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Physical symptoms of a system struck by lightning?


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#1 DnDer

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Posted 09 April 2010 - 04:59 PM

I had a coworker bring me their home computer, which they think was struck by lightning. They had it in a surge protector made for computers - not a UPS, just a surge protector, sadly - but the thing won't turn on when plugged into any outlet.

Inside the case, there's no evidence of physical damage. Granted I've never seen a computer that's been struck by lightning, but I don't see any damaged components, nor do I smell that "burning electronics ozone" smell.

When I get back on Monday, I'm going to try putting the hard drive in another machine to see if it can be rescued... But where else should I check to see if this is a burnt-out computer from a lightning strike or something more mundane that's preventing the machine from powering-up?

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#2 hamluis

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Posted 09 April 2010 - 05:04 PM

Well...I've experienced a likely strike that killed a modem, but did nothing substantial to the remaining components...I don't think that anyone can generalize about damage, etc.

My standard way of testing components...replace with a known, good or replace a known, good with a suspect. I primarily have always had desktops and plenty of miscellaneous parts around.

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#3 westom

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Posted 09 April 2010 - 10:26 PM

I had a coworker bring me their home computer, which they think was struck by lightning. They had it in a surge protector made for computers - not a UPS, just a surge protector, sadly - but the thing won't turn on when plugged into any outlet.
Inside the case, there's no evidence of physical damage.

First, read the spec numbers. UPS typically provides protection so tiny that its joules numbers could not be smaller. Power strip protectors do slightly better. And can even make damage easier to an adjacent computer.

Second, surge damage rarely causes a visible indication. Only the most massive surges (ie two plug-in protectors earthed a surge destructively all computers on a network) result in anything visible.

Third, two choices. Keep replacing parts on wild speculation. Or use the faster solution that first identifies the failure. Then fixes the only defective part the first time. And also identifies the reason for failure.

I can only assume you press a power switch and nothing happens? Must assume because you provide near-zero information. So, is failure in the power supply controller, supply, or some other power system part? Less than one minute with a multimeter would report which is suspect AND a long list of other possible problems. Six numbers from the meter could report so much as to be much longer than this post.

Simply locate a green, gray, and purple wire that connects power supply to motherboard. Disconnect nothing. Use the 3.5 digit multimeter to measure (to three digits) each wire (where it enters the nylon connector both before and when the power switch is pressed. Post those six numbers (typically 5 volts or less) and the resulting 'power on' behavior. Then learn so much.

Meters are so owned even by every auto mechanic, sold in most any store that sells hammers (and for less money), and even available in Kmart and Walmart. Most everyone should have a friend who has one because the meter is that ubiquitous and a tool that useful.

#4 the_patriot11

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 02:54 AM

I would check the PSU first. In a surge, it is nearly always the first thing to go, and in most modern computers, typically the only thing as they have built in protection. If the PSU tests bad, then move to the motherboard as it is the next most likely to be fried. IF both the PSU and motherboard is bad, then go from there.

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#5 DnDer

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 12:49 PM

would this be an appropriate multimeter for the job?

http://www.kmart.com/shc/s/p_10151_10104_0...1&eVar28=G1

#6 computerxpds

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 01:41 PM

that will work for what you need to do just make sure its on the right setting :thumbsup:
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#7 DnDer

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 04:14 PM

I have very little experience troubleshooting power supplies. ... What's the right setting? >_<

#8 westom

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 04:46 PM

I have very little experience troubleshooting power supplies. ... What's the right setting? >_<

You are measuring voltages that are 3.3, 5, and 12 VDC. So you set it to 20 VDC. Connect the black lead to the chassis. Touch red lead to each wire. Then read a number for each wire to 3 significant digits. Number before. And behavior as the power switch is pressed.

Post those numbers here to learn what maybe a very long post of information. Those six plus numbers contain massive information if al numbers are 3 digits.

Edited by westom, 19 April 2010 - 04:47 PM.


