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Computer Company vs Bank vs Electric Company


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As some of you know I work for a Local OEM here in PA. We just in the last month have been running into problems with about 20 of 60 computers a local bank in this area uses. I do all our system designs.

Hopefully some of you are Electricians and may be able to help my diagnosis.

Here is what is happening. About 4 months ago we have been receiving some of the PC's back with bad mainboards (12 or 13, one right after another). And in the Last 1 month we have received around 7 back with bad power supplys. Sounds Easy right?

Well read on.

1st these are our own build with good brand name parts.

The PC's almost 3 years old (which is when there warranty ends)

PC specs are

Mainboard = P4P800SE

Case and Powersupply = INWIN with 300watt branded by them.

Processor = Intel Prescott 3.0

Memory = kingston

Hard Drive = seagate serial ATA

keyboard and mouse = microsoft basic optical bundle

O/S = XP pro

they are on a network with cisco switches that are not POE and have at least 5 servers

This only happens at 2 of there 6 locations (pc's dieing)

20 out of 60 pcs is terrible. At the same time frame we shipped at least 500 others out with not only a few in for repair due to lightning and other things not related to hardware. They are the only customer with this issue.

OK next.

Electrician that they use says they ran a meter for 24 hours and detect no faults (they wired it so we are getting in a 3rd party one which will check monday as a neutral)

If we replace the part it doesn't come back, until one recently which worked fine when plugged in here when they brought it back over.

At there location it would not boot but would power up with the front lights on but not post. This is usually due to a surge and if a customer took a hit we have them unplug the pc for 60 seconds then plug it in to clear the caps in the power supply then it would boot.

Another note. All fans including power supplys work

When problem happens Power supply gets extremely hot then pops.

I checked on one today that was just hot and hadn't popped. without turning it on, i plugged it in and CRACK it popped.

Other things are in the same plug and surge and are not effected. Surge does not need reset afterward.

Here is where i am at. We have narrowed it down that at least 4 that there IT can remember were on older APC surge strips with only a protection light

The ones that haven't ever came back (from what there IT can find) were on newer ones that have a fault light and filtering for noise. I am going there tomorrow to investigate further.

Any thoughts are appreicated as it's driving them and us both nutz.

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Any thoughts are appreicated as it's driving them and us both nutz.

My first question for you is: is there carpet around the computers that had probs?

2nd question: which part of the mainboard got zapped?

3rd question: How did the computer fail? Did they turn it on and it just didn't work? Anyone report discharging static?

My anecdotes:

- One of the offices I help maintain the network has one particular room with carpet where the computer has gone through 3 mainboards. Each time was due to static - once documented arc seen when trying to plug in a USB drive into a port at the front of the computer.

- My dad has twice fried his PSU in his home office (with carpet) - latest time when he unplugged the computer to move it, and when he plugged it back into the surge protector (APC of course :thumbsup: ) his PSU popped and smoke came out. Static was again likely the culprit

Any changes in the humidity of the building?

Other possiblities are bad capacitors (there were a few batches of mobos a few years back when someone stole a formula for capacitors and got the mixture wrong)

Very interesting problem ...

Anyhoo, the computers are 3 years old - good warranty! Most shops I know don't warranty over 1 year. Tell 'em to upgrad to Core2's :yes::shifty:

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Any thoughts are appreicated as it's driving them and us both nutz

My first question for you is: is there carpet around the computers that had probs?

Carpet yes, and no static mats. But remember also power supplies recently are failing (around 7 in 2 months)

2nd question: which part of the mainboard got zapped?

There were no scores on the board so you could not tell. Warranty returned them to ASUS as ASUS has 3 year warranties. When we get them back they don't tell you what they fixed.

3rd question: How did the computer fail? Did they turn it on and it just didn't work? Anyone report discharging static?

No report of static discharge. The one that the power supply was hot in I went over and when i plugged it in it immediatly made a crack sound and blew. I was not shocked in anyway and i was touching the computer case when i did it so if grounded properly should have discharged any

My anecdotes:

- One of the offices I help maintain the network has one particular room with carpet where the computer has gone through 3 mainboards. Each time was due to static - once documented arc seen when trying to plug in a USB drive into a port at the front of the computer.

- My dad has twice fried his PSU in his home office (with carpet) - latest time when he unplugged the computer to move it, and when he plugged it back into the surge protector (APC of course :thumbsup: ) his PSU popped and smoke came out. Static was again likely the culprit

Any changes in the humidity of the building?

Not sure at that point and there IT staff isn't really giving us much info.

Other possiblities are bad capacitors (there were a few batches of mobos a few years back when someone stole a formula for capacitors and got the mixture wrong)

Caps I thought about but here is the list of bad things(estimate). about 20 mainboards, 7 powersupplies and 1 cpu. All within a years time when they started to fail. Some of the one's that power supplies failed in some with the mainboard and some by themselves.

Very interesting problem ...

Anyhoo, the computers are 3 years old - good warranty! Most shops I know don't warranty over 1 year. Tell 'em to upgrad to Core2's :yes::shifty:

LOL i wish but the problem is it doesn't look good for our hardware unless we can solve this... so they may not buy again. Our PC's aren't the cheapest as we don't do cheap parts nor integrated video. but they are reliable and usually we get maybe 1 or 2 boards and year (that aren't because of surges and such) To give you an idea, we cover 6 school districts, 1 bank with 6 locations, about 20 law firms, about 10 real estate agencies,the Hospital system which is around 4 hospitals and 100's of others with only 2 techs and 5 sales people (and 2 part timers in the summer for the school builds). We couldn't do this without a good warranty and reliable parts.

As an update. They had brought a pc back that they said they could not power up after we replaced a power supply, which worked fine here at the office after the power supply was replaced. I took it over with the tech and plugged it in myself and up it went smooth as pie. I powered it up multiple times and restarted it, testing. No problem. His story changed. Before he got lights but didn't powerup. Now he is saying it got no lights. The only thing i did was make sure the monitor was on. GRRR!

This one was on a cheap kingston surge that was not purchased from us. So far Everyone has been on older surges, APC or generic. None has been on the new surges. In looking up the units, we find the old APC surges only have a protection light, but the new have building fault, a noise filter and more. (we haven't found any that have failed that have been on the new surges.. maybe a cooincedence, maybe not)

I'm hoping the electrician finds faults on Monday.

Thanks for your thoughts it is appreciated.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Just as an update we wrote a proposal to put line conditioners on all the pc's at one location and higher end surges on the rest...

You'll like this. Before i sent it, they called over with a printer error on the LCD. On looking it up... guess what it was? Power spike on network card. It was an HP Printer and supported our theory entirely. Needless to say they got the line conditioners last week and surges and no failed power supplies all week.

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Awesome, thanks for the update Roco. Very interesting.

Just curious what line conditioners you used? Any specific brand?

I found in Asia, they don't sell surge suppressors or UPS's, they sell "line conditioners", whereas here in N. America, the closest thing I'd see to a line conditioner is a UPS backup power that conditions the line at the same time.

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Awesome, thanks for the update Roco. Very interesting.

Just curious what line conditioners you used? Any specific brand?

I found in Asia, they don't sell surge suppressors or UPS's, they sell "line conditioners", whereas here in N. America, the closest thing I'd see to a line conditioner is a UPS backup power that conditions the line at the same time.

APC line-R.

They are around 45$ each.

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