The DIY PC as fire starter: is this a thing now?


— 12:20 PM on March 13, 2013

It's quite possible flames have burst out of other PC components in Damage Labs over the years. I've smelled the acrid smoke from a PSU failure many times, but I've never actually observed literal flames issuing forth during such an incident—until today.

We returned last night from several days of family obligations, turned on the Kitchen PC, and immediately experienced an apparent PSU failure, complete with the lovely smell of burning electronics. I set it aside until this morning, when I went to troubleshoot the problem.

My first step was to remove the failed (and quite smelly) mini-PSU from the Silverstone shoebox case and attach a working power supply to the system. I figured if the system would boot with a full-size ATX power supply attached, I could just order another miniature one as a replacement. As long as the Zotac motherboard was OK, we'd be back in business.

So I connected a Silencer 750W to the appropriate plugs, being careful to get everything right. When I attached the power cord to the PSU at the end of this process, flames shot forth from the VRM section of the motherboard and danced above it for a couple of seconds. Components began to melt and burn, and I thought I might have a fire to extinguish.

Fortunately, a heartbeat later, the fire died down, and the incident was over.

I have to admit, I came around pretty quickly to thinking, "Wow, that was cool. I wish I'd filmed it." But I'm also not terribly happy to be thinking of a DIY PC as an honest-to-goodness fire hazard now—especially since, having re-checked all of the connections, I'm pretty certain the failure wasn't caused by builder error.

Have you ever seen flames shooting forth from a PC component? If so, was it something you did or just the result of a random failure?

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