adapter (which is at the bottom of the case). If it started at the top, I am theorizing that melted plastic dripped down and started the fire on the molex connector at the bottom of the case. If it started at the lower molex connector, it spread up the case to the Kingwin. When I found the fire, it was only burning down below, and the top fire had already gone out.

 

I am wondering whether I was asking too much for this PSU to power all of those hard-drives, and perhaps some over-current/voltage condition sparked the fire? Five of the 3.5" drives were Hitachi CoolSpin green drives, three were Seagate Green LP drives and the remaining three 3.5" drives were Hitachi 7200RPM drives. There were two 2.5" laptop drives as well.

 

I was using all of the SATA connections, as well as all of the Molex via SATA adapters or for powering case fans. It's hard to find the exact specs of how much power a hard-drive will take. Here are the specs for the HX620:

 

+3.3@24A,+5V@30A,+12V1@18A,+12V2@18A,+12V3@18A,-12V@0.8A,+5VSB@3A

 

The hard-drive is going to use +5V and +12V. Seems like I should be safe, but perhaps the way the PSU's rails are organized for the SATA/IDE outputs, maybe I had too much of a load on a single modular SATA or Molex power cable from the PSU?

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Can you tell what actually was generating the heat or smoke?

It sounds like the cables may have just had a short from what you posted.

And are you using the cables that came with the PSU or did you use any other cables or after market splitter cables?

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Can you tell what actually was generating the heat or smoke?

It sounds like the cables may have just had a short from what you posted.

And are you using the cables that came with the PSU or did you use any other cables or after market splitter cables?

 

When I blew out the fire, it was the cables that were burning. Based on the damage, mostly SATA data cables were burnt thru, there are many with all wires exposed as a result. I will attach a picture, if I can.

 

Yes, it sounds like a cable had a short of some kind. I was using the modular cables that came with the PSU, but as there are not enough SATA connectors, I had to use after-market Molex to SATA converters.

 

At the Kingwin enclosure, the problem was at the point where the SATA data cables connect. The molex power cables which go to the enclosure were okay. Perhaps there was an issue in the PCB backplane of the enclosure where the ground of the sata shorted to a power trace? it's been up an running without issue for eight months, and nothing has changed since I set it up.

 

For the dangling Molex to SATA converter that had melted, I have no explanation for that, as it was a spare.

 

Can you comment on whether there is a limit to how many hard-drives can be used for my setup? Each modular cable only has only three SATA or Molex power connectors. Is there a limit to how many drives can hang off each cable? I might have had up to five running off of one molex modular cable.

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Here are seven of the 3.5" SATA drives. Here you can see that two of the SATA modular cables was used, and one Molex to SATA adapter was used.

 

IMG_3518.thumb.jpg.d2bfaab942caaed0b8a2974ef43a138e.jpg

 

That is followed by the big blob at the bottom of the case. You can see the end of one Molex to SATA is totally melted away, as well as some damaged SATA data cables.

 

IMG_3543.thumb.jpg.2bc3bc82992dcd3dc35f9dc551879070.jpg

 

In the third picture, this is at the back of the Kingwin enclosure. You can see what is left of four SATA data cables. You can also see the two molex power cables, which are fine, other than covered in ash.

 

IMG_3562.thumb.jpg.7c6eed6f04bb8037969044e6009d6ebf.jpg

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The max per dongle is about 18-20 Amps, most spinning HDD's will use about 3-7 amps per drive so I would not suggest more than 4 spinning drives per dongle High RPM Drives like 10,000 RPM Raptors can use more so depending on the drive maybe three drives per dongle no matter how you split the cable you don't want to over load it. I would spend some time and review your configuration to see if maybe may have done just that. I am not blaming you don't get me wrong just what I would check first. It could be that one of the drive electrically started to fail and used more power than it should have and caused the over load but its hard to say or prove at this point.

Then to be sure lets proceed with the RMA and get the PSU replaced. Please use the link on the left and request an RMA.

 

Edit: Just saw the Pics its hard to tell but it looks as though the splitter cables is where it may have started. Is that what it seems to you?

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Edit: Just saw the Pics its hard to tell but it looks as though the splitter cables is where it may have started. Is that what it seems to you?

 

Thanks for the information, that is good to know, and I will do my calculations carfully when rearchitecting the re-build. Fortunately, I have no 10k rpm drives. Most are green drives, and a couple of 7200rpm drives.

 

When you mention the limits on each dongle, is that due to the gauge of the cables? Is this a single Rail PSU, so that the 30 Amps of +5V will be shared across all dongles?

 

The Kingwin unit takes two molex connectors, and uses this to power a 120mm fan and up to four hard-drives. I had three installed. However, I am not sure what else was connected to that same dongle. Based on it's position at the top, i think nothing else was connect to it. So that shouldn't have been a n overload.

 

The melted molex->sata adapter could have easily been the igniter. It was a spare, and was not connected to anything. Maybe the leads on the SATA power connector had an exposed wire, and pressed up against the case??

 

Thanks for your input, and suggestion about the RMA. I am going to do that. For the rebuild, I will get another dedicated SATA dongle, just to eliminate those Molex -> SATA adapters.

 

Let me ask you another question. Do you have perhaps a different PSU to recommend for my application? I don't need high-wattage, but I'd want one that would support many SATA connections. I don't seem to see such a device. If you go low wattage like your CX430 V2, they only have four SATA ports on that one. It's seems silly to go to a high-end high-wattage power-supply just to get the SATA ports, in which case my 24/7 server is wasting electricity (unless the PSU is Gold certified and runs highly efficient under low load conditions).