#9 DnDer

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 10:15 PM

Got a multimeter. I get it to "20" in the "DCV" portion of the dial, (the meter's settings there are "220m" "2" "20" "200" and "600") and set the red and black probes according to the diagram for DC voltage. The black probe I sank into a black (ground, says my old and unused A+ book) port on one of the extra power cables coming off the power supply - it didn't have clips to connect to the chassis.

I started top left to right, bottom left to right, sinking the red probe in each part where the cable clip met the motherboard. It's a P1, 20-pin connector on a Dell Dimension 4700. The first reading is plugged in, the second reading is as I pressed the power button.

Red .32 no change
Red .32 no change
Empty 0 no change
Black 0 no change
Black 0 no change
Black 0 no change
Green 5.11 no change
Black 0 no change
Blue 0 no change
Orange 0 no change

Yellow .07 no change
Purple 5.14 no change
Grey 0 no change
Black 0 no change
Red .32 no change
Black 0 no change
Red .32 no change
Black 0 no change
Orange 0 no change
Orange 0 no change

The multimeter I was able to get seemed to only go 2 decimals out. There was more space on the display for another number or two, but I don't think I either set it right, or it's sensitive enough to go out 3 places like you requested. (I was not able to get the multimeter that I linked to above. I found one at the local hardware DIY store. The guy said it should be just fine for computers.)

#10 MrBruce1959

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 10:48 PM

If this is an ATX power supply, you have to remember the power supply will not function unless it is remotely sent a signal from the power switch and motherboard.
That is what the momentary switch does on the tower front, without this function the power supply will not output any power readings. IMO

The purpose of this procedure is to bypass the motherboard to test a ATX PSU. Some manufacturers Like Dell have used some non ATX PSUs which have a different pinout for the 20/4 pin connector, please confirm that your PSU is a ATX type before using this procedure.

Caution:
This procedure will involve working with live 12VDC electrical potentials which if handled improperly may lead to electrical shock. Proper precautions should also be taken to prevent electrostatic discharges (ESDs) within the case of the computer. For safety purposes please follow the instructions step by step.

First, shutdown your computer. Then unplug the power cable going into your computer.

Once you have opened the case, touch the metal of the case to discharge any static electricity.

The connector of the PSU which connects to the motherboard is readily recognizable by the number of wires in the bundle. To disconnect it you will need to press on the plastic clip to disengage it and then pull the connector up and away from the motherboard. Please take notice of the location of the locking tab and the notch on the socket of the motherboard, this will only connect one way as it is keyed. This wire bundle will have a memory of the way it has been installed and will want to bend back that direction, you may have to play around with it to find a position that the connector will stay in the same position while you run the test.

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From the top left to right the pins are 13-24, the bottom from left to right are 1-12.


Please notice that there are PSUs with 24 pin and 20 pin connectors, the location of the green wire in the 24 pin connector is #16, and the green wire in the 20 pin connector is #14. If you look at the connector with socket side facing you and the clip on the top the number one pin will be on the bottom left corner. This makes the pin out for the 24 pin connector from left to right 13-24 on top, and 1-12 on the bottom. The pin out for the 20 pin connector from left to right is 11-20 on top , and 1-10 on the bottom. If you look at the connectors you notice that these are sockets that fit over the pins on the motherboard where the PSU cable attaches, this is where you will place the jumper. For a jumper you will need a piece of solid wire about the size of a paper clip (20-22 awg), preferably a wire with insulation. It will need to be large enough to fit firmly into the socket so that it will not need to be held in place while testing. You are at risk of electrical shock if you are holding the jumper when you power up the PSU. Insert one end of the jumper into the socket of the Green wire, and insert the other end into the socket of any Black wire.

Once the jumper is in place plug the cord back in. If the PSU is working properly the case fans, optical drives, hdds, and LEDs should power up and remain on. I would suggest that you not leave this connected any longer than is necessary for safety purposes.

