How not to power up your computer…

The power supply on my desktop began the process of dying last week. After growing tired of the random reboots and freezing, I decided to dig through my pile of old, forgotten technology in an attempt to find a “new” power supply. I came across something that looked promising and promptly hooked it up. I slid in the connectors and applied power. Suddenly the foul smell of burning electronics filled the room. Considering my past luck with power supplies (very poor), this actually wasn’t very surprising. I assumed that the power supply had simply suffered a horrible death and went on with my search for a viable replacement. I turned up nothing, and decided to get one of these based on a recommendation from a friend (and their promise to pay return shipping if the thing fails in the first year).

Two days later, the new unit arrived. I eagerly plugged it in and pressed the power button. Success! The motherboard POSTed!! Everything was fine for around 30 seconds… Then, of course, everything shut down. Naturally, all further attempts to resuscitate the beast failed. Suspecting that the power supply was bad, I arranged to take the motherboard to a friend’s house to test with a known good power supply. We plugged it in, and I shorted across the pins to turn it on. The CPU fan started spinning as expected, but then the motherboard began making sparks and magic smoke. The component pictured below is what caused the fireworks show.

I suspect that I damaged the board with my earlier scavenger hunt. Unfortunately, the “promising power supply” mentioned in the first paragraph turned out to be a proprietary mess, but wasn’t labeled as such and had normal connectors. Oops… The board may have been on its deathbed anyway, since it was burning through power supplies around every three months. Anyhow, we tested the new power supply and luckily it is still good. It seems that the safety features had engaged to prevent my house from burning down.

It should come as no surprise that I’m looking into building a new machine. The Homelab Subreddit has been interesting to read through and has provided a few ideas on what I may want to do. There is also a nice list of activities for Microsoft-based sysadmins that I’d like to work through at some point. At the very least, I’d like to be able to get at the backups, videos, and software that are currently inaccessible to me… I’m thinking that a nice SuperMicro motherboard along with a modern Xeon CPU and a healthy dose of 16gb RAM will work wonders. It’s probably overkill, but why not? A cheaper option is to find some older hardware on eBay or Craigslist, but I guess I’m too picky.