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The max per dongle is about 18-20 Amps, most spinning HDD's will use about 3-7 amps per drive so I would not suggest more than 4 spinning drives per dongle High RPM Drives like 10,000 RPM Raptors can use more so depending on the drive maybe three drives per dongle no matter how you split the cable you don't want to over load it.

 

Sorry, another question! When you mention the 18-20 Amp limits on each dongle, is that due to the gauge of the cables? Is this a single Rail PSU, so that the 30 Amps of +5V will be shared across all dongles?

 

And this just makes me wonder something. Perhaps the eleven 3.5" HDDs and two 160GB HDDs and four case fans is too much for the 30 Amps @ +5V? Or maybe I am calculating things wrong...

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Sorry, another question! When you mention the 18-20 Amp limits on each dongle, is that due to the gauge of the cables? Is this a single Rail PSU, so that the 30 Amps of +5V will be shared across all dongles?

A: Yes they are all shared (the Dongles to the PSU) about 18 Amps Max on each up to 30 amps total

And this just makes me wonder something. Perhaps the eleven 3.5" HDDs and two 160GB HDDs and four case fans is too much for the 30 Amps @ +5V? Or maybe I am calculating things wrong...

A: Fans typically don't use much power 1-3 Amps per fan MAX but check with the fan manufacture to be sure. And I would do the same for the HDD's this should be on the specs page for the specific HDD. But I doubt you would be hitting much above 12-15 amps if even that much with 2 fans and 2 HDD's and remember the HDD's only use MAX power at spin up when they are running they consume much less power about 1/2.

 

And I dont think the PSU was the issue here from what you have posted, I mean if the PSU was over loaded it would have failed in a different way; they will not typically fry cables they will just quit.

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A: Yes they are all shared (the Dongles to the PSU) about 18 Amps Max on each up to 30 amps total

 

A: Fans typically don't use much power 1-3 Amps per fan MAX but check with the fan manufacture to be sure. And I would do the same for the HDD's this should be on the specs page for the specific HDD. But I doubt you would be hitting much about 12-15 amps if even that much with 2 fans and 2 HDD's and remember the HDD's only use MAX power at spin up when they are running they consume much less power about 1/2.

 

And I dont think the PSU was the issue here from what you have posted, I mean if the PSU was over loaded it would have failed in a different way; they will not typically fry cables they will just quit.

 

Thanks for the update. While it does seem like the PSU is not likely the problem, I just wanted to be sure and size my rebuilt system accordingly. Sounds like I should be okay, even with the 13 hard-drives.

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Well 13 HDD's are 20-40 Amps each might be too much, I would consider purchasing a bigger HDD and get rid of some of the smaller drives or use another power supply to power them. Just keep in Mind it is the 12 Volt Rail for Spinning HDD's not the 5 Volt.
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Well 13 HDD's are 20-40 Amps each might be too much, I would consider purchasing a bigger HDD and get rid of some of the smaller drives or use another power supply to power them. Just keep in Mind it is the 12 Volt Rail for Spinning HDD's not the 5 Volt.

 

Okay, now I'm getting all confused! Here are the only specs I can find for the Hitachi 2TB CoolSpins:

 

Power Requirement: +5 VDC (+/-5%) +12 VDC (+/-10%)

Idle Power Consumption (W): 4.8

 

Nothing about peak power consumption. Is the +5V used for the digital circuitry, and the +12V for the spindle motor? Are you concerned about peak current during power-up?

 

If this is the spec for the HX620, which numbers do I care about?

+5V@30A,+12V1@18A,+12V2@18A,+12V3@18A,-12V@0.8A

 

This sounds like there are three +12V rails, but perhaps they are all tied together to give me 54 Amps?

 

For my use case with all of these hard-drives, which numbers should I be most concerned about, the +12V current or +5V current? While looking at power-supply specs, i notice that in a particular family of PSUs (ie. 550W, 650W, 750W, etc.), the +5V current remains the same, and the +12V current increases.

 

I do happen to have a spare Corsair TX950 PSU lying around which has 12 SATA connectors. Perhaps I should use this one instead?

Specs: +3.3V@25A, +5V@25A, +12V@78A, -12V@0.8A, +5VSB@3.0A

My concern is that at Idle, which is what the computer will be in most of the time, the PSU will be between 10-20% load. This doesn't sound like a sweet spot as far as PSU efficiency, so my power-bill will go up.

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How much storage total (useable) do you have?

 

Two 160GB 2.5" laptop drives in RAID-1 for OS.

Two 2TB Hitachi 3.5" 7200 RPM drives in RAID-1 for Data.

Eight 2TB Hitachi/Seagate 3.5" 5900 RPM drive in RAID-5 for Media.

One 2TB Hitachi 3.5" 7200 RPM drive for backups (hot-swap)

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Just for grins, I use the power-supply calculator listed on your web-site. I entered Intel Core i3, integrated graphics and sixteen hard-drives (which is more than I have). It comes up with the CX430 V2 builders series 430 Watt supply. Other than an issue with how many leads the PSU supplies, it seems like any bigger of a power-supply is overkill for my application.

 

I currently have my server on the bench with a TX950 PSU, which has twelve SATA power connections. Other than mobo/cpu/ram, I have three 3.5" 7200RPM drives and two 2.5" 7200RPM drives installed. KillAWatt reports < 60 Watts at the wall socket.

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