To reconnect the 20/4 pin connector unplug the power cord, remove the jumper, and reconnect the connector. Take a moment at this time to make sure that nothing has been dislodged inside the case.

Edited by MrBruce1959, 19 April 2010 - 10:50 PM.

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#11 DnDer

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 10:50 PM

That's what the second reading is. I pressed the power switch on the tower's front, and none of my base readings changed.

For example, the green wire read 5.11 before I pressed the power button and after I pressed the power button. No fluctuations, no spikes in readings, no nothing. Same behavior for all 20 readings.

#12 DnDer

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 10:58 PM

Mr. Bruce - I'm not sure I understand the directions. Where am I plugging the jumper into? I'm going to run the jumper from the green wire on the cable coming from the power supply to any black wire on the cable coming from the power supply?

Now to sound really stupid: Where would I get a wire like this? Or what kind of wire should I go out and get a small length of? (I have no wire, at all, at home. I'm not sure what I'd need to begin with. Sorry.)

#13 MrBruce1959

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 11:07 PM

Mr. Bruce - I'm not sure I understand the directions. Where am I plugging the jumper into? I'm going to run the jumper from the green wire on the cable coming from the power supply to any black wire on the cable coming from the power supply?

Now to sound really stupid: Where would I get a wire like this? Or what kind of wire should I go out and get a small length of? (I have no wire, at all, at home. I'm not sure what I'd need to begin with. Sorry.)



Yes Green wire to any black wire in that connector use the picture in my previous post as a guide.

You can use a piece of spare copper wire from anything, even a paper clip will do the job, you do not need to keep it hooked up longer then to see that the case fans are spinning, everything else can remain hooked up during this procedure, the only device that is by-passed here is the motherboard, since its power connector will be disconnected.

This test should only be conducted for a few seconds, if your FANS spin your PSU is working and is OK. Once you confirm this, stop the test.

And post back your results.

Good luck.

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#14 dpunisher

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 11:08 PM

Just general tips for the lightning strike diag.

If a surge makes it to your power supply it will sacrifice itself to protect your more expensive components. This is a good reason to get a guality power supply. The only PSUs that will let a surge kill a system are the real low end bottomfeeder crap (Deer for one). OEM PSUs from the big boys generally cover their butts in this area. Even a surge protector, while better than nothing, often reacts slower to clamp than a PSU protection circuit, so the PSU dies before a surge protector.

The vast majority of surges never come in via the PSU. It makes it in through modems, LAN cables, USB ports, even speaker/amp connections etc. Anything plugged into your motherboard(except optical links) is fair game.

A lot of my clientel is rural. With the advent of broadband/demise of dialup, the number of toasted systems has just about stopped. Most times now it is just a quickie PSU swap to get a system going.

EDIT: Ditto on MrBruce1959's instructions. All you should have to do to test a PSU in this case is short the green to any ground. The components that die if hit by a surge either work, or they don't, so there is no real reason to spend time with a multimeter measuring every line. If the PSU comes on, it survived.

Edited by dpunisher, 19 April 2010 - 11:14 PM.

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#15 DnDer

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 11:13 PM

Yes Green wire to any black wire in that connector use the picture in my previous post as a guide.

You can use a piece of spare copper wire from anything, even a paper clip will do the job, you do not need to keep it hooked up longer then to see that the case fans are spinning, everything else can remain hooked up during this procedure, the only device that is by-passed here is the motherboard, since its power connector will be disconnected.

This test should only be conducted for a few seconds, if your FANS spin your PSU is working and is OK. Once you confirm this, stop the test.

And post back your results.

Good luck.


I'll be back in a few seconds then. When you said shielded wire... I just kind of concluded that using an ACTUAL paperclip would be a bad idea. Back in a minute.


And I'm back. The PSU fan kicked on, but barely. It went faster when I used compressed air to clean dust out of it before I started my work. Does that mean the PSU is gone? Or just that I didn't connect it correctly?

Edited by DnDer, 19 April 2010 - 11:18 PM.





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