The kitchen PC can't stand the heat

— 12:18 PM on July 5, 2005

You may recall the little article I wrote about building a PC for the kitchen based on Shuttle's Zen XPC and a handful of color-coordinated components. Since building it, I’ve added a DVD drive, a larger LCD screen with internal speakers, and a pair of gamepads so the kids can play games like Lego Star Wars. Well, early this weekend, the kitchen PC died a tragic, untimely death. From what I can tell, the main fan in the box failed, and the thing sat there and cooked for quite a while before anyone noticed. My wife got home and had to unplug the box using hot pads; thank goodness it was in the kitchen!

My preliminary attempts to revive it haven't gone well. The PC will turn on, but nothing much happens other than the power light coming on and disks spinning up. Emanating from the box is the distinct odor of burnt electronics. I don't think it's coming back, and I'm not yet sure what internal components it took with it. I now have the task of recovering data from the kitchen PC's hard drive, if possible, and setting up a new box.

This is probably the third or fourth Shuttle XPC that has died on me. Several others have been rock solid for months and years, and even the original SV24 is still going. I don't think Shuttle has the kind of horrid quality control problems we've seen from some other manufacturers, but the XPC fans are definitely an issue. I'm curious: How many of you guys have had XPCs croak on you? Did Shuttle's tech support folks do a decent job of supplying a fix?

Update: The autopsy is underway, and I've indentified a possible cause of death. The Zen uses a typical Shuttle ICE heatpipe cooler. The cooler is secured with a tension-based clip that hooks into a black heatsink retention bracket, like so:

The Zen baked its internal components well enough to melt this black retention bracket, and the clip pulled the edges of the bracket upward like taffy. Instead of being more or less flush with the top edge of the cooler, they're now much taller:

So I suppose that's the end of that. This is why you'll often see complaints in our reviews that read like this one from our SN95G5 review:

However, the BIOS doesn't provide fan failure or temperature-based shutdown or alarm conditions. For a cube that depends largely on one cooling fan, a little protection would be good for peace of mind.
Now to figure out what parts can be salvaged.
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